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Votes

Kathy Smith, Sully District School Board

Office sought: Fairfax County School Board, Sully District Representative

Party Affiliation: School Board is non-partisan. I am endorsed by the Democrats.

Previous offices held; please include dates: Fairfax County School Board Member, from March 2002 to present

Incumbents: when elected to this position: February 2002

Occupation: Fairfax County School Board Member

Current employment (include name and address of employers):† Fairfax County Public Schools, 10700 Page Avenue, Fairfax, VA 22030

Previous employment: Teacher for 7 years

Education: (please list schools attended, degrees and dates) Muhlenberg College, BA in Sociology and Elementary Education, 1977

Community ties: President, Poplar Tree E.S. PTA-4 years; President, Rocky Run M.S. PTA-1 year; President, Chantilly H.S. PTSA-2 years; Member of four Principal Selection Committees; Former Vice President, Fairfax County Council of PTAs; Former Member of Fairfax County Public Schools Language Arts Advisory Committee

List a few current endorsements you are most proud of: Fairfax Education Association While not an endorsement, I received a rating of "Top of the Class" from the Fairfax County Council of PTAs.

1. What is your top public-service accomplishment?

In addition to serving on the school board, I am very proud of my service as PTA President at Poplar Tree ES, Rocky Run MS and Chantilly HS. During my seven years as PTA President, I focused on educating parents to become knowledgeable about such things as math and reading curriculums, standardized testing, and Gifted and Talented services. Involving parents as partners in the schools allows them to advocate for their children. I am proud of the programs I developed that drew children and families into the schools and developed a strong sense of belonging to a caring community.

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

I brought forward a motion to reduce the school budget by $18 million to come within 1% of the Board of Supervisor's recommended transfer. As the actions of the General Assembly unfolded in January 2003, it became apparent that K-12 education would be held harmless, and we would not lose as much funding as expected. This allowed the budget reduction. As you make decisions, you realize that not everyone will agree on every issue. I work to look at the big picture, study the facts, listen to the public, and then cast my vote. I believe voters should hold me accountable for my decisions and votes.

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.

Many of the issues we face with the schools are related to funding. It is important for the School Board to evaluate programs and spend dollars in an effective manner. Sully District continues to attract families and therefore our student population continues to increase. We have creative solutions for more classrooms such as modulars.

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

I am a former teacher and PTA President at every school level, and I have been involved with schools for over 15 years. I have served on school plan committees, principal selection committees and a state committee to set the cut score for the 5th grade SOL tests. Serving on the School Board is my full time job, and I am committed to spending the time necessary to serve on the School Board. I evaluate situations by looking at the big picture to help prioritize.

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

I believe that our schools are among the best in the nation, and we are doing good things for the children of Fairfax County. I am currently on the school board and have over 15 years of leadership experience working directly with schools. I believe that the School Board should be non-partisan. As a former teacher, I understand the needs of teachers. I have seven years of school leadership experience as PTA President of schools at every level. I have a voting record of demonstrated leadership in fiscal responsibility, increasing teachers' salaries and reducing class size. I listen to the facts and base my decision on what's best for all children. Serving on the School Board is my full time job, and I have been an advocate for public education my entire adult life.

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 performance of African American and Hispanic students on standardized tests. Schools focus on the achievement of these students in their school plans. We have programs such as Young Scholars and the College Partnership program. We also provide free summer school for students who are performing below grade level. There is a focus at the middle and high school levels to help all students take rigorous courses. We must continue to focus on early on-going remediation to help children achieve and continue to focus on encouraging students to take challenging courses throughout their school years.

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

There have been several recent studies that show that student's achieve more in smaller high schools because they don't get "lost" (or overlooked).† The important part of the research is that students need to feel connected to the school. Our high schools have procedures in place such as the sub-school organization, to help students feel connected. At the middle school level students are organized in teams to help them have a connection. The way we organize our schools so that we are able to focus on the individual child is the most important factor.

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

Studies have shown that children's sleep patterns change as they reach their high school years. The decision to change high school start times disrupts the start times of the middle and elementary schools that feed into that school. There still needs to be a discussion of the community acceptance for the change. The fiscal impact must also be considered. As we look at the school budget and available funds, we need to evaluate the cost benefits of later start times.

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

I am proud to report that in the Fiscal Year 2004 budget, we were able to reduce class size. When the FY 2005 budget is presented to the school board, I will evaluate the components and come to a decision about funding with input from the community. Reducing class size continues to be one of my priorities.

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?

Our school system is efficient. In FCPS, 88 cents of every dollar is spent directly in the schools compared to 82 cents in similar districts in the country. Our cost per pupil ranks fifth when compared to other local districts. At the same time, it is important to continue to review programs and needs so that we put our resources where they are most needed and best utilized.

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

The cluster director system is successful. In this age of increased accountability it is important to have oversight of schools. Cluster offices ensure educational excellence, safe schools and serve as a school-community liaison. There has been increased communication between schools-elementary to middle and middle to high school. Principals are able to ensure students attain the skills needed to progress to the next level.

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

The Standards of Learning ensure that all schools educate all students to the same standards. It is important that schools across the system are teaching the same skills. The increased emphasis on educating all students is commendable. The disadvantage I see is that all students are expected to reach success (pass the standardized test) at the same time. Children are developmentally different and care must be taken so that educational growth is not ignored. Some students will make great leaps in their knowledge, but might not be able to pass the standardized test. This creates a false sense of failure.

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 that students in all sub-groups show "adequate yearly progress." There are seven categories of groups-all students, special education, learning disabled, white, black, Hispanic, LEP (limited English proficient). The Virginia State Board of Education set the minimum size of reporting groups as 50 students. The difficulty is that 95% of the students in each category must be tested. This is difficult to achieve when you have a student who has just arrived in this county and speaks no English. FCPS is working with the State Board of Education who is in turn working with the Department of Education at the federal level to develop appropriate testing for students who have been in this county for less than a year and for special education students. Until that testing is in place, we will have difficulty meeting the "adequate yearly progress" requirement.

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

I believe that the most critical component for successful schools is the teacher in the classroom. I would put an extra $1 million into teachers' salaries.

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

A well-run school must first be safe and well maintained. The physical aspects of a safe, clean school, combined with safe and orderly behavior are the foundation on which a strong academic background is built. The leadership of a strong principal who leads teachers in educating students and creating a sense of community with families are also measures of a strong school. One of the ways we measure the success of a school is through the SOL tests. You would expect to see growth in student performance. Parents and student involvement in school activities and parent involvement in school committees and through the PTA are also indicators.

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

A strong teacher is able to evaluate the children in the classroom and develop lesson plans to meet their needs based on their achievement. The classroom should be orderly and the students should respect each other and the adults they work with. The teacher should communicate with families to ensure that the child has support at home. A teacher should have a passion for learning and love children.

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

I believe that we have a strong curriculum in Fairfax County that incorporates the Standards of Learning and goes beyond its requirements. We must be sure that students have a strong foundation in reading and math so that they will be academically successful. Additionally, I strongly support education that includes the arts because it is important to educate the whole child. In Fairfax County we should continue offering an enriching curriculum. The notion of "getting back to the basics" is unconscionable. Educating the whole child is more than teaching math, reading, and writing. Our children deserve so much more than a "basic" education.

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

The public-private partnerships, such as the building of the south county school, enables us to complete capital improvements in a more timely manner that does not affect the timing of other projects in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).† One advantage of this partnership is that the entire sight is reviewed and planned to incorporate the needs of the school and the community. This is a new process and is complex because FCPS, Fairfax County government, and the private sector must work together to come to terms. This partnership gives us the opportunity to help other schools in the CIP have their needs addressed sooner.

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

Our school buildings are used by many organizations such as Girl Scouts and churches. I would encourage the public to sign up for the Keep in Touch feature on the FCPS website to follow activities happening in our schools. Our music, drama, and sports programs are wonderful events for people to attend. I also encourage people to volunteer in their local schools.

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

I believe that our schools are open to parents, but many people have busy schedules. Some examples of the ways schools involve parents are as tutors, volunteers in the library, and on school plan committees. I encourage parents to find out what is happening in their schools and get involved. I also believe that parents of younger children should take their children to drama and music programs at the middle school and high school levels.

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?

Public awareness of the signs of gang involvement is crucial to keeping our communities safe. The community coalitions (Chantilly and Westfield) and PTAs/PTSAs are organizations that can provide a forum for the community to receive this information. Our police follow gang activities and work closely with the school system to keep school staff informed about such activities. This close relationship between the police and the school system continues to keep our schools safe.

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

The most difficult issue in changing boundaries is the loyalty families have to their current school and the emotions that are created as a result of this. Educating families about the strength of the school they would move to is important. The programs in a school (such IB or AP) can be a draw for families.