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NEW: Alexandria School Board shakeup looms as few incumbents have filed to run for reelection

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Only three sitting members of the Alexandria School Board have filed to run for reelection, and four newcomers have entered the race.

The last three years have been a contentious period, and the school system has been under intense scrutiny throughout the pandemic.

So far, only Board Chair Meagan Alderton (District C), Member Michelle Rief and Member Jacinta Greene (both in District A) have filed to run.

“It’s important to have ACPS parents like myself on the School Board because our families are the ones directly impacted by the board’s decisions,” Rief told ALXnow. “We need to return students to full in-person learning, fix old schools and build new ones to solve overcrowding, and provide consistent academic and mental health supports for students.”

Greene said that those incumbents who are running are resilient.

“It is extremely important to have continuity and experience on our school board,” she said. “We owe it to school system to continue to execute our strategic plan centered around providing an equitable education for all students.  I will continue to work tirelessly to make this happen.”

Board member Heather Thornton is on the fence.

“I have not yet made or announced a decision regarding running for reelection,” Thornton told ALXnow.

Board Member Margaret Lorber is not running for reelection.

“Just wanted to confirm that I’m not running for reelection to the school board,” Lorber said. “I had always planned to step down after two terms.”

Member Ramee Gentry is also not running.

“I am not running for reelection. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve Alexandria for six years,” Gentry said. “I’m pleased that some of my colleagues are running again. I believe that the most effective elected bodies are made up of returning and new members, because it ensures a mix of continuity and new perspectives.”

School Board Vice Chair Veronica Nolan and Board Members Cindy Anderson and Christopher Suarez have also not filed and did not respond to ALXnow’s questions. Suarez announced last month on Facebook that he is not seeking another term.

The nine-member body is made up of three members from three districts, and the new candidates include Deborah Ash, former ACPS Principal of the Year Preenann Johnson and Open ACPS! member Bridget Shea Westfall in District B, as well as Abdel-Rahman Elnoubi in District C.

That still leaves two open slots, and candidates have until June 8 to file. If not enough candidates file by the deadline, voters will have the option to write-in up to three candidates on election day in November.

Last month, Board members and Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. participated in a retreat where institutional continuity was presented as a major issue. A majority of Board members want staggered terms, since all nine seats are up for grabs every three years, setting up the potential to push back the public school system for an extended period if a newly elected body is made up of new members.

The last election brought five new members to the Board — Suarez, Thornton, Greene, Rief and Alderton.

Mayor Justin Wilson says that institutional instability is a concern.

“Institutional instability is always a concern, whether for the City Council or the School Board,” Wilson said. “It takes a while to learn your role as an elected official and understand how to be effective. Hopefully we have good folks in the community willing to step up to serve. Our students need a strong, committed School Board.”

City Councilman John Taylor Chapman agreed.

“It takes time for everyone to get up to speed,” Chapman said. “It takes a couple years to understand who the players are and the nuts and bolts of the budget process.”

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