Sterling resident Atoosa Reaser calls her Algonkian District School Board candidacy a natural progression of her community involvement.
A James Madison University graduate, Reaser got her teaching license before becoming a lawyer. The Virginia Supreme Court qualified her as a guardian ad litem, which is an attorney appointed to represent the best interest of children.
Reaser said her background in education and law helps her understand policy and issues facing Loudoun County Public Schools. As a parent in Loudoun, she’s served in school PTAs, as a classroom volunteer and as a substitute teacher.
In her PTA roles, Reaser said she found she was often researching school policies and explaining them to parents. But even before then, as a first-generation immigrant, Reaser said it was on her to learn the ins and outs of school and then help her parents learn.
She said she has direct and personal experience with the processes and programs available through gifted and special education, including individualized education plans, or IEPs.
“I think the combination of personal and professional experiences across many facets of public education will enable me to collaborate with the many stakeholders that the School Board serves,” Reaser said.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors appointed Reaser to serve on the Community Policy and Management Team, which administers services provided to at-risk youth and families. This past year, Reaser became involved in the Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee as secretary.
She said she was drawn to MSAAC because of their use of evidence-based research to present problems and solutions in education. She said that should she be elected to represent the Algonkian District, she’d seek out data and hear out constituent’s opinions to help inform her decisions.
“I actually think that that is a huge responsibility as a School Board member, to be able to listen to people’s ideas and to be able to represent them,” Reaser said.
Reaser listed communication, diversity in hiring, pay of mid-career teachers, mental health support, small class sizes and making sure Algonkian District schools are being properly maintained as issues of interest to her.
She envisions taking steps to better share information, like sharing School Board agendas ahead of time on social media or on email lists, to help constituents who may not know how to navigate the School Board site.
“There are people who don’t spend a lot of time online. There are people who English is their second language, and there are other barriers to be able to attain that information,” Reaser said.
On the issue of diversity hiring, Reaser said the LCPS teacher population does not reflect similar demographics to the student population. She became more informed on the issue through her role in MSAAC.
MSAAC has been calling attention to the issue since last school year, citing research that suggests all students benefit from having diverse teachers and the benefits for minority students to have role models who come from similar backgrounds.
Reaser said she’d like to see some standardized approaches to hiring that gives equal access to candidates.
“Some principals go to the same university every year and only hire from that one university,” Reaser said. “So by definition, you can’t achieve diversity that way.”
She also applauded the current board’s expansion of mental health support to middle schools.
As a board member, Reaser said she’d invite more participation on mental health issues from families, even families who don’t have kids in schools.
Reaser said she’d like to spend the next year going to new areas of the Algonkian District and reaching out people who haven’t gotten the chance to get to know her yet. She has set up a campaign Facebook and website.
The Algonkian District is currently represented by Debbie Rose. Rose has yet to announce whether she'll seek re-election.