Town of residence: Fairfax
Family: My family is originally from Egypt and my wonderful husband, Thierry, is from Haiti. We have been married for 7 years and we have a two children, Thomas is 2 ½ and Mary is 8 months.
Education: I hold a B.A. in Sociology from George Mason University
Offices held, dates: This race is my first time running for an elected office.
Occupation and relevant experience: I work at the Refugee Processing Center as a contractor for the Department of State. Since starting there 8 years ago, I have been known as a solution-driven, out-of-the box thinker with creative solutions. In addition to my analytical skills, I bring a parent’s perspective to the board. As a mom of two future FCPS students, my priority is ensuring the best education for children in FCPS.
Community involvement: I have a passion for giving back to my community both in the U.S. and abroad. I participate in local volunteer opportunities though my church, I spent time on the ground in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina assisting in disaster relief efforts and I spent time helping at an orphanage in my husband’s hometown of Port-au-Prince, Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010.
Email address: Manar@manarforfairfax.com
Twitter handle: @Manar4FFX
Name three favorite endorsements: I have am officially endorsed by the GOP and Arab Community Radio. I believe connecting with the average, every-day taxpayer in Fairfax County speaks volumes and I appreciate the support of tax payers, teachers, parents, students and minority community leaders that I have met on the campaign trail.
What is one issue that defines your call to serve, why does it matter, and how will you tackle it?
As a first generation American, I cherish the importance of a government that listens to its people. I feel called to serve in my local government because the current school board is unresponsive to its constituents. I plan on involving the community in all board-related matters through regular town halls, PTA meetings, setting special time aside to meet with teachers and making myself readily available to the residents of Fairfax County via office hours, email and phone.
What distinguishes you from your opponent(s) and why should voters choose you?
The incumbent at-large candidates either have children that have already graduated from FCPS or do not have children at all, the only way they take their decisions home with them is in their pockets. As a mom of two future FCPS students, my priority is ensuring the highest quality education for FCPS students so that our children have the best opportunities to thrive and be successful. I understand the frustration parents have with class size disparity, the need for more rigor in the classroom and the need for parents of this next generation to be respected and recognized as the primary educators of their children … that is a perspective needed on the school board and it is one that the incumbents cannot offer.
How will you address the growing economic divide in county schools?
It is important to keep rigor, class size disparity and staffing formulas at the heart of the conversation with the community. Working together, we can create solutions that address our county’s challenges and needs. It is the responsibility of FCPS to educate all students in the county and shape them into productive members of the community.
How will you address the achievement gap?
Coming from an immigrant family and working daily to bring refugees to the U.S., I understand what education means for those seeking a better future for themselves and their families in the U.S. I am very concerned that the needle hasn’t moved on closing the minority achievement gap in years, despite $65 million being poured into projects targeting the issue. The current board continually changes the name of these projects (Excel, PSI, Momentum, etc), making it nearly impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs. I would begin addressing the achievement gap by engaging teachers in the conversation and seeking their expertise.
More than half of the county budget is devoted to the local school system with a significant budget gap looming, both for FCPS and Fairfax County. What steps would you take to manage the gap and to fund the needs of the school system? What are the top priorities and what could be cut?
If elected, I would like to put a motion before the board to vote on giving back the 60% raise they voted themselves in the midst of this budget gap. I would also like to look at outsourcing FCPS jobs that do not directly impact the education of children inside the classroom. Outsourcing gives businesses in the community an opportunity to thrive and frees up money that we would have been paying into pensions to now be redirected back into the classroom.
What value does FCPS add for taxpayers who do not have children in the schools?
Our entire community in Fairfax County is affected by the quality of FCPS. The quality of FCPS drives home values, home sales, and the growth of community businesses.