Local Commentary

Editorial: A New School Year Begins

The enthusiasm exhibited at Falls Church City Public Schools’ convocation Tuesday in the auditorium at George Mason High School was palpable and encouraging. Despite all the concerns that have arisen about the embattled project to renovate and expand the out-of-city Mt. Daniel Elementary School, the rough budget setback suffered at the hands of the F.C. City Council last spring, the urgent need to fill three vacated school principal slots at the system’s four schools, and the angst around how to proceed with the development of the 38-acre campus property…(takes deep breath) despite all that, the system, its administration and School Board have exhibited a solid ability to deal with this and all else on their plate to bring us to the start of what everyone expects should be a banner school year.

There are always the naysayers. We always love to recall a big billboard that rests on an interstate highway leading into a small west Texas town in the Permian Basin. It reads, “Welcome to Stafford, Texas, 10,000 Friendly People and a Few Old Soreheads.” Yes, Falls Church may be at least as typical of a small American town as it also is exceptional. This is not meant to minimize the importance of a vigilant citizenry, buoyed by the existence of an independent local newspaper and numerous blogs, to prevent, for example, what happened in Bell, California in recent years, when a slumbering citizenry allowed its City Hall to vote itself enormous salaries, Eventually someone woke up and many of those officials, lacking accountability sufficient to keep their hands out of the cookie jar, are now behind bars.

Where genuine oversight and vigilance are hallmarks of a good democracy, there is also the concern that nit-picking, grudges, paranoia, egos and all sorts of other factors can enter in, especially when there is no established process for evaluating claims, and in this Internet age, not even requirements that those making accusations back up their claims by identifying who they are. Such a bald-faced lack of accountability needs to taken into account from some quarters who are noisiest about, of all things, demanding accountability from public officials.

We challenge all such persons to voluntarily put their real names to their criticisms and allegations when posting them online. As far as letters to the editor, we always welcome them but it has long been the policy of virtually all reputable newspapers to require those making submissions to use their real and verifiable names.

But we also urge robust debates, accountability and transparency. Good public officials do not shy away from such things. It is most often the case that problems arise when civil discourse and communications break down. Sometimes things get so bad that genuinely-felt fears of ill intent begin to catch hold, and seldom does any good come of that. We think it is safe to posit that everyone in leadership in our community is acting honestly with good intentions.

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