With election day a little over a week away, the candidates for Falls Church City School Board are vying for your vote. We are fortunate here in Falls Church, to have citizens in our community willing to put in the time to serve on our school board. There are four candidates running this year for three seats. On your ballot you may vote for up to three candidates but you do not have to vote for three candidates. You can vote for one, two or three candidates. That is something that some voters may not know because the directions can be misinterpreted and some people thought they had to select as many candidates as there are seats open and you do not.
Remember it is not easy to create the time to campaign and put oneself out there to seek support so we appreciate these candidates and hope you will take the time to read and share their statements. Polls open Tuesday, November 5th at 6 am and are open until 7 pm. Please remind your friends to vote!
My husband, Mike, and I have lived in Falls Church for 19 years. We and our son, Casey, a 7th grader at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, are fortunate to live next door to my mom and uncle, Ginny and George Cronin. I served as a room parent for Casey’s class every year from kindergarten through 6th grade. I joined the Health and Wellness School Board Advisory Committee in 2013 and have chaired the Committee since 2016. I was also a student at George Mason High School for my ninth-grade year. My 20+ years of working with college students and universities gives me a solid understanding of what many of our graduates will experience after GMHS and the academic, social and emotional skills they will need. My career is focused on experiential learning in higher education. I design, direct, and instruct semester-in-DC university programs, helping young adults successfully launch from school to life to career fulfillment. I hold a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego, a MA in History from the University of Toronto, and a BA in History from Cornell University.
Why I’m running:
It is an exciting time for Falls Church, with the completion of the Mt. Daniel expansion and the beginning of our new high school. The current school board recruited strong leadership in Superintendent Noonan and our schools are on a great trajectory. I see this as a time of growth and opportunity for our schools and our city. Our focus now is making sure our investments pay off for all students. I see six critical priorities in this progression: (1) ensuring that our new high school is on time and on budget, (2) implementing an evidence-based approach to technology use in our schools that prepares students while minimizing distraction, (3) ensuring that students of all abilities and interests are supported and challenged in their growth, (4) attracting and retaining strong teachers, (5) focusing on a culture of caring and inclusion, and (6) instilling independence, self-confidence and socio-emotional resilience to prepare our students for a complex world. Looking ahead, we must also be mindful that the strong economic growth of the past decade may not continue even as Falls Church attracts new residents and students. These dual challenges will require that the school board plan and think creatively about the future. I am proud to live in a city that prioritizes education and am excited to play a larger role in supporting our schools, students, and community.
I am running for School Board as I believe the schools are the strongest they have been in years and I want to keep us on a path to success. A good portion of my platform is stewardship: keeping salaries competitive to recruit and retain great teachers; maintaining small class sizes; and smart budgeting to spend citizens’ tax dollars wisely. I also want to make sure all students, especially special education students, non-native English speakers, economically disadvantaged students and students experiencing mental health challenges, have access to academic, social and emotional support services. Finally, I will seek to enhance communication from the School Board and school system and create a standardized process to solicit feedback from parents. Of these issues, I feel the budget is the most important. I understand that citizens do not want additional taxes and yet our school system still has unmet needs such as the need for more social workers, psychologists and counselors. It will take creative solutions such as additional volunteers and working with organizations like the Falls Church Education Foundation, PTAs and community businesses to help fill the gaps.
My husband, Christian, our children and I moved to Falls Church City over ten years ago. We moved from Arlington to FCC because we wanted to take advantage of the small, stellar school system. We have four children in four of the five city schools (MD, TJ, MEH, GMHS). I served as Falls Church Elementary PTA President from 2017-2018 and during my tenure, worked with the other PTA presidents for passage of the GMHS Bond Referendum. I am a current Board Member of the Falls Church Education Foundation and a member of the Architectural Selection Advisory Committee for the new GMHS. Prior to starting a family, I served in two different roles at The George Washington University- Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Executive Director of Student Life. While at GW, I served as Chair of the National Advisory Council on Education and earned a Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration. In terms of community leadership outside of the schools, I am a current Board member of the Falls Church Kiwanis Little League.
I feel it is imperative for the School Board and City Council to work closely together as the schools play a vital role in the success of our city. Watching the groups work together on the financing of the new high school and the planning for the commercial development on the high school campus is a great example of the two entities coming together to create a one-of-a-kind project that will greatly benefit the community. I understand our citizens are concerned about taxes and yet we have unmet needs in our school system. As a result, I will work to find creative solutions to help with the budget challenges. For example, many senior citizens have indicated to me that they would like to be more involved with the schools so perhaps having them volunteer to tutor non-Native English speakers would be a great way to engage the community and better support those students without straining the budget. Personally, I would like to be a very visible and accessible School Board member. I will continue to volunteer in the schools as I do now and will send out regular communication to the community.
Hello, my name is Philip Reitinger and I am running for the Falls Church City School Board. I have lived in Falls Church City since 1998 and served on the School Board for four years, two of them as Vice Chair. I have three kids at GMHS who are FCCPS “lifers.” I have come to know many of the teachers and administrators in FCCPS personally, and I am committed to the success of the schools and the entire city.
I am often asked what it the most important issue facing our schools, however, there is no single issue. The most important issues include: (1) Addressing the needs of ALL our students, including those receiving special education and with limited English proficiency. We must recognize that the needs of our students are changing, and adapt. (2) Addressing stress in our students. In a school district such as ours, stress is significant challenge. Eradicating bullying from our schools, and building a caring environment, are a part of this. This requires both programs, like Mindfulness, and resources for counselors, psychologists, and others. (3) Ensuring all FCCPS students benefit from the inclusive, problem-solving IB approach. (4) Successfully finishing the build-out of the new George Mason High School. This is the biggest project in Falls Church’s history, and will and must be a cornerstone of our efforts
That said, at the end of the day, the very most important factor in the success of students and schools are teachers and other staff. Teachers need a number of things, but the two most important are planning time and better access to professional development. The latter requires that we find way to devote additional resources to professional development and continue to work through the Administration to find ways to improve access to the training that is available. The former also depends on the resources to have additional planning time for teachers. Paraprofessionals face these same challenges.
And of course, keeping teacher and staff pay competitive is essential.
As I mentioned at the start, I have served on the School Board for four years. I am proud of what the schools and the Board has accomplished in the time I have served. We completed the Mt. Daniel expansion, kept teacher and staff pay competitive, started construction of the new George Mason High School, and brought in the current Superintendent. But most of all I am proud that we no longer have students in trailers, anywhere in the school system. That is something of which the entire City can be proud.
I think our schools are doing very well. I see ways we can improve, but they are all in the context of a system that is providing an excellent education to our students and is being run in a professional, responsible manner by our superintendent. As always, ensuring each student graduates equipped to succeed in life is the object of all school board activities, and all the issues we address should be prioritized accordingly.
Our schools are very strong academically, but I’ve heard too many stories from students, parents, and teachers about unreasonable levels of anxiety and stress. If our students are suffering socially, mentally, or emotionally, they will not be able to reap the benefits of their high-quality education. If elected, I will ask the school board to lead a community conversation on whether we are truly doing everything we can to identify and help students address the root causes of anxiety and stress.
Social connectedness is essential for our kids’ mental, emotional, and social health. As a school board member, I would like to explore how our policies and practices regarding technology impact our kids’ feeling of connectedness. For example, can we do more to facilitate meaningful interactions during lunch? I recently heard that a student felt depressed during lunch because his peers were busy with their phones and he had no one to talk with.
Polarization and alienation also leave our kids feeling disconnected from their community. My approach to diversity and inclusivity in our schools would include challenging our students to apply the I.B. traits of open-mindedness and risk-taking by getting to know peers who have different religious beliefs or political views, or who grew up in different parts of the world, and share their stories with one another. Our kids are some of the brightest, most creative, and civically-minded students in the nation. I believe they could be forerunners on inclusion that embraces diversity. Wouldn’t our nation benefit from leaders who grew up in that type of community?
As to why I am running for school board, my wife and I fell in love with the City when we moved here four and a half years ago. We had been living on Capitol Hill and longed for a more tightly-knit community in which to raise our family, and Falls Church City has exceeded our every expectation. We enjoy running into neighbors at the parks, library, schools, grocery store, and running trail. And we feel blessed that our kids will be educated in our excellent schools, growing and advancing through the years with many of the same peers they knew in elementary school, as well as the new friends who will join them. We have benefited greatly from the schools and I would like to apply my management skills to help ensure we continue to give Falls Church City’s children the best education possible, equipping them to be healthy leaders in whatever path they choose in life.
I’m the proud dad of Evangeline, better known as Evi, who is in 4th grade at Thomas Jefferson, and her brother Noah, who is in 6th grade at Mary Ellen Henderson. Andrea, my better half, is an attorney and serves on the school board’s Health and Wellness Advisory Committee. As mentioned, we moved from Capitol Hill to the Little City four and a half years ago.
My entire career has been in public service—first as a Naval nuclear propulsion officer, now as a supervisor in a civilian agency. I’ve often managed across multiple organizations and agencies, and I currently manage relations between the executive and legislative branches of government. Through that, I’ve learned to truly see issues from all parties’ perspectives and negotiate solutions that accomplish what is needed without damaging relationships. This will be a useful skill as the school board serves its many “customers” of students, parents, and taxpayers, in cooperation with the city council and school administration.
My academic training is in physics, engineering, administration, and security studies, plus leadership training from the government and Harvard’s executive education program. This background has instilled in me a value for ground truth data when I make decisions, so I will look closely at the details of how the administration plans to implement initiatives such as “IB for All” and standards-based grading. I will also apply a rigorous analytic approach to reviewing school budgets and policy proposals.
I will carefully monitor the new high school construction, watching for issues that could result in delays or added costs. I will help ensure we continue to use taxpayer funds wisely and that all school system work is efficiently directed toward student achievement and well-being.
My leadership style combines a sharp focus on mission accomplishment with respect for each individual. I have a long professional track record of building productive working relationships within and among federal agencies and between the executive and legislative branches. This experience will directly apply to the relationship between the school board and the school administration, as well as between the school board and city council.
I also have a high value for the performing arts as a way to develop well-rounded, balanced lives. When I’m not at work or spending time with my family, I pursue my passion for music as an upright and electric bass player with a variety of groups.
One additional important aspect that is essential as a school board member is fostering and ensuring transparency and open dialogue with those who would be impacted by a new policy prior to voting on it.