An Albemarle County businessman and grandfather who wants to restore parental rights in the school division, among other priorities, is seeking the Samuel Miller District seat on the county School Board.
Randy Zackrisson, 71, announced his write-in campaign during a public event earlier this week on the steps of the Albemarle County Office Building-McIntire in front of dozens of supporters waving American flags. Flanked by his wife, children and grandchildren, Zackrisson said he would refocus the School Board on academic excellence for all children if elected.
Graham Paige, an Esmont native and former teacher, currently represents the district. He has served on the board since 2015. None of three incumbents up for election this year is facing challengers on the ballot.
Zackrisson’s platform includes the focus on parental rights, back-to-basics education and deliberative decision making. He didn’t say how he would accomplish those goals.
In addition to adopting policies, the School Board’s main responsibilities include hiring the superintendent and approving an annual budget.
Zackrisson didn’t answer questions from media at his event but did give an exclusive interview to Breitbart shortly after his announcement, according to the publication. His campaign manager has not responded to multiple requests over the last few days to schedule an interview.
Concerns about parental rights and the direction of the school system were publicly raised at School Board meetings starting in late May. Parents who were upset about lessons at Henley Middle School that dealt with race, gender identity and bias started to organize, forming the Citizens Advocating for Responsible Education.
The filing deadline for the nonpartisan School Board races was June 8. Zackrisson did not say why he missed the filing deadline during his announcement Wednesday. A group of concerned residents, parents and teachers asked him to run, he said.
“These parents told me that they’re feeling like their voices are consistently being ignored, and excluded from School Board decisions, especially during this period of challenging and pretty far-reaching policy changes," he said.
Zackrisson has lived in the county for 40 years and his four children all graduated from Western Albemarle High School. In his announcement, he said his children were able to build on the foundation that the county schools provided.
“It’s those same very back-to-basic educational foundations that I want for all students in Albemarle County today,” he said. “That happens to include two of my older grandsons who are currently in the system today, so I want the best for them as I want for all of our students.”
Specifically, he said children must be provided with a solid foundation of the classical education.
“And that is reading, math, science and, today, technology,” he said.
In his announcement and in public comment remarks at board meetings, Zackrission has taken issue with the board’s virtual meetings, the recently adopted policy regarding the treatment of transgender students, new public comment limits, equity policies and the ongoing effort to review schools named after people.
“You’re passing a number of very controversial policies, and there’s a lot of county citizens and parents that are quite upset,” he told the board during its Aug. 12 meeting. “I don’t know if you sense that or not. You have to almost be pretty naive if you don’t know that there’s a lot of angst out here among the citizens and in the parents.”
Zackrisson acknowledged the difficulty of a write-in campaign during his announcement, saying it is not ideal.
“However, I know the voters of the Samuel Miller District have a rich and deep tradition of selecting their own representatives with write-in votes," he said.
Sally Thomas won the district seat on the Board of Supervisors via a write-in campaign in 1993. She went on to serve for 15 years. Before the Board of Supervisors, she served on the School Board and was president of the League of Women Voters, according to Cvillepedia.
Albemarle’s registrar, Jake Washburne, said the county Electoral Board will be in charge of determining whether individual write-in votes count. He said that historically, they work to honor the intent of the vote, so the name doesn’t have to be spelled correctly to count.