With 1 Incumbent, New Faces Highlight F.C. School Board Race

THE LONE INCUMBENT running for re-election to the School Board on Nov. 7, current board chair Lawrence Webb (far left, speaking) is flanked by a host of new faces at last Friday’s School Board debate in the City Council chambers. (Photo: News-Press)

Unlike the campaigns underway for the Falls Church City Council election on Nov. 7, where three of the five active candidates running are well-known incumbents, there is only one incumbent among six candidates running for the Falls Church School Board in the election next month, which puts a greater burden on the voters in the City to get to know the five new candidates and where they stand on the issues.

A School Board candidates’ debate was scheduled to be held last night at the American Legion Hall, taking place too late for this edition. One held last Friday at City Hall gave the public a chance to view the candidates, but with the candidates expressing more in common than otherwise, it may have proven difficult for many among the full house of attendees to pick favorites.
Lawrence Webb, currently serving as chair of the School Board, is the only incumbent on the ballot. His history now goes back a dozen years, to when he was first elected as a new City resident to the City Council, where he served one four year term.
As an incumbent and the chair of the board, Webb is the most enthusiastic supporter among the candidates for the passage of the school bond referendum on the ballot next month, as he played an integral role in every aspect of the deliberations and decision making that went into the ultimate decision made late last July to ask voters to approve the referendum which will give the Council and the School Board sanction to borrow up to $120 million for purposes of construction a new George Mason High School facility.

“I am a 100 percent supporter” of passing the referendum, Webb said at last Friday’s debate, which was co-sponsored by the Falls Church League of Women Voters and the Village Preservation and Improvement Society.

But he had a lot of other candidates chiming in likewise, including Greg Anderson, Shawna Russell, Richard Crespin and Shannon Litton, all enthusiastic in their support for it.

The only opponent among the candidates is Alison Kutchma, a 15-year resident of the City with three children who’ve graduated from the Falls Church School System. She was an unsuccessful candidate among eight contenders for the School Board two years ago.

She cited a lack of transparency in the deliberative process for her opposition, saying that sufficient details of the plans were not made available to the citizenry. “We need responsibility and transparency in financial management,” she said. “We need to be proactive in professional development and to be good stewards of our money.”

All of the candidates spoke glowingly of the Falls Church system’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which now covers all grades from kindergarten through the 12th grade, and the system is the only one in the state that does so.

Greg Anderson, a scientist, came to Falls Church in 2009 with a child who began at Mt. Daniel and is now a freshman at George Mason High. Since moving here, he’s volunteered as a technology expert for the schools. Standing for civil discourse, he said, “I’m committed to public service and I want to serve my community as a School Board member.”

Richard Crespin describes himself as “a lifelong entrepreneur and business owner” who wants to make sure that a dollar’s worth of results derives from every dollar spent.

“I’m running in part to show my children that a life spent in public service is a life well spent,” he said.

Shannon Litton has lived in Falls Church for over a decade and wants the Falls Church Schools to “be a world class system that meets the needs of all learners.” She has three children in the schools, and while supporting passage of the school bond referendum, she said “we must consider plans for commercial development (10 acres on the school site) carefully and cautiously.”

Shawna Russell moved to Falls Church a dozen years ago “being drawn here by the sterling reputation of the public schools” for her two children. She’s “fallen in love,” she said, “With the warm community feel of a small town.” She’s spent many hours volunteering and is the president of the Elementary PTA.