Home 2020 Elections Who Are the Arlington County School Board Democratic Candidates? With Voting Going...

Who Are the Arlington County School Board Democratic Candidates? With Voting Going on Now, Here’s a Quick Primer.


Right now, there are several elections going on in Arlington County, and it can get a bit confusing. On the County Board, there are two seats up right now: 1) the one formerly held by Erik Gutshall, due to his resignation as he fought brain cancer (special election set for July 7, with the Democratic nominee being decided by May 8; announced candidates so far are Barbara Kanninen and Chanda Choun); 2) as well as the regularly scheduled election for Chair Libby Garvey’s seat (set for June 23; Democrat Chanda Choun is challenging Garvey, apparently in addition to running in the Special Election).

And on the School Board, there are also two seats open, given the announced retirements of members Nancy Van Doren and Tannia Talento. See below for a quick primer; I’ll add more information as I see it. Also note: “Tune in for a joint Arlington Young Dems and Arlington Dems School Board Forum for candidates seeking the Arlington Democratic Party endorsement on April 28th at 7 pm via Facebook Live: facebook.com/arlingtonyoungdems

  • There are five Democrats running for the two open seats: Cristina Diaz-TorresSteven KriegerSandy MunnellDavid PriddyTerron Sims
  • Here’s some key information, from the Arlington County Democratic Committee, on the School Board Democratic caucus: “From April 7 to May 7, Arlington registered voters may request a ballot by (a) completing and submitting an online ballot request form or (b) downloading and mailing a PDF version of the ballot request form (forma español). (We also are happy to provide a hardcopy printout of the ballot request form to anyone who needs one.) Use of the online ballot request form is strongly encouraged. Ballot requests must be received (not postmarked) by Arlington Dems by May 7.  Upon verifying the registered voter status of a ballot requester, Arlington Dems will issue a ballot to each voter. Ballots will be mailed on a rolling basis. Each ballot mailing will include a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of the completed ballot to a dedicated P.O. box. Voters are encouraged to immediately complete and return their ballots to ensure timely delivery. Ballots must be received (not postmarked) by Arlington Dems by May 30…Arlington Dems is using Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) for the School Board Caucus…Arlington Dems will begin counting ballots on May 31 or as soon as practicable thereafter…Arlington Dems expect to be able to announce the caucus results by June 9. “
  • [NOTE: There’s also independent candidate S. Symone Walker, who will not be on the Democratic ballot but *will* be on the ballot this November. Sanders “received my Juris Doctorate from American University Washington College  of Law in 1998, and my LL.M. in Litigation & Dispute Resolution from George Washington University in 2001.  I worked as a DOJ attorney for  20 yrs and also as a DOJ mediator for 14 years.” Her platform focuses on: “APS decisions and policies should be made through an equity lens…Mental health is prioritized…Systemic biases are acknowledged and addressed…Students are career and college ready in an environment that depressurizes testing and prioritizes critical thinking, analysis, rhetoric and persuasive writing, collaboration, and civic education…Diversity of all types is valued, recognized, and celebrated…Neurodiversity is valued…Teachers are diverse and representative of the student population, well-trained, well-compensated, and viewed as integral partners in education. Technology is used as a tool, not to teach.”]

Now, let’s look at the five Democratic nomination contest candidates – endorsements, backgrounds, platforms.

Cristina Diaz-Torres

Endorsements: Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti; Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti; Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol; Arlington County School Board member Tannia Talento; Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur; “Run for Something”; and the Arlington Education Association.

Background: “Teacher and education policy specialist…Born in Massachusetts, Cristina attended six different schools between K-12 including public, public charter, and parochial schools giving her a unique understanding of the difficulties that schools face across sectors. As a teenager, her family uprooted and moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico to live closer to extended family.  Cristina has a BA from New York University with dual majors in Economics and History and an M.Ed. from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas specializing in Secondary Mathematics. Cristina is a 2019 graduate of Arlington Neighborhood College Program and is a volunteer with the Arlington Democrats and is the Secretary and Membership Director for the Democratic Latinos of Virginia.”

Platform: “Let’s elect a teacher & education policy specialist to the Arlington Public School Board.” “[R]unning for School Board because we need to have an educator on the board who knows instruction, gets the data, and believes every student has a right to succeed.”  “Equity: Every decision should be made based on the promise that all students have a right to succeed no matter their race, gender, background, learning or physical ability, family situation, legal status, or zip code…Support our Educators: Support our educators with teacher-driven, evidence-based professional development and competitive compensation that allows our staff to live in the community where they work…Improved & Transparent Data: Improve our systems for data collection, analysis, and sharing to be more transparent, to provide action-ready insights, and to be accessible to all stakeholders.”

Responses to Arlington Special Education PTA questionnaire: “Although there are certainly bright spots across the county, students with disabilities in APS are not systematicallyprovided the rigorous instruction that they are entitled to…The second major issue is a lack of resources, particularly staff time and training… APS should improve awareness of the systems we have, especially ATSS…APS should increase awareness and use of high-yield co-teaching strategies…APS should develop a coherent, systematic pre-referral process that is predictable and effectively communicates student needs to parents and caregivers…Ending the inappropriate and undesired segregation of students with disabilities needs to be a top priority if we are to meet our strategic goal of having 80% of students with disabilities in a general education setting 80% of the time. ”

Steven Krieger

Endorsements: Former Arlington County School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez; State Senator Barbara Favola.

Background: “I am married. I have one child enrolled in Key elementary school and one child who will soon be enrolled at Key because we strongly believe in the benefits of language immersion education and a diverse community. My family and I live in Lyon Village. I am a problem solver. I am a social justice advocate. I am a Guardian ad litem for children, which is a court-appointed lawyer for children involved in the court system.  I have a business degree from the University of Michigan and law degree from UCLA. I moved to metro-DC to work for environmental grassroots organizations and met my wife, Miriam, who is a successful APS graduate. She attended McKinley, Swanson, and W-L and later went to Wellesley College and law school.”

Platform: “Practical solutions. Honest answers. For everyone.” “Increase teacher compensation to be competitive with neighboring districts…Bring Back Summer Enrichment Programming for Students…Stand Up Against Boundary Changes and School Moves that Destroy Communities…Serve as a Check Against Undisciplined Spending by Focussing on Fiscal Responsibility and Transparency…Support World Languages by Expanding the Spanish Immersion Program…Reevaluate the use of technology in our schools…Help our middle school and high school students overcome the emotional and physical challenges that they face…Appoint a Student Advocate to the School Board…Set A Net-Zero Goal to Fight Climate Change…Insist on Equity for All Students — regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality, gender identity, legal status, physical or mental challenges, and/or socio-economic status.” Also, Krieger recently wrote, “The APS decision to stop teaching new content for most courses for the remainder of the school year and propose a vastly diminished schedule for younger students was provided without adequate justification.” None of the other Democratic candidates agreed with that, according to ArlNow.

Responses to Arlington Special Education PTA questionnaire“As a school board member, I will work to actualize APS’s noble vision as a diverse and inclusive school community by maximizing inclusive and effective instruction, intervention and support for all students. APS needs to ensure that the commitment to academic excellence and integrity is realized for all students, including our most vulnerable students with special and dual needs…There are a multitude of steps that APS can take to improve delivery of service to students with disabilities…Identification…Education…Overall Wellbeing…Regardless of their disabilities and needs, the goal of APS must be that students with disabilities receive the supports they need in regular, age-appropriate classes in their neighborhood schools.”

Sandy Munnell

Endorsements: Arlington County School Board member Reid Goldstein; Arlington County School Board member Barbara Kanninen.

Background: “Sandy taught English, grades 7-12, for the first twenty years of her career. After leaving Prince William County, VA, in 1997, she became the Instructional Technology Coordinator (ITC) at Washington-Liberty High School in Arlington, bringing her technology leadership to both the creation of the school technology plan and professional development for the teaching staff. During her tenure at Washington-Liberty, Sandy also served on the Building Level Planning Committee (BLPC) for the construction of the new Washington-Liberty school campus. After 15 years at Washington-Liberty, she retired with 35 years of service educating in Virginia. Well, almost retired, as she has returned to Arlington schools, both to teach and to manage the IB Extended Essay program.”

Platform: “Experience matters.” “Literacy is fundamental to closing our opportunity gap…Our schools need more resources to provide wrap-around services to address these various needs of the “whole child”.. I am predisposed to think technology can help learning. However, I am not certain that the iPads are helping now, as currently implemented in our elementary and middle schools…”

Responses to Arlington Special Education PTA questionnaire: “My experience working with individuals with disabilities has varied over my many years in education as a classroom teacher, as a professional developer, and in my personal life as well…In APS, the continuous growth of our student population puts special stresses on our resources: teachers and classrooms. Special education teachers are in high demand everywhere. This is exacerbated by the increasing shortage of teachers overall. In an effort to ensure that the core courses are integrated, too many students with IEPs are assigned to a single section, or grade level….APS needs to work together as a school system to improve the process of identification, education and welfare of students with disabilities. A unifying vision that is embraced by all the schools unanimously is step one… I believe that the application of a single school wide vision for inclusion will bring this in line with the School Board’s expectations of the 80% goal. Parents should not have to fight for the right placement for their child. ”

David Priddy

Endorsements: VA House Democratic Majority Whip Del. Alfonso Lopez; Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti; Arlington County School Board member Tannia Talento; Arlington County School Board member Nancy van Doren; Arlington County Commissioner of the Revenue Ingrid Morroy; former Arlington County Board member Mary Hynes; former Delegate Karen Darner.

Background: “A native Arlingtonian, I attended Arlington Public Schools (APS): Long Branch Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and Wakefield High School. I graduated from James Madison University in 1996 with a degree in History. With my wife Melanie, we are now following our sons’ educational experiences at Fleet Elementary and at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Through coaching basketball, baseball, and soccer, I also have an appreciation of the rich sports programs available to our children. As part of my commitment to all parents and children in Arlington, I am privileged to serve on various local committees and organizations (see list below). This has given me greater insight into the concerns of the Arlington community as a whole.”

Platform: “A Shared Vision.” “e need to have a fifteen year plan for the future. We need to provide proper facilities, the finest academic curriculum and the best environment for all of our children…Equity must be a driving factor in the future success of Arlington Public Schools…Proactive planning and projections need to take place in order to address the capacity issues facing our schools, teachers and students…We need to be open and honest with the community and those most impacted by the changes coming throughout APS…A teamwork approach is needed to carry out the long-term plan and vision for Arlington.”

Responses to Arlington Special Education PTA questionnaire: “My experience working on behalf of individuals with disabilities has been focused on the ongoing issues at the newly built Alice West Fleet Elementary School…First, we need to change the messaging that was previously thought of when talking about students with disabilities. We have to have high expectations for them…Second, we need to make sure teachers understand that each child learns differently. We need to ensure proper training towards this so that it sets the teachers up for success on how to manage an inclusive classroom. Lastly, we need to work on inclusion...APS needs to disseminate the message and understanding that every child learns in a different way. We need to teach the students in the way they need to learn. Special education needs to be embedded in the general education classroom…n order to end inappropriate and unacceptable segregation of students with disabilities, we need a plan for a continuum of services for all students with the goal of greater inclusion. ”

Terron Sims

Endorsements: Sen. Cory Booker, State Sen. Barbara Favola, Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey, Arlington County School Board member Reid Goldstein, Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava, former Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary, former Del. Jim Almand, 8th CD Democratic Committee Chair Margo Horner, Former Clerk of the Circuit Court David Bell, etc. [UPDATE 4/28 – Sims was endored by Sen. Tim Kaine, who said, as an activist, he continues to push for greater equity in education for all children. I have no doubt that Arlington students and parents will benefit from Terron’s experience.”]

Background: “…a proud graduate of CD Hylton High School in Woodbridge and the United States Military Academy at West Point. After serving five years in the Army— including 15 months in Iraq — I returned home to Northern Virginia in 2005 to continue my public service as a community and education activist in Arlington. In 2018, I married my wife, Lara, and became the proud stepfather to Aly and Nick as they were about to start at Yorktown and Swanson. As Vice Chair of the DNC’s Veteran and Military Families Council, I advise Democratic organizations, candidates, and campaigns on the national, state, and local levels, primary in the areas of national security, defense, and veterans’ and military families’ issues. I also proudly serve as the Executive Director of the Warrior Centric Healthcare Foundation, a charitable organization focused on addressing systemic inequities in the ways veterans and their families receive healthcare.”

Platform: “Fresh Ideas for Arlington.”Incorporate the AFL-CIO’s apprenticeship program to Arlington Tech and the Career Center…Long-term, collaborative planning that applies countywide strategy to the future betterment of all students…Educating the whole child: This means equity and fairness in our grading practices, focusing on mental health and strong mentor-ships for our kids…Expand community partnerships: Back to school night cannot be it. The community, businesses, and government entities must play a major role in building opportunities for our students…Increase teacher compensation by providing much needed pay and COLA raises…Improve APS bureaucratic functions to maximize budget dollars.”

Responses to Arlington Special Education PTA questionnaire: “Because I was able to teach myself how to excel in life as a stutterer with dyslexia, that experience has provided me the innate ability to see the greatness in every child I have mentored and tutored over these past 14 years, especially those with IEPs, which enables me to help those kids tap into their inner greatness and become confident in themselves and their abilities…The most significant issue and challenge within APS relating to students with disabilities exist due to a flaw in APS policy that affects how our students and parents receive services and instruction and how students are assessed both academically and with respect to their disability…APS needs to take two primary steps – RAN (Rapid Automatized Naming) literacy screening for all prekindergarten and kindergarten students; Fully and properly implement the Arlington Tiered System of Support (ATSS)…To end inappropriate and undesired segregation, APS must first establish foundational standards that apply to all schools when it comes to instructional application to and for our students with disabilities.”


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