Schools will open late, but not close on primary day

Today Superintendent Karen Garza explained Fairfax schools are not planning to close on primary day.  Here is a press release on the subject:

Statement from FCPS Superintendent Karen K. Garza on Primary Day

You may be reading or hearing about a request from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for FCPS to close schools on March 1, primary day in Virginia.  As you know, the School Board voted in October to delay the opening of schools on March 1 by two hours at the request of the County Office of Elections to accommodate the anticipated heavy voter turnout.  At this time, there are no plans to close schools for the entire day on March 1.

FCPS is obligated by law to have a 180 day calendar, and if FCPS is closed for primary day, another student holiday would need to be used as school day.

For many years, schools have been open and serving as polling locations without incident.  The safety of our students, staff, and visitors is always our priority and we work closely with election officials, our security team, and law enforcement to ensure the safety of all.   On election day, all school staff and voting officials at each site are asked to remain vigilant and quickly report any suspicious or inappropriate activity.  Extra security patrols are added to address any concerns the schools may have and parent volunteers often assist by walking hallways and monitoring public areas.

Today’s suggestion to close schools on March 1 came as a complete surprise to both FCPS staff and the Fairfax County School Board.  FCPS will be reaching out to the Elections Office to learn more about the new security concerns that have been raised. FCPS will continue to keep the community informed regarding any new developments.

Thank you for your understanding and support.

Here are some news reports which cite concerns that the Republican plan to ask primary voters in the Republican contest to pledge to vote for the Republican candidate in the general election will cause additional delays. Donald Trump opposes the use of this pledge.

Fearing anger from Trump voters, Va. school district may close for the primary – The Washington Post

Virginia school district denies plans to close on election day due to Trump – POLITICO


Post correctly identifies the party affiliation of school board members

The Washington Post is inconsistent in whether it chooses to apply the label of “Independent” to a candidate or elected official. It is incorrect to say that Mollie Loeffler, who was endorsed by the Republicans, was an independent in the race for Mason District Supervisor.

Yet in an article printed in today’s newspaper on the school board election, there was no ink wasted trying to describe all of the candidates as independents who were then co-opted by the two parties and then endorsed. This is a step in the right direction of truth and candor. The Post reported:

The board, which governs a district that educates nearly 187,000 students with a budget of $2.6 billion, will now have three Republican-backed members and nine members endorsed by Democrats. The current board has two Republicans.

It’s nice to see the simple statement of fact that the current board has two Republicans. I hope that in the future the Post will inform its readers which are Republicans and which are Democrats by putting an “R” or a “D” next to their names and districts.

That is what I intend to do. I regret that I didn’t start this practice earlier.

Each candidate on a ballot should be identified by political party or as an independent

I am wondering why our local ballots on Tuesday listed the party endorsements for the candidates for the General Assembly but not for any of the other elected positions.

Checking state law, it says, “For elections for federal, statewide, and General Assembly offices only, each candidate who has been nominated by a political party or in a primary election shall be identified by the name of his political party. Independent candidates shall be identified by the term “Independent…” (§ 24.2-613).

This is interpreted to mean that candidates for other offices should not be identified by political party. I think this law should be changed. When such a change was proposed in 2012, it was rejected by the Virginia Senate. The Washington Post reported that under a bill proposed by Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), ballots would have listed party affiliation for candidates who have been nominated by a party.

“The bill the Senate rejected is not about ending nonpartisan offices or elections; it’s about putting an end to the charade when party nominees stand for office without identifying their political party,” Obenshain said in a written statement. “It’s time to stop pretending that a party nominee’s partisan affiliation isn’t meaningful information and isn’t worth sharing with the voters.”

Voters deserve clear disclosure of which political party endorses each candidate .

Voters deserve clear disclosure of which political party endorses each candidate

When I voted yesterday at Holmes Middle School, I picked up both the Republican and Democratic sample ballots. I was surprised to see the Republican ballot filled in the circle next to the name of Mollie A. Loeffler, who had been describing herself as an independent candidate for Mason District Supervisor.

This was also how her candidacy was characterized in news reports. Here is the Annandale VA blog:

Mason District voters elected Penny Gross to a sixth term on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Nov. 3 with 57.2 percent of the vote. Mollie Loeffler, a community activist running as an independent, got 44.2 percent of the vote.

Here is the Washington Post report:

In the Mason District, Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D) won a sixth term over Mollie Loeffler, an independent who mounted a strong effort against her. Gross had 58 percent of the vote, and Loeffler had 42 percent.

Meanwhile, the unofficial election results listed by Fairfax County are even less illuminating. They don’t mention party endorsements for any of the candidates.

Mollie Loeffler received an impressive percentage of the votes cast, but it is disingenuous and even misleading to call her an independent when Republican volunteers at every precinct were handing out ballots with the circle next to her name inked in and her name printed in big boldface font. This is the same way that the ballot indicated that Arthur G. Purves was the Republican candidate for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

Thinking this over, I realize I have also been guilty of obfuscations and circumlocutions on the subject of the party affiliations of members of the Fairfax County School Board. I have uncritically followed the example of the Washington Post in mentioning the district a school board member represents without putting either and “R” or a “D” next to the district.

No more of this nonsense. From now on I will call a Republican a Republican and a Democrat a Democrat.

I know perfectly well that the school board candidates get the same party support that the candidates for the board of supervisors get in the elections.

Re-Elect Pat Hynes

Pat M. Hynes’ recent experience as an elementary school teacher in a neighboring school district gives her a valuable perspective for considering alternative ways of administering the schools. She was elected as the Hunter Mill District representative on the Fairfax County School Board in 2011.

At the June 26, 2014, school board meeting to vote on full day Mondays for elementary schools, Hynes said, “Many parents have requested this for a long time. It’s been under consideration for years and it will allow us flexibility and control of our calendar which we have not had.”

“The promise and the challenge of this is to protect the teacher planning time and I think that’s the part of it that teachers have always worried about,” Hynes said. She concluded that Superintendent Karen Garza had not given her any reason to not have faith when she says we will get this done. [Read more…]

Re-Elect Janie Strauss

Jane K. Strauss has served as the Dranesville District representative on the Fairfax County School Board from June 1991 to 1993, and January 1996 to the present. She is in favor of expanding Head Start and the Virginia Preschool Initiative. She voted for full-day Mondays for the elementary schools and later high school start times. [Read more…]

Re-Elect Ted Velkoff, Ryan McElveen, and Ilryong Moon

Ted Velkoff, Ryan McElveen, and Ilryong Moon: The Tried and True Trio.

These three at-large members of the Fairfax County School Board have earned re-election this year. All three voted to provide full-day Mondays in the elementary schools and later start times for the high schools. In addition to their interest in education, the three school board members enjoy music and singing, so I call them the Tried and True Trio. [Read more…]

Re-Elect Elizabeth L. Schultz

Ever since starting her first term on the Fairfax County School Board in January 2012, Elizabeth Schultz has been an energetic and persistent advocate for reform of the elementary school schedule to provide full-day Mondays. She asked questions about whether Fairfax was actually meeting the Standards of Accreditation regarding the hours required in the school day and school year. At a work session on the budget held January 30, 2014, she said that she was profoundly grateful that Dan Parris, then the interim deputy superintendent, was working on possible changes to the elementary school schedule that would provide full-day Mondays.

When the school board voted on June 26, 2014, to end the policy of dismissing elementary school students 2 ½ hours early on Mondays, Schultz said, “I’m proud of this board for taking on the effort to solve something that apparently was an unsolvable mystery  for the last 40 years. “

Schultz, who represents Springfield District, also pushed for the successful effort to implement later high school start times. After she voiced her support of this change at the meeting on October 23, 2014, Schultz quoted Steve Jobs:

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently, they’re not fond of the rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify them, vilify them. The only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward and while some may see them as a the crazy ones. We see genius because they are the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world. They’re the ones who do.

“He got the job done,” Schultz said, “and tonight I think we’re going to get the job done.”

Schultz graduated from James Madison University  (B.S. Political Science, B.S. History). She was a former Senior Manager of Contracts and Negotiation for EG&G and also a small business owner/consultant. She was a former Executive Board member of the Fairfax Education Coalition and Founding President of the Republican Women of Clifton. She served on the Southwestern Youth Association Executive Board for Lacrosse for six years.

Shultz, who is endorsed by the Republicans and Class Size Counts, is running unopposed.

Re-Elect Megan McLaughlin

Megan McLaughlin was elected as the Braddock District representative on the Fairfax County School Board in 2011 after spending several years as an advocate of several types of reform for the school system. She says that her most important role is to be the voice of our community.

When McLaughlin voted for full-day Mondays on June 26, 2014, she said, “I do believe as with later start times that this full-day Monday is a mission critical issue for our school system. There is a question about cost. This about about wants versus needs and I do believe this is a mission critical need, so the cost is a true priority for our budgets. It’s actually a non-negotiable cost in my mind.”

When the school board voted for later high school  start times on October 23, 2014, McLaughlin said, “I know this is a night to celebrate.”

McLaughlin graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland. She was previously a college admissions officer for Georgetown University and employment developer for Easter Seals Adult Day Habitation facility.

McLaughlin co-founded FAIRGRADE, leading a successful effort to change the grading scale in Fairfax County Public Schools. She was also a co-founder or the Fairfax Education Coalition, a volunteer instructor for Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, a PTA president, Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform special adviser, 2003 Braddock School Bond representative, NVSL Swim team representative and board member for Rutherford Pool, and BRYC assistant soccer coach.

McLaughlin is endorsed by the Democrats, the Washington Post, the Fairfax Education Association, The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, and Class Size Counts.

Re-Elect Patty Reed

Patty Reed asks the administrators of Fairfax County Public Schools to “think outside of the box,” when trying to find affordable ways to implement needed programs. She has done an outstanding job representing Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board since 2009. She has served as the budget chair for the School Board and served on the joint budget and infrastructure financing committees with the Board of Supervisors.

When voting for full-day Mondays for the elementary schools, she said, “We just know the time in the classroom, especially at the elementary ages…is going to help not just our needy kids but all kids; so to me, right off the bat, that’s just a winning proposition.”

Reed also supported the later high school start times that were implemented this fall. At the October 23, 2014, school board meeting, she said, “I’ve spent years learning about, experiencing, and advocating for this very critical issue…. I witnessed personally with my child the devastating and far-reaching impacts of the disconnect between adolescent sleep cycles and early classes.”

Reed has a B.A. in Psychology/Sociology from SUNY Albany and a Master of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. In 1983 she was a U.S. Presidential Management Intern. She has had a 30-year career in government and management consulting and was founder of Reed Strategies LLC and co-founder of Choose2Lead Women’s Foundation.

Reed is endorsed by the Republicans, the Washington Post, the Fairfax Education Association, the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, and Class Size Counts.