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JUST IN: School Board Vice-Chair Tamara Derenak Kaufax won’t run for reelection this year

School Board Franconia District representative Tamara Derenak Kaufax (photo courtesy of Tamara Derenak Kaufax)

Tamara Derenak Kaufax won’t be seeking reelection to the Fairfax County School Board.

The three-term Franconia District representative and current board vice-chair announced this morning that she won’t be running this year via an emailed newsletter.

“I have never taken lightly my responsibility to you — my constituents, neighbors, and friends — to keep our schools strong so our community remains strong. I will continue to work hard for you throughout this year,” Derenak Kaufax wrote. “As I complete this chapter, I am filled with both humility and pride. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and for this opportunity to serve.”

Her statement didn’t directly address why she made this decision. FFXnow has reached out to Derenak Kaufax but hasn’t heard back, as of publication time.

In the statement, Derenak Kaufax listed a number of accomplishments during her 12-year tenure including implementing later school start times, instituting the school system’s first strategic plan, and establishing an independent Office of the Auditor General.

She’s also been vice-chair now three times and school board chair once, back in 2014.

This announcement now makes it four school board seats that will be open during this election cycle. Last month, Dranesville District school board member Elaine Tholen officially announced she won’t be seeking re-election.

Laura Jane Cohen, who represents Springfield on the school board, also isn’t running because she’s looking to be voted in the Virginia House of Delegates. Neither is Sully District representative Stella Pekarsky, who’s campaigning in the Virginia State Senate’s redrawn 36th District.

Two school board members have said they’ll seek another term. Karl Frisch confirmed earlier this month that he’ll run again to represent the Providence District, and he already has a challenger. Conservative activist Jeff Hoffman has been a vocal critic of the school board, particularly over its policies supporting transgender students.

Hunter Mill District Representative Melanie Meren told FFXnow in December she is running again as well.

The six other school board members have not made an announcement yet if they plan on running in this year’s general election on Nov. 7.

Derenak Kaufax’s full statement is below:

After having the honor and privilege of representing and serving the students, families, teachers, and staff of the Franconia District over the past 12 years, I am announcing today that I will not be seeking re-election to the Fairfax County School Board in November.

Twelve years ago, I ran for this position after being asked by community leaders to serve. I did not have an agenda other than to give back to the community. My daughter was in elementary school and my son was in high school, and the Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) system had provided amazing opportunities for their intellectual and personal growth. But through my volunteer and advisory work, I saw disparities between schools throughout the County. I wanted to ensure the equity of program offerings and experiences for every child in FCPS.

This love of community was instilled in me by my parents — first- and second- generation immigrants who understood that an excellent education is the key to future success. I was the first in my family to go to college. I graduated with a degree in political science and business from Penn State University. The words and ideals of my parents still guide me today: “Appreciate what you have, help those in need, and always work to make things better.”

I am proud of the School Board’s accomplishments during my tenure, including:

  • implementing later high school start times and instituting full day Mondays;
  • restoring honors classes;
  • developing the FCPS Portrait of a Graduate;
  • constructing FCPS’ first strategic plan;
  • providing healthier food for our students and implementing a summer meals program;
  • reforming our discipline system;
  • establishing an independent Office of the Auditor General;
  • instituting curriculum enhancements for ESOL students;
  • adding over 35 pre-K classrooms within our schools;
  • protecting our LGBTQIA+ students and staff through our non-discrimination policy;
  • initiating funding for Advanced Academic Resources Teachers in every elementary school;
  • updating our health and wellness policy to include middle school recess;
  • renaming a Franconia District high school after civil rights activist Rep. John R. Lewis;
  • advocating for fully funded budgets for our teachers and staff; and
  • hiring and managing the work of five Superintendents.

I have been selected four times by my peers to serve as Board Chair or Vice Chair. I have also served as Chair of the Budget Committee (twice), Audit Chair, Chair of the Public Engagement Committee (twice), Co-Chair of the County’s School Successful Children and Youth Policy Team (SCYPT), National Legislative Liaison, and State Legislative Liaison.

I have strived to model policy making that is honest, collaborative, and respectful to our community. With my colleagues, I have navigated a devastating pandemic that politicized public education in ways I never could have imagined.

Through it all I have watched resilient and devoted educators and staff support our students in the most caring ways. I am so very thankful to each and every one of our FCPS employees for their compassionate service and dedication to our families!

I have never taken lightly my responsibility to you — my constituents, neighbors, and friends — to keep our schools strong so our community remains strong. I will continue to work hard for you throughout this year. As I complete this chapter, I am filled with both humility and pride. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and for this opportunity to serve.

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