The Prince William County School Board selected Babur Lateef to take the post as the board’s interim chairman at a meeting April 18.
In a split vote on a motion by Diane Raulston of the Neabsco District, Lateef will serve until a special election in November. He was among 20 applicants for the interim position.
While lobbying for the chairman’s seat, Lateef said he will seek the Democratic committee’s endorsement for the post in the fall. Opponents in the vote cited Lateef's close involvement and donations to the previous chairman, Ryan Sawyers, and stated that the board needs to move away from divisive practices.
“When the Democrats had the opportunity to move the school board in a less partisan direction, they selected a partisan politician and major donor for controversial former Chair Ryan Sawyers," wrote Prince William County GOP chairman Bill Card. "I'm not sure how the election of Mr. Lateef helps our school board refocus on students.”
Lateef is an ophthalmologist from Woodbridge and has served as a member of the University of Virginia's Board of Visitors and the board of directors for SPARK. In 2011, Lateef unsuccessfully challenged Republican Corey Stewart for chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, but says that in his bid he learned that education is a much better fit for him.
He recently served on Gov. Ralph Northam’s transition team, and was appointed to the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Former board chairman Ryan Sawyers resigned March 7, a week after his decision to not seek the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s 1st Congressional District.
Sawyers referenced “personal and professional reasons” for his decision to step down from the board. Sawyers’ term for chairman was set to run through the end of 2019, and his resignation forced the Nov. 6. countywide special election to fill the position.
During his term, Sawyers was in frequent conflict with Republican-backed members and school staff, and he filed a lawsuit in an attempt to access his predecessor's email.