McLean and Herndon school board representative Elaine Tholen won’t seek reelection next year

Fairfax County Public Schools (file photo)

Dranesville District school board member Elaine Tholen will not run for reelection in 2023, while several of the other members haven’t yet declared their own intentions.

Tholen confirmed to FFXnow that she won’t seek another term on the Fairfax County School Board and instead plans to step down at the end of her term on Dec. 31, 2023.

She initially shared her decision with supporters and colleagues in October, but this is the first time Tholen has made it public:

It has been my honor and pleasure to serve as the Dranesville District School Board member since January 2020. Serving on the School Board has allowed me to give back to my community and repay the school district that has given my family so much.

I have decided it is time for me to step away from the School Board, and to return to a role closer to our classrooms and to our students. So after careful consideration, I am officially announcing that I will not seek re-election to the Fairfax County School Board in November 2023.

My life’s passion is working with young people to expand their horizons and engagement in learning, and to introduce them to the magic of our natural world and the science behind it. I love to work with those that build and promote this work; the teachers, and the principals that change the lives of children for the better every day.

I am focused and excited as I finish my term to work with the board and Dr. Reid as we move forward during this time of setting strategy for the future of our school district, and as always will continue to do my best to support every one of our school communities through the end of my current term on December 31, 2023.

We have accomplished much in the past few years as we navigated a global pandemic, supported each and every student in academics and wellness, and tackled difficult facility issues. We have started work on new ways to look at development in Fairfax County, we have increased our sustainability efforts and more. I know there is still much work to do, and I know that Dranesville families will work with a new School Board member to continue to better our school district.

I will be hard at work for and with all of you until the end of December 2023 when my current term is complete. Thank you for trusting me with the responsibility of representing you on our School Board, and please know that I will still be a part of our community.

Tholen was first elected to the school board in 2019 after serving as a director for the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District. She’s also a certified middle school science teacher.

Last year, there was an effort to recall her from the board over her support for Fairfax County Public Schools starting the school year virtually. Petitions against her and Laura Jane Cohen, who represents the Springfield District on the school board, were dismissed in August 2021 and this past February, respectively.

Cohen is also not running for reelection, because she’s seeking to join the Virginia House of Delegates, representing the newly created 15th District.

She told FFXnow that, while on the school board, she saw “first hand the barriers that our students and families face.”

Time and again, our Commonwealth has refused to adequately invest in our communities. Whether it’s continuing to burden our students and staff with more and more standardized tests, trying to rewrite our history, attempting to undermine public education, or refusing to address the much needed mental health and substance abuse crisis, the buck stops in Richmond. I look forward to continuing my service to our community and working together to tackle these and other problems that not only impact our families in Fairfax County, but families across the Commonwealth.

No candidates have emerged yet to challenge for the Dranesville or Springfield school board seats.

One School Board Member Confirms Reelection Bid

Conversely, Hunter Mill District Representative Melanie Meren is running again in 2023.

A former U.S. Education Department worker, she first won the seat in 2019 after longtime school board member Pat Haynes retired. During her term, she has advocated for stronger security measures at schools and policies to improve student health, such as recess in middle schools and a greater focus on the importance of sleep.

As one of two Jewish school board members, she criticized at-large school board member Abrar Omeish last year for comments the board’s only Muslim member made about Israel and Palestine.

“I believe that strong schools make a strong community,” Meren wrote in a statement. “The students, families, staff, and residents of Fairfax County deserve to be represented by an experienced public servant like myself, who improves access to opportunities for all students in FCPS to fulfill their destinies for success in life; strengthens public policy that frames how FCPS uses public resources; and fosters trust, civility, and respect in public service during a turbulent time in American democracy — and engages the community.”

Not Publicly Decided 

Other school board members told FFXnow that they aren’t ready to announce their 2023 plans.

Providence District Representative Karl Frisch, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for 35th House District delegate earlier this year, said he will announce his intentions “in the weeks ahead.”

Mason District Representative Ricardy Anderson said she will announce in “the coming weeks,” while Sully District school board member ​​Stella Pekarsky said to expect an announcement in January.

Braddock District Representative Megan McLaughlin, who’s served on the school board since 2012, said in an email that she has yet to make a decision on her fourth term as well.

The school board’s other five members have not responded to FFXnow’s repeated inquiries.

Earlier this month, five county supervisors confirmed they will run for reelection in 2023, while both Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross have announced they will step down.

Three supervisors remain publicly undecided: Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, and Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity.

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