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.”

###

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

Advertisements

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

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:

July 7, 2011

FCPS Flexing Its Muscle to Kill Upper-Level Honors Courses

Fairfax County Public Schools is exerting its muscle in trying to kill the effort by parents and teachers (and privately some principals) to re-institute upper-level, high school honors courses for 11th and 12th graders.

The most critical point now is this:

  • FCPS officials are misleading School Board members by telling them that 100% of FCPS high school principals across the county are on board with FCPS’ phase-out of these upper level, high school honors courses.  However, some high school principals are privately reaching out and telling FAIRGRADE they want to KEEP these classes.  They know these classes benefit our student population across the board.

I will not identify who these principals are because they justifiably fear the Superintendent’s powerful machine.  Dale and company hold the careers of these principals in their hands.  Last spring, we saw negative repercussions for teachers at West Potomac High School who publicly spoke out in support of keeping these Honors courses.  So who could blame these principals for wanting to remain anonymous?

It’s a sorry state of affairs that this fine school district conducts business this way.  School Board members can still get to the TRUTH  and bypass  Superintendent Jack Dale’s iron fist if they really want to.

One option for School Board members is this:  Reach out and speak privately and directly with as many FCPS high school principals as possible before the July 18th work session on this issue.  Solicit their views and assure these principals that their identities will remain private so as not to jeopardize their careers.

With hope,  enough School Board members will see FCPS’ attempts to whitewash the truth and rise to the moment – as they did when they agreed to change FCPS’ grading policies in 2009.  They told the Superintendent NO then – and they should do it again.

Right now, our great school district is on the edge of a curriculum cliff.  FCPS can offer fewer options that serve fewer students or they can offer a three-tiered curriculum, including Honors courses, that gives students a wider range of learning options.

In this case, more is better and FAIRGRADE has the facts to prove this point.

School Board members – please pick up the phone and reach out to our high school principals.  Don’t take this school district over the cliff without the facts.  FCPS’ all-out pursuit to close the achievement gap should not be done at the expense of FCPS’s reputation to deliver a quality education to ALL students.

June 26, 2011

My Letter to the Editor About Janie Strauss’ Vote Against Parents

Kudos to The Connection Newspapers who print constituent letters to the editor – including from yours truly.

OUT OF TOUCH

She’s on Facebook.  She tweets.  And yet, Janie Strauss is more out of touch than ever.

She recently voted NO against parental notification.  So now school authorities can

interrogate and pressure my child to sign a confession without having to call me first.

Parental notification is the one change to the disciplinary code that parents wanted most.

And Janie Strauss voted NO.  She voted with the Superintendent – again – and against

the wishes of parents.  In this day and age of social media, email and even the old-fashioned

telephone, a simple call informing me that my child may be in trouble is not too much to

ask of the public school system.  Voting for Janie Strauss again is too much to ask for. 

She’s out of touch and out of date.  We need a new generation of leadership to represent

parents, students and taxpayers.  That’s why I am supporting Louise Epstein in November.

It’s time for leadership that delivers real results.

Catherine Lorenze
Parent of three FCPS students, McLean

6 ❖ McLean Connection ❖ June 22-28, 2011

School Board Member Janie Strauss submitted her own letter to local papers the week before.   In her letter, she stated:   “Some parents are uncomfortable with an administrator questioning students without first notifying and seeking permission from a parent. But in order to protect the safety of all students, principals must be able to immediately investigate incidents of misbehavior.”

Try MOST parents are uncomfortable Janie.   The vote for parental notification was for NON-CRIMINAL offenses.  If school officials can manage to call me when my child is ill, they can call to let me know my child is being questioned about a food-fight or some other NON-CRIMINAL activity.  What risk to student safety is there if the allegation is NON-CRIMINAL?

Interestingly, just day’s after Strauss’ vote, the US Supreme Court ruled that children don’t necessarily lose their right to self-incrimination when they walk into school.

Read more:
In School and In Custody (The News Observer – Chapel Hill, NC – June 22, 2011)

June 23, 2011

An SOL Hangover

It’s been over 48 hours since the end of the school year. My family’s SOL hangover is finally over – at least for this year anyhow. 

With three kids in public school, this non-stop test prep drove me and my children crazy.  It seems to get worse every year.  Please tell me I’m not alone Red Apple Mom readers.  Was the stress level in your house high over the SOL tests?

I’ve told my kids not to stress over these tests.  But my laissez-faire attitude went nowhere because the constant message my kids received from their schools was perform, perform, perform.

I despise this non-stop test prep and these tests.  I think I despise the weeks after the SOL tests even more though.  At the schools my children attend, those two weeks were filled with field days and seemingly one party after another.  No more learning – just partying. This meant already busy parents were peppered with lots of requests for food, water, and their time to come oversee activities that filled up the last days of school.

I’m a grouch about all of this.  It’s a non-stop stress fest over standardized tests that don’t seem to measure very much anyway.  Enough already.  Enough of the parties and enough of the non-stop testing.

I’ll be listening closely to tonight’s School Board discussion about Dr. Dale’s proposal to shift SOL testing dates for middle schoolers to multiple points in the year.  But I’ll be honest – the idea of bringing “SOL Hell” to other points in the school year is hardly an appealing proposal to me at this point. Perhaps I need to mix up a Bloody Mary to get me through this SOL hangover while I listen to this evening’s School Board presentation!

Related Articles:

Virginia Sets the Bar Too Low (Washington Post, June 21, 2011)

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)

May 29, 2011

News You Can Use on College Admissions, School Board Elections, Honors & More…

After crashing on several big projects leading up to Memorial Day, I used this weekend to catch-up on news coverage about various issues impacting Fairfax County Public Schools students and teachers.

Check out these informative articles below.

Later in the weekend, I’ll blog some commentary about a few of these issues. I’ll also provide some background on discussions I had with The Washington Post’s Jay Matthews last Friday.  He has an article coming out on the FCPS Honors issue next week that you’ll want to read and perhaps post a public comment – or two!

Next week, check out my blog rebuttal that will challenge Jay’s assertions about the Honors issue in Fairfax County.

  • 2011 FAIRFAX COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS

Democrats Endorse Two School Board Candidates Without Majority  (Patch.com, May 25, 2011)

School Board Candidate Allen Calls Process “Pathetic” – Will Continue to Run (Patch.com, May 25, 2011)

  • FY2012 FAIRFAX COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS BUDGET

School Board Pushes $2.2 Billion Budget Forward (The Fairfax County Times, May 27, 2011)

School Board Passes Budget With Full-Day Kindergarten, Teacher Raises, Athletic Fee Cap  (Patch.com, May 27, 2011)

  • FCPS GRADUATES & COLLEGE ADMISSIONS

How Many Seniors Got Into W&M?   See How many students were accepted to William & Mary from your high school.   (The Connection Newspapers, May 21, 2011)

How Many Seniors Got Into UVA?   – See How many students were accepted to UVA from your local high school.   (The Connection Newspapers, May 21, 2011)

What the Future Holds  – Students pursue college and careers after high school  (The Connection Newspapers, May 19, 2011)

  • FCPS CURRICULUM DECISIONS & IMPACT ON STUDENTS

School Districts Move Away from Honors Classes in Favor of AP Courses   (The Washington Post, May 21, 2011)

Local high school graduates struggle in community college   (The Washington Examiner, May 18, 2011)

  • FY2012 FCPS LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

School Board Warned Tough Legislative Season Ahead   (The Fairfax County Times, May 27, 2011)

  • CLIFTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CLOSURE

Clifton Fears That Closing Town’s Only School Means End to Community’s Identity  (The Washington Post, May 25, 2011)

A New School – Letter to Editor:   (The Connection Newspapers, May 16 2011)

  • THE JAY MATHEWS HIGH SCHOOL CHALLENGE INDEX

Ranking America’s High Schools    (The Washington Post, May 2011)

Confessions of a School Ranker   (The Washington Post, May 22, 2011)

Catching Up on National High School Rankings   (The Washington Post, May 25, 2011)

Challenging Jay’s Challenge Index – The Answer Sheet   (The Washington Post, May 20, 2011)

  • FY2012 FCPS LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

School Board Warned Tough Legislative Season Ahead   (The Fairfax County Times, May 27, 2011)


May 17, 2011

What if a teacher “got rid of drugs” for a student?

Monday’s School Board work session on discipline reform took a weird turn, I thought, when it was Janie Strauss’ turn to address her colleagues.

School Board Member Jane Strauss

First, she completely neglected to discuss the lack of parental notification in the Superintendent’s recommendations for discipline reform.  (This is important because one of the students who committed suicide after the FCPS discipline process was from her district.)

Then she  bizarrely asked FCPS staff, “In a situation where a kid brings a small amount of drugs, what is our requirement if drugs are found?  What if a teacher got rid of it?  What is the law?”

Yes, Strauss seriously asked what if a teacher “got rid of  drugs” for a student?

How weird it that?  What teacher would honestly risk their job and reputation by doing such a thing?

Strauss said she was asking the question because parents had posed the question to her and wondered if drug situations could be handled “privately.” Why Strauss focused on that issue rather than parental notification is just plain weird to me.

For the record, Dale informed Strauss that FCPS is required to report criminal activity.  So the answer is “NO.”  Drug possession on FCPS property is never handled as a “private” matter.

Kudos to School Board members Sandy Evans, Tina Hone and Patty Reed who asked all the tough questions of the day and advocated strongly for parental notification, new training of hearings officers and not treating first-time offenders like hardened criminals.

School Board Work Session on Discipline Reform

Some additional information points from Monday’s work session include:

  • Superintendent Dale stated that FCPS does not send discipline records to colleges.  He said many colleges and universities ask students if they have had discipline infractions, but FCPS “doesn’t send a thing to colleges.”
  • One of the big changes to the Student Responsibilities & Rights  (SRR) deals with Over –the-Counter (OTC) drugs.  If a student brings an OTC drug to school, like an aspirin or Motrin, the principal has full discretion to decide on a suspension or a reprimand if the OTC drug was innocently brought to school by mistake.  However, if a student is found to be distributing an OTC drug for the purpose of misuse, a principal could recommend expulsion.  FCPS staff explained that OTC cough medicines are sometimes abused by students and distributed to others.
  • FCPS staff stated if there was intent to misuse or distribute prescription drugs, principals will not handle that in-house and the case will be referred to the hearings office.  The factors involved come down to legal use as prescribed by a doctor versus illegal use (distribution to others of the prescription drug).
  • Statements provided by students during the discipline process are confidentially held by Fairfax County Public Schools unless subpoenaed by a court.  One FCPS staffer said in the seven years that she has worked in the FCPS hearing office, she is aware of only one student statement being subpoenaed.
  • FCPS has said they will let parents listen to an audio recording of their child’s discipline hearing, but won’t give them a copy of the recording.  They cited confidentiality concerns with other students’ names who might be mentioned during the hearing.  They also expressed concerns that the recording could be edited and taken out of context.  School Board Member Tina Hone took issue with FCPS staff on this point saying there is encryption software that could lock the recording and prevent it from being copied or edited.  She also stated there are options for blocking out student names.
  • Kindergarten students must now be met at the bus by a parent or guardian or a sibling who is in 7th grade or higher.  If they are not, the bus driver will return the student to the school.

May 16, 2011

Missing the Mark on School Discipline Reform?

I very much appreciate Fairfax County Public Schools’ attention to the discipline reform issue.  However, I join others in expressing serious concern that school officials are missing the mark on this issue– big time. 

On Friday, a FCPS press release said Superintendent Dale will present specific measures “to implement his 10 recommendations for changes” to the student discipline process at the School Board work session on May 16th.

Huh?  To “implement his 10 recommendations”?   Remember, this is a Superintendent who originally denied that FCPS has a “zero tolerance” policy.  Now he’s the one deciding the list of recommendations and we’ve leap-frogged to “implementation” already?

The FCPS press release says the school district “listened to input from the School Board, principals and members of the community.”   Really?  Which members of the community?  I never received an FCPS Keep-in-Touch message asking for input.  I never saw announcements from any of my schools asking for input.  The main parent advocacy group pushing for change – Fairfax for Zero Tolerance Reform – tells me they were never asked to consult about the Superintendent’s recommendations.

A more troubling component is the Superintendent’s recommendations are “back-end” heavy.  Dale’s proposals mainly  focus on AFTER a student has been accused and interrogated. 

As one parent advocate working closely on this issue told me, “Why is Dale NOT reforming the punishment practice itself?  THAT is the problem. THAT is what damages kids. THAT is what is unfair.  That is what is costing the community too much.  THAT is what parents want.”

It’s true there is no mention of a parental notification requirement in Dale’s 10 recommendations. If your child is accused of an infraction, he or she may be interrogated at length by school officials without you present.

Are you comfortable having your child interrogated alone?

When you were a kid, would you have been comfortable being questioned by authorities without your parents there?

FCPS is so averse to parental notification that their lobbyists helped kill a bill in Richmond that would have required schools to call you before your child could be questioned.

Fairfax County parents want to be notified.  They made that clear to the House of Delegates which is why a bill appeared in the first place.  They’ve also made it clear to the Board of Supervisors and to School Board members.

And still, this very critical component doesn’t appear on Dale’s list of 10 recommendations.

Another omission from Dale’s list – the involuntary transfers of students.  Based upon Title 22.1 of the Code of Virginia, Virginia schools have no legal right to involuntarily transfer students to another regular school program solely for discipline purposes.

Dale maintains that it is a “privilege” for students to attend their home-base school.  But school attendance is not a privilege.  It is a legal right.  And if a student does not pose a danger to others, why is FCPS spending hundreds of thousands of dollars transferring kids – and their problems – to another school?

Bottom line, Superintendent Dale’s recommendations need more “Front-End” proposals that deal with the punishment process itself.  It was the punishment process that led to the tragic suicides of two FCPS students.

The Superintendent still doesn’t get that.  Here’s hoping enough School Board members do get it and that real reform will hit the mark and  reflect informed community input.

Related Articles:

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: