The Fairfax County Republican Committee endorsed three candidates for at-large seats on the Fairfax County School Board at its meeting Wednesday night.
Sheree Brown-Kaplan, Lin-Dai Kendall and Lolita Mancheno-Smoak received the most votes from members of the committee, who previously heard pitches from six candidates at a meeting in June.
At-large contenders Lisa Fagan, Christina Gutherie and Steve Stuban did not receive endorsements, though Stuban — who, sparked by the January suicide of his son Nick, launched a successful campaign this spring to change the schools' disciplinary process — said at a Tea Party forum July 11 he would run for an at-large seat without an endorsement.
Stuban did not speak to committee members at their June meeting because of restrictions on political activity by his employer, the Department of Defense, which Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity says may have affected his chances with committee members when it came time to choose candidates.
"[Not being able to speak] hurt his ability to reach out to the members, and that's important in votes like this," Herrity said.
At the July 11 Forum, Gutherie said she wasn't sure if she would run without an endorsement.
Fagan, Gutherie and Stuban could not immediately be reached for comment after Wednesday's meeting.
The Republicans, along with the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, typically endorse three candidates to run for the three at-large seats on the nonpartisan school board each election cycle. Candidates can run for the seat without an endorsement from either party, but having the support of a party often helps draw more support and funding.
Three of the board's 12 members — Liz Bradsher (Springfield District), Tessie Wilson (Braddock District) and Patty Reed — were endorsed by the Republican Committee in the last election cycle. Bradsher and Wilson are not seeking re-election; Reed was endorsed by Republicans in June for the Providence District seat.
Brown-Kaplan, a mother of two children in the county schools, was recently criticized by some voters and PTA members after she was removed from her position on the Fairfax County Council of Parent Teacher Association (FCCPTA) for the alleged improper use of her position to further her campaign.
Brown-Kaplan said she was active in the special education committee of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs since 2005, but said in a statement she has done nothing wrong, and said Wednesday her focus now is on Nov. 8.
"My eye is now on making sure my message reaches voters in Fairfax County," she said. "Their choice is going to be status quo or reform, and it's fairly clear tonight we have three reform candidates ready to run."
Lin-Dai Kendall, a Honduras native and architect/interior designer who has worked as a consultant at the Government Accountability Office and the Organization of American States, said she's excited to take on the "big battle."
"We can really reform the schools to create a system that outputs successful, smart students in a cost-effective manner," she said.
Mancheno-Smoak, who works as an adjunct professor at Strayer University and the University of Phoenix, said in June she wants to send less money to administrative tasks, make sure FCPS grads are ready for college or the workforce after graduation, and communicate effectively with parents.
"You won't have to FOIA me to get access," she said in June.
"I'm really grateful," she said Wednesday. "I'm excited to go to the next level."
While votes were counted Wednesday night, members reflected on the issues most important to them while choosing candidates: accountability, fiscal responsibility and enacting change.
"There needs to be accountability from principals and teachers in challenging the children who are performing below grade level," Burke resident Fredy Burgos said. "Teachers in conjunction with principals and students need to raise the bar on the county average … and we need to get rid of the teachers that aren’t teaching."
Hunter Mill District resident Larry Topper, who voted with his wife Del, said he'd like to see a stronger relationship with the system's superintendent.
"[The board] should not just hold the superintendent accountable, but also give them guidance and make sure he or she isn't acting with free range without the eyes of some elected officials," he said.
"We need someone who will really listen to parents," Del Topper said.
The committee also endorsed Thomas Cranmer and John Peterson for Soil and Water Conservation District seats.
This article has been updated since it was first published.
Mary C. Stachyra contributed reporting to this story.