All-Day K, External Cameras Approved

All-Day K, External Cameras Approved

Eight elementary schools will have full-day kindergarten come September, the student representative will be limited to serving one term, the Working After Retirement program will end two years earlier than originally planned, and Fairfax County schools could soon have external security cameras.

Thursday, July 24, was the last School Board meeting until September, and the board took more than three-and-half hours to wrap up business before the summer break.

The next meeting is slated for Sept. 11.

* WAR Program: The Working After Retirement program was created at a time when the school system was having trouble attracting qualified teachers. The program allowed teachers to retire, receive their full retirement benefits and continue teaching in the county. Due to rising costs of the program — as of May 31, 455 employees were working full-time under the WAR program while receiving their full retirement benefits — the School Board agreed to pull the plug on the program two years earlier, June 30, 2004, than its scheduled end date. Staff estimates the program will cost $63 million to take to its full term, while closing it earlier will save approximately $24 million.

Vote: Unanimous with Robert Frye (At large) absent from the vote and Tessie Wilson (Braddock) abstaining.

* Final Budget Review: The School Board adopted the final FY 2003 budget review after a failed attempt by Rita Thompson (At large) to create a place holder in the amount of $138,000 that would reduce the fees for the advanced placement and International Baccalaureate tests from $25 to $20 with a cap at $40 for a student taking multiple tests, if data still being analyzed shows the fees discourage some students from taking the courses.

"Since the board has not been given data on the impact of the decision we made [to charge for the tests] … I thought it was prudent until we have the data [to wait to reduce the fees] therefore, I'm requesting a place holder," Thompson said.

Vote on the place holder: 3-9 with Christian Braunlich (Lee), Thompson and Wilson voting in favor.

* The approved final budget provides $2 million in funds to create full-day kindergarten classes in eight elementary schools: Belle View Elementary in Mount Vernon, Braddock Elementary in Annandale, Bren Mar Park Elementary in the Alexandria area, Brookfield Elementary in Chantilly, Bush Hill Elementary in the Alexandria area, McNair Elementary in Herndon, Mosby Woods Elementary in Fairfax and Saratoga Elementary in Springfield come September (The Connection, July 16-22, 2003).

Vote on budget: Unanimous.

* Student Representative: The School Board approved the proposed amendments to the policy governing the student representative, which included the changes suggested by the Student Advisory Council (The Connection July 23-29, 2003). The board also decided to limit the student representative to one term in order to provide more students the opportunity to serve, over the objections of the SAC and the current student representative Andrew Ramish. Wilson also made a failed attempt to remove the term limit from the policy.

"If students don't support two terms, they can show that with their vote," Ramish said.

Vote on removing the term limit: 5-7, with Kaye Kory (Mason), Braunlich, Thompson, Mychele Brickner (At large) and Wilson in favor.

Vote on policy including term limit: 10-2, with Thompson and Brickner opposed.

* External Cameras: The board passed a policy that allows for video cameras to record images and sound to be installed on building exteriors and on school buses. The buses are already outfitted with cameras, however, no policy had been previously set. Braunlich attempted to have the cameras approved as a pilot at five schools to allow the school system to collect data on the effectiveness of the devices before schools spent too much money on the cameras. Schools wishing to install cameras will have to pay for them with already approved construction money or through other sources such as boosters or PTA. No money will be allotted from the school system's general fund. The request came forward because Stuart High School in Falls Church has sought to install the cameras to protect the school, which is undergoing renovation.

"I cannot support the amendment because it makes this unnecessarily complicated," Kory said. "You can't prove a negative. How are you going to prove it was a deterrent? Go to the jail and ask everyone if they wouldn't go to the school if it had cameras?"

Vote on pilot: 4-8, with Braunlich, Thompson, Wilson and Brickner in favor.

Vote on the policy: 10-2, with Braunlich and Wilson opposed.