Alexandria School Board member storms out of Board restructuring meeting

ACPS headquarters and clock (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) A School Board work session on restructuring the makeup of the Board stopped short late last night after one member, Willie Bailey, walked out of the meeting.

Board Members were hammering out whether to expand terms from three to four years, stagger elections and switch from districts to at-large elections. The work session was held after a two-hour Board meeting and ended after 11 p.m. because the Board no longer had an in-person quorum after Bailey left.

Bailey said he was so tired that he could not register the details of a presentation on the restructuring options. The moment when Bailey spoke out was not captured on the public video and the video only shows him standing up to leave.

“I don’t know if I want to continue with this,” said Bailey, a deputy fire chief for Fairfax County and former Alexandria City Council member. “I don’t know about you guys, but maybe it’s because I’m old. As it gets late and we continue talking about the same stuff… It’s just me, but you all can finish up. I’m done.”

Before his abrupt exit, the Board had whittled down their preferred restructuring alternatives to three options, all of which increase terms to four years, maintains the nine-member structure and have staggered elections starting in 2027.

After he left, Board Chair Michelle Rief questioned whether the work session could continue without a quorum.

The meeting convened with Rief and Members Jacinta Greene, Ashley Simpson Baird, Meagan Alderton, Abdel Elnoubi and Bailey in-person. Vice Chair Kelly Carmichael Booz and Members Tammy Ignacio and Chris Harris online.

Alderton left earlier in the evening, without announcing why. When Bailey left, only four in-person members remained, which meant the Board no longer had a quorum. The work session ended shortly thereafter.

Just before Bailey walked out, Rief had proposed postponing the discussion to a later work session because it was getting late. Members Simpson Baird and El Noubi disagreed and said that the Board was already in session and should finish the meeting.

“I have a hesitation about continuing to dedicate a lot of airtime to this topic when there are so many other things that we are working on and talking about,” Simpson Baird said. “I think we’ve already spent too much time talking about this and I’d like to see us come to something a little bit more concrete rather than continue to kick the can down the road.”

Although the School Board decided on some preferred options, others were still up for discussion when Bailey left.

It is likely that the discussion will be reprised in a future work session. ACPS told ALXnow it is working on response to questions about whether Bailey regrets walking out and if he wants to continue serving on Board.

The nine-member School Board has been elected in concurrent three-year cycles coinciding with City Council elections since 2012. But the Board’s high turnover after the Nov. 2021 election saw six new members joining three incumbents, and members say school leadership suffers when more than half of the body spends upward of a year getting accustomed to their offices.

In order to enact these changes, the School Board must approve a resolution, followed by a City Council public hearing to revise the city charter. If the charter change is approved, the Virginia General Assembly will then vote on making the change official in the Virginia Charter.