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Video: Marine Corps Veteran, Teacher, Muslim American Atif Qarni Nominated as Secretary of Education


Congratulations to my good friend Atif Qarni, a proud U.S. Marine veteran, teacher, two-time Democratic candidate, Pakistani-American and Muslim American on being nominated by Governor-elect Ralph Northam to serve as Virginia Secretary of Education starting in January. To my knowledge, this makes Atif the first Muslim-American Cabinet secretary nominated at the start of a gubernatorial term (note: Javaid Siddiqi served as Education Secretary the last three months of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s term, but I’m not sure if he’s Muslim or not…no public indication I’ve found as to what his religion is) in Virginia history, and it couldn’t have gone to a more qualified individual (or at a better time, considering the anti-Muslim sentiment Trump’s nomination and election stirred up in the country).  I look forward to Atif accomplishing great things over the next four years for Virginia’s students, teachers, etc., and I know from talking to him that he’s eager to get to work on doing just that. Go get’em Atif! 🙂

P.S. Hoping for video of the announcement ceremony (which started at 1 pm at Beville Middle School in PW County) to follow…will add if/when I get it. Will also post the press release when I get it.

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Governor-Elect Ralph Northam Announces Administration Appointments

RICHMOND — Today at Beville Middle School in Dale City, Governor-elect Ralph Northam announced Prince William County Public School teacher and Marine Corps veteran Atif Qarni will join the Northam administration as the next Secretary of Education. Governor-elect Northam also announced other key appointments for senior leadership positions within the Education secretariat.

Holly Coy will continue serving the Northam administration as Deputy Secretary focusing on K-12 education. Fran Bradford will also join as Deputy Secretary focusing on higher education.

“If we want to build an economy that works better for every family, no matter who you are, no matter where you live, we must begin with the foundation of a world-class education,” said Governor-elect Ralph Northam. “We can accomplish it if we support our educators and school support professionals, uphold accountability, invest in and expand STEAM curriculum, and make early childhood education a priority. I look forward to seeing what new heights Virginia’s education system is able to reach in the next four years with the team I am announcing today.”

Appointee Biographies

Atif Qarni, Secretary of Education

Atif Qarni is a Prince William County Public Schools educator and currently teaches civics and economics, U.S History, and mathematics at Beville Middle School in Dale City. Prior to that, he served Prince William County Public Schools as a GED Night School Instructor, helping individuals in Woodbridge and Manassas achieve their high-school equivalency diplomas. In 2016, he was awarded Dale City Teacher of the Year. Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed Atif Qarni to the Small Business Commission in 2013. He has been a member of the Virginia Education Association since 2008 and ran for House of Delegates in 2013 and Senate of Virginia in 2015. He is a former Sergeant of the United States Marine Corps, Reserves and was deployed to Iraq in 2003 on Active Duty Assignment during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Atif earned a Bachelor’s in Sociology from George Washington University. He earned a Master’s in History and his teaching licensure in secondary education from George Mason University.

Holly Coy, Deputy Secretary of Education (K-12)

Holly Coy was appointed Deputy Secretary of Education by Governor Terry McAuliffe in October of 2015. Prior to that, Holly served as the Policy Director in Lt. Governor Northam’s office. Previous to that, she was the Director of Programs at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy; and worked in the Governmental Affairs Office of the American Bar Association in a number of capacities. Holly earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and her master’s degree from American University’s School of Public Affairs. She is a graduate of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership and Georgetown University’s Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program.

Fran Bradford, Deputy Secretary of Education (Higher Education) 

Fran Bradford currently serves as the Associate Vice President for Government Relations at William & Mary, where she has been since 2003. Before arriving at William & Mary, Fran served as Acting Director of Communications and Government Relations at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). Prior to that, she served as Coordinator of Communications and Government Relations and as the Assistant to the Acting Director from May 1997 to June 1998. Ms. Bradford joined the agency in July 1990. In the fall of 2005, Ms. Bradford was called on to fill the position of Deputy Secretary of Education during the remaining months of Governor Mark Warner’s term. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana and she holds a Masters of Public Administration from Virginia Tech. She also holds a certificate of completion from Virginia’s Commonwealth Management Institute.



    A natural born leader with actual experience in the classroom. This seems like a bit of a surprise, but it makes sense. It’s a suprise choice, but the best choice. Now, wouldn’t it be great to see him as US. Secretary of Education in 2021.

  • From PW County School Board Chair Ryan Sawyers:

    Sawyers Congratulates Prince William County Teacher And Resident Atif Qarni On Being Appointed Secretary of Education

    Gainesville, Va. — Prince William County resident and teacher, Atif Qarni was appointed by Governor elect Ralph Northam to become Virginia’s next Secretary of Education. Qarni is a United States Marine, a teacher, a two-time candidate for elected office and a trusted community leader.

    Ryan Sawyers congratulated Atif Qarni in a statement, “Atif has been a valuable asset and advocate for education in Prince William County. His perspective as a school teacher is exactly what is needed for the job of Secretary of Education. There is lots of work to do to; increasing pay for school employees and ensuring students have an equal opportunity for a world class education regardless of socio-economic background, but I know that Atif is up to the task. I have enjoyed working with Atif as the Chairman of the Prince William County School Board and I look forward to all that he and Governor-elect Northam will accomplish for students and school employees in the next 4 years.”

    The appointment was announced at Beville Middle School in Prince William County and was attended by Prince William County School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers.

  • Occoquan Democratic Committee Chair Kenny Boddye congratulates Atif Qarni on his historic appointment as Secretary of Education by Governor-Elect Northam.

    The Occoquan Democratic Committee Chair applauds local educator and education activist being appointed to key cabinet position.

    Prince William County, VA: This afternoon, the Occoquan District Democratic Committee (ODC) Chairman Kenny Boddye congratulated Dale City teacher Atif Qarni on Qarni’s appointment as Virginia’s next Secretary of Education. At 1 PM today, Governor-Elect Ralph Northam announced the appointment at Beville Middle School – where Qarni teaches civics.

    “Atif’s been a champion for our school system for at least a decade, and knows our public schools firsthand,” Boddye said in a statement. “With this pick, Dr. Northam is showing a commitment to a truly world-class education for all students. Atif knows what students of all ages and backgrounds need to thrive, and he will be a strong advocate for educators all across our commonwealth.”

    The fact that Qarni is one of the first Muslim-Americans appointed to a cabinet secretary position in Virginia history was not lost on Boddye, either. “This has been a year of firsts in many regards when it comes to Virginia’s government. Atif is one of the very first Pakistani and Muslim-Americans to serve in a cabinet post from the very outset of a Virginia Governor’s administration,” Boddye said. “This is a great day for Beville Middle School, Prince William County, Virginia, the Virginia Education Association, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Congratulations, Atif!”

  • Video of ceremony naming Atif Qarni new Virginia Secretary of Education