Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Qualities in a New Superintendent

Last Tuesday, Dec. 20, the School Board looked into the qualities that the community feels a new superintendent should have.  The feedback was aligned with what I had heard from the community.

In short, the two most important skills people want in a superintendent are communications and leadership skills.  The qualities people wanted to see were a bit more distributed, with good judgment, commitment to the community, integrity, and team builder being the top four in order.  The most significant strength of the school system is excellent teachers and staff, and the most significant challenges we face are growth, facilities, and funding.  The comments in the interviews and face to face sessions were consistent.  You can find the summary of the feedback from the community here: http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fccpsva/Board.nsf/files/AGUK7D5076EB/$file/Falls%20Church%20Community%20Engagement%20%20Power%20Point%2012-20-16.pdf.

A portrait of a new superintendent arises from these results.  Folks want a communicator and leader who joins in and is committed to our community, and addresses the significant challenges we face in facilities and funding while preserving the core of our schools - the teachers and staff.  That's my personal view of the result - I'd welcome your comments.  You can find all the materials here, including a full stakeholder engagement report.  http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fccpsva/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AGMRJZ6E4325

(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.)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Calendar, George Mason, and ESOL

Happy holidays, everyone. Here are my updates from the last school board meeting.

Calendar - the SB asked the FCCPS calendar committee to consider options to try to end school on June 15 rather than June 21. This would certainly require reducing the academic year from 182 days to 180 days, plus two more current holidays would need to be turned into school days.

George Mason - the school board had an energized discussion. FCCPS presented the estimated costs to replace the room and HVAC, likely required within a couple of years. A roof replacement would be $1M, and HVAC replacement either $6M or $14M depending on what was done. http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fccpsva/Board.nsf/files/AGLMGH57842E/$file/FY18%20School%20CIP%20(Amended)%20(1).pdf This is of critical importance because it is unlikely that a new high school, even if approved by referendum in November 2017, can be built in that time period. And if the high school is replaced, rather than renovated, these costs would be for a temporary fix. At same time, our students have to stay dry and warm to learn. Stay tuned.

ESOL - the ESOL advisory committee made a presentation on the recent ESOL audit. The committee's recommendations included hiring an ESOL coordinator - another valuable idea but difficult given budgetary restrictions.

(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, December 12, 2016

Feedback on the Proposed School Calendar

The school calendar for 2017-18 is on the School Board agenda for tomorrow. I'd welcome feedback on the proposal. The school year would end on June 21 under the proposal, which will be reviewed by the SB for the first time. Thank you! http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fccpsva/Board.nsf/files/AGFUPH75971E/$file/OPTION_B_2017.2018FCCPSCalendar110916.pdf

FYI, my school email address is preitinger@fccps.org.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Inclusion and Budget

On Tuesday the School Board held the second of back-to-back meetings - Monday with the City Council and then the School Board meeting and work session.

The biggest "news" from Tuesday is that the SB unanimously passed a Proclamation on Diversity and Inclusion. http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fccpsva/Board.nsf/files/AGDJVN4ED495/$file/Proclamation%20on%20Inclusion.pdf Motion by Michael Ankuma, second by Lawrence Webb, initiative by Erin Gill ( https://fcnp.com/2016/11/17/letters-editor-committed-celebrating-diversity-little-city/), and support from all members. See Erin's report here: https://www.facebook.com/gillforschools/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE&fref=nf

In other news, there was a lot of discussion about the budget and the significant financial bind the schools face, with rising enrollment, increasing benefit costs, the need to competitively pay teachers, and City revenues that are rising more slowly. You can see the budget presentation here: http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/fccpsva/Board.nsf/files/AGE26Z74C5F0/$file/FY18Budget_WorkSession_Guidance.pdf

Other topics included passing the Code of Civility and the Legislative package. Now off to another community meeting!

(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.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

GM/MEH and Budget

Last night (12/5) the City Council and School Board held a joint meeting on the GM/MEH project and the budget.

On the GM/MEH project, the need to replace or extensively renovate GM is beyond question. Last night's session focused on the what Falls Church could afford for the project. That question depends on a number of things, but the range is somewhere between $40M and $114M. The $40M is assuming Falls Church spends $30M on other capital improvements, and the City sticks to all of its current financial policies and ways of funding projects. ($40M is also too small to make a dent in our current needs, based on what I know so far.) The upper figure depends on a number of changes to current practices, including that we use 30-year bonds rather than 20-year and that we keep the payments constant, like a mortgage, rather than keep the principal payment constant, where the cost goes down over time. This also assumes some of the current school land is sold for $30M in the future.

The budget picture is just as sobering. The City's revenue growth for next year is projected to be 3%. If the schools received half that increase, about 3/4s of it is projected be eaten up by the increasing cost of retirement and health benefits, without any increases in the number of teachers to address class sizes or pay raises for teachers due to greater experience. The City is also in a bind with increasing personnel costs and WMATA charges.

Last, perhaps the only way to pay for a high-school is to start saving for it so that the tax rate need not be raised too much in the future (like saving for a down payment). Money would have to be found for that as well.

The School Board has another meeting this evening, which will include a discussion of the budget, the civility code, and a possible statement on diversity and inclusion. Please come - 7 pm at the Central Office.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Your Input on the Permanent Superintendent Search

The online questionnaire regarding your desires for a new permanent superintendent is now live here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9NHFVCT

In addition, the Board's search firm BWP will hold two community interviews this week to capture your thoughts:

Wednesday, December 7th - 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at George Mason High School, and
Thursday, December 8th - 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson.

Thank you!