New Student Board Rep Is TJ Junior
In a resounding 58% to 42% victory over incumbent Patty Reed, Dalia Palchik, TJ ’01, won the right to represent the Providence District on Fairfax County’s School Board, becoming the Board’s only Latina. Providence District includes Marshall and Oakton High Schools and Jackson, Kilmer, and Thoreau Middle Schools.
Ms. Palchik, who came to Fairfax County from Argentina when she was six years old and attended schools in the Providence District, studying in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and participating in the free-and-reduced-price meals program, was applauded as she addressed crowds in Spanish while campaigning for the seat.
A French and Spanish teacher at the private Sheridan School in DC who formerly taught FLEX (after school) Spanish at Mantua ES and Mosby Woods ES, Palchik convinced voters that the Board would benefit from her perspective as an educator. She ran on a platform that emphasized teacher training and increasing hands-on, project-based, non-‘googleable’ learning aimed at preparing global citizens equipped with useful life skills. She also profited from voters’ alignment with her support for the Board’s recent decision to add “gender identity” to its non-discrimination policy.
Newsworthy chatted with her via email after her victory (see also this pre-election profile in tjTODAY).
Q: When did you decide to be a teacher?
A: I feel like I always wanted to be a teacher! I knew it for sure by the time I was in 6th grade. My teachers were my role models growing up, and they showed me what I could do when I grew up. I started “teaching” early on, by tutoring other kids while I was at TJ, and although I’ve worked for NGOs in non-teaching positions, I always knew that I would come back to teaching.
Q: What was your favorite part of teaching?
A: My students! I have taught over 70 students every year ranging from grades K-8. I love getting new students and having the opportunity to see them grow, since I teach languages to several different grades. Creating a positive and supportive learning environment where all my students can thrive is my #1 goal.
Q: What made you decide to run for Fairfax County School Board?
A: I always wanted to be involved. There was only one teacher on the School Board, and I felt strongly there needed to be a stronger voice for those who teach in the classroom. Members of the Democratic Party encouraged me to run, so I did! I also think it’s really important for people in my generation to stand up and get involved in the system.
Q: Why do you think the voters chose you?
A: I think that the voters really responded to our message of putting a teacher on the School Board, and I managed to meet thousands of them at their homes while I went door to door. Although I was running against a six-year Republican incumbent, I think the voters wanted to elect someone who promotes our shared democratic values of inclusion, diversity, and hard work.
Q: What do you see as the toughest challenge facing Fairfax County?
A: I think our toughest challenge is our growing school system. There’s definitely a bubble of students working their way through the system, and these new students are much more diverse, economically and ethnically, than the FCPS student population of the past. We need to work to bring these new faces into the FCPS family, and as a trilingual, former ESL student myself, I think I can speak to these kids and their families in a way that other School Board members cannot.
Q: How can counties like Fairfax best assimilate large numbers of immigrants, including students who arrive with no background in English and occasionally little schooling in any language?
A: First of all, we can do it! I arrived in FCPS not speaking any English, and I learned it in school like any other ESL student. As a child, I helped translate things for my parents, and filled out forms for my siblings. We need to continue to have a strong ESL program, we need to continue to provide healthy meals at school for students, and we need to work to hire more teachers from diverse backgrounds, so that the faculty looks more like our diverse Fairfax County community.
Q: How can Fairfax County continue to support TJ in the midst of unprecedented budget pressures and the significant needs of growing numbers of low-income students?
A: We need to protect TJ funding, not just because it’s one of the best schools in the nation, but because the innovations begun at TJ will be continued in the rest of the FCPS system. TJ is an education incubator, particularly for science and technology teaching and for the multi-disciplinary way that it tackles curriculum. There are a lot of programs that are discovered and tested at TJ, then are implemented in the broader system, and we need to keep that education incubator humming.
TJ Junior Wins Student Board Seat
In February, Laura Chu, TJ ’17, was elected to the position of Student Representative to the School Board by the Student Advisory Council, which includes student representatives from all county high schools. Although it is a non-voting position, the Board’s student representative sits with the Board at all public meetings and participates in discussions.
Laura intends to focus on the budget; mental-health, homework and grading policies; and leadership-development opportunities. Read more about Laura here.
The most recent Student Representative from TJ was Will Ashe, TJ ’14 (2013-2014 term), who is now a UVA sophomore and Jefferson Scholar. Laura’s one-year term begins July 1st.