Last week, a member of the community submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to gain access to all the emails I’ve sent to School Board members for the past two years.
FOIA seems a little over-the-top for a local School Board race, but here we are. I have nothing to hide about my motivations for seeking office, and so I’d like to share a summary of everything I’ve sent over the past two years. It may help you determine what kind of School Board member I’d be.
1. I objected to a decision that sidelined equity, ignored policy, and wasn’t grounded in good data. I was the McKinley PTA president during last year’s school move process, and in that capacity I sent many emails to the School Board, including a joint letter signed by six other school PTA leaders highlighting shared concerns. My concerns about the school moves are summarized in the Washington Post op-ed I wrote last year on February 9.
2. I asked for accountability. In February 2020 I contacted the School Board to ask what steps it would take to hold staff accountable for constructing a new elementary school (Fleet) that lacked essential accessibility and safety features for students with disabilities and ended up costing millions of dollars to retrofit. One School Board member reached out to ask whether I had any insights to share about how facility design and construction could be better managed. My husband happens to work in commercial construction and real estate development so we sent a response outlining several suggestions.
3. I expressed concern for others in the community. I sent emails last fall about the elementary school boundary process. Although my own children are no longer in elementary school, I really worried that it was too much to ask for community engagement on boundaries at the same time families were working hard to support virtual learning and in some cases struggling to meet basic needs. I also suggested that there were other, one-year temporary measures APS could take to provide much-needed relief to Arlington Science Focus, which has been significantly over capacity, and utilize the new site at Reed.
4. I sought out other perspectives. When I decided earlier this year to run for School Board, I contacted current School Board members to ask for their perspectives on immediate and longer-term issues facing APS. This has been part of a larger effort I’ve been making to reach out and listen to people with diverse viewpoints and experiences in our school system. I’ve had more than 40 of these conversations (outside of campaign meet-and-greets) and I learn something valuable every time.
5. I said thank you. I don’t agree with every decision the School Board makes. However, I was brought up to acknowledge people’s hard work and good intentions whenever possible, even though I might disagree with them or need to hold them accountable. So yes--you’re going to see emails from me that thank School Board members for their service during an extremely difficult and unprecedented situation. You will read that I thanked them last fall for exercising caution, because I am the sister of a phenomenal ICU nurse who was for a harrowing stretch of time the only person allowed to be bedside with her patients.
Does this mean that I agree with every decision the School Board and APS leadership have made during this extraordinary time? No. But I believe that we can disagree and even hold people accountable with decency and dignity. I’d say that’s something that has been missing for far too long in our civic discourse.
If this is the kind of leader you’d like to serve on your School Board, I hope you’ll support my campaign and make a plan to vote in the Caucus May 17-23.