City School Board Race Taking Shape

City School Board Race Taking Shape

Three new candidates enter race; three incumbents decide against running again.

Three new candidates, Kelly Carmichael Booz, Chris Lewis and Scott Gordon, have entered the race for the Alexandria School Board, while three current School Board members, Chairman Sheryl Gorsuch, Charles Wilson and Blanche Maness, have decided not to seek re-election.

Booz said that she wants better communication between the School Board and Alexandria citizens and will monitor test scores to ensure that Alexandria “continues to move upwards in improving [its] ranking” compared to other local schools. She said that she will address pre-kindergarten education.

Although she said that she has read “negative articles” about Superintendent of Schools Morton Sherman, she “believe[s] in a fair process based on the facts of the situation,” and said that it was too early to make a statement regarding Sherman.

Lewis said that the school system needs to evaluate the effectiveness of its educational programs, including the modified calendar at Tucker Elementary School and Mount Vernon Community School and the dual-language program at Mount Vernon. He said that he wants greater support for parents so that they are “invested in moving up the school system.” He also said he is “not ready to make a decision” about Sherman’s continued position as superintendent.

According to Gordon, Alexandria City Public Schools is not moving in the right direction.

“I don’t believe that the school system is entirely broken,” he said. “I think [T.C. Williams High School Principal] Suzanne Maxey and Peter Balas, principal of Mount Vernon Community School, are progressive and hardworking people and are making positive changes.”

Gordon said that the school system lacks budgetary oversight and that its “spending priorities are not in line with what the school system needs.” He said that the salaries and benefits of some members of central office exceed those of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and are “an inappropriate way to be spending money that we could use to better our schools.”

Gordon said there is insufficient room for all Alexandria middle school students to attend their local public school and that the school system needs to build new schools, expand upon current schools and/or hire additional teachers. He also said that, as a private citizen, he believes that Sherman should resign. Gordon also says he’s “sort of been leading the campaign to have Sherman removed from office. Should I be elected, [however], removing Dr. Sherman would not be my first order of business. I would make every attempt to try to work with him and change the way he’s damaging certain aspects of ACPS. If that doesn’t work then yes, I do believe Sherman should go someplace else.”

Gorsuch disagreed with Gordon. She said that the school system is moving in the right direction “toward improving student achievement for every student.” She said that she does not believe Sherman should resign. When asked about the general reluctance of School Board candidates to disclose their opinion of Sherman, she said, “One of the most important responsibilities for a School Board is not only to hire a superintendent but to evaluate a superintendent. Most of that feedback is handled in a confidential closed session.”

Wilson, who has served nearly 10 years on the School Board, said that he “would like to see some board members elected at large. I think that it would add some diversity and perspectives.” An at-large candidate would be elected by the entire city rather than a single district. He also wants School Board members to have staggered terms to ensure that experienced members serve each year.

Maness, who was first elected in 2006, said, “There were many expressions requesting new leadership on the School Board. The citizens have a right to voice their opinion. At this time, the right decision for me is not to seek a third term on the Board.”