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Alexandria School Board special election candidates focusing on teacher retention and board transparency

The candidates for the Alexandria School Board special election for District A are Tim Beaty and Gina Baum (staff photo on left by James Cullum, courtesy photo on right)

A longtime city commissioner and a retired labor leader are facing off in the special election for Alexandria’s School Board District A seat, and both want to improve teacher retention and board transparency.

Candidates Gina Baum and Tim Beaty have vastly different backgrounds and strengths.

Baum is a managing broker with Keller Williams Metro Center, and until 2022 served 13 years as a commissioner (five years as chair) on the city’s Park and Recreation Commission. More than a decade ago, she was also a founding member of the Waterfront4All group, supporting the city’s plan to redevelop the waterfront and later spent 10 years on the Waterfront Commission. She has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Clark University.

“I know how the city and the system work,” Baum told ALXnow. “I think one of the reasons why I want to run is because I’ve been highly involved with the school system with my children. Plus, I’ve been taking an active role in watching school board meetings and seeing what’s happening. And I really think I can contribute in a way that would be helpful to both the school board or community and ACPS teachers and administrators. I mean, that’s really the bottom line.”

Beaty retired two years ago as the global strategies director for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, after which he became a substitute teacher at two Alexandria elementary schools. He’s got an economics degree from the University of Notre Dame, is the father of three grown children and says the school system can benefit from his decades of experience hammering out collective bargaining agreements with the Teamsters.

“I do think that if we complete that process and we get a good collective bargaining agreement that we’re likely to attract new employees,” Beaty said. “I think I can help with that. I’ll be an advocate for that. It’s what I’ve been doing for the last 40 years in my professional life, so I think I could assist in making that happen.”

Last month, District A School Board Member Willie Bailey abruptly resigned, prompting the Alexandria Circuit Court to order a special election for Jan. 9. The winner of the election will serve out the remaining 11 months of Bailey’s term before the next School Board is sworn into office in January 2025, following the November 2024 general election.

A third likely candidate, Bill Campbell, opted to not file his candidacy by the filing deadline on Tuesday, and said that he’s finished running for office. Campbell was elected to the School Board in 2012, got reelected in 2015, but lost reelection in 2018 and a City Council bid in 2021.

“I’m out of the political game completely,” Campbell said. “But this next year, this board has a number of important things they gotta look at, like redistricting, collective bargaining, looking at the way that we’ve set up the CIP (Capital Improvement Program) in terms of refurbishing schools, and then the programming at the new high school building — all difficult decisions that they’re gonna have to deal with in the next next year. It will be really interesting to watch.”

On School Board transparency

The joint Alexandria City Council/School Board meeting in the Board Room of ACPS Central Office on Monday, June 13, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Baum says that the Alexandria School Board seems paralyzed and a lack of public discourse and systematic efforts to not speak to the media have led to a lack of transparency.

“I’m sure you recall this, but everyone on the Board was asked not to speak to the media,” she said. “For whatever reason, I feel like that really translated into not speaking at all. I feel like there’s some sort of odd paralysis happening, where the School Board members are hesitant to actually speak out about their concerns or their opinions.”

Baum continued, “It’s very weird to me because I was part of that Waterfront Plan and on the Waterfront Commission, and there were times we fought like cats and dogs, but we got the job done. So, when I see a School Board not talking, I understand why that concerns the public, and I’m really hoping that I can close that divide. The school board really needs to focus more on working for the public and not for the administration.”

Beaty also said that he would talk to members of the media as a School Board member.

“It’s voters that decide who’s going to be on the School Board,” Beaty said. “School Board members need to be accountable to the people that then elect them. To the extent that it’s an issue, and I think it’s an issue a little bit, I do think that school board members need to have the freedom to be able to get out and communicate with the voters that elected them, with the whole education community and with the media.”

On staffing and test scores

ACPS is also undergoing a staffing crisis with more than 100 vacant positions systemwide.

Baum said Alexandria teachers should get paid the highest in the region.

“We are entrusting them with the most valuable resource of our children,” Baum said. “If we are not compensating them properly, it’s just a disgrace to me. One of the things that is very important to me is teacher retention and making sure we’re paying them well. I want to be the highest in the area for teacher salaries and I think given the budget that we have at ACPS, certainly we should be able to do that.”

Beaty said that teachers need to understand their situations at the collective bargaining table.

“What’s going on with these step increases?” he said. “There needs to be a fair grievance procedure so that if people feel like they’ve been wronged, that there’s a transparent, clear and honest process to address people’s concerns in a real way… We’ve got to have a real clear understanding about what the limitations of the budget are. And the school board is also got to have a good understanding about why it is that we’re losing teachers.”

Baum said that the school system needs new programs to improve the school systems underperforming standardized test scores.

“We’ve all heard that our scores are down, and that there’s a huge gap from COVID in learning,” she said. “I think we have to put achievement at the top of our concerns. And hopefully find some programs that will help close that gap. Ones that that have measurable results that we could implement quickly.”

Beaty said that it’s important educators feel valued.

“I’m amazed at what a strong, well-trained teacher can do to get a group of rowdy kids to calm down and get focused on a task and begin to learn,” he said. “I just find it amazing to watch good teachers do what they do.”

District A includes the following precincts:

  • 101 — Old Town North, formerly Ladrey
  • 102  — City Hall
  • 103 — Lyles Crouuch School
  • 104 — Durant Center
  • 105 — Nannie J. Lee Recreation Center
  • 106 — Cora Kelly — Leonard “Chick” Armstrong Recreation Center
  • 107 — Mount Vernon Recreation Center
  • 108 — George Washington Middle School
  • 109 — Alexandria Fire Department headquarters
  • 110 — Charles Houston Recreation Center
  • 111 — Potomac Yard

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