Voters to elect Alexandria city school district leaders from crowded field


Voters in Alexandria will encounter a crowded field of 16 candidates vying to lead the city schools in Tuesday’s election.

All nine seats on the Alexandria City School Board are contested. Three board members are chosen from each of the city’s three voting districts.

Board memberswill develop policy for the fast-growing, 15,800-student school system in Northern Virginia.

These profiles are based on candidates’ written answers and edited for space and clarity.

DISTRICT A

William E. “Bill” Campbell, 56, a project/design engineer for the Defense Department who lives in Parker-Gray and is seeking a third term.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University and master’s certificate in paralegal studies from Georgetown University.

Children in city schools: Three children graduated from T.C. Williams High.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Increasing academic achievement, especially among special education and English-language students and those from low-income families.

One idea to make schools better: Truly have the same high expectations for all students.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Agree with hiring Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. as superintendent. Opportunities were missed when the system redistricted.

Strongest qualification: Parenting and work experience, and six years on the board.

Favorite teacher: A “D” in fourth-gradeart inspired me forever.

* * *

Jacinta Greene, 46, a meeting planner who lives in Lynhaven and is making a first run for office.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Children in city schools: No children.

Greatest problem facing the school system: The achievement gap between students of color and their peers.

One idea to make schools better: Reduce suspension rates among black and Hispanic students and keep them in the classroom.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Implementing restorative justice training in Alexandria — now, we need to build upon it.

Strongest qualification: Experience handling large budgets and extensive knowledge of community needs through local activism.

Favorite teacher: My mother — she showed me the value of hard work and a quality education.

* * *

W. Christopher Harris, 43, an occupational safety engineer who lives in Parker-Gray and is Alexandria NAACP chapter president.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from National Louis University.

Children in city schools: Three children graduated from T.C. Williams High.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Facility maintenance and overcrowding.

One idea to make schools better: Offer vocational training opportunities for students.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Disagree with deferring routine maintenance to schools and facilities.

Strongest qualification: Governance through experiences as a student, parent and employee.

Favorite teacher: A.K. Johnson because he taught me the importance of discipline.

* * *

Michelle Rief, 46, an adjunct professor who lives in the Warwick Village/Del Ray neighborhood and is making a first run for office.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and master’s degree and doctorate from Temple University.

Children in city schools: Three children attending Alexandria City Public Schools.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Disparate treatment of students causing academic segregation and racially biased discipline.

One idea to make schools better: Strengthen general education curriculum and increase support for teachers.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Joint Facility Task Force helped the city and schools prioritize needs.

Strongest qualification: Insight from years as a professional educator and Alexandria City Public Schoolsparent.

Favorite teacher: My 10th-grade biology teacher genuinely cared and believed in me.

* * *

Marc Solomon, 36, who works in global security and intelligence and lives in Parker-Gray and is making a first run for office.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University andmaster’s degree from Georgetown University.

Children in city schools: Not yet — son will attend in two years and child due in March will, too.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Severe overcapacity.

One idea to make schools better: Close the opportunity gap with universal pre-K.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Great decision to audit human resources and facilities; need to implement findings.

Strongest qualification: Worldwide professional experience with violence prevention and capital budgets.

Favorite teacher: Mr. Roland’s AP Biology — akind man who encouraged tough questions.

* * *

Christopher Suarez, 35, a private practice attorney, education nonprofit organization co-founder and former sixth-grade teacher who lives in Lynhaven and is making a first run for office.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, master’s degree from Dominican University andlaw degree from Yale University.

Children in city schools: Not yet — has a 2-year-old son and expecting another child.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Not meeting students’ needs across race, class and disability.

One idea to make schools better: Empower teachers, pay them fairly and provide excellent professional development.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Glad the board undertook a facilities planning process.

Strongest qualification: Relevant K-12 education experience in the classroom, courtroom and boardroom.

Favorite teacher: Mrs. Nicholus challenged me to set high expectations for myself.

DISTRICT B

Cindy Anderson, 56, a business owner who works in real estate management, lives in North Ridge and has been on the board since January 2016.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from the College of William & Mary.

Children in city schools: Two children graduated from T.C. Williams High.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Lack of continuity and consistency.

One idea to make schools better: Attract and retain the best teachers and provide support.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Disagree withcafeteria renovation delay at George Washington Middle School in 2015.

Strongest qualification: Relevant institutional knowledge, commitment to the community and student success.

Favorite teacher: Jack Esformes because he made me promise to attend college.

* * *

Jewelyn Cosgrove, 34, a government affairs professional who lives in Brookville-Seminary and is making a first bid for office.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Tulane University andmaster’s degree from George Mason University.

Children in city schools: Not yet.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Deferred maintenance and capacity issues that cause overcrowding and suboptimal learning conditions.

One idea to make schools better: Reduce staff and leadership turnover to provide consistency.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Agree with creation of the Governor’s Health Sciences Academy. Disagree with delaying capacity investments.

Strongest qualification: Analytically approach problems; build relationships with colleagues, staff and stakeholders.

Favorite teacher: Madam O’Dell for investing and believing in me.

* * *

Margaret Lorber, 72, a retired public policy advocate who lives in Rosemont and is running for a second term.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota andmaster’s degree from Tufts University.

Children in city schools: Two children graduated from Alexandria schools.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Lack of equity, leading to disparities in student success.

One idea to make schools better: As we increase capacity, focus on building smaller schools.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Voted for money to pursue a comprehensive evaluation of the special-education program.

Strongest qualification: A career devoted to equity for the most disenfranchised children and families.

Favorite teacher: My fifth-gradeteacher because she challenged and inspired me.

* * *

Veronica Nolan, 43, an independent consultant and leadership coach, adjunct professor at Trinity University, former D.C. Public Schools teacher and former chief executive of the nonprofit Urban Alliance who lives in Rosemont and is running for a second term.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from University of Virginia and master’s degree from Trinity University.

Children in city schools: One sonat T.C. Williams High and oneson at Matthew Maury Elementary.

Greatest problem facing the school system: While academics are always important, our facility issues are alarming.

One idea to make schools better: A customer relationship management tool that takes feedback and turns it into action.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Formation of a task force of experts to survey city facilities.

Strongest qualification: Experience — 20 years in education including as ateacher and nonprofit CEO.

Favorite teacher: Mrs. Hogan made learning fun and every student feel special.

* * *

Abigail Downs Wacek, 30, a regulatory consultant who lives in Braddock Heights and is making a bid for a first term.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College.

Children in city schools: No.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Lack of fidelity to our teachers and students to see commitments through.

One idea to make schools better: Engage with teachers to understand what works in the classroom.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: I support the innovative design of Ferdinand T. Day Elementary.

Strongest qualification: I am uniquely qualified for this position because I don’t have children, so I can be focused on doing good for all students.

Favorite teacher: Ms. Frazier. She taught me how to love to write.

District C

Meagan Lorraine Alderton, 37, a special-education consultant who lives in Mill Stream and is making a first bid for office.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in communications and women’s studies from York University and master’s degree from Towson University.

Children in city schools: No.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Facilities maintenance and achievement disparities among socioeconomic groups.

One idea to make schools better: Ramping up the multitiered system of support, a process designed to address student needs early on to prevent long-term academic failure, with evidence-based interventions.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: The special-education and facilities audits were great decisions.

Strongest qualification: I have 15 years of teaching and education leadership experience.

Favorite teacher: Mrs. Virginia Potts, who trained me in classical piano.

* * *

Ramee Gentry, 44, an exhibition content manager at the United StatesHolocaust Memorial Museum who lives in Cameron Station and is seeking a second term in office.

Education: Master’s degree from George Washington University.

Children in city schools: Two children at T.C. Williams High School.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Closing theachievement gap, increasing capacity andaddressing deferred maintenance.

One idea to make schools better: Partnerships with local businesses to provide real- world experiences.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Pleased with selection of new superintendent.

Strongest qualification: Experience building consensus is important for board facing at least 44 percent turnover.

Favorite teacher: History teacher Ms. Pearson. Inspired my career path.

* * *

John E. Lennon, 74, a retired associate director at Voice of America who lives in Cameron Station and is making a first run for office.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from American University and master’s degree from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Children in city schools: One child graduated and another child is in high school.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Attaining uniform academic excellencewhile eliminating achievement gaps.

One idea to make schools better: Sharpen focus on counseling and inclusion for special-needs students.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Agree with adherence to five-year strategic plan.

Strongest qualification: Senior executive experience designing strategies, budgets and resource allocation.

Favorite teacher: Mr. Phillips, my ninth-grade algebra teacher, because I understood it.

* * *

Dianara Saget, 43, a licensed insurance agent who lives in Seminary Hill and is making a first bid for office.

Education: Northern Virginia Community College.

Children in city schools: Children attended Alexandria City Public Schools at one point; oldest graduated from Bishop O’Connell High School; home-schooling two sons.

Greatest problem facing the school system: The achievement gap.

One idea to make schools better: Implementing cultural diversity training for staff and leadership.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Disagree with installing lights at Parker-Gray Stadium at T.C. Williams High.

Strongest qualification: A critical perspective that is a true representation of parents and students in my district.

Favorite teacher: T.C. Williams Art teacher Dr. Louis; she understood my talents and always encouraged my creativity.

* * *

Heather R. Thornton, 28, a federal contractor who lives in the West End and is making a first bid for office.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from the University of Richmond andmaster’s degree from American University.

Children in city schools: No children.

Greatest problem facing the school system: Our challenges include building school capacity and ensuring educational equity.

One idea to make schools better: Integrate more learning resources that help create globally competent students.

Past board decision you feel strongly about: Support construction of Ferdinand T. Day Elementary by retrofitting an office building.

Strongest qualification: A former diplomat, I’m trained in consensus-building and outreach.

Favorite teacher: Mr. Cobb. He sharpened my academic potential when I doubted it most.



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Adam Jacob

Military veteran and medically trained.

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