(September 11, 2019) Catherine Read interviews Laura Jane Cohen, candidate for the Fairfax County School Board in the Springfield district. Cohen is a former FCPS teacher, parent of two FCPS students, and former PTA president.
This November Virginians will head to the voting booth to elect almost all of our local officials across the commonwealth, including all 140 seats in the General Assembly, the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff, Commonwealth’s Attorneys, Soil and Water Conservation Board and School Board. Cohen has decided to challenge an eight-year incumbent because she believes that her opponent is out of step and not engaged with the community that they represent.
As a former FCPS preschool teacher and long-term substitute, Cohen has the deep understanding of what teachers need to succeed in the classroom. As a parent of both middle and high school students, she can also relate to the needs of parents as well. By being able to see things through multiple lenses, she aims to deliver results for all of her constituents.
Cohen first got involved in advocacy work after the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting. Her local school, Cherry Run Elementary, was designed as an open-concept school. None of the classrooms had doors. After what she witnessed she could not fathom sending her children to school in classrooms that could not be secured.
She spoke with the Principal to see about getting doors installed to help protect students. His initial response was that he was not able to do this because the school was on the list for Capital Improvements, so they would just have to wait their turn.
In Cohen’s eyes, this was not an acceptable answer. She then brought together various parent groups to help advocate for updating the school. At the end of the day they were able to accomplish their goal. This helped fuel Cohen’s desire to improve the schools for all students.
Cohen truly wants the school system to work for all students. After her daughter was diagnosed with a learning disability, she worked hard to navigate the system to ensure that her daughter had access to the resources that she needed to thrive in the classroom.
What she learned through this process was that, although the resources are there, it takes a lot of effort on the part of parents to ensure that the school delivers the needed services. One of her goals is to make that process easier to navigate and implement for all students in need, not only for the ones who have parents who are able to make it happen. She also wants to make it easier for teachers to be advocates for their students.
Lastly, Cohen draws a distinct comparison between herself and her opponent, Elizabeth Schultz. After the Parkland massacre, Schultz called for arming teachers, instead of trying to figure out how to prevent future tragedies. Additionally, she did not want to include LGBTQ staff and students when updating the FCPS non-discrimination policies. Cohen wants the school system to be open, fair and welcoming to all students. To learn more about Cohen’s campaign you can visit her website.