The three Member At large seats on the Fairfax County School Board are up for election on Nov. 7. Voters in each of the nine districts in Fairfax County can vote for three At-large candidates and one district member.
This year, there are no incumbents running for any of the At-large seats on the Fairfax County School Board, although two candidates have previously served on the school board.
We asked for a brief bio and to tell us about their interaction with one voter who tried to find common ground with you regardless of their political party and whose questions or story inspired them to take action.
Candidates are listed in the order they appear on the ballot. Party endorsements are noted.
For information on how and where to vote, see https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/
More than 8,000 Fairfax County voters have already voted as of Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023.
Saundra T. Davis,
Photo screenshot via davisforeducation.com
Saundra T. Davis
Candidate for Member of School Board At-Large; Davis did not reply.
Davis is endorsed by Fairfax GOP
Cassandra R. Aucoin
Cassandra R. Aucoin
Cassandra R. Aucoin, candidate for member School Board At-Large, a military child, came to Northern Virginia as a high school senior. She earned a business management degree from Virginia Tech. She worked for the Army, Navy, Office of the Secretary of Defense, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and National Reconnaissance Office for 35 years. She has experience in strategic planning, budgeting, HR, program analysis, and organizational change.
Aucoin's achievements include managing a multi-billion-dollar budget, establishing a Financial Management (FM) matrixed organization, and leading major studies and complex projects. In her last position as Chief of Staff, she ran a 1,000-plus-person global company. Aucoin and her military husband educated their two children in Fairfax County public schools. In addition to volunteering with military family support organizations, she was a senior advisor to military spouse organizations and led the establishment of two spouse organizations.
Response: A mother approached my Burke Centre Festival booth and told me FCPS helped her child socially transition to another gender without her knowing. The conversation was solemn and sad. If the school had notified her of her child’s gender dysphoria, she could have intervened to ensure that her child received medical and counseling care before making the next life-changing decision, a physical change. FCPS’s protocols do not support this notification.
This conversation followed one in which a teacher expressed concern about the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program. Under SEL, children are asked inquiries that have nothing to do with academics and pertain to matters that belong to parents.
Parents are the decision-makers for their children. This school board and my opponents, who led progressive proposals for alternative bathrooms, are more concerned with special interest groups. That’s why they rejected the 2023 Model Policies that I support. Those policies require parental involvement and ensure the safety of children in school bathrooms.
I have extensive leadership experience and am adept at collaborating with others to effect positive organizational change. To alter the FCPS School Board’s echo chamber, a commonsense strategy is required.
Aucoin is endorsed by Fairfax GOP.
Linda A. Pellegrino,
Photo via the polling place
Linda A. Pellegrino, candidate to serve as Member Board At-Large, did not reply.
Ilryong Moon, 66, candidate for Member School Board At-Large: I am an experienced Fairfax County School Board veteran. I was first elected in 1995 and served for 20 years until retiring in 2019, with one intervening term of 4 years to serve on the Fairfax County Planning Commission. I am a proven leader, having served as Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Board for three terms. I have been a practicing attorney in Fairfax County for 39 years. I am the proud father of two sons, both graduates of Fairfax County Public Schools, who pursued their education to the highest levels, both receiving post-graduate degrees.
As an immigrant from Korea, I arrived in the U.S. in 1974 at the age of 17. I am a former ESL student. I grew up in poverty and became the first in my family to go to college. My parents did not have much formal education themselves, but they believed in education. They worked hard. I studied hard and attended Harvard for college and William and Mary for law school.
Response: I recently met a family going through a stressful student disciplinary proceeding. They shared their experiences and feelings with me, which shaped my views on how the school system and those involved should approach the process. The family described being confused, intimidated, and frightened at every turn.
The system moved like a giant machine without compassion or empathy for them. Board members and school administrators can sometimes overlook the personal toll the process takes on students and their families. We must work harder to provide more human touch and care as they undergo what may be the worst experience of their lifetime.
My highest priority is always to ensure that our students can achieve their highest level of performance and prepare them for their future stewardship in our global economy as productive citizens. We must ensure that all Fairfax County Public Schools students, including our most vulnerable ones, have full and equal access to all programs and services to succeed. If elected this fall, I will reflect on this recent experience and have genuine conversations with school system leaders and parents to improve the experience.
Moon is endorsed by Fairfax Democrats
Ahmed Mahdi Hussein
Screenshot via husseinforschoolboard.com
Ahmed Mahdi Hussein
Ahmed Mahdi Hussein, candidate for Member School Board At Large, did not reply.
Maureen T. Brody,
Maureen T. Brody
Maureen T. Brody, 60, candidate to serve as Member, School Board At Large, was PTA president at Lee High School, served on a curriculum advisory board under Anthony Lane, and has been involved in educating youth her whole adult life — from preschool to undergraduate courses at the University of Maryland. She has been a scout leader, a team mom, a room mother, a mom-mentor for mothers in special circumstances, and the HOA president of Saratoga Community Association in Springfield.
Maureen is a lifelong county resident currently living in Springfield. She graduated from Madison High School in Vienna and owns an editing business. She is widely known as a detail-oriented, get-the-job-done-well, solutions-focused person who will work with anyone in the pursuit of excellence.
Response: I randomly met a lady at a community picnic who is a retired FCPS principal and spearheaded turnarounds at multiple underperforming schools. She offered to meet with me on how she achieved stellar results, and I was able to listen for two hours as she summarized decades of successful work that led to state and local awards, national conference tours, books, and media recognition. Her depth of knowledge and the resources she provided as follow-up are part of a series of surprise interactions I’ve had with super-specialists as I’ve met with non-political groups across the county.
I have an upcoming meeting with a school transportation specialist and a screen addiction expert, and I recently met with a finance tech to learn about the logistics of school fund inflow and distribution. I also got expert insights on the administrative burden on educators from a teacher who just completed a master’s course for certification, and I have heard from parents about their IEP and AAP struggles. These valuable inputs have been a treasure trove of information that paved the way for immediate solutions that will provide long-term improvements, and I am very grateful for the generosity of these experts in sharing their knowledge.
Brody is endorsed by Fairfax GOP
Robert Kyle McDaniel
Robert Kyle McDaniel is running for school board member at large to ensure all students have access to a high-quality education that promotes excellence and embraces equality in a safe and welcoming environment. He is a long-time Fairfax County resident with a history of community service. He is a George Mason University and American University graduate with public policy, budgeting, and finance degrees.
Kyle has extensive experience in Virginia state and Fairfax County local government. In 2015, McDaniel transitioned to the private sector through corporate startups. Since then, he has worked for three startups and currently owns an aviation services company. McDaniel is an airline transport pilot and flight instructor who owns a flight school with locations across the region. Kyle and his wife, Katie, live in Herndon with their two daughters. Although he has many jobs, such as business owner, pilot, and community advocate, his favorite is being a dad.
`Response: I spoke with a parent who told me about their son always running out of lunch money on their student account. After a few weeks, they asked their son what was going on. The son replied, “I am buying lunch for my classmates who have no money.”
The harsh reality sank in: there is an assumption in Fairfax County that everyone has money and can afford the necessities, like a school lunch for their kids. This is far from the case. Fairfax County has pockets of deep need that the School Board must focus on; this is the premise of the One Fairfax Policy and addressing problems through an equitable lens. I started looking around the country at how other school systems address the mounting lunch debt, and many simply wipe away the debt every year.
My Day One promise is a budget item to do just this: eliminate every penny of lunch debt on FCPS’s balance sheets. This is around $1 million. I will also initiate a process to phase out lunch fees completely, so no parent has to choose between a roof over their heads or a lunch for their kids at school. Kyle McDaniel https://kylemcdaniel.com/
McDaniel is endorsed by Fairfax Democrats
Peter C. Gabor
Peter C. Gabor, 61, candidate for Member of School Board At Large. My parents, refugees from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, came to the US when I was two. They placed a high emphasis on education. I received baccalaureates in math, electrical engineering, and computer science from MIT and a Ph.D. in computer science and teaching certification from Princeton.
I worked for Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase on Wall Street. After studying internet programming, I became a high school teacher with FCPS in 2010, teaching artificial intelligence and upper-level math. I sponsor high school chess and ballroom dance teams. My passions include climbing the Cascade and Alps, attending balls, canyoning, and 16 x 16 sudokus. I think I'm the only person to have driven (Atlantic and Pacific Oceans excepted) twice around the world in the same car.
The lack of active teachers can be problematic when the board's primary focus is teaching and education. A teacher on the board will represent a vital school district group. I will question new rules from many vantage points; this type of questioning has been missing in the recent past. FCPS should follow federal, state, and local laws. I don't see how we can lead by example without this.
My outlook is minimalist; the school board and educational system have a single function: to prepare children to be contributing members of America. If it is outside this purview, I would question whether the school board should be devoting resources to it and being involved.
Response: Almost a year ago, there was a brouhaha when it turned out that there were issues with National Merit notifications. The superintendent then held a meeting at TJ High School to answer questions about what happened. At that meeting, I observed people passionately discussing how TJ admissions should be merit-based and involve a wide range of stakeholders. They did not discuss the notifications.
I usually take note of one person's passionate discussion of an issue. The same conclusion by multiple people on the same issue warrants further investigation. I will do my own thinking on such matters, but passion alerts me to the fact that people care. Note that TJ staff have no voice in TJ admissions; a separate agency within FCPS administers admission.
Ryan L. McElveen
Ryan McElveen, 37, candidate for Member of School Board At Large, served from 2012 to 2019 as an at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board, where he fought for and implemented curriculum internationalization, LGBTQ protections, sustainability initiatives, healthier school food, student mental health programs, student discipline reform, dress code reform, later high school start times, gun violence prevention, human trafficking prevention, improved college and career access, name changes for schools named after confederate figures, and excused absences for students participating in civic engagement activities. He is associate director of The Brookings Institution's John L. Thornton China Center and managing director of Global Leaders of Fairfax County. He holds a Master’s of International Affairs in human rights from Columbia University, a B.A. in Anthropology and East Asian Studies from the University of Virginia, and an IB diploma from George C. Marshall High School. Raised in the Vienna/Tysons area, he lives with his wife, Xuan, and daughters, Sierra and Isla, in McLean.
Response: In 2015, I led the successful effort to change the FCPS nondiscrimination policy to protect community members from discrimination based on gender identity. The change led our district to become the first in the state to offer this kind of protection. At the time, this undertaking garnered national headlines, partly because it occurred on the leading edge of a national movement attacking the rights of the transgender community and pushing many other jurisdictions to drop their efforts to provide similar protections. Although we faced backlash in Fairfax, we persisted because it was the right thing to do. Four years later, a single interaction revealed the gravity of that policy change. At a public art exhibition, a mother approached me to share how much the nondiscrimination policy change had meant to her family. After the policy change, her transgender son felt a newfound sense of belonging in the school community, and he graduated with his preferred name on his diploma. I have no idea how many lives that policy change has touched. However, that single interaction made me realize the importance of using my position in the public sphere to improve the lives of others.
McElveen is endorsed by Fairfax Democrats