FCPS Superintendent Listens to the Community


(Photo courtesy of annandale109.rssing.com)

Eileanora Clock, News Editor

On March 10, in the Falls Church High School cafeteria, members of the school board met with concerned parents and community members and listened to the parents voice concerns and questions.  The Superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, Dr. Karen Garza, opened the night with a few words explaining that the chief purpose of the night was to listen to the parents, but she intended to talk a bit about the budget and the state of Fairfax County Public Schools. She also introduced the school board members attending that town hall, which included Tamara Kaufax, Sandy Evans, Patty Reed, and Tim Velkoff, the Vice Chair of the School Board.

Fairfax County is the tenth largest schools system in the United States. Around 17 new students enroll in a Fairfax County school every day. While we are growing fast, we are also chronically underfunded. The projected budget for 2016, which Dr. Garza touched on at the meeting, has over 55 million dollars in budget cuts. That is the bad news. The good news is that although we are spending less than the surrounding jurisdictions, we are out performing them.  The projected budget for 2016 is targeting enrollment and demographics, elementary school class size relief, and later high school start times.

Dr. Garza also touched on some of the improvements which have been made this past school year. Designs for new schools are being contemplated, and the school system has started a crisis support line for teens. Over 80,000 people texted the Crisis line asking for help over the past year.

(Photo courtesy of fcps.edu)
(Photo courtesy of fcps.edu)

After Dr. Garza had finished her speech, the floor was opened to the parents. There were two podiums with microphones attached in front of the School Board.  Parents lined up to have their turn to speak.  Some of the topics were repeated, such as renovations for Falls Church, class sizes, and better food in school cafeterias.  Some requests were a little unusual.  One parent brought up the concerns of parent liaisons. Parent liaisons are people who translate for and help parents interested in enrolling their child in and FCPS school. Another interesting topic suggested by a parent was that high schoolers are unprepared to protect themselves on a college campus and the parent followed her statistics by asking Dr. Garza what FCPS was planning to do about this dilemma. One of the rather more unusual topics brought up was the problem of people who “run the bus’s reds” or passing a school bus while loading and unloading students. This is a serious issue, especially since many of those speeding by the buses are teachers or staff. Another recurring topic besides that of renovations for Falls Church was the danger of pupil placement. Pupil placement is when a parent takes his or her child out of the school their child was districted for and enrolling them in a different school. This often causes overcrowded class sizes and is not fair to the students who stay in their own schools.

There were many interesting and diverse topics brought up by the parents at this meeting. Dr. Garza wrapped up a very successful evening by advocating for local citizens to get involved by urging the County Board of Supervisors (who are in charge of funding for FCPS) to push for funding for FCPS at the state level.