Here is the FCPS survey released today – would love to know what you think!
Here is the FCPS survey released today – would love to know what you think!
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
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.”
For More Information:
Catherine Lorenze – Epstein for School Board Campaign Manager
Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews posted an interesting column yesterday about a Charter School proposal in Fairfax County. The premise of Mathews’ column is that charter schools and “rich” suburbs don’t mix. (Washington Post online text – not mine.) Mathews wrote about this topic because some former FCPS officials are proposing a public school charter to help low-income families. Mathews doesn’t like the idea. It’s not really clear why he holds this view exactly except that Mathews states, “Fairfax school officials have suggested to me that charters are just for struggling school systems.”
I think it’s impressive former Fairfax County Public Schools officials are “thinking outside of the box” when it comes to our county’s needy students. Why not? Addressing poverty doesn’t have to be a one-size fits all model.
Here’s one option I know that works and that FCPS officials might examine. A few years ago, my friend Terry introduced me to Mr. Tom Lewis – an impressive, retired DC police officer – who created The Fishing School in Washington, D.C. Mr. Lewis provides after-school academic programs for at-risk youth. The school is reliant on corporate and private donations as well as a major yearly fundraiser that my friend Terry organizes.
After I heard Tom’s story, my husband and I became supporters of this terrific school. Tom tells the heartbreaking story of his service in DC public schools as the on-site police officer. Many of the children would ask “Officer Tom” if he would be their dad. Tom learned that these children needed and craved personal attention. He realized there was a critical time period each day – from 3pm to 11pm – when these poor kids really needed adult guidance and a place to stay off the streets until a parent or guardian returned home from work.
When Tom retired, he took his policeman’s pension – bought a run-down crack house, fixed it up and opened The Fishing School to help needy children who wanted him to be “their dad.” Two years ago, ABC’s “Extreme Home Make-Over” learned about Tom’s remarkable story. Thanks to the ABC Network, that former crack house is now a shining new facility and some of the city’s most at-risk kids get tutoring help, a healthy meal and a safe place to play.
Tom was thinking outside of the box. Tom didn’t wait for DC Schools to come up with a solution. Tom didn’t wait for DC’s government to step in with funding. Tom took it upon himself to help break the cycle of poverty in his neighborhood and in his own way. The results have been incredible.
I like the fact that these former FCPS officials are engaging in some similar “out of the box” thinking. Maybe a charter school is one way and maybe it’s not. But what’s the harm in trying? If there are officials inside or outside of FCPS who can offer effective solutions that provide “wrap-around” services for poor families, then I for one want to hear more about it.
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
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:
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 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!
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!)
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.
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.
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.htmlVodpod videos no longer available.
Holy cow – if this wasn’t the shock of the day.
Check out what just came into my email box:
Local Politics News Alert: Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale to retire
September 22, 2011 8:38:50 PM
Fairfax County Superintendent Jack D. Dale, who has weathered a brutal recession and parent frustrations while steering one of the nation’s top-performing suburban school systems for the past seven years, said he will retire when his contract ends in June 2013.
Dale said he wanted to publicize his decision now so that the community knows his plans before an election that will determine the mission, vision and direction of the school system over the next decade.
For more information, visit PostLocal.com
Sounds like someone has seen the writing on the wall even BEFORE this November’s elections!
(Hey Superintendent – can you take Jane Strauss, Ilyrong Moon and Kathy Smith with you?)
I view this as a VERY shrewd move on Dale’s part. It looks to me to be an election year bone thrown to his favorite School Board incumbents – Strauss – Moon and Smith who would love to focus your voter attention on a new Superintendent search this election rather than their own lame voting records. Caution voters – don’t fall for it. This isn’t cynicism speaking. This is a seasoned political consultant speaking.
It will be key to ask School Board candidates – and incumbents – what they’ll look for in a new superintendent. However, it is just as important to look at how these incumbents have voted in the past and determine if any of them bring added value to the School Board compared to their challengers.
As for Dale, it will be interesting to see which high-priced job he takes next – and whether any of those offers come from companies who have current contracts with Fairfax County Public Schools!
Red Apple Mom Appearance on Fox 5 Morning News – Washington, DC <object type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” id=”video” width=”320″ height=”280″ data=”http://www.myfoxdc.com/video/videoplayer.swf?dppversion=11212″><param
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
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
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)
I thought the response to yesterday’s floods by the FCPS schools in my area (Dranesville) was fantastic.
As swiftly as the waters were rising, my schools were issuing immediate calls for parents to pick up their children.
Unfortunately, some children were stranded at schools until late into the evening. Buses and cars couldn’t get to or from schools and home. However, most people I know had their children home safe and sound by dinnertime.
So bravo to the teachers, principals and PTA/PTO leaders who quickly rallied to action. Quite a fire drill to throw into the mix on only the third day of the school year.
How did it go at your school(s) yesterday?