What it means to be an immigrant on the Fairfax County School Board

By Ilryong Moon:

Fairfax County prides itself on its diversity.  Our students come from all over the world and speak more than 200 languages.  About a third of our county residents were born outside the U.S. In fact, Fairfax County Public Schools is a “minority majority” school district.  Yet, our government leadership does not reflect the diversity of the county.

Our students need to see faces among the district leadership that look like them.  That is one of the reasons that has motivated me to stay on the Fairfax County School Board for so long.  I have wanted to prove that even an immigrant can contribute in public service and can inspire others to step up to build our community together.

I am living proof of what an excellent public education can do for someone pursuing the American Dream.  I immigrated to the U.S. from Korea in 1974 when I was 17.  Growing up in poverty, having enough food to eat was itself a challenge for my family.  My parents decided to move here to provide a better future for their children.  That was their American Dream, too.

My parents worked hard.  What was lacking in their education and language skills, they compensated for by putting in extra hours.  My father worked long hours as a technician, and my mother held two full-time jobs—as a hotel housekeeper and as a school custodian, while also cleaning private homes on weekends.  We three children studied equally hard, and all went to college.  After repeating the 10th grade to learn English in ESL class, I was fortunate enough to enter Harvard and then William and Mary Law School.  I have been in private law practice since 1984.

As a person who benefitted so much from free public education, I decided to make my own contribution toward keeping our schools excellent in Fairfax County.  That is why I ran for the School Board the first time and won in 1995.  Since then, I have served on the School Board for 20 years, with a 4-year gap on the Planning Commission, and have been elected as the board chairman and vice chairman three times each.

I am seeking your continued support in the upcoming Fairfax County Democratic Committee endorsement vote so that I can provide my experience to the next board, where we expect a large turnover.  I want to help and work with the new board members to continue improving our schools.

Some of the areas that I want to focus on include: supporting all students and staff of diverse backgrounds; continuing to recruit and retain the best teachers; ensuring equitable allocation of resources to all our schools, as all students deserve top quality teachers and a full slate of advanced courses; implementing the expansion of technology in classrooms; improving school buildings by shortening the renovation cycle, eliminating trailers, and using more green designs and renewable energy; and keeping our students physically and mentally healthy.

My own two sons had received great educations from our schools.  All our students deserve an equally good education.

Ilryong Moon is an at-large member of the Fairfax County School Board running for re-election on Nov. 5. He also seeks the endorsement of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee at their meeting on May 21. FCDC members may vote early for endorsement on May 11, 14 or 16. See meeting and early voting details here.