Town of residence: Alexandria City
Family: Husband and three children that are ACPS students
Education: Master’s in Technical Communication
Offices held, dates: School Board 2013-15
Occupation and relevant experience: not employed, but worked in the technology industry in design, development, content development and management.
Community involvement: PTA, preschool resource parent
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter handle: @KarenAGraf
Name three favorite endorsements: my husband, my kids and my parents.
What is one issue that defines your call to serve, why does it matter, and how will you tackle it?
For these next three years, my top priority will be to continue pushing academic excellence for ACPS, while addressing our capacity and budget issues. I like to strategize around the improvement of academic support to help schools be effective. By looking at data to identify the division’s needs, the budget and staffing models can become more aligned which will result in division-wide improvements in the state benchmarks like we have seen to-date.
What distinguishes you from your opponent(s) and why should voters choose you?
Process, Persistence, and Performance. With strong processes, members of the Board can be more effective to make decisions and communication the direction. I love building processes. Even with good processes, sometimes it takes a lot of work to get the decision realized. This is where persistence is imperative and I have a lot of it. I will stick with a problem until it is solved or completed. Lastly, whether it is the School Board itself or the division at large, performance is the result of working hard and functioning well. Alexandria City needs a high performing school division and I have the determination to work effectively with many types of people and issues to move towards excellence.
How can Alexandria address overcrowding within the current budgetary confines? What ideas and skills do you bring to solving this?
I do think this is a problem and it does need to be addressed. But I believe in the next three years that we will explore all type of ideas that will align capacity, academic advancement and budget in order to provide for future ACPS families. The most important concept is that our decision making has to advance our academic goals and to create a vision that the community can believe in for ACPS. During the redistricting for elementary schools, I believe we have the opportunity to carefully consider preschool, middle school and the high school crowding issues. I have a host of ideas for the budget and academic models that will be researched in the coming months. As for my skills, my experience in technical communications allows me the ability to play with data and concepts in order to find a solution that is right for Alexandria City. I enjoy researching information, developing strategy and planning communication methods.
While the majority of Alexandria schools remain accredited, what can be done about continuing problems facing Jefferson-Houston? For incumbents, what lessons have been learned from the problem? For non-incumbent candidates, what would you have done differently?
In Jefferson-Houston’s case, we are fortunate that Alexandria City has the resources to provide for the school. In the last three years, the School Board and Superintendent have analyzed the academic needs, the staffing models, the school leadership team, and community engagement methods. It has not been easy in the past three years, but this work led to the success we are seeing today. The School Board worked hard to help support that school community so they could get double-digit growth in most all the subgroups and in every subject. The progress made in the last school year exceeded the state’s one year goals for the school and nearly all the two year goals. This school, now in a new building, is primed to be accredited this summer. The progress is occurring fast compared to average educational turnaround standards and I couldn’t be more excited for the JH community.