Local Commentary

3 FCCPS School Board Candidate Statements

This piece includes statements from Ilya Shapiro, Kathleen Tysse and Lori Silverman. Statements from other four candidates can be found in last week’s print edition of the paper or online at fcnp.com.

Ilya Shapiro

I’ve never run for office before. As I filed my paperwork in June, I thought of nothing but my two sons. My oldest is in kindergarten at Mount Daniel, and my youngest is at Dulin Cooperative Preschool—where my wife Kristin is the president, and where I’ve helped out as perhaps the first-ever Jewish Santa Claus.

We moved to Falls Church for the same reason most of you did: to give our kids the best educational opportunities. I dearly want that for all children in our Little City.

I learned the importance of education from my parents. They made tremendous sacrifices to get me out of the Soviet Union. We immigrated to Canada, where I had a typical small-town childhood, full of sports and Boy Scouts, working hard and dreaming big.

I came to the U.S. for college and law school and am one of the few people you’ll meet who’s naturalized twice. Like most immigrants, I do a job that most native-born Americans won’t: defending the Constitution.

Indeed, as a constitutional lawyer, I have unique experience understanding how legal policy can affect people’s lives. My professional background, including filing Supreme Court briefs and testifying before congressional committees, has made me familiar with education law. That’ll help Falls Church navigate state and federal regulations.

I’m also a member of the Virginia Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, serve on nonprofit boards, and, most importantly, help coach my son’s tee-ball team. I know what it is to be a fair arbiter, to earn the praise and ire of politicians and—similarly—to settle the tantrums of five-year-olds. If elected, I’ll represent everyone, including non-parents.

Our tiny district continues to lead the state and region in overall quality, and I’m thankful to the teachers and staff who make that happen. Still, last year, when parents were most concerned about learning loss and getting back to in-person school, the board repeatedly deferred to the superintendent and instead debated whether to change school names—and then did so against the super-majoritarian weight of public opinion. Those mistaken priorities, that lack of executive leadership, have led me to focus on accountability. That means:

Responsiveness: I’ll represent community members and respond to your concerns.
Transparency: I’ll explain all my votes online.

Independence: I’ll bring a fresh perspective instead of going along with groupthink or the path of least resistance.

Accessibility: I will quickly respond to emails and hold regular office hours.

Local engagement is where we build the society we want, which is why I’ve been humbled by the local support I’ve gotten. In sponsoring Education Foundation events, knocking on doors, and canvassing at the farmers market, I’ve learned that people want a diversity of thought on the school board. Indeed, whenever this newspaper takes a gratuitous swipe at me, donations and yard-sign requests go up. That’s gratifying—and shows that people want a board that’s serious about governance.

I’m running to maintain excellent schools while improving accountability. I’d be grateful for your support.

Kathleen Tysse

I have always been passionate about education and service. I’m a former teacher and a mom of four kids who attend three FCCPS schools. While home with my kids, I continued to pursue my passions: regularly volunteering in the classroom of our cooperative preschool and eventually serving as its President; serving on the Mary Riley Styles Library Board of Trustees and eventually co-creating a Development Committee for the library’s foundation; serving as a room parent in our elementary schools and eventually as the elementary PTA’s President. It is important to me to serve a community well and understand its needs before leading it.

I believe our schools, leadership, teachers, and staff are indeed excellent. But we can still be better. After nine years of community engagement, I understand how we can improve. I want to be a strong, positive voice on our school board that recognizes and leverages our community’s many strengths to better serve our students and families. I believe we can do that equitably, in partnership with our professional teachers and staff, and with open communication.

How do we ensure each of our students maximizes their potential? All of our students, in general and within specific populations such as ESOL, Special Education, and those from lower income families, should be fully valued and able to achieve their goals. I support our equity policy and the important steps we have taken in this effort. However, I want our schools to be a leader in equity and that means continuing to take action. I support our recent assessment’s recommendations to increase the diversity of our employees and to implement a curriculum audit. I encourage Falls Church to open its doors wider to welcome more people of all kinds to our Little City.

I respect the professional expertise of teachers and staff. Our teachers should be treated like the highly trained professionals they are: they should be held to a high standard, their work valued, and their voices heard.

I want to lead with responsive communication. The pandemic has been difficult and divisive. I haven’t always agreed with our leadership, but because I understand our schools and have worked closely with our decision makers, I trust that countless impossible decisions were made in good faith. I believe more community members would share that trust if the decision making process had been more clearly communicated, acknowledging nuance and compromise while ensuring stakeholders felt heard.

I’m an introvert who finds myself regularly out in the community because I believe in Falls Church. I’m proud of my grassroots campaign which has raised a modest but sufficient amount of money through small, local donations built on the foundation of my sustained involvement around town. No amount of money replaces engaging with community members one on one and I’m grateful for each opportunity I’ve had to connect and serve. I hope to continue that service as a school board member who works hard for positive change, celebrating our strengths, and challenging us to always be better.

Lori Silverman

Communication. Collaboration. Community. I’m deeply committed to our wonderful Little City and its schools. Creating a culture of caring is of upmost importance as we rebuild after a difficult year.

I will work hard to ensure we give our children every opportunity to succeed. Teaching our children to become inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective are important attributes that I try and teach my children at home. I’m thankful our public schools further instill these values. Education is not just about academic success. It’s about teaching our children to leave the world a little better than it was before them, making a difference, and understanding people from different backgrounds.

This past year and a half was challenging, and decisions were difficult, whether you were looking through the lens of a student, parent, teacher or administrator. I will be a thoughtful and reasonable voice in these uncertain times as we navigate ahead together. I am a good listener, a critical thinker, and an advocate for the principles in which I believe. I bring a distinct and diverse background if I have the privilege to serve on the School Board, as a single mom and a small business owner. Being cognizant of the fact that many families in our Little City have different family structures will always be a part of my decision-making.

As our community opens up after over a year of struggle, I want to ensure that our schools continue to remain open to our families and teachers, full time with as few disruptions as possible, but in a safe and responsible way. This means implementing every mitigation measure recommended by the Center for Disease Control or the American Association of Pediatrics. I applaud our school district for opting into ViSSTA, a program to have on-site Covid testing of our children. This not only benefits our children, but also our greatest resources: our teachers and staff.

Providing academic, social, and emotional support, especially after a trying year, is critical. The teachers and staff need these supports funded in order for them to do their job best. With this additional support, our children will continue personal growth to become the best versions of themselves. Maintaining small class sizes is critical to ensuring our children’s success. While we have a great diversity, equity, and inclusion statement, I want to ensure it is properly funded and that money goes into the classroom to implement the curricula.

It is crucial that our parents and teachers have an authentic voice and that everyone receives the respect they deserve. I promise I will always have an open-door policy. Understanding that everyone may not agree with me on every issue, please know that I will consider all information, listen to all voices, and my final views will always come from being committed to do what is right for our children. If you want to learn more, please go to www.lorisilverman4fcc.com or email me at: loriforfccsb@gmail.com.