Once again, I would like to thank you all for your dedication to the students, parents and teachers of Fairfax County Public Schools. It is obvious to me that often you have an all-consuming, thankless responsibility to ensure the best education policies are in place for our school system — all on a so-called "part time basis"! I am sure your families and friends chuckle often on the term "part-time"!
Generally, I am a supporter of a "Governance Policy" to streamline the workload and to reduce redundancy of tasks for a part-time School Board. Alas, we have a serious trust deficit occurring in Fairfax County Public Schools that has been building up over the last 7-10 years, or possibly even longer. This trust deficit is placing an undue burden on our School Board members and I hope with the hiring of a new Superintendent, this burden can be lightened.
In the meantime, it is your sworn duty as elected officials to ensure that the policies and guidelines that are set down on record, either by your votes, or state and federal laws, are implemented in a legal and consistent manner county-wide. When you have an uproar across the county from students, parents and teachers regarding an egregious lack of public engagement on an important issue, then our elected School Board is obligated to take action beyond the Governance Policy. This is what occurred recently regarding the 11-1 vote on Jan 26 to add five Honors courses to our high school course of studies for the coming school year. It was right and just for our elected School Board to give credence to the strong outpouring of concern for appropriate learning options. Our county administration had been appealed to for years with no appropriate response as they disregarded important input from the community.
Since yesterday’s "Retreat" is open to public observers as should be the case, I was very disheartened to hear the tone and demeanor taken by the so-called "moderators" of this "team-building" effort. In my opinion, many of the discussions and name-calling examples given, demonstrated no collaborative effort but rather took on the form of ridiculous bullying. What a sham of professional, educated communication! I think those who established the agenda and the goals of this "retreat" should be closely examined as to their purpose and abilities to lead a venue in such an unprofessional manner. I also think that any professional moderators who complied with such an unprofessional agenda should return the $5000-plus that they charged for this lack of quality service to our county. The School Board’s involvement and strong supportive vote to add the Honors courses was time and again used as an example of a School Board not doing a good job! Ask the countless students who now have a few more appropriate learning options if that was " a bad decision"! Add up the emails, letters, articles and public statements as to the community opinion on adding those courses!
I agree that — ideally — a School Board would just have to "oversee." A great superintendent earns the general trust of the public and the more developed trust of a School Board, which creates a situation where the board can be more hands-off, as the Governance Policy alludes to.
Alas, that is not the case in FCPS. There is a "trust deficit" with top-down decisions lacking teacher and public input, lowest teacher morale on record, lack of evaluative transparency for just about every budgetary and statistical data report and a climate of intimidation fostered at the highest levels.
When a superintendent lacks transparency and cannot effectively show, when pushed, that he is operating in the best interest of the students, the School Board is obliged to step in and micromanage on some specific issues.
A superintendent needs to keep the board and the public fully appraised of decision-making and its rationale, no matter how exhausting and irritating. That’s the job. If you’re making good decisions, it won’t be so very onerous to open them up to public view. Those ideas should sell themselves to a smart, educated county like Fairfax. In contrast, Dale & Co are making questionable decisions, in secret, that benefit administrators most of all. Unfortunately, in this case the school board needs to step in and protect the needs of our children. That’s the job.
Please don’t allow the messages hammered-in at this retreat or at future venues to weaken your resolve to do your elected duty and to ensure that your votes and actions represent credible, honest leadership!
Your legacy as a School Board member can be to leave our children with a better educational future, not to allow Governance Policy to be an excuse for bad public policy.
Kate Van Dyck
parent and teacher
for Restore Honors Courses