Letter: Change in Approach Needed

Letter: Change in Approach Needed

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

The most important election Nov. 3 is for Mount Vernon District supervisor. Democratic candidate Dan Storck has served as Mount Vernon's School Board member for over 11 years. The most important function of public schools is preparing children to succeed in college and thereafter. In Mount Vernon, public schools are failing to fulfill these goals. In her campaign literature, School Board candidate Karen Corbett Sanders proclaims "A zip code should not determine the quality of education for a student in Fairfax County" and then criticizes the educational opportunities currently available to students in Mount Vernon as compared to elsewhere in the county. She says, "Trailers are a way of life for our students." Mr. Storck should be held accountable for these failings.

I attended a public high school. Of my graduating class, over 90 percent went on to attend college. By contrast, according to ACT test results, no high school in the Mount Vernon District has more than 40 percent of its students properly prepared for college. In one of them, the number is 20 percent. This is unacceptable. Asked about this poor performance at the League of Women Voters debate, Mr. Storck responded that one reason is some of the students don't live in the Mount Vernon District. Unacceptable.

On his campaign website, Mr. Storck touts 112 achievements during his 11-plus years on the School Board including 20 "Major Personal Initiatives," 13 "General Achievements," and 79 "Personal Initiatives." Being generous, no more than 10 percent directly impact academic performance. Those include reducing class sizes at one school, supporting full-day elementary school on Mondays, enhancing standard diploma requirements, adopting foreign language textbooks and providing English and social studies honors courses through grade 12.

The vast majority of the listed achievements are the routine actions any administrator performs as part of their basic duties. Among those listed by Mr. Storck: system-wide recycling programs, disposal of surplus property, changes in Roberts Rules procedures, graduation protocol for School Board members, changes in meeting dates, video streaming of school board meetings, creation of a smoke-free environment, video surveillance and "water bottle alternates for SB meetings."

One listed "achievement" is Mr. Storck's 2007 vote in favor of a 67 percent increase in School Board member salaries. That year, average teacher pay rose 4.88 percent and only increased another 2 percent over the following three years. In April 2015, the Board of Education voted itself a 60 percent raise. Mr. Storck abstained. Since he was campaigning for the Democratic nomination for supervisor at the time, and he didn't oppose the raise, his abstention was a vote in favor, since the raise won by a vote of 5-4 with three abstentions, and his vote against instead of abstaining would have killed the raise.

No mention in his list, by the way, of Mr. Storck's votes (as School Board chairman) in September-October 2008 in favor of spending up to $130 million to acquire a second Taj Mahal-like administration building (the Gatehouse II acquisition proposal) while children were being educated in trailers. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Feb. 23, 2009 to discontinue any further consideration of this irresponsible proposal. That day, Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova stated: "... an acquisition of an administrative building at this time, while we are struggling with a challenging budget and a volatile and unstable economy, is not in our best interest." We need a supervisor who will be most careful and prudent when spending taxpayer money.

Also, Mr. Storck wouldn't take a position, at the League of Women Voters debate, regarding the proposed police review board and he supports a meals tax that will adversely impact restaurant employees and the middle class. It's time to hold career politicians accountable. It's time for a change in approach.

H. Jay Spiegel

Mount Vernon