By Carla Branch
The four candidates for the open District B Alexandria School Board seat have submitted their campaign finance reports for the month of July and they show that John Leary has raised the most at $15,085 and Ellyn Simons the least, $5,225.
Leary, who came to prominence last year as the founder and administrator of the web site alexandriakids.org, has raised the most, with 30% of that amount coming from Alexandria businessman, Jack Taylor, who has contributed $2000 in cash and $2500 in in-kind donations to Leary’s efforts. Taylor also supported alexandriakids.org’s efforts to force the School Board to retain former superintendent Rebecca L. Perry. Leary’s next largest contributor was Raighne Delaney, who gave $1,500 in cash contributions and $2,277 in in-kind donations.
Marc Williams, who led an effort to open honors classes at the middle schools to all students, has raised the next highest amount of funds, with $12,405. His largest contributor is Abby Raphael, with a contribution of $1,000.
Next in the campaign finance sweeep stakes is Bernie Schulz, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for City Council in Alexandria in 2006. Schulz has raised $9,992, with his largest contribution of $6,514 coming from the Alexandria City Republican Committee.
Ellynn Simons, who ran unsuccessfully for School Board in 2006, has raised the least amount of funds, with $5,225 in contributions. Her largest contributor to date is Elizabeth Livingston, with a $500 contribution.
Each of the candidates had an opportunity to discuss the issues before the public at a forum on July 31. The event was sponsored by the PTA Council, and was moderated by Maggie Fitzsimmons, a former PTA president and the parent of a T. C. Williams High School senior. Leary, who supported retaining Perry and ousting the five Board members who voted not to extend her conteract, supports sustainable schools (the green movement); educating all students and a “completely transparent process.” He has one child who currently attends the Alexandria City PUblic School system and two younger children who are not school age.
As to open process, Leary’s web site, alexandriakids.org, listed John@Leary.org, with Leary’s Russell Road address as the registrant in June, 2007. A recent request for the name of the site’s registrant, showed that the registrant was changed to “private” earlier this spring. Also, Leary responded to a question at the forum on July 31, that he “was not part of any recall movement to recall the five School Board members who voted not to keep Perry. In fact, he was quoted in a news article last summer as saying that he “will work with an attorney throughout the summer to begin a recall petition.” That petition did not materialize, nor did any threatened lawsuit to which Leary alluded.
Williams was asked about his statement that he “led an effort to open honors to all students at the City’s two middle schools.” In 2003, the School Board voted to open Honors Science to all students in eighth grade. After that, there was no further movement to open honors classes at the middle schools in any other subject. In 2006, Williams organized a group of parents to advocate for open enrollment honors classes in math, science, social studies and English. That led to the Board vote on April 12, 2007, to open English honors classes to all students. While the other candidates said that the support from Central Office and the School Board was unanimous, in fact, the Board vote was five to four, with Board members Ronnie Campbell, Sheryl Gorsuch, Eileen Rivera and Charles Wilson voting not to open honors classes to all students.
Bernie Schulz has been involved in education efforts most of his career and spoke about educating all students and offering a challenging curriculum to all. He believes in adjusting spending to meet the needs of all students, particularly those in the middle, who, he said, “have often been forgotten.”
Ellynn Simons has been a tutor and an educator for 25 years and is the parent of two ACPS graduates. She spent the summer teaching summer school at T. C. Williams High School and is well known in the community as a tutor and an SAT prep course teacher.
The special election will be held on Aug. 12. The election is required because of the resignation of Board Member Claire Eberwein, who has moved to Europe with her family. The polls will open at 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 12, and will close at 7:00 p.m. Only residents of School Board District B are eligible to vote.