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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Rachna Sizemore Heizer would bring experience as disability advocate to school board

Rachna Sizemore Heizer (left) at her campaign launch event. 
Rachna Sizemore Heizer, a candidate for an at-large seat on the Fairfax County School Board, vows to be the voice for the students who don’t have a voice – whether they are economically disadvantaged, have a disability, or otherwise aren’t heard.

At Heizer’s campaign kickoff March 10, Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova, Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, and other elected officials praised her commitment to ensuring all students have the support they need and her ability to get things done.

Two candidates – Heizer and Abrar Omeish – are running for the at-large seat on the board to succeed Ryan McElveen, who is running for chair of the Board of Supervisors. The two other at-large board members – Karen Keys-Gamarra and Ilryong Moon – are running for re-election. All four are seeking an endorsement from the Fairfax County Democratic Committee

If there are any Republicans planning to run for an at-large position on the school board, they haven’t come forward yet.

Heizer’s activism started when she learned her son Jake had autism and he wasn’t being served well in the public schools.

When he was in kindergarten, his teacher put him at a separate table in the back of the room. Heizer fought back – and continued to push for changes in how FCPS treated students with disabilities  throughout his time in public school. Jake is now an accomplished musician whose band performed at the campaign event.

“Jake taught me nobody should be seen for what they can’t do – ever,” she said.

And that’s not just about students with disabilities; for Heizer, that means speaking up for all children at risk of falling through the cracks.

Heizer is on the school board’s Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities, the board of the Fairfax County Alliance for Human Services, and the board of the Fairfax County Special Education PTA and is a member of the FCPS Inclusion Workgroup.

Among her accomplishments as an advocate, Heizer cites Virginia’s adoption of a new diploma for students with disabilities that no longer bars them from college.

Heizer told the crowd at the campaign event that she will push for a greater emphasis on positive behavioral supports and interventions as an alternative to referring students to the juvenile justice system.

Her experience goes way beyond special education advocacy. She is a college professor, former corporate attorney, and former management consultant. And as a second-generation Indian-American, she understands the challenges faced by immigrant students.

Heizer supports a holistic education that includes the arts, civics, and career and technical education and also vows to “reduce the inconsistency across the county.” She believes everyone should have an equitable education, no matter who they are or what zip code they live in.

“No one should feel stupid because they can’t get into Harvard,” she said.

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