Ken Falkenstein, running for Virginia Beach School Board At-Large
1. Why are you running for office?
I have three kids in the Virginia Beach schools, and I’m very concerned about the direction of the current school board. In a recent study, our school system dropped from number 3 in the country in 2015 to number 19 in just the last year. This is because the current school board is controlled by the teachers union (VBEA), which focuses on teacher benefits over the quality of the education that we’re providing to our kids (as further discussed below). As a parent, I can’t sit back and watch this happen. I’m running to restore common sense and accountability to the school board. In addition, one of my sons has Down syndrome and autism, and I am running to bring my first-hand experience as a special needs dad and as a former President of the Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads to the school board to ensure that all kids with special needs get the full range of services to which they are legally entitled without parents being bullied out of some of those services by our schools, as is currently happening.
2. Why should people vote for you?
I’m the only dad in the race with kids in the schools and will be the only one on the school board if I win. On the current school board, only one of the eleven members is a parent with kids in our schools. Ten of the eleven members come from the school establishment, and nine of them are there because of teachers’ union support. As a result, the current school board has voted to cut days from the instructional calendar, increase class sizes, implement a confusing grading system in the elementary schools that even the teachers don’t understand, and start eliminating student accountability as a factor in grading in the middle and high schools. I’m running to reverse these destructive policies and restore balance, common sense, excellence, and accountability to the school board and our school system.
3. What’s your favorite thing about the area you want to represent?
I’m running at-large, which means I would represent everyone in Virginia Beach. I love this city as a place where our kids can grow up in a safe environment with traditionally excellent schools. The current school board is taking our schools in a direction that would lower the standards and quality of our kids’ education, and I’m committed to restoring and maintaining our schools’ excellence.
4. What is the biggest problem your area is facing, how will you fix it?
The biggest problem facing our schools is a school board that is a rubber stamp for the superintendent and his administration. The incumbents running for reelection have never in the last term – not one single time – ever voted against anything requested by the superintendent. The result is that we are now blindly implementing a new grading scheme in which teachers would not be allowed to meaningfully count homework in grades or penalize students for turning work in late, in which teachers would be discouraged or prohibited from giving zeros for work not turned in at all, in which students would be able to retake tests if they don’t like their scores, and in which students could not be penalized in their grades even for cheating. This removal of student accountability from the grading system would leave our kids utterly unprepared for the demands of the real world. I am running because the school board needs to lead and not just be a rubber stamp for a superintendent who is implementing dangerous new policies without supervision.
5. Describe Donald Trump in max 3 words?
Not Hillary Clinton
6. Describe Hillary Clinton in max 3 words?
Corrupt and dishonest
7. What do you do for a living? Why do you do it?
I am an attorney. Until about a year ago, I was an Associate City Attorney in Virginia Beach. I love the law and the justice that it brings when properly applied, and I practice law to help people find justice when they face challenging situations.
8. You’re going to be marooned on a tropical island for a week, you can only bring 1 thing – what is it?
My wife. When do we leave?
9. What do you think of Colin Kaepernick?
He’s a great quarterback and great fun to watch play. He should leave his politics at home and let us enjoy him applying his talents on the field.
10. Would you vote to fund light rail expansion in your area?
Light rail is not a school board issue. That said, if it is implemented, I would monitor it closely to ensure that funds that are vital to our schools are not diverted to this project.
11. Will you respect the outcome of the election?
Assuming the election is run properly without any technological or other problems, as I expect it will be, I absolutely will respect the outcome.
12. Favorite TV Show?
My current favorite TV show is Designated Survivor.