After 11 years on the school board, vice-chair Mary Hynes has decided not to seek re-election this November, she told the Arlington Connection on Monday .
Hynes, who in 1994 became the first person elected to the board after the school system decided to no longer appoint members, is scheduled to make a formal announcement tonight during the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s monthly meeting.
Hynes said she had been thinking about retiring from the board for some time, and had even considered stepping down before the 2002 campaign.
“One of my really good friends once said there’s a time to learn, a time to contribute and a time to leave,” said Hynes, who has been an Arlington resident since 1977. “I’m at the point in my life where I want to move onto other issues, and want to take what I’ve learned and translate it into other kinds of work.”
Hynes served as Chair of the School Board from January 1997 to June 1998 and from July 2001 to July 2002.
When Hynes first ran for office, all five of her children attended Arlington Public Schools. Now that her youngest child is about to graduate from college, Hynes felt it was best to step aside in favor of others who might still have children in the school system.
“It’s time for someone else to bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the board,” she said.
Hynes said she is interested in pursuing a role as a community activist, but has yet to decide in what capacity.
“I’ve been intrigued the last couple of year by how you have civic conversations about tough topics,” she said. “How do you strengthen the community by building better understandings?”
After working for years as a preschool music teacher, Hynes said she was excited by the possibility of returning to the work force. But that doesn’t mean Arlington residents will never again see Hynes’ name on the ballot. She has not ruled out running for a different Arlington position in the future.
SCHOOL BOARD CHAIR David Foster said he would miss Hynes’ willingness to listen to different perspectives and her ability to generate creative solutions to problems that stumped other board members.
“She has an excellent command of the systems’ intricacies, and is well known and regarded by faculty, administrators and parents a like,” Foster said.
Though the board will be loosing years of expertise when Hynes departs, it will also benefit greatly by an infusion of new blood and ideas, Foster said.
The school system has undergone a dramatic change during Hynes’ tenure. When she arrived on the board, the federal No Child Left Behind Act and the state Standards of Learning tests did not exist, and the system was struggling with a huge growth in students.
“When I think back over the 11 years I served, we have come an amazing distance,” she said. “The system is very focused on the business of educating kids to the highest standard possible. We don’t do everything perfectly, but we’ve made a huge number of changes that have helped us along this path.”
Hynes does not plan on being a lame duck. Much work remains to be done in her final year in office, Hynes said.
“We have a lot on the agenda this year,” she said. “I’m not planning to fade.”