Red Apple Mom

November 21, 2011

FCPS Survey

Here is the FCPS survey released today – would love to know what you think!

 

FAI2 Trust and Confidence Survey Results_2011-11-15 SB

November 20, 2011

FCPS Survey Results Cost How Much?

On Monday, Superintendent Dale is releasing the results of a survey about public trust and confidence in the Fairfax County Public Schools.

I’m sure you can guess where this is going to go.  Cue the cheerleaders and the band.  Several sources sent me a copy of the FCPS survey results, but I won’t  post the full report until after Dale’s press conference on Monday.   Here are some details I will share:

Focus group comments from the 2011 survey results (slide 29) show that stakeholders are concerned about the following areas of improvement for FCPS:

  • Concerns that FCPS is becoming a business and not a community-parent based institution.
  • Some initiatives go under the radar such as the decreasing honors program in the district.
  • Too much trimming on the budget and parents do not know how decisions are being made on these items (this includes the thought process for and not only who is making decisions)
  • Schools are not being treated equally in terms of funding, programming and class-sizes

The FCPS survey was conducted by the District Management Council.  This is the same consulting group that surveyed FCPS stakeholders in the fall of 2009.   DMC’s  survey findings at that time showed “a lack of confidence in the Administration’s ability to allocate resources.”  It’s interesting that the focus group comments detailed above seem to indicate the public still has a lack of confidence about FCPS’ resource allocations.

Think the press will ask the tough questions about these results tomorrow?   Or will they parrot back FCPS’ carefully crafted press release?  I’m betting on the latter.  But just in case, here are some questions the press should consider asking the Superintendent.

1.  How much did FCPS pay to the District Management Council (DMC) for this survey?

2. Does FCPS have a consulting contract with the DMC – and if so, for how much?    DMC has done a lot of work for FCPS the past couple of years and lists several case studies about their work for FCPS on their website.  Here’s one called:  Improving Budget Communications with the Community:  Fairfax County Public Schools.  DMC doesn’t list their consulting fees on their website.  But earlier this year, Lancaster County in Pennsylvania paid the DMC $75,000 for help in improving its schools.  One Lancaster taxpayer posted a comment saying, “Wow – these administrators are being paid top dollar at the taxpayers expense to run the school district and they have to hire a firm to tell them how to do it.”  Lancaster is a small district compared to Fairfax County, so what are we paying?!

3.  In the interest of transparency, will FCPS release all the raw data for this survey?  Will newly elected School Board members who campaigned on the issue of transparency have access to the raw data?

4.  What is FCPS’ plan to address the needed areas of improvement as identified by the surveyed stakeholders?

Related Articles:

Price Tag for Ann Arbor Public Schools Consultant:  $441,130 (June 14, 2011 – AnnArbor.com)

Seminole Schools Spend a Bundle on Education Consultants (August 31, 2010 – Orlando Sentinel)

Boston Schools Seek Pricey Consultant (September 26, 2011 – Fox 25 Boston, MA)

$1 Million Survey on Newark Public School Reform Proves Inconclusive (January 6, 2011 – Dana Goldstein-The Nation)

More Consultant Spending Approved at January PEP Meeting (January 25, 2011 – NYC Public School Parents Blog)

Stimulus Leads to Frenzy of Demand for Consultants (January 28, 2011 – Edmoney.org)

The District Management Council Homepage

September 28, 2011

Louise Epstein Launches School Board Campaign Commercial

Louise Epstein, candidate for FCPS School Board – Dranesville District — today launched what is thought to be the first-ever campaign commercial to be produced in an election for the Fairfax County School Board.

The :60 spot titled “That’s the Key” focuses on Dranesville voters telling why they are voting for Louise Epstein for School Board – and the need for new leadership to represent Herndon, Great Falls and McLean.

The spot was produced in early September.

Epstein is challenging 18-year incumbent and current School Board Chair Jane Strauss.

In the past month, Epstein has received bi-partisan endorsements from:

✔ The Fairfax Education Association

✔ The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers

✔ Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform

✔ Congressman Frank Wolf

If you have trouble viewing the embedded spot, click on this link and you will be directly routed to Epstein’s campaign spot: http://www.louiseepstein4schoolboard.com/adsvideos.html

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Louise Epstein “Who Are You Voting For School B…, posted with vodpod

September 27, 2011

Louise Epstein WON the Debate Big, Big, Big!

Louise Epstein CRUSHED School Board Chair Jane Strauss in their first debate held at McLean High School Monday night.

I know I’m biased as Louise’s campaign manager – but I have to say it – LOUISE ROCKED THE HOUSE – and that is not spin!

McLean Citizens Association Debate

Did Jane Strauss even bother to prepare?

All she offered were platitudes of the same old rhetoric we’ve been hearing for years.  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Strauss kept saying we have to prepare for the classrooms of tomorrow.  Well it’s not like she hasn’t had THAT opportunity!  She’s been there for 18 years.  Why wasn’t she preparing her district (McLean, Great Falls and Herndon)  for that at least a decade ago?!

Oh that’s right – she was too busy diverting money from McLean, Great Falls and Herndon to the rest of the county while her own constituents suffered with the largest class sizes and fewest resources.  (And still do suffer!)

FAIRGRADE Leadership Team

Janie’s lowest point, however, was her shocking attempt to take credit for FAIRGRADE.  Janie was AWOL on this issue for nearly two years.   I know because as FAIRGRADE’s Director of Communications, I was there and so was Louise.  Here are the facts:   Janie and Ilyrong Moon coerced another School Board member, Brad Center – who did all the behind-the-scenes whip count for FAIRGRADE – to let them make the motion on FAIRGRADE  and save their political butts.

Moon, you may recall was running for Board of Supervisors at the time – a seat he lost.  Janie was so badly floundering on the FAIRGRADE issue that her constituents were turning on her big time.  So Brad threw Janie a lifeline and let her make the motion and a grandiose speech. Strauss can lie if she wants to but Louise and I – and the rest of the FAIRGRADE leadership team – were there.  The facts don’t lie.  Furthermore, if Janie was the leader she claims to be on this issue – why did it take two years to get FAIRGRADE passed?  Pathetic.

Just some of the FAIRGRADE's awesome parents!!!

During the debate Louise exhibited excitement, an extreme depth of the issues, and she provided fresh insight about her motivations to strengthen our public school system with new leadership.  Many in the audience were surprised to learn that Louise grew up poor in New York’s projects with her mom and disabled father.  She went to Harvard on financial aid.  Louise conveyed how those experiences gave her a compassion for all kids because she’s experienced both poverty and prosperity in her own life.

Want to learn more?  Here are my notes from the debate and a copy of Louise’s campaign spot.

The debate sponsors wouldn’t let us videotape the event.  While the attachment below is not an official transcript, it does provide additional content from the debate.  Please read it and share with others who are interested in the race for School Board.

Esptein-Strauss Debate Notes

If you have trouble viewing the embedded spot, click on this link and you will be directly routed to Epstein’s campaign spot: http://www.louiseepstein4schoolboard.com/adsvideos.html

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Louise Epstein “Who Are You Voting For School B…, posted with vodpod

September 8, 2011

Look Who Teachers Did NOT Endorse for School Board

The Fairfax Education Association (FEA) issued its official list of endorsements for School Board Wednesday.  Guess who didn’t make the cut?  18-year incumbent School Board Chair Jane Strauss, Dranesville District — that’s who.

FEA also ignored the most recent past School Board Chair Kathy Smith, Sully District.

Ouch.  That’s gotta hurt.

FEA has drawn a serious line with their endorsements.  They are clearly backing School Board candidates whose work will continue to focus on teachers and kids rather than the army of bureaucrats who blindly carry out Superintendent Dale’s bidding at central headquarters.

Kudos to FEA for specifically stating in their press release that FEA is “party blind” with their endorsements.  FEA did a great job of doing just that – endorsing a number of highly qualified candidates that includes Democratic and Republican endorsed candidates as well as one Independent.

Red Apple Mom is VERY excited that several of my own picks for School Board received FEA’s endorsement including:

Louise Epstein – running against Incumbent Jane Strauss in the Dranesville District.  Website:  www.louiseepstein4schoolboard.com

Megan McLaughlin – running for the open seat in the Braddock District.  Website:  www.mclaughlinforschoolboard.com

Lolita Mancheno-Smoak  – running for one of three At-Large seats.  Website:  www.lolita4schoolboard.com

Steve Stuban – running for one of three At-Large seats.  Website:  www.stubanforschoolboard.com

Sandy Evans – running unopposed in the Mason District.   Website:  www.evans4sb.org

Patty Reed – running unopposed in the Providence District.  Website:  www.pattyreed.org

I have great hope that a new School Board will welcome teachers back into the policy-making fold in FCPS.  Our great teachers are on the front lines in the classroom working with our kids every day.  They see what works and know what doesn’t.  I am highly encouraged that if November’s election results for School Board are favorable, teachers will once again be taken as serious partners whose opinions are solicited, valued and acted upon to improve Fairfax County Public Schools!

FEA Press Release

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!

Related Blog Posts:

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.

###

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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