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Meet the Candidates for School Board

Five candidates seek three open school board seats in District B .

Five candidate are seeking election to central Alexandria, which is known as District B. No incumbents will be on the ballot in this district, and all of the candidates have been invited to a forum on March 30 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Minnie Howard Ninth Grade Center auditorium.

CLAIRE EBERWEIN is a native of Richmond, Mich., and she has lived in Alexandira since 1984. She has a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Michigan as well as a juris doctorate from the Georgetown University.

Eberwein was on the city’s first elected School Board in 1994, serving as chairwoman and vice chairwoman. In 2000, she was elected to City Council — but her 2003 reelection campaign was unsuccessful. She is a current board member of the United Way, Agenda Alexandria, Chamber of Commerce Government Relations Committee, Four Mile Run Stream Restoration Project and Alexandrians for an All-City Sports Facility.

“My service on the School Board gave me extensive experience in curriculum and testing issues,” she said.

Her top three goals for School Board are:

Encourage Excellence: Eberwein wants to use flexible and creative hiring practices to ensure that the city’s academic programs allow students to meet federal requirements and “attain their maximum potential.” She also wants to continually review teacher training and add new course levels.

Restore Credibility: She says that many Alexandrians feel “that the system is coasting on reforms and programs put in place years ago and that resources are being increasingly diverted out of the classroom and into administration.” The next School Board, she says, “must re-establish a true dialogue with citizens, provide unencumbered access to information to the public and conduct open, meaningful and civil debate among elected leaders.”

Demand Accountability: She wants the schools to implement “meaningful and thorough evaluations” of all current programs, seeking input from teachers and staff members. One way to accomplish this, she says, is to set specific performance goals that will later be used to evaluate administrators.

YVONNE FOLKERTS is a native of Kankakee, Ill., growing up in Morton, Ill., and she has lived in Alexandria since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University. After an 18-year career in journalism, public relations and association management, she became a stay-at-home parent.

She is a member and former president of the parent-teacher association at MacArthur Elementary School, volunteering her time to the school to tutor students. She is an active member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, where she is chair the capital campaign renovation campaign. She is a Girl Scout leader and a member of Twig, the junior auxiliary of Inova Alexandria Hospital.

“My qualifications to serve on the School Board are volunteering in my children’s elementary school; being a consensus builder, a communicator, and a leader,” she said. “I would bring to the School Board a fresh perspective, particularly that of elementary school parents.”

Her goals for the next School Board are:

Review Curriculum: Folkerts wants to “pursue a top-to-bottom review and refinement of the curriculum.” The goal of the review would be to make sure that students’ needs are being met.

Enhance communication: She says that she wants to maintain ongoing conversations with the community. “Open communication builds dialogue and keeps ideas flowing.”

Establish responsibility: She wants to include performance measures in the school division’s budget and “work to make certain taxpayers know their dollars are being well spent.”

ARTHUR PEABODY JR. is a native of Lynn, Mass., and has lived in Alexandria since 1972. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a juris doctorate from Cornell Law School. He is currently working toward a master’s degree in health-services administration from George Washington University.

He is a former career attorney for the United States Department of Justice, and is presently associate counsel at the BlueCross BlueShield Association. In Alexandria, he is a member of the School Board’s Budget Advisory Committee and he serves on the board of Alexandria Senior Citizens and the Alexandria Bar Association. He is a member of the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria Lawyers Committee, T.C. Williams Crew Boosters and the Titan Expo Committee.

His top three goals for the School Board are:

Retain Teachers: Peabody wants to reduce paperwork requirements for teachers, ensure that they have sufficient supplies and promote professional opportunities to enhance career advancement.

Strengthen Curriculum: He wants to review the current curriculum to find ways that it can be strengthened, with a special emphasis on challenging talented and gifted students.

Eliminate Waste: He wants to implement “zero-based budgeting” and evaluate all programs to “eliminate waste.” Peabody says that Alexandria needs a School Board “that makes decisions openly, listens to parents and acts to meet the needs of all students.”

ELYNN SIMONS is a native of New York, and she has lived in Alexandria since 1973. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from American University and a master’s degree in conflict management from George Mason University.

For the past 15 years, she has operated a tutoring and educational consulting business. She is also a substitute teacher in Alexandria City Public Schools.

“I know Alexandria schools and I truly believe in them,” she said. “I have been a strong and vocal advocate for the public schools for the past 30 years.”

Her goals for the next School Board are:

Restore Confidence: Simons says that people are largely unaware of the things that happen in the city’s schools, and she would like to see a public relations effort that would demonstrate the breadth of activities in the schools. “I will talk to anyone who will get the word out that ACPS is thriving,” she said.

Examine Budgeting: She said that she would like to question several parts of the budget, including the school division’s rented space on Beauregard Street. She would like to see the School Board working more closely with City Hall to share costs.

Diversify Opportunity: Simons is concerned about what she calls the “middle child,” students who are not advanced or disabled. “Sadly, I think we lose many children in this category to private schools,” she said.

PETER SMEALLIE III is a native of New York, and has lived in Alexandria since 1975. He has a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from St. Lawrence University.

He has served as a PTA president, a member of the design committee for the addition at George Washington Middle School, chairman for group of parents to revive George Mason school, chairman of the 2005 Scholarship Fund Telethon, vice president of the Alexandria Crew Boosters and a former member of board of the T.C. Williams lacrosse boosters.

His goals for the next School Board are:

Achieve Excellence: Smeallie says that he wants to “achieve academic excellence for every child to be prepared for success in a vocational trade, community college, or university.”

Attain Equity: He wants to consider new levels of courses in core subjects and find ways to improve the delivery of specialized programs such as special education, English as a second language and talented and gifted programs.

Demand Accountability: Smeallie wants programs to be publicly evaluated, with resource allocation linked to performance standards. He says that the School Board “must present a comprehensive and comprehensible budget to City Council that reflects the return value for taxpayer money.”