Town of residence: Herndon
Family: I’ve been married for twenty years. Our older daughter is a graduate of the University of Virginia and our younger daughter is a 2015 graduate of Westfield High School. The family's golden retriever, Ginger, has been wait-listed at several dog obedience schools.
Education: Graduated from the United States Air Force Academy
Occupation and relevant experience: Currently I’m a technical program manager in Chantilly. Prior to this, I worked in federal service for over 35 years. My professional experience includes a wide breadth of areas including strategic planning, field operations, complex systems engineering, cost accounting and analysis, contract negotiations, source selections and government acquisitions. I have negotiated and managed contracts worth billions that included complex operations and engineering of communication systems. For the past five years I volunteered with the Diocese of Arlington as a Camp Contractor working with teens in providing construction projects for underserved Virginia residents. My volunteer experience also includes working with Habitat for Humanity and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Email address: WilkinsonforSchoolBoard@outlook.com
What is one issue that defines your call to serve, why does it matter, and how will you tackle it?
As a dad, taxpayer, and citizen, I believe that the children of Fairfax County must come first with any decisions made by the school establishment, particularly the School Board. It is my goal to be an independent and non-partisan advocate for children, teachers, and the taxpayers of Fairfax County. I want to do what is right for the children of Fairfax County – to improve their education, their quality of life, and their future. I will not accept “business as usual” or the “we know best” attitude of the current school board. My plan is simple – reduce class size, increase teacher compensation, and close the achievement gap – which will improve the lives of ALL FCPS children.
What distinguishes you from your opponent(s) and why should voters choose you?
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is the 10th largest school system in the United States, and it requires strong leadership and people who know how to manage government programs, and who understand policy, budgets, strategy, and contracts. These are the key activities of a school board member. I have 35 years as a public servant doing just that — managing budgets 5 times the size of FCPS’s budget, establishing policy, setting strategic direction for a federal agency. I will demand accountability and transparency, and ask the hard questions that are necessary to ensure that FCPS does not lose its status as a world-class school system.
How will you address the growing economic divide in county schools?
I would start with the Office of Program Evaluation — it is their mission to determine the effectiveness of FCPS programs. Why is it that the achievement gap continues to widen, and yet we continue to pour millions of dollars (above and beyond the federal and state requirements) into programs designed to help our neediest students? We need a fresh look at why they are not working. Additionally, the proposed budget is being closed on the backs of children and teachers instead of implementing a zero baseline budget. Instead of asking parents what to save, we are asked what to cut — year after year. We need strong leadership that will SAVE the most important programs — those that have direct impact the classroom. In particular, our neediest students will benefit from additional funding for programs, like Project Momentum. There has been no prioritization from the board over the last four years. If we review the current expenditures to look for inefficiencies, that would be a better start. What have we received so far? A list of painful reduction proposals. Partnering with the community business on building maintenance, food services, custodial services have a potential for better value from competition and lower rates.
How will you address the achievement gap?
In addition to re-evaluating the programs designed to help our neediest students as described above, I believe that we need to offer competitive compensation for our teachers. The value of our public school system comes from great teachers. Talented teachers help motivate all kids to do their very best. It is time to do an analysis beyond just survey monkeys to figure out how we can help our neediest children. Where is the funding going? Why is it not working? A teacher who recently quit from a Title 1 school said that he “gives up.” He said he just could not connect and have educational success with his students. Someone needs to figure out why, and it should not be solely hoist upon our overstrained teachers. The funding for “motivation coaches” and “inclusion specialists” is not getting the job done.
More than half of the county budget is devoted to the local school system with a significant budget gap looming, both for FCPS and Fairfax County. What steps would you take to manage the gap and to fund the needs of the school system? What are the top priorities and what could be cut?
We need a scalpel — not an axe — in identifying inefficiencies within programs, rather than proposing to axe programs like arts, music and sports. Such approaches only result in painful reductions in overall services provided to our school children. I propose that before we look at cutting programs, we should examine expenditures and their effectiveness. Yet, instead of asking parents what to save, this Board has asked us what to cut — year after year.
We need fresh ideas to eliminate redundant, inefficient, and/or ineffective programs currently in the system. An online checkbook can improve transparency and accountability by showing the taxpayers where the money is going. A line item review, zero based budgeting, and tasking the auditor general to conduct performance-based audits will drive more dollars back to the teachers and into the classroom.
What value does FCPS add for taxpayers who do not have children in the schools?
Fairfax County schools drive business, which increases home values. Fairfax County home prices are the highest in the region. Whether for resale value, a desire to retire-in-place, or a long-term investment in Fairfax, the quality of schools in our community is a main contributor to home values. Importantly, about 53% of personal property taxes goes to the FCPS. This money is paid by taxpayers every year. It demonstrates the commitment that Fairfax County residents have to the education of their own children and to the common good.