All five Fauquier County school board members will be elected this Tuesday.
Seven candidates, Susan Pauling, Rachel Bongiovi, Don Mason, Stephanie Litter-Reber, Shelly Norden, Suzanne Sloane and Mike Hammond are vying for these spots. Sloan and Mason are seeking reelection.
Pauling and Bongiovi are in the running for the Central District board seat left open by Center District board member Brian Gorg.
Pauling is a parent of three and active in her children’s parent-teacher organization. “One of the big things [I want to focus on] is improved communication and transparency for all stakeholders,” said Pauling. “I want to make sure we are being transparent with every decision we make…and our community is aware of what is happening with our schools.” According to Fauquier Now, Pauling plans to work towards further teacher support. She wants to make sure teachers have everything they need to teach their students. Pauling also advocates for more attention towards music, art and sports programs.
If Kettle Run graduate Bongiovi, age 25, is elected, she would become the youngest school board member in the history of Fauquier. Bongiovi is a mental health professional who works with children at Chrysalis Counseling Center. Because of her profession her primary focus in her campaign is student mental health. According to her campaign website, she previously she met with Sheriff Bob Mosier to discuss mental health within Fauquier County schools. She also wants to focus on the improvement of teacher pay and fiscal responsibility, according to Fauquier Times Bongiovi hopes to increase support for students and their mental health.
Sloan, Norden and Hammond are in a three-way race for the Scott District seat.
Sloan is running for reelection after a four-year term. She has worked in the education field for 30 years and currently has two sons in the school system. If elected, she wants to make sure that “each student has what is needed to fully succeed.” She also strongly emphasizes working as a team to engage students in their learning. Three priorities she wants to achieve in office are school safety, staff retention and the looming issues surrounding the aging middle schools. “I love Fauquier County and want to continue to serve the students, staff and constituents through my work at the school board,” Sloan stated.
Norden, an FHS alumna and previous CBS News producer, now teaches journalism and English at Kettle Run High School. She shared that she is running for office because although she’s a teacher, she says she’s also a taxpayer and cares about how her taxes are being spent. “I realized that by not speaking out, I was part of the problem,” Norden says. Her top focus concerns how taxes are being spent on education. “Education happens in classrooms, yet that appears to be the last place our tax dollars are being spent,” Norden says. She adds that our school system needs to work on teacher retention and hiring experienced teachers. She sees fair teacher compensation as crucial in improving teacher retention.
Hammond is a father of two daughters and says he has immersed himself in the school system and “rather than sit back and watch, I want to be involved.” He expresses concern over teacher pay and believes they should be paid fairly, starting with establishing competitive wages. He believes the school system should “put money in the right places,” and spending should be made responsibly. He also shares a common opinion with the other candidates regarding support for the renovation of Taylor and Warrenton Middle Schools, which have recently become a topic of concern due to their age.
Mason is a retired father of two and has worked in the Prince William school division for 39 years. Mason is seeking reelection. He is competing with Litter-Reber over the Lee District seat. As a school board member, Mason worked on the renovation of the two middle schools, Warrenton and Taylor. According to Fauquier Now, he says he wants to focus on “equality and equity. ” Mason is a FHS alumnus of FHS has experience in a segregated school system,” said Mason. He also advocates for more support for students in special education and smaller class sizes.
Litter-Reber is a navy veteran, IT manager and parent of two. She’s seeking the Lee District seat facing Mason. She said she is running for office because, as a parent, she saw a “need.” “It is not in my nature to sit back and complain without getting off my butt to find a solution,” she says. She wants to focus on open communication between the schools, teachers, administration and the community. “You can’t influence change without understanding the big picture, and taking into account the viewpoints of all involved,” she says. She also wants to keep Fauquier schools competitive while keeping “the qualities that make Fauquier special.”
There are currently five school board members. Members are elected for four-year terms, and each member represents the five voting districts in the county. Elections will be held on November 5.
By Nayeli Arellano – News Editor