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First-time candidates seek open Garrisonville seat on Stafford School Board
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First-time candidates seek open Garrisonville seat on Stafford School Board

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With current Garrisonville representative Pamela Yeung seeking election to the Board of Supervisors, two first-time candidates are looking to replace her on the School Board.

Wanda Blackwell is retired from the U.S. Army and works for the Department of Defense and Maureen Siegmund is director of external relations for Active Policy Solutions, a government relations and advocacy firm.

Blackwell said she was inspired to run for School Board out of a desire to help the children of Stafford County and make sure politics stays out of decisions the board makes on their behalf.

Wanda Blackwell, who is retired from the U.S. Army and works for the Department of Defense, said she was inspired to run for Garrisonville seat on the School Board out of a desire to help the children of Stafford County and make sure politics stays out of decisions the board makes on their behalf.

“You definitely have to put the kids first in any decision that you’re making,” Blackwell said. “You just have to take yourself out of it. To me, that’s the most important thing—putting the kids first.”

Siegmund said she decided to run because she thinks it is important that the board have a representative who is the parent of young children in Stafford County Public Schools.

Maureen Siegmund, director of a government relations and advocacy firm, said she was inspired to run for the Garrisonville seat on School Board because she thinks it is important that the board have a representative who is the parent of young children in Stafford County Public Schools. 

“It became glaringly obvious that there was not a diversity of perspective on the School Board,” she said.

The Garrisonville District covers the heavily populated area immediately west of Interstate 95 between State Route 610 and Courthouse Road.

Siegmund, who has served on School Board advisory committees for the past five years, said there are no sitting board members with children in the division at any level.

“They’re not putting kids on the bus every morning,” she said. “They’re not having kids coming home complaining about being late. I think we need to have a board that is more engaged in firsthand experience that way.”

Blackwell also said the board needs diverse perspectives and to be encouraged to think outside the box to solve current problems, such as persistent transportation delays and staff retention.

“A shift is going to have to come into play,” she said. “We need to think outside the box. We need to take another step back and look at the problem from all directions.”

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Blackwell said her Army background has given her experience in working with a wide range of people. She said she would use this experience to build relationships with the school division’s funding body, the county Board of Supervisors.

“Whatever it takes to build a relationship, I’m willing to do it,” she said, adding that she would try to set up more joint sessions and working groups with the supervisors and will always “advocate for anything that will improve efficiency in the schools and lead to better education and more equal education.”

Siegmund said she would love to create a five- to 10-year planning document that lists all the school division’s funding priorities and matches a similar timeline of the county government’s funding priorities.

“That planning and mapping is crucial for school development,” Siegmund said. “I think that will make us more organized with our money and build trust between the boards and the community as well.”

“Yes, they should give us more money, but if they don’t know what’s coming, then they’re waiting for us to bring things to them, and if we don’t, they assume they don’t need to be thinking about it,” she continued. “By state rule, they can’t give us what we haven’t asked for.”

Siegmund said the Board of Supervisor’s recent resolution against the teaching of critical race theory—which is not part of K-12 curriculum in Virginia—is an example of what happens when the boards do not communicate.

“Quite honestly, [the School Board] was given the opportunity to address the issue with the [Board of Supervisors] for months,” she said. “There was supposed to be a summer-long conversation that never happened until the very end. I don’t blame a board for making a decision they see as necessary. I think if everybody had been ignoring it, the public would have been very upset.”

Blackwell said she thinks discussion of critical race theory is “a red herring or a distraction.”

“To me, it’s obvious that everybody doesn’t have an understanding of what it is,” she said.

“We don’t talk about theory in high school,” Blackwell continued. “But I believe that as a country, we cannot overlook the truth in history. That is something that needs to be spoken about in the classroom. How can we pass a resolution declaring Juneteenth as a federal holiday if we can’t talk about how this holiday came to be?”

Blackwell said she would try to return the focus of the School Board and the community to the end goal—preparing children for their futures.

“The bottom line is, did your school district provide you the best education it could?” she asked. “Are you prepared to walk out of here into your next endeavor, whether it be college or the military or trade school? That should be the focus.”

Siegmund said wants to change what she called the current school board’s “wait-and-see” approach to problem-solving.

“Think that all circles back to lack of perspective,” she said. “Often, the first time members are hearing about something is at a School Board meeting, and then they have to go back and do their own research. For me, I’ll be doing that research every day.”

Adele Uphaus–Conner:

540/735-1973

auphaus@freelancestar.com

@flsadele

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