Although not privy to the arduous and often acrimonious debate that preceded a 4-3 vote to provide $600,000 in technology upgrades to the Falls Church City Schools the last couple of months, Virginia’s Secretary of Education Laura Fornash called the upgrades “definitely a good idea” after her extensive tour of the F.C. City’s schools here this morning.
Fornash made her comments to the News-Press at the conclusion of her three-hour tour which wrapped up at 11 a.m. at Thomas Jefferson Elementary. Escorted by F.C. Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones, she said that in her tour of Mount Daniel School, she saw first graders using iPads, big components of the upgrade, and saw they knew how to use them for learning spelling and word recognition.
Although not up in the latest Falls Church internal politics, Fornash has more than average familiarity with Falls Church, having worked at the Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Center in the past decade. She said she liked having lunch at the old Chicken Out and Haandi restaurants, and during that tenure had exposure to the high quality of Falls Church Schools, as well as “the closeness of the community here, a place where people could walk all over.” Moving to Virginia Tech operations in Richmond, she was recently appointed Secretary of Education by Gov. Bob McDonnell.
“I am so impressed by what I saw here today,” Fornash told the News-Press, citing especially the way teachers were being innovative with technology uses in the classroom. Even in preschool, she said, there were “smart boards” incorporated into the classrooms, and that the “integration of technology” in conjunction with the work of teachers and paraprofessionals was impressive. She said that Gov. McDonnell’s priority is to “be focused on students, and to provide all of them with quality education no matter what the zip code. That means being focused on the quality of teaching.”
Dr. Jones told the News-Press that the tour went very well, even though the Secretary had a change in schedule requiring her to leave before lunch. But she and her entourage were handed “to go” portions of today’s school lunches, which included some tasty jambalaya, fresh salad and fruit.