Candidates for Leesburg Vacancy Make Pitches to School Board Members

School Board members on Monday heard introductions and took public comment on 15 candidates seeking to fill the vacant Leesburg District seat. The selection process is expected to continue Tuesday evening when the board was scheduled to ask questions of the applicants.

The vacancy was created with the Nov. 2 resignation of Beth Barts. The person appointed by the board to replace her will serve until a special election is held in November. The winner of that election will complete Barts’ term, expiring at the end of 2023.

The diverse field of candidates ranges from non-parent IT professionals to a Sheriff’s Office deputy.

During Monday night’s session, candidates gave five-minute introductory statements.

Tom Marshall represented the Leesburg District on the School Board from 2008 to 2011, and again from 2016 to 2019. He told the board that he is the most qualified candidate.

“I am the most logical one to fill the seat during the one-year appointment,” he said, although he didn’t say whether he would seek election to the seat in 2022.

Teacher Lauren Shernoff had a great deal of support from public commenters prior to giving her introduction. She has been a teacher for 14 years, and currently serves as a pathways teacher in Loudoun County Public Schools. She said students do best when school ties to the community are strong. 

“My range of experience with diverse learners helped me to see the value in supporting individual student needs of every student deserves to be represented. Every decision we make will impact them,” she said. 

Candidate Frank Spampinato told the board that public service is a way of life for him. He is a Marine Corps veteran and served in the CIA. 

“I continue to work hard on my listening and empathy skills as I believe those might be my most valuable skills that I bring to the table,” Spampinato said.

Army veteran and risk management and security professional Colin Doniger said he would like to see parents put in the driver’s seat for the school district. He said he would support hosting quarterly town hall meetings to connect parents and community members with the board. 

Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michael Rivera made a splash on Fox News in November when he said announced plans to seek appointment to the vacant seat. Rivera described himself as a proud American, and said he is a “firm believer of facts and data and will support the teaching of all accurate history, both positive and negative.”

Systems engineer Stephen Cypher graduated from Loudoun County High School in 2017. He said children were the hardest-hit demographic during the pandemic, and that students, faculty and staff need resources available to them.

Andy Jabbour drew upon his background in defense, and pointed to the importance of school security in light of the shooting at Oxford High School in Detroit last week. He said that the community should know about security threats. 

“I love this community. But I feel like something is not working in our school system,” he said. He also suggested revisiting the school masking policy, as it has not been reviewed since it was implemented over the summer. He said he was not interested in being elected to the seat after serving in an interim capacity.

Andrew Fernandes is a father of two students in the school division. He is a Cub Scout leader, youth sports coach and project manager.

“Working with kids every day, I understand about solutions. … We talk about teamwork, the things you do when you win, and the things you do when you lose,” he said.

He also said his work with the Odyssey of the Mind program has taught him that there is a solution to every problem. 

Todd Cimino-Johnson said education saved his life. He grew up in poverty and found refuge in school. He touted his corporate accounting experience, understanding of law, and sense of fiscal responsibility.

He pointed to statistics specific to the Leesburg District showing that nearly a third of students are economically disadvantaged.

He said he would be a “uniter, a listener and a civic-minded leader who cares passionately about the needs of all students.”

Erika Ogedegbe is a 20-year resident of Leesburg and a parent of three LCPS students. She is the associate vice provost of Student Systems, Services, and analytics at George Washington University.

“My priorities would include teaching and learning, including early literacy, recruitment, retention and growth of LCPS teachers and staff, academic outcomes and support for the broad range of LCPS offerings including the early literacy programs, special education, the English learner program, and vocational, technical and STEM programs at the Academies of Loudoun,” she said.

She said it was important that efforts and initiatives to improve schools benefit all students. 

Rebecca Clark served on the school board for the American School of Brasilia, where she lived with her family. She served on the governance and transition committees. 

She worked for two years as a teacher at a low-income school prior to becoming a mother.

René Camp said she feels like children are being set up for failure. She said that in the Constitution, parents have a fundamental right to their childrens’ education. She critiqued the School Board’s previous practice of keeping parents out of the building during its public comment sessions when people address the board.

“I’m hoping that as a School Board, we start listening to each other. … We are America we are unlike any country in the world. We have freedom,” she said. 

Julia Sisson is a CPA who campaigned for the At-Large seat in the 2019 election. She said that while she ran as a Republican, school issues should be non-partisan.

“Right now, this board is not working together as a team, and everyone can see it,” she said.

It is not yet clear when a representative will be appointed to fill the vacancy. The appointee’s will begin in office on Dec. 31.

7 thoughts on “Candidates for Leesburg Vacancy Make Pitches to School Board Members

  • 2021-12-07 at 2:03 pm
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    I tuned in last night & though everyone did a great job. (They all looked so comfortable in those deluxe swivel chairs.) But unfortunately, only one person can be selected. I have my personal favorite. (I’ll keep that to myself.) But given the candidates’ qualifications & high caliber, the board cannot go wrong. Whoever they select will be a fine replacement for Beth Barts. (It would be interesting to know her favorite.) Happy Holidays Loudoun!

  • 2021-12-07 at 4:30 pm
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    I’m glad some of the candidates had the guts to speak the truth knowing it will cost them the job.

  • 2021-12-07 at 4:38 pm
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    Julie Sisson would be the best choice. She is very knowledgeable and very involved in educational issues. Most importantly, she keeps people informed. The board needs her communications skills.

  • 2021-12-07 at 6:30 pm
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    It will be very telling to see who the Board picks to replace Barts. Hopefully they will pick someone who is parent focused and interested in listening to the community, not the lobbying groups. They did well picking Andrew Hoyler to replace Ms. King on her passing. Hopefully whoever replaces Barts will take a cue from Mr. Hoyler. He has held numerous townhalls and is responsive when contacted.

  • 2021-12-07 at 9:33 pm
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    Some observations from the hearings:

    1. Despite LCPS being in the news, virtually none seemed to understand the budget. Or at least let on that they understand. Over the past two years, enrollment has declined while spending has skyrocketed by $195M!! Yet few seem to know where to cut? Say what?

    2. Many of the folks were in the IT field and touted their credentials. Yet, few seemed aware LCPS invested in a massive content management system (also called LMS for education settings) aggregating lesson plans, student submissions, scores, etc. And I didn’t hear anybody point out that organizations obtain benefits and a return on investment by sharing content and disseminating best practices via such enterprise systems. Nor did they point out LCPS does nothing of the sort leaving each teacher and school on an island. Comprehensive test banks for algebra of US history? Doesn’t exist. Thus, you cannot have data to compare and identify best practies. Incompetence at a grand scale but are most of the candidates even more incompetent for not recognizing this?

    3. Many folks said they wanted “data”. Do they really? Did anyone call for LCPS to produce data on PBL? Or the “social emotional learning” programs? Or allowing kids to sit wherever they want? Or on how much various programs cost from art, sports, ACL? LCPS’ “research department” is practically non-existent. With such a large student population, you can literally run experiments where you test the effectiveness of various policies. Or conduct surveys. Or simply use the surveys that were collected (see Supt search survey). Yet almost none of the candidates seemed to know how to govern to obtain or act upon such data. LCPS is allergic to such research, science and data.

    4. Only one candidate mentioned that Lessburg schools were only filled to 60-80% of their capacity. Let me repeat, one did actually notice that many LCPS schools (supposedly overflowing if you read Loudoun newspapers) sit 1/3 empty while we build new schools.

    5. One candidate mentioned forcing Tanner Cross to court for exercising his view on a public policy issue was … well, let’s just say foolish. Sounds like none of the others seemed to concerned about protecting the rights of students, employees and parents including ensuring they don’t get raped or censored.

    6. No candidate discussed the need to provide oversight (hearings) of LCPS staff. Given the placement of a known racist on another campus, the persecution of a teacher for speaking out, and the fact that sexual assault data hasn’t been reported to the state, you would think at least might suggest the hearings should begin asap. I didn’t see anyone do that.

    It’s almost as if folks like the idea of being on the board and spout cliche talking points without having a clue about how to govern. Wait, that’s how we got this current group. There are a couple bright spots. I doubt the SB will choose them.

  • 2021-12-08 at 5:41 am
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    Colin Doniger; if what was stated is true to fact this is what parents need. A forum to address issues without being silenced. Parents; you have the freedom of speech and need to use it in public forums. Other parents need to hear it, the community needs to hear it and last but not least the school board needs to stop their foolishness. Parents, you and your neighbors pay taxes to the public schools. You have every right to want school vouchers and make a choice for where your child learns. The only thing that happens when the board silences parents is….anger. Let them believe they are being heard and if they are angry let us hear them out. There are events that happen within the school walls and parents need to start sharing their concerns so the public who pays the taxes can help. Teachers need to believe they are supported as well.

  • 2021-12-08 at 2:44 pm
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    Candidate Andy Jabbour should check the facts regarding the Oxford High School shooting as the parents of the student contributed and the school admin was complacent in preventing the protection of the students from the accused shooter. Another story of where the school system failed! We can no longer allow school board members who wont protect 100% of our students and staff.

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