Samuel Miller District School Board Candidates

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Graham Paige and Randy Zackrisson

The Albemarle County School Board’s Samuel Miller District seat will be contested by incumbent Graham Paige and write-in hopeful Randy Zackrisson in the election on November 2. The Gazette has invited each candidate to provide a statement outlining his views and positions for interested voters.

Graham Paige

Dear Samuel Miller Voters,

It has been a privilege to have represented you on the Albemarle County School Board since 2015. Serving on the Board has continued a long-time passion of mine to make the community in which I live a better place for all. It’s why I taught at Western Albemarle and Jack Jouett Middle Schools for several decades, and it is why I am actively involved in several civic and fraternal organizations in the area.

On Nov. 2, you will have the opportunity to vote on the person you would like to represent you for another four years on our School Board, and I hope you will again consider giving me your trust and support.

The future of our county is closely connected to the future of our schools. For all of us to succeed, we need to provide all students with the best possible education regardless of their background or life experiences. By helping every one of our students to reach their highest potential for lifelong success, we help each other.

There are several important ways in which we can achieve this vision beginning with our commitment to equity, which really is our commitment to support one another. A few years ago, our school division became one of the first in our nation to adopt an anti-racism policy. With the help of our students who wrote the policy, we arrived at this commitment— “All forms of racism are destructive to our school division’s mission, vision and goals.” 

Our anti-racism policy has fostered discussions which allow our students to recognize and appreciate the contributions of all members of our diverse communities. The anti-racism policy also led to improvements in our History curriculum using a student-centered program to teach a more accurate portrait of our nation’s complicated history. This change in the curriculum will allow our students to learn from those who contributed to our nation’s greatness but were not previously included in the narrative. Our program was developed through a partnership with the Montpelier Foundation, home to one of the authors of our Constitution, President James Madison. We have received reports that many parents, after conversations with their students about history class, praise the improvements and express the wish that they had access to this curriculum when they were students.  

Implementation of our transgender policy is another way of achieving our vision for ACPS. The policy was adopted on August 12 and aligns with state mandated guidelines. The transgender policy and changes resulting from the anti-racism policy will help to ensure that ACPS are safe, welcoming and productive for all of our students.  

In addition to the policies that I have already mentioned, there are several other accomplishments that I am especially proud of. Massive renovations, involving additional classrooms and gyms, have been completed at Red Hill and Scottsville Elementary Schools. A beautiful addition is underway at Crozet Elementary and is slated to be completed in the 2022/23 term. This addition will help to alleviate overcrowding at Brownsville and Crozet. 

And even though the COVID pandemic caused massive problems within the division, there have been some positive developments related to this catastrophic event. We recognized that many of our students experienced losses academically and many experienced mental issues. Our summer school program offered some remedial work to help our students. In addition, our current budget includes additional resource personnel who will identify and begin work to help students recover lost skills.  Our Virtual School offers an educational experience to those students who are not quite ready to return to the classroom.  

Another area that I am proud of is our work involving raises for our teachers and classified employees. The Board is so appreciative of the phenomenal work performed by teachers, custodial staff and bus drivers in response to changes dictated by the pandemic. Our salary scale makes our Division more competitive with surrounding districts and therefore enables us to attract and retain outstanding teachers and other staff.

Finally, I must mention two projects that would be important to me if I am re-elected. Developing Career Pathway Academies will be one of my main focuses. The State recognizes about twenty-three Academies which will offer all students programs in career fields that meet their passions and prepare them for success. The other focus will be the creation of a Foundation that will help to fund important school division priorities without impacting our tax rate.  

For more information about my commitments to you, please visit our Facebook site, Paige for School Board. I ask for your vote on November 2. We have much to do, but I am committed to and will work for the belief that in Albemarle County Public Schools, “learning is for all.”

Respectfully, 

Graham Paige, Samuel Miller Magisterial District

Randy Zackrisson

I welcome this opportunity to tell the voters why I decided to run for School Board in Albemarle County.

Our family has lived in the Ivy Area of the Samuel Miller district for the last 40 years. My wife, Julie, and I have raised four accomplished children—all of whom attended Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS), graduating from Western Albemarle High School. Two of our five grandchildren currently attend ACPS schools, which is how I first became interested in what was happening in our local schools.

My professional background is in engineering, with years of senior management experience, consulting with Fortune 100 corporations and government agencies. I worked in the areas of information technology transformation and project management, providing over 30 years of problem solving. I will use my expertise to address the current educational CRISIS facing our Albemarle County school system. 

I don’t use the word CRISIS lightly. Just ask the many talented and dedicated teachers who have recently left their ACPS jobs, giving up their lifelong love for teaching, and their livelihood, because of the current toxic and polarizing environment. Teachers tell me they are being forced to either perpetuate the radical and politically motivated identity-based agendas of the School Board or be fired.  

Yes, we have a CRISIS—ask the hundreds of parents that have recently pulled their children out of the Albemarle public school system, opting instead to homeschool or to fund a private school education for their children. Not everyone can homeschool or afford private schools. All our children deserve a high-quality public education, and no Albemarle family should be forced to make these life-altering decisions.

I became aware of the School Board’s extreme views and radical agendas as I started to attend the School Board zoom meetings early in 2021. My interest was piqued by the recent Loudoun County controversy around Critical Race Theory (CRT). I was concerned that my two grandchildren were being taught CRT in their ACPS schools. So, I called my grandson’s principal, who assured me that they “were not teaching CRT” in our schools. The school principal stated she didn’t know all that much about CRT but that they were launching a pilot program called Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT). 

This was my first exposure to the many word games, phrases, and new cultural concepts that have crept into the modified ACPS vocabulary—words like “equity,” “anti-Blackness,” “critical whiteness,” and a host of other words that I couldn’t find in my dictionary.

What I have since learned is that our children are being incorrectly taught that our nation was founded on systemically evil concepts, and that our innocent children are now at fault based solely on the color of their skin. Recent ACPS policies also encourage our children to transition their gender without parent notification. In fact, multiple school professionals have been recently added to the staffs of each school to help affirm and assist students with intricate and life-altering gender transition plans. According to the new ACPS policy, parents are forbidden from being notified by the school if a child reports that their parents may not be supportive. Studies show that transgender children are at a significantly increased risk for mental illness and suicide, and yet school staff are not permitted to make parents aware of their children’s critical needs.

Due to COVID-19, our students have lost thousands of in-classroom instruction hours, resulting in plummeting ACPS academic achievement scores. Our schools should be focusing all their energies and resources to develop creative ways to remedy significant learning gaps. Unfortunately, our School Board and school administrators continue their focus of pushing extreme social agendas into the minds of our children contrary to the family values and beliefs systems of many parents.

Our School Board demonstrates a complete disregard for parents and citizens of our area and seems to have forgotten who they work for and who they are supposed to be representing. School administrators are actively suppressing information about the radical school content being taught to their children. In fact, a teacher at Henley Middle School was apparently fired for sharing the “real information” with his students’ parents.

If elected, I will welcome parents’ input during School Board meetings. I will demand transparency of the School Board decision-making process and policy changes. I’ll ask the hard questions and expose the agendas. I will work to return the focus of the ACPS to the teaching of solid classical instruction in reading, history, mathematics, and science.

Our children have only one chance to experience their elementary, middle, and high school years. These are extremely critical and precious years for our children, and it is our duty to provide our children with a solid academic foundation for successful lives and lifelong learning. Our schools need to get out of the “equity business” of promoting identity-based policies and the pushing of political agendas and return to the “education business.”

Please see www.writeinrandy.com for more information on my views and to learn how to cast a write-in candidate vote.

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