ASHBURN, Va. (7News) — Sparks are flying in the race for Loudoun County School Board.
In a recent 7News interview, Democratic candidate Nick Gothard slammed incumbent school board member Andrew Hoyler for voting to remove a book from LCPS school libraries.
“This is someone who's been removing books from the library,” Gothard told 7News.
READ MORE | Loudoun school board candidate Nick Gothard is open to new leadership in school district
This week, Hoyler responded to Gothard’s criticism of banning books from schools.
“There's only been one book that I voted to remove and that was actually in a bipartisan vote,” said Hoyler. “Mr. Serotkin and Mr. Beatty also voted to remove that same book after Superintendent Zeigler recommended it for removal. And it's kind of funny because, on one side, I have Tiffany [Polifko] saying I'm keeping all these sexualized books in our school. And then I have Nick [Gothard] saying I'm a book banner. And so it's interesting being the moderate incumbent getting hit from both sides on the same issue.”
“In regards to the one book that we voted to remove, I went into it thinking never in a million years would I support removing a book from our schools,” said Hoyler. “And then I read it and there are pictures of strap-on d***** that are being used by teenagers that I thought 'wow.' And I felt that it detracted from the book. It wasn't the most appropriate thing to have in our schools. I've been adamant that for the overwhelming majority of books I support keeping them in the library. I support the appeal process that we have in place right now.”
When asked who he would like to see lead the Loudoun County School Board as Chairman, Gothard mentioned school board member Ian Serotkin.
MORE | Loudoun Co school board's 'sensitive and controversial' topics policy doesn't define terms
“I think Ian Serotkin has really demonstrated his leadership skills when it comes to being vice chair, balancing sort of the mortar of the school board with the policy, and moving forward and getting real results,” said Gothard. “Ultimately, it's the decision of school board members about whether they would like to be chair or not. That's entirely his decision if he'd like to be, but I think that would be sort of the role model of what I'm looking for in a chair and someone who can lead us forward.”
“I think that's an interesting perspective from Nick being that he's labeled me as someone who doesn't hold the values that our community wants in regards to removing a certain book,” Hoyler responded. “But then says that Ian is a role model for him and holds the values that he likes to see. Well, Ian voted to remove the same book. So, it sounds like maybe Nick is focused more on furthering the party and focusing more on someone who has the same party background that he has. Nick was the executive director of Loudoun Democrats during a time where school board members were brought in for closed sessions for disciplining for not voting a certain way. And so I'm sure Nick would love to see a school board leadership made up of two Democrats, but for me, if they're a good person, they treat me with respect. I don't care if you're a Democrat, I don't care if you're a Republican. I don't care if you're a Libertarian or Green Party, whatever. If you're the best person for a chair or vice chair position, you're going to get my support.”
Gothard is also taking aim at other votes Hoyler has taken.
“This is someone who voted against teacher pay raises and school infrastructure upgrades,” Gothard told 7News. “We need someone who's going to stand up in a meaningful way. And I think that when voters do go and vote on Nov. 8, or by mail or early, they're going to choose someone who is representative of that vision of Loudoun County that we chose in 2019.”
“These last two bullet points are interesting because the budget that we voted for - the budget reconciliation that we voted for back in June included teacher pay raises,” said Hoyler. “There are a lot of infrastructure upgrades that I have supported. I don't know quite what he's talking about there, with the exception of the first time we adopted the budget or tried to adopt the budget, I did vote against that because I recognized that we still had work to do. The Board of Supervisors had made it clear it was unlikely for us to get a fully funded budget. And so I felt the budget that we adopted back in February, it didn't meet the realistic nature of the money that we are expected to get. And that's exactly what happened. We needed to reconcile millions and millions of dollars, and so that wasn't me saying I didn't support teacher raises. That was me saying, hey, I know we're going to have to do this again in a couple of months. Let's try to knock things out of the way this first time around.”
Meanwhile, the Republican candidate in the Broad Run District is running as the “only parent” in the race and is bringing attention to Gothard’s age. Gothard is 22 years old.
“I am a mother,” said Tiffany Polifko. “I'm a parent. I'm the only parent who is running for school board in the Broad Run district and I truly have skin in the game because, as I said, my children are students in Loudoun County Public Schools. I myself am a product of public education. I was educated in Fairfax County, from kindergarten through 12th grade, and I believe in public education. So not only am I my parent, but I also have former special education teaching experience. I worked in Fairfax County. I worked in Fauquier County. I was an autism teacher for grades three to five in Fauquier County and I understand the school system.”
RELATED | Loudoun Co. School Board candidate Tiffany Polifko blasts LCPS' curriculum, superintendent
“We have seen time again why it's important to have someone who shares our values and will fight for every student and every teacher and every family. And the importance of that, and the lack of articulation by our current representative really compelled me to look for a meaningful way to articulate on this progress that we wanted,” Gothard said. “And I knew that for our families that I've worked with in so many different sectors, and for our students who you know, some of them I was in school with or you know, mentored in different capacities, that the most meaningful way that I could show that I really cared about public education and the future of our community was to step up and be the change in its most iterative forum in the area of public education.”
Hoyler, Gothard and Polifko are running to represent the Broad Run District on the Loudoun County School Board.
SEE ALSO | Loudoun Co. School Board member Andrew Hoyler pledges to continue to be a 'bridge builder'
Meanwhile, there is a school board race in Leesburg where voters can choose from Lauren Shernoff, Erika Ogedegbe, and Michael Rivera.