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Brentsville Residents Asks School Board to Appoint Brann or Park

| September 8, 2016 | 0 Comments | Education
Image of Shawn Brann, candidate for Prince William School Board interim Brentsville member at the Sept. 7 school board meeting.

Image of Shawn Brann, candidate for Prince William School Board interim Brentsville member at the Sept. 7 school board meeting.

The Brentsville community stood united last night in asking the Prince William School Board to choose one of Gil Trenum’s two recommended individuals, Shawn Brann or Christopher Park, to serve as Brentsville’s interim school board representative in his absence.

Brentsville Magisterial District school board representative Gil Trenum was called into active duty with the U.S. Naval Reserves to serve as a commander in northeast Africa. His active duty began recently, and he is expected to return in one year’s time.

Since Trenum’s unofficial announcement of his impending departure, controversy has surrounded the appointment of his replacement. Trenum proposed three individuals who have served on his budget committee, two of which remain in the race. Trenum cited an opinion from an attorney for the Virginia General Assembly, which stated that he could essentially retain his seat while deployed.

In opposition was a letter drafted by a lawyer with the Attorney General’s Office, saying the school board should elect a temporary replacement for Trenum, during his absence.

Knowing the School Board Chairman had heeded the second opinion, residents of the Brentsville District attended a public hearing, Sept. 7, requesting the school board strongly consider Trenum’s recommended individuals, Brann or Park, for the position.

Brentsville residents and many from across the county argued choosing one of Trenum’s people is the right thing to do as it honors Trenum and his service to his country, and it will best represent the people of the Brentsville District who have thrice elected Trenum to serve on their behalf.

Several who came to speak on behalf of Brann and Park noted Trenum’s military service ought to be respected.

“As an active duty Air Force officer, I am concerned by how this board is treating a fellow military member. In absent of clear guidance, it seems the members of this board cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with Gil. From where I stand it is either a lack of board unity, disrespect for the military, or political agendas,” said resident Rojan Robotham. “I hope you realize the statewide precedent you are setting here, and what you are saying to this large military community.”

Even those who have no affiliation to the Republican Party, to which Trenum belongs, spoke on his behalf, noting that the office should be nonpartisan.

“My personal political philosophies are different from that of Mr. Trenum, but I’m not speaking as a parent or a teacher with Prince William County Schools, I’m speaking as a veteran who has been deployed,” local Democrat Atif Qarni said. “In my view, a person’s service to his or her country supersedes any political affiliation.”

PWEA’s new president, Riley O’Casey, said she was speaking for herself, saying either Brann or Park would make good representatives since Trenum “would not take choosing a replacement lightly” as he takes his position as school board member very seriously.

O’Casey said she was also disappointed with how the situation was handled.

“This is not the Prince William County Schools I love. It is not what our school division is about. We are about children, not politics and party lines.”

Others, speaking at the public hearing, accused the school board of being overtly political.

“This board has become very politicized over the last year or so, and that is unfortunate because the children suffer. When politics get involved in education, nobody wins,” Woodbridge resident Bill Petrarch said.

Brentsville resident Luke Underwood said that it is just common sense that Trenum should choose his replacement because he has to correspond with that individual.

Republican leaders also came forward to support Trenum.

State Rep. Bob Marshall (R-13th) said in Virginia there is deference to military men and women as they are allowed to continue to serve in elected roles while being in the military.

Marshall said not choosing one of Trenum’s recommended choices is akin to “commandeering the election.”

Bill Card, local Republicans, said the people speaking are evidence that Brentsville residents want one of Trenum’s recommended individuals, and noted Republicans are repeatedly elected in Brentsville.

However, not everyone who spoke was in favor of limiting the school board’s choices.

Nate Salzman, Chairman Ryan Sawyer’s former campaign manager, argued that if the decision is already made in the minds of the school board, it reduces the democratic process to nothing more than “backroom deals.”

Additionally, a few young residents of the Neabsco district spoke out against Raulston at the public hearing for “backroom deals” and supposedly intimidating an applicant to drop out.

Raulston told Bristow Beat in an interview last week that she had previously said she would support one of Trenum’s people, but later decided to consider every individual.

Applicants for the Brentsville School Board seat are Shawn Brann, Douglas Hunter Porterfield, Christopher Park and Tara Ann Tedlock.

School Board members will have the chance to vote for the appointment at the Sept. 21 meeting of the Prince William County School Board.

More information on applicants can be found here. The school board meeting can also be watched via the internet on pwcs.edu.

© 2016, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Education

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