School days! School days! In case you missed hearing, Fairfax County has a special election for School Board next Tuesday, August 29. The election is for an At-Large School Board seat, so registered voters in the county may vote at their regular polling place on Tuesday, from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. The special election was slated when At-Large School Board Member Jeanette Hough, who had just been elected in November 2015, announced her resignation on May 31, to join her husband on an overseas work assignment. The victor in the August 29 special election will serve out the remainder of Ms. Hough’s term, which expires on January 1, 2020.
Four candidates have qualified for the August 29 ballot: Karen Keys-Gamarra, Chris Grisafe, Sandra Allen, and (Ms.) Michael Owens. By state law, School Board candidates run as independents, but are free to solicit political party endorsements. Mr. Grisafe has been endorsed by the Fairfax County Republican Committee, which also supported him in his failed attempt to become Providence District Supervisor in 2011. Ms. Allen and Ms. Owens are not endorsed by a political party.
Karen Keys-Gamarra is running for the At-Large School Board seat, endorsed by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee (eight candidates vied for the endorsement), as well as the Fairfax Education Association and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. In 2015, Karen ran for the Sully District School Board seat, losing by a mere 197 votes out of more than 20,000 votes cast. Karen is an attorney, who specializes in advocacy for children, including serving as a guardian ad litem for especially challenging cases. Karen’s three children have been educated in the Fairfax County public school system so Karen understands classroom challenges as a parent, as well as advocate. Another skill that Karen would bring to the School Board is a unique perspective on land use and development which, of course, can have significant effect on school populations and new students moving to the county. Karen was appointed to the Fairfax County Planning Commission by Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith in January 2016, but would resign from that position upon election to the School Board.
As mentioned often during budget season, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors transfers more than half of the county’s revenues to the School Board (in FY2018, the amount was $2.17 billion, or more than 52 percent), and we expect that money to be wisely spent. Karen Keys-Gamarra supports protecting and maintaining valuable after-school programs to help youth make good decisions. She also wants to enact policies to reduce bullying so that students have a safe learning environment. Competitive teacher salaries and lowering class sizes round out Karen’s main issues to maintain an excellent and forward-looking school system. I hope you will join me in voting for Karen Keys-Gamarra on Tuesday. She is an outstanding leader, and will be a great School Board member.
Coincidentally, school starts on Monday, August 28, the day before the special election, so lowered speed limits around schools will be enforced. Drivers should remember to exercise more caution around schools, and walking areas where children may be present, and never, ever, attempt to pass a school bus that is displaying flashing red lights.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.