The technology entrepreneur receives endorsement of Sen. George Allen, other key Fairfax County Republicans.
Virginia businessman Vinson X. Palathingal is running for Fairfax County School Board.
If elected, the Falls Church, VA, resident will become the first Indian American to serve on the board of the Fairfax County Public Schools, the tenth largest school system in the United States.
Palathingal, a technology entrepreneur, is running as an at-large candidate. The board has 12 elected members, including three at-large members, who serve four-year terms.
Every voter can vote for up to three candidates for the three at-large seats. The election is on November 5, 2019.
On Tuesday, Palathingal was endorsed by the county’s Republican Party.
“I have been a Fairfax County resident for 22 years and my two children studied at county schools,” Palathingal told the American Bazaar in an interview. “It gives me necessary insight and knowledge to help the public school system overcome some of the daunting challenges that it is facing now. We need a member on our school board, who will help Fairfax County Public Schools focus on their mission, safeguard the role of parents and live within our means.”
Palathingal said he is campaigning mainly on three issues: Academic rigor, fiscal prudence and total transparency. “Protecting parents’ rights is extremely important,” he said, adding that more details about his positions and priorities are available on his campaign website: www.VinsonForSchoolBoard.com.
Palathingal, who came to the United States in 1992 to pursue a graduate degree in civil engineering, has founded a number of companies, including Amaram, an IT services business that serves federal, state and local governments and Fortune 500 companies. He is also the founder and executive director of the Indo-American Center, a think-tank based in the Washington, DC, area that works to strengthen the strategic partnership between the United States and India.
The Fairfax County school system, the largest public school system in Virginia and in the Baltimore Washington Area, oversees nearly 200 schools and centers, with a combined student population of 187,000.
“The destiny of any country is built in classrooms,” said Palathingal, who describes himself as “a social and fiscal conservative and free market, small government, small business and freedom thinker.”
Explaining why he decided to run for the school board, the businessman said he is strongly concerned about the declining school results, which, according to him, have gone down despite pumping in more money raised through higher real estate taxes.
The Kerala, India, -born technology entrepreneur said he would bring to the board skill, empathy and understanding of the issues to address challenges currently faced by students and parents.
Palathingal is very critical of the way the board is being run. “We are going to take back the Fairfax County School Board,” he declared at a public meeting recently. “They are failing miserably. They are clearly under-performing in their fundamental responsibility of educating our children.”
The candidate leveled a litany of charges against the existing board. “They are misusing our money,” he said. “Their priorities are misplaced. I am mad as hell. I want you to be [mad as well].”
Palathingal said he has the right ideas to transform the board and the state of education in the county. “I have some very clear ideas about how to improve our STEM education,” he said. “I have a serious interest in promoting US history education.”
Palathingal has received the endorsement of several influential Fairfax County Republicans.
George Allen, a former state governor and US senator, was one of the first GOP leaders to endorse him.
“It is our pleasure to support Vinson Xavier Palathingal for the important At Large School Board seat in Fairfax County,” Allen said in statement recently. “Susan and I sent our three children through Fairfax County Schools and we know the importance of welcoming parental involvement and honest high academic standards. We know Vinson shares our vision of a school system that rewards hard work, academic excellence and opportunities for all.”
The candidate is also backed by several prominent Indian Americans in the Fairfax County.
“He is a very passionate and committed leader, who has done a lot for his employees and the community,” said Sanjay Puri, founder and Chairman of the US-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC).
Puri, who has known Palathingal for several years, said it is the candidate’s integrity and interest in serving the community that “has driven him.” The businessman has the right credentials and experience to bring changes to the board, Puri said.
Puneet Ahluwalia, a prominent Indian American Republican from Virginia, said Palathingal brings a lot to the table.
“Vinson will be a great addition to the school board with his diverse understanding of business and culture,” said Ahluwalia, a member of the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia and the First Vice Chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee. “Importantly, he truly represents the changed population dynamics of the Fairfax County.”
The Fairfax County Public Schools are among the most demographically diverse in the country. More than a quarter of the students enrolled in its schools are Hispanic and more than a fifth are Asians. African American students account for more than 10 percent of the county’s student population. In all, its students speak over 200 languages.
Born in Kumbalam, an island on the Vembanadu Lake in central Kerala, Palathingal earned his bachelor’s in civil engineering from the Government Engineering College, Thrissur, in 1988.
He completed his master’s from the University of Reno, in Nevada, also in civil engineering, in 1995.
After working for the Maryland State Highway Administration, Metro Washington Council of Governments and Fannie Mae, he launched Amaram in 1998.
Palathingal is married to his high school sweetheart Asha. They have two children.