Brentsville-Acting School Board Member Reflects on Past Year

| October 10, 2017 | 0 Comments | Education

Brentsville temporary School Board member Shawn Brann advocates for Code of Ethics.

Prince William County School Board and the school community said goodbye to Shawn Brann, Oct. 4, as he participated in his last meeting as Acting-Representative of the Brentsville District.

Over the past year, Brann served in place of Brentsville School Board Representative Gil Trenum. Trenum, a reservists, was called into activity duty in the Horn of Africa for the 2016-17 school year.

After a dispute over how to seat his replacement, the board elected Brann, one of three citizens Trenum recommended to take his place.

At the Oct. 4 school board meeting, citizens had praise for Brann for filling in during a tough year for the board and representing them well.

Bristow Beat recently sat down with Brann, allowing him to reflect upon the past year with the school board and to talk about what challenges lie on the horizon.

For the last year, Brann said Trenum has acted like a mentor to him.

“Gil and I would talk once every two to every three weeks, we’d communicate over email,” said Brann. “He let me know from the beginning that the decisions would be mine.”

In informing his decisions, Brann said he often drew upon his experience as a Prince William County high school teacher, and reflected on what it was like to be in the classroom. It made him strong advocate for teachers and students.

“Raises [for school employees] are important to me,” said Brann “I knew how hard I was working. The papers I took home on nights and weekends. I could relate to that experience.”

He said he also sought insight from Prince William Education Association.

However, Brann also served during a year that was rife with controversy. Several times the school board voted against building a larger 13th high school.

Perhaps even more public, Chairman Ryan Sawyers was involved in several lawsuits, including one against the Superintendent and School Division Counsel. At the Sept. 20 meeting, Brann voted in the majority to censure Sawyers.

Brann declined to comment on the chairman; instead, emphasizing current board members are working hard to serve their constituents and do right by the students.

“We are clearly works in progress. We are still learning,” said Brann. “It’s new profession [for most of us] and it is a part time one; we are doing our best, and we will get better.”

Brann, who did not run in a formal election, leans conservative, but  regularly talks with members of both parties. He does not think the school board needs to reflect partisanship.

“I think it is more political than it needs to be. It’s a nonpartisan position,” he said.

However, he is hopeful to see members of both parties coming together on various votes.

“People can work together if their hearts are in the right place,” he said.

Brann counts securing $10.6 million for the 13th high school from the board of county supervisors a huge accomplishment for the Brentsville District. The “PRICE Design” will seats 500 more students and should alleviate overcrowding at surrounding schools. “I think we will have some time before it reaches capacity” Brann said.

He feels construction of new schools in the Brentsville District is finally keeping up with development, and a joint CIP committee can help the county tackle overcrowded schools in the eastern end of the county.

It’s two boards working together to look for solutions to building new schools and looking into overcrowding. I think we did some positive things in the CIP were that we were able to move up some of the projects on the eastern end [in the last budget.] I was glad personally that I got to be part of our first joint CIP process team and to get that ball rolling. I’m anxious to see what they come up with.

While everyone is talking CIP and class sizes gets a lot of publicity, Brann names closing the achievement gap is the schools’ number one challenge. He wants to see the school division every student with the opportunity to succeed.

“It’s still a big challenge; special education is still a concern,” said Brann, explaining that the school division could use more general and specialized special education teachers such as autism specialists.

Overall, Brann said his favorite part of being a board member was getting out into the schools.

“I discovered that I received a lot of help from just talking to principals and teachers. [I’d ask] what do you need from us as school board members?” said Brann. “They are very open expressing what they think they needed.”

Brann praised other board members for doing incredible jobs of visiting schools as well.

Brann said he has no plans to run for school board again because he happy with Brentsville’s current leadership.

I been asked that question a lot lately. I feel like I did a good job. I’m very happy people think highly enough of me to consider me for a position in the future. We are lucky that Gil Trenum is our school board representative, and if he wants to run until the end of time, I will keep voting for him as our representative.

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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