Fightin’ words at the schoolhouse

By Danielle Nadler

Leesburg Today

Sept. 28, 2011

Audio clip available:

See http://www.leesburg2day.com/news/schools/article_f7f3311e-e9ee-11e0-877b-001cc4c03286.html

Tuesday night’s School Board meeting quickly turned into a political mudslinging match when the two candidates running for the At Large seat argued at the dais, prompting school system staff to switch off the microphones.

During his turn for open comments, board member Tom Reed (At Large) presented a disparaging email from 2006 written by board member Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) to former school board member J. Warren Geurin, who died of cancer last spring.

Before the email could be read, Ohneiser, who is challenging Reed for the At Large seat this election, interrupted Reed, stating that his move violated the School Board Code of Conduct, which requires board members to show respect “in a spirit of harmony and cooperation in spite of differences of opinion that arise during vigorous debate of points at issue.”

“This is a violation of our bylaws,” Ohneiser said.

“Gentlemen, you do this and we’re going to take a break,” School Board Chairman John Stevens warned the two board members.

“This is political BS, and you know it,” Ohneiser said to Stevens. “He’s pulling a stunt. It’s an ambush.”

Stevens called for the microphones to be turned off and for a five-minute break.

When the board returned, Stevens told the board members, “We can talk about controversial things, but we need to do it respectfully. We’re here to do the public’s business, not our own business.”

Reed, Oheiser and newcomer Jay Bose are all three vying for the School Board’s At Large seat.

The email, given to the press by Reed during the five-minute break, showed Ohneiser suggesting that he and Geurin make Reed look bad during the boundary debate over Sycolin Creek Elementary School in 2007.

The drawing of school boundaries has a history of turning political in Loudoun, and the School Board is gearing up to begin another boundary debate next month for Frederick Douglass Elementary School, which will open fall 2012 in Leesburg. This comes as all but two of the nine School Board members are running for re-election Nov. 8.

Campaign-style comments surfaced at other moments throughout Tuesday’s four hour meeting. During Stevens’ comment portion, he addressed the need for the Board of Supervisors and the School Board to improve how they work together, especially as discussion on the FY13 budget begins. At another point, Jennifer Bergel (Catoctin) responded to questions she said she’s received about why she did not attend the Loudoun Minority Voters Forum Saturday. She said she did not receive an invitation.

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