The #1 source for news for Dominion High School students and the Dominion High School community in Sterling, VA

DHS Press

The #1 source for news for Dominion High School students and the Dominion High School community in Sterling, VA

DHS Press

The #1 source for news for Dominion High School students and the Dominion High School community in Sterling, VA

DHS Press

Q&A with At Large Candidate Anne Donohue

Olivia Columbel
School Board At-Large Candidate, Anne Donohue, sat down for a one-on-one interview about her campaign with Alla Abdelhalim.

Why do you think people should vote for you?

I would like to earn my vote because I do care very much about the kids and the families of this county. I have devoted my career to serving my community and trying to improve the safety in my community.

What motivated you to run for school board at large?

I was not particularly interested in politics, I was not planning to run for anything. But I do feel very strongly about public education. It was important to me. I was concerned, when my son, my oldest child was getting close to school age, [because of] the rhetoric around the school system here in Loudoun was starting to get kind of divisive and combative. I just felt like that attitude increased through the pandemic, and then coming out of the pandemic, it’s continued to be a much more partisan issue than it seems to me like it should be. I had some friends who approached me over the winter to ask if I might be interested in running for school board. Several times, [I] said, “no, no, no. That’s not for me. I’m not a politician, you’ll find someone great and I will support them.” My opponent had already declared, so I knew that there was someone running and I didn’t feel like he represented my values and priorities. I wanted there to be another choice. So one morning I woke up and I thought, ‘okay, if no one else is going to do this, then I’m going to do this.’ The voters in Loudoun and the families in Loudoun need to have a choice here, to have an option and that will be me.

School safety was listed as the first issue on your website, Why is it the most important issue facing LCPS? How is it applicable at the high school level?

So I think that if students don’t feel safe, they’re not going to be able to learn. Obviously I think what we all want, or I hope what everyone who’s running for school board wants, is for all of our students in the county to get the best possible education.The reason why I focus on public safety is that it has been my career. When I was growing up as a kid, I wanted to be a prosecutor, because that was my way that I felt I could best contribute to serving and helping my community. I continue that path of working towards the public safety of my community and I do believe that if our students aren’t safe, they won’t be able to learn. The setting has to be right for students to be able to take advantage of the educational opportunities. That means students need to feel physically safe, mentally safe, emotionally safe, welcomed, included, and not just the students, but the staff too. I’m least somewhat familiar with the unfortunate statistics about crime that happens on LCPS facilities during school hours, from assaults to drug issues, the hate speech and hate incidents. Again, [that] affects not only the physical, but also the mental and emotional safety of all of our students. That is an area that we need to address.

Are there currently any policies regarding safety or discipline that you want to review or change? What would you want done to those policies?

I do think we need to take another look at disciplinary policies for a couple of reasons. One, from the numbers, it looks like the students who are receiving discipline are disproportionately students of color. So is that an issue with the policies on its face or with their enforcement? Also, I think we need to rethink the whole concept of in-school and out-of-school suspension, especially now that we know we have the capability to engage students through virtual schooling. I understand why there may be a safety need to pull a student out of a school environment.

You listed supporting educators under your top priorities, how do you plan to support educators? What resources would you want to make available?

I have spoken with a lot of teachers and staff during this year, and I keep hearing very similar concerns that they’re raising. Certainly the cost of living in Loudoun County is one. Beyond that, many of them raised concerns that they don’t feel respected, they don’t feel valued. It’s more challenging for them to work as a team with parents and families than it has been in the past. I think we need to take a multi prong approach to supporting our teachers with regard to these issues. For one I support collective bargaining. The Loudoun Education Association, which is the teachers union that represents staff in Loudoun County, has been working on the legal process of requesting the school board to approve their right to collective bargaining. Beyond that, I would like to see some outside the box thinking on how to make life in Loudoun more affordable for educators. I think if we solicit input from the educators, and we come up with solid, well reasoned proposals, we’ll be in a good position to lobby the Board of Supervisors, our general assembly representatives, and other elected officials who are in a better position to make the changes that would make our educators lives more comfortable here. I would like to see some block funding going to the schools to defray the costs so that teachers don’t have to pay for their own school supplies. Our teachers are the ones that are in our schools every day on the frontlines dealing with students dealing with administrators dealing with parents, they seem like they are in an excellent position to be able to give input on the problems that we’re seeing everyday in our schools, and what suggestions do they have for how to fix them?

How are you planning on making teachers feel more comfortable speaking out on issues without fear of retaliation?

That is definitely a concern for a lot of teachers that I’ve talked to when we speak, one on one and off the record. I’m not an elected official, so they’re not making any kind of official report or anything, but they have expressed that concern of speaking up totally publicly because of their fear of potential ramifications. It seems to me like there could be some possibilities to allow for the LEA to solicit feedback from individual educators and then communicate that to the school board or the administration in a way that protects the privacy of the educators. The school board needs to be public about their support of our teachers and educators and not just by saying publicly we support our teachers and administrators, but by following up and enacting policies and taking other actions that show that they value the input of our educators, are trying to respect them, and value them hear their opinions. The school board’s job is to set priorities for the superintendent to make clear to the superintendent that the expectation is [that] the superintendent will also support the educators. When there are instances that arise, if educators are in a situation where they feel like they’ve been retaliated against, there needs to be an investigation.

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About the Contributors
Alla Abdelhalim
Alla Abdelhalim, Assistant Editor
Alla Abdelhalim is an Assistant Editor currently serving her second year writing for DHS Press. Alla is a senior that has been involved with the journalism program since her freshman year. Along with Newspaper, she is also in her third year of photojournalism and is excited to move on to higher education next year.
Olivia Columbel
Olivia Columbel, Assistant Editor
Olivia Columbel is an Assistant Editor for DHS Press. She is currently a junior and serving her second year with the program. Olivia hopes to pursue a career in social work and possibly expand to journalism as well. She loves to investigate teachers, sports and students for fascinating feature pieces. If Olivia is not at Dominion, in a classroom or on the field managing a sport, you can find her fast asleep in her own bed, getting food with friends, reading a book or doing her favorite activity, listening to music. 

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