In November, Fairfax County voters will choose 12 school board members to serve four-year terms starting Jan. 1, 2024. Nineteen candidates are running for the nine magisterial district seats. There are also three at-large seats in the November election. Virginia's School board elections are nonpartisan, meaning that party affiliations can not appear on the ballots for school board candidates. Nevertheless, parties may publicly endorse their candidates.
Candidates were asked to provide a short bio and share a story of their interaction with a voter that led them to a commitment to take action, with a tight word limit. Candidate responses are printed in the order they appear on the ballot.
For information on how and where to vote, including voting early, see https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/
More than 30,900 Fairfax County voters have already voted, out of more than 714,000 active voters on the rolls. More than 680,000 voters have yet to vote.
Rachna Sizemore Heizer
Rachna Sizemore Heizer, 52, Candidate for Member of School Board, Braddock District. I am an at-large school board member and served as board chair and vice chair. I’m currently the chair of the Public Engagement Committee.
Professionally, I am a lawyer, a professor, and the assistant director overseeing a human resource development program at Texas Tech University (online). I received my Bachelor of Arts in political economy and law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. I am also an appointed member of the Virginia State Social Services Board.
As the child of immigrants, I understand the immigrant experience and what it means to be a citizen of our great democracy. As a college professor, I see firsthand the skills students need to be successful in college. As a disability justice advocate, I know how to fight for those who most need it. Since I began advocating for my children in FCPS, I've spent over a decade as a community leader, serving on several boards and working with state, local, and federal leaders.
Response: After I was appointed to the Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities, people spoke to me about the challenges for twice-exceptional students, also known as “2E.” They are students with a disability who excel academically. They told me that a lack of understanding and support for bright students with disabilities led to mental health issues and school avoidance. They were often in tears, describing their bright children struggling.
I researched 2E students. I learned that a lack of appropriate programs and training could cause twice exceptional students to choose between challenging academics and disability-related support, leading to depression and dropping out of school. Once on the school board, I shared my research and built consensus to fund hiring a twice-exceptional Coordinator and Neurodiversity Specialist, focused partly on 2E students and on meeting all student needs while fostering their strengths. These are groundbreaking positions for K–12, the first in Virginia and the nation. https://www.electrachna.com/
Priscilla M. DeStefano
Priscilla M. DeStefano, Candidate for Member of School Board, Braddock District, did not reply.
Endorsed by Fairfax County GOP
Marcia St. John-Cunning
Marcia St. John-Cunning, Candidate for Member of School Board, Franconia District. Marcia’s career highlights include legislative aide for Congressman Ronald Coleman and Congressional Border Caucus staff coordinator, administrative assistant to the Hispanic Magazine publisher when it launched; Fairfax County Public Schools family liaison; Spanish interpreter; and Family Engagement Region 3 Representative. John-Cunning was the on-site Community School Coordinator (CSC) at Mt. Vernon Woods Elementary.
As a community advocate, Marcia spearheaded converting the parent liaison role from an hourly to a contracted, unified pay scale position with the inclusion of full benefits. She worked with the Successful Children and Youth Policy Team to create the Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) community school model template. Marcia most recently represented the Hispanic Education Association Hispanic Leadership Alliance on the FCPS Core Strategic Planning Committee.
Response: As a parent/family liaison in FCPS, I worked hourly without health or retirement benefits for years. My husband covered all my benefits, so this arrangement did not affect me. However, many colleagues often reminded me they were not as fortunate. I realized how hard it was for them to work without a safety net. I organized with three other parent/family liaisons to bring the issue to the school board. We received community and parent support, including testimonials about the profound impact the parent/family liaison had on families, students, and communities.
The role was converted to a contracted, unified pay scale position with the inclusion of full benefits. Ironically, I was promoted to an hourly supervisory position without any benefits the year after the battle was won. However, the advocacy was not for me but for the parent/family liaisons who needed the benefits. Since then, the family/parent liaison position has been elevated to a more secure status. As a result, the family-school partnership bond continues to be strengthened, elevating student success.
Kevin R. Pinkney
Kevin R. Pinkney, Candidate for Member of School Board, Franconia District,-IIn 2003, Kevin and his wife moved to Washington, DC, and settled in Franconia. They are proud parents of two current FCPS students and three FCPS graduates.
Kevin is a Harvard Law School graduate and a 20-year private practice lawyer. He prioritizes listening to the needs of others, communicating ideas respectfully, achieving shared goals, and providing practical solutions to complex issues. He represents boards, general counsels, owners, and legal departments of various companies, from household names to venture-backed startups. He advises organizations with tens of thousands of employees and budgets in the tens of billions of dollars.
Highlights of Kevin’s many service activities include PTA and PTSA in elementary, middle, and high schools; the Parent Advisory Council at Clermont Elementary; coaching LMVSC soccer; teaching high school students early morning religious education; and advising Boy Scout Troop 1183.
Response: School safety is a top priority. Some parents report that their children cannot use school restrooms due to drug use, vaping, or violence risks. Students may be concerned about behavior in hallways, buses, and classrooms. New FCPS policies require principals to consider group identity in matters of discipline. FCPS instructs: “Student discipline must be implemented in ways that are equitable" (FCPS P. 2601.37P).
FCPS’s “equitable” policies encourage leniency for attackers who are members of groups that are perceived to be "overrepresented" in disciplinary proceedings. This means that discipline for the same offense will be different for students depending on their race, ethnicity, or gender.
The first step in addressing the breakdown in classroom order is to restore equal treatment for all students. Teachers are entitled to the support of school administrators in maintaining safety and order. Principals must have confidence that the equal and dispassionate application of discipline, consistent with the disciplinary matrix in the district’s Student Rights and Responsibilities policy,
Equal treatment under law has been a shared aspiration in America for generations. It is the only discipline policy that will maintain the broad-based support necessary for public education to flourish.
Endorsed by Fairfax County GOP
Mateo Dunne, Candidate for Member of School Board, Mt. Vernon District. I am an attorney with the U.S. Government and former vice president of advocacy for the Fairfax County Council PTA, advocating on behalf of 170+ PTAs and 40,000 members at the state and local levels for increased funding and resources. I earned my degree at Georgetown University Law Center (2003).
My wife and I moved to Fairfax County 20 years ago so our children could attend the best public schools. Our three children received an outstanding education.
Ten years ago, the superintendent decided to eliminate high school sports, performing arts, and language immersion to close a $100 million budget deficit. I organized and led a coalition of advocacy groups, PTAs, and teacher unions. We persuaded the Board of Supervisors to allocate $88 million to preserve these programs for current and future students.
I have led multiple school bond campaigns to fund our district's renovation of public schools and helped guide West Potomac High School's renovation, which eliminated 18 trailers and enhanced campus security.
Response: Fairfax County is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, yet children in our community suffer from hunger because they do not have sufficient food at home in the evenings, on the weekends, and during the summer. Many children suffer from the cold because they do not have winter clothing, or they may suffer indignity because they do not have access to menstrual hygiene products.
I believe a child suffering from hunger, cold, or indignity can’t learn. I will work to ensure FCPS establishes and leverages its purchasing power to provide food, clothing, and a menstrual hygiene pantry at every school in need and to promote partnerships between FCPS and nonprofits to ensure the regular distribution of meals to families in need. https://www.mateodunne.com/ Endorsed by Fairfax County Democrats
Stori M. Zimmerman
Stori M. Zimmerman, Candidate for Member of School Board, Mt. Vernon District. I am a mom, educator, and military spouse with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Biology and a Master of Arts in Teaching. During my 25 years of educational expertise as a public school teacher, I taught grade levels K–12.
Highlights of my responsibilities as a program manager include annual operating budgets, educational evaluations and assessments,data reporting, human relations management, and staff development. Beyond my professional roles, I've dedicated countless hours to volunteering in the communities I've lived in, contributing to military family readiness groups and events, and military children's awareness campaigns and fundraising initiatives.
Response:I have knocked on many doors and listened to concerned parents and constituents alike, and their biggest concern always comes back to learning. Many people that I have spoken with want to see a school board and central office administrators who prioritize students and learning over politics in the classroom so that our teachers and administrators have the autonomy to foster school atmospheres that are conducive to effective learning environments for all. It is my goal to make certain that FCPS reprioritizes its focus on teaching our students the foundational educational elements of reading, writing, and math that will underpin the rest of their education and positively impact them throughout their lives.
Literacy must be our number one priority and is the fundamental cornerstone of my platform. Despite consistent budget increases, FCPS has invested significant resources in initiatives rooted in the flawed "balanced literacy" model, lacking systematic, cumulative, phonics-based reading instruction in early elementary classrooms. Given the critical role of strong reading skills in life success, the shocking statistics on illiteracy, especially among juveniles in the courts and adults in the prison population, underscore the urgency.
The US Department of Justice states, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” To tackle this issue, I will champion the adoption of a division-wide evidence-based structured literacy methodology, implemented with fidelity, commencing in kindergarten. This instructional approach will be firmly grounded in the five pillars of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. https://www.stori4students.org/
Endorsed by Fairfax County GOP
Karl V. Frisch
Karl Frisch, candidate and incumbent for School Board Providence District, a 45-year-old accomplished non-profit executive and award-winning public policy expert, who previously worked for the Rules Committee in Congress, most recently served as the director of a consumer protection group that assisted underprivileged Americans who were victims of predatory lenders, dishonest student loan processors, and other financial con artists. On the County School Board, he has delivered for parents, teachers, and students, championing efforts to address learning loss, close achievement and opportunity gaps, attract and retain world-class educators with increased pay, and ensuring all students have safe and inclusive schools.
Response: While knocking on doors early in my 2019 school board campaign, I met a mother in Mantua who told me how worried she was about school shootings and how it seemed our leaders were not doing enough to address the issue.
As we talked, I became convinced that every level of government plays a role in gun violence prevention. Before leaving, I committed to her that if I were elected, I would do everything I could to ensure our school system aggressively addressed this threat.
Over the past four years, I have worked hard with my colleagues to keep that promise. Here are two examples: I co-sponsored the measure to notify parents annually about their legal obligation to securely store their guns, which is important since many gun owners do not securely store their firearms, and school shooters usually get their weapons from family members’ homes.
Until 2021, Virginia law did not allow gun bans at non-instructional school system buildings—places like Gatehouse, where no formal instruction occurs but is filled with educators and frequented by students and parents. After the law changed, I sponsored the policy that successfully extended our school gun ban to all school system properties. https://www.karlfrisch.com/
Anthony A. "Tony" Sabio
Anthony A. "Tony" Sabio, - Candidate for Member of School Board, Providence District. No reply.
Sabio4fairfax.com Endorsed by Fairfax County GOP
Debra Anne Tisler
Debra Anne Tisler, Candidate for School Board, Springfield District, is an advocate and former special education teacher at FCPS. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with a certification in General Education and a Master of Science in Education with a concentration in Special Education.
I have an extensive history of engaging with all the diverse members of the community when addressing issues that are important to us. In my experience, our families share their concerns with community leaders they trust to advocate. I have had the unique opportunity to impact the quality of education throughout the Commonwealth. Through my collaborations with federal legislators, the State Conference NAACP’s Education Committee, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC), and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA), I have elevated the voices of our families to create meaningful change.
[JLARC Study: JLARC | K-12 Special Education in Virginia OCR Determination: OCR: Virginia district violated rights of students with disabilities K-12 Dive (k12dive.com) SB 1288: Richmond Sunlight » SB1288: Special education; Department of and the Board of Education to develop new policies and procedures.]
Response: Recently, I contributed to the landmark study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission regarding special education, resulting in 27 recommendations to improve special education for all families throughout the Commonwealth. Through my advocacy for families via the Office of Civil Rights, a monumental finding resulted for over 28,000 students, restoring their right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Finally, I assisted in authoring legislation that transformed the systems of accountability and preparation for individuals who develop special education programming.
I’m running for Fairfax County School Board, Springfield District seat to ensure the voices of our parents, children, taxpayers, and teachers of Fairfax County, Virginia, are heard. Debraforschoolboard.com
Endorsed by Fairfax County GOP
Sandy B. Anderson
Sandy B. Anderson, 46, Candidate for Member of School Board, Springfield District. I am an FCPS graduate, FCPS mom, Parent Teacher Organization leader, military spouse, former higher-ed educator, and federal contractor supporting two Department of Defense youth programs. These experiences all make me uniquely qualified to represent and serve the families of the Springfield District. My experience lends itself to this work. This is my hometown, and I am ready to serve.
Response: “SAT math scores dropped 27 points. FCPS is failing their students.” When I heard this statistic for the first time, I knew there had to be more to the story, so I dug into the data and asked why this happened. I got curious. There are a myriad of reasons why scores have adjusted over the last few years, including fewer kids taking the SAT and fewer colleges requiring it for admission. Even so, we still exceed the average SAT math scores for the state.
The part that makes me proud of FCPS is that last year, every 12th grader in Fairfax County had the opportunity to take the SAT during the school day and will again this year. That is a significant difference from when I took the SAT my senior year at Lake Braddock, when my mother paid for the expensive test and provided my transportation. Even with all our students taking the test, we still exceed the state average for math. This story showed me that FCPS needs to do a better job with clarity of information so the public and community better understand the reasons for and impact of initiatives. That is where I can help. www.anderson4schools.com
Peter J. Bixby-Eberhardt
Peter J. Bixby-Eberhardt, Candidate for Member of School Board, Springfield District. No reply www.peterbixby.com