Sally Baird and Sharon Davis are seeking the Democratic endorsement for November's School Board election. They are running to replace retiring Vice Chair Mary Hynes.
The Democratic caucus will be on Saturday, May 20, from 2 p.m. 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.
Either Baird or Davis will face Independent Cecelia Espenoza and a Republican challenger in the general election.
NAME: Sally Baird
FAMILY: Partner of 17 years, Karen Foster, and sons Ryan, 5, and Adam, 3
CAMPAIGN WEB SITE: www.sallybaird.org
EMPLOYMENT: Vice President for Production Operations at Tax Analysts, a non-profit tax publishing firm
EDUCATION: B.A., Political Science, Kenyon College; Continuing Education in Publishing at George Washington University
SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS: Co-Chair and five-year member of the School Board's Early Childhood Advisory Committee (2001-present); Vice President for External Affairs of the Drew Model Elementary School Association (2005/2006)
COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES: Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance five-time Executive Board member, Nauck Civic Association, Democratic Precinct Leader
1. Why are you running for School Board?
I am running for School Board to expand and maximize early childhood education opportunities, ensure we retain the very best teachers, and bring new energy to the Board. I believe it's time for a new generation of leadership to build on our strengths. I have the experience and the ideas to make our School Board more responsive and more effective. As the parent of two young boys, I have a long-term commitment to our schools.
2. What personal, professional and community-related qualifications do you possess that make you an ideal candidate for School Board?
I bring extensive community experience and new ideas for making our schools even better. I am a parent and an accomplished professional manager responsible for a $3 million budget. As a leader with the School Board's Early Childhood Advisory Committee, Drew Model School Association, Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (and its family outreach group), and as a Democratic precinct leader, I have a record of working with people and getting things done.
3. While the school system has made great strides over the past decade in reducing the minority achievement gap, there are still wide disparities in test scores and graduation rates between white pupils and their black and Latino counterparts. What would you do to diminish this persistent gap?
We have a responsibility to ensure all children are achieving academically — and early childhood education is the most effective tool we have to close the achievement gap. As a School Board member, my top priority will be to expand preschool opportunities, focusing on children from families of lesser means. We also need to better track kids' performance as a means of concentrating efforts, and we must be willing to abandon approaches that are not effective.
4. Last year 11 Arlington schools failed to achieve their Adequate Yearly Progress targets under the federal No Child Left Behind law. What can be done to ensure more schools reach their goals in the future?
AYP is a poor measure of whether a school is actually making progress in educating children. The Bush Administration's method for implementing AYP results in administrative burdens and financial penalties on schools with diverse student bodies. As a School Board member, I will work to take advantage of the positive elements of the No Child Left Behind Act and ensure high performance from all groups of students, but de-emphasize misguided measures such as AYP.
5. How can the school system improve its early childhood education offerings?
Early childhood education is the single most important investment our community can make, and it will be my top priority as a School Board member. Too many Arlington children — including at-risk children — are waitlisted for public preschool. I will lead new efforts to fund more Montessori and Virginia Preschool Initiative classes and seek new partnerships to expand quality daycare. I will work hard to ensure parents are involved in the education of their young children.
6. Two weeks ago a Wakefield student was murdered in what police are calling "gang-related violence." What can the School Board do to be more pro-active in addressing the gang issue in Arlington schools?
This is a serious issue that affects everyone in our community. I will support more regional anti-gang efforts, including targeting gang recruitment and providing kids better alternatives. A number of ongoing anti-gang initiatives — including one under the metropolitan Council of Governments — wisely prioritize cross-jurisdictional collaboration. I want to build on these efforts, and explore how best to work with former gang members willing to speak out.
7. In the upcoming year the system's cost per student will be more than $21,000, the highest in the state. The operating budget will increase by 8.2 percent in fiscal 2007 even though enrollment is declining. Are these numbers sustainable in coming years, and are taxpayers receiving a fair value for their money?
I am proud to live in a community that truly values its children. Arlington's four high schools rank in the top 1 percent nationally. As both an experienced budget manager and a taxpayer, I know the importance of ensuring our money is well-spent, and maximizes our return on investments. I will be ready to make tough decisions on expenditures that reflect our priorities and are as efficient and effective as possible.
8. As rents countywide rise precipitously, fewer teachers are able to afford to live in the communities they serve. What steps would you take to ensure the county can continue to recruit and retain the best educators?
Retaining high-performing teachers is critical to our children's education. Yet we lose teachers every year as housing costs in Arlington soar. I will work to substantially expand the Live Where You Work program to help Arlington teachers live in Arlington, build a better clearinghouse of housing information, and initiate creative partnerships with housing nonprofit groups to increase housing opportunities for the teachers and staff serving our children.
9. Eighty-five percent of the county's population does not have children currently enrolled in Arlington's public schools. How would you foster greater community involvement and better utilize the resources of Arlington residents?
I believe that the School Board must serve the entire community — and our school facilities are community resources. The "Assets" framework can be useful here also; it measures the many factors that have positive impacts on our children. By emphasizing the external relationships, experiences, and opportunities provided by caring adults and our neighborhood institutions, this framework helps strengthen our community's culture and understanding of the roles we all play in helping Arlington's children succeed.
10. Would you establish a stronger outreach program with local organizations and create vocational partnerships with area businesses?
Yes. Community involvement in our schools benefits our kids and all of Arlington; more businesses can be great partners to help achieve our shared goals. Many Arlington businesses partner with our schools and PTAs; I will explore supporting and expanding those efforts. I'll also work to harness the energy of people who are eager to volunteer, working with principals to ensure efforts match educational priorities, for example by helping beginning readers or by tutoring math.
11. Does the school system need a more comprehensive foreign language program? Would you extend it to elementary schools?
Yes, and yes. Foreign language education is critical in today's world, and Arlington's diversity is one of our great strengths. I will work to encourage every child to learn a language in addition to English, and ensure access to language programs from an early age. I also want our schools to provide more opportunities for students to learn languages that are less commonly taught in the United States.
12. In an era of rising student obesity, what initiatives do you propose to promote student health and fitness?
Healthy children learn better and have fewer behavioral problems. As a School Board member, I will work to provide elementary school kids at least 30 minutes of daily recess. I will support new efforts to improve the quality of the food schools serve our children, and encourage more school-based parent advocacy groups to give us new ideas.