During a recent forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Tom Wilson claimed his fellow school board members “lacked integrity” and that his opponent was lying about his record. This was part of an overall effort to portray himself as someone who wants to put aside partisanship while everyone else is promoting a “radical agenda.” One of the specific things Wilson claimed his opponent lied about was the number of trailers in the local schools.
It’s common knowledge that many Fairfax County schools currently have student populations that are larger than the physical buildings were designed to hold. As a result, there are often trailers that need to be used for classrooms. I graduated from FCPS in 2002 and trailers have been an issue in the schools since I was a student. I was even a student at Centreville High School when they first put in the modulars there (trailers that hold several classrooms in the same structure). In other words, everyone knows it’s an issue and there’s been plenty of time to potentially come up with solutions.
Despite promises from conservatives that they’re better suited to reduce the number of trailers and their insistence that it actually could prove to be a safety issue during school shootings, the number of trailers in the Sully District has risen during the years Tom Wilson has been on the school board. Stella Pekarsky pointed this out at the LWV forum and Wilson was quick to claim she was lying. A quick look at the actual numbers, however, prove Stella was absolutely correct.
Tom Wilson was first elected to the school board in 2015, which means he became a member in 2016. In 2015, there were 40 trailers that held 59 classrooms at the 18 schools in the Sully District. There are 48 trailers that hold 94 classrooms in 2019, which represents an increase of eight trailers and 35 classrooms during Wilson’s time on the board.
It should be noted that there isn’t just an increase at a particular school that’s resulting in the problem as Wilson’s overseen the expansion of trailers at schools all across the district — including those who didn’t previously have them. When Wilson was elected to the school board, there were seven schools in the district that had no trailers. Now there’s only one.
This is noteworthy for multiple reasons. First, it shows that Tom Wilson has done a poor job of actually reducing the number of trailers in his district despite it being common knowledge that the issue needs to be addressed. Since there’s obviously no easy solution to the problem and has been around for awhile, it requires members of the school board to invest time and energy into trying figure out how to move forward. With Wilson’s extremely poor attendance record at school board meetings, however, it appears as though he’s unwilling to invest the time need to address this or any other important issue. The increase in trailers is just one example of what’s fallen through the cracks due to his inability to simply show up to meetings he’s paid to attend.
This also helps show what type of campaign Wilson is running. He has consistently berated the school system’s staff when he actually can be bothered to show up and claims his fellow board members “lack integrity.” Plus, he called Stella a liar and tried to use the trailer numbers to back up his attacks. The public records, however, prove it’s actually Wilson who was trying to launch a misinformation campaign to make other people look bad and score a few political points.
Of course, this isn’t the first time a Republican endorsed candidate for the school board has tried to get away with lying during a community forum. Elizabeth Schultz, for instance, was caught blatantly lying during a forum in the Springfield District earlier this week. This suggests a consistent theme among the conservative candidates is to spread misinformation in a desperate attempt to win some votes. Fairfax County and its school system deserves better.