Editor's Note: Even though Fairfax City residents cannot vote for Fairfax County School Board members, the decisions made by the county school board affect curriculum, resources and staffing in city schools. Fairfax City schools are run by FCPS through a services contract the city has with Fairfax County.
Seven candidates will vie for three at-large seats on the Fairfax County School Board in the Nov. 8 elections.
Patch took six questions based on submissions from readers and sent them in a survey to all at-large candidates. All but candidate Lin-Dai Kendall got back to us with their answers.
This series will look at how the candidates responded to each question.
Question: What role do you think parents should play in setting policy and effecting change in our school system? If you had to draw a pie chart showing all those whom you think should be involved in overseeing FCPS policies, what would it look like?
And the responses?
All the candidates noted the importance of parent input in the board's decision-making process. One candidate said the board should include a non-voting parent representative. Another bemoaned the lack of student input in board matters.
Read on for full responses.
Ted Velkoff: "Each board member is responsible for reflecting community opinion."
The twelve elected members of the School Board are completely responsible for setting and changing the policies that govern our school system. The School Board has full responsibility for establishing the goals and objectives for our schools; has full responsibility for selecting a superintendent who will work to achieve those goals; and has full responsibility for holding the superintendent accountable for meeting the Board’s objectives. The School Board represents the citizens (parents, teachers, students, taxpayers) of Fairfax County, and each board member is responsible for reflecting community opinion, to his or her best ability, in each decision he or she makes.
Steve Stuban: "Parents should have additional, more direct representation on the Board, via a non-voting seat, allocated through the PTAs."
I see three principal stakeholders: students/parents, FCPS teachers/staff and Fairfax County taxpayers. Each of their voices should be heard loud and clear by the Board. One third of the “pie” belongs to the more than 177,000 students and their parents who are the direct recipients of our outstanding educational services. Another third belongs to the 22,800 FCPS employees -- FCPS being the County’s largest employer – i.e., the teachers and staff who daily give of themselves so selflessly to nurture our young people. And the final third belongs to the more than one million County residents, who currently dedicate over 53% of the County’s budget to FCPS. All of these stakeholders pay close attention to what the school system is doing and deserve a voice that is genuinely solicited, heard and acted upon. Regarding more specifically the role of parents, I believe that they should, among other things, have additional, more direct representation on the Board, via a non-voting seat, allocated through the PTAs. Our teachers/staff should also have a non-voting seat on the Board, allocated through the FEA and FCFT. The input that would flow from the individuals holding those two additional seats, from time to time, would not only be substantively very useful but, also and, perhaps just as importantly, would create a dramatically increased sense of engagement and ownership in the decisions that the Board makes.
Ilryong Moon: The discussion shouldn't be "limited to parents; teachers, students, employees and community members are all stakeholders."
Stakeholders should be included in the discussion whenever policy decisions affect them. This of course is not limited to parents; teachers, students, employees and community members are all stakeholders that can be affected in varying degrees by any decision before the board.
Other things that need to be considered during the decision-making process are budget considerations (“How expensive is this proposal?”) as well as data and best practices (“What does the evidence show?”). It is not always the case that the proposal before the board is evidence-backed, inexpensive or cost-saving, and community-supported; board members must balance these considerations.
Of these, stakeholder input is a critical component. Consulting our parents, teachers and other stakeholders at the beginning of deliberation can go a long way to ensure that at the end more effective decisions will be made and policy implementations will be more successful. Each of these groups offers a valuable perspective that should be heard and considered.
Ryan McElveen: "We need to first consult students and teachers, who experience first-hand the impact of our policies on a daily basis."
I don't think it comes down to percentages; it comes down to common sense. Our policies need to allow for a nurturing learning environment for our students. When concerns arise, we need to first consult students and teachers, who experience first-hand the impact of our policies on a daily basis. As a student advocate, I am greatly concerned that students are being forgotten in the equation. Students are greatly concerned about athletic fees, for example, but I’m the only candidate even talking about them.
Lolita Mancheno-Smoak: FCPS is a "community-owned school system."
Parents should play a very active role in policy-making, as FCPS is a “community-owned school system” that is supported by county tax dollars contributed by parents and taxpayers.
25% School Board & central office leadership
25% Parents & parent advocacy groups
25% Teachers & school system employees
15% Board of Supervisors & government regulators
10% Community stakeholders
Sheree Brown-Kaplan: Parent and community input should be "intertwined in the decision-making process."
Parent and the community involvement in policy development and affecting change shouldn’t be seen as a pie chart but rather as a patchwork with its input intertwined in the decision-making process. The School Board by its very definition as an elected body must be responsive to its constituency and offer the citizens of Fairfax County an active role in setting policy and making improvements to the system. This requires open communication and collaboration with parents and community members and be obtained through the following: (1) ensuring a serious review, consideration and response to the annual recommendations of the various citizen advisory committee; (2) establishing a schoolwide family-school partnership policy (as recommended by an advisory subcommittee I chaired last year) that values parents as equal collaborators in the education of their children; and (3) providing a written public comment period (similar to that for state and federal regulations) when major regulations are proposed or revised, along with staff responses that address the community’s input. However, these measures are unlikely unless we elect a responsive and accountable School Board on November 8th.
Check Patch again for more questions and answers.