“I’d been hearing great things about Fairfax County School Board (Mason District) Democratic candidate Ricardy Anderson, and after sitting down for lunch with her yesterday for a couple hours, I can confirm that those great things were absolutely accurate. Anderson is, in short, incredibly impressive and would make a superb addition to the Fairfax County School Board from the Mason District (replacing current School Board member Sandy Evans, who is retiring). Which is why I’m very confident in endorsing her for this position (note: the Mason District Democratic Committee will meet to vote on its endorsement recommendation on April 24; the other Democratic candidate is Jessica Swanson).
So…why Ricardy Anderson? First of all, she knows education – and Fairfax County public schools – inside and out, with two young children in the school system and also having “walked the walk” (she told me at lunch about her experience literally “walking the building,” and how that’s such an important thing to do in order to listen and to be present) for many years — as a teacher, administrator and principal. And she vows to continue walking that walk – literally – when she’s on the School Board, by visiting a different school and spending a day there every week, which of course is a great way to really get a feel for what’s going on…actually showing up and listening. But how, you ask, is Anderson going to have time to do this, given that the Fairfax County School Board is (theoretically) a part-time job? Because, in part, Anderson has vowed to be a full-time school board member, something she’s able and willing to do, even for what I would argue is an absurdly low salary and a ridiculous assumption that running one of the largest school systems in the *country* should be a part-time job.
Second, in speaking to Anderson, her passion, enthusiasm, energy, expertise, knowledge, dynamism and deep caring for kids and for schools just comes pouring out. Part of this, undoubtedly, comes from her own background as the daughter of immigrants (from Haiti) for whom English wasn’t their first language and for whom navigating the school system was a brand-new, somewhat mysterious and confusing, experience/struggle. This background and perspective is important in and of itself, of course, but particularly so in an incredibly and richly diverse place like Mason District – around 30% Latino, 18% Asian or Pacific Islander, 11% African American and 38% Caucasian, with around 44% of Mason District residents foreign born and with one of the highest child poverty rates in Fairfax County. Which is also why it’s so important to have someone, like Ricardy Anderson, who both reflects and strongly believes in the value of diversity – and in making sure that everyone knows how great diverse schools are – representing that district on the school board.
It’s also worth noting, in a positive way, that Anderson is a reluctant candidate, not in terms of her passion and dedication to doing a great job of course, but in seeing herself as a politician (e.g., she is *not* looking at this job as a “stepping stone” to higher office), which she stressed repeatedly to me at lunch that she absolutely is not. So why run for office then? Simple: because that’s the way she believes she can make the most difference, for the better, in as many Fairfax County kids’ lives as possible. And because she believes strongly that – as she likes to say – Strong Schools Build Strong Communities.
In terms of her platform, Anderson is a strong progressive who believes that: 1) “One Fairfax” needs to be “a reality for Mason Kids by equitably equipping our teachers and staff with needed resources to facilitate the delivery of personalized and individualized instruction to students in 21st century facilities”; 2) “We must ensure Title I and other needs-based funding are aligned with Mason District needs”; 3) “We must invest in our teachers and in our facilities to provide the students of Mason District with quality learning experiences”; 4) “We must ensure adequate staffing to prevent irresponsible student ratios, especially in high-needs areas“; 5) “To retain the best and most talented staff in FCPS, we should employ proven methods to support teacher development and growth, such as a Peer Assistance Review Program”; and 6) in terms of Middle School start times, she will work to “ensure that FCPS adheres to the school start time recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the Centers for Disease Control.”
In our discussion, we also talked about the importance of “greening the schools,” which Anderson strongly supports; for keeping schools a safe learning environment without doing things like arming teachers or turning them into fortresses; for standing up for special-needs kids; for ensuring equality and safety for LGBTQ kids; for making sure that teachers can afford to live and teach in Fairfax County; and lots more.
See below for video of Anderson being interviewed by Catherine Read on “Inside Scoop”; as well as endorsements by Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) and by Brian Butler, former principal of Mason Crest ES and education leader, who cites Anderson’s “passion to help ensure equity for all” and argues that “our school boards have to have some representation of former educators who have worked in the trenches in schools and believe that we have to abandon the idea of isolated teachers in favor of teams of teachers doing the right work in order to take Collective Responsibility for all students.”