Red Apple Mom

August 30, 2011

The Benefits (& Drawbacks) of FCPS School Board Incumbency

Were you one of the lucky Fairfax County Residents to receive this survey invitation from FCPS this week?  

Dear Fairfax County Resident:

We value your opinion and would appreciate your taking a few minutes to answer a short survey about FCPS by clicking https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/community11 .  This survey will close on September 9, 2011.

Thank you very much,
Fairfax County Public Schools

Candidates running for School Board should take notice as should voters!

When you read this FCPS survey, it seems personally crafted for vulnerable School Board incumbents who are seeking re-election.

I’m guessing we’ll see the messaging points from this “survey” appearing around the third week in October in the form of FCPS press releases as well as School Board incumbent messaging to voters.

Late October is usually the point when parents begin to really zero in on candidates and the issues before election day.  Dr. Dale and the current School Board Chairman – whose own campaign is in big trouble – will certainly create every opportunity possible to get free earned media coverage as they release the “results” from this carefully crafted “survey.”  In the process, Dr. Dale and these vulnerable incumbents (Strauss, Moon, Smith & Storck)  will hope voter attention is short and not focused on the serious issues brought to light in the past few years including:

$$$$ SPENDING $$$$:  Excessive Administrative Spending – approved by School Board incumbents  – which has outpaced student enrollment growth.

DISCIPLINE REFORM THAT FALLS SHORT:  School Board members who voted NO on parental notification so that children can be interrogated and coerced into writing a confession before parents or guardians are notified that their child is in trouble

HQ for FCPS Admin & School Board

GATEHOUSE II:  Who could forget the widespread, public outrage in 2007 when School Board incumbents voted to spend $130 million on a second, plush central administration HQ for themselves while so many FCPS kids sat in trailers?  Thankfully, the Board of Supervisors killed this decadent proposal.

CLIFTON ES CLOSURE AND FOIA VIOLATIONS:   One of the county’s most popular and successful elementary schools was closed this year despite serious questions about the data School Board members used to justify this misguided decision.  Related to this vote, FCPS ineptitude also resulted in an expensive court case this year.

CLASS SIZE, AP/IB FEES, INCREASED SPORTS FEES:  School Board incumbents supported Dr. Dale’s proposals to increase class sizes and implement expensive fees imposed on students and families RATHER THAN cut FCPS central administrative spending first.

UPPER-LEVEL HONORS COURSES:  Superintendent Dale is not an elected official.  He is appointed by the School Board and his decisions on major policy and curriculum changes should be approved by elected School Board members.  The School Board’s lack of oversight on this issue and the phase-out of these upper-level, high-school honors courses – without an actual vote by our School Board –  is simply inexcusable.

FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN IMPLEMENTATION:  It is ridiculous that School Board members took four years to bring FDK to the remaining few schools who did not already have FDK.  While these taxpaying families went without FDK, the School Board expanded the FLES (foreign language in the elementary schools) program and instituted a new program called the Priority Schools Initiative at a cost of $2 million. School Board incumbents should have fulfilled FDK for everyone before taking action on either of those programs. If they had, our county could have had FDK for everyone a lot sooner!

LACK OF TEACHER INPUT:  It’s no secret teacher morale in Fairfax County has been at an all-time low, and it’s not just pay-related.  Teachers don’t feel their opinions matter.  Under this current Administration and School Board, teachers have so little say in the curriculum and policy decisions that affect how and what they may teach.  In addition, they are overburdened by  administrative demands that leave less time to do what teachers do best – teach. 

Voters, if you want real change to keep this school system great,  do your homework this election season and study the full records of these incumbents.  There is a plenty of material there since members like Strauss and Moon are well into their second DECADE each of service!

Challengers – get out there and knock on all those doors in your district.  By meeting voters face to face, you’ll get the real story on how parents, teachers and taxpayers feel about Fairfax County Public Schools and how you can deliver real results that matter to the community!  It’s only 70 days to November 8th.  This is what campaigns are all about!

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August 29, 2011

I Should Have Bought Stock in Staples & Office Depot This Year

Filed under: Back to School — Red Apple Mom @ 4:08 pm
Tags: , ,

$266.68 – that’s what school supplies cost me today for a 2nd grader, 6th grader and a 9th grader.

Wow.  How come our parents never spent that kind of money when we went to school?  I’m 44, so it’s not like it was that long ago.   On my first day of school, we brought some loose leaf paper, a binder and some pencils.  And forget the backpack.  We used a grocery store bag.

What’s changed?  Do my kids really need all this stuff?

Is anyone else shocked by the long lists required by our schools today?

 

August 17, 2011

VA Board of Education DENIES FCPS Waiver Request

The Washington Post’s Emma Brown reports that Superintendent Jack Dale’s request for early and repeated SOL tests in Fairfax County has been denied!

Thank God for that!   As I wrote in one of my June blog posts (An SOL Hangover), this mom gets enough “SOL Hell” in May – I don’t need nor want my children to be put through that year round!

You may recall that Superintendent Dale proposed this silly idea last spring without even consulting teacher groups or parents first.

Surprisingly, the VA BOE didn’t even take time to vote on Dale’s proposal.  VA BOE found FCPS’ proposal so vague and lacking in community and teacher input that it didn’t even require an official meeting for VA BOE to say, “No.”   They wrote Dale a letter instead and urged him and other state superintendents to do a better job of “soliciting input from the entire school community and teachers.”

How’s that for an official smack-down?   Great job VA Board of Education.  Thank you for looking out for students and teachers – and us moms!

RELATED ARTICLES:

August 16, 2011

Lolita Mancheno-Smoak Comments on WPost Article

Mancheno-Smoak Says She is the At-Large Candidate To Watch

Focus of Post Article Didn’t Reflect Other Motives for Running

Fairfax Station, VA  — Monday, August 15, 2011 – Fairfax County School Board Candidate Lolita Mancheno-Smoak commented on today’s Washington Post article “Fairfax County School Board Races Could Overshadow Other Campaigns This Year” saying her At-Large campaign is the At-Large race to watch because she’s a teacher who works daily with the students who come out of the Fairfax County Public School system.

“The Washington Post did a great job of highlighting what is motivating so many new candidates to run for the Fairfax County School Board.  While many candidates are coming from the advocacy community, I am the only At-Large candidate who actually has teaching experience.  That is part of what makes me and my campaign different from others in the race,” said Mancheno-Smoak.

“I understand the critical reforms that are needed not only to improve student performance, but to improve relations with all FCPS stakeholders as well.  FCPS should never forget taxpayers support them, and a significant percentage of them do not have children in our public schools. I have the business and teaching experience to represent the community’s interests and will ensure legitimate concerns are addressed by the Superintendent in a responsive manner,”  Mancheno-Smoak said.

Mancheno-Smoak also cites her extensive ties in the minority community as another benchmark that sets her apart from the crowded, 10 candidate, At-Large field.  “I volunteer as Board President for the organization HACAN – Hispanics Against Child Abuse & Neglect.  I’m also on the advisory Board of CrisisLink, which assists the Northern Viriginia community in suicide prevention,” said Mancheno-Smoak. 

 

“If elected, I’ll use these experiences for further review of Fairfax County’s disciplinary policies and for addressing our high minority drop-out rates,” said Mancheno-Smoak.      

Lolita Mancheno-Smoak emigrated from Ecuador at age 4. She earned a BS in engineering from Columbia University, a MS in engineering from the University of Miami and a DBA from Nova Southeastern University.  She currently serves as an adjunct professor and is an accomplished business transformation leader who recently oversaw projects associated with the reconstruction of Iraq.   Mancheno-Smoak lives with her husband Larry in Fairfax Station and she has four, grown stepchildren.

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Related Info:

Lolita Mancheno-Smoak for School Board Website

August 15, 2011

Louise Epstein Responds To Janie Strauss’ Comments in Washington Post

Epstein Campaign Responds to Washington Post Article

Says Janie Strauss “Spin” Shows She Really Doesn’t “Get It”

McLean, VA  — Monday, August 15, 2011 – Fairfax County School Board Candidate Louise Epstein announced today that her opponent’s comments in Monday’s Washington Post demonstrate how truly out of touch Janie Strauss is with voter sentiment.  The Post quotes Strauss as saying that voters are more focused than usual on School Board elections this year because of education reforms like No Child Left Behind and the current recession.

“Janie Strauss is mistaken,” said Epstein, who is challenging Strauss to represent Herndon, Great Falls and McLean in the Dranesville district.  “The main reason Dranesville voters are so focused on this School Board election is because they disagree with much of her voting record and how FCPS does business,” said Epstein.

“Janie Strauss can spin her 18 year legacy however she likes.  But the fact is that she votes and works behind the scenes to support the Superintendent, regardless of how negatively his proposals affect Dranesville constituents,” said Epstein.

“Thanks to Janie Strauss, Dranesville District schools have the largest class sizes in the county.  Our schools were among the last in Fairfax County to get Full-Day Kindergarten.  This June, Janie Strauss voted NO on a motion that would have required school officials to call parents before a child is interrogated about nonviolent discipline infractions.  In June 2007, Janie Strauss voted to spend about $100 million of taxpayer money for a second, plush administration building – the infamous ‘Gatehouse II’ project, which thankfully was voted down by the Board of Supervisors.  Voters have long memories when it comes to issues impacting their children and property taxes.   Those are the reasons why voters are so focused on removing Janie Strauss and other incumbents,” said Epstein.

Epstein said that if she’s elected, she won’t “rubber-stamp” the Superintendent and his staff.  “I am known for asking tough questions and researching issues.  I have a proven record of delivering results to students, parents and taxpayers, while working closely with our excellent teachers to develop sound proposals,” said Epstein.  “I agree with the comment in the Post article by School Board member Tina Hone who said the goal of a School Board member should be to protect kids, not the system.”

“Thanks to my work with FAIRGRADE, FCPS students now have a more level playing field for college admissions and merit-based scholarships.  My budget research for the Fairfax Education Coalition showed School Board members and the Board of Supervisors how FCPS could pay for Full-Day Kindergarten without raising property taxes.   My priority will be improving our schools in Herndon, Great Falls and Mclean and representing the public’s concerns – not rubber-stamping the Superintendent’s proposals,” said Epstein.

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RELATED ARTICLES:

WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE: 

Fairfax County School Board Races Could Overshadow Other Campaigns This Year – Sunday, August 14, 2001 – Frederick Kunkle, The Washington Post

CLASS SIZE:

Jane Strauss – Dranesville District:  “We have several fifth and sixth grade classes that are 30 to 35 students and primary class sizes that are 29 to 30 kids in the lower grades.  Class sizes of 30 to 35 students are troublesome.” (The McLean Connection – Jan. 2010)

FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN:

Jane Strauss- Dranesville District:  “All of our schools need full-day kindergarten but my constituents will wait longer because we know needier children need it first.”   (McLean Connection, Schools Expand Full-Day Kindergarten, February 16, 2007)

PARENTAL NOTIFICATION:

FAIRFAX ZERO TOLERANCE REFORM

 Supreme Court Ruling, Rising Police Presence In Schools Spur Miranda Questions (Washington Post, July 17, 2011)

Fairfax Scales Back Discipline Policy (Washington Post, June 9, 2011)

GATEHOUSE II:

Board of Supervisors Discontinues Consideration of Gatehouse II Purchase (February 23, 2009 Press Release)

No to Gatehouse II (The Connection Newspapers, February 18, 2009)

New Offices for School System Scrapped (Washington Examiner, Feb. 23, 2009)

Gatehouse II – A Bad Deal  (The Connection Newspapers, October 2, 2008)

Fairfax School Board’s Gateway Drug (Washington Examiner, January 19, 2009)

Schools to Lobby for 2nd HQ Building
First building saved money, though not as much as expected 
(The Connection Newspapers, November 20, 2007)

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