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March 12, 2019

Shelly Norden seeks Scott District school board seat

Photo/Cassandra Brown
Shelly Norden has taught 17 years in Fauquier, first at Liberty before moving to Kettle Run when it opened in 2008.
Shelly is not afraid to ask the hard-hitting questions. She has no ulterior motives, nothing to gain and everything to lose.
— Taylor Holmes
Shelly Lynn Norden
• Age: 45

• Home:
Near Broad Run

• Office sought: Scott District school board seat.

• Work: Teacher, English, film, journalism and yearbook, Kettle Run High School, 2008 to present.

• Experience: Teacher, English and journalism, Liberty High School, 2002-08; teacher, English, photojournalism and TV production, West Port High School, Ocala, Fla., 2000-02; executive producer and assignment editor, WPEC/WFLX-TV, West Palm Beach, Fla., 1996-2000.

• Education: Bachelor’s degree, communication and media studies, George Mason University, 1995; Fauquier High School, 1991.

• Organizations: Verdun Adventure Bound board, 2014-18; Virginia High School League publications advisory committee, 2013-17; KRHS girls tennis coach, 2016-17; Fauquier County Republican Committee.

• Family: Husband, Chris; stepdaughter, Kelly; brother, Scott Bzdak; parents, Pete and Mary Bzdak.

• Hobbies: Tennis, writing and watching movies.

• Facebook: Click here
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
For the first time ever, a Fauquier teacher seeks election to the school board.

Shelly Norden, who lives near Broad Run and teaches at Kettle Run High School, has entered the race for Scott District’s seat in the November election.

Ms. Norden, 45, faces incumbent Suzanne Sloane and Michael Hammond, who announced his candidacy in November.

Focusing on fiscal responsibility and teacher retention, Ms. Norden entered the race last month.

“Listening to the kids and the experiences they are having with the number of long-term subs (substitutes) we have or the teachers who are not fully certified” inspired her to run, she said. “I started looking into where we are spending our money and thought we could do better in that area, too. Education is about teaching; that happens in the classroom. It seems to be the last place we look to put our money.”

Ms. Norden added, “I’m big in fiscal responsibility and would like to see more transparency. That’s what I was hoping to provide when I started Citizen Cents (a website) — a look at where money was going and how much certain people were making and the raises that were given . . . .”

Using information obtained from the school system through public records requests, the online database lists employees’ salaries by location and position.

After sharing information on social media about high teacher turnover and hearing from students and parents about their experiences, Ms. Norden decided that she would run for the seat, which Ms. Sloane won in 2015.

“I don’t feel good about complaining about it if I’m not going to stand up and try to fix it,” Ms. Norden said.

“There was one parent who shared with me her daughter was in Spanish I and they later found out that that teacher didn’t really know Spanish,” she said.

Jessica Murphy, a Scott District resident and AP psychology and sociology teacher at KRHS, supports Ms. Norden.

“She works hard, and she’s there after hours almost every single day,” Ms. Murphy said. “She is incredibly tenacious and a very good listener who tries to find all the information about a topic. Those qualities make me believe she will be able to listen, investigate issues and do her best to represent the students, teachers and best interests of the community.”

“I think she has the ability to bridge the gap of what it’s like to work in the physical schools and what people perceive teaching to be,” Ms. Murphy added. “She can shed some light on teachers’ wants and needs.”

A Fauquier resident since age 2, Ms. Norden attended Central and Bradley elementary schools and Warrenton Junior High before graduating from Fauquier High in 1991.

For the last 17 years, she has taught English, journalism, yearbook and film courses at Liberty and Kettle Run. She received Kettle Run’s “Teacher of the Year” award in 2016.

If elected, however, Ms. Norden could not teach in Fauquier County Public Schools, according to state law. Fauquier started electing school board members in 1995. Before that, the board of supervisors appointed them.

She said her experience as a teacher, “knowing how a school runs, the ins and outs of each day,” has helped prepare her for the board’s work.

“Everyone runs for the school board with good intentions, but until you have truly worked in a school and walked in the shoes of people who are doing this job daily, you really don’t know,” she said.

Teacher retention and salary compression represent major issues for Ms. Norden.

She thinks teachers deserve higher pay and that the school board has dropped the ball.

“They’ve all been in office for four years, and this year is the first year that something is truly, hopefully, happening to address the compression issue,” Ms. Norden said. “We’ve watched so many teachers leave this county to go to surrounding counties.

“I think that if we can’t afford to have content certified teachers in every classroom, then we can’t afford to have some of those high-paying positions at the top that other counties can have because they have the budget to support them.”

She said school board members should be more visible in schools and talk to the employees in their environment.

“I think they should be required at a minimum to sub three days out of the year and maybe to sub in schools (in their district) . . . and follow a teacher’s schedule, go to lunch, talk to them and see what’s happening,” Ms. Norden said.

On the debate of what to do about Center District’s two aging middle schools, Ms. Norden favors expanding and renovating Taylor or Warrenton, along with moving Southeastern Alternative School into the other building.

One of Ms. Norden’s former KRHS journalism students, Taylor Holmes, lives in the Scott District and plans to vote in the upcoming election.

“Shelly is not afraid to ask the hard-hitting questions,” Ms. Holmes said. “She has no ulterior motives, nothing to gain and everything to lose. She is passionate and determined to get stuff done.

“I think teachers have incredibly challenging jobs and are routinely disregarded when it comes to fair and equal compensation,” she added. “Shelly is willing and able to tackle not only this problem, but the issue of teachers who are not content-certified. She has the interests of the students and teachers in mind first and foremost . . . ”

All five school board members’ four-year terms will expire Dec. 31. Candidates for the Nov. 5 election must file paperwork by June 11. Getting on the ballot requires 125 signatures from registered voters in their respective districts. 

Elected every four years, the board sets policy for a system of 20 schools, with an annual budget of $140 million, about 11,100 students and 1,800 employees. It approves the budget but, under Virginia law, has no taxing authority, which resides with the county board of supervisors.

Contact Cassandra Brown at or 540-878-6007.
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BonnyMoore · March 15, 2019 at 10:05 pm
Ms. Norden has stood up and started a campaign for school board member, a campaign for change. That is the exact opposite of being on the "couch". I find it courageous to open one's self to public criticism with the only reward being the potential to make a difference. She has done extensive research and I would invite you to look at her campaign page before criticizing her. I'm not sure why you find the need to make condescending remarks as no one here is trying to "sell magic wands". You certainly have a right to support the candidate you prefer and Ms. Norden's supporters have the right to feel differently. If you find the current board's actions successful, so be it. Others have a right to see the picture differently and vote accordingly this fall.
MTG · March 15, 2019 at 1:17 pm
Again, complaining about something is completely different than actual getting off the couch and doing something about it... and from my perspective, as someone who has been active in the county, I have never seen any proposals/advice/research/solutions or write ups in the paper regarding any of her positions.

Again, this budget package was 3 years in the making. Not sure what type of magic wand your trying to sell, but I can tell you that this package does not happen overnight, nor does it happen by sitting in the teachers lounge grumbling about "what other counties do and dont do"!!!
BonnyMoore · March 15, 2019 at 12:55 pm
MTG-I appreciate your recommendation, but I was already aware of the meeting. My understanding is that the market comparison will be based on Culpeper, Rappahannock, Warren, Spotsylvania, and Prince William counties. At least 3 of these counties have a lower cost of living than Fauquier. "Historic" is an interesting choice of words given the issues I mentioned in my previous post. As for Ms. Norden: she's been teaching students, previously a teacher of the year recipient; she's been advocating for transparency in the budget/spending and qualified teachers in the classroom. Fiscal responsibility to the taxpayer can only be achieved through transparency and discussion with all parties involved. I commend Shelly Norden for identifying problems, researching them, and offering solutions. Where has the school board been while teachers flee each year to neighboring counties to get a fair salary? Or while uncertified teachers are in the classroom? Is that collaboration and transparency? Is that what EXPERIENCE gets the taxpayers and the children being educated?
MTG · March 15, 2019 at 10:09 am
It sounds like you should check out last nights BOS/SB budget meeting outcome. Because of Suzanne's experience they have worked out a plan for funding pay raises and bringing teachers to 92-100% of market comparison salaries ALL WHILE NOT RAISEING TAXES!!! It is the definition of collaborative work between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board. All while maintaining fiscal responsibility to the taxpayer. Truly historic. Things like this dont happen because of accidents or just speaking about all of your good intentions. It happens through hardwork, commitment to the community, but most of all EXPERIENCE in that understanding all of the issues at play!! While things may move more slowly than one would like, Suzanna and the Board has shown amazing persistence. BOS signs the budget next week. Barring them changing their mind, again, this is a truly historic accomplishment. But again I have to ask, where was Ms. Norden during all of this work? All of these meetings are open to the public and I know from experience that both of these boards appreciate any input.
BonnyMoore · March 15, 2019 at 7:21 am
MTG-Ms. Sloane certainly has a lot of experience and it is commendable that she is so active in her community. However, that experience has not accomplished teacher retention in the last 3+ years. It has not accomplished a content certified teacher in every classroom. The list goes on. Elected officials need performance reviews as well and that's what voting is for.

nonewtaxes-Teachers don't set school year schedules. And they get 3 personal days during the school year. Most professions offer a minimum of 4 to 5 weeks of vacation and many offer 8 weeks or more of vacation. Teachers don't have the luxury of picking their time off. Teachers get out late May/early June in Fauquier and go back in August, getting at most 8 weeks off from school. Even accounting for this "time off", they are still underpaid for the qualifications their jobs require (hence the problem of getting content certified teachers in every classroom). They are professionals and it's time they were treated as such.

I'm not a teacher and I don't have children, but I understand the importance of a good education. I also understand the importance of fiscal responsibility which Ms. Norden advocates for as well. I'm thankful for the teachers I had growing up in Fauquier. I hope Fauquier County elects a school board member who sees the problems and is willing to address them.
MTG · March 14, 2019 at 10:21 am
I read this article and it really sounds more like an endorsement rather than an objective view of a candidate. This candidate states that she is concerned about the fiscal issues in the county. Well, her opponent in this race is a school principal (also a former teacher) and specifically handles budget issues on a day to day basis. While I respect teachers, being an English teacher does not qualify someone to be able to understand the fiscal needs of the school system in this county. Aside from Ms. Norden concerned with raising her own pay, what exact experience does she have with teacher salaries and teacher retention?
Suzanne Sloane has been actively attending board of supervisors meetings, school board meetings, is a boardmember of the Boy and Girls Club along with various other local county events for over 6 years. Personally, I have never seen this candidate at any of these events, other than last months Republican Committee meeting where she was looking for signatures to get her name on the ballot. It's my opinion that we need leaders that are actively involved in the community they serve.
nonewtaxes · March 13, 2019 at 11:44 pm
News flash. Teachers arent paid for those months?? Well if them months be June July and August why should they get paid? You must be a proponent of free income. As long as you never have to explain where free comes from youre ok.

I see some teachers making $75,000+/year and thats a partial year.

If teachers are evaluated on their performance why do they all get the same % raise? Are all teachers equal?

If you think teaching is so bad why don't you leave your job?

Do you think most people think they get paid enough? I'd bet its more likely than not that most people think they are underpaid. THe solution to that problem is to go out and get another job and prove it. IF you dont think you get paid enough as a teacher go out and get another job. Be prepared to work through the summer. Be prepared to get really evaluated. Be prepared to get replaced by someone in India or a machine.

In the recent report a small amount of teachers quit due to pay. Another small amount quit due to retirement. You must think those teachers that worked until retirement are stupid. Why would they endure such a financially unrewarding career when they just need to go to the next county over and real big dollars?
fundourschools · March 13, 2019 at 2:47 pm
News flash nonenewtaxes, many teachers do work year round so that they can afford to live in this area and those that don't aren't paid for those months. Teachers are also evaluated on their performance and have to have yearly observations and evaluations from their principals. But yeah we should totally have to work another job so we can see how "good we have it". If teaching is so much better why don't you leave your job and join Fauquier County Public Schools? I hear they are hiring!
nonewtaxes · March 13, 2019 at 12:17 am
In the old days when the house was too cold in the winter we were told to go outside for a few minutes and them come back in. All of a sudden the house was nice and toasty.

maybe teachers should work a job where they have to worl year round and then at the end of the year get evaluated on their past performance and present a pplan for their future performance. a couple years of that and they'll see all of the manifold rewards of public teaching
brandonj · March 12, 2019 at 12:48 pm
I appreciate her approach to fiscal transparency. It is sorely needed. The database is eye opener. I can imagine that some staff might harbor resentment toward some teachers making tens of thousands more just because they are grandfathered in an old payscale.

People want to spend money on education, but they don't trust the government to do what's necessarily best with it. Local, state, and federal government have dumped more and more money into education with diminishing returns, so perhaps many "no new taxes" conservatives are skeptical of continuing to throw good money after bad. Since teachers have an important role to play in the development of children, they should be adequately compensated. Some of that compensation can come from tax payers, but a lot of it could probably come from internal redundancy and waste. Someone in the private sector needs to audit the schools! Here's one example, I bet thjey could lower the thermostat 2 degrees F in the winter and raise it 2 degrees in the summer and save tens of thousands across the district. Every little bit counts and it's not much to ask a parent's child to wear appropriate clothing.
Savefauquiercounty2019 · March 12, 2019 at 12:01 pm
We wish you good luck. Teachers are leaders and managers and are sorely needed as community leads. The onboarding and offboarding of all county employees can make or break recruitment and retention efforts. Every county leader needs to substitute for a week. They need to see firsthand from the busride, to the entrance to the departues. This will help show wherd resources and supports are needed. Again, good luck.
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