Mark Nuzzaco (Catoctin) decided to campaign for a seat on the School Board after he succeeded in keeping one of his six children from having to transfer to a new school during his junior year.
The father worked with the School Board in 2000 to adopt a policy that would give rising juniors the option to stay at their current school despite boundary changes.
Five years later, Nuzzaco has brought the same policy to the forefront. This time, he is the chairman of the board's Legislative and Policy Committee that oversees regulations. And he’s watching out for other families who might want to keep their children together.
Nuzzaco has recommended a policy amendment that would keep all members of one family at the same high school as long as at least one student is enrolled at the school.
That would mean any elementary or middle school children who reached high school after all of their older siblings had graduated would then abide by the redistricting regulations and attend the new school.
For example, Nuzzaco's policy would allow a family with children in first, eighth, 10th, 11th and 12th grades attend the old school, except for the first grader. By the time, the youngest child got to high school, his brothers and sisters would have graduated.
"It's not a legacy [that says] you can keep going to that old school," he said. "At some point, when that chain breaks and no one remains in the old school, then that child has no claim on remaining at the old school .… I just don't want to compel a family to separate their children into two schools at one time."
NUZZACO INTRODUCED a policy amendment to the School Board on May 12, but withdrew it when he lacked majority support. He said he plans to work with his committee to find a solution that is more palatable to the rest of the board.
Under the current policy, a high school senior, whose school attendance boundary has changed, remains at the old school and any siblings are given the option of also staying or transferring to the new school. At the start of the following school year, the younger sibling(s) must transfer to the new school, unless he or she is a rising senior.
Nuzzaco said the policy would affect very few families, so it should not pose a problem with overcrowded schools. He estimated 700 of the 26,000 families in Loudoun Count have four or more children.
"Students ought to have a choice. Families ought to have a choice," he said. "I believe we should give families choices to the extent that they don't create burdens for the rest of the school system."
Superintendent of Schools Edgar Hatrick said he opposes expanding the current guidelines. "We don't draw boundaries just for the fun of it," he said. "We draw it because we need space in schools."
The current policy provides a sense of fairness, by allowing brothers and sisters to attend the same school when a family has a rising senior, he said. "Once that problem is resolved, then the kids need to go in the school that serves their district."
Nuzzaco said he might compromise and set the cut off at the high school level. Any siblings in elementary or middle school would transfer to the new school. If that proposal fails, he would recommend any student who completes two years at one school would have the choice of staying at the old school, he said. "That is absolutely bottom-line defensible."
School Board member James Geurin (Sterling) said he supports the thrust of what Nuzzaco wants to accomplish, but the amendment needs to be moderated.