Carl Cecil, Sully District School Board

Carl Cecil, Sully District School Board

1.      What is your top public-service accomplishment?

Serving our Country in the US Military for over 20 years.  During my final assignment on the Army Headquarters Staff, I was the first Program Manager for a National Mobile Communications System ($20 million) that I took from a requirement to a combat fielded system in 18 months and has become the backbone of secure mobile communications for the Joint Intelligence Staff.  During my time at the Pentagon, I served on a number of National Boards that managed hundreds of millions of dollars in some very contentious times.

2.      Incumbents: Describe the top accomplishment of your last term. Why shouldn't voters blame you for current problems in your district?

My Democrat-endorsed opponent has done nothing to resolve the overcrowding of our schools in Sully, especially class size.  She has voted for a 10 percent raise for the Superintendent, making him better paid than the Vice President of the United States or any cabinet member or Senator, while providing our Teachers with a mere 2% raise.  We are losing teachers to Loudoun & Prince William Counties because they get paid as well and don't have to commute from where they live.  They cannot afford to buy homes in Fairfax County. My opponent has given lip service to the idea of an Inspector General, an idea that I don't expect will ever see the light of day if she is re-elected.

3.      What are the top five problems facing your constituents and what approaches will you use to solve them? Describe one challenge (or more) in your district that is different than other parts of the county.

Class Size - reducing class size will diminish or eliminate many other problems, including disruptive environments that limit a child's ability to learn, teacher retention, discipline and accountability. This is by far the number one concern of parents in my district and my main priority.

Keeping the Best Teachers- reducing class size will help, but providing competitive pay and benefits are also important.  A major consideration should be to help find affordable housing for our newer teachers.

Providing an excellent Curriculum of proven methods that will allow more children to learn the first time around and cut the need for so much remediation.

Accountability - Making sure that are tax payers are well served in getting their money's worth...

Discipline - This is the part of teaching that teachers dislike the most.  Teachers are often in the cross fire between what's best for their class and the anger of parents over action taken against their child.  We must protect our teachers' right to maintain order in the classroom by supporting them when this happens, while always taking parents' concerns seriously to ensure there is never an abuse of power.

4.      What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office?

I like to get things done.  There's nothing I like better than tackling a problem and seeing it through to conclusion.  I believe I can motivate people with a team attitude.  I know there will be brick walls to confront when it comes to all the varying opinions on what are the best solutions for our schools, but I believe sticking to my goals and my values

will help me stay focused on why I got in this race in the first place, to protect the integrity and excellence of Fairfax County Schools.

5.      How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponent(s)?

My leadership ability and our different approaches to solving problems.  My

opponent has been a silent rubber stamp for the Democrat-endorsed majority and the superintendent.  Rarely does she join the discussions or raise a question, but she always votes, and usually right along with her party peers.  My opponent's approach to solving issues such as class size and teacher pay/benefits is by asking the County Tax Payers for more money.  This is the Democrat approach.  My approach is to review the entire budget and rack and stack priorities, eliminating programs that have been superseded or where other, more efficient programs meet the needs better.

6.      What is the minority achievement gap? How have the schools been successfully addressing this gap? What more can they do?

There are many minorities in this county.  To lump all in one category does a disservice to all.  Yet, we must make every effort to ensure that all children get a great education that allows them to become productive TAX paying citizens.  The school board has set goals to reduce the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students in SAT scores.  But waiting until a student is ready to take SATs may be too little too late.  Achievement gaps must be addressed sooner, and on a case by case basis by teachers who know the students and how much support they receive at home.  If we can identify those students earlier, perhaps we would see a dramatic decrease in achievement gap in the higher grades.

7.      What is your understanding of research studies into the effect of school size on student achievement? What are the implications for FCPS?

Studies on this matter show that students where the school population is large become disenfranchised from the teachers and administrators.

Discipline problems increase and learning suffers.  I think that is common sense.  This certainly an upcoming issue of importance for the school board.

On another level, smaller class size provides a better learning environment on a number of different levels.  Teachers have more time for each student, so each student gets more individual attention when necessary.  Teachers have a better teaching environment, therefore more job satisfaction and less likely to go to the next county looking for employment.  Many teachers would stay in FCPS with smaller class size, because they would not have to work so much unpaid overtime.  Teachers would be able to better individualize their teaching to emphasize learning rather than teaching.  Each additional student in the room is not a linear increment, but an exponential increment because of the one to many relationships that each additional student creates.  Smaller class size helps improve discipline, too.

8.      What is your understanding of research studies on sleep patterns of teenagers and the implications for high school start times?

Sleep is very important for young teenagers and the more they have the better they perform.  For high school students working jobs, this is a particular burden; however, little children lose concentration easily when they do not get enough sleep.  I think certainly the school district needs to work on creative solutions to ease the impact of start times, but parents and students need to make sure they are not making lifestyle choices that adversely affect their education.  Using these studies as an education tool for parents may be the best answer.  All around, this is a difficult challenge with the transportation impact.  Some schools are testing it and will report the results back for further


9.      If reducing class size is a priority, how would you re-allocate the budget to pay for this change?

Like an old closet that has had many out-of-date clothes and items stored in it over the years, the same is true with the County budget.  Many programs were started years ago and have been superseded yet have not been replaced or updated with more cost effective programs.

10.     Is there "waste" in the school budget? If so, where and how much? If you can't pinpoint precisely, in what specific area would you begin looking?

In a nearly $2 Billion budget, there is always room to improve.  Every position that is not directly supporting a learning classroom, must be examined.  We should look at consolidation of services like HR, IT and maintenance with County Government to find additional savings.  Outsourcing can also be reviewed for those areas as well.  We should look at a Gibson-like Consulting Group to review the entire school administration for additional savings.

11.     Has the cluster director system been successful? If so, give examples.  If not, what alternatives should be explored?

It may have been a good idea at the time when initially instituted, but this may be an area for further review.  Over the past several years, organizations have flattened out reducing layers of administration.

12.     What have been the advantages and disadvantages of SOLs?

SOLs have provided all parties with a measurable goal.  Before SOLs, it was very difficult to really determine from a statewide standard, what success was.  Now we have a system in place.  It is not perfect, yet it does provide a vehicle for improvement and fine tuning as we continue with SOLs.  This week, a parent told me that their school was better now because of SOLs.  On the other side, we need to be careful not to use just ONE metric to determine success.

13.     Explain how No Child Left Behind sets standards on categories of students and its implications for Fairfax County schools.

This is a very lengthy and difficult question to answer in such short space, so I will simply answer that the motives and goals of No Child Left Behind are very admirable.  However, the goal of 100% success is a very lofty target.  The mechanics are far from worked out.  The implication for Fairfax Schools are clear - there are many mandates to our school system with little resource assistance to help make it happen.  Yet, the good side is that continues the accountability of school administrators to the People and Parents.

14.     If you had an extra $1 million to spend on the school system any way you would like, how would you spend it?

Reduce Class Size and the overcrowding that we see in Sully District.

15.     What are the hallmarks of a well-run school? Include measurable characteristics.  Leadership, a great leader (principal) in charge that inspires other administrators, teachers, students, parents and even maintenance staff.  Effective communications to all people involved with the school.  Respect for all parties at the school.  High rates of children moving on to the next level of education (ES to MS, MS to HS, HS to 4 year Colleges).  High rates of graduates earning a good living and paying their taxes.  High SOL scores or continually improving SOL scores.

16.     What are the hallmarks of an excellent teacher? Include measurable characteristics.  Leadership!  The teacher that motivates and inspires the students to "go the extra mile" in their studies to achieve higher than they ordinarily would.  A teacher that effectively communicates with students, parents, other teachers and administrators.  SOLs are one measure of success.  Improved grades from past years is another.

17.     If you were to create your own core curriculum, what subjects would you include?

Place in priority order.

Reading, writing, and math.  All others build from these basic subjects, and if these are not gained early on, all other subjects will suffer.  There are many important subjects.  The fact that I did not list them does not mean that I under value them.

18.     What are the advantages and disadvantages of public-private partnerships as they relate to Fairfax County schools?

Mostly advantageous, schools receive help in a number of different ways from volunteer hours to financial assistance.  We must just be sure to keep an arm's length distance away and not become too chummy or the relationship could be misconstrued.

19.     How would you increase involvement of the general public in the public schools?  Leadership!  Great leaders  inspire people to get involved.  I have seen it at the school level and know that more involvement is possible.  Most of our schools do have a great deal of parent involvement.  I see that all the time when I visit my own children's schools or others as I run for School Board.

20.     How would you increase parental involvement in the public schools?

Leadership by example!  I am involved in my children's schools and have been for many years.  Additionally, show the benefit.  If many parents realized that just a few hours a month at their child's school could help them improve, many parents would take advantage of it.  For instance, with a visit to the classroom, the parent could see for themselves areas that need improvement or the teacher may have a few moments to point out areas of improvement.

21.     What additional public safety steps would you recommend in addressing gangs and violent activities on or near school property? Has the rate of violent acts increased, decreased or stayed the same in the last four years? County-wide? By pyramid in the area you live?

In Sully District, there are some challenges, but it is relatively small.  Challenge kids with exciting studies and activities that don't give them time for other less productive behavior.

22.     What school-boundary strategies could be used to address the inequity of under- and over-enrolled schools within FCPS?

The Political Process takes care of this as the need arises.