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At-Large Candidate Kicked Off Council of PTAs Board

FCCPTA says Sheree Brown-Kaplan used her position to bolster her campaign

A school board candidate has been removed from the board of Fairfax County Council of PTAs due to alleged improper use of her position to further her campaign.

At-large school board candidate was removed from the Fairfax County Council of PTAs executive board last month, after recipients of an email reportedly complained, the president confirmed Thursday morning.

The council’s president, Ramona Morrow, said in an email Brown-Kaplan sent a letter soliciting support for her campaign to emails she obtained either through her position as the special education chair or through the “specialedfairfax” Yahoo! Group listserv, of which she is the moderator.

Brown-Kaplan, who said she has been involved with the special education committee since about 2005, maintained that she did nothing wrong.

“I wrote people I had contact with over the years and the FCCPTA does not ‘own’ every contact I made,” said Brown-Kaplan in an email.

Morrow said Virginia PTA and the council’s bylaws prevent the organization or any members acting in their official capacity from participating in a political campaign, “including the publishing or distributing of statements.”

The bylaws would apply to those members acting in favor or against a candidate for any political office.  The regulations also apply to residents who hold offices in local school PTA chapters.

Morrow also said IRS 501(3)c rules forbid non-profit organizations such as theirs from involving themselves in political campaigns.  

“A fine or loss of our 501(3)c status would be devastating to our organization,” she said.

After the council received five written complaints about Brown-Kaplan’s actions, the FCCPTA Board held an emergency meeting on June 30th to vote on a motion to remove her from  the board.

Morrow said the board asked Brown-Kaplan if she wanted to resign, but she said no. She was allowed to make a statement in her defense. 

"We didn't do this very lightly. Believe me, I do not think Sheree thought she was doing anything wrong," said Morrow in an interview.

Brown-Kaplan said the email was sent from a personal email account, not her special education committee email. She argued she was not acting in her  “official capacity” as special education chair.

“A lot of people come to me for advice. If you come to me for advice would I be giving you FCCPTA advice?” Brown-Kaplan asked.  “If that advice turned out to be wrong who would be responsible?”

The email Brown-Kaplan sent, which was dated June 7, 2011, Morrow said had the following line:

"You’ve known me a long time through our work together on special education issues in my role as chair of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs (FCCPTA) Special Education Committee."

Morrow said members of the FCCPTA, Virginia PTA, and National PTA felt the sentence whether intentionally or not showed Brown-Kaplan was using her role as special education chair to promote her campaign. 

Morrow said during their discussion some argued that the initial complaints “could be politically motivated.” 

Brown-Kaplan said she doesn’t doubt that the complaints and her subsequent removal were about politics. 

“Isn’t this interesting that it’s coming out less than a week before the endorsement process?” she asked. “It’s just too much of a coincidence.” 

But Virginia PTA president Debi Abadie said PTAs have to tread carefully when their members become involved in local politics.

“We are non-partisan. We have to consider all points of view,” said Abadie.

Abadie said she couldn’t recall another candidate who was removed from a local PTA board for getting involved in a political campaign. 

She said PTA board members who run for political office “will generally will run their campaign but remove themselves from the office.”  

Abadie said the Virginia PTA will vote tonight on a memorandum that provides guidelines for local PTAs on what members can and cannot do in regards to political campaigns.

The Fairfax County Republican Committee her candidacy on July 20th.

“In the end, the action the FCCPTA took is really not relevant to this campaign,” said Brown-Kaplan. “These tactics aren’t going to work.  Parents don’t want political tricks or dirty politics.  They want a quality education for their kids.”

Truth Teller October 16, 2011 at 08:59 PM
Sheree touts community and parent involvement while stealing the Special Ed Fairfax email list serv from the Fairfax County Council of PTAs after she was REMOVED from their board for unethical behavior. It was one of the primary means for parents of special education children to comunicate in Fairfax County. It was started and used by those parents for years until she unethically spammed parents for political contributions, while "acting" as the sole moderator of that list. She did what she was supposed to prevent others from doing as the moderator. When the parents objected, she removed them from the list and then stole the whole thing for her own personal use in a continuance of her usual pattern of vindictive behavior. She is simply a thief and a liar. Ethics- YES! Sheree- ABSOLUTELY NOT!
John Farrell October 16, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Really 3 months later and this comment has any relevance? Turns out Sheree was the subject of a smear by another parent who wanted her slot on the SB Spec Ed. committee and the FCCPTA allowed the smear to succeed. It's exactly this kind of nonsense that undermines FCCPTA's credibility as effective advocates for kids and makes them look like sycophants for Gatehouse. Shame on the FCCPTA for allowing themselves to be used this way.
Will Radle October 18, 2011 at 09:21 PM
As an Independent candidate for Fairfax County Chairman, I hope to help bring our community together in honoring our highest values and investing in our highest priorities. Thank you for your consideration. A. Will Radle, Jr. (I) Independent Candidate for Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors FairfaxAdvocates@gmail.com YouTube.com/WillRadle1 571-358-9711
Michele Menapace October 19, 2011 at 03:13 AM
I am the former recording secretary and president of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs. I have conducted a search of the minutes I took and those issued during my complete tenure on the FCCPTA board, which goes back nearly a decade. I cannot find and do not recall any reference to a vote by the FCCPTA Board approving the formation or authorizing the use of SpecialEdFairfax as an official FCCPTA effort. There is nothing about how it would be administered. No records show the Board asking for details about how the list serve was run, including limitations or restrictions. The Board regularly applauded the efforts made by the FCCPTA Special Education Committee and its chairs, including Margaret Fisher and Sheree Brown-Kaplan. There was no control exerted over the work the chairs elected to pursue individually. It was all self-generated based on the level of interest by each successive chair, and the FCCPTA did not put a claim on any personal initiative of its volunteers.
Truth Teller October 21, 2011 at 03:19 PM
Ah, Michele! I would expect nothing less than spinning of lies and useless information from Sheree's campaign manager. A campaign in which ethical behavior and doing the right thing seem to be foreign concepts. The SpecialEdFairfax email list serv was developed by the two previous chairs of the FCCPTA Special Education Committee for use originally by the local Special Education PTA representatives at each school (hence the name of it) for years, and everyone viewed it as such. Until Sheree was removed from the FCCPTA board and stole the list serv as its sole moderator, it was also clearly referenced on the FCCPTA website for that purpose. So, do the ethical right thing and return the list serv to its rightful, historic owner, or continue do deny the truth in Sheree’s usual pattern of vindictive and spiteful behavior. Doing the right thing is really not that hard; Sheree should try it someday

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