School Board Primary Fight Brewing

Barbara KanninenSchool Board member James Lander is facing a primary challenge this year.

Lander is being challenged in the Democratic Caucus by Barbara Kanninen, a Yorktown High School mom, children’s book author, environmental economist and Democratic National Convention delegate. The endorsement caucus is scheduled for May 9 and 11.

Lander is the only African American elected official in Arlington, where about 8 percent of the population is Black or African American. This has led some political observers to predict a racially-charged primary.

Kanninen plans to officially announce her candidacy at Wednesday’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. Asked why she’s running, Kanninen released the following statement to ARLnow.com.

We have great schools in Arlington, from preschool all the way to high school. We prepare thinkers, entrepreneurs, and artists, and we prepare them well. But, the world is changing fast and we need to stay ahead of the curve. We need a School Board that is experienced, forward thinking, and, above all, passionate about educating kids.

Kevin and I have lived in Arlington for 20 years. We have been elementary school parents for 9 years, middle school parents for 6 years, and high school parents for 3.

I have spent years volunteering in classrooms, doing everything from one-on-one reading, to hands-on science, to gifted math. I’ve worked with kids of all ages and backgrounds and skill-levels.

I’m a math geek, a children’s book author, a Ph.D. economist with a business motto of “Good, Clean Data Crunching.”

I’ve worked on School Board committees. I’ve been on the ACI — the Advisory Council on Instruction. I’ve co-chaired the Early Childhood Advisory Committee, and I’ve served on the Math Advisory Committee.

I coached Odyssey of the Mind for seven years.

I am also, occasionally, a political activist.

All these experiences — but especially that of being a parent — have fed into and nurtured my core belief that all children are awesome human beings, they all deserve every opportunity to excel, and we owe it to them to pay attention, to push our own thinking in new and fresh ways, and to never, ever shrug our shoulders.

Here are three things I think we should focus on, going forward:

  • Strengthening our STEM programs — science, technology, engineering, and math. More hands-on science programs in elementary school, Mentoring programs for middle and high school science fair projects. Better utilization of the crown jewel of STEM education here in Arlington: the Arlington Career Center. We need to make it more accessible to more kids, including making summer programs more affordable.
  • The Arts. Young people are coming into a world where new ways to express yourself are cropping up every day — video, graphics, even music is changing. We not only have the opportunity to help kids take their talents to the cutting edge, but, if needed, we can help them use their talents and interests to buttress up their academics.
  • Finally, at the end of the day, kids are kids, and kids needs personal support. I believe every child in Arlington should be able to walk into their school building every morning and know that there is at least one adult who knows them on a personal level, who believes in them — exactly as they are.

Photo via barbarakanninen.com


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