Red Apple Mom

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!



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 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:,430530,515096,page=12#msg-515096,430530,515096,page=12#msg-515096


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

January 19, 2011

Ring Ring…

Last week, a father in a nearby school district got his 15 minutes of fame in the Washington Post for phone pranking his local school board.  He was upset when the school district sent out an automated “robocall” at 4:30am to announce the cancellation of school due to snow.  So the next day, he prepared his own “robocall” for School Board members – giving them his own personal version of a 4:30am wake-up call.

Did he go too far with his phone prank?  Opinion is divided, but I’m firmly in the disapproval camp.  While I appreciate this father’s attempt at humor, it just appeared so unprofessional, childish and somewhat mean-spirited.

Was it foolish for the school district to robocall parents at 4:30 in the morning?  Without a doubt – yes!  But wasn’t this father also foolish?  What kind of lesson has he taught his children with his phone prank?  Was this the best role-modeling to demonstrate?   I don’t think so.

What would I have done?  I would have brought the issue up to my School Board members at a public meeting with my children in attendance.  If I wanted to inject humor into it, maybe I’d do a takeoff on the Progressive Soup commercials.  I’d bring in two tin cans tied with string and I’d play out the the following script:

Ring Ring – Hello School Board members?  I love our schools, but your robocall notification for school closures SUCKS – kind of like this crappy string and tin-can phone that I’m using to make my point.”

Ok – that approach might be bad role-modeling for kids too.  Here’s a better solution:  Why not play the offensive Robo-call for the School Board members at a public meeting and then ask them, “Kindly raise your hand if you think it is appropriate to send this Robo-call at 4:30am and keep your hand raised if you would like me to send it to you tomorrow morning at 4:30am.”

In taking this approach, this father’s point would have been made professionally.  It wouldn’t have made headlines in the Washington Post, but his point would probably still have resonated with Board members and resulted in the same outcome for ending 4:30am robocalls.  Most importantly, the father would have demonstrated to his children how adults should behave when they are trying to effect change in their school districts.

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