Learn more about the School Board Candidates

Charlie Adams, Staff Reporter

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CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, the name of Philip Reitinger was incorrectly spelled and was combined the photo of another school board member. It has been updated in this version. 

With School Board elections coming up this November, there is a lot at stake for students, teachers and the community of Falls Church. The School Board is in charge of setting policy for the school division as well as the construction of the new high school, and as a result, must exhibit strong leadership and commitment. Currently, there are three first time candidates and only one incumbent. 

We asked the candidates what sets them apart from one another, what students stand to gain from their leadership, and what their fondest memory of high school is. 

Photo Courtesy of Susan Dimock

Susan Dimock

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

“My 15+ years of experience helping young adults to successfully launch from school to career fulfillment sets me apart from other candidates. Professionally, I design, direct and instruct seminar-in-Washington university programs in which I work closely with my students to help them think deeply about their life and experiences in order to figure out their next steps. My expertise is in a field called “experiential learning” which focuses on the value of real-world experience not only in gaining skills and knowledge but also in providing professional context for career choices.”

 What do students stand to gain from your leadership?

“I am open to student input and listening to students about their experiences and their ideas.  I believe that a strong school system is one that takes into account input from all stakeholders in that system, including students.  Specifically, I think students need to be considered partners with school professionals and administration in addressing issues of inclusion and school culture as well as how to maximize the educational benefits of technology while minimizing distraction and stress.”

 What’s your fondest memory of high school?

 “While I attended the 9th grade at George Mason, I completed high school in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My fondest memories are my 11th-grade French exchange trip to Joliette, Quebec where our class went skating on a frozen river, and my 12th-grade canoeing trip in Kejimkujik National Park paddling on misty lakes with my friends.”

Photo Courtesy of Douglass Stevens

Douglass Stevens

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

“My experience as a classroom educator came as a young officer assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Training Command. There, I spent four years teaching math, physics, and reactor design and operation. The students faced tremendous pressure, a very fast pace, and exacting standards. A lot of my time was spent encouraging and helping stressed out, sleep-deprived sailors—perhaps the way some of you feel at Mason! After the Navy, I went on to become a federal civilian in the national security field. As a manager, I have always maintained my priority for developing and caring for each person on my team.”

What do students stand to gain from your leadership?

“You’ll gain the advocacy of an experienced manager who understands the teaching process and cares deeply about the development and wellbeing of every student. I will closely oversee the construction of and transition into your new building. I’ll watch out for your needs through the process, such as student parking, dealing with the loss of the practice field, and monitoring pedestrian, biking, and transportation improvement project. I’ll ensure that college admissions are enhanced, not harmed, by the shift to standards-based grading, and I’ll ensure that the implementation of “IB for All” fully accounts for the needs of all students, including those who are not college-bound or will pursue degrees in the hard sciences. I will evaluate each topic that the school board addresses by whether it benefits you, the students, and I will always seek to have an open and transparent dialogue with those who would be impacted by a new policy prior to voting on it.”

What’s your fondest memory of high school?

“Playing varsity basketball and track were great experiences. But my single best memory was spending the summer between my junior and senior year studying engineering at Dartmouth College. It was worlds away from West Texas, and I loved the new people and ideas I encountered there. My classmates’ diverse backgrounds expanded my worldview, and our sense of community inspired me—it was a truly magical experience. I hope each of you gets to do something during this time of your life that exposes you to new ideas, places, and challenges.”

Photo via fccps.org

Philip Reitinger

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

“I think the other candidates are excellent and would be fine Board members.  In terms of my qualifications, I have served on the Board for four years, two of them as vice-chair.  During my time on the Board of Mount Daniel renovation was completed and construction on the new high school was begun.  When the prior superintendent left, we hired the current superintendent, Dr. Noonan. Also, I’ve lived in Falls Church for over 20 years and I am very familiar with the entire school system.”

What do students stand to gain from your leadership?

“Together with the other Board members, I will put my best effort into completing what we have begun, including opening the new high school.  I have extensive experience in industry, government, and technology. I have and will put students first.”

What’s your fondest memory of high school?

“Learning to program in PL/I using punch cards on an IBM mainframe accessed from the University of North Florida.  But the actual computer was over 70 miles away at the University of Florida. That was pretty cool in the 1970s.”

Photo Courtesy of Laura Downs

Laura Downs

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

“My husband and I have four children who attend four of the five FCCPS schools (MD, TJ, MEH, GMHS) which enables me to be personally engaged with the majority of our schools. I served as President of the Elementary PTA and during that year, worked with MEH and Mason PTA/PTSA presidents to promote the passage of the GMHS Bond Referendum (to obtain funding from our taxpayers to build a new high school). I’m a current Board Member of the Falls Church Education Foundation which has funded such initiatives as George Mason’s Potterbot and the Farmbot Raised Bed. I also served as an administrator at The George Washington University, overseeing Undergraduate Admissions and Student Life. I am a current member of the Architectural Selection Advisory Committee (ASAC) for the new GMHS.”

What do students stand to gain from your leadership?

“With my experience in education administration and working on a college campus, I can bring knowledge of undergraduate admissions to improve our college guidance resources. In addition, with my experience in Student Life, I understand the importance of support services such as mental health, counseling, and academic support services. In my position at GW, I also oversaw student government, community service, student organizations and school spirit initiatives such as the cheerleading team, mascots, and the pep band. All play a vital role in building a sense of community and school spirit at the college and high school level. My time on the Falls Church Education Foundation Board of Directors has enabled me to better understand the needs of our schools by reading the Super Grant applications from teachers and staff. I also work with several GMHS administrators, teachers and staff on the committee for the new high school so I’m learning a lot about how Mason works on a daily basis. This enables me to make informed decisions regarding the new building.”

What’s your fondest memory of high school?

“I attended an all-girls high school which was a great fit for me as it helped me develop my leadership skills. I served as president of my Junior Class and was a swimmer, taking second place at the Missouri State Championships.”