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Key endorsements heat up Jan. 9 Alexandria School Board special election

Tim Beaty and Gina Baum, the candidates in the Alexandria School Board’s Jan. 9 special election for the open District A seat (staff photos by James Cullum)

There’s less than a week to go until the Jan. 9 special election for Alexandria’s open District A School Board seat, and things are getting interesting.

With a focus on helping Alexandria City Public Schools craft a collective bargaining agreement with staff, retired labor leader Tim Beaty has secured key endorsements from the two other School Board Members in District A — Board Chair Michelle Rief and Jacinta Greene, as well as from City Council Members Canek Aguirre and Kirk McPike, Sheriff Sean Casey, NOVA Labor and the Education Association of Alexandria teachers union.

His opponent Gina Baum, a former longtime member of the city’s Park and Recreation Commission has positioned herself as a candidate willing to fight with her colleagues on the dais and to ask City Council to pony up millions to restore step increases to teachers.

The candidates have had a few notable public appearances since the seat opened up in November. In a Liberally Social podcast moderated by Alexandria Democratic Committee Chair Sandy Marks on Dec. 26, Baum expressed concern over a perceived lack of public discourse between the Board and the public, and questioned whether School Board Members are operating within their guidelines by when going into closed session during meetings. They also spoke Tuesday at an Alexandria Democratic Committee meeting, and last night in an Alexandria PTA Council forum.

“I think one of the oddities with this board as opposed to some of the other boards I’ve served on in the city is that we on other boards actually fight with each other,” Baum said on the podcast.  “I’m finding with this board for whatever reason, there seems to be a lack of open public discourse in our community, I believe feels like that, that they’re hiding things from us, right and they’re not being transparent. ”

Beaty, on the other hand, positioned himself as a Spanish-speaking bridge-builder who wants to improve relations with non-English speaking families within the school system.

“I think we have to help parents understand what their kids are going through,” Beaty said. “I think I can I can be part of a link to do that.”

Beaty’s been a substitute teacher at two ACPS elementary schools for the last two years, and was previously global strategies director for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He says that he has 40 years of collective bargaining experience and that a good agreement will result in staff retention.

“My experience throughout my life is that a strong relationship between labor and management does a lot of good for the efficiency of any institution where it exists,” he said in the podcast. I think it’s important that we recognize our teachers by letting them form a union, by encouraging them to form a union and to encourage this process of collective bargaining, leading to a contract. I think it’ll attract it’ll help maintain our current staff.”

Baum is a managing broker with Keller Williams Metro Center. She has not been endorsed by any groups, but has gotten the endorsement of a number of individuals, including former Mayor Bill Euille, and one current public official — City Council Member John Taylor Chapman. If elected, Baum said she would get the support of her colleagues to ask City Council to find upward of $8 million to solve a staffing crisis by restoring step increases for teachers.

“I would suggest that (ACPS Superintendent) Dr. Kay-Wyatt and the School Board write to Council and say, ‘We need this amount of money because we have to restore teacher’s steps,'” Baum said on the podcast. “They deserve their salary increases. They deserve the cost of living increases, and it’s a political year. All of our council members are going to be running a campaign. We have the campaign for the mayor happening. I think if we go to them and say this is for our teachers, they will, in fact, find the money.”

Baum said that the proposal is procedurally possible, drawing criticism one Council expert, who called it a “fairy tale.”

“Sure, it’s possible,” said the source, who spoke on the condition on anonymity. “I mean, anything is procedurally possible. The reality is a completely different thing. All you have to do is look at the budget right now, and that the school system had to take $50 million out of the Capital Improvement Program budget. How are we going to find the $8 million for teachers? Don’t get me wrong, it’s an admirable thing to do, but you don’t just find money out of the blue and do this overnight. Where you realistically find it is within the collective bargaining process.”

ACPS approved funds to develop an official ACPS plan and policy for collective bargaining with employees in the current budget.

The District A seat became available when School Board Member Willie Bailey abruptly resigned, prompting the Alexandria Circuit Court to order the special election for Jan. 9. The winner will serve out the remaining 11 months of Bailey’s term before the next School Board is sworn into office in January 2025. It also means that the seat, along with the eight other school board seats, is up for grabs in the Nov. 5 general election.

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