Nell Hurley, School Board At-Large

Nell Hurley, School Board At-Large

Office sought: School Board At-Large

Party Affiliation: Non-Partisan, endorsed by Republican Pary

Previous offices held; please include dates: n/a

Incumbents: when elected to this position: n/a

Occupation: United States Navy Captain, retired

Current employment (include name and address of employers): n/a

Previous employment: U.S. Navy (1972-1997)


Master of Urban and Environmental Planning, Speciality in Public School Policy Planning

(University of VA, 2000)

Former Associate Professor at Old Dominion University, Hampton University, Norfolk State Univ. (1990-1992)

Masters in Systems Technology from Naval Post-Graduate School (Monterrey, CA, 1979)

Bacher of Arts in Psychology (University of Minnesota, 1972)

Attended Public Elementarty, Junior, and Senior High School in Minnesota

Community ties:


- Member of PTA units in all 4 daughter's schools (ex: Elementary School volunteer coordinator)

- Fairfax County Council of PTAs (Education Chair, Cooresponding Secretary, Budget Committee Member)

- Assistant Director, Fairfax District PTA

Advisory Committees

- Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendents Community Advisory Committee -Chairman, Transportation and Logistics Subcommittee, Fairfax County Task Force on High School start times

- Gifted Talented Advisory Committee (Membership Chair, Fairfax County Association for the Gifted)

- Braddock District Community Dialogue on Transportation and Land Use

- Math Textbook Advisory Committee

Youth Service Groups

- Uniform Director, Braddock Road Youth Soccer

- Vice-President, W.T. Woodson Crew Boosters

- Girl Scout Service Unit Cookie Manager for up to 36 troops

- Volunteer Coordinator, Odyssey of the Mind Competition


- Neighborhood Watch


Fairfax County Federation of Teachers

AFL-CIO Central Labor Council

1. What is your top public-service accomplishment?

Captain, Retired United States Navy, Retired. Service included:

• Senior White House Systems Analyst / Crisis Management Center

• Commanding Officer of successful 200-member Navy Recruiting District which included Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC.

• Director, Plans, Programs, and Budget for a federal agency with a multi-billion dollar, multi-year budget

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

(Not an incumbent) However, I have spent the last few years preparing for service on the School Board, including attending many School Board work sessions, public hearings, and regular meetings; earning a Master of Urban and Environmental Planning degree with a Public School Policy Planning specialty from the University of Virginia; being a founder of RENEW (Renovate to Educate the Next Era at Woodson), participation in the parent-teacher-student committee that recommended Woodson giving up its participation in the International Baccalaureate program and instead retaining its extensive Advance Placement offerings; and many additional volunteer duties including:

• Fairfax County Council of PTA’s (FCCPTA): Education Chair, Corresponding Secretary, and Budget Committee member

• Assistant Director, Fairfax District PTA

• Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent's Community Advisory Committee

• Chairman, Transportation and Logistics Subcommittee, Fairfax County Task Force on High School Start Times

• Gifted and Talented Advisory Committee and Membership Chair, Fairfax County Association for the Gifted

• Math Textbook Advisory Committee

• Elementary School Volunteer Coordinator

• Volunteer Coordinator, Odyssey of the Mind Competition

• Braddock District Community Dialog on Transportation and Land Use

• W. T. Woodson Crew Boosters Vice President

• Braddock Road Youth Soccer Executive Board

• Girl Scout Service Unit Cookie Manager for 36 troops

• Neighborhood Watch

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.

A. Maintain educational excellence for all students without bankrupting the taxpayer. One approach: eliminate overlapping programs with no evidence that they improve learning. Since FCPS is such a large system, we can have control groups by which we can evaluate progress.

B. Reduce Class Sizes. One approach: Cap the number of students, including Special Education, ESOL, and other students who are in the room only part of the day, at 28 for all core classes above third grade, with lower caps for younger students. “Average” class sizes obscure wide variations in class sizes within and across schools. ACTUAL class size, including students who are in the classroom part time, may be thirty or more. Such large classes in core subjects put a strain on students, teachers, AND facilities. Many science labs cannot accommodate more than 28. Many of the trailers in use as classrooms are too small for larger groups.

C. Recruit and retain highly qualified and properly compensated teachers. One approach: Pay a bonus for classroom teachers, not administrators - our classroom educators must have adequate compensation.

D. Provide safe, modern school buildings. One approach: “Repair by replacement” of our most outdated and dilapidated school buildings just as FCPS is planning to replace the existing Glasgow building instead of renovating it. This makes sense for several reasons, including:

- Construction is faster than renovation

- Students do not have to deal with the dirt, noise, and other daily disruptions of a renovation process

- Modern building codes, security elements, and energy efficient design features are built in, not retrofit or make-do.

- Renovation does not resolve basic design problems like narrow hallways, split levels requiring ramps, and limited flexibility in classroom sizes.

- After a renovation, the core infrastructure is still be fifty or more years old. As stated in the Glasgow Study prepared by Peck and Peck, “Since the renovation option costs more than two-thirds of the new construction option, more value is realized from new construction dollars versus renovation dollars in this situation, according to national industry standards. ... The Ohio School Facilities Commission Design Manual indicates new classrooms shall be built if the costs of renovations exceed two-thirds the cost of new construction. The Director of Educational Design Institute at Mississippi State University states that modernization is questionable if the costs of modernization exceeds 50 percent of the cost of a new building or major replacement of mechanical, plumbing, electrical or roofing systems is required." (Page 9.) Again quoting the Study, “New, efficient building systems will provide long-term operational savings to the County, both in fuel consumption and maintenance costs. Old systems are eliminated entirely.”

E. Add and expand proven instructional programs. One approach: Rather than FCPS staff trying to create more of its own curriculum packages, try programs already proven in other areas such as explicit phonics. And when a pilot program is proven effective in our schools, expand it so all children may benefit, not just a lucky few. We should consider eliminating overlapping programs and/or programs that are less effective. This does not mean one size fits all; it does mean that a curriculum should be in place to accommodate the needs of a diverse population.

(Running at Large.)

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

a. Because of my ability to research, collate, assess, and present data, Tom Brady has referred to me, in a public meeting, as the “Conscience of the Community.” This quality will help me to look for waste, trim the budget, and eliminate programs that aren't working.

b. Strong professional and educational background including:

• Extensive travel around the world, serving my country in the Navy, which has helped prepare me for working with and for a diverse school population.

• Professional background and experience will help me deal with our 164,000 students, 24,000 employees, and  a total annual budget that exceeds two billion dollars.

• Master of Urban & Environmental Planning, Public School Policy Planning specialty, University of Virginia

• Associate Professor at three Virginia Universities

• MS, Systems Technology, Navy Postgraduate School, Monterey CA

• BA, Psychology, University of Minnesota

d. As delineated above, extensive FCPS involvement and long time civics involvement.

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

Please refer to above responses. And in addition to my extensive educational, professional, and volunteer school and community activities, we have four daughters.  Two have graduated from Fairfax County Schools, one is currently in an FCPS high school, and one attends an FCPS elementary school here. No other candidate has been more closely involved in Fairfax County schools and our community and has such a personal stake in what happens in our schools.

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

Like all districts with diverse populations, Blacks and Hispanics as groups continue to score lower on standardized tests when compared to White and Asian students. Children who qualify for Free and Reduced price Meals (FRM) and students with limited English proficiency also, as groups, tend to score lower than “average” students. These groups have a great deal of overlap.

The gap is a result of a number of interrelated factors. Public schools are certainly not totally to blame for the gap and they cannot be expected totally to eradicate it. However, schools can and should address some of the factors that cause the gap.

School districts which have adopted reading reforms recommended by the National Institutes of Health, such as Los Angeles and Houston, have seen reading test scores for Black and Hispanic students rise dramatically to above the national average and above our minority scores in Fairfax.

And services should be based on children’s needs, not on where they live.

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

Research indicates very large schools create alienation. Data contained in the current Capital Improvement Program indicates our western high schools will be over crowded by about 2,200 students in 2007. Perhaps we should consider yet another new West County high school rather than cramming more students into existing, already very large, high schools.

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

I headed the Transportation and Logistics sub-committed of the Task Force for High School Start Times which was convened several years ago. The first problem we ran into is that while studies seem to agree that American teenagers need more sleep, it is NOT clear that a later start time will help. For example:

- Teens are busy with homework, sports, work, social lives, computers, etc. Starting school later just will not add more hours to their days.

- Many studies indicate humans, for whatever reason, prefer a 25 hour day. Most humans want to stay up later and sleep later.

- A recent study indicates humans get their most valuable sleep before midnight.

- Some teenagers are "morning people," that is, people who are alert early in the day and who need to go to sleep earlier.

- But on the other hand, "when Minnesota high schools set classes back from the typical 7:30 start to 8:30, grades went up, discipline problems went down, illness calls dropped, depression among students fell, and the students (and, oh yes, the teachers) were a happier bunch." []

In any case, the bottom line is that enough Fairfaxians want to try a later High School time that it is at least worth looking at how such a change might be implemented.

So on to the second problem: Our county is based on teens getting out early in the afternoon. A later start time would affect a wide range of interest including athletic boosters, McDonald's and other employers who count on teen labor, families who rely on older children to baby sit younger siblings in the afternoon, and many companies that cater to teens in

the afternoon, such as ballet studios. Of course, after a period of change, most of these stake holders would adjust to the new hours.

The third problem, perhaps the hardest, is transportation.

Sub issue one: A later start time would put more teen drivers on the road further into the morning and evening rush hours.

Sub issue two: While it might be nice to have all students in grades k-12 all arrive together at 8 am, that would require about three times as many buses and drivers as are already needed. And morning rush hour would get even worse!

- One option would be to have all schools start an hour later, but then some elementary children would arrive home after dark.

- Another option would be to have elementary schools open before high schools. This concept makes some sense because younger children seem to be more likely to be early risers.

A pilot project is pending that would allow the Madison pyramid to shift time like this next year. If finances permit, then communities should be allowed to decide if they want to change school start times. The Madison community has been asking for this for years.

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

I have addressed this point earlier in this survey, but to summarize, we need to eliminate overlapping and less effective programs and curricula.

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?

Every large budget has some waste in it.  Our remedial programs have been escalating over the years, which is indicative that something is not working. Last year less than 30% of employees were classroom teachers, which may indicate some non-classroom functions need to be more efficient. Let’s support our many excellent teachers both with higher pay and by eliminating oversized classes!

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

The clusters have improved the span of control, but the design of the clusters need to be fine tuned.

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


1. Identification of students who need help.

2.  A uniform means of communicating school expectations.

3.   Impartial assessment of whether or not teachers and schools are imparting the basic material.

4. Teachers teach all required sub topics, and not just the parts of the curriculum with which they are most comfortable. Students are then better prepared for higher level courses.

5. We have heard in such forums as the SCAC that new teachers and Special Education teachers particularly like the SOLs because they know what is expected of them and their students.


1. Base schools are reluctant to allow their best-testing students to leave to attend GT Centers.

2. In their own quest to excel, some educators are inducing stress in their students. It seems that at least some students fear poor performance on just one test mandates repeat of an entire grade. While this is not true, the rumor persists, causing unnecessary anxiety and fear for students and parents.

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

Schools can no longer hide any failure to teach minorities, Special Education, ESOL, and FRM students because achievement is monitored on an annual basis by each group. However, to expect EVERY child to pass some test is preposterous, unless the standards are so low that everyone CAN pass.

As for the impact on FCPS, we DO have good schools, and if any district can meet Federal requirements, it is us.

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

Identify the schools with the largest number of students in core classes at each grade and hire extra teachers to reduce class sizes.

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

Consistently high test scores for top students, consistent above average scores for average students, and consistent improvement in the individual abilities and skills of even our most challenged students. Rigorous and regular testing can lead to continuous student achievement.

Low “scores” on negative factors (absentees, dropouts, violence, graffiti and other discipline issues) and elimination of social promotion.

High parental involvement and, in high school, high student involvement in activities.

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

A good teacher should  want to teach and should love children, but of course such characteristics are hard to measure.

To use measurable characteristics, teachers should:

• Reach all children, expanding their knowledge base regardless of where they begin.

• Provide challenging material for every child.

• Possess knowledge of the material to be taught, and the ability to go beyond the basic material.

• Maintain discipline without compromising respect for the child.

• Understanding that in education there is no 'one size fits all,' be able to  tailor classroom instruction to meet the needs of the individual student.

The effectiveness of good teaching can be measured in part through standardized tests including SOL's, Stanford 9's, reading tests, math ability tests, AP and IB exam scores, and PSAT and SAT scores.

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

1. English - Reading (including vocabulary), speaking, and writing (including spelling and word processing)

2. Math

3. History and Social Studies

4. Science

5. Physical Education and Health (including Driver’s Ed)

6. “Life Skills” (financial management, computer use, resume preparation, basic child care, etc.)

7. Fine and Performing Arts

8. Foreign language

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

Public / private partnerships can expedite school renovation and construction as well as bolster economic redevelopment and save bond funds. Good schools are essential to preserve and reinvigorate existing neighborhoods.

However, school system and county personnel are obviously over simplifying basic finances when they imply a school built using a public - private partnership has no effect on other schools. CIP funds must still be obligated to pay the private firms thus delaying other projects. In addition, the public deserves to know what additional costs might included, such as interest and the cost or a new road being paid out of school construction funds.

In addition, school and county personnel must take a countywide look for potential public-private partnerships and consider ALL pending CIP projects, not just those next to areas where land might be available to trade to a contractor.

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

This is an area where FCPS is doing fairly well, attracting grants, sponsorships, and tutors, implementing the MentorWorks program, and attracting more retired people into the schools as tutors and mentors.

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

It is important to extend the mission of the school to the home and to ensure strong parental commitment. Schools should establish contracts with parents to support their child’s efforts to learn. Parents need to feel they are listened to as part of the system, not merely a source of fundraisers and free office help. We parents should be voting members of every possible committee. On School Board Advisory Committees, parents, NOT FCPS employees, should have the majority of the votes.

All families should be provided information on educational programs and how to access them. Example: increase PUBLIC school choice by, for example, insuring all middle school students and families are familiar with high school options (e.g., Advanced Placement, international Baccalaureate, Jefferson, and Academies) including the prerequisites for these programs, their differences and how students might decide among them, where the programs are offered, how to place into them, and how to transfer to a different high school if their neighborhood high school does not offer the program appropriate for them. Middle schools also need to emphasize to all students the importance of taking Algebra I and a foreign language in the 8th grade if students are considering the TJ, AP, or IB programs.

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?

Unfortunately assaults and crimes against property are all too common in our County, and all too many of these crimes involve our school children as victims or as perpetrators. Crime, violence and theft not only threaten the well-being of staff and students, they threaten to compromise or destroy the business of schools. Our school safety employees continue to try to  minimize the problems of gangs and violent activities in our schools. While overall solutions to the problems of crime and violence in our schools will come from legislation and community efforts to provide better security, the following are efforts should help our school employees take to limit or minimize risk in and around school property:

First, allow teachers to remove disruptive students from the classroom.

Keep our eyes open for potentially violent students and growing crowds of students.

Mark all school property with an engraving tool or an indelible marker.

Organize a special day at our schools for marking personal items and tagging and registering bicycles.

If employees or students are working late or need to walk to a distant parking place, have some sort of informal escort service.

Always have the phone number for school security, the local police and other important emergency numbers posted next to every phone.

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

This requires a  close working relationship between school and county personnel and communities. Here are a couple specific recommendations:

A. Initiate discussions between public school staff and personnel who maintain other educational facilities in Fairfax County.

(1) For daytime Adult Education classes, FCPS might consider using the classrooms at the UVA/Virginia Tech building. These nicely equipped adult classrooms are mostly used for evening classes, and therefore might well be available for daytime Adult Ed courses. (Evening Adult Ed courses, of course, can continue to be held in our high schools.) The UVA/Tech building, conveniently located next to the West Falls Church Metro Station and on the bus line at Rt. 7 and Haycock, is only a few years old and includes a bookstore, a library, and a computer lab or two. As a member of the Superintendent’s Community Advisory Committee, I submitted this suggestion in writing, but the concept was dismissed without comment by writing, “The use of leased space at the UVA / Virginia Tech building in the evening has not been discussed.”

(2) FCPS planners ought to consider the current and near term construction plans of Fairfax County private and parochial schools. Such discussions may well alter when and where new public school classrooms are planned and constructed.

B. Incorporate recently approved boundary changes into the CIP. That is, eliminate projects that are no longer needed and downsize others as appropriate.