The student news site of Potomac Falls High School

The Roar

The student news site of Potomac Falls High School

The Roar

The student news site of Potomac Falls High School

The Roar

Meet The Algonkian School Board Candidates

Photo by: LILY JACOBS (825424)

The Loudoun County School Board has been embroiled in controversy, but two Potomac Falls parents are ready to take on the fight to represent Algonkian. 

Loudoun County, once a rural landscape, is now home to over 400,000 residents in a sprawling metropolitan area. The county is not just known for having the highest household income in the nation, or for its expansive civil war history – Loudoun is known as a political battleground that will determine the future of Virginia in 2023.

That seems like a huge shift in the span of two decades, so let’s rewind to where the current political attitude originated, in June 2021. For the 2020-2021 school year, the majority of Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) students attended school online to the displeasure of many parents. The build up of issues stemming from virtual teaching finally reached the point of no return in the summer during a school board meeting. 

Prior to 2021, school board meetings were traditionally … boring. The meetings were rarely reported on in the national news, if at all. Locally, the school board made headlines for managing the school budget, seeking name suggestions for new schools, and expanding classrooms. There were no accusations of indoctrination or mentions of parental rights. 

That safety net quickly evaporated at the June 2021 school board meeting. There was a full house of students, parents, and teachers at a public comment session discussing the county’s transgender rights policy and racial equity plans. The session became so raucous that police had to clear the hall. The gathering also led to an individual being arrested and charged for obstruction and disorderly conduct. 

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Many individuals were riled up over critical race theory and the treatment of transgender students, but these controversies were the least to come for Loudoun residents. Two sexual assault incidents occurred in the span of a few months with the same perpetrator. The student assaulted a schoolmate at Stone Bridge High School, and after transferring to Broad Run High School, assaulted a student there as well.

Several residents were furious at the school board for not being transparent with the public about these incidents and voting not to unseal the sexual assault reports, as well as the Commonwealth Attorney’s office for not taking action against the perpetrator sooner. The reports were unsealed this year by the Special Grand Jury appointed by Attorney General Jason Miyares. 

The school board was hardly paid attention to in the past few years, but now all eyes are on who will come up on top. It is the first time voters will be able to choose since the sexual assault fallout in 2021. Although the school board is technically nonpartisan, all of the current members are affiliated with a political party

Currently the school board is composed of six Democrats and three Republicans, representing different districts of Loudoun County: At-large, Algonkian, Ashburn, Broad Run, Catoctin, Dulles, Leesburg, Little River, and Sterling. Potomac Falls High School, for instance, is situated in the Algonkian District. The district is represented by Atoosa Reaser, but she is vacating her position to run for Delegate. That leaves her seat open for anyone to contest. 

Two Potomac Falls parents have filed to run to represent the Algonkian District. April Chandler, a staff aide to Reaser, announced her decision to run for the seat last December. Endorsed by the Loudoun Democrats, Chandler is running because she believes in the value of public education and public service. “I come from a family of educators and civil servants,” said Chandler. “I believe [running for School Board] is something I can do to make our community a better place to live.”

Her platform includes, but is not limited to: improving teachers’ salaries and working conditions, encouraging parent engagement, reviewing LCPS safety policies, prioritizing students’ well-being, and addressing Algonkian’s aging infrastructure. “Voters in the Algonkian District overwhelmingly support public education and believe that our teachers and staff are positively impacting our students and our community,” said Chandler. 

If elected, Chandler hopes to look for ways to work with the other board members, families, and educators to find beneficial policy outcomes for the community. She seeks to unite all parents and communities around policies that shift attention on their needs and success as students. 

When it comes to issues that voters are most concerned about, Chandler spoke about the threat of book bans. “I’ve heard this repeatedly when talking with voters this year. Parents should guide their own children, but it is not appropriate for a small group or even a single parent to determine what is suitable for all students to have access to in our school libraries or curriculum,” said Chandler. “Banning books deprives parents, our students of access to information, new ideas, and educational experiences.” 

Books, says Chandler, should be determined by librarians who are experts to ensure all perspectives are included in libraries. 

Viktoria Hunyadi, educator and Republican nominee for the Algonkian District, did not mention book bans when referencing voters’ concerns; rather, she heard from voters about students’ safety. “I heard a lot of concerns about declining academic performance and not enough teachers,” said Hunyadi. 

Hunyadi is running to restore academic excellence and improve safety in Loudoun schools. She decided to run for school board because she is “very concerned about the quality of students’ education and their well-being.”

Her campaign revolves around helping students succeed and keeping them safe, improving teachers’ working conditions, bettering the quality of school meals, and ensuring effective communication between schools, parents and students. If elected, Hunyadi hopes to serve the best interest of schools and families in her decisions.

Hunyadi’s campaign has been relatively stress-free, as she has enjoyed knocking on doors in the community. “Many people recognized me because I used to teach as a substitute in most schools [and] were very excited that I am running for school board,” said Hunyadi.

Chandler feels similarly as she has interacted with members of the Algonkian community. “My absolute favorite part so far was when a student I worked with as an LCPS substitute asked for a campaign button because he is excited that I am running,” said Chandler. 

Campaign life, however, takes some time to adjust to. It completely jumbles the daily routines that humans are typically accustomed to, and spits it back up again once the elections are finished. As parents of Potomac Falls candidates, both Chandler and Hunyadi have faced some minor bumps in the road. “My family, my friends and people I met during my campaign have been very supportive of me,” said Hunyadi. “[But] like with everything in life, we must set boundaries.” Hunyadi mentioned limiting social media usage as a boundary she set. 

Chandler had this talk with her family prior to running. “Running for any office is a huge time commitment. We talked a lot about what a campaign would look like and how it would impact the family before we decided I should run, [but] the girls and my husband encouraged me to run because they believe I can make a positive difference for our community,” said Chandler. 

Both candidates are passionate about what they are running for, but that does not change the fact that school board members continue to face negative media attention. The attention not only puts the members in their spotlight, but their families as well. For the past two years, LCPS has dealt with criticism over parental rights and their handling of the sexual assault reports. Candidates face the risk of stepping into a position where they will face a lot of media scrutiny.

“Sadly, LCPS has been in the national news for many bad reasons. We must change that,” said Hunyadi. “I am passionate to fight for our students as they are our future. I hope our schools will be known again for their excellence.”

Regarding the sexual assault reports, Chandler said: “My thoughts go out to the impacted students and their families. Now that the court has made the report public, I hope that voters will read it to ensure they understand what happened and to hold their elected officials accountable for implementing the report’s suggestions.” As for media scrutiny, Chandler hopes Loudoun can “refocus on working together to pursue student-centered solutions, good governance, and financial stewardship.” 

The Loudoun County School Board has been described as partisan, but Chandler and Hunyadi are not running to divide the Algonkian community: they are running to represent their community regardless of affiliation. They are aligned with different political parties, but they are prioritizing the community as the center of their platforms. 

“School board members are most effective when they focus on the needs of their community and are dedicated to listening to their constituents instead of pushing any personal agenda,” said Chandler. “As a school board member, I will keep students at the center of every decision, listen to and communicate with parents and staff, and support evidence-based test practices to address the community’s challenges.”

“I firmly believe that the school board has the responsibility of ensuring excellence in our schools and I am wholeheartedly committed to the cause of restoring it,” said Hunyadi. “Our children deserve nothing less than the very best, and I am ready to fight for their brighter tomorrow.”