Q&A: Falls Church City Council Candidate Debora Schanz-Hiscott

Editor’s Note — Tysons Reporter is running Q&As with the candidates running for the open Falls Church City Council seat. The stories have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Debora Schantz-Hiscott is one of three candidates — along with Joshua Shokoor and Simone Pass Tucker — running for the open Falls Church City Council seat on the Nov. 3 election. 

Tysons Reporter: Why did you decide to run?

Schantz-Hiscott: I have lived in Falls Church City for 24 years. I have raised three children here. I’ve been extensively involved in the community with the women’s commission, with the schools, with athletics, with all kinds of organizations, and I have been thinking about running for city council for many years.

However, I decided I would do it once my youngest child graduated from high school, which is next June. I was thinking about running for [the] November 2021 city council to kind of build upon the 24 years of volunteerism and working, and raising a family and building a community here. With the very unfortunate passing of Councilman Dan Sze, this special election is being held. I decided I would shorten that timeline and run for this year’s special election on November 3.

Tysons Reporter: How are you connected to the Falls Church community?

Schantz-Hiscott: For the past eight years, I’ve served with the Falls Church Education Foundation’s executive director. I’ve been for almost all of that time a sole employee and have taken a standalone 501(c)(3) foundation at the Falls Church City Public Schools into a thriving organization with a volunteer board of 16 people that has raised almost $2 million for supporting programs and grants and scholarships within Falls Church City Public Schools. 

I’ve worked extensively for the past eight years with businesses to collaborate with them to see how supporting the foundation benefits their businesses…which work extensively with the school, the superintendent, and the school administration to see what current needs are in our city. 

I’ve worked with city staff across a dozen different departments to put together events…and then with school staff to create these events, to create fundraisers and to create support for the school. Support for the schools includes creating a grant program. Last year, we gave about $260,000 out for innovation grants, and those can be anything from additional programs at the preschool all the way through. 

We have also supported teacher training. So, above and beyond what our school board can and city can afford to do within professional development, we’ve supported staff on everything from…leadership courses to reading, math, science — you name it — for the teachers and the community. 

And then lastly, and probably most importantly, supporting equity of access for our community: equity to educational resources, equity to food security, technology, clothing, emergency services, etc. I work really closely with the social workers. There’s one assigned to each school to identify what needs we have, and in the past year, since the pandemic, we — just in the spring alone — gave about $120,000 out in food support, in addition to clothing and everything. You can kind of see that my job and my life are kind of intertwined. 

Tysons Reporter: What are your top three agenda items?

a) Pandemic recovery: I fear we’re at a stage where there might be some pandemic fatigue, and people may not be noticing that we continue to have cases and different areas are surging in cases — not specifically in Falls Church City, fortunately, but regionally.

b) Smart development: By smart development, I mean development that’s going to bring in the right balance of revenue to keep our city’s small-town feel and flavor alive.

c) Equity: Equity means affordable housing, equity in schools, and looking at everything through a lens that recognizes systemic racism, basically all the -isms. Systemically, how can we address that further?Every board and commission in Falls Church City should be looking at its mission through a lens of equity. Are we inclusive? Are we providing opportunity equally across the community?

Tysons Reporter: Do you approve of how the city has handled COVID-19 so far?

Schantz-Hiscott: Yes, I think that they have made significant strides in working through the Economic Development Authority to give small businesses and nonprofits grants, to continue to support them. They’ve also worked with a lot of businesses to provide changes in how business is done, allowing businesses to change the configuration so that restaurants and bars can continue to have business.

I think, while there has been a good job done, we still need to listen to what our current businesses will be facing as it gets colder. What other creative solutions do we have? Or do businesses have ideas in terms of keeping their businesses going through the next season, which may not be as palatable for people to go sit outside and listen to music in a parking lot when it’s 20 or 30 degrees or there’s snow on the ground?

Tysons Reporter: How do you plan to work cohesively with the other council members?

Schantz-Hiscott: I really am fortunate in that, having lived here for 24 years and having done the job I’ve done for the past eight years, I’ve had an opportunity to work with city council. They’ve been quite supportive of the Education Foundation. They attend all of our events. I’ve worked closely with them to ensure the success of a lot of those events.

So, I am well-known to the current council members, and I’ve demonstrated how I will work really collaboratively and for the success of the city for the success of our schools. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work well and to demonstrate how one of my strengths is really working collaboratively with different opinions, different perspectives, and coming to an agreement. I feel super fortunate to have so many opportunities to work with them.

Photo courtesy Debora Schantz-Hiscott/Facebook

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