by Abrar Omeish, candidate for Fairfax County School Board
After the vacancy announcement by Fairfax County School Board at-large member Ryan McElveen yesterday, I am officially launching my campaign for the Fairfax County School Board at-large. On Wednesday (1/2), a team of over 20 volunteers went around the county, gathering over 300 signatures to guarantee that somebody who represents us is first on the ballot. Today, we are proud to share with you that as of 8am on 1/3, we gathered enough signatures and will be first on the list. We are organized, energized, and can’t wait for you to join countless others in supporting our dedicated team. Mark your calendars for the February 24th kickoff!
As you all know, there are many changes occurring in our country. There is no doubt that these changes affect Fairfax County and our communities. They affect our families and shape the very ways we perceive each other.
We want our school system to bring its beautiful promise to every child and family in our community. Let’s work towards ensuring that students and staff members can live up to their potentials in the ways that every human being inherently deserves. Let’s guarantee that they can thrive no matter their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, ability, linguistic background, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, or familial structure. Fairfax can be a home where the smiles and giggles of children foreshadow the bright futures they have ahead, because they have a fair chance to succeed here.
We can work to build on the great efforts of our previous School Board members because the realities in our community suggest an urgency to prioritize this equity lens. In doing so, we need a targeted universalism approach whereby our work is not done until we have served even our most vulnerable students—like those in areas of the county where funding patterns correlate with family ability or like those who are misunderstood for having unique and special needs. We can set a standard for active public service whereby initiative is taken to address county challenges and missing community input is sought. We can utilize thorough data analyses to examine inclusion practices along the aforementioned categories and facilitate mental health services for students. We can reconsider creative fiscal possibilities by expanding corporate and community partnerships and utilizing technology to help fund under-supported yet critical needs like special education and work towards teacher compensation that more accurately resembles our values. And the list continues.
Join me in this conversation. I want to hear your stories and concerns.
Fairfax County is a special place that can serve as a bold example for the rest of the nation. We are blessed to live in a county that is incredibly diverse and beautifully so—a place where over 1.2 million people speak over 180 languages and where half of our students have connections to other countries around the world. Such incredible diversity comes with unmatched assets and we can face its challenges optimistically.
My own grandfather brought his family to Fairfax County because he believed in what its schools could offer his children. The loving teachers at (then) Jeb Stuart High School transformed his son from a child who spoke no word of English living in a two-bedroom home of his parents and seven siblings to one of Georgetown’s top-ten most successful graduates. His love for this community and what its schools did for him led him to choose to make Fairfax County home for us. His story and my mother’s experiences teaching disadvantaged youth as a professor in the local community college made me always believe in our potential to do more here. It made me imagine the unharnessed potential that lies in every child.
I remember when my own parents, before enrolling us at Mantua ES, moved us from one area to another in this very same county because of the difference in what would been offered to us under another zip code. Most of my friends were not as lucky. Even in my new school, I remember seeing many of them struggle in classes that their parents could not afford additional support for. It concerned me that the possibility for a student to succeed relied on more than their effort and intellect because I know that it was my journey through Mantua ES, Frost MS, and Robinson SS that made it possible for me to make it to Yale and become a professional.
I carry these human stories with me.
Ten years ago, these human stories inspired a friend and me to start a completely youth-led, youth-run non-profit organization that has been providing free tutoring and mentorship to lower-income youth in twenty centers across the county for the past ten years (www.giveyouth.org). I became interested in improving access on a policy level and served as the President of the Superintendent’s Advisory Council where we developed School Board policy recommendations on 21st century learning. I continued to learn about and partake in the School Board policy process when serving on three School Board advisory committees, one of which chose our superintendent. In addition to having served as a peer mental health counselor, FCPS substitute teacher, and working for the FCPS Superintendent’s Office, I carried forward the values that Girl Scouting instilled in me forward to dedicate my Gold Award project to an anti-bullying campaign that amended our own FCPS policies. I have have an appetite for understanding these challenges thoroughly and for doing what we can for that child whose parents work too many jobs to be an advocate because the alternative would be no dinner on the table.
Looking ahead, I am someone who has worked in several levels of government and policy-making and who has been a part of generating real solutions tested on the ground. As you remember, my team ran an exceptional campaign in the short special election of June 2017. Since then, we have been developing relationships with the VA Department of Education, the UVA Curry School of Education, and the Yale Institute of Social and Policy Studies, specifically to focus on FCPS and to generate informed policy proposals through these partnerships over the coming months. We are thrilled about what we will learn and use to inform effective policy. I serve as Chairman Bulova’s commissioner and as School Board member Dalia Palchik’s appointee and co-chair to the new School Board human resources advisory committee on teacher retention.
As a second-generation FCPS graduate who has spent the past ten years serving families and building relationships countywide, I am proud to be running in a cohort of advocates across Fairfax who have been tirelessly working together and supporting each other on education issues long before the race even started.
I am especially pleased to announce this decision after conversations with numerous education leaders, party district chairs, and senior elected officials from whom I have wide support that I will be announcing more specifically in the days to come. Below is one such example.
“Abrar Omeish is an extraordinary example of what the future can be for all of us. This is a young woman who is not only highly intelligent and well-educated, but has the courage of her convictions. I know because she worked for me and stood out as a person with all the characteristics of leadership that you could possibly hope to find in a person of her age. I strongly endorse her for the School Board because she both has the perspective of the students but the maturity of the parents and administrators.” – Congressman Moran
Having served as a beneficiary, partner, advocate, and advisor to both the administrative and political sides of FCPS, I bring the perspectives of our many stakeholders to the School Board. Coupled with my personal experience as well as my robust policy and leadership background in the last ten years, I would be a strong voice for equitable education and young people in Fairfax County as I naturally transition to the School Board.
I am also proud to be a friend who shares your values. From my time as co-president of VA High School Young Dems to my work at the DNC securing our 2017 victories and at the doors in the recent election, I have been there.
I want to continue building on this work and on the efforts already put forth. I cannot do this alone. I ask for your support.
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