Cathy Belter, Springfield District School Board

Cathy Belter, Springfield District School Board

Office sought: Fairfax County School Board, Springfield District

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Previous Offices held: please include dates:

1974-Present - PTA Member

1980-82 - PTA Fairfax District Director

1980-87 - Virginia PTA Board of Managers

1982-86 - Legislative Chair, County Council of PTA's

1985-87 - Virginia State PTA President

1985-97- National PTA Board

1993-95 - National PTA Legislative Chair

Incumbent: When elected to this position: 1999 elected; assumed position January 2000

Occupation: Librarian

Current employment: Fairfax County Public Library, Fairfax, VA 1974 to present

Previous Employment: Librarian, George Mason University 1972-1973

Education: Good Counsel College, BA (English) 1966; University of Maryland, MLA, 1972

Community Ties: Fairfax Committee of 100; Colonial Ridge Home Owners Association; Social Action Linking Together (S.A.L.T.); PTA's (Various positions)

endorsements: Fairfax Education Association (FEA); Right to Read; FCDC and PTA County Councils "Top of Class" recognition.

1. What is your top public service accomplishment?

My top public service accomplishment has been serving on the Fairfax County School Board. I have represented my constituents through countless hours involving many complex issues including establishing budget priorities to meet the needs of our students and teachers; evaluating programs; conducting student discipline hearings and revising policies as appropriate.

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

I supported the development of strategic targets, such as, working to assure that 92% of second graders will be reading at grade level by the end of second grade; providing additional support for limited English proficient students and the adoption of a program based budget.

As the Springfield representative, I have worked closely with my schools and have made every effort to respond to the needs of my community. When problems do arise, I work with my constituents and take the blame if I have made a wrong decision. I have supported the expansion of G/T centers in my community; renovation of Orange Hunt ES and the modular addition to Silverbrook ES and the opening of new schools.

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

The biggest challenge in Springfield District is the continuing growth in the western part of the district. Although other areas of the county have experienced some growth Springfield is a large district and redistricting has been an issue for many people.

Constituents are concerned about class size; funding for education; full day kindergarten and adequate school facilities. We must aggressively seek State funding for education.. The Capital Improvement Program provides for renovations and building new schools.

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

As an advocate for education for over 28 years I am well aware of the importance of providing every child the resources and support they need to succeed. I have served on many education committees in Fairfax County and have lobbied at the federal and state level for adequate funding for our schools, students and teachers.

Having served on the School Board, I know the issues that we need to address and the importance of working with my colleagues. I am committed to my schools and working to ensure that our teachers and students receive the support and education they deserve.

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

I have been involved in k-12 education since my children entered our school system. Having served as a PTA leader at the National and State level and now as the Springfield representative & Vice-Chair of the Fairfax County School Board, I have the knowledge and experience to continue serving on the School Board. I want to be able to continue to provide the programs and support that we need to maintain a quality education for our students. I understand the needs of our school system; the diversity of our student body and the importance of parent involvement in their child's education. I have made myself available to meet with parents and community members to discuss their issues and concerns and I have spent time in all my schools in order to meet with the principals, teachers and staff and hear their concerns as well as their success stories.

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

The minority achievement gap refers to the difference in test scores among African-American, Hispanic and other students. Our schools, teachers and other staff have been successful in moving closer and closer towards reducing this gap by providing additional resources/programs such as, Project Excel, Success by Eight, Focus 2004;Young Scholars that are succeeding.

We need to continue to encourage more African-American and Hispanic students to become involved in the Gifted & Talented programs; Advanced Placement courses and the International Baccalaureate programs and monitor their achievement. We also need to work closely with the Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee.

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

Some researchers have found that smaller schools produce strong student performance. However, research has also indicated that small schools are not a panacea. Data indicates that class size, perhaps more than school size, has an effect on student learning. Students need to feel connected within the school environment. The more interaction a student can have with a teacher, the more engaged the student is in learning.

FCPS has schools of varying size. The data indicates that the majority of our students are doing very well in school no matter what the size. In large schools, principals and teachers have aligned the school so that different grade levels have their own sections within the building. This provides a more cohesive setting for our students to learn and be connected to a core group of teachers and students.

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

Research indicates that teenagers function better with more sleep. Reports indicate that high school students do better if they can start school no earlier than 8 or 8:30 a.m. This has been an issue for FCPS and one that we have explored but not resolved. Parents want their high school students to start school later while parents of young children reject this because they don't want their children waiting for a bus in the early morning. At this time we do not have the funds to provide for additional buses.

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

Reducing class size is a priority. My goal is to continue to work within the budget in order to identify funds needed to alleviate specific overcrowded classroom situations. Realistically, any significant reduction in average class size on a County-wide basis is going to require allocation of more funds to the school system.

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 be looking?

I didn't vote on a budget that has waste in it. I supported the program-based budget because it highlights the various revenue sources, such as Special Revenue Funds and Capital Projects Funds; identifies the programs in our schools, and provides detailed information on each of the departments. Most importantly, the budget document is, as one parent told me, user-friendly.

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

I believe that the cluster director system has been successful. The cluster directors have oversight of their schools in terms of accountability and provide additional support for principals and staff. The directors also provide another link for parents to address any concerns they may have. In the Springfield District, we are associated with the directors in Clusters V, VI, and VII and I work closely with each of the directors.

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

The advantage of the SOLs is that standards are set and provide objective measures of student achievement.

Students who come from a different country or from another state are occasionally disadvantaged because they have not had the same opportunities as the other students. For example, a child comes from Indiana to Virginia and is immediately immersed in the SOLs and has to answer an SOL question about Virginia history. ESOL students in particular have a difficult time adjusting to the demands of the SOLs.

13. Explain how NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND sets standards on categories of students and its implications for Fairfax County schools.

No Child Left Behind requires all children to become proficient in English and mathematics. All students including students in subgroups, African American, Hispanic, White, Students w/Disabilities, LEP and economically disadvantaged are subject to the same standard. For this year students had to achieve 61% in English and 56% in Math. NCLB requires "adequate yearly progress ." Between now and 2014 schools must progress toward a 100% pass rate. FCPS will need to monitor the progress of the students and focus our attention and resources on children who are not achieving at the levels set by the state and Federal regulations on the SOLs.

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

If I had an extra $1 million I would allocate the funds to increasing teacher salaries and reducing class size. This would still not be enough.

15. What are the hallmarks of a well-run school? Include measurable characteristics.

A well-run school is one where the principal is a strong leader and advocate for the teachers, students and parents and who maintains a safe and secure environment conducive to learning. This school would have a professional staff and teachers that are committed to providing strong programs that meet the needs of the students. Students and staff would be treated courteously and with respect Parents are an integral part of this school.

16. What are the hallmarks of an excellent teacher? Include measurable characteristics.

An excellent teacher is a person who has an orderly classroom and who loves students and learning. This teacher engages the students in the class by providing programs and lessons that meet their needs. This teacher challenges them, commends them for their achievements and works diligently to see that all students are able to succeed. This teacher also reaches out to provide additional help to a struggling student sometimes even after school day. This teacher encourages the parents to be involved in their child's education.

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

I would include the following:

Reading and Composition , Mathematics, Science, the Arts, Civics, Social Studies, Foreign Language, Health & PE and Technology.

We need to provide a core curriculum that is designed to educate the whole child.

The fundamentals of reading and mathematics are critical. The arts have a major role to play in expanding a student's ability to think and explore. Civics, Science, Social Studies are important to developing a students knowledge base. Students also need to be able to speak in another language while the internet helps open up the world.

A well educated child must also be a healthy child. Adequate exercise and a good diet are critical.

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

The use of public-private partnerships for school construction projects is an innovative approach to obtain much needed funding. The advantage of this partnership is that actual construction or renovations begin in a timely manner. The disadvantage is the interest rates a municipality pays to repay the private partner's financing.

19. How would you increase involvement of the general public in the public schools?

I would extend a standing invitation to community members to visit one of our schools and give them an opportunity to see what goes on in the classrooms. We also need to make contact with our senior citizens who may be willing to volunteer in the schools as mentors. In addition, FCPS "Keep In Touch" is an excellent way for

people to learn about the school system.

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

Whenever I have an opportunity to speak with parents in the schools or at meetings I encourage them to become a partner with the school. I also recommend that they join the PTA and get to know the other parents. With the growing diversity in our community and schools, it is important that we make a special effort to reach out to new parents and parents from different cultures. In addition, as a School Board member, I am able to appoint community members to a number of advisory committees. This helps involves other people in our school system.

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? Countywide? By pyramid in the area you live?

The police officers and School Resource Officers are vigilant about the gangs.

They have been pro-active in watching what goes on in and near our schools. The rate of violent acts Countywide have decreased in Fairfax County and in our schools. We have been able to keep violent offenders out of our schools and with the help of the police, we have been able to identify some gang members. I believe that the rate of violent acts within my pyramid is very low.

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

The Board policy provides for community members, through a series of meetings and public hearings, to be actively involved in shaping the attendance areas of all new

Schools. In addition, with growth and population shifts, small administrative changes

can be recommended by the Superintendent and approved by the Board. Boundary

issues are often difficult for the community and many parents often feel more comfortable with their base school whether or not it is under or over crowded.