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Karen's Leadership Results

In 2017, Fairfax County voters elected Fairfax County Planning Commissioner and community advocate Karen Keys-Gamarra as At Large Member of the Fairfax County School Board. Karen was reelected in 2019 for a term ending December 31, 2023.

As an elected official, Karen has been responsible to voters and families across Fairfax County. In addition to acting in a legislative and policy-making role, she handles constituent requests, solved problems for families, created new opportunities for all students, and led the fight or supported efforts to resolve challenges facing the schools.

Karen also has experience collaborating with all levels of state government: the Board of Supervisors, the General Assembly, the Virginia Department of Education, the Governor’s Office, as well as the Virginia Congressional Delegation. 

As a school board member, Karen has taken on difficult issues and responded with bold action, including: 

  • Worked 24/7 as an elected official during the pandemic and attacks on public education.

  • Developed solutions for our students who were facing food insecurity, lacked access to broadband, needed assistance with vaccinations, and were afraid to return to school. Under Karen's leadership, school buses delivered food, schools became vaccination clinics, and our staff supported communities that feared vaccinations.

  • Changed the memorandum of understanding with law enforcement to reassure our immigrant communities that all children will be safe in our schools.

  • Providing needed mental health support to students and families. 

  • Successfully advocated for the establishment of the John R. Lewis Leadership program, which focuses on leadership development, understanding of civics, and providing public service opportunities to our students.

  • As Audit Chair, expanded the duties of the Auditor General to include a study and review of the FCPS special education programs which resulted in a 3-year study that has produced recommendations that are currently being reviewed and implemented.

  • Worked to address discipline disparities, including review of data on disproportionate impact, professional development in restorative practices, and co-sponsored efforts to review our SRO program to improve support for all students.

  • Spearheaded changes to the Child Abuse Reporting Policy to recognize mandatory reporting requirements better.

  • Worked with community members and staff military ombudsman to better serve our military-connected students.

  • Advocated for a military family Advisory Committee Championing programs and initiatives to support all students' mental health and emotional well-being.

  • Increased teacher pay.

  • Proposed Board Study of Advanced Academics and Language Immersion programs.

  • Proposed Budget Amendment to fund behavioral intervention specialties.

  • Supported name changes to remove confederate names from our schools.

  • Expanded anti-bullying efforts so that our kids feel safe.

  • Passed balanced budgets with competitive salaries and reduced class sizes.

  • Secured full funding for Title I programs.

  • Supported and advocated for environmental stewardship actions and programming.

  • Launched a pilot program to achieve menstrual equity. 

Before being a candidate and elected school board member, Karen was a community advocate working with government officials and testifying before the school board on issues such as the Sleep Proposal, which changed the high school start times. Her experiences as a community organizer shaped her beliefs and actions to always listen to constituents.

As a candidate and legislator, Karen will always seek input from HD-7 constituents on issues important to our community and respond to suggestions for legislation. She will be a progressive leader that keeps Virginia moving forward.

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