Monday, December 19, 2011

School Board Update

Special Invitation: School Board Swearing In

You're Invited!

Please join me for my Swearing In for a new four-year term on the School Board.
Time:  7 pm
Date: Monday, Dec. 19

I'm honored to be starting a new term representing Mason District on the Fairfax County School Board. Come and see new members sworn in and take a photo with me.

Last community office hours of the year:
Time: 10:30 am - 12:30 pm
Date: TOMORROW, Sat. Dec. 17
Place: Thomas Jefferson Library

Del. Kaye Kory will be joining me!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

School Board Update

News: Superintendent Search, New School Board,  
"Lacey" Principal and PTA, Budget, Surveillance Cameras, Charter School Proposal and More! 

Dear Friends,

I hope you're enjoying a lovely fall and are looking forward to family and friends at Thanksgiving.

Here are some School Board news items and issues:

Superintendent Search:
As you know, Superintendent Dale has announced he will not be asking to renew his contract when it ends in June 2013. This means that one of the new Board's top priorities must be starting the process for the Superintendent Search. As a member of the School Board's Public Engagement Committee, I'll be involved in helping create the community input process for this effort, which will be critical in making sure our new superintendent is the right fit for our system in the future.

New School Board:
With the Nov. 8 elections, we will have a new 12-member School Board in January. I am honored to have been reelected to serve Mason District for a four-year term, and appreciate the confidence and faith you've shown in me by reelecting me.  Thank you, Mason District!

Five other incumbents were reelected: Janie Strauss (Dranesville), the current School Board chair; Ilryong Moon (At-Large), the current School Board vice chair; Dan Storck (Mt. Vernon); Patty Reed (Providence); and Kathy Smith (Sully). To see their bios, here is the link to the current School Board web page:

Our new members include:  
Ryan McElveen (At-Large)
Ted Velkoff (At-Large)
Megan McLaughlin (Braddock),
Pat Hynes (Hunter Mill),
Tammy Derenak Kaufax (Lee),
Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield).

I'm including links to their campaign web sites, which include biographical information and issues they are interested in, so you can learn a bit about the newest members.

I welcome all newly elected members and look forward to working together in the next four years.

School Board Retreat: If you'd like to see members of the old Board and the new Board interact, please plan to attend our School Board all-day retreat on Sat. Dec. 10 at the Mt. Vernon Estate near Alexandria, starting at 8:30 am. As with all School Board meetings, it's open to the public (though it won't be televised or recorded, unfortunately.)

 "Lacey" Elementary School News:
I was pleased to tour the school construction site recently and can report that the project is going very well. We're on schedule for completion in the spring. The new school is set to open next fall with an estimated 500 students, and will grow as grandfathering of students at their old schools is completed.

Brian Butler Named Principal: The principal for the new elementary school will be Brian K. Butler, currently the principal at Mount Eagle Elementary School. Mr. Butler, whose appointment is effective Jan. 3, is a great match for this school. He brings with him many years of experience as an educator in FCPS and, before that, in Arlington County. Here is his Letter to the Community upon receiving the appointment:

To meet Mr. Butler and welcome him to our new school, please join me at Annandale Terrace Elementary School on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 7 pm or Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Woodburn Elementary School, also at 7 pm.

Web Site: For more information about what's going on with the new school, including a general timeline, please visit the newly reactivated "Lacey" web site:

PTA Forming: Parents have already started working on creating a PTA at the school. About 35 parents from the four schools feeding into "Lacey" attended a planning meeting on Nov. 15 at Falls Church High School. (If you're one of the parents whose students will be attending the new school, you should have received a notice of the meeting through your child's current school.) Fairfax County Council of PTAs President Ramona Morrow, who conducted the meeting and explained the process of creating a new PTA, said our school is getting an earlier start than most.  A PTA Planning Committee is being formed, and Mrs. Morrow is helping to organize that effort. Anyone wanting to participate, please email Mrs. Morrow at .

What will the school be named? Now that Mr. Butler has been appointed, he and I and the Cluster Assistant Superintendent will work on community engagement to get input into what the school should be named. We will be looking to the four school communities with families moving to the school (Beech Tree, Belvedere, Woodburn and Annandale Terrace) as well as to the neighborhoods feeding into the school, such as Broyhill Crest. Elementary school names generally have geographic or historical names, by the way.  I will be back in touch about this process, which we hope to complete by February or March, and families will get information about it through Keep In Touches and backpack letters. Ultimately, after consulting with the community and getting recommendations from the Superintendent, the School Board will vote on the new name.

Budget Priorities:
The School Board recently set budget priorities to guide Superintendent Dale in creating his budget recommendation, to come to the Board in January.  Among the top priorities are: class size, including the needs-based staffing formula that's so important to our schools with large numbers of needy students; teacher pay and workload; and core academics.

The budget outlook isn't as bad as it was two years ago or last year but we're still facing serious budget concerns, including a significant projected increase in our number of students.

The Superintendent will provide his budget recommendations in January. The School Board will hold budget hearings on Jan. 30 and 31 and Feb. 1. We will approve an Advertised Budget to send to the Board of Supervisors in early February.

Student Leadership Development Program: The School Board approved a new Student Leadership Development Program for students interested in learning more about how the school system is governed. The program is open to high school sophomores and juniors, and each School Board member will choose one student to participate. Applications are being taken now by principals, who will make recommendations to School Board members.

To learn more, see this link:

Special Topic: Surveillance Cameras:

It looks like this School Board will be taking a vote on the issue of putting surveillance cameras inside our high schools in December, and most likely will approve them. I believe this issue, which is an important one, should be decided by the Board that was just elected rather than the outgoing Board, but a majority of this Board wanted to make the decision before the end of the year.

After much thought, I will be voting against putting surveillance cameras inside the schools. Here are my objections:
            We have no measurable goal for why we want to install cameras in cafeterias and a few high-traffic "hot spots" in the schools. Staff acknowledges that we have no way of determining if the cameras are effective or not. Their expectation is that it would deter bad behavior and/or serve as proof of what happened during an incident. But no studies or evidence backs up the assertion that it is a deterrent.
            This costs money, an estimated total of $885,000 for school cafeterias and selected "hot spots." While we're told these are "noninstructional funds," what does that really mean? It's money from a high school's account that could be used for other needs at that school. Many parents and teachers are telling me they can think of better uses of these funds at their schools than putting in surveillance cameras in a hallway or two--school supplies for kids in need, reducing athletic fees, adding a salad bar with fresh food, to name a few that have been mentioned.
            Since none of the high schools suggest surveillance throughout the school (which would cost $120,000 per school), but only in a few spots, bad behavior could just move to another hallway. Since they are proposed for high-traffic areas, they won't impact incidents that take place in out-of-the-way, harder-to-monitor areas.
            We still don't have strong enough parent notification rules in our schools. Until we have this in place, so parents are notified before students are asked to write out statements that can serve as confessions in discipline hearings, I worry about adding more tools designed to help us punish students.
            Adding surveillance cameras does change the school environment. Students have raised this issue repeatedly during discussions of the issue, the sense that surveillance cameras destroy a fundamental sense of trust at a school.
            The rationale has gone from a concern about food fights in a few high schools last year to the notion that this will prevent another Columbine or terrorist attack. First of all, Columbine High School HAD surveillance cameras, and they did not avert that tragedy. If violent attacks are really the issue, why are the cameras only proposed for high schools?
            Another rationale is that the community uses our facilities after hours and that we need to protect the schools and students from errant community members. If that's a major concern, why are these not being suggested for elementary and middle schools, which are routinely made available for community use, as well.
Parents, students and teachers who weighed in on this issue had a mixed reaction. In Mason District, the Annandale High School PTSA was opposed, the Stuart High School community was considered "split," and the Falls Church High School community was supportive. The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology PTSA did a school-wide survey, with parents split but more than half opposed (53% to 47%), students overwhelmingly opposed (90%) and teachers split down the middle (50-50%).

Of course, I also believe it should be the just-elected Board that decides this. It appears that the current Board will approve the use of surveillance cameras inside our high schools. It's unclear what the new Board would do. School Board member Dan Storck and I plan to raise the issue again with the new Board regardless of the outcome of the December vote.

To see the proposal and the staff rationale for it, here is the link:

I appreciate the thoughtful views I received on this issue and welcome any others you have.

Fairfax Leadership Academy Charter School/
Falls Church High School:
An application for a charter school proposal, called the Fairfax Leadership Academy, has been sent to the Virginia Board of Education for review.  As currently proposed, the Academy would be located at the site of the current Graham Road Elementary School and would serve at-risk students in grades 7 through 12. It is designed to start in fall 2013 with 7th and 8th grade and then grow by a grade each year until it reaches 450 students.

The application has caused concerns within the Falls Church High School community, with fears that if approved the charter school would compete with the high school for students and would have a negative impact on FCHS.

First of all, I apologize to all concerned that I didn't alert you to the proposal sooner, as it was being developed, feeling as strongly as I do about transparency in all that we do. The plan wasn't a secret--it was discussed briefly at a public School Board work session last December, when the proposal was to put the charter school at the Willston Center--but it wasn't publicized, either.

I recently attended a FCHS PTSA meeting about the charter school idea and heard and understand the issues raised there. After the meeting, I consulted with FCPS staff about doing an impact study and have been assured that staff will be assessing all potential impacts as the proposal works its way through consideration.

Here's where the charter school stands. The application was filed with the Board of Education on Oct. 28. (If you would like to see the application, write to me at )

The state board has set a discussion of the proposal for Feb. 22 at 2 pm in Richmond. The state board will review it and advise whether it meets the necessary requirements for going forward. If it does, it will then come to the Fairfax School Board for consideration. Fairfax Leadership is seeking tentative approval from the School Board in spring 2012 so it can start taking applications in December 2012 for a fall 2013 proposed opening for 7th and 8th graders.

The official process is just beginning, though a significant amount of preparatory work has been done. Parent, teacher, student and other community input will be important, and I'm glad the FCHS community has become involved.  

I was delighted to see the energy in the room at the PTSA meeting. Regardless of what happens with the charter school, we need to harness that energy for FCHS, and especially to work on getting it a much-needed renovation. That needs to be a priority goal, and I'm looking forward to working with UPROAR, the newly formed parent advocacy group, to bring more attention to FCHS and help make that happen.

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving! One thing I'm thankful for is the support and thoughtfulness of the Mason District school community.


Friday, October 14, 2011

School Board Update

Dear Friends,

I hope you're enjoying the fall weather and that the school year is going well for all of you. Here are some updates on School Board issues.

This Weekend! Education Summit on Customizing Public Education:
Come join the conversation about how to move to the next level of Customizing Public Education to suit your child's needs.
Time: 8 am - noon
Date: Sat., Oct. 15
Place: Woodson High School

Educators, parents and students join a panel on this subject. Breakout sessions will explore:
  • How to help students keep balance in their lives
  • Helping your student find his/her passion and gaining marketable skills
  • Student goal-setting and learning plans
For more details and to register (we'd like to hear from you, but still feel free to attend if you haven't registered): 
Surveillance Cameras in High Schools: Thanks to all of you who responded to my request for your comments on surveillance cameras.  All of the high schools are having dialogues with parents about this issue. I've attended two of them (at Falls Church HS and Thomas Jefferson HSST) to hear directly from parents, students and teachers. Annandale HS will have its dialogue at 6:30 pm on Tues., Oct. 18, and Stuart HS will hold a meeting on the subject at 7 pm, Monday, Oct. 24.  For my previous report on the issue, please go to my web site at  
After we finish getting public input, which several of us on the Board felt was critical before considering this further, I will report back to you on how the School Board plans to proceed.

"Lacey" Principal Selection:  FCPS has started the process for choosing a principal for our wonderful new elementary school at the Lacey Center site by asking for parent and other community input on what type of principal will be the best match for this school.  Parent and staff perspectives are used to screen resumes and develop interview questions. What skills, experiences, and leadership characteristics are needed at the new school? What are key challenges and issues? To give your input, please write to   
The deadline for comments is Oct. 12.

The principal panel, consisting of parents and staff from the four schools where incoming students are attending now (Annandale Terrace, Woodburn, Beech Tree and Belvedere), will meet on Nov. 1. The principal will be announced two or three weeks later.

After the principal is in place, we will start the process of choosing the name for the new school.

In the meantime, some parents are already starting to organize a PTA. If your students will be attending the new school and you'd like to participate in the PTA, please contact Monica Buckhorn at

Ad Hoc Boundary Process: If you were part of the Annandale Regional Study and have ideas on how the process could be improved the next time we go through a boundary study, please email me with your comments (  

As the new chair of the Comprehensive Planning and Development Committee, I'll be asking for review of what worked well and what we can do better. I have ideas of my own, but want yours too!

High school students and parents:  
Have a wonderful Homecoming Week!

All the best,


Sunday, September 25, 2011

School Board Update

What is Your View on Surveillance Cameras  
Inside Schools?

Dear Friends,

Last Monday, Fairfax County high school principals brought to the School Board a proposal to allow them to install surveillance cameras inside high schools.

I would like to get your views on this proposal.

While the high school principals said they were unanimous in wanting this measure as a matter of safety and security in the schools, others have argued that cameras would be an unwarranted intrusion and would just move problems to areas of the schools without surveillance.

I voiced several initial concerns. When I asked if parent or student views had been sought on this idea, it turns out there had been no meaningful effort to get input nor any plan to do so.  This is simply too important a change in policy not to have full discussion by parents, students, teachers and others.

After the meeting, I talked with Fairfax County Council of PTAs President Ramona Morrow about making sure all PTAs were informed of this proposal, so they could get it out to their school communities. I also plan to contact Mason District PTA presidents to make sure they know about it and can inform their parents.

Since the work session, there have been some efforts to get input. Superintendent Dale mentioned the proposal when he spoke to the Student Advisory Council (consisting of student representatives from all high schools) at their first session last week and said he would like their views. Some principals plan to discuss the proposal at upcoming PTA meetings.

My second concern was about what the goal is here and how we would measure effectiveness in achieving the goal. If prevention of problems, how do we determine success? Would this really be better at deterring incidents than having adults in charge throughout the school?

Or is this just about catching and punishing? If so, at the very least we first need to complete our reform of student discipline procedures. We have not finished that process yet. We still need stronger parent notification procedures, so that parents are called as soon as a student is suspected of a serious violation, not after the student has been extensively questioned and provided a written confession. I also want to see our students better informed of their basic civil rights when they are accused of serious offences at school, ones that can get them recommended for expulsion or face criminal charges.

How does this effort fit in with the school system's new emphasis on Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) as a means of encouraging positive behavior through reinforcement? Some would argue this runs counter to that approach.

A bit of background on cameras in the school system. According to FCPS staff, we have cameras on all the school buses. We also installed cameras OUTSIDE schools to reduce vandalism and theft, and staff tell us this has been effective in deterring property damage and defacement. On the other hand, the school system piloted cameras in lunch lines a few years ago to reduce food theft, but there was no substantial reduction in theft, and the cameras were removed.

The most recent proposal was occasioned in part by food fights this spring in a few high school cafeterias, some of which caused significant damage.

The principals themselves have different ideas on what they want to do if allowed to install cameras. Some want them just in the cafeteria. Others want them in "hot spots," such as hallways and lobbies. None are suggesting putting them in classrooms, and bathrooms and locker rooms would be off limits. Cost ranges from $8,000 per school for just the cafeteria to $120,000 per school to have surveillance throughout the school (with cafeteria plus "hot spots" being somewhere in between).

and for data for specific high schools. There was also a piece on the front page of The Washington Post about it Sunday. 

As you can tell, I have several significant concerns about this proposal but want to know your views. Please let me hear from you by writing to me at

Thank you for your feedback.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

School Board Update

Dear Friends,

Welcome back to a brand-new school year!  I look forward to working with you this coming year to make your school and our school system better than ever. 

Some of my priorities for this Fall include:
  • Creating an ombudsman role within FCPS to help parents and others navigate their way around the school system and its processes. My proposal is coming up for discussion at a School Board Forum this Thursday, when I will ask my colleagues to consider pursuing this idea to improve communications and transparency.
  • Continuing to reform student discipline procedures, especially parent notification requirements so parents will learn right away when their student is in serious trouble at school.
  • Keeping honors classes in high schools (and not merely online), rather than making students choose between standard-level and AP (college) level.
  • Establishing budget priorities that are classroom-focused. As the School Board's Budget vice chair, I will be involved in all aspects of budget decision-making.
  • Working with teachers on ways to reduce their administrative and other non-classroom-related burdens.
  • Making it easier to get a waiver of a full-day schedule for students wanting to take online classes rather than attend first or last periods of the day.
  • Finding other ways to create healthful school environments for our students, from truly adequate recess time for little ones to improved school meals to reduction of stress and depression among our teens.
  • Working with communities due to transition as a result of boundary changes next year to connect them with their new communities.

Annandale/"Lacey" Boundary Decisions: The School Board approved the boundaries of the new elementary school at the Lacey Center site and new boundaries to relieve overcrowding at Annandale High School (AHS), both set to go into effect in Fall 2012. Here is the link to the final decisions:

            Boundary changes are among the most difficult things the school system does, and this was no exception. However, we were able to achieve many goals that were important to Mason District students and parents: the AAP center stayed at Glasgow MS, no areas attending Glasgow/Stuart were reassigned to other middle or high schools, and the changes will relieve serious overcrowding at some of our elementary schools.
            Importantly, the boundary changes included liberal "grandfathering," something I strongly supported. This means that, despite the boundary changes, anyone entering 9th grade at AHS this year can continue through graduation, students entering middle school this year can stay at that middle school through 8th grade, and elementary students entering the top grade at their school in Fall 2012 will be able their last year at their old school.    
            New Elementary School: The new school at the Lacey site will draw from four  elementary schools: Annandale Terrace, Woodburn, Beech Tree and Belvedere.
            An amendment of mine to reassign the Columbia Pines neighborhood to Glasgow MS and Stuart HS, to put that area with its neighbors in Sleepy Hollow Woods, was successful.  I was also able to restore a small area back into the Belvedere ES boundary, since it is just across Sleepy Hollow Rd. from the school.
            This coming year I will be working with all the affected school communities for a smooth transition and to make sure we keep all our schools strong and vibrant after the change.
            AHS: I sponsored amendments to the Annandale boundaries that would have kept the Wakefield Forest ES area and part of the Bren Mar Park ES area at AHS, but both amendments failed (the first on a 6-6 vote and the second on an 4-8 vote).  As a result, Wakefield Forest will be reassigned to Woodson HS and Bren Mar Park to Edison HS. At the School Board meeting, I voiced serious concerns about the future of AHS with both of these vibrant areas removed. As a result of the Board's failure to keep either of these areas at AHS, I ultimately could not support the boundary changes and voted against the package.
            Despite this, I remain confident in our ability as a school system and a community to work together to overcome challenges and move forward. In particular, I will be working with the Bren Mar Park area to connect them with their new friends at Edison HS. This is a wonderful high school, in the process of completing a beautiful renovation. I have already spoken with the highly regarded Edison principal, Greg Croghan, about ways to make these connections through this school year. I can report that Mr. Croghan was very enthusiastic about welcoming Bren Mar Park into the Edison family.
            A final note as we wind up more than a year of debating these boundaries. I couldn't be more proud of a community than I am of Mason District. Over the years I've watched quite a few boundary deliberations and seen many of them  turn truly ugly. This didn't happen here. I believe this is a tribute to our community, which understands and embraces different viewpoints.  Despite strong emotions and some difficult and contentious decisions (some of which I strongly disagreed with myself), our community members maintained their civility while advocating strongly and rationally. Well done!

Future Boundary Studies: We did learn from this experience. As the new chair of the Comprehensive Planning Development Committee (CPDC), I plan to make proposals for future ad hoc regional boundary studies to improve on this effort. One will be to officially include all elementary schools that could potentially be reassigned from their MS or HS, rather than rely on parents at the MS/HS level to represent them. (If that had been done last year, Bren Mar Park, Parklawn and Weyanoke ES and all other ES feeding to AHS would have had representatives in the Annandale Regional Study.) Also, I'm going to suggest more time between the release of Options and community dialogues, and between community dialogues and the final staff recommendation. This would give parents and other community members more time to absorb and respond to specific suggestions. Have other recommendations as a result of the Annandale Regional Study?  Email me at

Please remember to come visit me at my community office hours or email me to let me know your views on issues or concerns.

   In the meantime, here's to a great 2011-12 School Year!

All the best,


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

School Board Update

SPECIAL: Annandale/"Lacey" ES  
Staff Recommendations Posted
For School Board Work Session Monday

Dear Friends,

The staff recommendation for relieving overcrowding at Annandale High School and for creating a new elementary school at the Lacey Center site was posted yesterday, with maps and background information, in preparation for a School Board work session on Monday.  Here's the link to the Recommendation and Background:  
Considering the challenges involved, there is significant good news in the staff  proposal, much of this as a result of advocacy from the community.  The staff recommendation, which would go into effect in Fall 2012, includes:

  • Keeping the AAP Center at Glasgow MS
  • Full grandfathering at Annandale High School for all students who enter AHS by fall 2011, so no high school student would have to switch after making the transition to high school.  (High school changes would start with rising 9th graders in fall 2012.)
  • Full grandfathering for all middle school students who enter their middle school by fall 2011, so in fall 2012 both rising 7th and 8th graders at our 6-8 grade middle schools would remain at their current middle school. (Middle school changes would start with rising 6th graders in fall 2012.)
  • Grandfathering of elementary students who are entering the top grade at their school in fall 2012, allowing them to finish at their old school.
  • Continued transportation for grandfathered students.
  • Bren Mar Park ES will not have its own elementary school boundaries changed as part of this process, as was proposed in some earlier options.
  • The Sleepy Hollow Woods community will remain assigned to Glasgow MS and Stuart HS.
  • Beech Tree ES will remain at Glasgow/Stuart.
  • The Parklawn ES split feeder, one area identified by the Ad Hoc Study Committee and in staff options for potentially moving out of AHS, will remain at AHS.

At the same time, as with any boundary change, there will be disruption and disappointment for some under this recommendation, including but not limited to:
  • High school students who live in the Bren Mar Park ES area would be reassigned to Edison HS starting with rising 9th graders in fall 2012. I continue to work with this community on what options might be available to us to either modify the recommendation and/or to ease the transition to Edison.  The main concerns I'm hearing are not about Edison HS itself, which is a fine school completing a beautiful renovation, but about traffic and travel safety issues as well as going from inside to outside of the Beltway to go to school.
  • High school students in the Wakefield Forest ES area that now attend AHS would be reassigned to Woodson HS.  Many in Mason District who will continue at AHS fear that the loss of both this area and Bren Mar Park could impact the vibrancy and special character of the school in the future. I share those concerns.  
  • Likewise, the loss of neighborhoods from Belvedere ES, Beech Tree ES, Woodburn ES and Annandale Terrace ES raises issues about maintaining and enhancing the level of energy and volunteerism at those schools. Keeping these schools strong and vibrant in the future will be a paramount issue to consider as we continue this process.
  • The Annandale Terrace ES portion north of 236 would not only leave Annandale Terrace but would be split between the new school at Lacey and Woodburn ES, while all of the Woodburn island would be reassigned to "Lacey."

I'm looking at the possibility of amendments to the proposal to benefit Mason District families and schools, including of course AHS itself. In doing so, I appreciate the many emails I've received about the boundary issues as well as thoughtful conversations with community members and principals. In the next two weeks, I will be talking with other School Board members to determine what modifications to the staff recommendation are both desireable and feasible.

The School Board will hold its work session on the recommendations on Monday, July 18, at Gatehouse Administration Center, 8112 Gatehouse Rd., Falls Church, starting at about 11 am. This is open to the public but is not televised or recorded.  

The staff recommendation, background material and maps can be found at:

Of particular interest are the answers to questions posed by the public and School Board members:

As always, I welcome your views on these recommendations by writing to me at The School Board is scheduled to vote on the staff recommendations on July 28 at the regular Board meeting, which is televised on Channel 21.

PTA Presidents and Civic Associations, please help get this information to your members.

All the best,


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

School Board Update

Dear Friends,

The budget and boundaries continue to dominate our School Board work as we wind down the school year.

Budget: The Board approved our FY2012 budget on May 26. It includes teacher pay raises (step increase plus 1%), eliminating AP/IB testing fees, putting full-day kindergarten in the remaining schools that don't yet have it, adding a needs-based funding addition to our neediest high schools (such as those in Mason District), and setting aside $500,000 for any changes the School Board decides to make on student discipline policies and procedures.

Sports Fee Cap Approved: As you know, I'd like to eliminate the $100 per sport fees as soon as possible, but we didn't have the resources to do it this year. In the meantime, I supported a cap of two fees per student per year to at least give some relief to three-season athletes and their families. The Board unanimously approved the two-fee-per-student cap, and that will go into effect in the new school year.

Athletic Fee Waivers for Seniors: In addition, high school principals have been informed that each high school has received $1,200 from Capital One game nights to allow them to waive athletic fees of senior students who have extenuating circumstances and can't pay them. Principals have until June 6 to request these waivers for specific seniors.

Annandale/Lacey Site Boundary and NonBoundary Options: You should have received my special report on the posting of the 4 options for boundary and nonboundary solutions to the overcrowding at Annandale High School and Poe Middle School, as well as for the new elementary school at the Lacey Center site. The School Board is scheduled to make final decisions on these on July 28, for implementation in Fall 2012.

Since the postings, and before, I have been working with parents, teachers and other community members to develop the best possible approaches. In particular, I've set up meetings with Facilities staff and a delegation from the Belvedere ES community, including representatives from Sleepy Hollow Woods and Columbia Pines, as well as for Bren Mar Park ES (which would be significantly affected by all scenarios on the table). I've also been meeting with and working with the Glasgow MS community, at risk of losing its Advanced Academic Program (GT) Center in some of the scenarios. I plan to reach out to the Parklawn ES community, as well, since they would be affected by two of the high school scenarios.

The final recommendation by FCPS staff will be posted as New Business for the June 23 regular School Board meeting. When that recommendation is posted, I will send you a special report. After we receive that recommendation, the School Board will consider it and can accept or amend it at its regular meeting on July 28. Hearings on the proposal will be held July 11 and 12.

A great deal of background information, such as the Ad Hoc Study Committee's high school report and elementary school report, is on the FCPS web site.

Who should pay special attention? Anyone with students now attending, or scheduled to attend, Annandale HS, Poe MS, Glasgow MS, Holmes MS.

Elementary schools whose students may well be most affected by possible AHS/Poe boundary changes: Bren Mar Park, Parklawn, Wakefield Forest.

Elementary schools whose students may well be most affected by options for the new elementary school at the Lacey Center site: Annandale Terrace, Beech Tree, Woodburn, Belvedere, Pine Spring.

Two community dialogues on these options have been held and one more remains:
June 6:   Specifically for speakers of other languages and will include interpreters for Arabic, Farsi, Korean, Spanish, Vietnamese and Cambodian. At Annandale Terrace Elementary, 7604 Herald Street, Annandale (use entrance 1). The meeting will be held in the gymnasium, adjacent to the Parent Resource Center.

To register (you won't be turned away if you don't, but this helps for planning purposes):

These changes will have a significant impact on several schools in our area.  Please keep informed and express your views to the School Board by writing to   

All the best,

Monday, May 16, 2011

School Board Update

The four options developed by staff for consideration as ways to deal with the overcrowding at Annandale High School and to create boundaries at the new elementary school at the Lacey Center site have been posted. Here is the link:

When you review them, please keep in mind that we do not have to pick one of these scenarios in its entirety. The final staff recommendation to the School Board may  very well be a combination of options from different scenarios or even involving something new that comes out of community dialogues.

Please plan to come to community dialogues to give your views.  This is a very important part of the process and will be taken into account when staff goes back to make a final recommendation for Annandale HS and "Lacey."

The dialogues will be 7-9 pm on Mon. May 16 (AHS and Edison HS) and Mon. May 23 at Falls Church HS and Lake Braddock Secondary School.  A dialogue for non-English-speakers will be held 7-9 June 6 at Annandale Terrace ES.

I am also scheduling special meetings at Bren Mar Park ES, tentatively set for Sat. May 21 9-10:30 am and Mon. June 13 at 7 pm.

PTA presidents and civic association presidents, I would appreciate it if you would get these out to your communities.

I look forward to hearing from you and working with you on finding the best approach for these schools.

Sandy Evans
Fairfax County School Board, Mason District

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

School Board Update

Dear Friends,
May is especially busy this year.  The School Board will be working on making changes to the FY2012 budget to account for a flat transfer from the County this year as well as working on boundary options for our new elementary school and to relieve overcrowding at Annandale High School. We also continue our work on reforming student discipline policies and practice.

Budget: Superintendent Dale has given us his proposed options for amending the budget that includes teacher raises, paying for AP/IB test fees and putting full-day kindergarten in all of the remaining schools that don't yet have it. He has also recommended setting aside $500,000 for any changes the School Board decides to make on student discipline policies and procedures.

AP/IB Fees: Approval of the proposal will end the AP/IB test fees, and I strongly support doing so (an amendment of mine in January called on the Superintendent to find a way to do this as part of the budget).  You should have received your refunds by now of any AP/IB test fees you had paid this year.

Sports Fees: The superintendent's options don't reduce or eliminate the $100 per sport fees. I am working on an amendment to cap these fees at two per student per year, so at least we will have a bit of a break for some athletes and families. I plan to offer this when we vote on the final budget on May 26.

Timeline: The Board will have work sessions on the budget May 16 and May 19. We will hold budget hearings on May 17 and 18. On May 26, we will approve a final FY2012 budget at our regular School Board meeting. If you would like to speak at the budget hearings, you may sign up online.

New ES Math Sequence: FCPS will have a new math sequence in elementary schools starting in the fall. The changes are intended in part to align with new state math standards but also are intended to allow for greater differentiation within a classroom so that each student can learn at his or her own pace and level.  This should enable students to accelerate in math more easily and seamlessly.

For those of you familiar with "Compacted Math," the new terminology will be "Advanced Mathematics."  One hope of the new sequence will eliminate gaps when students advance more quickly then average. The new advanced math sequence will be available in all elementary schools.

Here's an overview with a link to a PowerPoint on the topic:

Here's a chart that shows the sequence:

As someone with a great interest and support for advanced math, I welcome any change that enables students to go as far and as fast as they can and should go.  One concern I have heard, and which I will be monitoring, is how well multiple levels of differentiation can work in one classroom.

Student Discipline: On Monday, May 16, the School Board will hold a work session on Dr. Dale's10 recommendations for changes to student discipline procedures and policies. I support these proposals but also want us to expand them to include other revisions, such as more parent notification and more academic support for students when they are on suspension. The work session will start at about 2 pm at Gatehouse Administration Center, 8115 Gatehouse Rd., Falls Church 22042, and is open to the public.

Individual high schools and middle schools are hosting dialogues on discipline issues for their school communities. As always, I welcome getting your views directly via email or visits to my office hours as we consider various proposals for change.

Stuart Raider Run: The 14th Annual Raider Run is this Saturday, May 14, at JEB Stuart High School, 3301 Peace Valley Lane, Falls Church. Starting at Stuart, the run winds through the neighborhood. Please come and join us for a family friendly and healthful event to support the school.  Race day registration begins at 6:45am, and the race begins at 8am. To preregister online: . Adults are $25 (pre-registered by Thursday, May 12) or $30 on race day and students are always $10.  I'll look forward to seeing you there, where I will serve as starter and then enjoy watching the run.

Annandale High School's Red and White Golf Classic:  At 8 am Wed., May 18th, at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, VA. This is Annandale's main PTSA fundraiser. Please consider putting together a group to come out and play some golf, or consider being a sponsor or donor. No need to be affiliated with AHS to participate in this fun outing. For more information:

Honors Courses: At my request, the School Board will hold a work session on July 18 on honors classes at our Advanced Placement (AP) high schools. Several school PTSAs have expressed concern about elimination of some honors courses, leaving only standard level and AP courses in some areas. The Superintendent will provide more information on the rationale behind going from a three-tier to two-tier course structure where we have done so, and the Board will discuss which approach is preferable.

Annandale/Lacey Site Boundary and NonBoundary Options: Later this week, FCPS will release specific options for boundary and nonboundary solutions to the overcrowding at Annandale High School and Poe Middle School, as well as for the new elementary school at the Lacey Center site. The School Board is scheduled to make final decisions on these on July 28, for implementation in Fall 2012.

When the options are posted, I will issue a special report with a link so you can review them right away.

Who should pay special attention? Anyone with students now attending, or scheduled to attend, Annandale HS, Poe MS, Glasgow MS, Holmes MS.

Elementary schools whose students may well be most affected by possible AHS/Poe boundary changes: Bren Mar Park, Parklawn, Wakefield Forest.

Elementary schools whose students may well be most affected by options for the new elementary school at the Lacey Center site: Annandale Terrace, Beech Tree, Woodburn, Belvedere, Pine Spring.

Community dialogues on these options will be held from 7-9 p.m. on:
May 16
• Annandale High School cafeteria, 4700 Medford Drive, Annandale
(use entrance 7)
• Edison High School cafeteria, 5801 Franconia Road, Alexandria
(use entrance 1)
May 23
• Falls Church High School cafeteria, 7521 Jaguar Trail, Falls Church
(use entrance 8)
• Lake Braddock Secondary School cafeteria, 9200 Burke Lake Road, Burke
(use entrance 15)
June 6
• Specifically for speakers of other languages and will include interpreters for Arabic, Farsi, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese. At Annandale Terrace Elementary, 7604 Herald Street, Annandale. The meeting will be held in the gymnasium, adjacent to the Parent Resource Center.
(use entrance 1)

To register (you won't be turned away if you don't, but this helps for planning purposes): 

These changes will have a significant impact on several schools in our area.  Please plan to attend one of the community dialogues on the proposals to voice your views!