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Board Finds $12 Million Surplus

Domenech Gets Raise

July 31, 2002

Tom Urban went to the School Board Thursday, July 25, to ask for money, especially since the school system has a $12 million balance at the end of FY 2002.

Of that, $4 million will be set aside as the beginning balance for FY 2004 and to offset any FY 2003 shortfall. The remainder will be used to make budget adjustment such as setting aside money for implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, restoring building maintenance money and outfitting Head Start buses with new safety restraints as recently mandated by law.

Urban, the father of a child with autism, asked the School Board to take $100,000 from the balance and allocate it for Applied Behavior Analysis, more commonly referred to as ABA, training and supervision for the newly created preschool autism program. The Parents for Autistic Children's Education unsuccessfully lobbied for the funds during the budget process early this year.

"YOU ARE DISCRIMINATING against children with autism," Urban said. "Let's look at the myth that more families will move to Fairfax County. First, housing prices are too high. Second, so what if more families did move to Fairfax County? This county does not dumb down its ESOL [English for Speakers of Other Languages] services to keep out Hispanic and Asian families. In fact, you even provide $85,000 for ESOL for janitors."

Urban was unsuccessful in persuading the board.

However, School Board member Christian Braunlich (Lee) did get funding for two schools, Crestwood Elementary in Springfield and Glasgow Middle in Alexandria. Braunlich's amendment, which passed 6-5, added $20,000 for the creation of a new focus school at Crestwood, which would utilize Open Court and Saxon math, as well as allows for an evaluation of the effectiveness of the two and $10,000 for program enhancement at Glasgow, which would jump start the planning for the school to become a Magnet International School. Both are non-recurring funds and the money would come off the beginning FY 2004 balance.

In addition, School Board member Tessie Wilson (Braddock) was successful in getting $250,000 set aside in a "place holder" account for a school-system audit. The funds will come from a reserve account. Wilson's amendment was approved 9-2, with Isis Castro (Mount Vernon ) absent from the meeting.

While Urban's plea went unfulfilled, At-large member Rita Thompson said she will be bringing the amendment forward at a future date.

"I'm concerned and disturbed that we are already getting concerns from parents about the training for the autism program," Thompson said. "I'm putting you all on notice, if I continue to receive to get comments from parents, I will be asking for the $100,000 at the quarterly review."

The School Board is anticipating a budget shortfall of at least $70 million for FY 2004, said finance and budget chairman Jane Strauss (Dranesville).

IN SEPARATE ACTIONS the same night, the School Board unanimously approved a 4.6 percent raise for Superintendent Daniel Domenech and created a new administrative position, chief operating officer, which will be filled by Thomas Brady, the current assistant superintendent, Department of Facilities Services.

The raise gives Domenech, who became superintendent in January 1997, a base salary of $226,982 for the period of July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003. Domenech had been making a base salary of $217,000 plus he was awarded a $24,000 bonus, which was approved Dec. 20, 2001.

All Fairfax County Public Schools employees received an average 4.6 percent raise in the $1.554 billion, FY 2003 budget which was approved in May. So the average increase for teachers was approximately $2,400.

"He got the same raise as everyone else," said School Board chairman Stuart Gibson (Hunter Mill).

Gibson said the raise was based on evaluation forms each board member filled out regarding Domenech's job performance. The forms consist of eight evaluation standards: professional skills, educational leadership, instructional development, organizational management and accountability, financial management, relationship with staff, relationship with community, and relationship with board. For each standard, the School Board members are asked to list three areas of outstanding performance and three areas that need improvement. The actual responses are not public information, said Gibson, because it is a personnel matter.

As for the chief operation officer position, Gibson said the new position does not add any additional expense because a different position within the school system had been eliminated.

Brady, as the COO, will be receiving an annual salary of $134,802, effective Aug. 1. He will also continue as assistant superintendent of facility services until Jan. 1, 2003. The creation of the new position is part of the school system's continuing reorganization efforts.

As COO, Brady will oversee the support operation of the school system, freeing up Deputy Superintendent Alan Leis to concentrate on the academic side.

Brady has been with the school system since 1999 when he became assistant superintendent.