Guest Commentary: Schools in East Fairfax Have Not Been Shortchanged

By Ilryong Moon

Delegate Kaye Kory’s column last month contains erroneous information that deserves a response. She suggests that the eastern part of Fairfax County has been shortchanged in regard to construction and renovation projects needed to modernize aging facilities. That is not true. Mason District schools have fared better than the schools in the other districts in the county. Countywide, only 60 percent of the elementary and middle schools and 70 percent of the high schools have been renovated. However, of the 14 elementary schools in the Mason District, only two have yet to be renovated. Just two years ago we opened a brand-new elementary school, Mason Crest. Of the three middle schools, two were renovated and one was torn down and replaced. At the high-school level, three of the four high schools have been renovated. To deal with the longstanding Bailey’s Elementary School overcrowding problem, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has developed an innovative plan for a state-of-the-art urban-style campus to house third- through fifth-graders that we expect to become a model for other parts of Fairfax County. That exciting new campus will open in September.

Delegate Kory does more harm than good by repeating recent negative publicity about Stuart High School. It is true that a recent working conditions survey highlighted some serious issues at the school. These cannot and will not be ignored. FCPS is committed to fixing the problem and, in fact, positive change is already underway. A faculty committee was organized to address and analyze the survey findings and to develop solutions for the identified existing challenges. The story also unfortunately seems to perpetuate a number of negative stereotypes about Stuart and does not reflect the academic progress that students are making. Stuart students’ performance on the 2013 SAT test posted the highest gains in all of FCPS with the critical reading average increasing by 23 points, the math average by 18 points and the writing average by 17 points. Stuart’s ACT English, math, reading and composite scores all increased in 2013; the number of dual-enrollment students more than doubled this past year; and 52 Stuart seniors chose to pursue the full International Baccalaureate diploma – the fourth largest number in the county.

These results are being produced when today 30 percent of Stuart’s students are Limited English Proficient and 62 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, which is an indicator of poverty. These demographics are also reflected in many schools across Fairfax County. We do not view these demographics as a challenge but, rather, an opportunity to ensure that each student reaches his or her full potential.

Administratively, FCPS is fully committed in support of the leadership team at Stuart High School. We know that much work is ahead to ensure that all of our Stuart students achieve at a high level. To assist with that work, Superintendent Garza recently announced the appointments of several experienced FCPS administrators to provide additional day-to-day support for Stuart.

As a matter of factual accuracy, I will also point out that Delegate Kory was wrong in stating that Stuart is currently overcrowded. While we are planning for anticipated future growth, the school currently is 145 seats under capacity. Resources have been added to the school, not taken away, as Delegate Kory alleges.

We do agree with Delegate Kory’s assertion that FCPS is suffering from chronic underfunding at both the state and county levels. It is easy to claim that education is a top priority. However, actions have not matched the rhetoric. For the prior five years, the average increase in funding from the county was 1.1 percent each year. The county Board of Supervisors did provide FCPS with an increase of 3 percent for the 2014-15 school year. However this still falls short of what is needed to maintain the high standards the community expects of its schools. Financial support from the state has been dismal, but declining state assistance for schools did not prevent legislators from imposing arbitrary accountability standards on local school districts. Legislators have asked our teachers and students to produce more with fewer resources. Twenty states provide at least 50 percent of their schools’ total budget. In Virginia, that number is less than 40 percent and, because of an unfair and outdated funding formula, FCPS receives less than 22 percent of its budget from the state. We cannot assume that FCPS’ greatness will continue without the financial resources needed to maintain our competitive advantage. We would hope that Delegate Kory would not just advocate but actually become successful in Richmond in revising the current unfair funding formula and provide adequate education funding so that we could end our over-reliance on property taxes to support Fairfax County Public Schools.

 


Ilryong Moon is a member at large and former chairman of the Fairfax County School Board.

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

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Every year, I enjoy participating in the J.E.B. Stuart High School graduation ceremonies. From my vantage point on the stage, I can witness, up close, the pride, joy, and camaraderie between the school administration, faculty, and graduating seniors. Last month’s ceremony was delightful once again, with many scholastic honors and service awards presented in front of proud families and friends. Everyone in the cavernous field house at Robinson Secondary School seemed to share in the delight as each student was called by name to receive a diploma. Students participating in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program were identified in the printed program and by a special cord on their graduation robe, but the final IB scores are not available until after graduation, so some students are in suspense when they walk across that stage for their Fairfax diploma.

Well, the scores are in, and 35 graduates earned their IB diploma, a 20 percent increase from last year, and just one shy of the number receiving the IB diploma in 2011. According to Stuart Principal Prosperanta Calhoun, 16 students earned a score of 30 or more, and one student, Monica “Lizzie” Wright, got an amazing score of 37! The IB diploma is accepted internationally as a qualification for admission to institutes of higher education; earning it means hundreds of hours of extra instruction and homework for students who pursue it. Principal Calhoun noted that 74 Stuart students will seek an IB diploma next year, the largest number in the school’s history. Stuart pioneered the IB program in Fairfax County nearly 20 years ago, and it has been a great addition to the curriculum. As Principal Calhoun also noted, “our students are simply amazing!” I couldn’t agree more.

When I toured the school at Principal Calhoun’s invitation this spring, I found a clean, coordinated school with attentive and polite students. I especially was impressed with the professionalism and enthusiasm of teachers whose classrooms – from biology to government and in between – contained an amalgam of nationalities and cultures, yet everyone was moving in the same direction together. The cafeteria may have been the most surprising place of all – mealtime was a quiet event, without loud voices or food fights. Trash was placed in the proper receptacles, and students greeted adult visitors in a pleasant tone of voice. There is pride in being a Raider, and it showed.

The Silver Line opens this Saturday, as five new Metro stations come on line and begin serving passengers. Planning for a rail line that serves both the core city and Dulles International Airport began nearly 50 years ago, but the active construction for Phase 1, as anyone who has driven Route 7 or the Toll Road knows, has happened only in the last decade. Silver Line trains will run from Wiehle-Reston East all the way to Largo, Maryland. It’s a long-awaited and exciting advance. Phase 2, from Wiehle-Reston East to Dulles and into Loudoun County, is expected to be completed by 2018.

 


 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Letters to the Editor: More Than ‘Broken Asphalt, Concrete’ at Broad & West

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Letters to the Editor: July 24 – 30, 2014

 

More Than ‘Broken Asphalt, Concrete’ at Broad & West

Editor,

I attended Monday night’s walking tour of the proposed Broad and West development plan area, as well as the meeting afterward where the plan was presented to the Falls Church City Council, the Planning Commission and an overflowing room of interested and affected residents and neighbors.

Though it’s an understatement to say that the northeast corner of the Broad and West Streets intersection can use a face lift, I would also bring to your attention that the land comprising this corner is indeed more than simply “broken asphalt and concrete now,” as noted in the News-Press’ online article Tuesday. It is currently home to 18 individual businesses, which will be displaced, and whose owners’ and employees’ livelihoods will be seriously impacted by this project. I hope the good citizens of the City of Falls Church will support these beloved neighborhood businesses during this process.

Susan Andalora 

Falls Church 

 

Safety of Renters Not Important in Falls Church?

Editor,

I found it ironic to read of the frenzy for traffic calming in Falls Church after a local student was injured by a vehicle. I did not see the story about the accident, so I know nothing about the circumstances, or if pedestrian distraction was involved. However, I wish a similar degree of concern had been in play for the four-plus years of lives being risked trying to cross W. Broad Street to avail oneself of local eateries nowhere near a traffic signal.

But perhaps the safety of renters – the City of Falls Church’s lower caste – is not as important, not even enough for a crosswalk near Panera.

Anne Hajduk 

Falls Church

 

Check Tail Lights Before Driving in City of F.C.

Editor,

I was recently driving in Falls Church when a Falls Church police officer pulled me over. I wasn’t speeding. He told me that my right rear passenger side tail light was out. I thanked him for telling me and hoped that was the end of it. Fifteen minutes later, the F.C. police officer presented a ticket to me. Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy. The ticket cost me $30, plus a $61 processing fee, plus a 4 percent charge when I paid with my credit card. Couldn’t there have been a warning instead of a ticket?
Everyone, check your lights before entering City of Falls Church limits.

Jeffry Copp

Springfield

 

Thanks for Besen Column on Political Divisiveness

Editor,

Thank you to Wayne Besen for his column on the history of our divisive politics. I’m a bit too young to remember Richard Mellon Scaife, but I do hope readers will take a moment to reconsider Barry Goldwater. They can do so by searching online for “Barry Goldwater + gay rights.”

A 1994 Washington Post article by Lloyd Grove wittily recounts his support for gay rights and abortion rights, his disregard for the religious right in politics, and his respectful support for Hillary Clinton. We’ve lost sight of what true conservatism used to mean on the domestic front. Goldwater was literally one of the first to point out the ill wind blown by religious takeover of a party.

I’m not supporting all of his views, but we do need to be fair about his history. There are several articles online that one can read.

Storm Freeman

Falls Church

 


Letters to the Editor may be submitted to letters@fcnp.com or via our online form here. Letters should be limited to 350 words and may be edited for content, clarity and length. To view the FCNP’s letter and submission policy, please click here.

Jody’s Jam of the Week: Pancakes & Booze

pancakesandboozewebArt is a wonderful, wonderful thing. So are pancakes. This Thursday, for only five bucks, you can experience more than 50 creators of the former while knocking back a neverending stack of the latter.

The Pancakes & Booze Art Show, billed as D.C.’s largest underground art show, will showcase a lineup of up-and-coming artists (including the News-Press’ own Nick Gatz!) along with live body painting, an all-you-can-eat pancake bar and, of course, booze. It all goes down Thursday night at Penn Social starting at 8 p.m. and lasting until 2 in the morning.

What: Pancakes & Booze Art Show

When: Thursday, July 24, 8 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Where: Penn Social, 801 E St. NW, Washington, D.C.

See facebook.com/PancakesandBoozeArtShow for more information

 

GMU School of Management is Now ‘School of Business’

George Mason University’s School of Management officially changed its name to the School of Business on July 15. The name change was adopted in an effort to emphasize the school’s focus on all areas of business and management.

Ranked in 2014 among the top 100 undergraduate business school programs and part-time MBA programs by U.S. News & World Report, the School of Business is accredited in both business and accounting by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International. The school has received national recognition for the multicultural and international diversity of its student population, with students representing over 130 countries and all 50 states. It enrolls more than 3,500 undergraduate students pursuing majors in accounting, finance, management, marketing, or information systems and operations management and more than 450 graduate students are enrolled in the Mason MBA, Executive MBA, MS in Accounting, MS in Real Estate Development, MS in Technology Management, and MS in Management of Secure Information Systems.

For more information, visit business.gmu.edu.