Sunday, September 18, 2016

No Big News, only Mt. Daniel and the Superintendent Search

My apologies for the long delays between reports - work, meetings, the end of summer and the start of school put a kabash on my communications.

Momentous days. First, and very important, the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved FCCPS' explanation to expand Mt. Daniel to 660 students. That will help reduce current elementary school crowding of facilities at both Mt. Daniel and TJ. My thanks to all the school staff, parents, and others who worked on this, as well as the Fairfax County Planning Commission. https://fcnp.com/2016/09/14/fairfax-planners-ok-mt-daniel-elementary-expansion/

Second, Dr. Jones, the superintendent, is leaving to be the Superintendent in Fairfield, CT. That means we need to find an interim superintendent by Dec. 5 at the latest, and a new permanent superintendent by this summer. The School Board held a special meeting last Thursday morning at 7 am to start the process (the Chair had been away and so our Tuesday evening wasn't the best to talk). It seemed to me that there was general agreement to hire a search firm to assist in the process (last time, the Board use the Virginia School Boards Association's assistance and they are again under consideration), and to have a very strong process of public engagement to determine the things Falls Church wants from a new superintendent. So I'd expect a series of public meetings like the Board used the last time. You can see more about the prior process here: http://www.fccps.org/supersearch/

I am sure that the search will be very time-consuming. It is the most important decision a school board makes.

In other matters, there is nothing big to report on the GM/MEH project, but the consultant that has been brought on board to help with planning and timing has started work. With the Mt. Daniel question substantially resolved, I hope this work can proceed and at a faster pace.

This last Tuesday evening, the Board approved 5-1 the priorities and and work plan for the year. http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fccpsva/Board.nsf/files/ADRRZY707C69/$file/Triennial%20Plan%202015.docx%20September%2013%20FINAL.pdf and http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fccpsva/Board.nsf/files/ADRS24707E9E/$file/Work%20Plan%20STAFF%20Work%202016%20FINAL.pdf. I was the only member who voted against the plans, not because they were substantially off-base, but because I wanted the quantitative measurements in the School Board priorities and not the staff work plan, and because the language on review of the use of technology in the schools was too limiting (focusing on which computers and devices to use). You can view the video of the meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2TqJ86HxBE. I will support the plans that were approved by the Board.

The last big item to discuss is enrollment, which is still in flux but has skyrocketed to around 2700 students this year (2688 as of 9/9). http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fccpsva/Board.nsf/files/ADQR8J68673A/$file/FCCPS%20Monthly%20Membership%202016-17.pdf. As a result, some of our classes have more students that is our policy. I won't recap the budget debates of last year, but the School Board worked long and hard to hire as many teachers as it could given the money provided, and we don't have enough teachers to keep all classes within policy. And next year may be even more difficult.

There is more to discuss, but I'll leave it at that. As always, you can reach me at preitinger@fccps.org.

(These are my personal views and not the official statement or records of the Board. They are not minutes but my personal summary of some of the highlights from the meeting.)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Prior Review

The George Mason school paper, the Lasso, has suggested that the School Board change the policy that requires a school principal to review articles before publication. The FCNP has written an article about it, https://fcnp.com/2016/09/01/mason-high-newspaper-editor-challenges-censorship-policy/, in addition to the prior commentary from the Editorial Board. https://fcnp.com/2016/08/04/guest-commentary-time-end-prior-review-george-mason-high/

This is a complicated question. Along with protecting Freedom of Speech, schools also have to be worried about other student rights, bullying, etc. At the August 9 School Board meeting (see below) I suggested that the SB ask the students at George Mason, such as a journalism class as a class project, to propose a fair change to the policy that requires that the Principal review articles. In my view, this would be an excellent class project - what do you think?