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 Michael Ankuma, John Lawrence and Lawrence Webb.
My name is Michael Ankuma and I am running for a position on the Falls Church City Public Schools’ (FCCPS) School Board.
I have lived in the City since July 2005 with my wife and two daughters. Like a number of my fellow residents, we moved here from Alexandria because of the schools, after extensively researching the public school systems in Arlington and Fairfax counties. My older daughter successfully graduated from George Mason HS earlier this year and is a freshman in college; my younger one started at Mount Daniel Elementary School and is currently an 8th grader at Mary Ellen Henderson MS. Both have benefited in many positive ways from the teachers, friends and experiences they have met and encountered as students in the FCCPS system.
My professional background covers investments, banking and finance and I have never held elective office. However, I have been actively involved in the Falls Church community in various roles since 2003, when I started working in the City. I served on the Falls Church Education Foundation’s inaugural board as Secretary and simultaneously chaired its finance sub-committee for the first two-three years of its existence. I also served on the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce’s board for the last seven years, initially as a regular board member, then for two years as treasurer, followed by a stint as chair, for another two years. I have served briefly as a member of the City’s Long Range Financial Planning Working group, as well as FCCPS’s Day Care Advisory Board for the last six years.
I believe that a good education is the foundation to success in life. I also believe that the earlier one receives that education, the better one’s future prospects. I am therefore a strong advocate for exceptional K-12 education. I am running for office because I want to be involved in shaping the future of our City’s schools for the next generation. My campaign is about maintaining, and improving the academic excellence of our school system, wherever possible, through our teachers, curriculum and facilities. I would bring creative thinking, consensus building and a willingness to roll up my sleeves to the board, if elected.
We are already moving in a positive direction with capacity enhancements to Mount Daniel ES and Thomas Jefferson ES in recent years. The proposed sale of the City’s water system to the neighboring Fairfax County Water Authority presents the City with a once in a lifetime opportunity. The City and the FCCPS would receive monetary consideration for an asset from which we no longer derive any economic benefit. We would also be the beneficiaries of valuable land on which to build the high school of the future AND save the City from further costly litigation with Fairfax County that we are unlikely to win, in my opinion.
I would like your vote on November 5. Additionally, I urge you, fellow residents, to vote “Yes” to the sale of our water system to FCWA.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the coming years.
JOHN D. LAWRENCE
“Let’s start at the end” could easily be the beginning of Dr. Seuss book. Instead, it describes how I look at the next four years on the School Board, should I be elected. So what do I want? It’s simple. I want to look back at:
• This month’s grand re-opening of the new-and-improved Thomas Jefferson Elementary School with pride for my contribution to it on both the Planning Commission and School Board.
• Building on the Board’s new 3-year approach to goal-setting and say that we have true multi-year goals that are reviewed and adjusted as needed every year.
• A successful School-City-neighborhood collaboration that gives us a Cherry Street pre-K special needs center that is a point of pride for its neighbors.
• A successful conclusion about where to place our 2nd grade for the maximum benefit of the kids.
• A solution to Mt. Daniel’s space limitations that has the buy-in of its Fairfax and City neighbors, the schools, and the City that has been built and is running for the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
But mostly, I want to look at George Mason High School and see a start date for construction. And for that, we need to get everything I mentioned above DONE. GM will be the biggest public works project this City has undertaken in its history. The water utility was big, but was built up over time. We need to do George Mason in one fell swoop. And that means discussion, planning, creativity, and an all-out drive to get it built.
And that all has to start today.
I want to see a plan that gives us a 21st century high school on a smaller, smarter, more efficient footprint than the sprawling (but beloved) behemoth we now have. I want to see a development plan for part of the land that will provide solid revenues to the City and schools for years to come. And I want that development to be our vision, not a developer’s.
But nearest and dearest to my heart, I want to look back and see my son having loved 6th, 7th, and 8th grade and be halfway through 9th with the same smile on his face that he’s had every day going to and coming back from schools since Day 1. Did he want to see the new TJ and did he love it? Absolutely. But you know what really thrilled him at the ribbon-cutting? Turning a corner and suddenly seeing Mrs. Logan or Ms. Harbison and getting a big hug. Good facilities are needed, but it’s the people who fill them with a love of learning they instill in our children that make our schools as great as they are. I want to be on the School Board to support continuing that great Falls Church tradition.
On November 5, please vote for me, my fellow School Board candidates, and in favor of the Referendum.
I am asking for your vote on Tuesday, November 5 to elect me to the Falls Church City School Board. As an education professional for over a decade along with my understanding of the city’s political process I believe I am a strong candidate.
I recognize firsthand how important it is to have a strong educational system. As an Assistant Director of Admissions I review applications from George Mason High School students and it reaffirms they are some of the brightest students in our region. Additionally, for eight years I served the Commonwealth as a member of the Department of Correctional Education School Board with the last two years as its Chairman. During my tenure on the board my colleagues and I witnessed all seven juvenile schools attain state accreditation. We also saw an increase in the number of adults receiving GEDs and career and technical degrees, which studies show leads to a reduction in repeat offenders.
As a former member of City Council I worked with the School Board and voted in support of fully funding the budgets that were presented to the Council. I have been a champion and supporter of a revenue sharing agreement between the city and the schools. A revenue sharing agreement would take the politics out of funding our school system and let the school administration concentrate on maintaining and improving upon the success that we see in our schools. Furthermore, I can put my understanding of the budgeting process and relationship with the city staff to good use when the time comes to negotiate and advocate for our schools.
As the city continues to progress we are in need of a new high school and if elected that would be one of my top priorities. I will work with stakeholders on a facilities plan that will ensure we construct a building that will fit all of the needs of our students. We can make a huge step toward this endeavor with the passing of the water referendum which I support. An important and crucial part of the settlement agreement states that land occupied by Mary Ellen Henderson and George Mason would become a part of the City of Falls Church as opposed to their current location – Fairfax County. Incorporating this land into the city boundary allows the city more control over its use.
With the record growth that we have seen this year; dealing with our facilities issues is key to the future success of our school system. I ask for your support on November 5 and also hope that you will vote in favor of the Water Referendum. Thank you very much.