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June 21, 2019

Rachel Bongiovi campaigns for Center school board seat

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
“I am very comfortable with questioning authority,” Rachel Bongiovi says. “That comes with my job. I’ve already had to sit in meetings and advocate for my clients . . . . I’m comfortable advocating on a broader scale.”
I think her age is an asset that would bring a different perspective. Millennials are willing to disrupt things, and that can be healthy.
— Kari Rice
Rachel Bongiovi
• Age: 25

• Home: Near Warrenton

• Office sought: Center District school board seat

• Work: Qualified mental health professional, focusing on children, Chrysalis Counseling Center, Warrenton, 2018 to present.

• Experience: Legal assistant/paralegal, 2016-18.

• Education: Bachelor’s degree, psychology, Christopher Newport University, 2016; Kettle Run High School, 2012.

• Organizations: Girl Scouts.

• Family: Husband, Allen; daughter.

• Facebook page: Click here
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
The young mother in the last few weeks has launched an aggressive campaign for the Center District school board seat.

Warrenton Lakes resident Rachel Bongiovi has gone door-to-door to talk with voters, set up a booth at 1st Friday in Old Town Warrenton and met with administrators in the central office to learn more about some of the school system’s programs.

A 2012 Kettle Run High graduate, Ms. Bongiovi, 25, would become the youngest school board member in Fauquier history if elected Nov. 5 to succeed Brian Gorg, stepping down at year’s end after two terms.

“I think it’s more of an advantage than a liability,” the candidate said of her age. “I think it’s helpful to have someone who attended our schools not too long ago.”

Kari Rice, a meeting planner who lives near Warrenton and who has three children in county schools, agrees.

“I think her age is an asset that would bring a different perspective,” said Ms. Rice, 35. “Millennials are willing to disrupt things, and that can be healthy.”

She set up a meeting with Ms. Bongiovi after learning about her work with students as a mental health professional. Ms. Rice, who has two children in high school and one in elementary school, said she agrees with the candidate’s ideas for greater emphasis on mental health in public education.

“She definitely comes across as very articulate and knowledgeable,” Ms. Rice said. “I’m excited for what I see happening in Fauquier. We came here from Loudoun County two years ago for smaller classes and the nurturing environment. I think we got that. But, I do see places where Fauquier is still behind Loudoun and Prince William.”

As an example, she mentioned formal peer support programs in Loudoun high schools, in which students can select trained mentors to talk with about challenges.

Since launching her campaign, Ms. Bongiovi said she has heard from lots of parents who express a desire for more “holistic” services for their children in county schools.

The candidate in 2016 earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Christopher Newport University. Since last year, she has worked as a “qualified mental health professional,” focusing on children, with Chrysalis Counseling Center in Warrenton.

“I work with clients who attend school in Fauquier as well as Culpeper and Orange,” she said.

Ms. Bongiovi cited the Keys Academy, a private day school licensed by the Virginia Department of Education to serve special education students in Culpeper, as an example that Fauquier should consider.

In addition to an intense focus on mental health, Ms. Bongiovi said her campaign will emphasize improved teacher pay and better use of technology in classroom.

“Fairfax has more money, but they’re giving every student a laptop,” she said. “A lot of schools rely heavily on Blackboard, but the lack of computers hinders some students.

“You need a firm understanding; when you go to college or start a job you need basic computer skills.”

At the same time, she acknowledged that technology and the school system’s “bring your own device” policy, which allows students to carry phones and tablets, complicates some things.

“There’s less face-to-face bullying and more online, which makes it difficult because you’re hiding behind a screen . . . and things happen outside of school as well.

“I think we should get parents more involved. If parents want to have a conversation with other parents, we should let them know what has happened and try to facilitate better communication.”

On the question of what to do about the county seat’s two aging middle schools, Ms. Bongiovi said that whatever decision gets made, “I think we should keep the name, W.C. Taylor, and keep his legacy going.”

Of the school board’s role, she said, “I am very comfortable with questioning authority. That comes with my job. I’ve already had to sit in meetings and advocate for my clients . . . . I’m comfortable advocating on a broader scale.”

The candidate said she would push for better communication and thinks the school board should live stream its meetings, as the board of supervisors and Warrenton Town Council do.

If elected, she would conduct town hall meetings and spend as much time as possible talking with parents.

“I’m huge on community,” she added. “I’m very excited about talking with people.”

She and her husband, also a Kettle Run graduate, made a very deliberate decision to return to their home county to live and raise their family.

Home-schooled for a while, she attended P.B. Smith Elementary and Warrenton Middle before Kettle Run, where “I took a psychology class and fell in love with studying how people think.”

She has met for coffee with Susan Pauling, who also recently announced her candidacy for the Center District school board seat. Both women share a passion for mental health issues. They also have pledged to avoid negative campaigning, Ms. Bongiovi said.

Contact Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.

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Michael901 · June 27, 2019 at 7:57 am
hi there! It’s great site. so many topics and opinions. I used to read, basically washingtonpost but now your site one of my favorites. Thank you!
Jim Griffin · June 21, 2019 at 2:10 pm
Is yours an independent campaign? Have other candidates pledged support or have you offered a pledge of support to any other candidate?

BTW, not first time I've asked this of a candidate, so I will explain: When I see a candidate, I want to know if they are an independent actor joining the board or are they doing so as part of a movement or bloc to assert swing control over the board away from its current direction.

I am hearing there is lots more information on Facebook about the school board election, but that's not public. I refuse to use Facebook but am curious about what should be public dialogue.

Candidates, please don't make private Facebook your public campaign medium.
Truepat · June 21, 2019 at 12:29 pm
Having a strong young person who attended the Fauquier schools is a benefit and a much needed new perspective on our system!!!
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