Article VIII Section 7 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia vests authority for public school districts in a school board, which may be either elected or appointed in a manner defined by law.
The Loudoun County School Board is an elective board composed of nine members. One at-large member is elected in a county-wide race, and the remaining eight members are elected by voters in each of the eight named county districts.
Previously, members served concurrent four-year terms on the same election schedule as the Virginia Senate. The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation in 2021 allowing for the board’s terms to be staggered, and the board has since voted to approve. This year will be an unusual election as the board transitions to its new schedule.
Four seats, which were chosen in a random drawing by the Loudoun County Electoral Board, will be filled for a normal four-year term. Those seats will continue to hold elections every four years on the same schedule as the Virginia Senate.
The remaining five seats will be filled for a one-time, shortened term of two years. Those seats will be up again in 2025, and from then-on they will hold elections every four years on the same schedule as the Governor of Virginia (i.e., on a two-year offset from the other four seats).
The results of the drawing were as follows:
- Four-year term this year, and then elections every four years on the Senate schedule:
- Ashburn District
- Catoctin District
- Little River District (former Blue Ridge District)
- Two-year term this year, and then elections every four years on the gubernatorial schedule:
- Algonkian District
- Broad Run District
- Dulles District
- Leesburg District
- Sterling District
These are nonpartisan offices; none of the candidates will be identified with a political party on the ballot. Political parties may, however, make endorsements.
This is the first school board election since redistricting; district borders have changed. The Blue Ridge District has also been renamed to the Little River District.
Four years ago, Off on a Tangent broke with a long tradition of making no endorsements in school board races. The reason I gave was this: “Many school boards are now dominated by radical leftists intent on turning schools into massive social experiments that are more focused on political indoctrination than providing a classical education. We have not traveled far down this road yet in Loudoun, but we have started . . . and so we must start taking these races more seriously.”
I had a sense that things were going very wrong with America’s schools—even worse than they had been in previous decades. I did not fully grasp just how wrong they had gone. I also badly underestimated how affected we were; we had, in fact, already traveled quite far down that road here in Loudoun.
Here are the members who have served on the school board over the last four years (school board races are nonpartisan, but I have indicated which parties endorsed which members):
- Denise Corbo (D-endorsed) – January 2020 to present
- Algonkian District:
- Atoosa Reaser (D-endorsed) – January 2020 to present
- Ashburn District:
- Harris Mahedavi (D-endorsed) – January 2020 to present
- Blue Ridge District (now renamed Little River District):
- Ian Sorotkin (D-endorsed) – January 2020 to present
- Broad Run District:
- Leslee King (D-endorsed) – January 2020 to August 2021 (deceased)
- Andrew Hoyler – October 2021 to November 2022 (temporary appointment)
- Tiffany Polifko (R-endorsed) – November 2002 to present (special election)
- Catoctin District:
- John Beatty (R-endorsed) – January 2020 to present
- Dulles District:
- Jeff Morse (R-endorsed) – January 2012 to present
- Leesburg District:
- Elizabeth Barts (D-endorsed) – January 2020 to October 2021 (resigned)
- Tom Marshall – December 2021 to November 2022 (temporary appointment)
- Erika Ogedegbe (D-endorsed) – November 2022 to present (special election)
- Sterling District:
- Brenda Sheridan (D-endorsed) – June 2011 to present
The superintendent at the beginning of the term was Eric Williams.
Almost as soon as this board came into office, the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic. Williams closed the schools on March 20, 2020, which was a reasonable precaution given the information we had at the time (in retrospect, it was probably unnecessary). In any case, we knew within about a month that the virus posed virtually no risk to young people. The schools should have reopened then. They didn’t.
Seniors had their last days of high school and their graduations needlessly ruined. Young children who were just learning to read, speak, and write were irreparably harmed; that age cohort still lags in most academic categories.
The dangerous phase of the COVID-19 pandemic was definitively over by the end of July 2020, though then-Governor Ralph Northam (D) kept us in a pointless state of emergency for nearly another year. I guess it’s hard to let go of power once you have it. Loudoun students started school remotely in the fall, and finally started returning to the classrooms in October. They were sent home again before the winter break thanks to the “Delta variant” of COVID-19 . . . even though it was still practically harmless to the young. Insane.
The one “silver lining” of all this was that Loudoun parents got to see first-hand what their kids were learning . . . and many of them were rightfully horrified. The outright racism and postmodern anti-humanism that Loudoun children were being exposed to—possibly for years—was out in the open. Finally, it could be seen, criticized, and opposed.
In December 2020, Williams resigned as superintendent and was replaced on an interim basis by another LCPS administrator—Scott Ziegler. Students finally started returning to in-person schooling for good in February 2021. The only positive thing I can say about how Loudoun handled COVID-19 is that there were other school systems in America that did worse.
On May 28, 2021, a female student was raped by a male student in a girl’s bathroom at Stone Bridge High School. For more than three hours after the rape was reported, the perpetrator aimlessly roamed the halls of the school. Scott Smith, the victim’s father, was initially denied access to the building. After he had been let in, he was escorted back out again because he was (understandably) quite angry. School administrators had Smith removed from the property and gave him a trespass letter.
“Adding insult to injury” will be the theme from here on; might as well be the LCPS motto. According to the special grand jury report, the school system almost immediately began orchestrating a cover-up.
The school board announced on June 8, 2021, that it had selected Ziegler—interim superintendent since December—to take the job on a permanent basis.
On June 22, the school board held a now-infamous public meeting. Between a controversial transgender bathroom policy, lingering COVID-19 nonsense, the sex assault, and various other controversies small and large, parents were fired-up and had things to say. A large crowd attended the meeting—including Smith, the father of the rape victim. When Ziegler was questioned, he said he was not aware of any assaults in school bathrooms. The grand jury determined that he had been told about the May 28 assault and later indicted him for this lie (and two unrelated allegations).
The board had planned to hear 250 public comments that night. After only 50 people had spoken, the board abruptly declared the comment period over and went into recess. When members of the public refused to leave, Ziegler falsely declared the meeting an “unlawful assembly.” Sheriff’s deputies began removing people from the room—which, I remind you, is public property. Those who resisted were arrested. Two men later faced charges.
One, Jon Tigges, had merely encouraged people to stay and keep making statements even though the board had left the room. Members of the public have the right to speak on public property if they aren’t disrupting official business, and the board was in recess so there was no business to disrupt. Tigges was a victim of false arrest by deputies, false prosecution by the commonwealth’s attorney, and eventually false conviction by a jury. The charges were dismissed on appeal.
The other man charged was Smith, who had done nothing more than yell and step toward counter-protesters who were trying to provoke an altercation. The actual provocateurs were not charged (of course), but Smith was. He, too, was a victim of false arrest by deputies, false prosecution by the commonwealth’s attorney, and false conviction by a jury. He was appealing the conviction when Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) pardoned him.
On August 31, 2021, board member Leslee King (Broad Run) died. Andrew Hoyler would be appointed to replace her on October 12 and serve until after a special election in 2022, when Tiffany Polifko was elected to the seat.
The school system decided that the best way to deal with the rapist was to just let him go back to school at Stone Bridge—where his victim was still a student—when classes resumed in the fall. Appalling. This was a technical violation of a court order, but the schools had not been informed (this was an error by other agencies). Even so, what kind of school administrator would allow such a thing in any case, court order or not?
After the schools became aware of the court order, they removed the accused rapist from the school. He was transferred to Broad Run High School, but was not subject to any special restrictions during the school day. Less than two months into the new school year—on October 6, 2021—he sexually assaulted a female student in an empty classroom. School leaders tried to cover it up again.
The story came to public attention, thanks to reporting by the Daily Wire, on October 11. The school board held another raucous meeting on October 12, which received national media attention. The system then released a statement claiming that federal Title IX procedures prevented them from taking any action against the accused rapist. Nonsense. No federal law or regulation prevents schools from suspending or expelling an accused rapist. Come on. How stupid do they think we are?
On October 15, Ziegler held a press conference where he (again) lied and deflected about the whole debacle. The same day, board member Elizabeth Barts (Leesburg) resigned. Tom Marshall would be appointed to replace her on December 14 and serve until after a special election in 2022, when Erika Ogedegbe was elected to the seat.
A damning special grand jury report was released on December 6, 2022, which prompted the board to finally do something (sort of): they fired Ziegler. They couldn’t even do this right; they fired him “without cause” and allowed him to collect a reported $300,000 “golden parachute.”
The board commissioned a law firm to make an independent report about these events. Once the report was completed, the board refused to release it to the public. School officials falsely claimed that it was protected by attorney-client privilege. More nonsense. Public agencies can’t withhold a report that was produced at taxpayer expense just because they happened to have hired a law firm to write it.
Even if the bizarre “privilege” claim was true, it wouldn’t matter. Public agencies are agents of the public (hence the name). They are subordinate to us. The “client” in this attorney-client relationship is the people of Loudoun County; the school board acts on their behalf with assent given through elections. In other words, the privilege (if it existed) would not be the board’s to invoke . . . it would be ours!
Following is a list of the seven key misdeeds that were committed by this school board, and the names of the members who were complicit in each:
- Irrational, lengthy closures of the schools during COVID-19 and extending masking policies long after they had proved unnecessary:
- Corbo, Reaser, Mahedavi, Sorotkin, King, Beatty, Morse, Barts, and Sheridan
- Establishment (or at least perpetuation) of racist and anti-humanist curricula:
- Corbo, Reaser, Mahedavi, Sorotkin, King, Beatty, Morse, Barts, and Sheridan
- Mishandling and coverup of the sexual assault at Stone Bridge High School (directly or by failure to perform oversight duties):
- Corbo, Reaser, Mahedavi, Sorotkin, King, Beatty, Morse, Barts, and Sheridan
- Mishandling and coverup of the sexual assault at Broad Run High School (directly or by failure to perform oversight duties):
- Corbo, Reaser, Mahedavi, Sorotkin, Beatty, Morse, Barts, and Sheridan
- Allowing Ziegler to remain as superintendent long after it was clear that he had mishandled the assaults, lied to the board, and lied to the public:
- Corbo, Reaser, Mahedavi, Sorotkin, Hoyler, Morse, Marshall, and Sheridan
- To my knowledge, Beatty was the only member of the board who publicly called on Ziegler to resign as soon as it became clear he had lied. Thus, Beatty is not complicit here.
- Hoyler, whose temporary appointment to the board ended in November 2022, said after Ziegler was fired in December that he had supported firing him “months ago.” To my knowledge, he never publicly called for Ziegler’s resignation, and “months ago” from December was still many months too late. Hoyler is still complicit.
- Firing Ziegler “without cause” and letting him walk away with a $300,000 taxpayer-funded “golden parachute”:
- Corbo, Reaser, Mahedavi, Sorotkin, Polifko, Beatty, Morse, Ogedegbe, and Sheridan
- Perpetuating the coverup by refusing to release the board-commissioned independent report and making specious claims that it was somehow protected by attorney-client privilege:
- Reaser, Mahedavi, Sorotkin, Morse, Ogedegbe, and Sheridan
None of the above-named board members should ever again be trusted to hold public office. And yet, two of them believe they deserve reelection: Mahedavi and Ogedegbe. Shame on them. And shame on the Loudoun County Democratic Committee for endorsing them.
One member has the audacity to believe she deserves higher office. Reaser is running to represent the 27th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. Shame on her. Shame on the Loudoun County Democratic Committee for nominating her.
The at-large seat on the Loudoun County School Board is filled through a county-wide race. Incumbent School Board Member Denise Corbo (At-Large) is not seeking reelection. Anne Donohue and Michael Rivera are running for the open seat.
This is a nonpartisan office, but political parties have made endorsements.
As described in the introduction, the school board is in the process of shifting to staggered terms. The at-large seat is up for a four-year term this year. It will continue cycling in four-year terms with elections in the same years as the Virginia Senate.
Anne Donohue stands as a candidate for the at-large seat. She has been endorsed by the Loudoun County Democratic Committee. Donohue is an attorney, and has served as a law clerk, a prosecutor (in Massachusetts), and an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. She has two Loudoun County elementary school students.
If elected, Donohue intends to improve school safety, create a “welcome and inclusive environment,” support teachers, restore civility, and focus on the best interests of students. She offers little further detail.
Donohue cites endorsements by Everytown for Gun Safety (an organization that works to undermine self-defense rights) and the local teacher’s union (whose influence on our schools is best described as poison). She even cites an endorsement from Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj (D); I have described Biberaj as “the most dangerously incompetent public official by whom I have ever been represented.”
Michael Rivera stands as a candidate for the at-large seat. He has been endorsed by the Loudoun County Republican Committee. Rivera has worked as an information technology professional, construction professional, and public relations specialist. He now serves as a detective with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. He has two school-aged children.
If elected, Rivera intends to prioritize school safety, fiscal accountability and transparency, and support teachers. Like his opponent, he provides few details.
He says he entered the race because the current board has had “multiple scandals, a lack of transparency, and a lack of accountability,” and he wants to “advocate for positive change.” He has also advocated for parents’ rights.
Public trust has been badly undermined by the current board; it is difficult to believe anything anybody says anymore. Both candidates have said they want to focus on safety and transparency (among other things). The members of the shameful board we elected four years ago made similar promises.
It is tempting to just default to Republican Party endorsees. A majority of members on the current board had Democratic Party endorsements, and Democrats tend to support more horrific school policies than Republicans. But the Republicans endorsed Beatty and Morse four years ago, and they were also complicit in the whole disaster. Neither party has a clear conscience.
Regardless . . . Rivera is at least saying the right things. I cannot say much more than that until we see what he does once he’s in office. I’m inclined to give him a chance, but I am also finding it hard to be optimistic. It’s nothing personal, Mike. It’s just that too many past candidates said the right things when they were running and did the wrong ones once they were sworn in. I have been trained to expect betrayal.
Donohue’s campaign is a non-starter. She is supported by the local teachers’ union, which is a poisonous influence on our schools. She is also supported by the political party that relentlessly pushes postmodernist, racist, and anti-humanist nonsense into every curriculum they can get their hands on. I have no clear, rational basis for doubting Rivera . . . I do have one for doubting Donohue. That makes the choice clear.
Vote Michael Rivera for the at-large seat on the Loudoun County School Board.
Incumbent School Board Member Jeff Morse (Dulles) is not seeking reelection. Melinda Mansfield is running unopposed for the open seat. Off on a Tangent does not normally publish endorsements in uncontested races, but because of the unusual situation on the school board (see “Special Statement” above) I will do so this year.
This is a nonpartisan office, but political parties have made endorsements.
As described in the introduction, the school board is in the process of shifting to staggered terms. The Dulles District seat is up for a two-year term this year. Beginning in 2025, it will cycle in four-year terms with elections in the same years as the Governor of Virginia.
The borders of the Dulles District have changed. The district now encompasses far southeastern Loudoun County, South Riding, Stone Ridge, Dulles West (south Arcola), and the Loudoun portion of Dulles International Airport.
Melinda Mansfield stands unopposed as the candidate for the Dulles District seat. She has been endorsed by the Loudoun County Democratic Committee. Mansfield has worked as an educator and music therapist. She is now a literacy tutor and an advocate for literacy laws. She has two college-aged children.
If elected, she says she will “work to ensure that every single child regardless of income, race, disability, gender[,] or religion who attend[s] our public schools has access to the best instruction that aligns with current science and research.”
I appreciate Mansfield’s dedication to improving literacy, especially for students with special needs. Her son has dyslexia and was not well-served by the county schools; she had to transfer him to a private school so he could get proper instruction. This is a real problem that needs to be addressed.
I’m all for literacy. . . . But Mansfield says nothing about the last four years of scandal and failure in our schools.
She says nothing about school safety. Nothing about transparency. Nothing about getting back to academics and ending all the misguided social experimentation. Mansfield also offers no comment on whether she would have given Ziegler the “golden parachute,” or whether she would have voted to release the independent report.
Perhaps worse than her silence on these issues is that she touts the endorsement of a political party that has made a relentless, decades-long push to undermine and corrupt public schooling in America. Mansfield seems sincere, if politically misguided. But I cannot vote for her.
Write-in another name for the Dulles District seat on the Loudoun County School Board. If you want a suggestion, you can put my name: Scott Bradford. I reside in the district and will serve if elected.
I make the following recommendations for contested races in other districts. I have evaluated each race and candidate individually according to the same general criteria described in the endorsement article (and “Special Statement”) above.
As described in the introduction, the school board is in the process of shifting to staggered terms.
Four seats are up for four-year terms this year. They will continue cycling in four-year terms with elections in the same years as the Virginia Senate. These are indicated as (four-year) in the list below.
Five seats are up for two-year terms this year. Beginning in 2025, they will cycle in four-year terms with elections in the same years as the Governor of Virginia. These are indicated as (two-year) in the list below.
- At-Large (four-year): See full-form endorsement above.
- Algonkian District (two-year): April Chandler (D-endorsed) and Viktoria Hunyadi (R-endorsed) stand as candidates for an open seat. I recommend voting for Viktoria Hunyadi.
- Ashburn District (four-year): ATTENTION: Incumbent School Board Member Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn, D-endorsed) is challenged by Deana Griffiths (R-endorsed). Mahedavi was complicit in COVID-19 closures, sexual assault coverups, and numerous other debacles over the last four years (see “Special Statement” above). He should never again hold a position of public trust. I strongly recommend voting for Deana Griffiths.
- Broad Run District (two-year): Linda Deans (D-endorsed) and Chris Hodges (R-endorsed) stand as candidates for an open seat. I recommend voting for Chris Hodges.
- Catoctin District (four-year): Kari LaBell (R-endorsed) and Megan Lockwood (D-endorsed) stand as candidates for an open seat. I recommend voting for Kari LaBell.
- Dulles District (two-year): See full-form endorsement above.
- Leesburg District (two-year): ATTENTION: Incumbent School Board Member Erika Ogedegbe (Leesburg, D-endorsed) is challenged by Lauren Shernoff (R-endorsed). Ogedegbe joined the board after a special election in 2022, so she was not complicit in mishandling COVID-19 or the sexual assaults. But she voted to give Ziegler his “golden parachute” and to withhold the independent report on the assaults and coverup. She should never again hold a position of public trust. I strongly recommend voting for Lauren Shernoff.
- Little River District (four-year) (former Blue Ridge District): Sumera Rashid (D-endorsed) and Joe Smith (R-endorsed) stand as candidates for an open seat. I recommend voting for Joe Smith.
- Sterling District (two-year): Arban Istrefi (D-endorsed), Sarath Kolla, and Amy Riccardi (R-endorsed) stand as candidates for an open seat. I recommend voting for Amy Riccardi.