FCPS School Board Election: Meet Melanie Meren

Editor’s Note: Two candidates are running for the seat of Pat Hynes, who currently holds the Hunter Mill District seat on the Fairfax County School Board. Earlier this year, Hynes said she would not seek reelection after serving on the 12-member board for the last seven years. This week, Reston Now will publish statements by the candidates.

Statements are published in the order in which they are received. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form.

Melanie Meren, MPP, is a parent, small business owner, and school board appointee who has lived in Fairfax County for over 15 years. Originally from New York, where she attended public school her entire life, Melanie moved to Virginia after accepting a Presidential Management Fellowship in 2004 at the U.S. Department of Education.

While at the Dept. of Ed, Melanie oversaw a multi-million-dollar budget for services for students at underperforming schools. Her responsibility encompassed both evaluation and problem-solving situations, with oversight of federal grant recipients. She recovered over $1 million in funds when program services were not provided to the target population of students most-in-need of support.

Advocacy and community are central in her life. Joined by her husband, Drew Meren, the two are active in local government. Melanie’s current community service commitments are:

  • Appointed member of Fairfax County School Board’s Human Resources Advisory Committee
  • Elementary school PTA Green Team Chair and representative to the Fairfax County Council of PTAs
  • Girl Scout troop co-leader
  • Member of the Virginia Association for Environmental Education
  • Until 2019, she was a Leadership Team member for eight years of NoVA Outside, the alliance for outdoor educators in Northern Virginia

Melanie views academic success as a community effort: there must be a connection among those impacted by student achievement: parents, teachers, community members, and of course, students. Motivating students to succeed is essential, and the environments around them must be built and supported by dedicated public servants who steward resources along a responsible path.

Melanie is focused on three core areas in her candidacy. First, she wants to cultivate holistic student environments – classrooms, playgrounds, activities, school gardens, and outdoor spaces are all part of the learning ecosystem. For example, Melanie champions scientific learning in outdoor classrooms. Students who interact in these spaces achieve learning goals essential to a 21st century economy, benefit from being in a healthy space, and discover lessons that anchor their sense of community. No matter where in Hunter Mill students live, their greatest challenge should be in understanding what array of choices lay before them, not if they’ll have those opportunities.

Second, Melanie is concerned with facilities and the future of FCPS infrastructure. No student should experience public schooling inside a trailer, and existing buildings need to be reviewed, refitted, or replaced. Joyful learning and a positive classroom experience is critical, and it is incumbent upon those responsible to identify every way to accomplish that. Facilities and trailers are a clear place to start.

Third, Melanie is focusing on equity and opportunity. That means honoring teacher and staff professionalism with opportunities for competitive pay and benefits, realistic expectations on their time, and access to vital instructional resources. For students, the promise of a Fairfax County Public Schools education must align with their strengths and cultivate their path into adulthood. Melanie believes that parents and families are what bring the whole learning experience together. Melanie has advocated with and for fellow parents since her first year as an FCPS parent. She will bring her steadfast commitment to listening to and working with parents to her role on the school board.

Melanie welcomes your questions and input about her candidacy – and for your vote on November 5th. Learn more at melaniemeren.com.

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FCPS School Board Election: Meet Laura Ramirez Drain

Editor’s Note: Two candidates are running for the seat of Pat Hynes, who currently holds the Hunter Mill District seat on the Fairfax County School Board. Earlier this year, Hynes said she would not seek reelection after serving on the 12-member board for the last seven years. This week, Reston Now will publish statements by the candidates.

Statements are published in the order in which they are received. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form.

My name is Laura Ramirez-Drain and I am a unique political candidate running in my first election. I am an engineer, a small-business entrepreneur and a parent of two sons who attended FCPS from elementary to high school. I have been advocating for students for many years as an active PTA volunteer. As a busy, working mother I had never given any thought to running for office.

But as my children went through school, I realized that while FCPS has some of the strongest schools in the country too many children were able to fall through the cracks of that system. Furthermore, it became clear that the schools were veering away from teaching academic fundamentals and allowing a political agenda to permeate the curriculum at all levels. I felt that I could no longer sit on the sidelines and that the time had come for me to stand up and advocate for the policies that will ensure our students thrive.

I’m running to be a voice on the School Board for people of all backgrounds in Hunter Mill district. I strongly believe in the importance of high-quality public education for all students. As a naturalized citizen having immigrated here from Mexico, empowering minority students has always been a priority of mine.  I founded the Alcanzando Metas (Reaching Goals) Foundation to foster academic excellence in minority youth, particularly in STEM subjects. The Foundation helped over 200 students of color in Washington, DC and Birmingham, AL, successfully graduate from high school and pursue careers in their areas of interest. I plan to draw on that experience in helping to reduce the current racial achievement gap in Fairfax County schools.  Democratic-endorsed members of the school board have held a majority for almost 25 years but have done nothing to close this gap.

As committed as I am to equality of opportunity, I do not believe that “equity” has to mean changing boundaries of schools to achieve arbitrary ratios of students by ethnic group.  Students should go to schools in the communities that have nurtured them throughout their childhood. We should be building up all of our schools, and not spending resources to move children out of their own neighborhoods

Finally, I believe education is a partnership among students, teachers, and families.  I believe parents, as the first and educators of their children, should hold the primary responsibility for determining when and how their children should be educated on issues of sexuality.  As a school board member, I will commit to fighting to make Family Life Education opt-in, as opposed to opt-out. I will also do everything in my power to ensure that we are not inappropriately sexualizing young children via a politicized curriculum.

I look forward to continue getting to know the families of Hunter Mill District.  I want to make it clear that whether or not you have a child, grandchild, niece, nephew or other family member in FCPS, this election is critically important.  Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and how we educate our future leaders is an issue that affects all of us. I hope you will visit my website, vote4laura.com, and learn more about my background and platform.

Photo courtesy Vadym Guliuk

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Facilities Planning Council Seeks Representative — The school board’s Facilities Planning Advisory Council is seeking a member to represent the Hunter Mill District. Howard Perlstein, the current representative for the district, is leaving the council since it was established over a decade ago. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

County Hosts Launch of Statewide Checkpoint Strikeforce Campaign — State and local officials launched the annual statewide anti-drunk driving Checkpoint Strikeforce Campaign. The DUI law enforcement and public education campaign continues through Labor Day weekend and will resume during Halloween and the holidays. Complementing the high visibility enforcement, Checkpoint Strikeforce is sponsoring an advertising campaign called “Act Like It.”‘ [Fairfax County Police Department]

Dog Days of Summer is Today — Enjoy a special play zone for dogs and their owners today at Reston Town Center’s pavilion from 5-7:30 p.m. The last session is on September 4. [Reston Town Center]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Protesters Criticize County School Board’s Transparency With Redistricting Proposal

Dozens of protesters showed up last night to the Fairfax County School Board’s work session on a proposal that would change how local school boundaries are adjusted.

Before the school board began discussing the proposal, the meeting room was packed with protesters. Police blocked the door, telling a crowd of about 30 people outside that they could not go into the room, which had reportedly reached its capacity.

The discussion on the proposal was delayed by an hour and a half as staff worked to set up overflow seating with live streaming of the work session in the cafeteria.

Around 7:30 p.m., Jeffrey Platenberg, the assistant superintendent for the Department of Facilities and Transportation Services, kicked off the discussion on the proposal with a presentation.

The draft policy would look at a new set of criteria for prompting and then establishing school boundaries. Once a school boundary change has been identified, some of the new criteria to create the new boundary include:

  • “socioeconomic and/or racial composition of students in affected schools”
  • “the safety of walking and busing routes”
  • “operational efficiency”

“When boundary changes are being considered by the School Board, the changes shall not be restricted by the boundaries of individual schools, administrative areas, zip codes, or magisterial district,” according to the draft. The proposal would also get rid of expedited boundary adjustments.

Throughout the meeting, protesters in the room waved signs saying “Communities Build Great Schools NOT Boundary Changes” and “Education Excellence NOT Social Engineering.” Several of the protesters said that they thought the process behind how the proposal was created was not transparent.

Some Great Falls residents have banded together to oppose the boundary changes — which could break up the Langley school pyramid. An online petition to keep the pyramid together has gained more than 2,000 signatories.

We want our school board and administration to recognize that redistricting would pull apart our community, will significantly decrease property values of hard-working families who pushed the envelope to move into this community, and most importantly, leaves the underlying problems unsolved,” the petition states.

School board members had mixed reactions to the proposal.

School Board Chair Karen Corbett Sanders said that “significant growth” in the Dulles Corridor that will impact schools and questioned if an outside consultant could help the board and community, since it “seems to be a bit of a disconnect that people don’t feel like we have let people about what we’re doing.”

“I very much support opening the boundary,” Jane Strauss, the Dranesville District representative, said.

Meanwhile, others raised concerns about equitable access outlined in the proposal.

At-Large Member Ilryong Moon said that he’s not convinced that the proposal is an improvement after asking for an example of “equitable access to educational opportunities” and Platenberg told him that school boundaries could change to prevent program placement in different schools.

The school board is slated to approve the draft in September ahead of its incorporation in the Capital Improvement Program draft in December.

Catherine Douglas Moran and Fatimah Waseem reported on this story.

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Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee Endorses Meren for School Board

Melanie Meren won the endorsement of the Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee for school board with 80 percent of the vote on Wednesday.

The self-described Fairfax County parent leader, whose platform centers around “strong education,” is one of three candidates that were seeking the Hunter Mill District seat on the Fairfax County School Board.

“We are excited to support Melanie’s campaign for School Board and thank outgoing School Board member Pat Hynes for her many years of service to Hunter Mill, to our students and teachers,” wrote Gordon Simonett and Denver Supinger, co-chairs of the HMDDC.

Andy Sigle, former president of Reston Association’s Board of Directors, and Laura Ramirez Drain, whose campaign focuses on Family Life Education and the budget, were also running for the board seat. The seat was vacated by longtime Hunter Mill District Representative Pat Hynes in January. Meren’s endorsement bumps other candidates out of the race.

Paul Berry, Meren’s campaign manager, wrote the following about the endorsement:

Meren and her husband Drew are 14 year residents of Hunter Mill District, where their two children attend public school. After graduating with a Master’s degree in Public Policy she worked in early childhood education at the US Department of Education’s Title 1 office managing a $15 million grant program for the nation’s most underfunded schools. After leaving the Dept. of Ed she founded her own education policy firm that advocates in particular for environmental education in public schools. Her professional and personal lives overlapped in 2016 when budget cuts threatened a multi-million dollar reduction in school funding. She responded by successfully advocating for and recovering $60 million through community activism and organizing parents in Hunter Mill. 

Meren won with an overwhelming 109 votes, while Sigle had 27 votes.

An official endorsement by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee is expected on May 21. Meren’s name will be on the November ballot without party identification.

Photo via Melanie Meren website

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Renovations for Armstrong Elementary School a Few Years Away

Renovations for Armstrong Elementary School are in the works, but it’s going to be a few years.

A 10-year forecast shows the renovation process spread out from fiscal years 2022-2026 in the Fairfax County Public School CIP.

Planning for the project is expected to start in FY 2022 with funding from a 2021 bond, with permitting beginning the next year.

The school first opened in 1986 and since then, according to county documents, there’s been no substantial renovations except for capacity enhancements in 1990.

The Hunter Mill District’s School Board Representative, Pat Hynes, noted in a newsletter that Armstrong, Crossfield and Louise Archer elementary schools are all planned for additions and renovations over the next 5-10 years.

Photo via Facebook

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Outgoing RA President Joins Race for Hunter Mill District School Board Seat

Andy Sigle, the outgoing president of the Reston Association’s Board of Directors, is running for the Hunter Mill District seat on the Fairfax County School Board.

Sigle announced his decision to run on Feb. 19 on Facebook about a month after Hunter Mill District Representative Pat Hynes said that she won’t seek re-election.

In his announcement, he wrote:

My wife, Kim, and I have put four children through the FCPS school system, the last one graduating in 2017. I am a strong advocate of student equity and access in our public schools, support of our teachers, establishment of infrastructure that keeps up with development within our community, as well as a driver for family and community engagement and sustainability initiatives. I bring to the role more than twenty five years as a manager and executive in the telecommunications industry along with a MBA from the University of Chicago. I have a proven track record of tackling difficult situations and creating positive results through a focus on asking sensible questions, holding reasonable discussions, collaboration and collegiality. Again, I know I can make a difference on our school board and I ask for your support.

Since then, Sigle has highlighted his work as the former president of the South Lakes High School PTSA board, which included organizing a series of diversity and inclusion workshops, helping to establish the school’s food pantry and moderating a discussion between Hynes and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins meant to educate the community.

Sigle’s bio says that he has turned his attention to community work after 28 years in the telecommunications industry.

Sigle first joined the RA’s Board of Directors in 2011 and was elected president last year. He also sings in The Reston Chorale, chairs the Southgate Community Center Advisory Council and is a member of the Reston Historic Trust’s Board of Directors.

Earlier this month, Sigle nabbed a new role as the chief operating officer and vice president of external relations for Leadership Fairfax, a nonprofit that aims to inspire private and public sector individuals to tackle community issues.

Laura Ramirez Drain and Melanie Meren are also running for the school board seat.

The Hunter Mill Democratic Committee is slated to host a candidate forum on Wednesday, April 10, at 8 p.m. at Lake Anne Elementary School (11510 N Shore Drive).

The committee also plans to hold an endorsement meeting on May 8 at Lake Anne ES.

Photo via Facebook

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Two Candidates Enter Race for Hunter Mill District School Board Seat

With the incumbent stepping down, two candidates are running for the Hunter Mill District seat on the Fairfax County School Board.

Earlier in January, Hunter Mill District Representative Pat Hynes said that she won’t seek re-election. Her term expires at the end of 2019.

Laura Ramirez Drain’s campaign is focused on the Family Life Education curriculum, school boundaries and the FCPS budget. Melanie Meren, a self-described “Fairfax County parent leader,” wants to promote “strong education.”

Both Meren and Drain point to their experiences as parents of children who are either currently attending or went to Fairfax County public schools as one of the reasons why they are running for the seat.

Drain said on her website that “running for school board means for her protecting the children and the community while also guiding them to stand up and speak out for what they believe in.”

Meren’s website says that “after years of advocating as a parent and professional in education policy and communications, she believes she can accomplish more as an elected leader. She wants to advance solutions that evolve our system to meet the needs of our students and communities now — and plan for future expected needs.”

Meren’s career has focused on education public policy and programming. She worked at the U.S. Department of Education and as an independent communications consultant at MKM Strategies.

Meren has also been involved with advocacy and community organizations.

She began co-leading the #IamFCPS grassroots campaign after a $75 million budget cut hit FCPS in 2015. The campaign secured $60 million of the proposed cuts, resulting in educator pay increases and measures to help address growing class sizes, according to her website. She is also currently a member of the Fairfax County School Board’s Human Resources Advisory Committee.

Drain has more than 20 years of sales experience with information technology products and solution-based services, including with Verizon and AT&T. She is also the chief executive officer and founder of Random Words Marketing Group. She relocated from Mexico to the U.S. in 1999 with the Hewlett-Packard Corp. and became a U.S. citizen in 2008, according to her website.

Since 2011, she has produced and hosted “Cafe Latino Radio,” a bilingual talk radio show, and in 2015, she launched Cafe Latino TV — both shows focused on sharing success stories from small business owners and people from local nonprofits over a cup of coffee.

This Saturday (Jan. 26) she plans to host a “meet and greet” from 3-5 p.m. at Glory Days Grill (1400 North Point Village Center).

Photos via Melanie Meren and Laura 4 School Board/Facebook

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Hunter Mill School Board Rep Won’t Seek Reelection

Hunter Mill District Representative Pat Hynes announced today (Jan. 9) that she won’t seek reelection to the Fairfax County School Board.

Hynes has been a member of the 12-member board for the last seven years. Previously, she was an elementary school teacher in the county’s public schools from 2002 to 2011 and has worked as a lawyer with Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett in New York City and community organizer, according to her bio.

The announcement arrived in her newsletter. In one section, she wrote:

As you may know, my current term as your school board member expires at the end of 2019. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to represent the welcoming, resilient, creative people of Hunter Mill for the last seven years. But I’ve decided not to seek reelection after this term. My first calling is the classroom and I’ve been teaching full time in Arlington these last two years. (The law does not allow me to serve on the board and teach in FCPS at the same time.) I was hopeful that I might be able to balance the time commitments of both jobs, but it really is not reasonable and I find myself stretched too thin too often. I look forward to the next year of work and progress on your behalf, but I also think it’s time for someone else to step up. I’m sure we will all be engaged in the November election and I have no doubt Hunter Mill will choose an excellent new school board member.

Her term expires at the end of 2019.

Until then, she outlined in her newsletter several school board issues on her radar, including climate change and equity.

With Virginia’s General Assembly starting today, Hynes said “we are fortunate here in Hunter Mill to have state representatives who fight for public education and other critical needs of families and communities.”

File photo

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Friday Morning Notes

The historic designation debate — In this opinion piece, the writer explores two historic designation issues in Herndon and Reston. [Greater Greater Washington]

Trout fishing season is here — You heard that right. The Fairfax County Park Authority invites you to fish for trout at Lake Fairfax Park. Season passes are available. [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Tishman Speyer sheds some land — The Pinkard Group paid $3.15M to acquire the 3.3-acre parcel at the corner of the Dulles Toll Road and Monroe Street in Herndon, part of the Woodland Park East development, from Tishman Speyer. [Bisnow]

Climate change in schools — Well, not in schools. The Fairfax County School Board passed a resolution last night calling on state and federal action on climate change. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

In the time machine — Flavors of Fall brought beer, wine, food and fun to Reston Town Center last weekend. Mercia Hobson offers a recap here.  [The Connection]

Photo by Lindi Mallison

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Poll: Are You Happy About School Starting in August Next Year?

FCPS busLast week, the Fairfax County School Board approved an August start date for the next school year, marking the first time in decades that area schools will start before Labor Day.

That means school will also let out earlier next year on June 15. In past years, students have gone to class as late as June 25.

Outgoing FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza said earlier this year the change is being made to provide more instructional time before winter break, provide enhanced flexibility to help students and school staff members meet college application deadlines and to end the school year earlier in June.

Additionally, some FCPS parents have said they are glad for the change because letting out earlier in June will afford their children better summer internship and enrichment opportunities.

However, many families have expressed dismay over the decision, citing a number of reasons:

‘Traditional’ summer vacation — In a poll issued to FCPS families prior to the school board’s vote, 84 percent of those against the earlier start date said they preferred a “traditional” summer vacation schedule, giving kids all of August off before starting school in September. Others said it made no sense to them to start school before Labor Day when right away in the second week of school, they have a day off to observe the Labor Day holiday. Sixty-four percent of families said the new schedule would disrupt long-held vacation plans.

Shortening of summer/temporary status of waiver  Twenty-eight percent of families against the earlier start date pointed out that the waiver from the state, allowing FCPS to start school before Labor Day — which has long been mandated via the 1986 “King’s Dominion Rule” — is temporary, only allowing the district to start school in August through the 2019-20 school year. Many parents said they did not support the earlier start date if it is going to be temporary, especially if they would have to switch back again in a few years once the waiver expired.

Others pointed out that, in the first year of implementation, their children are losing a week of summer vacation with the early start.

Hot temperatures in August  Many parents say they are worried about students being in hot, under-air-conditioned classrooms in summer temperatures that are often in the 90s.

What do you think of the new August start date? Vote in our poll and leave your comments below letting us know why you voted the way you did.

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FCPS Approves 2017-18 Calendar With August Start Date

FCPS Buses/Credit: FCPSIt’s official: The first day of school in Fairfax County next year will fall in August, marking the first time in decades that area schools will start before Labor Day.

The Fairfax County School Board approved the calendar for the 2017-18 school year this week, with school starting on Monday, Aug. 28, and ending earlier than usual, on Friday, June 15.

Although the law in Virginia — called the “Kings Dominion Rule” — mandates that school should start after Labor Day, Fairfax County Public Schools applied for a waiver from the commonwealth. FCPS was informed in February that it could get the waiver until at least the 2019-20 school year because the district had canceled school an average of at least eight days per year in at least five of the past 10 years due to inclement weather.

In the 2013-14 school year, FCPS was forced to add three days to the end of the school year due to missing more than the maximum number of school days allowed, Washington Post reported.

Following that school year, discussions began about starting the instructional calendar earlier. This past spring, the district polled families to gauge their support for moving the first day of school into August.

Parents who participated in the survey were fairly evenly split, 52 to 47 percent, between those in favor of and those opposed to the earlier start date, respectively. More than 60 percent of responding FCPS staff said they favored the change.

Outgoing FCPS Superintendent Karan Garza had long advocated for the change as well.

“These changes are being made to provide more instructional time before winter break, enhanced flexibility to help students and school staff members meet college application deadlines, and to end the school year earlier in June,” FCPS officials said Thursday.

The 2017-18 school year will include a full two weeks off in winter, letting out Dec. 18, 2017 and resuming on Jan. 2, 2018.

The full 2017-18 calendar is on the district’s website.

Photo via Fairfax County Public Schools 

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FCPS School Board Elects Sandy Evans as Chair

 The Fairfax County School Board has a new chair and vice chair.

The school board has elected Sandy Evans (Mason District) as chair and Jane Strauss (Dranesville District) as vice chair for a one-year term. The chair and vice chair assumed office at the July 14 School Board meeting; they are elected by School Board members during the Board’s annual organizational meeting.

This ends the one-year term of Hunter Mill rep Pat Hynes, who was elected as chair in July 2015.

Evans, who was elected to the School Board in March 2010, served as vice chair during the 2015-16 school year. She is the former chair of the School Board’s School Health Advisory Committee and served on the Board’s Transportation Task Force.

Evans is a member of the steering committee of the Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition; founding member of the Fairfax Education Coalition; and co-founder of Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal (SLEEP).  She served as the legislation committee chair of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs and as president of the Sleepy Hollow Elementary School PTA, and is a former staff writer for the Washington Post.  Evans earned her bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Maryland-College Park.

Strauss has been active in education for over 30 years. She is a former elementary and preschool teacher. She obtained an M.A.T. from Harvard Graduate School of Education and her B.A. in history from George Washington University. Strauss is past president of the Franklin Sherman PTA and the Fairfax County Council of PTAs and past chair of the council’s education and budget committees.

She has served on numerous education and youth affairs committees including the FCPS Career and Technical Preparation Task Force, the Division Planning Committee, the Citizens Bond Committee, and the Fairfax Framework for Student Success. She served as Board vice chair in 2000 and Board chair in 2001 and 2011.

Next up for the FCPS board: a work session on Thursday to review new procedures for protecting transgender and non-gender conforming students. The school board will also discuss a teacher and administrator compensation study at a work session today.

Photo: Sandy Evans/Credit: FCPS

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Championships Depart Liberty University, But Impact From FCPS Letter Unclear

VHSL logoThe Virginia High School League (VHSL) said last week it will move 14 state tournament events away from Liberty University.

However, the league also says the move has more to do with geography than reaction to insensitive comments made by Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. and reaction from the Fairfax County Public Schools Board.

Nine of the 12 FCPS Board members wrote to the VHSL late last month advocating that future VHSL events no longer be held at the Lynchburg, Va., school.

The FCPS board comments came in support of several FCPS students who boycotted the VSHL Debate tournament in April in protest of Falwell’s comments last December. At that time, Falwell urged students to obtain concealed-carry permits and arm themselves so they could “end those Muslims.”

Falwell later said he was referring only to the Islamic terrorists who killed 14 people in December in San Bernardino, Calif., not all Muslims. Falwell told the Roanoke Times the Fairfax board had tried to “falsely portray Liberty University and me as somehow anti-Muslim. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Nonetheless, VHSL’s Executive Committee says beginning in 2016-17, 14 state tournaments — including the 2016 Group 4A and Group 3A football championship games — will be held elsewhere. Those football championships have been held at Liberty for the last 18 years.

Also moving will be Group 4A and Group 3A spring sports championships in baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer and boys and girls tennis.

VHSL assistant director for compliance Tom Dolan told the Roanoke Times last week that a number of member schools sought to move the football championship games to a different part of the state for other reasons.

“There’s been a lot of requests from membership for moving things geographically, trying to look at some different venues, mixing it up a little,” Dolan said.

Dolan said he could not determine whether Falwell’s comments had any impact on the VHSL’s departure from Liberty. Dolan said the VHSL had been studying potential moves and seeking prospective host cities since October.

Said FCPS’ Hunter Mill representative Pat Hynes: “It’s my understanding that VHSL is changing course for its own reasons, which of course I respect. I am relieved to know that many of our students will no longer feel they must choose between competing in their chosen field and feeling safe and respected.”

Hynes, who also serves at the school board chair, was one of the board members who signed the letter to the VHSL.

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Nine FCPS Board Members Ask VHSL to Stop Events at Liberty University

School Board Letter/Credit: Ryan McElveen via Facebook

Nine members of the Fairfax County School Board are urging the Virginia High School League (VHSL) to stop holding events and competitions at Liberty University in Lynchburg.

Two weeks ago, several Fairfax County Public Schools students boycotted the VHSL Debate Championships at the Christian University. The students said they were protesting remarks by made by Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. that they perceived to be anti-Muslim.

At a convocation in December, Falwell urged students to obtain concealed-carry permits and arm themselves so they could “end those Muslims.” Falwell later said he was referring only to the Islamic terrorists who killed 14 people in December in San Bernardino, Calif., not all Muslims.

Hunter Mill school board representative and school board chair Pat Hynes was among the school board members signing the letter, which says school board “stands in solidarity” with the protesting students.

“We were deeply disturbed by the comments of Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. on Dec. 4, 2015 urging more than 10,000 of his assembled students to obtain handguns and stating “that we could end those Muslims before they walked in … let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,” the letter reads.

“Muslim-Americans make up a large part of our community and our student body. Mr. Falwell’s comments stand in stark contrast to our goal in Fairfax County to create welcoming, inclusive environments and to ensure all of our students have access to the same opportunities.”

Upcoming VHSL events scheduled for Liberty University include Region 3A/4A soccer, softball and tennis finals this June. Northern Virginia schools are in Regions 5 and 6.

No word on whether the schedule will be altered or whether any more protests are planned.

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