By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
In District B of the impending school board race, three incumbents will fight to keep their seats as two newcomers challenge their spots.
Incumbents Margaret Lorber, Veronica Nolan and Vice Chair Cindy Anderson are running for re-election in the city’s largest school board district, which spans the middle of Alexandria between Old Town and the far West End. All three are parents who have children who are still attending or have graduated from Alexandria City Public Schools.
In contrast, the two challengers do not yet have children in ACPS. Jewelyn Cosgrove has a 3-year-old daughter she intends to enroll in ACPS and is expecting her second child, while fellow challenger Abigail Wacek doesn’t have children.
Anderson, vice chair of the school board, has served one term on the board, having been first elected in 2015. She is a lifelong Alexandrian with a history of involvement in ACPS, including a short time as president of the citywide PTA Council.
Anderson said she’s proud of the work the board’s done over the course of her term, especially hiring the new superintendent, Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D., opening Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School and conducting a series of audits and studies throughout the division.
“There’s several audits and studies that we did this term, and now it’s time to implement the plans, and I want to make sure that we implement those with finality and that they don’t end up falling by the wayside with too much changeover,” she said. “Examples of these are the talented and gifted evaluations and also the special education evaluation and then our human resources audit.”
Anderson said continuity on the school board is important in order to move forward with the challenges facing ACPS.
Cosgrove, one of the two challengers, argued that the school board needs fresh perspectives. She said she’d bring a sense of urgency to the board and wouldn’t be afraid to push hard and take risks in order to move conversations forward at a faster pace.
Cosgrove has lived in Alexandria for five years and has a background in political science and international development. She said she is running for school board to represent young families in Alexandria.
“I think it’s really important that we have a voice that represents the families that are coming into the school system,” Cosgrove said. “I’m going to be involved with Alexandria City Public Schools for the next 20 years regardless, and I think it’s important to have that vested voice that’s going alongside our parents that can really speak to both the current and future student bodies’ needs.”
Some of Cosgrove’s priorities are the ongoing maintenance issues, improving after-school programming and expanding partnerships with city services and outside groups such as the Northern Virginia Urban League.
Lorber has been a school board member since 2016 and a city resident since 1980. She is a parent of two children who went through the ACPS system.
Lorber said she’s running for reelection because she feels she’s helped the school board take several positive steps during her time on it. She said she’s especially proud of helping evaluate special education, and that she wants to stay involved to make sure the school follows through on the recommendations of that evaluation.
If re-elected, she hopes to focus her energy on special education, cultural competency, staff increases and maintaining positive communication with the city.
“This board has probably been the most successful at bringing down some of those communication barriers and getting the funding we need but also the support and understanding that the public school system is part of the city and is an extremely important part of the city.”
Nolan, another board member completing her first term, is a teacher at Trinity University and a former nonprofit leader who said she plans to work in the education field until the day she dies.
Like her fellow incumbents, Nolan said the division would benefit from re-electing those with experience, both to continue the work already in progress and to mentor the new members who are elected to the board in November.
Nolan’s three-part platform focuses on solving the capacity and maintenance challenges, providing quality education for every student and engaging the community inside and outside of schools.
“For the last 20 years I’ve been involved in education in some way, shape or form, so I have relevant education experience,” Nolan said. “I’ve been an ACPS parent for the last 10 years and I’ve got 10 more years to go, and then … I really take very seriously my role in engaging with the community, and I think that’s something I really made as a focus of my last term and I want to continue doing.”
Wacek, District B’s second challenger, is a T.C. Williams graduate who returned to the city after finishing college in 2010. She’s worked as a regulatory consultant for the past six years, and said she would bring a fresh perspective, budgeting experience and problem solving skills to a position on the board.
If elected, Wacek said her primary areas of focus would be listening to and engaging with teachers, expanding vocational training at ACPS and practicing smart spending.
Wacek said she decided to run, in part, because the issues she heard about when she was an ACPS student are the same issues people are grappling with today. She said she wants the division to start answering those questions so it can be the best it can be.
“We pay a lot of money in taxes and I think our schools should be better than they are and that is a message that I have heard over and over again from folks,” she said. “I want to make sure that not only we have the budget that we need through a close relationship with city council, but that we’re spending the money that we have efficiently and effectively. And that is an area where we need to focus. It’s not just about how much money we get, it’s how we spend it.”
Voters who live in District B will be able to select three of the five candidates on Nov. 6. To read about the District A Candidates, who were profiled in the Oct. 18 Times, look online at alextimes.com and click on archives. The final profile on the candidates in District C will run next week.