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In School Board Race, Incumbents Keep Pace With New Faces

Even split for tenured, new members on 12-person board; Democrat-endorsed candidates sweep races

Facing the largest turnover its had in years, the Fairfax County School Board held on to many of its incumbents Tuesday night despite an election season marked by loud cries for change.

Six of the board's 12 members did not seek re-election, leaving half the board open for newcomers to step into place.

But four of those seats went to incumbents Janie Strauss (Dranesville), Dan Storck (Mt. Vernon), Kathy Smith (Sully) and Illryong Moon (At-large), candidates who were sometimes cast into a group of "rubber stampers" throughout this election season by voters dissatisfied with school system.

On Tuesday night, however, they won, in some cases with substantial margins, over the self-labeled "reformers" who challenged them.

Two more incumbents — Sandy Evans (Mason) and (Providence) — captured their uncontested races, creating an even 6-6 balance between incumbents and new faces on the incoming board.

Democrats celebrated several other school board district wins Tuesday night, as many of the candidates they endorsed last summer secured seats.

While the board is nonpartisan, almost all Democrat-endorsed candidates trumped their Republican counterparts with district seat wins for in Hunter Mill and Megan O. McLaughlin in Braddock. Tamara J. Derenak Kaufax ran unopposed in Lee District. and , along with Moon, won

the only unendorsed candidate in the race, was not successful in his bid for an at-large seat.

The wins gave county Democrats one more seat on the board and a 10-2 majority. Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) and incumbent Patty Reed (Providence), who ran unopposed, are the only Republican endorsees. Schultz ran in a contest that saw two newcomers.

Schultz said the results showed the people in her district "showed up and said they deserve better" by giving her their vote. 

But it appeared that wasn't the case in other parts of the county, she said.

Anthony Bedell, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, said he thinks the disappointing results in the state Senate races may have affected the results, particularly in the at-large school board races.

"When those races didn't go our way that kind of coattailed some of those at-large candidates over the top," Bedell said. "If you look at the results, it was very bunched. There was nobody who really broke away by any large percentage point."

Coming off a race that in late weeks was marked by strong political rhetoric, board chair Strauss said the party banter that emerged during the campaign would not make its way onto the board.

She said it is "incumbent on us as a board to work together" and not let party views shape the board's decisions or direction.

"We have to work together as a board, and as chairman it's going to be my job to bring the board together," said Strauss, who said there was a "clear choice" in her race.

Epstein, who was , could not be reached for comment after results were tallied.

Some voters at the polls Tuesday were disturbed by that kind of rhetoric, and the overall tone of the races. Many acknowledged "poor decisions" made by the board during the past four years, but in many cases, it wasn't motivation enough to "throw out" all incumbents.

"There's is some truth about the arrogance part [on the part of school board members]. That has definitely happened, but I also think most of the school board members have been very considerate people ... they've gone out to the communities, listened to the constituents and done the best job they've been able to do with that," said Vienna resident Marcia Charin.

Perhaps more than new faces, voters at the polls Tuesday just wanted "smarter thinking" about how to address issues— among them, the , navigating another budget season and dealing with leftover resentment from hot-button issues like the closing of Clifton Elementary School, boundary decisions and disciplinary reform.

There will also be new issues driving the agenda: SOLS and teaching to the tests, teacher  and payment, schools' staffing formula and overcrowding among them.

Hynes, who will be the only person with recent teaching experience on the new board, said there will be a steep learning curve for new candidates.

But on the issues she campaigned on to voters in Hunter Mill, "I dont want to lose any time," she said.

Complete results below

At-Large School Board

Sheree A. Brown-Kaplan 80,721 15.73% Lin-Dai Y. Kendall 62,539 12.19% Lolita I. Mancheno-Smoak 69,611 13.57% Ryan L. McElveen 86,268 16.81% Ilryong Moon 91,588 17.85% Steven M. F. Stuban 37,344 7.27% Theodore J. "Ted" Velkoff 84,611 16.49% Write In 290 0.05%

Braddock

Nell J. Hurley 9,831 39.96% Megan O. McLaughlin 14,753 59.97% Write In 14 0.05%

Dranesville

Louise K. Epstein 12,128 48.00% Jane K. "Janie" Strauss 13,122 51.93% Write In 14 0.05%

Hunter Mill

Pat M. Hynes 12,511 56.99% Nancy A. Linton 9,432 42.96% Write In 9 0.04%

Lee District

Tamara J. Derenak Kaufax 13,926 99.39% Write In 85 0.60%

Mason

Sandy S. Evans 12,963 99.74% Write In 33 0.25%

Mt. Vernon

Michele Pilc Nellenbach 8,745 41.52% Daniel G. "Dan" Storck 12,308 58.43% Write In 8 0.03%

Providence District

Patricia S. "Patty" Reed 11,422 99.21% Write In 90 0.7

Springfield

Elizabeth L. Schultz 15,807 58.77% John F. Wittman 11,076 41.18% Write In 13 0.04%

Sully

Sheila P. Ratnam 9,338 45.37% Kathy L. Smith 11,233 54.58% Write In 9 0.04%
Mozart November 09, 2011 at 07:28 PM
"Clear mandate" seems like a bit of an overstatement, no, with such a narrow margin of victory. The results in Herndon do tend to bear out what many of us had been saying, which was that, even if Epstein had won, there was no way she was going to snap her fingers and convince other School Board members that needs-based funding should be eliminated or substantially revamped. Having said that, don't expect people in McLean and Great Falls to stop calling for ways to bring down the large class sizes in those areas.
Will Radle November 10, 2011 at 01:23 AM
We need to hold politicians accountable to the commitments they make to earn our support when they are running for office. A. Will Radle, Jr. Creating a Culture of Listening
EricBoll November 10, 2011 at 11:16 AM
Considering that my comments pertained to Janie Strauss' margin in the Herndon area precincts I stand by my comments. Voters in the Herndon area knew that Louise Epstein's election to the school board would be detrimental to the education of their children.
Mozart November 10, 2011 at 12:50 PM
OK, but Janie has said reducing class sizes throughout the district will be her top priority. If that's the case, voters certainly weren't rejecting the Epstein message, so much as rejecting the messenger, concluding Janie actually was more likely to be able to deliver on that promise than Epstein and/or voting along party lines. Call it a mandate if you want!
Will Radle November 10, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Every politician elected is mandated to keep their commitments to voters for we will hold them accountable. Won't we? A. Will Radle, Jr. Creating a Culture of Listening

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