|At-large school board members (from the left) Ryan McElveen, Ilryong Moon, and Ted Velkoff. [Photo by Kat Velkoff]|
The Democrats endorsed all three at-large incumbents on the board: Ryan McElveen, Ilryong Moon, and Ted Velkoff. Three other at-large candidates – Omar Fateh, Michele Menapace, and Stephen Blancq – had sought the endorsement.
In Fairfax County, school board members do not run as members of a political party, but the parties endorse candidates. The Fairfax County Republican Committee plans to approve school board endorsements at its June 15 meeting.
The FCDC also endorsed Mason school board member Sandy Evans and incumbents Megan McLaughlin (Braddock), Patricia Hynes (Hunter Mill), Janie Strauss (Dranesville), and Tamara Derenak Kaufax (Lee), who is currently serving as board chair.
For the Providence seat on the board, the FCDC endorsed candidate Dalia Palchik, who will face off in November against Patty Reed, the incumbent. Reed has been endorsed by the Republicans.
The Democrats endorsed Karen Corbett Sanders for the Mount Vernon District, where the incumbent, Dan Storck, is running in the June 9 Democratic primary for the Board of Supervisors, and endorsed Karen Keys-Gamarra for the Sully seat on the school board. The Sully incumbent, Kathy Smith, is running for an open seat on the BoS held by the retiring Michael Frey.
No Democratic candidate has emerged to challenge Elizabeth Schultz, the Republican-endorsed school board member representing the Springfield District.
On the same day as the endorsement votes, an anonymous email was sent to FCDC members accusing Menapace of being “a voice for the Republicans,” because she had been the campaign manager for GOP-endorsed at-large school board candidate Sheree Brown-Kaplan in 2011. One of her supporters called that claim untrue, noting that Menapace was merely helping a friend and is not a Republican.
In addition, some Democrats are concerned that the incumbents on the school board, including the at-large members, who had been endorsed by the Democrats are unwisely taking the side of Superintendent Karen Garza in a battle against the Board of Supervisors over the Fairfax County Public Schools budget.
The school board members have supported statements by Garza denouncing the failure of the BoS to fully fund the school boards’ budget request. Some FCDC members believe that could hurt the supervisors up for re-election in November.
Garza had sent a statement to the community last month, as part of her #SaveFCPS campaign, criticizing the BoS for approving a 2015-16 budget with a $7.8 million shortfall for schools and budget guidelines for 2017 with a predicted deficit of $100 million. “Supervisors are sending a clear message that they are unconcerned about the increasing challenges of our students, our teachers, and our schools,” Garza wrote.
In an effort to diminish that conflict, BoS Chair Sharon Bulova and Garza issued a joint statement May 26 acknowledging the “unprecedented fiscal challenges facing both the county and FCPS in fiscal year 2017.”
“We recognize that it is critical for FCPS and the county Board of Supervisors to continue to work together to find viable financial solutions that are in the best interest of our children and the community as a whole,” the letter states. “We have agreed that we need to move forward as a team to find solutions to these funding challenges.”
Evans says she is disappointed in the BoS guidance on the FCPS budget for next year and called for more conversations with the supervisors to seek other funding sources, such as the state and grants from foundations. FCPS costs will continue to increase, she says, especially as schools are seeing an increase in students with very limited English language skills and other special needs.
Despite their differences over the school budget, Evans says she is endorsing Mason Supervisor Penny Gross – over challenger Jessica Swanson in the June 9 Democratic primary – noting that she and Gross “have worked well together.”