Q&A with Fairfax County School Board candidate Harold Sims Jr.
This is the second Q&A that On the MoVe has published with local candidates for Mount Vernon District representative to the Fairfax County School Board.
Harold Sims Jr. is a Democratic candidate for Mount Vernon District representative on the Fairfax County School Board. Sims describes himself as bi-vocational — an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and a certified law enforcement officer. Over the past two decades, he has devoted his life to service in the Commonwealth of Virginia as a law enforcement professional and is currently employed by the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office. As a division first sergeant, Sims is responsible for managing the security of the judicial branch of government, and the professional development and accountability of division supervisors and deputies. As an experienced adjunct instructor at the Prince William County Public Safety Training Academy, he has experience teaching new law enforcement officers seeking professional certification in accordance with Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services regulations and training standards. Sims answered several questions about his campaign for On the MoVe.
Q. What prompted you to run for School Board?
A. I am running because I’m up to the task of protecting public education, ensuring that all voices are heard and diverse views considered. As I considered running, I remembered the tough but necessary choice my late mother made to transfer my sister and me from out of state and move to the Commonwealth of Virginia, so that we could obtain a premier education in a safe environment. I believe that my diverse experiences as a parent, public servant and clergyman will prove to be vital and impactful in service of a diverse community like Mount Vernon.
I am the dream of my late grandmother Josephine who lived to be 97 years young. She was a descendant of a people who were enslaved here on a plantation in the Commonwealth of Virginia. She taught me what it meant to be resilient — as a woman who refused to give up and fought for basic human rights, to include the right to vote and to have the right to a public education.
It is because of that resilience that I am the product of a public school education. It is also because of that resilience that while working full-time and raising a family, I was able to attend community college, transfer to earn a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice administration and management, go on to earn a master’s degree and begin my doctoral studies.
I have experience running toward challenges when others would sooner run away. This is the type of diverse experience and devotion that we need to represent the Mount Vernon District now more than ever! As a father of Fairfax County Public Schools students, I share in the need to ensure that we have a public school system that adequately prepares our next generation to enter society.
Q. Why is it so important to have a diverse candidate to represent the Mount Vernon District?
A. The Mount Vernon District is a majority minority district. It’s one thing to talk to people about their experiences or to read about it in a book. I believe that “The best experience is a lived experience.” I have lived the experiences that many Mount Vernon families are experiencing today and have overcome them. A representative of the district on the school board should understand and have the perspective of the people for which they will have the privilege to serve. Diversity, equity and inclusion are important in establishing and maintaining communities of trust. This should exist and be a reality and not a “buzz phrase” at every level of government, and particularly on the school board.
I am an African American Man who is married to a Latino American woman. We have multi-ethnic children, and I possess the diverse experience both personally and professionally in service and leadership that will serve to be beneficial as a representative on the school board.
Q. What are your connections to the Mount Vernon District?
A. I have been a citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1995, and I have resided in Fairfax County for well over a decade. I formerly resided in the Franconia District (former Lee District) where I served as a member of the PTA, was an active member of the local Democratic Committee and member of the FCDC Black Caucus as an officer. In March 2022, I moved into the Mount Vernon District and immediately transferred my membership from the Franconia Democratic Committee to the Mount Vernon Democratic Committee, where I currently serve as co-chair of community outreach and member of the social justice committee. In addition. I currently serve as an associate pastor of a church in the Mount Vernon District.
As a member of the clergy, I served the homeless community of the Mount Vernon District several years prior to moving into the district. My passion for service to all has allowed me to meet the needs of the homeless community on the Route One corridor in many ways. My wife and I would often prepare care packages and offer prayers and support in both Prince William and the Mount Vernon District of Fairfax County.
Q. What will be some of your priorities, if elected?
- Safe Schools: Combating the Opioid Epidemic, Mental Health Support for Students and Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline
- Equity & Inclusion: Celebrating Diversity & Mentorship
- Serving Teachers: Supporting Collective Bargaining, Decreasing Class Sizes and Providing Competitive Compensation Packages
- Serving Students & Families: Eliminating Lunch Debt, Expanding After School Programming, Language Instruction for ESOL Students
- Workforce Development: Preparing our non-college bound students to enter the workforce by supporting academy programs and the Workforce Innovation Skills Hub
Q. How can FCPS improve safety at local schools?
A. School safety is one of my priorities. FCPS can improve safety in schools by first conducting a full scope assessment of current safety and security practices. A portion of the assessment should include a survey and interviews of all users (i.e., teachers, parents, students) to ensure that there is both qualitative and quantitative data available for accurately assessing the safety and security needs of FCPS. FCPS can collaborate with local law enforcement professionals and safety and security professionals to evaluate the data and make recommendations for improvements.
In addition to obtaining an assessment, I think that we need to actively listen to understand the depth of the concerns relating to school safety from all users. I have personally experienced that if schools are not safe, they are not conducive for learning. That is why I am committed to ensuring that FCPS safety is a priority.
Q. What are your thoughts on FCPS’ budget and spending?
A. I think that FCPS’ budget and spending should represent a serious commitment to supporting what we value. I’m committed to ensuring that FCPS’ budget represents the established priorities of the school board and that we have good stewardship of the financial resources with which we have been entrusted. In consideration of the One Fairfax policy framework, I would ensure that budget priorities and spending are inclusive of an equitable needs assessment.
Q. Anything else you’d like to share?
A. As a licensed and ordained itinerant elder in the AME Church, I have served as a youth pastor/director of youth ministries, and senior pastor of a congregation and ecumenical representative in community organizations. As a community leader in these capacities, I had the opportunity and privilege to serve diverse communities and walk with families from diverse backgrounds through challenges and crises. I also served as the chairman and CEO of nonprofits, responsible for their daily administration and management. This experience has been vital in developing my ability to build bridges, find common ground and have the temperament needed to have the difficult but necessary conversations in life.
As parents, my wife and I raised five children in Fairfax County. Three of our five children are now adults; one of them is a current FCPS employee, and one is on deployment in the United States Air Force. My wife and I still have two children in elementary school, and we have both served as members of the PTA and supported our children in extracurricular activities in Fairfax County. Our family has been personally impacted by the opioid epidemic as one of our children nearly lost their life after an opioid overdose left them unconscious on life support for three heartwrenching days. Combating the opioid epidemic is personal for me, as I don’t want any more of our children to die. It is also a passion of mine to ensure that we have adequate mental health services and treatment facilities to assist in recovery efforts.