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Bethany Sutton: Why you should vote for me on Nov. 8, 2022

School Board candidate Bethany Sutton (via Arlington Democrats)

Earlier this week, we invited the candidates running in Tuesday’s general election to write a post about why our readers should vote for them. Find information here on how and where to vote in Arlington on Nov. 8.

Below is the unedited response from Democrat-endorsed School Board candidate Bethany Sutton.

I am Bethany Sutton and as a 21-year Arlingtonian and engaged community leader, I have the depth and breadth of experience in our schools and community to serve effectively as a member of the School Board.

My children currently attend Jefferson Middle School and the HB Woodlawn secondary program. I began my journey with APS in 2011 when my older child started kindergarten at Randolph Elementary School. I served on the Randolph PTA board for seven years, including three years as president. As PTA president, I held listening sessions with teachers to learn about their needs and priorities, advocated for facilities improvements for an aging school building, and supported getting books into the hands of students in a Title I school where nearly 65 percent of the children are English language learners and nearly 75 percent come from socioeconomically disadvantaged families.

For the past two and a half years, I have served as the coordinator for the Randolph Food Pantry. Our all-volunteer effort centered on providing a one-stop-shop model in which families could access not only groceries to feed their children, but also talk with school leaders, check out library books, access pandemic relief resources, and even get vaccines.

Since 2021, I have served on the Arlington County Food Security Task Force, working on how to address hunger in our community in systemic ways. I also serve on the Columbia Pike Partnership’s Community Advisory Council and I was a member of a large APS task force in 2015 to explore options for locating a new elementary school in the county.

I am Chair of the Advisory Council on Teaching & Learning (ACTL), which I joined in 2018. We work to engage parents and community members across Arlington in conversations about our academic priorities and what students need to support their learning. ACTL includes 14 subcommittees focused on particular content areas-such as Math, Science, and English Language Arts-and on particular student groups such as English language learners and students with disabilities.

My professional background is in higher education and leadership development. The perspective I have gained from working with college and university leaders is a unique lens that I bring to my thinking about K-12 education.

In terms of my priorities for our schools, I would like to highlight three:

I seek to elevate student learning as the fundamental purpose and focus of our school system. Advancing student achievement and digging into the inequities in academic outcomes in our system are high priorities for me. This is a moment for our school system to renew our expectations for student learning and recognize that teachers are critical to our success in helping students achieve measurable progress.

I also care deeply about addressing the health and well-being of our school community. We need to provide a supportive environment in our schools that focuses on helping everyone feel a strong sense of belonging — especially those who often are marginalized, including students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are LGBTQ+. If we want to make meaningful progress on student learning, we must support students’ social and emotional development. It’s also important to balance academics with the other activities that students love and that contribute to their engagement in school, such as sports, theater, music, internships, and community service.

In the next four years, we have an opportunity to rebuild a sense of community around education in Arlington. I believe that the School Board has a responsibility to foster an environment of trust, transparency, and clear communication. I’m not running for School Board because I’m mad about something or because I think something is broken that needs to be fixed. I’m running because I genuinely believe in attentive leadership and good governance. Trust, transparency, and communication are essential components of effective leadership.

I think Arlingtonians will find me to be a thoughtful leader who is focused on listening, learning, and making meaningful contributions to our community.

Editor’s note: Candidates for local races are invited in advance to submit candidate essays, via contact information ARLnow has on file or publicly-listed contact information on the candidate’s website. Reminders are sent to those who do not submit an essay by the evening before the deadline.

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