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ArlingtonSchool Board chair won't seek third term

School Board chair won’t seek third term

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It likely is the toughest job in politics, and now a fourth Arlington School Board member in a row has opted against seeking a new term.

Barbara Kanninen, who has been in office since 2015 and currently is serving a one-year stint as board chair, announced over the weekend that she would not run again in 2022, leaving the potential field wide open on the Democratic side.

Kanninen, the board’s senior member, said eight years of service was good enough for her.

“I’m proud of everything we’ve achieved together to improve Arlington Public Schools during my eight years on the board, but it is now time to hand over the reins,” she said in a message to supporters.


Democrats are likely to set the rules for their School Board caucus next month. The party generally holds caucus voting in May.

“It is my sincere hope that the 2022 Democratic endorsement process will be a positive, constructive one,” Kanninen said. “Arlington’s children deserve leaders who care deeply about them and will work hard every day to ensure they have the supports and opportunities they need.”

Under Virginia law, School Board posts across the commonwealth technically are nonpartisan, but political parties can and do run candidates. All five current School Board members won the Democratic nod before moving on to general-election victories; the last non-Democrat to serve on the body was Republican David Foster, in office from 2000-08.

After losing the Democratic nominating caucus to James Lander in 2013 Kanninen in 2014 won the Democratic School Board caucus over Nancy Van Doren and Greg Greeley, then defeated independent Audrey Clement by a two-to-one margin in the general election. It was a general-election rematch in 2018, with Kanninen again trouncing Clement.

(Clement, who has been seeking office nonstop for more than a decade as a protest candidate, traditionally runs in County Board races. Her runs against Kanninen in the School Board contests apparently were designed to assist independent County Board candidate John Vihstadt by staying off the County Board ballot in his races those two years. Vihstadt won his 2014 County Board race but lost a re-election bid four years later.)

Kanninen’s announcement means four School Board members have announced plans not to run again over the past three years:

• In 2020, Nancy Van Doren and Tannia Talento opted against seeking re-election. Van Doren had served six years, Talento four. They were succeeded by Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy.

• In 2021, Monique O’Grady decided against seeking a second four-year term. Mary Kadera won the slot.

Kanninen, herself, had looked elsewhere in recent times. In mid-2020, she attempted to move up to the County Board, running in a shotgun Democratic caucus necessitated by the death of incumbent Erik Gutshall.

While Kanninen finished first in the initial voting, she did not attain the 50-percent-plus-one total needed under Democrats’ instant-runoff election rules. Another candidate, Takis Karantonis, leapfrogged Kanninen in subsequent rounds to win the endorsement, and went on to win the County Board special election and the 2021 general election.

Kanninen’s term runs through Dec. 31. With her departure, the lone School Board member with more than two years’ tenure will be Reid Goldstein.

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