Facing the largest turnover its had in years, the Fairfax County School Board held on to many of its incumbents Tuesday night despite an election season marked by loud cries for change.
Six of the board's 12 members did not seek re-election, leaving half the board open for newcomers to step into place.
But four of those seats went to incumbents Janie Strauss (Dranesville), Dan Storck (Mt. Vernon), Kathy Smith (Sully) and Illryong Moon (At-large), candidates who were sometimes cast into a group of "rubber stampers" throughout this election season by voters dissatisfied with school system.
On Tuesday night, however, they won, in some cases with substantial margins, over the self-labeled "reformers" who challenged them.
Two more incumbents — Sandy Evans (Mason) and Patty Reed (Providence) — captured their uncontested races, creating an even 6-6 balance between incumbents and new faces on the incoming board.
Democrats celebrated several other school board district wins Tuesday night, as many of the candidates they endorsed last summer secured seats.
While the board is nonpartisan, almost all Democrat-endorsed candidates trumped their Republican counterparts with district seat wins for Pat Hynes in Hunter Mill and Megan O. McLaughlin in Braddock. Tamara J. Derenak Kaufax ran unopposed in Lee District. Ryan McElveen and Ted Velkoff, along with Moon, won the board's three at-large seats.
Steve Stuban, the only unendorsed candidate in the race, was not successful in his bid for an at-large seat.
The wins gave county Democrats one more seat on the board and a 10-2 majority. Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) and incumbent Patty Reed (Providence), who ran unopposed, are the only Republican endorsees. Schultz ran in a contest that saw two newcomers.
Schultz said the results showed the people in her district "showed up and said they deserve better" by giving her their vote.
But it appeared that wasn't the case in other parts of the county, she said.
Anthony Bedell, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, said he thinks the disappointing results in the state Senate races may have affected the results, particularly in the at-large school board races.
"When those races didn't go our way that kind of coattailed some of those at-large candidates over the top," Bedell said. "If you look at the results, it was very bunched. There was nobody who really broke away by any large percentage point."
Coming off a race that in late weeks was marked by strong political rhetoric, board chair Strauss said the party banter that emerged during the campaign would not make its way onto the board.
She said it is "incumbent on us as a board to work together" and not let party views shape the board's decisions or direction.
"We have to work together as a board, and as chairman it's going to be my job to bring the board together," said Strauss, who said there was a "clear choice" in her race.
Epstein, who was endorsed by both teachers' unions, could not be reached for comment after results were tallied.
Some voters at the polls Tuesday were disturbed by that kind of rhetoric, and the overall tone of the races. Many acknowledged "poor decisions" made by the board during the past four years, but in many cases, it wasn't motivation enough to "throw out" all incumbents.
"There's is some truth about the arrogance part [on the part of school board members]. That has definitely happened, but I also think most of the school board members have been very considerate people ... they've gone out to the communities, listened to the constituents and done the best job they've been able to do with that," said Vienna resident Marcia Charin.
Perhaps more than new faces, voters at the polls Tuesday just wanted "smarter thinking" about how to address issues— among them, the selection of a new superintendent, navigating another budget season and dealing with leftover resentment from hot-button issues like the closing of Clifton Elementary School, boundary decisions and disciplinary reform.
There will also be new issues driving the agenda: SOLS and teaching to the tests, teacher workload and payment, schools' staffing formula and overcrowding among them.
Hynes, who will be the only person with recent teaching experience on the new board, said there will be a steep learning curve for new candidates.
But on the issues she campaigned on to voters in Hunter Mill, "I dont want to lose any time," she said.
Complete results below
At-Large School Board
|Sheree A. Brown-Kaplan||80,721||15.73%|
|Lin-Dai Y. Kendall||62,539||12.19%|
|Lolita I. Mancheno-Smoak||69,611||13.57%|
|Ryan L. McElveen||86,268||16.81%|
|Steven M. F. Stuban||37,344||7.27%|
|Theodore J. "Ted" Velkoff||84,611||16.49%|
|Nell J. Hurley||9,831||39.96%|
|Megan O. McLaughlin||14,753||59.97%|
|Louise K. Epstein||12,128||48.00%|
|Jane K. "Janie" Strauss||13,122||51.93%|
|Pat M. Hynes||12,511||56.99%|
|Nancy A. Linton||9,432||42.96%|
|Tamara J. Derenak Kaufax||13,926||99.39%|
|Sandy S. Evans||12,963||99.74%|
|Michele Pilc Nellenbach||8,745||41.52%|
|Daniel G. "Dan" Storck||12,308||58.43%|
|Patricia S. "Patty" Reed||11,422||99.21%|
|Elizabeth L. Schultz||15,807||58.77%|
|John F. Wittman||11,076||41.18%|
|Sheila P. Ratnam||9,338||45.37%|
|Kathy L. Smith||11,233||54.58%|