In an unprecedented move, the School Board elected Mary Hynes as its new chair, even though she is retiring in December and will therefore be unable to complete the year-long position.
Hynes announced in February that she would not seek re-election after 11 years of service, in order to focus more time on other pursuits and to pave the way for a fresh voice on the board.
Hynes, who in 1994 became the first person elected to the board after the school system decided to no longer appoint members, previously served as chair of the School Board from January 1997 to June 1998, and from July 2001 to July 2002. She replaces Dave Foster, the lone Republican on the five-member School Board.
"Thank you for your vote of trust," Hynes, who had been vice chair for the past year, said to her fellow board member during their July 6 meeting. "I'm very happy to have this last opportunity to serve the community and the board."
LIBBY GARVEY was unanimously elected as the new vice chair, and is the favorite to be named chairman in January after Hynes retires. Garvey was previously chair from 1999 to 2001 and again in 2004-2005.
In nominating Hynes, board member Ed Fendley praised her leadership and ability to build consensus. He called Hynes an "experienced educator and parent [who] has served passionately as a committed member."
While Hynes will only act as chair for a six-month stint, she emphasized that it will be a busy period, full of "change."
School enrollment is expected to drop for the fifth straight year, and the student population is undergoing a major shift as some low-income families move out of Arlington to more affordable locations in the region.
The school system will have to meet the challenges of a changing fiscal environment, Hynes said, as the money it receives each year is based on the number of students. Additionally, the growth in county revenue is expected to slow as house prices begin to plateau.
One of Hynes' top priorities as chair will be to foster greater community involvement in the school system. Less than 20 percent of Arlington residents have children who attend Arlington public schools.
"My hope in the next six months is to take a serious look at some ways to bring more people into these discussions, so more Arlingtonians will have a better knowledge about what we do in the schools," Hynes said.
Board members also lauded the job of Foster, the outgoing chair. He was praised for his judicious facilitation of School Board debates and his ability to keep meetings moving at a brisk pace.
The school system "made a lot of progress this year," Foster said, noting the upcoming addition of Arabic and Chinese classes to the curriculum and greater recess time for elementary school students.
The School Broad presented Foster with a miniature chair attached to a wooden plaque in recognition of his service. Foster quipped that "since we're finally renovating our kitchen, an extra chair will come in handy."