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Mason District Candidates Campaign on Budget Issues Ahead of Tuesday Vote

Rucker

With hard times straining Fairfax County Public Schools’ upcoming 2011 budget, th e residents of Mason District in the greater Falls Church area of Fairfax County, a significant portion of whom are recent immigrants with lower incomes, are hoping for a new school board member replacing Kaye Kory, now a state delegate, who will be sensitive to their needs.

Rucker

Samantha Rucker (Photo: Courtesy Patrick Lee)

With hard times straining Fairfax County Public Schools’ upcoming 2011 budget, th e residents of Mason District in the greater Falls Church area of Fairfax County, a significant portion of whom are recent immigrants with lower incomes, are hoping for a new school board member replacing Kaye Kory, now a state delegate, who will be sensitive to their needs.

This Tuesday, March 2, Mason District residents will elect a new School Board member to help solve how Fairfax Public Schools will overcome a $200 million shortfall in its projected FY2011 budget of $2.3 billion.

Sandy Evans and Samantha Rucker, two Mason locals long involved in education advocacy, are vying to fill the seat left vacant by Kory, who resigned in early January to head to Richmond.

Evans is endorsed by Kory, and local Democrats, and Rucker is endorsed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, and Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity.

“I’ve devoted 14 years and gone through the system as a parent volunteer, PTA president and activist advocating for forceful change,” said Evans, a former Washington Post reporter and mother of two.” My daughter went through the entire system, from elementary to high school, and as a parent, so did I.”

Evans’ opponent, Rucker, began volunteering as a FCPS subsitute teacher in 1991, and worked as an instructional assistant for special needs children at Weyanoke Elementary.

Rucker immigrated to the U.S. with her mother and sister from the Caribbean, and said she identifies with the struggles of Mason District’s immigrant population. “I want to bring actual representation to the concerns of Mason District,” said Rucker.

 

Evans

Sandy Evans (Photo: Courtesy Evans)

Evans’ younger daughter, Zoe, started kindergarten in Fairfax County in 1996, prompting her to sign up as a room parent. From her early days as a parent volunteer, Evans got involved with several education committees and initiatives, and on the Sleepy Hollow Elementary PTA, serving as its president from 2000-01.

 

She also spearheaded several advocacy groups, such as Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal (SLEEP), which lobbies for a later morning start time in the county.

“I know the ropes, and I know the budget,” Evans said. “This will be the seventh year I’ve testified for the school budget.”

“I have the experience for the position,” she added. “I will look very closely at the budget and find how we can save millions to prevent us from cutting off resources for teachers and students.”

To date, the Fairfax Educators Association and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers – the county’s two largest teacher advocacy groups – have endorsed Evans, along with Kory, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee and five of the School Board’s current 11 members.

“I know and have worked with the School Board members,” said Evans, noting she had worked previously with Kory when Evans had joined the Sleepy Hollow PTA.

At present, Rucker works with the Virginia Attorney General’s office on issues including K-12 matters and school policy.

Rucker said, unlike her opponent, she “has actually written policy and has a proven agenda of helping schools retain teachers and improve access to resources.”

According to Rucker, her lobbying efforts, alongside Fairfax County officials, convinced Gov. McDonnell, a fellow Republican, to unfreeze the state’s Local Composite Index (LCI).

The LCI determines what share of state funds a school system requires, based on a number of factors that determine the change in the region’s economy.

With McDonnell’s proposal, Fairfax stands to gain $61 million, said Rucker.

Rucker said more funding will translate to more money to keep school programs threatened by recent proposals from the FCPS. “We need to preserve vital programs like band and instructional support, while combatting the bureaucracy and excess administration,” she said.

However, Ruckers believed the proposal to shutter Pimmit Hills Alternative School, whose student body consists mostly of immigrants, may be necessary. “We have to understand that cuts have to be made,” she said.

Evans said closing Pimmit Hills is not the first choice she’d make as district representative. “My first choice would be keeping the school open,” she said. “Or I’d like to see alternatives closer to where the kids live.”

Evans’ campaign can be found online at www.evans4sb.com, and Rucker’s Web site is www.samantharucker.com.

 

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