CIP, Budget Committee Approved

CIP, Budget Committee Approved

Survey Controversy Kept Alive

Mike Lewis, a Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce appointee and father of Oakton High School students, will chair the School Board's newly approved Community Task Force on the Budget. The board unanimously approved the committee's make-up and Lewis' appointment as chair. School Board member Ernestine Heastie (Providence) was absent from the table during the vote, Jan. 23.

In nominating Lewis, School Board chairman Isis Castro (Mount Vernon) said: "Not only is he qualified by the profession he has, but by the actions he has taken."

Lewis is one of two Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce appointees to the committee, which totals 25 members.

The committee will meet from January to May with the primary purpose of advising the School Board on budget priorities, school system practices and projected revenues. Each board member, as well as employee and civic organizations nominated appointees to the committee.

They are: Steven J. McGarry, Braddock District; Ed Bersoff, Dranesville District; Susan Sheridan, Hunter Mill District; Patrick McGettigan, Lee District; John Thomas, Mason District; Daniel Storck, Mount Vernon District; Mark Emery, Providence District; Robert Gray, Springfield District; Laura Floyd, Sully District; Todd Stottlemyer, At large-Brickner; Walter Carlson, At large-Frye; Vinta Chhabra, At large-Thompson; Andy Ramish, student representative; Eric Timpson, Association of Fairfax Professional Educators; Lewis, Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce; Warren Eisenhower, Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce; Ed Saperstein, Fairfax County Council of PTAs; Mitch Luxenberg, Fairfax Council of PTAs; Tom Giska, Fairfax Education Association; John Knowles, Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations; Janet Auerbach, Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations; Eric Nelson, Fairfax Federation of Teachers; James Latt, Fairfax County Public Schools Principals Associations; Steve Eddy, Fairfax County School Board Employees Association; and Merry Baxter, Unified Professional Association.

THE BOARD also unanimously approved the capital improvement program (CIP), along with one amendment.

School Board Kaye Kory (Mason) was successful in her attempt to add an additional $3.5 million in the out years, FY 2009-13, of the CIP for a bus parking facility in the eastern portion of the county.

"The purpose of this amendment is to signal our commitment to secure adequate parking for our 1,500 bus fleet," Kory said. "A total of one-third of our maintenance costs can be eliminated if we had a secure location."

As it stands now, the school system parks buses at more than 120 different locations throughout the county including schools, libraries, fire stations, government centers and at drivers' homes.

As a result of not having a secure location to park its fleet, the school system has lost 12 buses to arson since 1995 and has spent thousands of dollars on repairs due to vandalism.

A transportation facility under construction at Westfield in the western part of the county will not provide enough parking for about two-thirds of the fleet.

SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER Mychele Brickner (At large) threw a new wrinkle into the Community That Cares survey controversy when she announced she was proposing a motion, for the Feb. 13, meeting that would temporarily table the survey altogether. The county Board of Supervisors, which pays for the at-risk behaviors survey administered to randomly selected sixth-, eighth- 10th- and 12th-graders, approved the document earlier this week.

The survey, first administered in 2001, anonymously asks students questions regarding alcohol and drug use, suicidal tendencies, depression and bullying, will include questions regarding sexual behaviors for the high-schoolers. Students and parents can opt out of taking the survey and questions are available for parents' review at various locations. The results are intended to help health officials design programs aimed at eliminating such behaviors.

Instead of administering the survey this year, Brickner is proposing the School Board recommends the "funds be used to provide alcohol and drug services for children not yet receiving such services; and refer all the survey questions, including the sexual behavior questions, to the Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee for their recommendations to the Schools Board."

The measure, while not on the Jan. 23 agenda for debate, received little support.

"We as a public body … if we plan to have programs to help students, we need to conduct the survey," said School Board member Robert Frye (At large). "I'm concerned about having the FLE going in depth and suggesting questions or rewriting questions. … It's a waste of money if we don't utilize the professionals. We should leave the wording of the questions to those who know something about it or else we have a bunch of useless data."

School Board member Christian Braunlich (Lee) asked staff to find out what actions had been taken as a result of the last survey; what county funds are available for actions as a result of the new survey; what number of children are receiving drug and alcohol counseling; and what services the county is providing before having to make a decision on the motion. He did, however, question what authority the School Board had over the survey since it is a county matter.