I first came here almost 32 years ago with my late husband Kennan. Like so many of us, we were transplants to Northern Virginia. We had just finished 2 1/2 years in the Central African Republic teaching English for the Peace Corps and were looking for a place to settle. We found a home in Fairlington, just across from Park Fairfax.
Career & Public Service
As a politics major at Mt. Holyoke, I’ve always been fascinated by the Congress and government. I was thrilled when then-Congressman Lee Hamilton hired me to be a legislative assistant in 1978. After the birth of our first child in 1979, I chose to stay home to be a full-time mother, but continued to work for my alma mater as the Associate Director of their Washington internship program. In 1984, I became certified to administer and interpret the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a service I continue to provide intermittently to individuals and groups.
My experience with our schools also began in 1984, when I worked as part of a community effort to build a new playground for our neighborhood school, Abingdon Elementary. My two daughters were 2 and 5 years-old at the time. I went on to be the volunteer co-coordinator for the PTA, then the ACI representative and finally the PTA President at Abingdon.
In 1992, the Arlington public school system needed to address severe crowding in our part of the County, as well as the educational needs created by a rapid influx of non-English speaking students. My frustration with the School Board’s lack of public communication, openness and their poor decisions caused me to first help elect Mary Hynes to the Board in 1994 and then to run myself in 1995. I lost that first race, but won in 1996. I promised to work towards helping every child fulfill their potential in school, to provide adequate resources for all our schools regardless of location (including building a new school in South Arlington,) better management for our capital improvement program, and finally to make the School Board more transparent and responsive to the community.
Since my first election, student achievement has gone up and the achievement gap has closed by 50%; we have formulas to ensure that resources are equitable in our schools, and that new school is now built – Carlin Springs Elementary. We have taken many steps to improve our connection with the community, including bi-annual surveys, regular updates mailed to citizens. During my first term as Chair, I began open office hours for School Board members, which helps provide that crucial opportunity to personally connect with the community.
As a School Board member, I have found many ways to build networks that support our schools state-wide as well. Virginia CAREs (Virginia Consortium for Adequate Resources for Education) is a group of school divisions I helped found to strengthen Virginia Standards of Quality (SOQ) funding formulas to more closely match the educational needs of our students. As Vice-Chair of the consortium, I helped lead a state-wide conference to determine our positions and then lobbied for better funding. Because we worked across the state and with Superintendents and School Board members to inform first the State Board of Education and then Virginia legislators about our regional needs, we were successful in improving the SOQ’s in a number of vital areas.
Another statewide network is the LEP (Limited English Proficient) Caucus, an ad hoc group of school board members and staff working with the Virginia School Board Association to improve resources and education for our students who do not speak English well. The LEP Caucus has been a strong voice for our immigrant students advocating for reasonable testing under NCLB and for adequate support from the State to meet these students’ educational needs. Also, starting in 2005, Governor Mark Warner appointed me to the P-16 Council which advises the governor on education issues from preschool through higher education. Governor Tim Kaine later re-appointed me to the council after his election later that same year.
My efforts to support our community went beyond education after 9/11, when I began to lobby for better emergency alert and information systems. This led to my membership on the Council of Governments (COG) Emergency Preparedness Council, where I was instrumental in establishing an emergency radio station in Arlington and a pilot outdoor alert system in the metro area. I was also appointed to the COG Work Force Task Force in 2009. This task force is creating a metro area-wide approach to building a workforce to support the next stage of economic development beyond the current recession.
Supporting Women for Public Office
Women seem chronically under-represented in Virginia’s government. There are currently no female members of Congress from Virginia. Women compose only 18% of the House of Delegates and about 20% of the Virginia Senate, a statistic that will drastically declined after this year’s elections. Meanwhile, women are nearly 51% of Virginia’s population according to the US Census Bureau. After the 2007 campaign, a group of like-minded women and I founded GWEN (Get Women Elected Now) to encourage progressive women in Northern Virginia to run for public office. Our goal is to promote women candidates for local offices here in Northern Virginia, educate first-time candidates, and volunteer our help to get them elected.
What Keeps Me Going
We all have aspects to our lives that, over time, prove to be invaluable in surviving the ups and downs life sends us. For me it is music, bicycling, my Quaker faith, the outdoors, friends, family and community.
I have played classical piano since childhood and took up voice lessons in my 40’s. While I am strictly amateur, time spent at the keyboard or singing has always helped clear my head and my heart. A piano was our second major purchase when we returned from Peace Corps, after our car.
While Kennan was an athlete, I was not, but he showed me the joy of physical exercise when we bought a tandem bike and rode over 5,700 miles together, including several Bike Virginia rides. Now I ride my own bike, and will always be grateful for that gift of cycling. Bicycling still clears my heart and my mind and keeps me feeling well.
My roots are Philadelphia Quaker. The Quaker peace testimony, belief that God resides within each and every person and emphasis on meditation and reflection renews me, challenges me,
Kennan’s sudden death and various health issues, including my recent treatment for breast cancer, have brought home to me how important friends and community are to our health and well
-being. At times, I could not have survived without the practical and emotional support of my family and my community. I discovered the Washington Transplant Community because Kennan was a tissue donor. They have supported me, and I try to support their work of advocating for organ and tissue donation, which truly gives the gift of life. Over the years, family, close friends and the broader community have come to my aid again and again. I cannot thank them enough and hope that my public service helps repay the debt I owe to be blessed with so much love and support.
Experience / Leadership
Chair, Arlington County School Board, 1999 to 2001, 2004-2005, Jan-June ’07; Member, Arlington County School Board, 1996 to present; Member, Council of Governments National Capitol Region Emergency Preparedness Council 2004 to present; Member, Governor’s Commonwealth Preparedness Transition Policy Committee Dec ’05- Jan ’06; Chair, Capitol Region Subcommittee, Commonwealth Preparedness Transition Policy Committee Jan ’06; Member, Governor’s P-16 Council Dec ’05 to present; Chair, Communications Workgroup of Governor’s P-16 Council, June ’07; Independent Consultant/Facilitator for career and Myers-Briggs counseling/workshops, 1984-1996; Associate Director, Mount Holyoke College Washington Internship Program, 1979-1984; Legislative Aide, Representative Lee Hamilton (D. Ind.), 1977-1979; Country Desk Assistant, Africa Region, US Peace Corps, 1976-1977; Peace Corps Volunteer (English (TEFL) teacher) and Trainer, Central African Republic, 1973-1975
Leadership Positions – Leadership Team Member, VSBA Limited English Proficient Caucus, 2003 to present; Vice-Chair, Virginia Consortium for Adequate Resources for Education, 2000 to 2005; Vice-President Fairlington Civic Association, 1994-95; Vice-President County Council of PTAs, 1993-1995; Vice-Chair, Advisory Council on Instruction, 1994; Assistant Editor, County Councilor Newsletter, 1994; County Council Representative Parent Involvement Committee, 1994; President, Abingdon PTA, 1990-1992; Career Counselor, Center for Women and Families, Alexandria, 1987-1991; Volunteer Co-coordinator, Abingdon PTA, 1985-1988.
Political – State Advisor, Edwards for President Campaign, ’04; Founder/Steering Cttee Member, GWEN, Get Women Elected Now, ’07 to present; Participant/Permit Obtainer, weekly Silent Vigil for Peace ’02 to present; Vice-Chair, LEAD (Local Elected Association of Democrats) ’04; Delegate, National Democratic Convention, 2004; Chair, Get Out The Vote, Arlington Democratic Committee, 1995; Delegate, Virginia State Democratic Convention, 1992 & 2004; District Volunteer Co-Coordinator, Tsongas for President Campaign, 1992.
Writing – 1990 Series of articles on Myers-Briggs and Parenting published in “Welcome Home.”
Education – 1973 Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, Politics with minor in Economics, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA.