I read with interest the letter published in last week's Gazette from Karen Corbett Sanders, Mount Vernon's School Board representative and currently chairman of the School Board. She was responding to my letter published in the July 25, 2019 Gazette in which I suggested that the School Board needs to postpone any vote on revising Policy No. 8130.7 (my letter inadvertently referred to 8130.6) until after the upcoming election, particularly since (1) proposed changes to school district boundary change policy are highly controversial and (2) there will be significant turnover in Board members this year.
Ms. Corbett Sanders' letter is noteworthy and unacceptable for its avoidance of the turnover issue. Ms. Corbett Sanders gave no assurance that radical changes to School Board policy concerning changing school boundaries will be postponed until a new board is constituted.
Elaborating on my prior letter, the School Board has 12 members including nine representing each magisterial district and three at large members. Thus, in essence, each citizen is represented by four board members: the member from their district and the three members elected at large. Of the 12 current members of the School Board, the following five are not seeking re-election: Sandy Evans (Mason District), Jane Strauss (Dranesville District), Pat Hynes (Hunter Mill District), Dalia Palchik (Providence District), and Ryan McElveen (at-large). Ms. Palchik is Democratic Party-endorsed for the Providence District seat on the Board of Supervisors. Mr. McElveen ran in the Democratic primary for chairman of the Board of Supervisors and lost. It is possible Ilryong Moon (at-large) will be running for re-election without a political party endorsement as he resigned from the Democratic Party last month. The other six members of the School Board are running for re-election, some unopposed and some opposed. With such a large turnover, it would be inappropriate for School Board members to radically change School Board policy while running out the door.
Two of the main proponents of changing the boundary policy are two of the School Board members who are not seeking re-election. Pat Hynes said this at a recent School Board meeting: "You buy a house in Fairfax County don't expect your kids to go to that (ha ha) school 10 years from now." She also said, "We want to bus your kids further because we think that demographic mix is important." She also said, "Go out front on the fact that we may have major boundary changes in the next 10 years." Jane Strauss said, "I've warned Langley sorry (ha ha) a chunk of the boundary will change." The glee with which these lame duck School Board members seek to drop a nuclear bomb on the county tax base by radically changing School Board policy as they sprint out the door is, frankly, disreputable.
Ms. Corbett Sanders denied, in her letter, that the draft policy will include the new criterion of race in deciding whether to change school boundaries but, in fact, "race" is a newly proposed criterion. The current policy, No. 8130.7, effective May 9, 2013, includes in section IX "Implementing Considerations" as one factor: "the socioeconomic characteristics of school populations." The proposed revised policy, to bear Policy No. 8130.8, includes the following factor: "A. Socioeconomic and/or racial composition of students in affected schools." Only Ms. Corbett Sanders can explain her desire to conceal this proposed change. The fact that School Board hearings are public does not excuse this deception. The vast majority of county voters don't spend time watching School Board meetings in person or on television. Instead, they rely upon their elected representatives to keep them informed directly. I'm not saying race as a criterion shouldn't be debated. I'm saying a lame duck School Board in which half or more of its current members may not be serving next year should not be changing the policy. Ms. Corbett Sanders needs to go on record in the Gazette assuring voters that there will be no vote on changing Policy No. 8130.7 until after a new School Board is constituted in 2020 and thorough public discussion and input occur in 2020.
H. Jay Spiegel