Gill, Castillo, Reitinger Elected in Rare Contested School Board Race

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
November 3, 2015

Newcomers Erin Gill and Phil Reitinger won seats on the Falls Church City School Board Tuesday, joining Board Chairman Justin Castillo, who won re-election, in the first contested School Board race in many years.

Ms. Gill was the top vote recipient, gaining 1,945 votes — far and away the highest total — while Mr. Castillo showed strong staying power, finishing 2nd despite a number of issues at the schools recently that could have tripped him up. He finished with 1,393. Mr. Reitinger, also a newcomer, finished in a strong third with 1,338. Incumbent Kieran Sharpe finished in what had to be a disappointing 6th place.

Alison Kutchma, who has been a thorn in the board’s side for some time with her advocacy on special education, finished a strong 4th with 1,211. Her tag line, “Because it’s our money” may have resonated with some residents concerned about the high cost of the schools and some of the schools’ missteps over the past year, such as the Mt. Daniel referendum, which has yet to proceed, despite money having been borrowed, because of a failure to secure the necessary permits from Fairfax County.

Becky Smerdon, who made news by joining three other City residents in a lawsuit against the board for which she was running, finished 7th. Mark Kaye was 5th and Jacob Radcliff 8th.

The unusually fierce competition was welcome from the standpoint of giving voters clear choices. But the race became a little too fierce at times, with one resident approaching Mr. Castillo last month and telling him he’d be “better off dead.” The unusual combination of Ms. Smerdon’s candidacy for the board combined with her suit against it added to the bad blood. Ms. Smerdon also has asked the board to discipline Superintendent Toni Jones.

In the end, candidates arguably representing more of an establishment perspective won, while the most outspoken candidates for change lost. But the two newcomers will bring their own perspectives and a fresh eye, so there may still be a different approach from the school board going forward.

November 4, 2015 


Feel free to leave a comment. Please increase the credibility of your post by including your FULL NAME and CITY. All comments are subject to editing for courtesy and content.