Hooray for Karen Garza and Full-Day Mondays

I’m glad to see that the Fairfax County School Board voted to extend Superintendent Karen Garza’s contract for another four-year term. However, I was disappointed that the Washington Post report on Garza neglected to mention the most important change implemented during her tenure: elimination of Monday early dismissals.

I commented:

The list of “significant changes” in the school system left out the most impressive change of all: eliminating the old policy of dismissing elementary school students 2 ½ hours early every Monday. For many years I had been the leading advocate of full-day Mondays. I was very impressed with Superintendent Garza’s willingness to question the previously entrenched status quo and implement reform in a timely manner. The school board voted for this change two years ago and it was implemented in September 2014.

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.

Re-Elect Sandy S. Evans

Sandy Evans deserves applause and appreciation for co-founding SLEEP in Fairfax and then tirelessly working as a community activist and then as a school board member to ensure that high schools start at 8:10 or later rather than at 7:20.  She was a former chairman of the School Board’s School Health Advisory Committee and the Transportation Task Force. She was a founding member of the Fairfax Education Coalition,, a steering committee member of the Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition, a former president of the Sleepy Hollow Elementary School PTA, and a former legislation committee chairman of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs.

Evans was elected to the Fairfax County School Board as the representative for Mason District in March 2010. At the October 23, 2014, school board meeting, Evans introduced the motion to approve and adopt the plan for later high school start times. She said:

Today, the board is going to take a historic vote for student health and well-being. We have before us tonight a plan that finally will get our high school students on to a much healthier school schedule. One that will help our teens get the sleep they so desperately need for their physical and mental health, and to do their very best academically. It’s been a long journey to get here but one well worth taking. Sleep deprivation among our teens is a public health crisis. Our school system has a responsibility to play its part in addressing this problem. Adolescents need nine hours of sleep a night for optimal health.

During the many years she spent studying the school and bus schedules, Evans also became an expert on the elementary school schedules, and she was a strong advocate for more recess time for the students. On June 26, 2014, when the school board voted to provide full-day Mondays for the elementary schools, Evans said, “This is a red letter day for us.”

She noted that the change benefits our students with more time, benefits our teachers with more unencumbered planning time, and benefits our students’ health with more recess time, which is absolutely critical.

Evans was a former staff writer and reporter for the Washington Post.  Her writing skills are evident in her email newsletters to her constituents in Mason District. She does a great job summarizing news from the school system and explaining the complexities of the $2.6 billion budget for Fairfax County Public Schools.

Evans is running unopposed. She is endorsed by the Democrats, the  Washington Post, the Fairfax Education Association, the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, and Class Size Counts.


Robert R. ‘Bud’ Spillane, former Fairfax school superintendent, dies

I was sorry to read the sad news in the Washington Post that Robert R. ‘Bud’ Spillane, former Fairfax school superintendent, died July 18.  Spillane was an outstanding leader.  Karen Garza, the current superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, posted this tribute:

The FCPS family is very saddened to hear the news of Dr. Bud Spillane’s passing. Dr. Spillane was a distinguished educator who presided over the FCPS system for 12 years. During his tenure, Dr. Spillane instituted rigorous academic standards and enhanced FCPS’ national reputation for excellence. He was recognized for his efforts when he was named National Superintendent of the Year in 1995. The FCPS Leadership Award was created to pay tribute to Dr. Spillane. Honorees have been FCPS employees who “keep the main thing the main thing” – Dr. Spillane’s guiding principle – by making a significant contribution to student achievement. Dr. Spillane had a tremendous impact on FCPS and his legacy will endure. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Spillane’s friends and family.

I supported his efforts to end the Monday early dismissal policy in Fairfax elementary schools. Although  this reform was not implemented during his tenure, FCPS finally switched to full day Mondays for all the elementary schools in the 2014-15 school year.


Students, not school board salaries, should be the focus in the election

Apparently former school board member Stuart Gibson hopes voters will rely on his odd litmus test for deciding which candidates to support in the November election for the Fairfax County School Board. Although he admits that school board members “should be paid more than $20,000,” he scolds the members who voted for a raise and invents a convoluted method that he would deem appropriate for voting for a raise in salary. Without listing each of his steps, I’ll sum up by saying he would probably support such a vote when the Moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars.

“Only those candidates for the board who support these criteria will get my support and my vote in November,” Gibson said.

This is an incredibly narrow-minded view of the work of the school board. The election in November is not about the school board, it is about the students. Elementary school students are greatly benefiting from the school board’s decision to give them full-day Mondays. Gibson showed poor judgment in opposing this needed reform, both during his time on the school board and in his more recent advice to the current school board. Even though he was on the wrong side of this issue, I would hope that Gibson would admit that this vote was 1,000 times more important than the vote on salaries for school board members.