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Editor’s NotebookEditor's Notebook: Getting out is a mark of sanity

Editor’s Notebook: Getting out is a mark of sanity

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As we noted yesterday in news coverage, Arlington School Board Chairman Barbara Kanninen has opted not to run for a third term, making her the fourth School Board member from the county in a row to opt to get out.

Seems like a prudent move — serving on a School Board was seldom fun, and these days, with parents actually starting to pay attention and ask uncomfortable questions even in traditionally go-along-to-get-along-or-else Arlington, it has to be doubly un-fun. So Nancy Van Doren (6 years of service), Tannia Talento (4 years), Monique O’Grady (4 years) and now Kanninen (8 years) all decided to head for the exits.

Kanninen deserves credit: She is a sharp cookie who could at times be counted on to ask tough questions and hold superintendents and their posses accountable. Not quite up to the grilling that Abby Raphael used to give staff, but at least a certain degree of oversight.

Yet Kanninen and the rest of the current School Board will have to live with the fact that, for reasons that seemed as much political as anything else, they kept schools locked down way too long. The implications on students down the road are starting to become plainly apparent, and from cognitive deficiencies to mental-health woes, the unnecessarily long lockout has proved a time bomb that could continue ticking for a lifetime.

Can’t blame school officials for keeping things locked down for the first few months of the COVID crisis. But classrooms should have been opened at the start of the 2020-21 school year, as just about everyone now acknowledges (albeit only privately in some cases). But across Northern Virginia, they were not.

Elected School Board members could go a long way to restoring trust with the public by simply acknowledging that error in judgment, accepting their share of responsibility for it and moving on. Kanninen, who comes with gravitas and no longer has a re-election bid to worry about, would be a good one to start the ball rolling.

It would augment, rather than detract from, her legacy of service.

  • Scott McCaffrey
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