Randy Zackrisson, written candidate for the Samuel Miller District of the Albemarle County School Board, said running for local office “was the last thing to do [he] never planned to do.
As retirement neared, he didn’t expect to have the energy for a campaign and race past the filing deadlines to get on the ballot. But after learning about some public rejections of school board policies regarding transgender students in Loudon County over the summer, which then diverged in discussions of critical race theory, Zackrisson decided to explore locally whether critical race theory was being taught in Albemarle County to his grandchildren.
While the Critical Race Theory – nationally referred to as CRT – is not be taught in local schools, Culture-appropriate education, which shares the same acronym, is something in the process of being implemented. Culturally Appropriate Teaching is a certification that teachers can achieve, which promotes an understanding of cultural differences in the approach to teaching and learning.
The division also launched a pilot program called Courageous Conversations About Race at Henley Middle School.
Zackrisson said he heard about the program while speaking with Superintendent Matt Hass, other administrators and outgoing school board member Graham Paige, whom he now challenges.
“They teach that our country was founded on a mistake and that we are a bad country,” Zackrisson said. “I am not a fanatic. I have no axis to rectify, I just want the children to be educated as I was educated.
Meanwhile, Zackrisson feels the students are being left behind in other ways. Amid last year’s largely virtual learning environment, he wants to advocate for more tutoring to help students who have struggled with virtual learning catch up and excel.
Another priority for Zackrisson if elected is to help parents advocate with the board and support their rights to make choices for their children. And it was approved by Citizens campaigning for responsible education, a local parent group that formed over the summer, in part in response to concerns about CRT. Some participants also contributed to the Zackrisson campaign.
“If you go to the concept that parents are the primary educators of students throughout their lives, parents should be making the educational decisions,” Zackrisson said. “Parents’ rights don’t stop when the child gets on the school bus.
Zackrisson explained that he had heard a number of parents speak of frustrations with the “Listening to Parents” school board.
One example he mentions comes from last summer during a political discussion on defining roles for teachers and staff in working with transgender or non-binary students, such as the use of pronouns, the involvement of parents and access to toilets. Many policies have been passed in localities around Virginia to be in compliance with the new state law. The Albemarle County School Board meeting allowed 40 people to register for public comment with two minutes to speak.
“We have a school board that is fair in group thinking. Nobody discusses things. They don’t listen to parents, ”he said. “I tried to fit on the school board calendar and didn’t have my two minutes to talk to them.
Overall, if elected to council, Zackrisson said his experience as an engineer and consultant can help the council get to the heart of the issues it wants to solve for the district.
“I consulted with the teams to help them focus on the critical mission,” Zackrisson said. A school board probably doesn’t look much like a business in that over time it kind of moves away from its swimming lane. They come out of what they’re good at and what their charter is. Organizations do this all the time.
In the meantime, he hopes his “back to basics” advocacy for learning and his promise to listen to parents will inspire voters to “write in Randy”.