Red Apple Mom

July 18, 2011

Another Bad Headline for FCPS in the Washington Post – thanks Janie Strauss!

Fairfax County Public Schools can’t stem the bleeding on the discipline issue. 

Our school system made national headlines again in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Reporter Donna St. George outlines yet another story of an 8th grade FCPS student who was interrogated by police and school officials — without his parents present — after other students said they’d smoked pot with the boy.

You can read the full Washington Post story here:  Supreme Court Ruling, Rising Police Presence in Schools Spur Miranda Questions

Janie "I voted NO on parental notification" Strauss

What the story doesn’t mention is that our new FCPS School Board Chair – Janie Strauss – voted NO on parental notification.

Why does this matter?   She’s running for re-election.  She doesn’t have kids in our public schools and she’s out of touch with what today’s parents, teachers and taxpayers expect from our school system.  If Strauss and other School Board members had supported parental notification, this issue wouldn’t be making national news – AGAIN!

Hey business community – are you paying attention?  The #1 reason businesses cite for moving to Fairfax County is the reputation of our school system.  How long is that going to last with continued bad headlines?!  The solution is a new School Board.  It’s time for long-serving members like Janie Strauss, Ilyrong Moon and Kathy Smith to go.   FCPS’ reputation is at stake.  Start getting involved business leaders.  Support the candidates running against these incumbents.  You have a stake in this too!

UPDATE ON SCHOOL BOARD FOIA VIOLATIONS – FAIRFAX COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE FINDS FCPS GUILTY:

Also reported by The Washington Post (Saturday, July 16th), “Judge Leslie M. Alden found that the School Board and the administration of School Superintendent Jack D. Dale had violated FOIA provisions on open meetings or public disclosure, but she concluded that the violations were too minor to justify reversing the board’s decision.” (Refers to any decision to reverse the Clifton ES closure.)

Advertisements

June 10, 2011

Janie Strauss & Ilyrong Moon Point Fingers on Failure of Parental Notification

In a vote of 5 FOR and 7 AGAINST – parental notification FAILED to pass at Thursday night’s Fairfax County School Board meeting.

Blame Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  School Board member Janie Strauss did.

Janie "I voted NO on parental notification" Strauss

In an effort to give herself some air cover for her NO vote, Strauss cited Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia saying, “Justice Scalia is careful to look at the words in the law.” 

That’s fine.  However, the School Board doesn’t pass laws.  It passes policies.  So, it’s interesting that a liberal Democrat like Janie Strauss would cite a conservative Supreme Court Justice as justification for her NO vote on a “policy.”

Strauss said she was “troubled” by the wording in the parental notification amendment and said she wouldn’t support it.  She said she didn’t like that the amendment said parents should be notified “prior to questioning.”

Of course, if Strauss was so troubled by the amendment’s language, she could have made a motion to offer alternative wording in the amendment.  But she didn’t.  Instead, she stood in solidarity with Superintendent Dale and his staff and voted NO – against the wishes of parents and students.

That’s right.  Janie Strauss –School Board member running for re-election in McLean, Great Falls and Herndon – voted against the parents she claims to represent.  She voted NO on parental notification.

Parents Rally for Discipline Reform

As a result, FCPS officials don’t have to call you before your child is questioned about a discipline violation or pressured to sign a confession.   In fact, you may not know your child has been interrogated until hours after the questioning has taken place and after your child may have already signed a confession – without any counsel from you.

But Strauss doesn’t want voters to blame her for failure of the parental notification amendment.  Oh no, no.  Point the finger at how Justice Scalia reads legal text instead.

Let’s be clear.  Janie Strauss should be held accountable for her NO vote on parental notification.  Election Day – November 8th is your chance to end her too-long career on the School Board.

At-Large member Ilyrong Moon should also share some of the blame for the amendment’s failure because he sponsored it.  You’d think he would have taken the time to be sure the issue was crystal clear for his colleagues to ensure passage of this critical amendment.  Unlike Strauss, Moon did not blame Justice Scalia – but he did blame FCPS staff.  Unbelievably, Moon had FCPS staff write the amendment for him.

Isn’t that a bit like letting the fox guard the hen house?

Debate on Parental Notification Amendment

Dale and FCPS staff absolutely do not want parental notification.  So why did Moon have FCPS staff craft the amendment when he should have done it himself.  Can’t he write his own amendments?  He’s a lawyer for Pete’s sake.  What a waste of an At-Large School Board position.  It’s just another reason why Moon doesn’t deserve re-election either.

We need School Board members who are going to seriously advocate for the parents and students they claim to represent.  Janie Strauss and Ilyrong Moon don’t.  Show them the exit door this November.

School Board members who voted NO on parental notification:

Janie Strauss – Dranesville District (*running for re-election)

Kathy Smith – Sully District (*running for re-election)

Liz Bradsher – Springfield District (not seeking re-election)

Jim Raney, At-Large (not seeking re-election)

Brad Center, Lee District (not seeking re-election)

Stu Gibson, Hunter Mill District (not seeking re-election)

Tessie Wilson, Braddock District (not seeking re-election)

Related Articles:

Fairfax County Public Board Docs – Action Taken By FCPS School Board (June 9, 2011)

FCPS School Board Proposed Amendments (June 9, 2011)

Fairfax Scales Back Discipline Policy (The Washington Post, June 10, 2011)

School Board Votes to Make Discipline Process More Flexible, Supportive (The Patch, June 10, 2011)

Parents & Community Rally Before School Board Decision (The Patch, June 9, 2011)

Disciplinary Policy Changes Coming to Fairfax County Schools (WUSA-Channel 9, June 9, 2011)

Fairfax School Board Takes Up Zero-Tolerance Policy Reform (WJLA-Channel 7, June 9, 2011)

June 7, 2011

Student Interrogations & Discipline Review: Your Child Needs You Thursday

As parents, we want to help our children – particularly when they are vulnerable and in need of guidance.

The discipline reform debate going on in Fairfax County Public Schools has revealed just how few rights our children have if they are ever accused of a serious school infraction.

This Thursday, June 9th, School Board members will vote on changes to the Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy – including the controversial parental notification component.

Picture school authorities interrogating your child – and pressuring him or her to sign a confession or statement of guilt – without you present in the room.

Don’t like that idea?  Then take some action.  Your chance is now.

These following School Board members are either undecided or opposed to notifying you before your child is questioned about a serious school infraction.

Jane Strauss -Dranesville District
Kathy Smith – Sully District
Liz Bradsher – Springfield District
Stu Gibson – Hunter Mill District
Tessie Wilson – Braddock District
Jim Raney – At Large

Email these members now and ask them to vote in support of parental notification.  The parent group Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform (FZTR)  is asking parents to specifically request the following points:

1.  Parental notification for infractions that could result in suspension of more than three days or a recommendation for expulsion.

2.  No  signed student statements of confession without a parent or guardian present.

3.  Advising students that they have the right to remain silent and they have the right to seek counsel.

We would all like to believe our children will never face serious disciplinary action in public school.  But the fact is, you can never really know.  Put yourself in the shoes of your child.  Ask yourself if you could handle an interrogation without an advocate by your side.

Does that idea trouble you?

Then show your kids you really care and participate in FZTR’s sponsored rally BEFORE Thursday night’s School Board meeting on June 9th at 6:30pm.  Location – Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church on Gallows Road at Route 50.  Meet in the parking lot.  Wear RED and bring appropriate signs that call for PARENTAL NOTIFICATION.

Many of the School Board members are running for re-election this year.  Your participation in this rally could help apply the pressure needed for these critical reforms.    Please get involved and advocate for your child now while you still can.

The School Board is expected to vote on discipline policy changes about 7:45pm.  If you cannot attend in person, the meeting will be televised on Cable Channel 21 and web-streamed live at http://www.fcps.edu.

For more information, visit the Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform website at:  www.FairfaxZeroToleranceReform.org.

Here are the email addresses for all the School Board members:
Kathy Smith – Chair – Kathy.L.Smith@fcps.edu
Brad Center – Vice Chair – Brad.Center@fcps.edu
Elizabeth Bradsher – Springfield – elizabeth.bradsher@fcps.edu
Sandra Evans  – Mason – sandy.evans@fcps.edu
Stuart Gibson – Hunter Mill – stuart.gibson@fcps.edu
Martina Hone – Member at large – Martina.Hone@fcps.edu
Ilryong Moon – Member at large – ilryong.moon@fcps.edu
James Raney – Member at large – james.raney@fcps.edu
Patricia Reed – Providence – patty.reed@fcps.edu
Daniel Storck – Mt Vernon – daniel.storck@fcps.edu
Jane Strauss – Dranesville – jane.strauss@fcps.edu
Judith Wilson – Braddock – Tessie.Wilson@fcps.edu

May 12, 2011

That “In the Dark” Feeling

Fairfax County Public Schools ought to take serious notice.  When you tick off the Mount Vernon district, you must have hit a deep nerve.  I used to live at that end of the river.  The folks who live there are among the kindest and most pragmatic people you’ll find in Fairfax County.

So public school officials ought to get realistic about the level of displeasure brewing there over FCPS’ all consuming focus on closing the achievement gap.

Superintendent Dale and School Board Member Dan Stork told a 90+ person crowd last week that FCPS spends an extra $100 million on staffing at schools with poor and non-english speaking children.  The extra staffing permits teams of teachers to focus on a single child.

That message didn’t fly well with parents who still don’t have full-day kindergarten, whose kids are in supersized classes and who want high school English & Social Studies honors courses.  Superintendent Dale’s comments simply reinforced the perception that their kids aren’t a priority with FCPS’ leadership.

One parent stated, “We are all volunteering every day and every night, and killing ourselves for our kids. To say you have a laser focus on kids that need help….that means that everybody else is in the dark.”  

Do you feel like this parent?  Do you feel that your child is “left in the dark?”  It’s an interesting question for School Board candidates heading into the 2011 November elections to ask potential voters.

I suspect parents overall are very satisfied with their individual principals and teachers.  The School Board and Superintendent Dale’s leadership is probably another matter. FCPS’ pursuit to close the achievement gap is admirable and has widespread community support.  However, the School Board and Dale’s failure to recognize the undercurrent of dissatisfaction over the perceived and real lack of equity in resources may cost incumbent School Board members their jobs this November.

Interestingly, for all the proposals put forth in this year’s advertised budget – including funding for employee compensation and full-day kindergarten, there is one glaring omission –reducing class size.   Not a single School Board member has proposed any amendments to reduce class size in the FY2012 budget.

I know my kids are “in the dark” on that one.  And I do place the blame squarely at the feet of my incumbent School Board members Janie Strauss (Dranesville District) and Ilyrong Moon (At-Large) who both represent my schools and are running for re-election.

Strauss is in her second decade of service on the School Board.  Moon has served since 1995.  They both voted for the budget that increased class size in FY 2010.  They both have done ZIPPO to correct class size this year.  At the very least, they could have proposed relief for elementary classes with more than 30 children.   Instead, they have demonstrated zero leadership on this issue.

For those of you also feeling “in the dark” on the class size issue ask yourself:  “Do Jane Strauss, Ilyrong Moon and other long-time incumbents like Dan Stork and Kathy Smith deserve re-election?  Do I want new leadership who will tackle supersized classes for me, my child and their overworked teacher?”

I know how I’m voting!

Related Articles:

Mount Vernon Parents Question Dale and Storck on Honors, Class Size (Patch.com)

Letter:  Fewer Class Options Means Students Are Not Served (Patch.com)

© Catherine Lorenze and Red Apple Mom, 2001. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Catherine Lorenze and Red Apple Mom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

April 7, 2011

School Board Member Janie Strauss’ Sanctimonious Stretch

Check out Robert McCartney’s terrific column today in the Washington Post titled: Fairfax Schools Are Right to Relax Discipline Policies.”

Jane Strauss-Generation "Out of Touch"

Generation "Out of Touch" School Board Member Jane Strauss (1995-current)

In this article, School Board member Janie Strauss once again positions herself as the “generational expert” on all things academic – this time conjecturing that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have different attitudes about the Fairfax County Discipline Policy.

If this doesn’t qualify as a sanctimonious stretch, then we may have to rewrite the definition of sanctimonious.

People of all ages who know I’m a parent advocate continue to approach me wanting to discuss the ongoing news headlines about the discipline issue.  There is no generational “gap” in these exchanges – just a common reaction of disgust that it has taken two student deaths to waken the school system from their torpor.

The public’s desire for change has NOTHING to do with being a Baby Boomer or a Gen Xer.

It has everything to do with the perception that students in Fairfax County Public Schools have fewer rights than prisoners at Guantanamo.

It’s about the reality that anyone’s child could become one of FCPS’ next “victims.”

It’s about School Board members like Jane Strauss who remain completely out of touch on what this issue is really about – fairness!

At Monday’s work session, School Board member Sandy Evans advocated that parents need to be brought into the discipline process sooner saying, “Students confess and sign written statements before parents are called.”

One of the participating principals replied, “Is that a bad thing?

Yes principal that is a bad thing.  Here in America, confessing and signing a written statement under coercion or pressure without representation is a problem for most people who want to see justice applied.

I come from a law and order family, so I’m not soft on the safe schools issue.

My father spent years as an undercover narcotics agent in Detroit.  He’s worked in schools, busted drug dealers and disrupted gangs.  He’s literally seen it all.  Now in retirement, he accompanies my mom who teaches art to “troubled youth” at an alternative high school in Knoxville, TN.

Even my tough guy dad says he finds FCPS’ discipline policies disturbing – particularly the lack of immediate parental notification.

So let’s end this silly and unproductive academic exercise about Baby Boomers versus Gen X, Y or Z right here and now.  This debate is about fairness to students and putting some checks and balances on overreaching disciplinary policies and power-hungry FCPS officials.

Oh, and look – here.  FCPS is advertising in the Washington Post to hire another hearing officer.  Starting salary is $64,826 for the US27 position.  I’m guessing interested parties with common sense and a heart need not apply.

Sidenote: Kudos to the Fairfax County Council of PTAs who passed a FCCPTA Parental Notification Resolution Monday night.  A Fairfax Education Coalition (FEC) member who attended the FCCPTA meeting reported that FCPS Assistant Superintendent Barbara Hunter, who is with the Department of Communications and Community Outreach, cast the ONLY NAY VOTE for this clause in the FCCPTA parental notification resolution: RESOLVED:  The FCCPTA Executive Board supports changes in the FCPS discipline process to prevent students from signing or executing any written statements except in the presence of a parent or guardian.

Related Articles & Materials:

March 27, 2011

Consequences of Sexting – Child Porn Charges

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...

Image via CrunchBase

If you have a middle or high schooler, please read this frightening and very important article in today’s New York Times and share it with your child.  When it comes to the dangers and ramifications of “sexting,” anecdotal information is powerful prevention for both parents and students!

The story details the horrible outcome faced by a 14-year girl when she sent a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend.  Of course, the photo eventually went viral.  The story also details the consequences faced by the students who were caught distributing the photo via email – consequences which almost led to charges of child pornography dissemination.

Of particular interest in this article are the teen focus group comments discussing what today’s teens have to say about sexting.  Such comments include these gems:

Q:  Is sexting ever O.K.?

Saif, 18, Brooklyn:  It’s a way to express your feelings.  If a guy and a girl are in love, instead of saying it face to face, they can say it through technology.

Kathy, 17, Queens:  There’s a positive side to sexting.  You can’t get pregnant from it, and you can’t transmit S.T.D’s.  It’s a kind of safe sex.

The fact that teen sexting could lead to a stint in juvenile hall and ruin reputations escapes these teens’ logic.

The father of the girl who sent the photo of herself states in the article, “I learned a big lesson about my lack of involvement in her use of the phone and texting.  I trusted her too much.”

Trust or not, kids do really dumb things – especially when their heart and hormones overrule their brain.  Many teens live for the moment and don’t understand the long-term ramifications of some of their actions.

Do your family a huge favor.  Share this article.  Most importantly, discuss it with your kids – today.

Article:

March 14, 2011

The “Fear Factor” in FCPS School Discipline

The Fairfax County School Board tackled the Zero Tolerance issue Monday in a work session designed to help members flush out priorities for reform on the school system’s disciplinary policies.

The school system has been under increasing scrutiny that current disciplinary policies are overly punitive.  Media profiles on the recent suicide of high school student Nick Stuban, and another about a middle school student expelled for having an acne medication in her locker, have heightened the public’s calls for reform.

The audience included a plethora of FCPS staff, concerned citizens, dozens of members from the advocacy group Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform and members from Nick Stuban’s family.  Because the room was filled to capacity, several people had to listen from the hallway under the watchful eye of a FCPS security guard.

Work Session Audience

Monday’s discussion was at times tense and emotional.  School Board member Patty Reed made a poignant admission that she is “haunted” by a few of the disciplinary decisions made by the School Board.  “The world is not black and white,” she said.  “I think we made lifetime decisions for kids who made their first mistake.”

Consistency was a frequently used word in the work session.  Board member Tessie Wilson argued that school board members can’t argue for both consistency and special circumstances when it comes to the application of discipline policies.  “You can’t be consistent if each case is judged individually,” Wilson said.

The FCPS disciplinary hearings process has been criticized as unduly harsh.  Students typically do not have parental representation and hearings officers have been judged by many students and families as overly adversarial.  Board member Stu Gibson said officials need to address balance but added, “If we have students committing serious violations of the rules and they won’t admit it, it is up to us and the administration to get to the bottom of what happened – and that is not always pretty.”

At-Large member Tina Hone said she believes there is still a sense of denial among FCPS officials about the hearings process.  “Dr. Dale you have said our hearings are not adversarial – and that is implausible. There is stuff that happens.  I appreciate your honesty Stu (Gibson) – because you are right – they do get adversarial,” Hone said.

Tina Hone & Patty Reed (photo left to right)

Hone also said the core issue is a flawed hearings process that is particularly disastrous for kids who have no previous record, “I believe, that in the hearing office’s point of view, they believe they are showing mercy when they are reassigning a student (to another school).  They think that is mercy.  The community is hearing the kid made one mistake and asking why are they even expelled.  We need to figure out if we can get the hearings office out of that habit.”

The School Board brainstormed a list of their priorities that will be discussed at additional work sessions in April and May.  (These priorities are listed below.)

Superintendent Dale told me that his challenge is to get the School Board to narrow down the priorities discussed today and gain a consensus on the top 3 to 5 issues.   I replied it is key that the School Board’s priorities mesh with the community’s priorities.

Based on all the press coverage of this issue, it seems the community’s immediate priorities are quite clear:  reform the process for first time offenders and introduce parental notification requirements.  The fear permeating through our public schools right now is, “Could my kid be next?  Could my kid be accused of a first-time infraction and kicked out of school for something like bringing an aspirin to school?”

Tackle the fear first school board.  The rest of the discussion will fall into the place. You have to remove the fear first because, sadly, the fear is all too real for FCPS families.

These are among the priorities discussed today by the School Board- NOT IN ORDER OF RANK:

  1. Clarify state mandates about discipline
  2. Address the treatment of first time offenders
  3. Obtain a better collection of data on the zero tolerance issue
  4. Ensure the discipline consequence is commensurate with the infraction
  5. Parent notification when a student is accused of a violation
  6. Maintain a safe and secure environment for all students
  7. Hearings process timeline – make it as short as possible
  8. Consequences of student behavior

Dr. Dale, staff & School Board Review List of Priorities & Discussion Points

Related Articles

© Catherine Lorenze and Red Apple Mom, 2001. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Catherine Lorenze and Red Apple Mom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

March 4, 2011

A New Low for FCPS – Attack the Parent Who Brought the Case to Trial

The judge heard the final arguments yesterday in the case alleging that Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) violated the Open Meetings Law and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  For anyone new to this issue, the case focuses on events related to the School Board’s vote last summer to close Clifton Elementary School.

Several people have asked for my personal observations about this trial.  I am not going to speculate how the judge is going to decide this case.  However, I will say the following:  I was deeply disturbed by the aggressive approach FCPS’ attorney used to question the parent who brought this case forward.  I was also disturbed by their attempt to bring up the name of another parent whose name appears on the FOIA’d emails but who is not a plaintiff in this case.  The FCPS lawyer’s approach demonstrated a new low for FCPS.  Parents aren’t on trial.  FCPS is.

The parent who filed this case did so because it is the only legal recourse available.  She is simply following the legal procedures made available by the Virginia General Assembly in accordance with FOIA.  Furthermore, it should be noted that Fairfax County has no appeals process when the public finds itself in wide disagreement with a vote made by the FCPS School Board.  The parent who filed this suit did so because she believes the vote to close Clifton ES was not a transparent process and because she alleges FCPS violated her rights for accessing public information and public documents.  If she wins, and I hope she does, the public will owe this brave woman, and her supporters,  a debt of gratitude!

As I sat in Court yesterday, I was struck by the thoughtful and probing questions the judge presented to both sides in this case.  It left me thinking that if our School Board had demonstrated the same thoughtfulness by completely vetting and addressing the public’s concerns – to the public’s satisfaction – then I wouldn’t be sitting in that courtroom and I wouldn’t be anxious about how much the School Board’s rush to a vote will eventually cost taxpayers in terms of legal fees.

Here’s my summary of the proceedings and arguments yesterday:

ALLEGED OPEN MEETINGS LAW VIOLATIONS VIA EMAIL:

The arguments focused on the emails sent between School Board members in the days leading up to the vote and during the meeting itself.  The plaintiff’s attorney argued that email itself constitutes a meeting if email “rises to the level of a conversation.”

Plaintiff’s Attorney:

“There is a wide web of emails.  There are open meetings violations. This isn’t just receiving information.  This was deliberative information.  The deliberations already occurred before the School Board meeting (to close Clifton ES).”

To further prove their point, plaintiff’s attorney presented a document demonstrating what they describe as a “wide web of emails” including timelines showing what they allege is a “frenzy” of emails between School Board members concerning the Clifton issue.  (6-21-10 Email Timeline, 7-1-10 thru 7-8-10 Email Timeline, 7-8-10 Email Timeline – Well Results)

Plaintiff’s attorney also presented several legal cases to the judge arguing the cases demonstrate other Court rulings that serial emails violate the Open Meetings Law. (see below under additional materials)

The FCPS attorney argued that emails do not constitute “a meeting within a meeting.”

FCPS’ Attorney:

“They (plaintiffs) are trying to establish that members can’t speak one to one except in a meeting – treating them as jurors.  That’s just nuts.  Where are the emails that show three or more members?”

JUDGE:

“You are saying it doesn’t matter what the content is?”

FCPS’ Attorney:

“There is a lot of email back and forth and it is not a judicial setting.  They are legislators. Which email shows the meeting?  They can’t answer your question judge.  The idea that members can’t talk about their positions – members of public bodies send memos to each other all the time. It’s not the way it works and never has.”

At this point, the FCPS Attorney presented the judge with a Flow Chart that he said is the criteria the judge should use for determining if there are FOIA violations.

ALLEGED OPEN MEETINGS LAW VIOLATIONS VIA SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER REMOTE PARTICIPATION:

(Full disclosure here on my part.  I worked on Patty Reed’s ‘09 campaign for School Board.)

School Board Member Patty Reed was a focal point in yesterday’s arguments too because she was absent for the actual vote but was following the proceedings LIVE via the FCPS-provided webstream.  It was Patty Reed who emailed the Clerk of the Board and her fellow Board members asking if FCPS Chief Operating Officer Dean Tistadt’s memo concerning the Clifton ES well water results was being made available to the public.

The Plaintiff’s attorney argued that Patty’s email indicates she was a participant in the meeting even though she wasn’t physically present.

Plaintiff’s Attorney:

“Reed is listed as absent.  She accessed the hearing live and received the well results.  She knew it was an important piece of information for the public to know about and she emailed the Clerk of the Board.  As a matter of fact, she was a participant in this process and there are very specific rules in FOIA about members and participation.  FOIA says that remote locations should be accessible to the public.  We are not arguing the intent to violate it, but she did.  It comes down to, ‘How do you interpret participation?’”  (Reed Email to Clerk of School Board re: Well ResultsReed/Tistadt Email on Well Results)

FCPS’ attorney called this issue “the elephant in the room.”

FCPS’ Attorney:

“The email from Patty Reed to Pam Goddard (Clerk of the Board) clearly is not participation.  She did not advocate her position – did not communicate with more than two members.   She just watched the hearing.  She is also one of the dissenters who wanted to keep Clifton ES open.  The irony abounds.”

ALLEGED FOIA VIOLATIONS OF EMAIL:

Plaintiff’s attorney’s argued that the evidence they produced to the Court demonstrate numerous, documented FOIA violations and that FCPS had full knowledge of FOIA rules.

Plaintiff’s Attorney:

“This School Board is lawyered up.  They had legal counsel advising them the entire way. What they did, they did with knowledge.  We cannot prove intent because you can’t, but they had knowledge.”

JUDGE:

“Are you counting any email between one Board member to another as a FOIA violation?”

Plaintiff’s Attorney:

“If they are back and forth conversations and responses, then you get into violations.  Here we saw a frenzy of emails between Members and some forwarded one to another and some one to one.  In reality, everyone knew each other’s positions based on phone calls and emails (before the meeting).”

The plaintiff’s attorney also argued that FCPS has demonstrated undue delays for failing to provide FOIA’d documents that another judge has already compelled FCPS to produce.

FCPS’ attorneys said that claims FCPS has omitted documents is an overreach.

FCPS’ Attorney:

“Some 5000 records have been produced by FCPS to date.  That is quite substantial.  The only documents withheld are those identified as exempt.  We are fine for an in camera review by the Court of the additional documents.”

FCPS’ Attorneys then argued that the Court should decide the main case immediately.  Plaintiff’s attorney asked, “Why the rush to judgment?  We have thrown a lot at the Court in a short time so a limited briefing is fair.”

The judge agreed.

So the next step now is that the plaintiff’s attorneys have until close of business (COB) on March 17th to submit a post-trial brief to the judge of no more than 15 pages.   FCPS’ attorneys have until (COB) on March 28th to submit their post-trial brief of no more than 15 pages.

Then we wait for a ruling from the judge.  That could take between two weeks to three months from the date the judge receives FCPS’ post-trial brief.

ADDITIONAL MATERIALS

© Catherine Lorenze and Red Apple Mom, 2001. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Catherine Lorenze and Red Apple Mom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

    February 24, 2011

    The New Norm: Pay Up for those Who Don’t

    The full-day kindergarten (FDK) debate going on in Fairfax County has highlighted just how inequitable our public education system has become in Fairfax County.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s FDK, school renovations, class size or goodies like the foreign language in elementary schools (FLES) program.   A minority of Fairfax County public schools are receiving a majority of our public school resources.  Areas like Bailey’s Crossroads, parts of Annandale, Mount Vernon, the Route One Corridor and Herndon make out like bandits in comparison to areas like parts of Alexandria, Fairfax Station, McLean, Great Falls, Vienna and Oakton who get screwed on FDK, class size and special programs.

    Last year, I complained to my School Board member Jane Strauss about my son’s ridiculously large class.  (This year his fifth grade class has 36 students!)  Her response to me – stated in front of our entire McLean Community Association education committee – was that I should move my family to Bailey’s Crossroads where my son would have only 20 students in his class.  She even took care to kindly warn me that I would have to learn Spanish in order to speak with new neighbors there.  Hey I like Bailey’s Crossroads, but I’m kind of tied to a mortgage right now.  It’s incredulous that Strauss suggests constituents  should move because she refuses to address a serious problem.  Which is why Jane Strauss – who has served on the board for nearly two decades –  needs to go this November!

    Here’s another example.  Just a month ago, the moms heading up the Full-Day Kindergarten effort told me that Board of Supervisor Penny Gross-Mason District- refused to meet with them saying, “My area already has FDK.  I don’t care about your issue.”  Wow.  She sure cares about our county tax dollars that fund all the programs for her part of the county though doesn’t she?!

    I would have no problem paying slightly more in taxes to the county IF MY CHILDREN RECEIVED THE SAME BASIC PUBLIC EDUCATION SERVICES that others in this county receive.   But they don’t and that IS a fact!  The poor communities in our county will always need additional services and they should get those services – but they shouldn’t get all the basics and more while the rest of us receive “crumbs”!   The pendulum has swung so far out of whack with Fairfax County’s Public School’s “needs-based” budgeting approach that those who pay the most get the absolute least.  Public education should be for everyone – rich and poor.  These are kids we are talking about and all kids deserve the basics in a public education – like FDK and decent class sizes containing 26 or fewer students.

    I’m becoming convinced that the new norm in Fairfax County Public Schools is now:  Pay up for those who don’t.  We see it with testing fees, athletic fees, FCPS resource allocation and then FCPS’ pleas for higher taxes.   I believe it has been FCPS’ strategy all along to create a major imbalance over this past decade.  They gradually redistributed  a majority of resources to the less affluent schools so that over time, it is now the new norm.  FCPS’ hope, I believe, is that the wealthier areas may finally join their call for higher taxes for education.

    But here’s the problem.  Trust.  We don’t trust that Dr. Dale and FCPS will re-allocate new revenues to our area.  In fact, just three weeks ago at one of the School Board budget meetings, FCPS officials stated that they intend to bulk up central administration spending again once the economy returns to normal.  Any new dollars should flow to the classroom and teacher first – period!

    Here’s an additional rub.   More affluent areas of the county may get some of the resources they are seeking, but at price in more LOST resources. It’s likely we’ll see FDK implemented because it is an election year and the School Board wants to play Santa Claus even if only for once.  Just last night, Dr. Dale told the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Committee that elementary school principals around the county have agreed to trade other resources in order to help pay for FDK in the remaining 37 schools.  A source I trust told me they saw the principals’ list and at the top of proposed cuts:  Kindergarten classroom aides and aides to special education classes! FLES fans should be relieved.  Your program apparently is not on the list.

    Let’s see if any of these inequities are discussed at tonight’s School Board meeting.  You can catch it at 7:00pm on Channel 21, watch it live via webstreaming at http://www.FCPS.edu or attend in person at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church.  The meeting should be packed with action as the main discussion concerns the SW Boundary study.  12 of 21 schools in the boundary study are demanding a halt to the study citing doubts about FCPS’ data.

    Watch closely to see who sides with Liz Bradsher.  And keep an eye out for reformers Patty Reed and Tina Hone.  As always, they are great about trying to ensure that the community’s concerns are fully and satisfactorily addressed.   Here’s hoping that Sandy Evans, Ilryong Moon and Jim Rainey flex some muscle on behalf of the public tonight too.

    This action alert in from Zero Tolerance Reform: The FCPS School Board will conduct a forum meeting on discipline review tonight at 5:30pm at Luther Jackson Middle School.  In response student Nick Stuben’s tragic suicide, several Board members are presenting a request to review several aspects of FCPS’ discipline process.

    WINCE ALERT: Want to see what some school board members really think about the public they claim to serve?  Check out this link which has posted several disturbing FOIA’d emails between school board members Liz Bradsher and Tessie Wilson:
    http://www.fairfaxunderground.com/forum/read.php?2,430530,515096,page=12#msg-515096http://www.fairfaxunderground.com/forum/read.php?2,430530,515096,page=12#msg-515096

     

    • RELATED MATERIALS – Letter from Delegate Tim Hugo to FCPS regarding SW Boundary Study

    February 11, 2011

    Sparks Fly Between Superintendent Jack Dale & the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

    Sparks flew today between Superintendent Jack Dale and his main benefactor – the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) over the issue of Fairfax County Public Schools’ Zero Tolerance Policy.

    Earlier this week, the BOS took the unusual action of unanimously passing a resolution directly aimed at FCPS’ disciplinary process.  The BOS resolution, titled “FCPS Zero Tolerance Policy,” directs county agencies to share resources and expertise in family services to assist troubled FCPS youth.  The resolution also invites all FCPS stakeholders to report back to the BOS with “options and alternatives to the current policy” –  the Zero Tolerance Policy.

    Encouraging community engagement and a partnership between our schools, the BOS and the public sounds like a great idea.  It’s not sitting well with Superintendent Dale though.  In a bold statement to the BOS today, he chastised the Board’s use of the words “Zero Tolerance Policy” saying it “perpetuates the falsehood that FCPS has a zero tolerance policy.”

    Dr. Dale seems a day late and a dollar short on that call.  Perception is reality and the BOS and the public has long known FCPS’ policy by the name  “Zero Tolerance.”  In fact one of the co-founding members of the Fairfax Education Coalition (of which I am a member) is the group “Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform.”    If this term was “incorrect,” the word police in FCPS’ $2 million communications department could have and should have corrected the public’s perception on that one a long time ago.

    Dale’s letter concludes saying, “I strongly recommend that all members of the Board of Supervisors learn more about FCPS’ practices and policies before making public statements that are misinformed…” Ouch!   Is FCPS so used to talking down to taxpaying parents and teachers that they don’t mind doing it to their “elders” – the Board of Supervisors too?!

    It’s surprising that Dr. Dale chose to chastise the BOS in public and not behind closed doors.  Just last week, he and the School Board requested an extra $48 million budget transfer on top of the $1.7 billion the BOS already gives our schools.  I wonder how generous they’ll feel now that their petulant son, Dr. Dale, has called them “misinformed.”

    I suspect what’s really going on here is the beginning of a turf war.  As an unelected official, Dr. Dale controls 53% of all county revenues.  He’s appointed by the School Board and they basically do whatever they want without any oversight from the BOS – until now.  The BOS is dipping their toes into FCPS territory and that has to make the Superintendent uneasy.   After all, today’s partnership with the BOS on disciplinary review could become tomorrow’s independent audit of how FCPS really spends their $2.2-$2.5 BILLION budget.

    Yes, I suspect this very public letter Dr. Dale sent actually has very little to do with FCPS’ Zero Tolerance Policy.  Oops –   we’re not supposed to call it that.  So let’s just say that “policy we can’t call Zero Tolerance” needs reform.  Since the public funds the county budget and our schools, this partnership makes terrific sense.  So kudos to the Board of Supervisors for proposing a solution that includes the public and values their input.  It would be a welcome turn of events  if the Superintendent felt that way too.

    Related Articles & Materials

    Next Page »

    Blog at WordPress.com.

    %d bloggers like this: