Office Sought: Sterling District, Loudoun School Board
Party Affiliation: Republican
Previous Offices Held: Sterling District, Loudoun School Board (2000 to present)
When Elected: November 2, 1999
Current Employment: Senior Technical Writer, Electronic Data Systems (EDS),
13900 Lincoln Park Drive, Herndon, Virginia 20171
Previous Employment: Director of Congressional Affairs, US Department of Transportation (1992); Legislative Counsel, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) (1991); Legislative Counsel, US House of Representatives Committee on Rules, (1980 - 1991); Staff, US House of Representatives Committee on Post Office and Civil Service (1975 -1980)
Education: University of Missouri (1963-1968) Journalism
I have lived in Sterling Park for 27 years. Former Secretary and Director, Sterling Youth Soccer Association Board of Directors; former President, St. Joseph's Catholic Church Pastoral Advisory Council; member, Park View Patriots Club; member Park View PTSO; member, Sterling Middle School PTA; member, Guilford PTA; member, Forest Grove PTA; Member, Rolling Ridge PTA; member Sterling Elementary PTA; member, Sully PTA.
The Loudoun Education Association, Congressman Frank Wolf, Virginia State Senator Bill Mims, Virginia General Assembly Delegate Tom Rust, former Dulles District Board of Supervisors member Charlie Scaggs, Loudoun County Republican Committee.
1. What is your top public service accomplishment?
The completion of the Park View High School renovation, and the construction, and opening of Forest Grove Elementary School are accomplishments that have revitalized education in Sterling Park.
The Park View renovations were on time and on budget, and students there now have the largest high school library in the county, six new classrooms, new guidance offices, and renovated laboratories.
Building Forest Grove allowed us to lower class sizes at Guilford, Rolling Ridge, Sterling, and Sully -- where we created All Day Kindergarten for at-risk children. We have improved the quality of education for all our neighborhoods, and improved academic performance at these older schools.
I have turned budget frustration into positive change by helping develop a closer working relationship with the Board of Supervisors. This improved relationship was most evident in the budget agreement for increases in teacher salaries, and we have (over a 2-year period) brought them equal to Fairfax County.
2. Incumbents: Describe the top accomplishment of your last term.
We broadened our salary lanes, and increased pay for experience and advanced degrees. We reversed the troubling trend of losing teachers to the Fairfax, and we now find that high-quality, experienced teachers are coming to work for us from other school districts. Experience really does matter when it comes to classroom instruction.
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.
Continuing to improve student achievement is top educational challenge. Although each of the seven schools that serve my constituents are fully accredited by the Commonwealth of Virginia, some of our students face exceedingly difficult challenges.
Demographic changes in my community make it an imperative to focus spending on classrooms and instruction. Our minority student population is rising, unlike elsewhere, and we need to expand our English as a Second Language programs and really reach out to all of our population.
We cannot afford to lose our focus on all our students, their families and our community. We should continue to put the interests of our school students, and moms and dad first.
Continuing to fight for better schools and building a better educational environment will mean higher taxpayer spending. Treating hard-earned taxpayer dollars with respect means we have to justify the need every cent.
Continuing our facility modernizations, to keep our school buildings on a equitable level with those in newer communities.
4. What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office?
Experience and vision are two that really matter. My experience as the father of two children - who attended Sterling Park schools - and my success in representing the people of the Sterling District for four years are my best qualifications.
My vision is to continue to improve our schools. There are unmet needs at Sterling Middle School and Rolling Ridge Elementary School. My plans for these schools have been approved, and I want to see them through to completion.
Parents, taxpayers and teachers want School Board members who will listen to them, address their concerns, and represent them - especially if the administration does not.
5. How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponent(s)?
My family grew up in Sterling Park. As a father whose children were involved in soccer, scouts, and church activities, I also "grew up" here. I know my community, and the families who live in its neighborhoods. When my children attended Sully, Sterling Middle, and Park View, I was active in their education and in their schools.
In 1999, I benefited from the lived experience of community involvement. Four years later, that experience now includes a detailed knowledge of system-wide budgeting and management, and how to meet the challenges that the demographic changes in my community bring to our schools.
6. 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?
Over 94 percent of our $ 390 Million operating budget is devoted to classroom instruction. The School Board's spending priorities might not be the same as those of newspaper publishers. The system's daily operations are subject to strict management control by the administration, and board members have no administrative responsibilities.
Two years ago the Board agreed that nearly $10 Million of the administration's budget request could be cut before we presented our budget to the Board of Supervisors, and I was active in this effort. Transportation expenses, excessive administrative salary increases, and building costs are areas that I will continue to explore.
7. What have been the advantages and disadvantages of SOLs?
Our Virginia SOL results measure progress, and are one accountability mechanism of student achievement and learning. Parents and taxpayers want to know whether we are teaching our curriculum and whether students are learning.
I am very proud of our teachers and our students for their classroom efforts. Each school is fully accredited and our testing results show sustained overall improvement. Where testing shows achievement gaps for particular groups, we use results to improve instruction.
A disadvantage is news media tendency to "label" schools as unsuccessful, based on score comparisons. Schools with large ESL or minority populations should not be compared to those without these student populations.
8. If you had an extra $1 million to spend on the school system any way you would like, how would you spend it?
It would be nice to return it the taxpayers, but our school age population growth makes that difficult. I would use it to hire additional teachers and lower class sizes wherever physically possible.
We authorized $ 956,520 in budget restorations from funds appropriated by the Board of Supervisors, $606,520 of which was used to hire 10 additional K-8 teachers. An additional 21.5 elementary and 2.5 secondary teachers have been hired, using $1.4 Million in un-obligated funds.
The administration has the tools to correct the disparity in teacher to pupil ratios, and hiring teacher assistants may well help in certain situations.
9. What are the hallmarks of a well-run school? Include measurable characteristics.
Schools where student achievement exceeds previous year's performance. Schools where teachers feel that both the central office and their building administrators respect them. Schools where teachers are part of school-wide team focused on students. Schools where administrators earn the respect of teachers and where teachers earn the respect of students. Schools where parental involvement is encouraged and sought after. These are the hallmarks of well-run schools.
Measurable characteristics would be such items as SOL scores for that school, the number of teacher transfers from a school, the number of grievances filed by teachers, the methods of real collaboration between administrators and teachers.
10. What are the hallmarks of an excellent teacher? Include measurable characteristics.
A personal, demonstrated desire to see students learn and achieve is a hallmark of an outstanding teacher. We are fortunate to have some of the best educators in Virginia working for our students and their parents.
One hallmark of an excellent teacher is the time they devote to their own "homework," of grading papers, planning lessons, preparing for parent conferences. Every teacher I know needs more time for lesson planning, grade card preparation, and parent conferences. Some measurable characteristics would be student test scores, and how they have overcome the challenges that some students bring to their classrooms.
11. If you were to create your own core curriculum, what subjects would you include? Place in priority order.
Our curriculum follows the Virginia standards, and stresses the basics - reading, writing, math, social studies, science. My priority order would be 1) Reading; 2) Writing; 3) English language instruction.
12. How would you increase involvement of the general public in the public schools?
Expand our community outreach and expand our School / Business Partnership program. I tell folks about student academic accomplishments and that all schools are fully accredited, since they otherwise might not know how good our schools really are. We should publicize school programs far enough in advance so that the public may attend and see for themselves.
Our dedicated administrators and teachers are actively engaged in raising student achievement. We can improve our public involvement by offering our cadre of administrators to visit community groups, service clubs, and businesses in our communities and personally reach out to the public.
13. How would you increase parental involvement in the public schools?
I publish newsletters and distribute them at Back-to-School nights and in the community. This year, I asked parents to join the PTA or PTO at their child's school. I also published my newsletter in Spanish for our Hispanic parents. We should expand and improve our Parent Liaison program, so that no family is left out of the flow of information.
Instructional leaders should also involve themselves more directly with the community
where the school is located. There are several excellent examples of creativity by
principals in building parental involvement, such as going to their homes to meet them,
and having an interpreter by their side.
14. 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?
Our schools are organized for student safety, both inside our buildings and on our grounds. Dangerous activities near schools are a major concern, and additional outdoor lighting and cameras would augment our current security. Neighbors have brought concerns to me about students parking on residential streets, and we have attempted to address this issue.
Heavily publicized recent events would lead one to conclude that violent acts have increased, and the Sheriff's office would have better statistics than I have. Quite frankly, the schools in the Park View cluster have fewer incidents requiring discipline than some in some other areas.