By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
While city council campaigns are in full swing – with 13 declared candidates vying for six slots on that body – candidates for the Alexandria School Board are just getting started. So far, nine candidates have formally announced, while two more told the Times they intend to seek a spot on the school board in the coming term.
Unlike city council, for which partisan elections are held with a June 12 primary, school board elections are non-partisan and candidates run as independents, meaning they don’t participate in a primary. Candidates have until June 12 to file to be on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election.
Alexandria’s school board is composed of three representatives from each of the city’s school board districts: A, B and C. District A encompasses the eastern-most region of the city, District B the center and District C the west.
Alexandria voters will have the opportunity on Nov. 6 to cast ballots for up to three school board candidates in their districts. The candidates will be listed in the order in which they filed with the Office of Voter Registration and Elections, according to General Registrar Anna Leider.
Leider said nine candidates have begun filing their paperwork so far. School board candidates are required to supply a statement of economic interests, a statement of organization, a certificate of candidate qualification and a petition signed by 125 qualified voters from the candidate’s district.
The candidates who have begun filing materials are Jacinta Greene, W. Christopher Harris, Michelle Reif and Marc Solomon for District A, Cindy Anderson, Jewelyn Cosgrove, Margaret Lorber and Veronica Nolan for District B and Kate Ranta for District C.
Leider said in 2015 a total of 13 candidates competed for the nine available school board spots, while in 2012 there were 14 candidates.
Leider said it was not unusual to see a non-incumbent-heavy slate more than a month before the filling deadline, since incumbents already have candidate accounts and don’t need to wait to start campaigning or fundraising.
“We usually find out about the non-incumbents first, because they have to sort of get everything started up,” Leider said. “The incumbents, for all we know, they could be raising, spending money, campaigning, but they don’t need to provide other paperwork with our office until 7 p.m. on June 12.”
Anderson, Lorber and Nolan – all from District B – are the only incumbents to begin filing paperwork thus far.
School Board Chair Ramee Gentry said she intends to seek reelection and looks forward to continuing to serve the people of Alexandria. Incumbent Board Member Bill Campbell also said he would run for reelection.
Solomon, a young father with a preschool-age son, was the first to begin filing his candidacy in February. Solomon said his decision to announce early had to do with the city council race; in the past, some school board members have waited until after the Democratic primary to announce their candidacy, he said.
“The issues that we have to face are just so important and require city council assistance to sign the check,” Solomon said. “I want that conversation to be about education now, before the primary is over. I thought by entering and getting people to start talking about it beforehand, we can have a discussion.”
Cosgrove is a parent of a two-year-old daughter who is seeking a seat on the school board for the first time. She said she was impressed to see so many parents with young children among the newcomers.
“I think there’s a very active and excited and enthusiastic crowd of challengers, and that’s true of A, B and C,” Cosgrove said. “… I think a lot of other people are looking at getting engaged, getting involved and seeing that they can make an impact locally.”
Cosgrove said one issue she hopes to see addressed by both newcomers and incumbents in the coming election is ongoing school maintenance.
Solomon said school capacity is another topic that would most likely come up.
“Right now, without doing anything, we’re over 1,000 seats short, system-wide,” Solomon said. “By the time my son is in first grade, we’ll be 2,000 seats short. I’d like a seat for him. And I’d like a seat for everybody’s kid.”
As young parents, both Solomon and Cosgrove hope to bring the fresh perspectives of a new generation to the school board.
School board candidates follow the same schedule as city council candidates for filing campaign finance reports. The next report, which will cover the period through May 31, is due June 4.
On June 12, the same date of the council primary, the window closes for school board candidates to declare.