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Davis Jumps into School Race

Democrat lost 1999 School Board election, but hopes to win seat being vacated by Mary Hynes.

Sharon Davis has announced that she will seek the Democratic endorsement for the upcoming School Board election, creating a two-woman race in the Democratic caucus.

Davis is a long-time Democratic activist who lost the 1999 School Board race to David Foster by only a few hundred votes. She will face newcomer Sally Baird, who jumped into the race only days after School Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes decided not to seek a fourth term.

DEMOCRATIC voters now face a stark choice between one candidate with more than two decades worth of experience with Arlington schools, and another who has young children in the system and believes she would bring a fresh perspective to the board, Democratic leaders said.

The Democratic and Republican parties are prohibited from nominating candidates for School Board elections, but both hold endorsement caucuses.

The Democratic caucus will be on Saturday, May 20, from 2 to 9 p.m. at the NRECA building in Ballston.

In Virginia, residents do not have to register by party, so anyone who is registered to vote can participate in the caucus as long as they sign a pledge agreeing to support the winner.

Mark Dorfman, a prominent Democrat who had been mulling a run, said he would not enter the race now that Davis has declared her candidacy.

Reid Goldstein, the chair of H.B. Woodlawn’s parent advisory committee, said he is in the process of putting together an organizational team to help him decide whether to face Baird and Davis.

The winner of the caucus will face Independent Cecelia Espenoza in the November general election. Espenoza garnered 20.55 percent of the vote in last year’s School Board election.

Arlington County Republican Committee Chair Bill Lockhart said his party has interviewed two potential candidates, but neither has decided whether they will run. He hopes they will make a decision by the organization’s March 11 meeting, when Arlington Republicans vote for a new party chairman.

"We look forward to a spirited race, and hopefully the winner will be concerned about the welfare of Arlington school children and the concerns of Arlington tax payers," Lockhart said.

DAVIS, WHO is married to State Del. Al Eisenberg, is the chief minority clerk for the House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce.

She has previously served as co-chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction and chaired the Partnership for Children, Youth and Families.

Davis also co-chaired the citizens committee that organized the 2000 bond referendum for the school system’s capital improvement projects. Her two sons, Matthew and Alex, both graduated from Washington-Lee High School.

Since her defeat seven years ago, Davis, 55, has stayed active in the school community in hopes of running again. Hynes' retirement presented the perfect opportunity.

"You get to the point where you’d really like to be the person who helps make the final decisions," she said. "I have a good rapport with people in the school and government structure, and I feel I can hit the ground running and be a thoughtful board member."

In a time of declining student enrollment and cuts in federal funding, it is imperative that the school system better utilize its community resources, Davis said in an interview last week.

If elected, Davis said she would work to form partnerships between students and local businesses and community organizations.

Davis also plans to focus her campaign on the issues of decreasing the minority achievement gap and cutting the drop-out rate.

Early childhood education figures to play prominently in the battle between Davis, who helped found a day care center at Clarendon Methodist Church years ago, and Baird, who currently serves as co-chair of Early Childhood Education Advisory Committee.

Baird, 41, lives in South Arlington and is the parent of two sons, a 5-year-old at Drew and a 2-year old. She is vice president of a nonprofit tax publishing company and also serves as vice president of the Drew Model Elementary School Association.

Baird, who has been endorsed by School Board member Fendley and County Board member Jay Fisette, said her involvement with Drew and early childhood education issues have caused her to run for School Board.

"One of the things that has hit home to me working with Drew parents and teachers is how important the school community is to setting the stage for learning," she said in an interview last month. "It’s not just about teaching students, but helping engage parents and help connecting them to their children’s education."