School Board Chair Monique O’Grady will not be seeking reelection after her term ends this December, according to an announcement on her website.
The chair said on Sunday that she will work for a better future for all students through her term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2021. In her announcement, she said she wrote “with a heavy heart” after “much thought, consultation with my family, and careful consideration.” She declined to comment for this story.
“We must return Arlington Public Schools to the strongest and safest new normal that can be achieved as we continue to mitigate the volatile pandemic,” she wrote. “This will require my full and undivided attention.”
O’Grady said in a different time, she would not hesitate to seek re-election, but amid the coronavirus and political unrest, her focus has to be on “returning to in-person learning as safely as possible and pushing forward our equity work.”
“This is especially important as we continue to address the impact that the pandemic has had on all our students, and in particular on those who our data shows are not progressing as well with distance learning,” O’Grady said.
She follows in the footsteps of former School Board members Tannia Talento and Nancy Van Doren, who also chose not to run for additional terms. They were replaced by Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy, who were both elected in November and welcomed onto the board during the Jan. 7 School Board meeting.
O’Grady has lived in Arlington for 25 years and has been an APS parent for 19 of those years, according to her website. She and her husband Mike have three children: Mikey, a Gunston Middle School student, as well as APS graduates Caitlin and Brittany, who is an actress.
(Updated at 9:45 p.m.) New elementary school boundary changes released last week would relocate more than thousand students and increase the number who can walk to school, according to Arlington Public Schools.
The changes are part of the third boundary proposal that APS released before Thanksgiving. Community members responded to the proposal with mixed reviews in a hearing on Tuesday night, ahead of a planned School Board vote on Thursday.
Incorporating adjustments from the School Board, the new plan reassigns a projected 1,040 students to other neighborhood schools — mostly in the northern half of the county — and adds a projected 650 more walkers, school officials said during the public hearing.
Some students will be eligible to stay at their current school. Tuckahoe students in one planning unit who are reassigned to McKinley can stay until the next boundary process, and all rising fifth-graders at McKinley, Ashlawn, Arlington Science Focus School (ASFS) and Taylor can finish elementary school where they are today, school officials said.
The boundary process, which was initiated to mitigate enrollment increases projected in 2018, was revised twice this fall to lessen the stress on families burdened by the pandemic. The first version would have relocated 1,400 students. In response to parents’ concerns, ranging from further academic disruption to a loss of community, the second version slashed the number moving to 800.
This third version adds some planning units to the new Key school and places all schools within their attendance zones, school officials said.
One big change included moving to Key some units in eastern Lyon Village currently at ASFS, and moving to ASFS some units in western Lyon Village scheduled for Taylor. One parent, Claire Kelly, told the School Board she appreciated the hard work APS put in, and supported the decision to rezone these families for ASFS.
“We can see ASFS from our front door,” she said. “Like many working families, we rely on extended day before- and after-school care, which means we are on the hook for transportation and we don’t benefit from buses. Asking parents, some of whom don’t have a car, to Uber or take a bus with their children twice a day, when we live across the street from ASFS, was really unthinkable.”
APS predicts that ASFS will be at be at 121% capacity, including Pre-K classes, and will need portable classrooms to accommodate the students, which worries other parents. Key could be at 103% capacity in 2023, and might need portables as well.
“This plan puts ASFS significantly overcapacity, when others are significantly under-capacity,” Dima Hakura said. “It is imperative that you reduce the number eligible to attend ASFS and that it operates at capacity.”
To make room for new students at Key, some current students have been rezoned for Taylor.
Anjy Cramer said during the hearing that APS listens to the loudest, most empowered, voices.
“APS led the desegregation of public schools in Virginia, and yet today, our schools are functionally segregated — again,” she said. “These limited changes will only benefit families in Courthouse and Rosslyn.”
Critics of the changes also said the new plan creates overcrowding while APS is seeing a 4% drop in enrollment during the pandemic.
Gillian Burgess said a vote for the changes would put Key, McKinley and Reed at overcapacity. When another, more comprehensive boundary process begins in two years, these schools will either not be included — making it harder to redraw the boundaries — or kids will be forced to move twice.
“Both are bad choices,” she said. “Alternatively, you can just stop. Next fall, one school will be overcapacity, but taking into account some children will remain remote, and ASFS saw a 14% drop in enrollment this year, those projections are unlikely to be accurate.”
The latest Arlington Public Schools elementary boundary process earned some public plaudits, a relative rarity, after the number of students who would have been assigned to new schools was cut nearly in half.
The superintendent’s recommended plan makes enough changes to accommodate the new Reed and Key elementary schools, which open in the fall of 2021. Twenty-two planning units, or about 800 students, will be reassigned among Arlington Science Focus School, the Key school site, and Ashlawn, McKinley, Taylor and Tuckahoe schools. The move increases the number of students who can walk to school by 600.
Originally, some 1,400 students were to have been reassigned.
The larger set of boundary changes was first proposed in early October. A public hearing on the superintendent’s new proposal will be held on Dec. 1, before the board considers adopting it on Dec. 3.
A separate countywide boundary process is slated for as soon as 2022.
The new plan presented on Thursday night was drafted after APS staff received numerous messages from parents who requested that the process avoid impacting children’s friendships and relationships with teachers, which have been harder to develop and maintain during distance learning.
Staff told the School Board that Superintendent Francisco Durán’s new boundary recommendations make minimal adjustments and preserve flexibility for a broader process to come.
Many parents who spoke at the meeting commended the school system for the changes.
“It’s clear stakeholders listened to community feedback, took it on board and made real effort to try to align boundaries to minimize disruption and better utilize space in available schools,” said Katie Geder
For another parent, Mike Flood, the recommendations checked all the boxes: limited disruptions, balanced enrollment, stability and proximity to neighborhood schools.
June Locker said parents in her planning unit were surveyed and a majority believe that APS has addressed their concerns, she said.
School Board members were divided on how to alleviate the crowding not addressed in the new plan, and with enrollment declining, questioned how severe overcrowding will be next fall.
Board member Reid Goldstein said the plan leaves too many planning units alone.
“While we’re doing virtual [learning] is the perfect time to make the necessary capacity changes,” he said.
Both Goldstein and board vice-chair Barbara Kanninen said they were nervous the countywide boundary process would not happen in 2022 as planned, and asked Durán for a commitment to one.
Durán said the goal in providing additional flexibility is to have a broader, countywide boundary process.
“There is that commitment to do that,” he said.
Board member Tannia Talento disagreed with the calls for bolder boundary changes, saying the system needs flexibility in the event that capacity needs are lower than projected in the next few years.
Board member Nancy Van Doren predicted that enrollment will bounce back because most of those who opted out this year are in prekindergarten and kindergarten, ages when it is easier to keep kids home.
“We may have more of a pop back, quickly, than we might be concerned about,” she said.
In February, the School Board approved an elementary school building swap to account for the new Reed School building in Westover, as well as the former home of the Key Spanish immersion program near Courthouse being converted to a neighborhood school to account for population growth in the area.
(Updated at 4 p.m.) While many schools in Virginia will start their winter sports seasons next month, Arlington Public Schools will not follow suit.
Some parents and a School Board member urged Superintendent Francisco Durán to reverse course on this decision during the School Board meeting held that night. They argued that other jurisdictions in Virginia — including neighboring Fairfax County — are gearing up to play sports, and that not participating harms students in the short- and long-term.
“We’ve already taken school away from our kids,” said Megan Newfeld, a parent of a high school aged-son who plays golf. “It’s now enough.”
Not providing public school sports makes it harder for kids who cannot afford private or travel teams to improve, she said. Further, she added that all students who are competitive and looking to get recruited by colleges will be at a disadvantage.
Durán said the Virginia High School League (VHSL) allows each district to determine whether to participate in winter sports, which include swim and dive, basketball, wrestling, and indoor track and field. APS declined because it would not align with the return-to-school plan, he said.
“Participating in sports while continuing distance learning does not send a consistent message,” Durán said.
APS will revisit the metrics to see about participating in “season two” sports — sports like football, cross country and golf, which are usually played in the fall and which mostly are played outdoors — he said. Winter sports, by contrast, are mostly played indoors.
School Board member Tannia Talento asked Durán to reconsider the decision, in part because students are already doing conditioning on school grounds.
“These students are in these places already and doing work, and it’s at the high school, where they are more aware of conditions,” said Talento.
Although it is not consistent with the return to school plan, which is on hold, she said “we have to weigh everything individually and holistically and make compromises where we can.”
Yorktown High School boys basketball coach Joe Reed lamented the decision in a tweet, writing the his “heart goes out to my players, especially the seniors.”
An online petition calling for APS to reverse its decision has garnered more than 1,250 signatures as of 3:45 p.m.
“The benefits of team sports go far beyond exercise — improved academics, teamwork, leadership, positive mentorships and overall improved mental health,” the petition says. “For this school year, these factors are even more important as many Arlington teenagers are at home struggling with virtual learning and missing out on the normal activities of their high school years.”
“As the superintendent and school board of a county with large disparities of wealth, it is even more important that APS offer sports for those who cannot afford to play elsewhere,” the petition adds.
Late Friday afternoon, the pro-school-opening group Arlington Parents for Education also weighed in with a statement.
“Not only is VHSL proceeding with the season, but thousands of Arlington children have been participating in youth, club and travel sports all fall with absolutely no outbreaks,” the group said. “Durán’s only rationale on not allowing athletic competition is ‘consistency, ‘which is a self-fulfilling argument that since APS is failing to provide the in-person support and instruction many of our children need for academics, it may as well do the same for sports.”
The VHSL, a statewide sports league comprising public and private high schools, approved a Championship + 1 schedule in September that would allow students to play 60% of their sport’s regular season schedule, starting in December, with modified regional and state championships.
On Oct. 29, Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order that allows the proposed VHSL schedule to begin in December as scheduled. In a statement published by VHSL, Northam said the league been a partner during the pandemic and has drafted thoughtful guidelines for reinstating sports.
“Keeping our student athletes safe is critical during this pandemic,” Northam said. “I know I join many parents in looking forward to the safe return of school sports.”
VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun welcomed the news, saying in the statement that the amendment “clears the way for all of our sports to play.” The league drafted guidelines for playing sports that include limits on attendees, cleaning and disinfecting recommendations, masking and social-distancing.
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Arlington County Democrats enjoyed a clean sweep in their bids for County Board and School Board, with clear results in early on Tuesday night.
County Board Chair Libby Garvey (D) was awarded four more years in office, garnering 72% of votes. Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy — endorsed by the local Democratic party in the nonpartisan School Board race — earned 43% and 36%, respectively.
NAACP Education Committee Co-Chair Symone Walker and frequent local candidate Audrey Clement had unsuccessful independent bids for the School Board and County Board, respectively. Clement garnered 29,923 27% of votes, while Walker received 19% in the three-way School Board race for two open seats.
More than 75% of active voters had cast ballots by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, including a record-setting 63% who voted early and by mail by Sunday. Since mail-in ballots have until Friday to arrive, the county elections office will not have a final turnout number until then, Arlington Director of Election Gretchen Reinemeyer said in an email.
Local Democrats said they are pleased with the local turnout, hailing a “decisive” vote for the entire Democratic ticket, even as they anxiously watched developments in the still-undecided presidential race.
Garvey said today that she will continue focusing on equity, innovation and resilience during the pandemic during her next term.
“People are tired of the virus,” she said. “This is a difficult time and I hope we can remember to treat each other kindly. We’re all under stress and doing our best. It’s important to take a deep breath and continue to stay together as a community as we work through a lot of difficult issues.”
“Arlingtonians are smart and informed,” Garvey added. “It’s an honor and a privilege to serve Arlington for four more years.”
Turning to the question of reopening Arlington Public Schools classrooms for in-person instruction — which is now delayed until next year for most students — Diaz-Torres and Priddy said today that any plan must focus on safety metrics.
“We need to be careful and make sure we’re proceeding with caution, making sure we’re following the science, not the emotions of the day,” Diaz-Torres said.
With cases rising, APS needs to focus on keeping the kids with severe needs — who returned to schools today — safe, while making virtual learning as high quality as possible for others, she said.
As a School Board member, Priddy said he will be talking with other public school systems and even private schools to see what APS can learn from them.
In an email Wednesday morning, Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo thanked the candidates who ran for office in Arlington and congratulated the winners on their “resounding and well-deserved victories.”
“We know that they will work hard on behalf of all Arlingtonians and lead our county and country through these challenging times,” she wrote.
On social media this morning, County Board member Katie Cristol thanked election volunteers for their hard work, and Arlington voters for overwhelmingly approving the five local bonds on the ballot. Cristol also welcomed Priddy and Diaz-Torres to the School Board and thanked Walker for her advocacy
I’m also grateful that my own kid, and so many others in Arlington, will attend a school system made better and more equitable by the advocacy and community leadership of @SymoneforAPS and congratulate her on her campaign.
— Katie Cristol (@kcristol) November 4, 2020
“I think I accomplished change by changing the narrative of the School Board race to focus on curriculum and instruction, particularly equity through literacy,” she said.
Walker was less conciliatory in tone last night, writing in a Facebook post that her defeat was attributable to the power of the Democratic endorsement.
It’s unfortunate that a majority of “low information” voters who are oblivious to the serious plight being faced by our schools are electing the school board by blindly voting straight down the ACDC sample ballot, which, ironically, was silent about the education of our students in listing why this is the most important election of our lifetime. Nevertheless, I pray that Cristina and David will rise to the challenge of turning this ship around to put our students first amidst having to live with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future
Nonetheless, Walker told ARLnow this morning that she and her small team — nearly all APS moms — ran a grassroots, issues-focused campaign to be proud of.
“I ran for the School Board because I thought I had the opportunity to push for change on the inside,” she said. “Since that did not work, I’m going to continue pushing APS from outside.”
Clement said her results follow the nationwide trend in polarization: Democrat-leaning counties are becoming more blue, and Republican-leaning counties more red.
Here is the unedited response from Symone Walker:
I am Symone Walker, an APS parent, and education activist, having served on various PTA and school committees for the past decade. I currently serve as Co-Chair of the Arlington NAACP Education Committee. As the parent of a gifted child and a child with special education needs, my passion for education activism stems from my own struggles in seeking equitable access to special education and differentiated instruction for my children. I am running for the school board to be an instrument of change because a lot needs to change. The opportunity gap has not closed in decades; our reading curriculum is leaving students further behind and widening the gap. Struggling students are graduating semi-literate; unable to read well enough to fully participate in our democratic society, and unable to write well enough to navigate the rigors of college-level writing without remedial classes or tutors.
For too long, the school board has mostly focused on capacity, boundaries, and buildings, and neglected curriculum and instruction to the detriment of our students. Our Black and Latino students’ academic performance stagnates at 20-30 points below their Caucasian and Asian counterparts, and they are performing below the state average, which is a low bar. For a school district as well-resourced as Arlington that spends almost 20K per pupil, far exceeding neighboring jurisdictions, APS’s inability to close the opportunity gap is incomprehensible. To still have no comprehensive equity framework in place in 2020 is unacceptable. And to have schools that are still segregated 66 years after Brown v. Board of Education & 61 years after desegregating Stratford Jr. High is highly problematic.
I am laser-focused on closing the opportunity gap which, as a result of COVID-19, will widen exponentially and require a multipronged approach to close it. To that end, we must screen for and identify learning differences and disabilities as early as Kindergarten, and every student beginning in elementary school must have access to an evidence-based, structured literacy curriculum that is rooted in the science of reading, a robust evidence-based writing curriculum, an evidence-based, multisensory math curriculum, and timely intervention for struggling students. Further, our schools need to become trauma-informed, depressurized, authentically inclusive, race-conscious, restorative rather than punitive, and reflective of the diversity of our community so that the whole child can flourish.
Having served two decades as a federal government attorney in a number of practice areas, I am prepared to overcome challenges that seem insurmountable such as the challenging times we are now facing with the impending reopening of schools. I am a strategic thinker, adept at forecasting risk, and implementing mitigation strategies to avoid catastrophes. I can handle curveballs and navigate steadfastly through uncertainty and unpredictability with sound judgment. My LL.M. in litigation and dispute resolution and 15 years of experience as a mediator have prepared me to effectively manage conflict, build coalitions, and find common ground. These are the leadership skills I will bring to the school board.
You should vote for me because I am the only candidate in this race with an equity focus steeped in curriculum and instruction, and in improving students’ learning experience. I am the only candidate in this race who has drafted state legislation to improve literacy because I firmly believe literacy is a civil right. I am the only candidate in this race with over a decade in the trenches of school advocacy. Finally, I am the only candidate in this race who has garnered broad, grassroots, community support and is not beholden to any political organization or special interest groups. I am not running for the school board to climb the political ladder on the backs of our children. I am running for the school board solely to be a voice for each and every student because I believe that when we uplift the students in the margins, all students will benefit. I am asking for your vote before or on November 3rd. Visit my website at symoneforstudents.com to learn more.
Here is the unedited response from David Priddy:
I am David Priddy and I am one of two candidates endorsed by the Democratic Party (Cristina Diaz-Torres is the other), running for the Arlington County School Board. Like you, I am passionate about achieving a quality 21st-century education for all of our children in Arlington.
I am a native Arlingtonian, and attended Arlington Public Schools (APS): Long Branch Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and Wakefield High School. I graduated from James Madison University in 1996 with a degree in History.
With my wife Melanie, we have been following our sons through the APS system as they attend Alice West Fleet Elementary and Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Through coaching basketball, baseball, and soccer, I also have an appreciation of the rich sports programs available to our children. As part of my commitment to all parents and children in Arlington, I have had the opportunity to serve on various local committees and organizations. This has given me greater insight into the concerns of the Arlington community as a whole.
As a product of Arlington County Public Schools, I am pleased to see my children benefit from a quality education here. I have had the privilege of growing up in Arlington, and raising my family here has given me a front-row seat to four decades of positive changes, as well as to the challenges that Arlington County Schools face.
Here are 5 reasons to vote for me:
- With one son in Elementary School and one in Middle School, I bring a perspective to the Board that currently is not represented. The policies that are enacted by the School Board affect my sons and their teachers on a daily basis. As a result, I have the ability to see through the lens of the teachers, students, and community. I am passionate about ensuring that my children and all Arlington children have the same positive, enriching, and diverse set of experiences through the APS system that I did. Arlington needs a representative who will listen to the community and bring fresh solutions to continue to provide the best academic environment for our children.
- With a professional background in the Vertical Transportation industry managing branches in Burbank, Santa Barbara, and Northern Virginia, I have first-hand experience in managing multi-million dollar budgets, operations, dealing with labor unions, and construction projects. This is much needed experience when dealing with $700 Million budgets and the potential budget shortfalls due to COVID-19.
- Equity has been an important issue for this election, and critical part of my platform. I have a four-step action plan to promote and achieve equity listed on my website:
- Transparency and accountability are pillars of my campaign. I will bring back the faith and trust in the School Board that the community has lost in recent years by making certain that stakeholder’s voices are heard and valued.
- I have served in a variety of community organizations, and recently completed my tenure as the president of TJ Middle School’s PTA. My active engagement with these organizations during these uncertain times caused by COVID-19, ensures that the perspectives of parents, teachers, students and APS staff will be considered as APS makes difficult decisions around the safe return to school.
I would like to serve on the Arlington County Public School Board because I believe we can do better. I’ll help continue to build a stronger foundation for education in our county with greater transparency, a true collaboration with teachers and the community. I would like to help forge the outstanding Arlington School system that awaits us. It is with dedication and humility that I seek one of your two votes for the Arlington County School Board.
Here is the unedited response from Cristina Diaz-Torres:
Hello, Arlingtonians! I’m Cristina Diaz-Torres, a former teacher and education policy specialist running as one of your two Democratically endorsed candidates for Arlington School Board because I believe all students have a right to succeed — no matter their background, race, ability, family context, language, or legal status.
I began my career as a high school math teacher. Being a teacher was the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. It was also the most challenging. My district faced severe systemic barriers to student success. On my first day of school, I walked into my classroom and saw 54 students but only 48 desks. My students were there to learn math, while our leaders across the state, county, and school district were failing at basic arithmetic. I used my time in the classroom to work with parents, community members, and colleagues to overcome these systemic barriers and improve outcomes for my students.
This is why I’m running for Arlington School Board. I know firsthand that student outcomes improve when all stakeholders have a seat at the table–and I’m running to bring an educator’s voice to the decision-making process.
Since leaving the classroom, I have worked to create more equitable and efficient systems at all levels of government. As an Education Policy Specialist, I work with states, districts, and education organizations across the country to create evidence-based systems that meet the needs of all students, no matter the circumstances. Over the last few years, this work has included helping educators from my home island of Puerto Rico get back to school in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria; conducting landscape scans to support social and emotional learning across the state of Delaware, and, most recently, helping states rethink education in the context of COVID-19.
The ongoing pandemic has unearthed systemic challenges that have long plagued APS–and leaves our community wading through uncharted territory without a specific roadmap to guide us to better outcomes. We must interpret this crisis as a call to action! Now is the time to build a collaborative framework for governing education that gives voice and power to all community stakeholders so that we can adapt and build back a better, more equitable Arlington Public Schools. We’ll do this by focusing on:
- Equity: We must make every decision based on this promise: all students have a right to succeed no matter their race, gender, background, learning or physical ability, family situation, legal status, or zip code. Our budgets must afford educators the resources necessary to prepare students to thrive in college, career, and life.
- Improved & Transparent Data: We must improve how APS collects, analyzes, and shares data–ensuring the process is more transparent, provide action-ready insights, and is accessible to all stakeholders. APS must dismantle data silos by connecting the dots that show inequities and inefficiencies wherever they are.
- Supporting our Educators: We must support teacher-driven, evidence-based professional development, and advocate for competitive compensation that allows our staff to live in the community where they work. Interest-Based Bargaining can empower education professionals to advance the needs of all students in every Arlington classroom.
If elected to the Arlington School Board, I will rely on these core principles and work with all of you to develop a more community-appropriate, equitable, and adaptable public school system. To read more about my vision for APS, visit my website www.cristinaforarlington.com or follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I am asking you to vote for me and my other Democratically-endorsed colleague, David Priddy, on November 3rd.
A 61% majority of Arlington Public Schools teachers prefer to continue distance teaching or telework, according to a survey recently conducted by APS.
Almost 4,300 employees, or 63% of APS staff, completed the survey. Teachers and assistants had the highest participation rates, 87% and 86% respectively, and while teachers had a stronger preference for distance learning over in-person teaching, assistants were split 50-50.
Those results were compiled and presented to the Arlington School Board by Superintendent Francisco Durán during the school board meeting on Thursday night.
Administrators say the information will be used to match teaching and learning preferences as the school system slowly brings back students, prioritizing students with disabilities and younger students who struggle more often with distance learning. Overall, 55% of all APS staff prefer telework to in-person work due to ongoing concerns of contracting the coronavirus.
During the meeting, Arlington School Board Vice Chair Barbara Kanninen asked Durán what will be done with the results, as there will potentially be more in-person students than staff to teach them.
“It continues to be that teacher preferences are not a match to family preferences,” Kanninen said. “More families are wanting to return to hybrid than there are teachers. What happens with that mismatch?”
Durán said staff in the human resources department, as well as supervisors and principals, will be talking to those who prefer not to return, but do not qualify for accommodations that would keep them fully remote.
“We’ll be working with those staff around what are their needs to make sure they feel safe,” Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Staff Dan Redding said.
Durán told board members that the figures in the presentation will not correspond to the final number of staff inside school buildings as APS continues to reopen.
Among other employee categories, those in food service, transportation and maintenance said they would prefer to report for work in-person.
Surveys were also sent out to select families who could be coming back this November, and those surveys were extended through Friday due to the APS internet outage on Wednesday. The school system will rely on this information to map out bus routes, since there is not much available room on reduced-capacity buses, Durán said.
The Arlington Education Association, which represents Arlington teachers, was not available to comment.
(Updated at 9:15 p.m.) Arlington Democrats have forced out a precinct captain for supporting a School Board candidate who had to withdraw from seeking the party’s endorsement because she’s a federal employee.
Heather Keppler said in an email obtained by ARLnow that she was pressured to step down as the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s captain for the Lexington precinct because of her support of Symone Walker, a “lifelong Democrat.”
Though School Board races in Virginia are technically nonpartisan, with no party designation next to candidate names on the ballot, Arlington Democrats endorse candidates each year through a party caucus. Walker, a federal employee, initially sought the endorsement, but withdrew after another candidate filed complaints about her candidacy being a Hatch Act violation due to her federal employment.
Walker is now facing the two Democratic endorsees, Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy, in November’s general election.
Keppler, according to a statement from the campaign, is Walker’s campaign manager. The statement called the situation “disturbing” and characterized the party’s actions as “shamefully undemocratic.”
“The ACDC caucus process disenfranchises Black and other minority voters and effectively blocks federal workers from serving in their local government when the Hatch Act provides a pathway to do so,” Walker’s campaign said. “We will not be intimidated and will continue to keep our students, teachers, staff, and families the priority of our campaign, unlike ACDC whose only priority is their own power.”
Jill Caiazzo, Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, said it’s against party rules to support the opponents of Democratic candidates and endorsees.
“The Arlington Dems bylaws require party officials, such as Precinct Captains, to support all Democratic nominees and endorsees in general and special elections,” Caiazzo said. “If a party official cannot do so for whatever reason, they are asked to take a step back from their party leadership role until the next election cycle, when they are welcomed back to party leadership.”
A similar situation played out with current Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, who faced a temporary expulsion from the local party after supporting independent County Board candidate John Vihstadt over Democrat Alan Howze in 2014.
Julius Spain, Sr., a community activist and supporter of Walker, said the move to oust her campaign manager from the local party’s ranks — even temporarily — is unnecessarily divisive.
“As a Democrat, I am highly disappointed by the recent decision of ACDC to remove Ms. Walker’s Campaign Manager, Heather Keppler, from her role as a local Democratic party precinct captain,” Spain said. “Ms. Keppler was yet another dedicated Democrat who has done so much over the years to advance inclusivity within our party. This decision did more to divide rather than unite us.”
(Spain is also the head of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, which does not endorse candidates.)
Keppler’s full email is below.