"Lots of work, but scores are rising, schools are being built and students are graduating. It's very rewarding."
That's what is prompting Isis Castro to run again for Fairfax County School Board.
"It's been an honor for me to serve the Mount Vernon District. I'm grateful that my colleagues elected me to be chairman," said Castro, who announced her bid for re-election at a fund-raiser held this past weekend at Don Beyer Volvo.
In attendance were several elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, state Del. Kristen J. Amundson (D-44th), state Sen. Linda "Toddy" Puller (D-36th), Mount Vernon District supervisor Gerry Hyland (D), U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th), U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Katherine Hanley, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and several School Board members.
Kaine spoke about how hard School Board members work, especially in Fairfax County, where the parents are very involved. The Rev. George J. Griffin gave a blessing, and he praised the work Castro does for Good Shepherd, in particular with the Hispanic community.
Amundson knows more than anybody in this area how hard it is to serve on the School Board; she served on the Board for nearly a decade, two of those years as chairman.
"It's an enormously challenging position, especially in this community. Parents have high expectations and are so involved; that's good and bad. You're always having to balance and juggle," said Amundson.
"I think Isis has done a wonderful job as a School Board member. I supported her so strongly [last time she ran], and I still do. She worked very well with other members to bring things to Mount Vernon."
AMUNDSON CITED Project Excel as one of the important programs Castro brought to Mount Vernon. Amundson thinks that becoming chair of the Board was also a great accomplishment for Castro.
"I've heard from all sides that she has done a superb job. She has really built bridges with the Board of Supervisors," said Amundson.
Hyland said that he was honored when he was asked to emcee her announcement ceremony. "I introduced her as a person who has done an excellent job, and who will continue to do an excellent job."
The supervisor added, "I'm very happy that Isis has decided to run again, she’s been very strong. It's reflected in the fact that she was asked to be chair.
"She's made a commitment that all the children in the Mount Vernon District will get a quality education," Hyland said.
Hyland said that Castro has been good about bringing in programs for children with special needs. "Isis has pushed and pushed for improvement. The higher test scores have proven that," he said.
"She has reached out across party lines, she has the ability to work cooperatively with people and is a likable person, which is an asset for her," said Hyland.
Daniel Domenech, Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent, also knows firsthand why the School Board is so important.
"School Board members establish policy and set the direction and priorities for the school system. They represent the community and see to it that the community's values are reflected in the programs offered and the curriculum that is taught.
"The School Board can make or break a school system. Their decisions will determine whether the school system is world class or whether it becomes a dysfunctional bureaucracy. Fairfax Boards have always valued high-quality education, and thus far, they have been highly successful," said Domenech.
The superintendent added, "Mrs. Castro is an excellent representative for her community. There is no problem that is brought to her attention that is too little or inconsequential. She will attempt to solve every problem in a manner that is favorable to her parents and students.
She has been singularly focused on improving the achievement levels of all the schools in the Mount Vernon area and has succeeded in obtaining many resources for her schools. As the chairman of the School Board, Mrs. Castro has established excellent working relationships with the governor and with members of the county Board of Supervisors. Those relationships resulted in a very positive budget process this year."