Earlier this month, School Board candidates Marsha Paul and Dan Storck spoke. And people listened. Last week, they spoke again, and people continued to listen.
Supervisor Gerry Hyland and his challenger, Purvis Dawson, also spoke, as did Lee District supervisor Dana Kaufmann and Lee District School Board candidates Brad Center and Terrie Dacales.
They all spoke because they had something to say about their background, about their views and most important, about what they, as campaigning politicians, want to do for people in their voting district.
With Nov. 4 looming, candidate forums throughout the region are heating up.
The Hollin Hall Village Civic Association held a forum Sept. 16 for Paul and Storck, at the Hollin Hall Senior Citizens Center as part of their regular association meeting. Both are running for Fairfax County School Board as the representative from the Mount Vernon District.
Paul told the crowd that one of her priorities was the budget. "We've got to get this budget under control. Seniors can't make it if we keep raising property taxes. I'm ready to get in and dig and find areas to reduce," she said.
The second issue Paul said she was concerned about was the reading and math curriculum. Paul is concerned that with the whole language approach: "Kids can't spell or write." She'd like to see a reading and writing program that incorporates phonics. As a substitute teacher, she also sees deficiencies in math. "We have fourth- through sixth-graders who can't multiply and divide," said Paul.
The third issue Paul would like to address is the discipline and behavior in the schools. "We have some of the best teachers and principals, but we also have a wide range of socioeconomic needs that need to be addressed by the county and school boards," said Paul. "We have to develop a system to learn how to do it [discipline students] and have more parental involvement."
STORCK SAID that he knows how to start and run big businesses and that he's also been involved in the community and is "committed, involved and ready to learn."
Storck said he believes in accountability, noting that the budget needs to be cost-effective and realistic. "We don't want to grow the cost of schools," said Storck, who would like to see smaller classroom sizes because "teachers can handle them better."
Storck also cited the lack of parental involvement as a No. 1 problem. To help when parents are not able to be home, he would like to institute intramural programs.
"They [programs] don't cost a dime, and they keep kids from walking home alone," said Storck.
Through his work on the Community Task Force on the Fairfax County Public Schools Budget, Storck believes that there's a way to increase the school budget without increasing taxes. He said that it may be possible to get more federal money for Title I programs. He said he also thinks that Fairfax County's transportation system can be much more efficient.
"We looked at Loudoun and Montgomery counties, and they have much more efficient transportation systems [than ours]," said Storck.
AT THE MOUNT VERNON-LEE Chamber of Commerce Legislative Leaders Breakfast, Paul and Storck faced off once again, this time with a shorter window of five minutes each. Paul continued to expand on her three key issues: fiscal responsibility, school curriculum and safe environment. Storck repeated how important programs like Project Excel are and how critical it is to have different learning styles for various learning abilities. He also said that schools need to develop better partnerships.
Prior to Paul and Storck, candidates for the Lee District representative on the Fairfax County School Board spoke. Center said he understands the issues as a parent, and as a businessman he also understands how to handle large budgets.
Center's two main issues revolve around achievement, reducing the gap between minorities; and accountability, needing to do more with less, refocusing priorities and maybe cutting administration.
"It's a complex school system, and we need solutions, not slogans," he said.
Terrie Dacales explained that she's spent 30 years in education and "wants to continue the work that I started in my life."
Dacales said that she's been to all the schools, especially the ones that have problems, and there are children who can't read.
"I don't know all the answers, but I think I would be an asset to our schools," said Dacales, who is an advocate for the basics. "I love the school system and everything about our schools."
DANA KAUFFMAN, who is running unopposed for Lee District supervisor, spoke about what he's done the last two years, and what he hopes to do if re-elected. Most of all, he would like to expand on the success of Route 1, saying that "smaller projects induce bigger projects."
Candidates for supervisor in the Mount Vernon District, incumbent Gerry Hyland and challenger Purvis Dawson, had a chance to give their views. Dawson said that he applauds Hyland and Kauffman for their efforts to revitalize Route 1, but he still wants to see more done there. Dawson mentioned the installation of deceleration lanes in critical areas. He also wanted to know why the county hasn't spent the entire transportation bond money.
"We need to do more with transportation than talk about it," said Dawson. "When I talk to voters, the same things come up, taxes and transportation, that's what they're concerned about. And schools, everybody wants safer schools."
Dawson said that he was the silent candidate until September, because he had an obligation to the Fair Oaks District police station, where he serves as the assistant commander. He is taking leave to campaign for the supervisor's position.
"I had an obligation to the people I serve, so I put the campaign on the back burner. Now I'm working seven days a week," he said.
Hyland spoke about the recent hurricane, saying that "Fairfax County did a terrific job," and "in my 16 years as supervisor, I never experienced such an event that has impacted so many people."
Hyland mentioned how he was part of a Revitalization Policy Committee, where he worked with all parts of Fairfax County, changing the rules to make revitalization happen.
"People now see Route 1 as an opportunity, and [they] are coming, day by day," said Hyland.
Hyland went on to say how well the chamber and the Southwest Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC) have worked together, adding that his style of government is to get people involved in the process of government.
"When I first suggested having town meetings, all the other supervisors thought I was crazy," said Hyland. "Now just about all of them hold meetings. It's the only way to know what people want."
Hyland's No. 1 priority continues to be Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. "It shouldn't move to Springfield," he said.
Hyland concluded by saying, "Why, after four terms, am I running again? I like taking on people's problems, and I still have the fire in my belly."