Red Apple Mom

October 12, 2011

FAIRGRADE Emails Prove Strauss Is Misleading Voters

Epstein Campaign Says School Board Chair Strauss is Misleading Public
– Emails Show Strauss Was Not Leading FAIRGRADE Effort As Claimed –
– Says Emails Also Show Brad Center Recently Misled Media for Strauss –

McLean, VA- Wednesday, October 12, 2011 – A dispute has emerged between Fairfax County School Board candidates Louise Epstein and Jane Strauss about Straussʼs level of involvement in the 2008-2009 FAIRGRADE initiative as a School Board member.

During the debate at McLean High School on 9.27.11, Strauss claimed she supported the FAIRGRADE initiative as early as 2007. Newly Released FAIRGRADE emails (click here)  from 2008-2009 clearly demonstrate that Strauss is misleading the public about her involvement.

Strauss is also misleading the public about the events that led up to the final January 22, 2009 vote on FAIRGRADEʼs grading reform proposals. Straussʼcampaign has gone so far as to publicly call Epstein a liar – a charge Strauss’ campaign has yet to substantiate.

In the debate, Strauss claimed she acted as the School Board whip to get the needed votes required for passage of FAIRGRADEʼs grading reform proposals.  In what appears to be a politically-motivated move, School Board member Brad Center submitted a letter to Patch.com, to support Straussʼ version of the events.

In his letter, Center claimed he only had “a couple of conversations” with Epstein regarding the final FAIRGRADE motion.    Newly released FAIRGRADE emails show 16 detailed information exchanges and email conversations between Center and Epstein – including a summary of one in-person dinner meeting, concerning Centerʼs strategy for getting FAIRGRADE passed.

These emails support Epsteinʼs version of events.

Clarification of the FACTS in this campaign issue is warranted for the following reasons:

1.  Strauss is engaging in dirty tricks campaigning. Strauss is maligning Epsteinʼs character and inflating her own level of alleged “involvement” with the FAIRGRADE initiative – not only at the beginning of the process, but also during the final push for passage of FAIRGRADE in Jan. 2009.

2.  Strauss is using School Board member Brad Center to cover up for exaggerating her alleged involvement with FAIRGRADE. In a recent letter to the editor printed on Patch.com, Center said he “had a couple of conversations” with Epstein.

In fact, the email record demonstrates a total of 16 detailed email exchanges sent from Brad Center to Louise Epstein about who would make the final FAIRGRADE motion, what the motion would say as well as on-going whip counts about which school board members were on board and which were not.

On January 16, 2009, Center advised FAIRGRADE “not to talk to Jane Strauss, Stu Gibson, Tessie Wilson or Kathy Smith.” As late as January 19, 2009, three days before the vote, Center stated that he “did not know either way if Janie is supportive of the motion or not.”

3.  Strauss is also using Sara Pacque-Margolis to cover up for Strauss’ exaggeration of her involvement with FAIRGRADE. Ms. Pacque-Margolis resigned from FAIRGRADEʼs leadership team eight months before the final School Board vote. Pacque-Margolis was not privy to conversations or emails concerning the final vote in January 2009.    She had no direct knowledge about which School Board members helped round up votes and which School Board members did not. Her recent comments in a letter to the editor are without merit and, like the letter from Brad    Center,    also    appear    politically    motivated.


4.  Straussʼ conduct is unbecoming of a School Board member. Strauss’ campaign has recklessly called a respected parent advocate a liar without adequately backing up this charge. Strauss has also failed to provide any documented proof that demonstrates that she personally advocated for and collaborated with the FAIRGRADE leadership team early in the process, and at the end, to get the motion supported by FAIRGRADE passed.

5.  If Strauss had been engaged as early on in the process as she claims, FAIRGRADE wouldn’t have taken 2 years to pass. It could have taken 6 months, like the Full-Day Kindergarten initiative, which Strauss quickly jumped on this election year. Instead, it took the efforts of FAIRGRADE leaders like Louise Epstein to secure grading policy reforms that put FCPS students on a level playing field with students from similarly competitive school districts.

6.  Epstein is known in the PTSA and parent advocacy communities for taking copious and accurate notes. Epstein is a former editor of the Harvard Law Review. As the emails demonstrate, Epstein carefully documented all conversations with FCPS officials – including Brad Center – to keep the other FAIRGRADE leaders fully informed about all
developments.

The following summaries from emails written during the FAIRGRADE process demonstrate Straussʼs failure to support FAIRGRADE until the very end, contrary to Centerʼs recent letter to the editor. The FAIRGRADE emails show that Strauss held back, tried to game the system for the school administration and then finally gave up only when she saw the votes were there for FAIRGRADEʼs proposal. The fact that Strauss arranged to make the critical motion on January 22, 2009 demonstrates that she is a crafty politician who knows how to claim credit for the hard work of others.

The full emails are attached in a separate PDF file –Click here for official FAIRGRADE emails

Here is a detailed timeline and summary of each email:

EMAIL SUMMARY of BRAD CENTER & LOUISE EPSTEIN CONTACT:

EMAIL 1: Date: 1.13.09 at 10:55:24pm – Louise Epstein summarizes her dinner meeting with Brad Center for the FAIRGRADE team.    Epstein writes that Center stated Janie never believed anything was wrong with FCPS grading policies and she is finally coming on board for political reasons.

EMAIL 2: Date: 1.14.09 at 8:01pm – Center informs Epstein that he will shop options and scenarios around to certain School Board members.

EMAIL 3: Date: 1.14.09 at 8:06 pm – Center advises FAIRGRADE to focus just on grading scale charts as the next step towards getting support for the motion.

EMAIL 4: Date: 1.15.09 at 06.55:16 pm – Center clarifies his level of support for grading scale options, in response to Epsteinʼs question.

EMAIL 5: Date: 1.15.09 at 10:41:42 pm – Center sends his personal email address to Louise Epstein.

EMAIL 6: Date: 1.16:09 at 14:37:04 pm – Center tells Louise to call him the next day and provides his home telephone number.

EMAIL 7: Date: 1.16.09 at 18:04:14 pm – Center asks Epstein for the FAIRGRADE 10-point scale. Says he’ll talk to Phil Neidzelski-Eichner, Dan Storck, Ilryong Moon, Kaye Kory and Liz Bradsher. He does not mention Jane Strauss.

EMAIL 8: Date: 1.16.09 at 18:07:17 – Louise Epstein sends the FAIRGRADE team a summary of her phone conversation with Center. In this call, Center
advised FAIRGRADE not to talk to Jane Strauss, Stu Gibson, Tessie Wilson or Kathy Smith.

EMAIL 9: Date: 1.16.09 at 18:43:47 pm – Center thanks Louise for providing info on FAIRGRADE positions.

EMAIL 10: Date: 1.16.09 at 18:45:50 pm – Center informs Louise that his personal email account is subject to FOIA and says “don’t put anything you don’t want to see in Washington Post.”

EMAIL 11: Date: 1.16.09 at 21:02:57 pm – Megan McLaughlin sends FAIRGRADE a summary of her phone conversation with Center. In this call, Center reiterated his concerns to Megan about Jane Strauss.

EMAIL 12: Date: 1.17.09 at 13:04:04 pm – Center informs Louise that Liz Bradsher emailed him info about D bracket.

EMAIL 13: Date: 1.17.09 at 14:54:46 pm – Center informs Louise he wants to secure commitments for a 10-point scale, and doesn’t want to get into debates about A+ or F ranges.

EMAIL 14: Date: 1.17.09 at 19:42:25 pm – Center informs Louise that Tina Hone’s father just died and she may not make the final vote.

EMAIL 15: Date: 1.18.10 at 1:26:16pm – Louise Epstein sends an email to FAIRGRADE team summarizing her phone call with Brad Center, where Brad stated that on the grading scale issue, FAIRGRADE could not count on Janie or Jim Raney but they both might ultimately vote for it.

EMAIL 16: Date: 1.18.09 at 6:51pm – Center informs Louise he is working with Dan Storck on a motion and says Ilyrong Moon is missing in action.

EMAIL 17: Date: 1.18.09 at 20:36:14 pm – Center says Moon is in agreement.

EMAIL 18: Date: 1.18.09 at 21:26:03 pm – Center asks FAIRGRADE to call School Board member Kaye Kory and states Dan Storck will make the main motion specifying a 10 point system with pluses and minuses.

EMAIL 19: Date: 1.19.09 at 15.24:08 pm – Center describes which School Board members are on board with the FAIRGRADE motion. Says in bullet 3 he does not know either way if Janie is supportive of the motion or not.

EMAIL 20: Date: 1.19.09 at 7:34:12 pm – Louise Epstein sends an email to FAIRGRADE team summarizing phone conversation with Brad. Email states that Ilryong Moon called Brad to say he would support the tweaked motion but that he wanted Janie to make the motion so she could get the credit.

EMAIL 21: Date: 1.21.09 at 9:28am – After days of emails and phone calls between Center and Epstein on the whip count and motion, Center informs Louise Epstein that Jane Strauss will propose the amendment changes on the night of the vote.

EMAIL    SUMMARY    REFUTING    STRAUSSʼ    CLAIMS    OF   “EARLY” INVOLVEMENT”

EMAIL 22:    9.9.08 AT 10:53PM – FAIRGRADE co-founder Sara Pacque-Margolis expresses frustration about Jane Struass’ lack of involvement in the issue. “I am on a singular mission within Dranesville for citizens to go on the offensive with Janie Strauss. She’s sugar and spice and making me ill – … has Janie Strauss ever attended a FAIRGRADE presentation? I don’t think she has.”

EMAIL 23: 9.16.08 at 9:12:02am – WUSA Channel 9 Reporter Peggy Fox is asked by FAIRGRADE to confirm if Strauss mentioned in a recent TV interview if she supported FAIRGRADE. Fox replies: “Jane said she is ‘not opposed’ to changing the grading policy. Not the same thing as saying she ‘supports.’”

EMAIL 23: 9.16.08 at 9:14:38am – WUSA Channel 9 Reporter Peggy Fox also states: “She and the other board members I spoke to, Jim Raney and Daniel Storck, said they wanted to wait for their own staff study before making decisions.”

EMAIL 24: 10.17.08 at 9:07pm – FAIRGRADE’s Director of Communications Catherine Lorenze sends an email to a Langley HS PTSA member thanking the LHS community for their support at a FAIRGRADE presentation and states, “I found it very interesting that in her remarks to Langley parents last night, Janie Strauss failed to mention where she personally stands on the issue. She had the perfect opportunity to demonstrate strong leadership on behalf of her constituents – tell us all where she stands – and she did not do so.”

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For More Information:
Catherine Lorenze – Epstein for School Board Campaign Manager

FAIRGRADE & FCPS Discuss Grading Policies on WAMU-88.5 KOJO Nnamdi Show - July '08

Admissions Officers discuss FAIRGRADE - Aug. '08

Parent-made Poster to Support FAIRGRADE - Aug. '08

FAIRGRADE High School Presentation - Sept. '08

FAIRGRADE HS Presentation - Sept. '08

Business Alliance for FAIRGRADE Press Confernece - Oct. '08

Prepping FAIRGRADE Materials for Media - Oct. '08

Parents & Press Pack School Board Meeting for FAIRGRADE - Jan. '09

School Board Members Face a Packed Room for FAIRGRADE - Jan. '09

FAIRGRADE Team Addresses School Board & Hundreds of Supporters - Jan. '09

News Anchor Chris Core Interviews FAIRGRADE About Power of Parent Advocacy & FAIRGRADE's Success - Jan. '09

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October 2, 2011

TONIGHT – Watch the At-Large School Board Debate

Kudos to the Fairfax County Council of PTAs and the Fairfax area League of Women Voters who are sponsoring a LIVE, televised debate for the Fairfax County At-Large school board candidates.

This is a wonderful public service these fine community groups are sponsoring.  Please check out the broadcast or the webcast.  Let other voters know so they can check out the candidates too.  Spread the word – this election is CRITICAL for our students, teachers and taxpayers.

Date:  Sunday, October 2, 2011

Time:  6:30pm

Television:  LIVE on Fairfax Public Access Channel 10

Webcast:  LIVE at www.InsideScoopProductions.com

If you miss the TV broadcast or the webscast, you can catch the debate at FCCPTA’s website:  www.FCCPTA.org

As you are watching the debate tonight – ask yourself which of the candidates will bring added value to this new school board.

On election day, every voter can vote for three (3) At-Large candidates plus their district representative.  We have seen how crucial the At-Large candidates can be for effecting change (a la’ Tina Hone who sadly is not running again), so choose your three At-Large favorites carefully!

Here is a list of the At-Large candidates who are participating in tonight’s debate and as they will appear on the November 8th ballot:

September 19, 2011

More Teacher Endorsements That Are “OVER” the Moon!

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) announced their endorsements for School Board today – and when I tell you they are “OVER” the Moon – I mean it.  They really are “OVER” Moon!    Yahoo!

12-year incumbent and School Board Vice-Chairman Ilryong Moon (At-Large)  was not endorsed by FCFT.

Who else is FCFT “over” and not endorsing?   School Board Chairman and 18-year incumbent Janie Strauss (Dranesville)  and the direct past-School Board Chairman Kathy Smith (Sully).  Make that ZERO teacher endorsements for both Strauss and Smith.  The Fairfax Education Association didn’t endorse them either when FEA issued its endorsements nearly two weeks ago.

I love this.  It’s “Political Bulimia” without the bingeing – just purge, purge, purge.  Out with incumbents who no longer bring added value — in with candidates who do.

Good for you FCFT!

Bravo to the teachers of Fairfax County who studied the candidates, their voting records, their words and actions – and THEN made their endorsements.

Red Apple Mom picks for School Board scored big with FCFT endorsements including:

Braddock District – Megan McLaughlin

Dranesville District – Louise Epstein

Mason District – Sandy Evans

Providence District – Patty Reed

Springfield District – Elizabeth Schultz

Sully District – Sheila Ratnam

At-Large:  Sheree Brown-Kaplan

At-Large:  Lolita Mancheno-Smoak

At-Large:  Steve Stuban

For a full list of FCFT’s endorsements, check out their website here:  www.FCFT.org

September 18, 2011

About Those Proposed Surveillance Cameras in High School Cafeterias…

Say what you will about today’s teenagers, but I’m not buying into the premise that a couple of mass food fights in the last year justify surveillance cameras in all of our Fairfax County High Schools.  

Aren’t we jumping the gun here just a wee bit?

The cost alone – $8000 per school – seems awfully excessive for one.

More importantly, though, when did ALL of our teens become public enemy #1 requiring video surveillance?

We want these kids to act like adults.  Aren’t there better ways to encourage them to do so?

I appreciate that FCPS is soliciting input from the PTAs (as they darn well should).

However, before we go all “Big Brother” on our kids, why not engage the student councils for their opinions too?

Isn’t this a perfect “leadership” opportunity for Fairfax County’s teens?  Perhaps the student body presidents could come up with some solutions that engage their school administrators to prevent “flash mob” cafeteria incidents.

When I was a teen, we could leave our school campus for lunch.  It gave us some responsibility.  It made us feel grown up.   Can’t we find better school lunchroom policies that would encourage our teens to “act adult” rather than “act out?”

I don’t like the message these surveillance cameras send to kids.  Do our teens really need to live under a big “eye in the sky” in our public schools here in Fairfax County?  Seriously – this isn’t Detroit.   (I can say that because I grew up there! 🙂 )

Here’s another idea I’ll throw out for consideration – Let’s call it the “High School TSA Fast Pass Option.”

Your child agrees to submit to a tight initial screening at the beginning of the school year – grilled by administrators about their potential threat as a potential “food-fight” participant.  If the student is deemed a non-threat, they can get their “TSA Fast Pass” and eat in peace without surveillance. 

Here’s another option – cafeteria ankle shackles.   That has to be cheaper than video cameras!  If your kid wants to eat, they have to lock up first. If a food fight begins, all the perps can be easily identified since they will already be shackled in place.  The added benefit to shackles –  no expensive technology upgrades!

Sarcasm aside, we’ll see how this issue plays out in the next few months.  However you feel about the issue, register your opinions with your administrators, School Board members, and PTA/PTO leadership.

Kudos though to the parent advocacy group Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform who first brought this issue to the attention of the press.  Check out their arguments in the press release they issued last week.  FZTR News Release-Video Surveillance

Related Articles:

Fairfax Principals Want Indoor School Cameras  (Washington Post, September 17, 2011)

School Security Cameras Proposal Draws Parent Glares In Fairfax County (Fairfax County Times, September 16, 2011)

Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform

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 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)

July 20, 2011

Fairfax County School Board’s Discussion on Honors Courses

School Board Work Session

Someone wasn’t prepared for class Monday!

Monday’s School Board work session (7.18.11) on the Honors issue ran for two hours. It could have been more productive if Peter Noonan, the Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services, had come prepared for the same discussion many School Board members – and members of the public –  thought they came for.

Some attendees thought the discussion would focus on curriculum choices that best serve all FCPS students.  Noonan’s presentation instead focused on why FCPS believes a two-tiered curriculum best serves underrepresented minority students.

Patty Reed

When Noonan finished his presentation, Patty Reed -who represents the Providence District – stated, “I’m very troubled…this is not an objective analysis.  I would throw out this presentation and start over…present the pros and cons of a three-tier curriculum and see how many other school systems offer three tiers.” 

Dr. Dale stated, “You raised a different question than what we came for.  That wasn’t today’s presentation.”

Reed replied,“This is what makes me most upset.  That is a decision that should be made by this Board.  We never had that discussion (to remove Honors courses from the curriculum).” 

Dan Storck of the Mount Vernon District told Noonan that he did not understand FCPS’ assertion that the curriculum for standard level, Honors and AP courses is essentially the same.  Noonan later stated, “So why have a middle choice (Honors) when the classes are the same?”

The problem is that all students are not the same.  Some students are not ready or prepared to take multiple, college level AP courses.  Although the curriculum for the three tiers may be similar, the classroom expectations between standard level, Honors and AP courses are vastly different.   Why not have a middle option to serve all levels of learners who want a rigorous, yet balanced course load?

FCPS’ excuse was to cite College Board marketing materials which claim that students who score a 1-2 on the AP exams are better prepared for college. (College Board is the organization that prepares and sells the AP curriculum to thousands of high schools across the country.) 

At-Large School Board Member Tina Hone didn’t buy the argument.

She asked, “Is it better for a kid to take the AP class and fail the exam or take the Honors class and pass?”

FCPS’ curriculum expert Noonan said, “The AP class.”

Hone quickly pulled out a Harvard study demonstrating that students who passed Honors courses did better in college than kids who got a failing 1-2 grade on the AP test.

Hone stated, “This (study) runs a bit counter to what you guys are saying.   It’s saying the Honors kids are doing well.  This is the kind of data we need to make decisions on.” 

She’s right.

FCPS would like the focus of this debate to stay on underrepresented minorities and closing the achievement gap.  But here is the reality:  Limited curriculum choices are not helping our students overall.

While there has been a small increase in the number of FCPS minority students who are taking AP courses, it is clear that a much greater number of FCPS students are now relegated to Standard Level (gen ed) courses because FCPS has removed the Honors option and these students can’t afford the stress that comes with a full plate of AP courses.

Bottom line – Honors courses provide rigor for all student groups – no matter what their ethnicity or socio-economic background.  The learning potential of the overall student body should not be sacrificed so that FCPS can artificially close the achievement gap.

FCPS should focus on what’s best for ALL students.  Bring back the upper-level, high-school Honors courses FCPS and continue encouragement of minority participation in both AP and Honors courses.  That would truly be a win-win for all FCPS students!

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.)

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