Red Apple Mom

October 28, 2011

FCPS Pictures You Must See to Believe

FCPS Central HQ

FCPS Central HQ Lobby

FCPS Computerized Parking Lot

A picture really is worth a thousand words isn’t it?

This is the Fairfax County Public Schools headquarters, known as “Gatehouse,” located in Falls Church.

It’s a pretty large building which makes it hard to believe claims that central HQ staff is “lean.”  If it were so lean, why the need for so much administrative office space?

Notice the beautiful granite lobby flooring.

Notice the computerized parking garage system that tells visitors how many spots are available on each floor.

FCPS Central HQ Cafeteria

FCPS headquarters also contain a fitness center and on-site credit union.  Check out the beautiful cafeteria  – which seems rather unnecessary considering that at least six restaurants and a grocery store are within a three-block walking distance from this building.

FCPS Student Trailers

FCPS Student Trailer

Now juxtepose FCPS administrators’ plush work space with our student’s 21st century classroom – double-wide trailers with no indoor plumbing and usually lacking air conditioning.

As of today – Friday, October, 28th, we are 10 days away from electing a new school board.  Sitting school board members who are seeking re-election are telling voters not to look to the past.  Why?   Well, the pictures displayed here demonstrate incumbents have focused our valuable tax dollars on themselves before students!

While our kids sit in trailers, these long-time incumbents were voting themselves beautiful plush administrative offices.  And they didn’t do it just once, they did it twice.  In 2008, several of these sitting incumbents – particularly Jane Strauss, Kathy Smith and Dan Storck – voted to spend up to $130 million on a second plush administrative building.  (FCPS School Board Minutes  9/18/08 & 10/2/08)

Thankfully, that debacle – known as Gatehouse II – was voted down by a very prudent Board of Supervisors.

I’m not buying this eleventh-hour,  canned campaign rhetoric that 18-year incumbent Jane Strauss and 12-year incumbent Ilyrong Moon are throwing out about 21st century classrooms.  We’ve been in the 21st century for a decade now.  They have both been in office for almost two decades each!  Why weren’t they preparing us for the 21st century during the 20th century? 

It’s time to get this school district’s priorities right again.  We can’t do that if Jane Strauss, Ilyrong Moon and Kathy Smith are re-elected.

If these incumbents really cared about all students, they would have lowered class size years ago and made administrators work out of trailers instead of our kids and teachers.

On Tuesday, November 8th, say NO to expensive new administrative buildings.

Say NO to incumbents Jane Strauss, Ilyrong Moon, Kathy Smith and Dan Storck.

Say YES to NEW School Board members who will use tax dollars efficiently and put kids and teachers first!

The decision is in your hands voters.

McLean Connection Class Size Article

Related articles

October 21, 2011

Hostile FCPS Work Environment – Even for a School Board Member’s Spouse

Patch.com ran such a great article today about Steve Greenberg’s speech to the School Board last night that I’m printing it in full here.  Steve is the president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers.  His outreach and dedication to his teacher colleagues show he has the true pulse of a good percentage of teachers who work for FCPS.

We already knew the discipline process was hostile.  So too, apparently, is the FCPS workplace.

School Board elections are in less than three weeks.  Your choices for School Board are more important than ever!  FCPS can only see real change if voters clean house and clean up the culture of how teachers, parents and students are treated.

Say NO to long-term incumbents like Strauss, Moon, Smith and Storck.  Take the lead from the teachers – make your voice heard at the ballot box on Nov. 8th!

 

Teachers To School Board: ‘Our Members Will Be Heard One Way Or Another’

President of Fairfax County teachers union says bad climate intimidates and bullies teachers, discourages feedback

By Erica R. HendryOctober 20, 2011 – A teachers’ union representing thousands of Fairfax County Public School teachers says its members are afraid to offer input or speak out about classroom or curriculum changes.

But intimidation and bullying of teachers at certain schools from FCPS administrators are not new issues, the union says.

Stephen Greenburg, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, said the climate in schools across the county has been deteriorating for a decade, and despite several attempts to create an ongoing dialogue about the issue, it hasn’t improved.

“Many teachers in this system are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution. Whether their fears are founded in reality or simply perceived, the fact they feel that way is not healthy,” Greenburg said in a speech to school board members Thursday night, adding “the attitude of ‘keep quiet and do your job, unless you want me to find someone else to do it in your place’ must end.”

The issue also came to light at a school board candidates’ forum last Saturday, during which School Board Member Dan Storck said his wife, employed by FCPS, doesn’t feel comfortable giving input in her environment, according to Greenburg and parents at the forum.

“This dynamic is real, and it’s out there,” Greenburg said.

Greenburg said the recent promotion of Phyllis Pajardo to Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources is  “a good first step in eliminating this culture of intimidation, one that had been established by her predecessor,” and his members have already seen positive changes in how the department handles employee issues.

“She is fair and consistent so far, and her approach is much appreciated,” Greenburg said. “She is the kind of person that can change [this culture].”

The issue plays into a long-standing request from FCFT and the county’s other teachers union, Fairfax Education Association, for more communication with the board and a consistent, open, ongoing avenue for dialogue.

In January, Greenburg and FEA President Michael Hairston told the board teachers were overloaded, overworked and burdened by administrative and technology demands in their classrooms, saying “morale is at an all-time low.”

At that meeting, during which the board approved student achievement goals for math, science and technology,Greenburg told the board that a key piece of data — teacher input — was missing from the goals. The goals did not include any current information about the success or downfalls of instruction and curriculum in the classroom, he said.

Since then, the unions have asked for dedicated monthly meetings with a committee of school board members, similar to how the board meets with other groups and advisory councils.

While Superintendent Jack Dale has since invited the board chair to sit in on his meetings with the unions, Greenburg said, a way for the unions to consistently communicate directly with the board has yet to be established.

Such a meeting could help school board members ask for teacher input, and also allow the unions to bring teacher issues forward — in theory, Greenburg said, addressing the ‘climate of intimidation’ before it escalated to the atmosphere that exists today.

 

September 22, 2011

Superintendent Jack Dale to R-E-T-I-R-E

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.

http://link.email.washingtonpost.com/r/KYNZS9/5CXSI4/FXO790/VIAZSI/ZPY86/T3/h

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!

Related Articles:

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

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 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.)

June 10, 2011

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

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

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

Janie "I voted NO on parental notification" Strauss

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

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

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

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

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

Parents Rally for Discipline Reform

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

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

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

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

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

Debate on Parental Notification Amendment

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

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

School Board members who voted NO on parental notification:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

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

FCPS School Board Proposed Amendments (June 9, 2011)

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

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

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

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

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

June 3, 2011

School Board Partying That Goes too Far

Some of our School Board members and School Board candidates sure do LOVE to party.

School Board is a non-partisan position.

Kids don’t come with R’s and D’s on their foreheads and I don’t want my School Board members to either.

The sad reality is that running for School Board in Fairfax County does require a party endorsement in order to run a viable campaign.

The problem is, one party is taking “the party” too far.

The Fairfax County Democrats issued their endorsements last week. (See news coverage below)  Their selections are mostly the same old same old – based on who has served “the party” and who has been around the longest. 

Grandmother Janie Strauss is in her second decade on the School Board.  Snooooozzzzzzeeeeee.  Can’t she go do something else already?

Ilyrong Moon – the human weather vane who can’t cast a vote until he sees which way the political winds are blowing – was first elected in 1995.   Can’t he go do something else too?    School Board shouldn’t be a lifetime position!

Kathy Smith – the current School Board chair – is responsible for leading the school district right into Fairfax County Circuit Court over Open Meetings Law and FOIA violations and costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands in legal fees.  She really needs to go!  Taxpayers can’t afford her.

These incumbents don’t deliver results – unless of course it’s an election year and then they throw teachers a token 1% pay increase.   For the most part though, they’ve delivered nothing but higher administrative spending and rubber-stamping for the Superintendent’s proposals that are often in conflict with what the public wants.  They need to go.

The Democrats blew it on their At-Large School Board candidate selections too.  They chose a guy who is Kathy Smith’s protegé and who is on the record writing nasty letters to the editor about parent advocates.  He’s a smooth talker and apparently it was his political party connections that secured his nomination over more highly qualified parent advocates who were seeking the Democrats’ blessing.   The party also endorsed another At-Large candidate whose claim to fame is her relation to Mike Espy – former Secretary of the Department of  Agriculture.  How that candidate’s connection to a pseudo-celebrity is supposed to make her an effective School Board member is beyond me.   Smells like nothing more than political nepotism.

The Democrats did get it right with two of their endorsed nominees –  Sandy Evans and Megan McLaughlin.  Both rightly received their party’s endorsement because they are highly qualified to run and both have strong records working on behalf of taxpayers, teachers and parent advocates.  I’m proud to be assisting both of their campaigns.

I’m advising ten candidates running for School Board and personally serving as campaign manager for two races.  There is plenty of “reformer talent” in both parties to do the job.  I know because the candidates whose campaigns I’m assisting are from both parties.

FAIRGRADE's Megan McLaughlin

Sandy Evans - Mason District

Party regulars aren’t pleased though.  Some of my candidates have told me they have received calls from their party leaders saying, “You know your advisor (Red Apple Mom) is working for candidates from that ‘other’ party.  You shouldn’t be working with her.”

May I remind all party leaders out there – SCHOOL BOARD IS NON-PARTISAN.  There is a reason for that.  Kids don’t come with R’s and D’s on their foreheads.  THIS IS ABOUT EDUCATION – not politics.

I have worked extremely hard for the past three years to build up FAIRGRADE and the Fairfax Education Coalition – both bi-partisan groups – in the hope that endorsements from parent and teacher groups will as valuable, if not more valuable, to voters than political party endorsements.

Red Apple Mom readers are savvy.  You get it.  You understand that our School Board needs reform-minded candidates focused on education, not politics.  So when scrutinizing candidate websites and literature, ask yourself:  “Is this candidate more focused on politics than education?   Is their list of endorsements filled with political leaders or leaders from parent groups, teacher groups, taxpayer and community groups?” 

You want a candidate to represent YOU and YOUR child.  If a candidate is all about “the party”, who do you think will come first – the party or your child?  Choose carefully.

There are less than 23 weeks to the election on November 8th.  If you want real change, don’t sit on the sidelines.  Get involved now.  Find a reformer candidate.  Volunteer and donate.  Reformer candidates from both parties need our support.  Voters can vote for one district candidate and three At-Large candidates.  There are a total of 12 School Board members (9 district reps and 3 At-Large reps).

Here are some of the candidates I’m actively supporting and advising.  (Most of them are running with a Republican endorsement because a majority of the School Board is Democratic and many of the Democratic incumbents are running again.  I am supporting challenger candidates and open seat candidates who weren’t recruited by sitting School Board members since that is the only way we are going to get REAL CHANGE with new ideas and fresh leadership!)

Please check out their websites, share with others and get involved:

Lolita Mancheno-Smoak, At-Large – Open Seat:  www.Lolita4SchoolBoard.com

Louise Epstein, Dranesville District – Challenging Incumbent Janie Strauss:  www.LouiseEpstein4SchoolBoard.com

Megan McLaughlin, Braddock District – Open Seat:  www.McLaughlinforSchoolBoard.com

Patty Reed, Providence District:  www.ReedforSchoolBoard.com

Sandy Evans, Mason District: website under construction

Elizabeth Schultz, Springfield District – Open Seat:  www.ElizabethSchultzforSchoolBoard.com

Sheila Ratnam, Sully District – Challenging Incumbent Kathy Smith:  www.SheilaRatnam.org

Michelle Nellenbach, Mount Vernon District – Challenging Incumbent Dan Storck:  www.Nellenbach.com

Nancy Linton, Hunter Mills District, Open Seat:  www.NancyLintonforSchoolBoard.org

Sheree Brown-Kaplan, At-Large:   website coming soon

Related Articles:

Democrats Pick School Board Candidates Amid Controversy  (The Connection Newspaper, May 28, 2011)

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)

Time For New Leadership (The Connection Newspaper, February 15, 2011)

Stick With Facts (The Connection Newspapers, August 5, 2010)

May 12, 2011

That “In the Dark” Feeling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know how I’m voting!

Related Articles:

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

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

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

March 23, 2011

Political Jiu Jitsu for 2011 School Board Elections

It’s not even April yet, and some School Board members are already trying to frame the November elections for School Board.

That tells me one thing – they’re running scared about being replaced by voters.

Their apparent strategy, as outlined in a recent Fairfax Times article, is to falsely depict all challengers as “one-issue” candidates who won’t serve the “whole” community.

Their strategy is also to make “student achievement” the sole focus of any campaign.

Here’s the problem for sitting school board members – the public is generally motivated to vote because of hot-button issues.  And FCPS has served up plenty of hot-button issues the past four years.  (See several outlined below.)

School Board Member Liz Bradsher told the Fairfax Times, “It’s important for whoever runs for the School Board not to be a one-issue candidate because that’s bad for the school system.”

Hmmmm…actually what’s bad for the school system is School Board meetings that violate Virginia’s Open Meetings Law and the Freedom of Information Act – violations that have recently led to expensive court action over the Clifton ES closure.

What’s also bad for the school system is School Board members who are out of touch and fail to be ahead of the curve on issues like FAIRGRADE, discipline reform and administrative spending priorities.

The current crop of School Board challengers aren’t one-issue candidates.  They have proven to be effective parent advocates who use data and evidence to validate their positions.  They use the law (like FOIA), to substantiate their concerns.  They advocate for accountability and transparent decision-making.  Most importantly, the issues they advocate for have all been directly or indirectly related to ‘student achievement.” 

My favorite part of this article is at the end when At-Large School Board member Jim Raney states that having new people on the board with new views can also be a good thing. I’ll second that statement!

Too many School Board members want this job for life. Ilyrong Moon has been on the board since 1995.  Jane Strauss is going on her second DECADE of service.  We need school board members who have kids currently attending our public schools – board members who “get it” and can relate to today’s parents and taxpayers!

No one I speak to wants more super-sized classes, administrators buying plush new buildings for themselves and senseless policies that lead to low teacher and student morale.

New views are good and needed.  That means electing new talent that will help reform-minded board members like Patty Reed.  Running a campaign for School Board is a demanding and expensive commitment.  At the very least, all challenger candidates deserve fair consideration.  If you like what they stand for and what they have accomplished, please give them your help and your vote.  With your support, the public may finally get the School Board we deserve in Fairfax County!

GATEHOUSE II:  In 2007, the School Board voted for a second, new administration building that would have cost $130 million.  Known as the “Gatehouse II” debacle, parent advocates got the project killed by demonstrating the huge holes in FCPS’ business case.

FAIRGRADE:  In 2009, thousands of parents engaged in a year long campaign to convince Dr. Dale and the School Board that previous grading policies were harming college-bound graduates.  The leaders of FAIRGRADE devoted thousands of volunteer hours compiling the research and organizing the effort that finally led to an overhaul of the grading policy – despite the many obstacles thrown out by FCPS officials.

INCREASED CLASS SIZE:  In 2010, the School Board voted to increase class size.  Red Apple Mom readers know class size is a particular sore point for me as my son’s fifth grade class at Spring Hill ES now has 35 students (one student recently went home to Korea), and we have a third grade class with 33 students!   It’s unfair to the kids and the teachers!

INCREASED FEES: Public school became increasingly more expensive in 2010 with new athletic fees, higher parking fees and AP/IB testing fees (now rescinded due to a ruling  by Virginia’s attorney general.) 

PUNITIVE DISCIPLINARY POLICIES: We learned that FCPS’ discipline policies recently contributed to the suicide of a Woodson HS student. The public also learned just how excessively harsh these policies are –“involuntary school transfers”, lack of due process, lack of parent notification and a draconian and aggressive FCPS hearings process that treats Tylenol-takers the same as a drug dealer.  Thanks to the parent advocacy group Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform (FZTR) these policies may finally get reformed.

FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN: Until FDK advocates forced the School Board to address the inequity at 37 of FCPS elementary schools, this issue wasn’t even on FCPS’ agenda this year.

TEACHER CONCERNS: From compensation issues to working conditions, FCPS’ teacher workforce has had it.  The ever-increasing demands of assessments and standardized tests and professional development requirements have taken a big toll.  FCPS’ teacher workforce is demoralized with many teachers saying they don’t have time to teach.

Related Articles:

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: