Some Thoughts on the Appointment of a Temporary Brentsville District School Board Member

While there is nothing wrong with having an opinion, there is a problem with having an entitlement to rules that act only in one's own favor.

In politics, this happens much too often. One example includes the minority party's use of the filibuster in the Senate. The filibuster appears to only be terrible when the minority party benefits from it and efforts to get rid of it have been led by both parties at separate times, depending on which party controlled the Senate at the time. One can legitimately argue whether the minority party's use of the filibuster is good tactic or an abusive one, but it should not be viewed in a partisan lens.

What numerous Republicans and certain right-wing blogs have done has been reprehensible in the wake of Brentsville District School Board Member Gil Trenum's announcement that he will be going into active military duty. Frankly, their tactics and grandstanding have been disrespectful of their fellow Republican, Mr. Trenum. 

School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers was definitively correct to seek clarification from the Attorney General's office for proper steps to take in this unique circumstance, where someone needs to be temporarily appointed as Brentsville District School Board Member. While Trenum named several individuals that he would personally have liked to take his place in his absence, that did not necessarily mean the School Board was required to choose any of these individuals. 

In the meantime, right-wing blogs posted fabricated false Democratic "strategy" letters and private information of a Don Shaw, a Brentsville district resident who was interested in the temporary School Board position, but not named by Trenum. Further, numerous Republican office holders have held rallies decrying Sawyers for being partisan. 

But, wait, aren't these Republicans and right wing blogs being partisan in their own efforts to attack and smear? They appear not to be interested in a quick resolution or following the proper protocols, but, instead, to make sure another Republican is installed temporarily as Brentsville District School Board member.

It is interesting to note that nothing of this nature occurred in 2013, from Democrats, when Republican Steven Keen was appointed as Woodbridge District School Board Member until a special election could be held. Democrat Denita Ramirez was elected to this seat, but resigned at the end of 2012 to accept a job in and move to Richmond. While the argument is being made that not choosing one of Trenum's hand-picked individuals to fill his seat is akin to going against the voters of the Brentsville District who elected Trenum, did not the Republican-controlled School Board, in 2013, do the same thing in 2013 by appointing a Republican to fill out a position that a Democrat had been elected to?

Personally, I have no problem with Steven Keen or any of Gil Trenum's choices as successor. What bothers me is that numerous Republicans and right-wing blogs have turned a situation that was not supposed to be partisan into a partisan situation through lies and smear campaigns. All this has done is distract from and undermine the important work of the School Board and trivialize what should be done in the wake of Trenum's deployment. I truly believe these tactics are emblematic of fear, anger, and resentment that some have about Democrats, for the first time, controlling a governing body in Prince William County.

The response received from the Attorney General's office to Sawyers' inquiry stated, "In Prince William County, the appointing authority to fill vacancies on the school board is the remaining members of the school board.” Just like in 2013, to appoint a successor for Denita Ramirez, the School Board members should vote for whom they feel will best fill out Gil Trenum's duties while he is deployed. 

I should also note that I wish Trenum the best in his deployment and am grateful for his service.


  1. Thank you for posting rational , common sense reflections. Such as change of pace over the discourse which has transpired since January.

  2. Gil Trenum could have sought an AG opinion in cooperation with so many Republican state legislators, but he didn't. He wants someone he recommended to act in his place because he wants a Republican sitting in for him.

    Don Shaw is a veteran too. Did that stop the right wingers from their ruthless attacks on him and Ryan Sawyers? Absolutely not! They have been on the attack since the Democratic School Board took office.

    Trenum is a Republican from what is generally regarded as a Republican district and he could have argued that he needed someone filling in for him who would cooperate with him on that basis. That was all any reasonable person should expect. What drove these people over the edge was the possibility of a sixth school board member they couldn't control.

    As we used to say when I was a kid, they used a cannon when a pop gun would do. I suspect that this kind of behavior will wear thin on the patience of the general public and school board members and staff who grow tired of all night meetings hijacked by blowhards and bullies.

    1. Robin Hood, there is a difference between "these people" and Gil Trenum. I've spoken to him on multiple occasions prior to understanding his strong backing from the Brentsville residents, as well as his political affliation. If I knew then, what I know now, my decision would not be different than it is now. It is clear and never been disputed, that the School Board has full authority to select who they feel is most capable of doing the job. With that being said, two of his original three selections are still on the table, with very strong government backgrounds, one of which has already been appointed to a committee that advocates for the safety of our students and staff. Not only that, but he has been selected by this non-partisan group as their Chairman. Even one of the Democratic-endorsed Board members are backing him. I think, as the dust settles, that the selection is an easy choice, especially since he is someone who is trusted by Mr. Trenum and has already been deemed trusted by several Board members. Make the decision, let the School Board get going with business, and with someone that the Brentsville residents trust (almost) as much as they do Gil.

    2. Joe, there may be some merit to what you say. Gil is a decent guy and a dedicated public servant, not to mention his honorable service to our country. What concerns me is that the hyperpartisan blowhards and blog bullies have hijacked what should be a simple job interview process and turned it into something ugly.

      Furthermore, Don Shaw and Ryan Sawyers are solid citizens who do what they think is right. They do not deserve the verbal abuse that has been heaped on them in some quarters.

      I hope you can agree that this practice of elevating simple questions such as naming schools, supervising a principal and filling a vacancy are not worthy of the time and attention they have received after being stoked by those with hidden agendas.

    3. Robin Hood, I agree with many of your points. I also agree that Don Shaw didn't deserve the level of attacks. Ryan Sawyers, on the other hand, I feel can not only take it better, but possibly thrives on it (it's only when the BLOGs attack his wife that I'd have an issue with).

      Those simple questions, yes, they should not be elevated, but some would say that the number polls that the Board has are also overboard (and without the view of the public during Board meetings).

    4. Back in January Gil Trenum himself pointed out that they are not that rare and then you have all of these tempests in a teapot coming from the blowhards and bullies online demanding attention. There is too much attention paid to the label and not enough to the product as far as the school system is concerned.


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