Couteau seeks School Board seat to be ‘voice for children’

Shirley Couteau, a Lake Ridge recreation specialist, announced her candidacy Saturday for the Occoquan District seat on the Prince William County School Board.

Couteau, 45, is active in the Occoquan District Boy Scouts of America and serves as the district’s Cub Roundtable Commissioner and Cub Scout program chairperson. Couteau’s 14-year-old son is in Troop 1369.

“I’m an independent voice for our children,” Couteau said in an interview Friday.

Couteau said the school division’s focus should remain on a progressive program for children. Examples of programs Couteau said she supports include Lake Ridge Elementary School’s French immersion program and Woodbridge High School’s pre-engineering course, “Project Lead the Way.”

As a recreation specialist at Lake Ridge Parks and Recreation Association, Couteau assists people interested in signing up for local leagues, classes and clubs.

The Lake Ridge resident of 13 years served as a dispatcher with the Maryland State Police in the Easton and Rockville barracks. After 19 years of service with the police, she left in June 2001 and became more involved with Scouting.

“One of those mid-life career changes you hear so much about,” is how she refers to her decision to leave.

She served on a critical incident stress debriefing team that helped her to develop skills in emergency preparedness, safety awareness and how to handle the aftermath of emergency situations, Couteau said.

“You want to be prepared but you don’t want to be panicked,” Couteau advised.

Prince William County School officials have emergency preparedness plans that would execute “shelter-in-place,” if necessary. The plan is a precautionary measure that would require students to remain indoors until further direction from local, state and/or national officials.

Couteau has been meeting principals and parents in the Occoquan District throughout her visits to schools. Couteau has found that each school has different ideas with different goals, she said.

“I don’t come in with my own agenda,” Couteau said.

School Board incumbent Stephen Wassenberg has announced his candidacy for Occoquan District Board of County Supervisors’ seat that will be left vacant by Ruth Griggs.

Michael Zeiders, founder and president of Zeiders Enterprises Inc., and Grant Lattin, a Lake Ridge lawyer, are also running for the Occoquan District School Board seat.

School Board races are non-partisan. Each member is elected to serve a four-year term. All seats will be up for grabs in the Nov. 4 elections. The seats include chairman at-large, Gainesville, Woodbridge, Occoquan, Neabsco, Coles, Dumfries and Brentsville district seats.

The deadline to file for the School Board race is June 10. The board will begin its term Jan. 1, 2004.

Staff writer Jennifer Brennan can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 123.

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