There’s an old Woody Allen quote that says “just showing up is half the battle.” When it comes to the Fairfax County School Board, however, it appears as though Tom Wilson has been having some difficultly with this concept.
Throughout his time representing the Sully District on the school board, Wilson has had a horrible attendance record as he’s completely missed a large number of meetings. When he has bothered to show up, he often arrives late, leaves early, and abstains from votes he’s present for. In other words, it appears as though he can’t be bothered to do the work he’s required to do despite eagerly accepting his full salary.
When he was called out on his poor attendance record at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters earlier this week, Wilson claimed it was acceptable because the board received “part time pay” and “as you know if you’ve watched school board meetings, they can be quite long.” Considering many teachers are spending their own money for classroom supplies and spend countless hours outside of the traditional work day preparing lessons and grading papers, his excuse that meetings are “quite long” and he doesn’t get paid enough is simply unacceptable.
With all that being said, Wilson seems to understand his inability to show up could harm his reelection chances. Now that he has an opponent who’s a former teacher and has a lot of community support, he’s suddenly started showing up to school board meetings and actually visiting with the schools in his district. However, it hasn’t been lost on the community that he only appears to be doing this in a desperate attempt to make it seem like he’s been doing his job all along.
“I’m confused as to why so many teachers and principals say you never came to visit their schools until someone decided to run against you in this year’s election,” one person said in response to some pictures with students Wilson posted on Facebook. “Seems like you’re using the students more as a political prop for reelection rather than actually caring enough to visit the schools or attend school board meetings throughout your entire term. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Wilson also seems to be channeling Donald Trump in his response to people calling him out for politicizing students now that he has to conceal his attendance record and lack of community engagement. He responded to another social media comment on the issue by saying “there seems to be some fake news out there” about his attendance. Then, at this week’s League of Women Voters forum, Wilson claimed his opponent and folks on the school board “lack integrity” and are spreading lies about his attendance — a fact that is easily contradicted by simply examining the record.
As part of his sudden decision to engage with his constituents during the last few months, Wilson has also been trying to portray himself as a moderate who is simply trying to advocate for kids and isn’t interested in a partisan agenda. “Children don’t walk through school doors with a D or an R on their forehead,” he said at this week’s forum. But that sentiment is in direct opposition to his conduct during his time on the school board.
In addition to channeling Donald Trump while trying to dismiss his constituents’ concerns, he has also promoted an extreme social agenda that is out of touch with the Fairfax County community. He has fiercely opposed efforts to make the school system more inclusive towards the LGBT community. For instance, he voted against making sure handbooks included gender identity and sexual orientation as part of the nondiscrimination policy. He’s also mockingly suggested that he might suddenly want to become a mother despite identifying as a male in his 50’s and has taken support from extreme anti-LGBT groups like the Family Research Council.
What this all means is Wilson not only has a history of not showing up consistently, but he’s promoting an extreme social agenda instead of focusing on improving the lives of students when he does attend meetings. Since the high quality schools in Fairfax are a major reason people decide to live in the community, Wilson’s history makes it clear he’s not type of person who deserves a spot on the board. The Sully District needs a school board member who will actually show up and represent the best interests of the general public.