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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Democrats endorse school board candidates

At-large school board members (from the left) Ryan McElveen, Ilryong Moon, and Ted Velkoff. [Photo by Kat Velkoff]
Members of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC) voted May 26 to endorse candidates for the school board.

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.”


  1. "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.' "

    Wow. I thought politics did not have a place in local government?

    1. Sandy Evans has proven to be a follower not a leader and especially not an innovator. Without a record of her own to run on, she desperately needs the support of the mainstream Mason Democrats, What baffles though me is why Jessica Swanson didn't launch her own campaign for the school board. Her entire campaign is based on the issue of school funding which isn't nearly enough to even put a dent in Penny Gross' bid for reelection.

    2. Primaries, especially open primaries, are not that predictable. Swanson would certainly have locked up the important "anyone but Gross" voters. I give her a reasonable shot at ending the Gross era.

  2. The only votes Swanson has "locked up" are those voters who want Fairfax County to increase its property, restaurant, and other taxes to pay for Superintendent Karen Garza's expensive vision of what Fairfax County Public Schools need to be under her reign. Especially because Mason District can expect to be the future home of hundreds more non-English speaking children under our President's thoughtful and oh so Constitutional "Executive Amnesty."

  3. Sandy Evans has been nothing but a disappointment. I am so sad to see her bending over for Gross - who has done NOTHING for Evans or the children/parents of Mason District except stand in the way with poor land use decisions keeping our kids in trailers. Time for someone to stand up to the GROSS mistakes. Obviously Sandy has no backbone. She even has signs in her yard after the way Gross has treated her and the schools. Sad.