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Votes

Getting to Know ...

Sophia Bruner

<bt>Long-time resident of McLean, Sophia Bruner, a wife and mother with two girls and three dogs, the president of the Franklin Sherman Elementary PTA, has a telecommuting career in sales and manages to cook, play tennis and live life to its fullest.

My family:

My husband, John (Arizona boy) and I have two girls — Nicole (9) and Jackie (7). Also, my mother and father (yiayia and papou) and about 240 pounds of dogs! (Lab, Bichon, and an Old English Sheepdog).

About me:

I really like to stay involved with anything involving my girls — until they beg me not to! I also enjoy being active in our community.

My background and education:

I'm a local. I grew up here and went to American University for both by bachelor's in business administration and my MBA, with a focus on international business and marketing.

My occupation and what I like best about it:

I'm in sales. I act as a national sales representative for 40 independent resorts. We market them to the association and corporate industries. I work with three great people and a boss that allows me to telecommute. I am extremely grateful for that. I also enjoy planning the two major events our firm hosts each year for our industry.

What do you like best about your community?

I've lived in McLean for 17 years and prior to that North Arlington. The people are wonderful. We are four traffic lights away from our Nation's Capital yet we're in this great family-style community where everyone knows one another, helps one another, and backs each other up in raising responsible and happy kids.

It's a throwback to simpler times in a lot of ways. The days when I have meetings downtown, I know I can rely on my friends to help get my girls to the bus stop or to school.

What do you enjoy about your community ?

It's a very welcoming community — especially our school. In public school, it's quite common for kids to join in at any time during the school year. That can be tough. Everyone goes out of their way to make sure that these new kids blend right in and are included. They also make sure the parents feel welcomed and are encouraged to get involved in the school community.

What's one thing you would change about your community?

Lower the speed limit to 35 on 123 — it's ridiculous that it is higher than some parts of the GW parkway; add more lights for the entrance of Lynwood, Buchanan, high turn areas. After all, the McLean Planning committee has been trying to make McLean a more pedestrian friendly town. However, if we have to risk our lives walking up 123, it won't happen. It would be nice to have more families walking together to the center of McLean, or to the new playground on 193. Add a Mexican restaurant!

What are your favorite places in the community?

I love that little Corner Bistro — great food! As a kid from a Greek household, I have to make a plug for the Greek Taverna — if a Greek like's it, you know it's good. Mooranko's Ice Cream wins with the kids. Ichiban has great sushi and such a nice couple owns/runs it — my girls love it too. Pulcinella is a family favorite and has been for as long as I can remember — from back when it was the Italian Oven. Safeway is my true hangout. Clarence, Roger, Son, Andre — extensions of family at this point.

As a family we like to take the dogs and hike over on Scott's Run. It's more fun now because we don't have to carry the girls up that big hill from the river.

Why did you decide to run for PTA president?

First of all, it's not as if I was nominated and ran against a group of others. The people that have held this position typically volunteer for the role because they are already involved in the PTA and it's a natural progression. Unfortunately people do shy away from this role. If I can do it, anyone can. I really love being involved — and the people are great! Honestly it's a win-win. You're involved in your child's school, and surrounded by great people that have become close friends. I came from Country Day School (well, my kids did). It is the best starting place for kids. I enjoyed getting involved there and still have friends from that time. Also, when 'graduating' from preschool to elementary, you worry about the new environment, etc. — getting involved was my way of dealing with those stress factors. Getting involved and making these lasting friendships helps build the type of community you want to surround your kids. It helps provide a solid foundation.

What are your responsibilities as PTA president?

As with anything, it's all about those on your team. My predecessor — Wilma Bowers — is a VP which has helped a great deal. There's always a learning curve so having that continuity is invaluable. The officers work together, to create a strong team — as officers and on the 45 committees. Once this is done, everything really runs itself. Our team of parents manage programs from After School Foreign Language to Chess Club to an In-Class Drama Program that reinforces SOL material. Certainly I have check points along the way, papers to sign, and some problems to resolve, but all in all it runs itself. Everyone pulls their weight. None of us works harder than another. Another important factor is that we have an exceptional principal team and staff. Principal Marty Smith and assistant principal Pat Bunting lead an exceptional group of teachers and support staff. For instance, our guidance counselor, Nonie Spevacek, is a wonderful resource for both parents and kids. The school really works together with us and supports our PTA as well. They are constantly thanking us — when they're the ones that set the standard.

What issues are you facing in your school that impact you? Overcrowding in the classroom and poor facilities. Our school is 91 years old. The last renovation took place in 1970. We don't have walls in our classrooms. We are in the beginning stages of a renovation. It just takes time. The county is also going to try to reinstate a policy (if they get the funding) where they can better maintain basic systems in all our schools on a yearly basis, so things don't deteriorate to the degree that ours has.

By the way, we're already planning our 100 year birthday. Franklin Sherman opened in 1915 and became the first consolidated school in Fairfax County. Janie Strauss, our school board representative and one time Franklin Sherman PTA president, donated wonderful historical pictures that she found of our school. We had some students from the 1920s come tell us their stories — one woman even had her report card!

A larger issue facing us as we approach middle school is we realize that our children will have to go to school in the dark (and face major sleep deprivation issues). As a result they will have trouble focusing and performing well in school. The county says it will cost too much money to even consider changing this. We need to re-poll the families and see if they would mind altering start times across the board. We also need to sit down and see where all the funds are going and how things could be redirected. No one wants to see teachers have salary cuts — we're all in agreement there. However, I just don't see why we can't make this happen in one of the wealthiest counties — with some of the highest property taxes in our nation.

What would you like to accomplish as president?

First, help get the renovation process started. Staff and families have been waiting for years for this. We need to make this happen.

Second, move onto helping with the school start times. While it doesn't seem to be a Franklin Sherman PTA responsibility, we're the ones about to face that as we approach middle school. We need to work now to make those changes happen. Contact your school board representative. If we all pull together we can make a difference. This is for our kids.

What improvements are necessary at your school?

Really it's only the physical structure that needs help. Full day kindergarten would be wonderful for our future families. I know the county is trying to make that change happen. Otherwise I would not change a thing about Franklin Sherman. With only 370 kids in the school, we are truly one big, supportive, happy family.

How can parents get involved ?

Please sign the petition for changes in start times at middle and upper school. That Web site is www.sleepinfairfax.org. It really will make a difference. Also, if anyone is in agreement as to the need for lights and decreased speeding on 123, let me know.

Any political aspirations?

Not ever.

Any good books you've read lately?

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" and "A Million Little Pieces."

What do you do for fun?

Tennis, cooking, reading, running up and down the soccer field and playing 'along the sidelines!' We love to play games too — Cubes and Sorry are big right now.

What's your perfect day?

Not forgetting something. Playing with my family.

What's you favorite quotation?

One of the only ones I always remember and try to stress to the kids is "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." It's the simplest way to explain kindness to kids.