This past weekend, I posted Qs and As from all the candidates running for the Fairfax County Democratic Committee’s endorsement for the vacant, at-large position on the Fairfax County Public School Board. In order, they are: FCPS Candidates’ Qs & As: “How can Fairfax County ensure we attract and retain exceptional teachers?”; FCPS Candidates’ Qs & As: “What policies would you support to meet the needs of [diverse] groups?”; FCPS Candidates’ Qs & As: “What is your view of the Portrait of a Graduate and its relationship to Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments?” FCPS Candidates’ Qs & As: “What strategies would you propose to close the achievement gap?” FCPS Candidates’ Qs & As: “How well does FCPS policy coincide with the FCDC position [on student discipline]?” FCPS Candidates’ Qs & As: “How would you stay connected with parents, teachers, students and the community?” FCPS Candidates’ Qs & As: “Explain your position on renaming JEB Stuart, Lee, and/or Woodson high school” and FCPS Candidates’ Qs & As: “How would you meet these challenges [of funding schools with adequate revenues]?” In addition, Karen Keys-Gamarra submitted supplemental responses, as she wanted to further elaborate on several questions.
I generally found the candidates’ answers to be thoughtful and thorough, although I can’t say I fully agreed with all of them (e.g., a few candidates didn’t come out clearly in favor of replacing Confederate names from public schools; not all candidates spoke out strongly for LGBTQ equality and protections). Still, on the whole, the candidates running for the FCDC endorsement – George Becerra, Marianna Du Bosq, Carolyn Hendler, Shaista Keating, Stacia Keel, Karen Keys-Gamarra, Michele Menapace and Abrar Omeish – are an impressive bunch, and ANY of them would be a major improvement on Republican at-large member Jeanette Hough, who is stepping down, or the guy Republicans nominated to replace her – Chris Grisafe – whose “grasp of policy and politics is…tissue-thin” (as the Washington Post said when he ran unsuccessfully for County Board in 2011).
In the end, though, I’ve decided to endorse the candidate — Karen Keys-Gamarra – who I feel is not just superbly qualified, but who also has her priorities and values right; who I felt most simpatico with speaking to; and who I believe would add things the Fairfax County School Board would benefit from having.
First, here are a few highlights from Karen Keys-Gamarra’s impressive bio:
- “An Attorney who currently handles family matters and works as a court-appointed Guardian ad litem in Northern Virginia representing the best interests of children… a child advocate with extensive knowledge of local issues as she often collaborates with various state and local agencies to improve the lives of children and families.”
- “[B]road experience in the Fairfax community where she serves as a Fairfax County Planning Commissioner and volunteers for such organizations as the NAACP and CASA.”
- “[A]n Advisory Board member for a domestic violence non-profit organization and has previously been appointed to the School Board Budget Task Force and currently serves the Schools Committee for the Planning Commission.”
- She has previous experience running for public office: in 2015, she lost by a tiny margin (10,243-10,046) for School Board from Sully District, one of the most Republican-leaning districts in Fairfax County. Note that in 2015, Democratic at-large candidates for School Board had a lot of trouble in Sully District, so the fact that Keys-Gamarra almost won there in 2015 should be seen as a plus, certainly not a minus. When it comes to the at-large seat, I’d argue that Keys-Gamarra has a cross-county coalition given that she lives in and has run in western Fairfax, while working with at-risk kids on Route 1 in eastern Fairfax. Great combo.
- She’s a strong progressive who has been involved as a Democrat, and didn’t just join the committee to run for office.
Also worth noting is that Karen Keys-Gamarra has been endorsed by a lot of people I respect, such as: Sen. Scott Surovell, Sen. Dave Marsden, Del. Paul Krizek, Del. Kaye Kory, Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, Fairfax County Supervisor Kathy Smith, Fairfax County School Board Member Sandy Evans, several former FCDC Chairs, former Fairfax County School Board member Ted Velkoff, Democratic Lt. Governor nominee Justin Fairfax, former Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Susan Platt…
Finally, I do think it’s important, all else being equal, that the Fairfax County School Board be representative – to the extent possible – of the population of Fairfax County. Currently, as you can see, there is not a single African-American member of the School Board, even though Fairfax County’s population is over 9% African American. There’s really no good reason for that not to change, especially given the fact that we’ve got such a strong African-American candidate (Karen Keys-Gamarra) running in this election.
Bottom line: while a number of candidates impressed me — for instance, Abrar Omeish is an impressive, up-and-coming leader! – I’m going with Karen Keys-Gamarra for the FCDC nomination. For more information on that meeting, which will be held THIS Friday evening at 7 pm at the Fairfax County Government Center, click here. Note that “[o]nly current FCDC members can vote in this endorsement meeting.”