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ArlingtonDemocrats go with Kadera as School Board pick

Democrats go with Kadera as School Board pick

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Mary Kadera, who became (perhaps somewhat against her will) the de-facto choice of the Arlington Democratic establishment, came away with victory in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s weeklong School Board caucus voting.

But the result was no resounding vote of confidence in the school system’s leadership, as nearly four in 10 voters cast ballots for an insurgent who had been sharply critical of anemic reopening efforts and other skittish school-system policies of the pandemic era.

Arlington officials announced the night of May 24 that Kadera had won 3,836 votes, or 61.8 percent, to 2,368 votes for Miranda Turner. Three ballots were left blank.

Turnout was a record for a Democratic School Board caucus, whether held the normal in-person route, by mail (as was the case last year) or online (in 2021).


Kadera, the current vice chair of the Arlington County Council of PTAs, was perceived as the front-runner from the start, and seemed to field a stronger get-out-the-vote effort.

She now moves on to the Nov. 2 general election, which may – or may not – feature additional candidates. But with the Democrats’ backing, Kadera would be the odds-on favorite in November should a field of others emerge.

“I know we can work together to strengthen our schools so that every child is known, loved, academically challenged and inspired, and our staff members are respected and supported as dedicated and highly skilled professionals,” Kadera said in a statement following announcement of results.

In recent years, service on the School Board has become a grind: Of the five board members on the body just last year, four have either departed (Nancy Van Doren and Tannia Talento), are departing (Monique O’Grady) or attempted to move up the political food chain (Barbara Kanninen, whose bid for County Board last year was unsuccessful).

The roughly 62-38 split among the voters in the School Board caucus could be seen either as a ratification of Kadera’s campaign that focused on a more nuanced approach to school issues, including a reopening plan that has lagged most of the region, or as a sign that a large swath of the public – nearly 40 percent in this case – agreed with Turner’s sentiment that the school leadership had been woefully lethargic in addressing pandemic issues.

When O’Grady announced she would be throwing in the towel after a single four-year term, some Democrats worked furiously behind the scenes to come up with a candidate who would carry the water of the existing School Board and its pandemic policies.

But nobody would take the bait, and in a sense, who could blame them – the job these days features long hours, low pay, internal bickering, frequent public criticism and, as Kanninen found last year, little chance for advancement up the political ladder.

Instead, the campaign featured a semi-outsider in Kadera and a complete outsider in Turner – although during the months leading up to the voting, Kadera seemed to move more in the direction of the current School Board and superintendent and away from some of her earlier criticism of their performance.

Democrats reported no major problems with the voting, which was funded through a grant by Democracy Live and survived criticism from some county advocacy groups that the heavy reliance on an online component might shut out low-income residents.

Alexandra Zins, who served as caucus director, said the caucus was an important component of sending a qualified candidate to the general election.

“The Arlington School Board plays a critical role in the stewardship of our schools and, by extension, in shaping our broader community,” Zins said.

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