As a public service, the News-Press is offering all the candidates for the Falls Church City Council and School Board November’s election an opportunity to present their candidacies to our readers. This week’s statements are from School Board candidates Susan Kearney and Margaret Ward.
My name is Susan Kearney and I am a candidate for the School Board. I was first elected to the board in 2006 and have served the community in this capacity for a little over seven years, the past two as Chairman.
I am running for re-election because of my abiding belief that every child deserves a fair shot at success, and that an excellent education is the catalyst that makes success possible.
First, I want to thank the entire Falls Church community for valuing our schools. We can’t provide an excellent education to each child without your support.
In the guest commentary I wrote for this paper last week I outlined the new triennial plan for the schools and indicated my commitment to focus on implementing that plan during my next two years on the school board. The plan reflects the values and vision of our entire community as expressed in the communitywide forum that was held last summer. Please go here to learn more about it: https://fcnp.com/2013/09/26/guest-commentary-a-triennial-plan-for-falls-church-city-schools/.
I have two other priorities for my next two years on the board.
First, we need increased engagement between the schools and the entire Falls Church community. I would like to see more people, especially those who do not have students in school, accessing school facilities and attending school events. I also think it is important for students to be more involved in the community, using their passion, energy and creativity to give back to their hometown and the taxpayers who support the excellent education they receive. I propose that we create a task force comprised of students, adults, and businesses to brainstorm ideas for building stronger bonds between the schools and the rest of the Falls Church community and to make recommendations for School Board consideration.
Second, we need more collegial and productive relations between the School Board and the City Council. Over the past several years, as we weathered the recession and recovery, discourse has become less civil between our two bodies. While that may be acceptable on the Hill or in Richmond, we can do better here in Falls Church where we are mostly neighbors, friends, and family. I believe two things can help. Each year the School Board signs a code of conduct that includes civil discourse among us and with the community. As a result, our discussions are respectful and productive, even when we disagree. I urge each candidate- School Board and City Council – to commit to sign and abide by such a code of conduct if elected. I pledge to continue to do this.
Also, for the past two years the School Board has advocated for a multi-year funding model for school operations. This would allow the Board to plan with more confidence and also reduce tensions between the Board and Council during the spring budget process. I encourage each candidate in this election to support the adoption of such a model.
Questions related to these ideas or my candidacy? Please contact me at [email protected]
Many people have asked me why would I want to become a member of the Falls Church City School Board. My response is that I believe it is incumbent on me to give back to my community, particularly in areas where I can have the most impact. The combination of my education, work experience, volunteer work, and being a parent of children in the FCCPS school system provide me with a multi-faceted approach to issues the school board may face.
My education includes a B.S. in accounting from Wilkes University, a J.D from Catholic University, and I am two classes shy of receiving my Master’s degree in special education from the University of Virginia. After my third son was born, I opted to leave the practice of law and focus on being a full-time mother. My segue back into working outside of the home included taking a part time job at Thomas Jefferson Elementary school. It was while working at TJ as the permanent substitute teacher that I discovered my love for teaching, particularly students with special needs. My principal at the time, Trudy Taylor, saw my interest and encouraged me to enroll at UVA in the special education masters degree program. She also offered me a position teaching a remedial writing class.
For the past three school years I have been a special educator at Alice Deal Middle school in D.C. Not only did I refine my insiders view of the way schools are run, I found that working in such a progressive school system provided me with cutting edge professional development on many educational issues. This school year I began teaching in Arlington County.
I have lived in Falls Church City since 1989, with the exception of four years when my family and I lived in Haymarket, Virginia. Over the years, my volunteer work has included FCCPS PTA Grant Selection Committee, GM Athletic Scholarship selection committee, Bull Run Middle School School Advisory Board, and RE teacher at Holy Trinity in Georgetown.
I am a strong proponent of open lines of communication, and stress this in my work and in my personal life. I would apply that same philosophy in my role on the school board. I am very pleased knowing a George Mason student sits in an advisory role on the School Board as it is vital to get young people’s perspectives. I often speak with my students, my sons, and their friends, to identify what helps them best learn and what they would do to improve their learning environment. I have gleaned a great deal of information from these conversations that helped my teaching approach and I am sure will prove useful as a school board member.
While our wonderful school system is chiefly due to strong leadership and excellent teachers and staff, the physical plant also plays a vital role in the education of our children. I look forward to applying my experience and knowledge to help create state-of-the-art schools.