Andy Kohen runs for reelection to complete unfinished business


Photo courtesy of Andy Kohen

School Board Vice Chair Andy Kohen speaks at the dedication of the Elon Rhodes Early Learning Center. “There is no better investment that a community makes than investing in its children,” Kohen said.

Finishing unfinished business is why current Vice Chair Andy Kohen is running for reelection to the Harrisonburg City Public Schools School Board. Kohen was first elected to the school board in November 2014, and he decided to run for reelection to finish what he started.

“As recently as April or May, I wasn’t sure [I was going to run again]. Then I thought about what the future looks like and said, ‘There’s unfinished business that I’ve partly contributed to starting, and most of my professional life, I’ve finished business.’ I don’t want to leave business unfinished,” Kohen said.

The business Kohen is referring to includes creating a strategic plan for the future of HCPS along with getting the second high school built as soon as possible. This isn’t everything on the agenda, but continuing the successful work Kohen and the school board has accomplished as a team the past four years is a major goal of his.

“We, [the school board], learned that we have a common enterprise and that in order to accomplish our shared goals, then we have to work together,” Kohen said. “Even though we may come from slightly different places on the political spectrum, and maybe [the] ideological [spectrum], we learned and worked extremely well together. It’s a collective accomplishment.”

Kristin Loflin and Obie Hill are the other candidates running for a spot on the school board along with Kohen. However, there are three vacant spots on the school board, meaning all of the candidates are guaranteed a position. Kohen believes working with the two new members will be a smooth transition, and that they will work well together.

“I think [working together] will be fine. I know both [of the other candidates] personally, and in fact, I encouraged both of them to run for the vacant seats after I had met them,” Kohen said. “Whether or not there were going to be other candidates, we didn’t know at the time. Both of them bring special things unique to their own individual skills and personalities.”

Bringing unique skills to the table is what compelled Kohen to run for election to the school board the first time around. When he was elected on to the school board in 2014, he didn’t have any specific goals he wanted to fulfill; he just wanted to apply knowledge from his economics background and as a concerned citizen to the decisions being made.

“I didn’t have a particular agenda of things I wanted to accomplish, other than to bring whatever skills I have to the policy making agenda of the school board,” Kohen said. “I do have some skills and some experiences that other people don’t have, partly because I’ve been on the planet longer than they have and partly because I have a profession as an economist and no one else at the time had that background.”

Kohen’s knowledge as a retired professor of economics has served him well on the school board. In fact, he was the author of the proposed budget to city council this past summer. While the outcome of the budget proposal was not what the school board desired, Kohen knows where budget cuts should and should not be.

“If I had to cut, I would cut programs for the gifted. We can help them be more successful, but it’s the students who are struggling, who are in need of special services that our resources have to be marshalled for,” Kohen said. “As we think about what the society in general has done with supporting public education, I know where my values lie. [Budget cuts] shouldn’t [be] out of teacher salaries, they shouldn’t be out of professional development, [and] they shouldn’t be out of programs that serve the most needy.”

Kohen would not cut programs to serve the needy because he is a strong advocate for providing each and every student with what they require to succeed. He believes all students should obtain a high school diploma, and those who need more assistance are deservant of whatever they need.

“[What] I have been an ardent supporter of my entire life is the notion of equity across all kinds of categories of people. People, by virtue of being here and living in our community, are entitled to whatever services they need,” Kohen said.

As for the future of the school board, Kohen believes HCPS is on a good, steady path with great momentum, especially from the construction of two new facilities (Bluestone Elementary and Elon Rhodes Early Learning Center). While new facilities may be expensive, the city’s children are worth every penny, according to Kohen.

“There is no better investment that a community makes than investing in its children,” Kohen said. “The way we invest in our children is multiple ways, but education is a very important part of it. We’ve got a good path and I think we can do better, and I enjoy being part of the action.”

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