LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — The entire Loudoun County School Board will be replaced in January following years of political dramatics and scandals in the school district.
Voters ousted the only two incumbents who ran for reelection, Harris Mahadevi (Ashburn) and Erika Ogedegbe (Leesburg).
Lauren Shernoff, an independent and former educator, beat democratic incumbent Ogedegbe in a liberal Leesburg district.
“I think it says that people are awake and paying attention to what’s going on locally and they’ve realized that local elections really do matter. They’ve realized that the people making decisions on the school board, it impacts their life. It impacts their children’s lives. It impacts their safety,” Shernoff said.
The complete wipe-out of the school board comes after years of political turmoil surrounding the current board, which thrust the county into the national spotlight. The division’s handling of a series of student sexual assaults in high schools led to a special grand jury returning three indictments against LCPS employees. Since-fired superintendent Scott Ziegler was convicted of retaliating against an employee amid the panel’s investigation.
Political in-fighting on the board led to At-large member Denise Corbo’s disenfranchisement from board meetings, as she was denied attending meetings remotely to accommodate a disability.
Shernoff believes there will be more productive dynamics among new board members.
“I don’t think these things go away. I think there are going to be different viewpoints that are presented. But I do think it’s a fresh start. The two incumbents from the last four years, Loudoun said ‘no’ to them. We’re putting a period there and starting a new sentence,” Shernoff said.
One of the largest issues looming over the incoming board is how it will choose to handle policies about the treatment of transgender students. In 2021, the board adopted Policy 8040, which permits transgender students to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identities. Earlier this year, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) released model policies far less permissive than the Loudoun County status quo.
Shernoff said she isn’t sure how the new board will decide to navigate the issue. However, she believes that offering a third option for students with gender-neutral bathrooms is the best answer.
“I’ve been very clear throughout my campaign that I have two daughters. I want to make sure that we are getting back to having safe spaces for our kids,” she said. “I believe we need safe neutral spaces so that anyone who is working through their gender identity or is transgender that they have a place that is safe. However, I would support that biological boys are in boys’ bathrooms and biological girls are in girls’ bathrooms.
Amid a nationwide teacher shortage, she said it will be key to ensure classrooms are adequately staffed.
“Teacher morale and teacher workload is going to be a huge part of what you’re going to hear me talk about over the next three months,” she said. “I think if you increase teacher morale and you take things off their plate to allow them to do the jobs they want to do, you’re going to see achievement follow that.”
Other winners are Linda Deans (Broad Run), Karen “Kari” Labell (Catoctin), Melinda Mansfield (Dulles), Arben Istrefi (Sterling) and Sumera Rashid (Little River).