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‘Back 2 School Bash’ Offers School Preparation Resources on August 18

It’s that time of year again: Fairfax County Public Schools will begin the new school year on August 28. Ahead of the new academic year, a “Back 2 School Bash” with one-stop-shop resources for getting ready to go back to school will be held on Aug. 18 at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive).

The event, which is free and open to all ages, will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Local schools, government agencies and nonprofit providers will be on-site to provide information about resources, programs and services offered by community agencies and through other partnerships.

The bash is cosponsored by FCPS, Cornerstones, Reston Community Center, YMCA Reston, and Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Service.

For more information, contact LaTanja Jones, Collaboration and Outreach Director, at 703-390-6158, or [email protected].

File photo

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Donations Sought for School Supplies and Backpack Drive

Fairfax County Public Schools has partnered with Collect for Kids, an umbrella organization for an annual school supply and backpack drive.

Donations are requested for the drive, which will provide supplies for students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals. Around 55,000 county students qualify for the program.

There are two ways to support the drive. Monetary donations are being collected online in order to purchase supply kits in bulk. Backpack donations can be dropped off at any Apple Federal Credit Union location in Fairfax County, Cornerstones, Britepaths and Western Fairfax Christian Ministries.

Monetary donations are accepted year-round and backpacks are accepted through August.

For more information, contact Kathy Ryan at 571-423-1206 or [email protected].

Photo by Cornerstones

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FCPS Seeks to Know What Residents Want in New Superintendent

fcps-logoAs Fairfax County Public Schools heats up the search for a new superintendent, officials are launching a major campaign to find out what qualities locals most want in their new head of schools.

FCPS’ previous superintendent, Dr. Karen Garza tendered her resignation in September and closed out her tenure in December. She took a job as the CEO of an Ohio education nonprofit, even though she had recently signed a four-year contract extension.

Now, FCPS has hired the firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates to conduct a formal search for Garza’s replacement. Dr. Steven Lockard, who had been the district’s deputy superintendent, is serving as interim superintendent.

As part of its search, HYA announced this week it will hold a series of 10 community forums to encourage local residents to voice their opinions.

“[We want to] allow Fairfax County residents to share their ideas and feedback on the characteristics they are seeking in a new superintendent,” representatives from the district and HYA said.

The closest forum to Reston will take place Tuesday, Jan. 17, at 11 a.m. in the Herndon Council Chambers.

The complete schedule of meetings is as follows:

  • Monday,  Jan. 9, 1 p.m., Gatehouse Administration Center, room 1600, 8115 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church
  • Monday,  Jan. 9, 7 p.m., South County High School, 8501 Silverbrook Road, Lorton
  • Tuesday, Jan. 10, 12:30 p.m., Virginia Hills Center Library, 6520 Diana Lane, Alexandria
  • Wednesday, Jan. 11, noon, Providence District Office and Community Center, multipurpose room 2, 3001 Vaden Drive, Fairfax
  • Wednesday, Jan. 11, 7 p.m., Mount Vernon High School Little Theater, 8515 Old Mount Vernon Road, Alexandria
  • Tuesday, Jan. 17, 11 a.m., Herndon Council Chambers, 765 Lynn Street, Herndon
  • Tuesday, Jan. 17, 1 p.m., Burke Centre Library, 5935 Freds Oak Road, Burke
  • Tuesday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m., Stuart High School Little Theater, 3301 Peace Valley Lane, Falls Church
  • Tuesday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m., Chantilly High School Lecture Hall, 4201 Stringfellow Road, Chantilly
  • Wednesday, Jan. 18, 7 p.m., Langley High School Auditorium, 6520 Georgetown Pike, McLean

In addition, a survey is expected to be launched on the district’s website Monday.

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How to Prepare for Fairfax County Public Schools Snow Days

Snow in Reston on Feb. 9, 2016/Credit: Robbie Nolan via TwitterAs winter approaches, parents of students in Fairfax County public schools must prepare for one of the biggest disruptions to their weekday routine — snow days.

Fairfax County Public Schools officials will often try to make a decision the night before regarding whether to delay or cancel school. This can happen if snow has already begun to fall or if a majority of national weather forecasters agree inclement weather is likely by morning. In cases when the forecast is uncertain, though, officials may wait until 4:30 a.m. for the most up-to-date conditions.

One way to keep up with the latest school weather announcements is to download the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) app to your smartphone. The FCPS app is available in the iTunes App Store and on Google Play.

Parents can also contact their child’s school to sign up for text-message alerts about inclement weather decisions.

In addition, school officials say that decisions and announcements will be posted to the district’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and emails will be sent to parents and subscribers of the FCPS “News You Choose” newsletter. Notifications are also posted to Fairfax County’s cable-access station, Channel 21 (Cox, Reston Comcast and Verizon customers), and sent to local print, online, radio and television media outlets.

Thirteen snow days are built into the 2016-17 school calendar. If 13 or fewer school days are canceled due to inclement weather, no make-up days will need to be added onto the end of the year in June, and no days off for holidays or in-service days will need to be canceled.

A 14th day is also allowed, however, as a free day. After the 14th missed day, every other snow day will need to be made up. A 15th snow day, for example, would be made up by canceling the traditional day off after Easter Sunday — which this year would be Monday, April 17.

We may see a bit of snow on the ground in Reston later this week, meteorologists warn, though the forecast remains in flux.

Late Thursday night into early Friday morning, the forecasters say there is a chance we could experience a coating of up to an inch. There is a higher probability for snowfall between late Friday night and Sunday morning, the Capital Weather Gang says, but the prognosticators believe that snow could miss the local area and hit more to the southeast.

More information about school make-up days can be found on the FCPS website.

Video by Fairfax County Public Schools, via YouTube

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Thursday Morning Notes

Morning Notes - Winter

Reston Company Growing By Leaps and Bounds — The Reston-based media firm VideoBlocks is growing by such leaps and bounds that they will have to leave their longtime home in Reston for bigger digs in Arlington in 2017, CEO TJ Leonard said this week. The subscription-based company provides stock video footage, photos, music and other similar types of media, and has grown from six employees to 77, all while still occupying the same 7,500-square-foot office space. [DC Inno]

RA Calendar Moving to WebTrac in January — In just a few days, Reston Association’s new WebTrac system will be fully implemented. That means the calendar of events, usually viewable on RA’s main website, Reston.org, will be moved to WebTrac. Under “Events” on the RA website, visitors can now select “View RA Web Calendar.” Remember, you have to create a WebTrac account before you can make purchases or register for events via the new site. This can be done on the home page. [Reston Association]

More Than 36,000 Local Students Receive Donated School Supplies — This week, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) tweeted out a special thank-you to the local community for making it possible for more than 36,000 county students to receive much-needed school supplies, thanks to generous donations. The supplies were collected via FCPS’s “Collect For Kids” campaign. [Twitter/@FCPSnews]

Fairfax County Firefighters Learn Emergency Paramedic Skills — This week, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue shared a bit about the progress 11 local firefighters are making in the 10-month paramedic training they are taking part in. The 11 firefighters are learning emergency medical skills, and how to prepare for and respond to real-life emergency situations. Get an inside look at the training course and what they are learning on the department’s blog. [Fairfax County Fire & Rescue]

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County Officials Urge State to Honor School Funding Commitments

fcps logoThe Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is again urging Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and the General Assembly delegation not to eliminate up to $12.2 million in salary increases for teachers.

Concerned that the governor’s office will propose these cuts before the delegation when they meet in mid-December, county leaders sent letters to both on Monday, asking the state to honor its commitments.

The letters are in response to McAuliffe’s already proposed $4.4 million cut from the state’s FY17 budget — and a potential $7.8 million cut from the FY18 budget — to be included in his 2016-2018 biennium budget amendments.

“The lower amount of expected state funding stems from a $266 million negative balance in Virginia’s fiscal 2016 budget, which McAuliffe’s administration attributed to lower-than-expected payroll and sales-tax receipts”, according to a Washington Post article in July.

Although state funding represents less than 20 percent of the total cost to implement a two percent salary increase for teachers, it is an important part of the county’s school budget equation, the letters said.

Despite any decrease in funding from the state, county school officials say they will find a way to honor its overall promise of $40 million in teacher raises for FY17. However, it’s unclear how they will raise funds beyond an already adopted plan to increase property taxes by an average $304 per year.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia ranks in the top 10 nationally for income, but the bottom 10 for school funding,” said Board Chairman, Sharon Bulova (D), in a press release attached to the letters.

Officials also requested that the governor and GA delegation decelerate funding of the Virginia Retirement System in order to make it easier for both localities and the state to balance their budgets in FY18. This would save the county over $25 million while retaining its commitment to future solvency of the state’s retirement system, according to the letters.

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Op-Ed: Vote For Meals Tax – and Stop Blaming Diversity

PassionFish Reston/Credit: Passionfood HospitalityThis is an op-ed from Reston resident Lynda Reyes. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

I am writing in support of the Meals Tax. My parents risked their lives to come to this country. They had nothing when they arrived, but they worked long hours at low wages to provide my family with opportunities that are not available in other countries. We made Fairfax County our home, but because of the rhetoric surrounding the Meals Tax, we do not feel welcome here anymore.

In conversations and online comments, there is a consistent emphasis on the burden imposed by kids who are not white and wealthy. One commenter on FCPS School Board member Pat Hynes’ recent op-ed stated that “the outputs of English language learners, special education students, emotionally challenged students, and less financially advantaged students is incommensurate with the financial input” — in other words, it is supposedly a waste of money to educate immigrant kids, kids with special needs, and poor kids.

It is indisputable that our county has changed over the past 20 years — we are more diverse in every sense. According to the FCPS FY17 budget, approximately 13 percent of FCPS students are receiving special education services, about 17 percent are receiving ESOL services, and nearly 25 percent of FCPS students are eligible for free- or reduced-price meals.

I challenge opponents of the Meals Tax to view this diversity as a strength rather than a weakness. You speak about costs, but I speak about opportunities.

The world has come to Fairfax County. FCPS students come from most of the countries in the world and speak nearly 200 languages. As of September 2015, nearly 50 percent of FCPS elementary students speak a language other than English at home.

Let us build on this foundation of diversity to grow new businesses and connections with other countries, to increase exports of physical and online products and services to foreign markets, and to recruit global companies to locate in Fairfax County, where they can find employees with the linguistic skills and cultural knowledge required to succeed in the modern global economy.

But we cannot succeed if we allow the quality of our public schools to decline. As Americans, we celebrate the Horatio Alger paragon of the person who rises from nothing to achieve great success. Every kid deserves the same chance to succeed, so it follows that every kid deserves a quality education.

It is time to set aside the rhetoric, and focus on our shared values and objectives. I ask you to vote YES for the Meals Tax on Nov. 8, so we can provide our public schools with the necessary resources to get the job done — to transform a multilingual and multicultural student body into the next generation of entrepreneurs and employees, to build the future even as we cherish and celebrate the past.

With respect,

Lynda Reyes
Reston

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Survey: Fairfax Teen Drinking and Smoking Rates Down

Fairfax County logoDrinking and smoking are at their lowest rates in five years among Fairfax County teens.

That’s the findings of the newest Fairfax County Youth Survey of eighth, 10th and 12th graders.

The annual survey, whose 2015-2016 results were recently released, examines behaviors, experiences, and other factors that influence the health and wellbeing of the county’s youth.

Students’ participation in the survey was voluntary and anonymous.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County School Board co-sponsor the survey to collect information about youth behaviors, both positive as well as those that are harmful.

The survey was administered in November, 2015, and resulted in valid responses from 33,276 students.

Some of the key findings:

More than one-third of Fairfax County students (35.8%) reported drinking alcohol at least once in their lifetime, ranging from 16.9% of eighth-grade students to over half of twelfth-grade students
(56.9%).

All of the overall rates for alcohol use (lifetime, past month, and binge drinking) were the lowest reported in the past five years. The lifetime prevalence rate decreased 9.7 percentage points since  2011, while the past month rate decreased by 5.6 percentage points and binge drinking in the past two weeks decreased by 3.4 percentage points.

Thirteen percent of the students (13.1%) reported smoking cigarettes at least once in their lifetime, ranging from 5.4% of eighth-grade students to over one-fifth of twelfth-grade students (22.4%).
Lifetime and past month prevalence rates for cigarette use were the lowest reported in the past five years. The lifetime prevalence rate decreased 7.5 percentage points since 2011, while the past month rate decreased by 4.1 percentage points.

Marijuana was the second most commonly used substance by Fairfax County students overall. One-fifth of the students reported using marijuana in their lifetime (19.2%), ranging from 4.4% of eighth-grade students to over one-third of twelfth-grade students (36.4%).

Ten percent of the students (10.3%) reported using marijuana in the past month, ranging from 2.0% of eighth-grade students to one-fifth of the twelfth-grade students (20.0%).

Both lifetime and past month prevalence rates for Fairfax County students overall were lower than the national comparison data for alcohol, marijuana, cigarette, and inhalant use.

The overall rate for binge drinking also was below the national rate, as were the past month prevalence rates for e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and Ecstasy use.

To see more stats on sexual activity, physical activity, depression and other public health issues, read the entire youth survey on Fairfax County’s website.

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Police: Shooting Threats to FCPS ‘Not Credible’

clownsFairfax County Police say threats directed at certain Fairfax County Public Schools — as well as other school districts in Virginia, Maryland, and elsewhere — are a hoax.

The Fairfax County Police Department has determined that online threats of a school shooting that appear to be directed at several FCPS schools are a hoax and not credible.

The parents at those FCPS schools listed in the online messages have been notified.

These same messages have also been directed at other school districts in Virginia, Maryland, and elsewhere.

The “Virginia Clowns” social media account last night (@virginiaclowns and @dmv_clowns) posted threats, echoing a nationwide trend, warning of shootings at a number of DC- area schools.

None of the schools threatened by the accounts are in Reston. The “clowns” mentioned Hayfield High School, Gunston Middle, Holmes Middle and Thomas Jefferson High.

From FCPS:

The Fairfax County Police Department has determined that online threats that appear to be directed at several FCPS schools are a hoax and not credible.  The parents at those FCPS schools listed in the online messages have been notified.   These same messages have also been directed at other school districts in Virginia, Maryland, and elsewhere.

The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority.  In addition, we believe that, as partners in your child’s education, we have a responsibility to inform you of these kinds of circumstances, even when there is no reason for alarm.

Although all threats are taken seriously, this incident was clearly intended only to disrupt school operations and we do not believe any of our students are at risk.  With the assistance of our law enforcement partners, we will continue to be diligent to ensure the safety of students and staff.  Thank you for your support and understanding.

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Op-Ed: Reasons Why Fairfax Needs a Meals Tax

FCPS School Board member Pat HynesThis is an Op-Ed from Pat Hynes, Fairfax County Public School Board’s Hunter Mill representative, about the Meals Tax referendum that will put to county voters on Nov. 8. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

If you had told me, when I was running for school board five years ago, that I would spend so much time talking about money and taxes, I might have been a little discouraged. But advocating for revenue is part of the job — the people of this community expect excellent schools with world-class curricular and extracurricular programs, and we’re smart enough to know that you get what you pay for in this life.

I learned early on that school funding in Virginia has some serious structural challenges — we send at least three times as much revenue down to Richmond as we get back for our schools and other critical public services. And then Richmond ties our hands when it comes to raising revenue locally for local needs.

A meals tax is one of very few options available to local governments, which is why two-thirds of Virginia counties — and most towns and cities — have adopted a meals tax to help balance their reliance on property taxes.

Local revenue since 2008 has not kept pace with growing population and rising costs. That is certainly true for the school system. Between 2008 and 2015, the gap between revenue and needs was so wide that by fiscal year 2015 the school system was spending $1000 less per child — in real dollars — than in 2008. We got there by freezing teacher pay and raising class sizes several times, and annual cuts to central office.

Being lean is a good thing — we are stewards of the public’s resources and we take that responsibility seriously. In 2013, the state paid for a comprehensive efficiency study of FCPS by Gibson Consulting. The Gibson report found just $10 million in potential savings, all of which the school system implemented in the first year. According to the Washington Area Boards of Education comparison guide, FCPS has far and away the leanest central office in the region, which includes other large systems with similar economies of scale.

We also, unfortunately, have one of the lowest teacher salary scales in the region — $5-10,000 a year lower than market average and as much as $20,000 a year lower than neighboring Arlington County. And our elementary class sizes are some of the highest in the region.

Last year, this community advocated loud and clear for the school system, and the BOS responded with a shot in the arm that has allowed us to make some important reinvestments, including bringing our teacher salary scale halfway to market average. That was great news, but we have further to go — and the 4-cent property tax increase that paid for that extra revenue is simply  not a sustainable approach going forward.

Most surrounding jurisdictions in Northern Virginia have a meals tax. When we eat in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax City, Vienna or Herndon, we are helping those communities pay for their important public services and high quality of life. If we want to keep our great teachers — and the families and companies who choose Fairfax County for its great schools — it’s time for Fairfax County to get up to speed and implement a modest meals tax.

Finally, I have heard the claims about a meals tax being regressive. With 65,000 Fairfax students living in poverty, you can be sure that the school system is on the front lines daily attending to their educational and personal needs. The extent to which a lower-income family pays a small tax on prepared meals strengthens our ability to serve their children effectively. Those pennies on the dollar are repaid to them many times over.

Photo: Pat Hynes/FCPS

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Report: FCPS Important Driver of Local Economy

FCPS busA new report from the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University says that Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has a local economic impact of $2.2 billion, making it one of the most important sources of local economic activity.

FCPS is Fairfax County’s largest employer with more than 27,000 full- and part-time employees.

Report author Stephen S. Fuller found that FCPS accounts for 4.1 percent of the countywide employment base and its budgeted FY 2017 spending accounts for 2.0 percent of county’s gross county product.

That makes FCPS the second-largest source of economic activity in the Fairfax County (following the federal government), says Fuller.

“Dr. Fuller’s report clearly shows how FCPS is a major contributor to the Fairfax County economy and plays an important role in our community’s quality of life, sustainability, and future growth,” FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza said in a release. 

“Our primary mission remains ensuring all of our students succeed in the classroom and beyond. This report demonstrates that in fulfilling our mission, FCPS provides a significant economic benefit to the community. Funding from our community provided to FCPS by our local and state partners has a positive impact that goes well beyond our classrooms.”

However, it is somewhat a case of spending money to make money.

FCPS has been caught in perennial budget battles the last several years. About half of the county’s annual budget goes to the schools. This year’s transfer was about $2 billion of a $2.7 billion budget.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors raised real estate taxes 4 cents to $1.13 per $100 of assessed value in 2016 in order to nearly fully fund the $2 billion transfer. Fairfax County residents will vote on a meals tax referendum Nov. 8. The proposed 4-percent meals tax will add about $100 million annually to the county, with 70 percent of that going to schools.

 

Other key findings in the report include:

Sixty-seven percent of FCPS’ payroll outlays, or $1.15 billion, are made to employees residing within Fairfax County and 51.5 percent of all contractor payments are made to vendors located in or conducting their work in Fairfax County.

FCPS will spend $1.85 billion in Fairfax County during FY 2017, 62 percent of its total budget.
FCPS’ outlays within the Fairfax County economy will support an additional 13,271 full-time, year-round equivalent jobs spanning a broad-base of businesses of which an estimated 57.2 percent or 7,587 would be located in the county and generate $417.3 million in new personal earnings to the benefit of workers residing in Fairfax County.

FCPS’ annual outlays in Fairfax County will support directly and indirectly almost 35,000 jobs in Fairfax County, accounting for 5.3 percent of the county’s total jobs for residents and non-residents in 2016 with a combined payroll (personal earnings) totaling $1.6 billion to be recycled and re-spent in support of the local economy.

The report concludes that FCPS’ economic impacts are far more broadly distributed across Fairfax County’s economy than are the economic impacts generated by federal government employment and procurement spending.

FCPS’ economic benefits are realized by a wide cross section of local-serving business establishments patronized by the more than 18,000 FCPS employees living in Fairfax County and the additional 7,587 other local jobholders whose employment depends indirectly on or is induced by the outlays of FCPS in Fairfax County.

Additionally, FCPS’ contractor outlays support a wide range of locally based businesses that provide the goods and services needed to operate and maintain the county’s public schools and FCPS’ capacity to educate the county’s workforce of the future.

See the entire report on FCPS’ website.

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Crossfield Parents Plan Protest of Proposed Cell Phone Tower

Proposed cell tower (tree) at Crossfield ES/Courtesy Verizon

A Fairfax County Planning Commission staff report recommends approval of a proposed cell phone tower to be built on the grounds of Crossfield Elementary School off Fox Mill Road.

Milestone Communications (on behalf of Verizon Wireless) is seeking to build a 138-foot tall monopole on the grounds of the school. The pole, which would be built to look like an evergreen tree, would be able to carry signals from five mobile carriers in order to fill in gaps in coverage. The pole would be on a 2,500-square-foot area surrounded by an 8-foot fence.

Crossfield Map/Credit: Milestone CommunicationsThere will be a planning commission hearing on the application on Wednesday at 8:15 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center.

This is the second time in the last three years Reston-based Milestone has proposed a monopole at Crossfield. The company had a similar application in 2013, but withdrew it based on objections from residents.

Residents are perhaps even more upset at the latest proposal. They have organized a petition, put up a “Stop The Crossfield Tower” website and plan to testify at Wednesday’s hearing.

Says the petition:

The cell tower proposed for Crossfield Elementary is not needed — a ‘significant gap in coverage’ does not exist in this area, as defined by Federal requirements. Eighty-two (82) towers are active within a 4-mile radius of the site — and the poor cell reception within the school and in nearby homes can be fixed with inexpensive signal boosters.

Cell towers near elementary schools concern home shoppers enough to lower property values, and they are an eyesore even when disguised as “trees.”

In addition, there is enough scientific uncertainty about the health risk cellular radiation poses to small children that we must protect these kids rather than ignore the evidence and be sorry later. This school has 3- and 4-year-old preschoolers who could be exposed daily to this radiation for nine years. No studies to date have been done on children to measure the effect of long-term exposure to non-ionizing radiation (the type emitted by cellular towers).

The World Health Organization cautions to avoid exposure to non-ionizing radiation as a cancer prevention strategy. We must be proactive in protecting our families, financially and physically, by eliminating this unnecessary risk.

Find a different place to put this tower! We, the local residents and school parents, DO NOT want it.
The neighbors have also sent letters to school and county officials.

There was also a proposal by AT&T and Milestone for a pole at Hunters Woods Park, a Reston Association property, in June of 2014. The RA Design Review Board nixed the idea of a 115-foot pole in the woods behind a soccer field.

But many poles have been built on to public lands in recent years. South Lakes High School, Herndon Middle School, Madison High School and Carson Middle School are among the many FCPS properties that have cell phone towers on their grounds.

The cell phone companies pay the landowners to lease the pole space. FCPS, for instance, has made more than $4 million from the arrangement over the last several years, FCPS officials said.

Milestone collects rent from the wireless carriers on its towers, 40 percent of which goes to FCPS. Schools receive $25,000 each time a tower is built, and then $5,000 from each wireless carrier that leases space on the tower.

Milestone says schools and parks are ideal locations for these towers because they often have existing structures, such as field light poles, in place.

FCPS has cited studies on cell phone towers being located on school grounds and says the practice is safe.

The Crossfield parents disagree.

“Our elected Fairfax County Officials are ignoring their constituents and choosing to support a third-party vendor relationship (Verizon/Milestone) over the safety of Crossfield and Fairfax County children for less than $200 a month for the school,” Crossfield parent Lisa Namerow said in an email to concerned parents.

“And FCPS has plans to do it at many other FFX County schools — over 90 schools on the “list. … We don’t want the tower to be placed next to the playground and by the kids’ walking path to school. There are multiple risks (safety, school ratings decline, impact on property values). FCPS is the landowner and has the power to pull the application.”

Photos: Renderings of look and location of proposed cell phone monopole at Crossfield Elementary School/Milestone Communications.

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Nonprofit That Hired Away Superintendent Has Contract With FCPS

Karen Garza/FCPSFairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza announced on Monday she would leave the school system in December for a new job as President and Chief Executive Officer of Battelle for Kids (BFK), an education nonprofit in Columbus, Ohio.

While Garza will be new to Battelle for Kids, the organization is not new to FCPS. Battelle for Kids has been providing services to the school system since last year.

Battelle for Kids signed a five-year contract with FCPS in April 2015 to provide professional development and school improvement practices for FCPS’ Department of Instructional Services.

FCPS will pay Battelle for Kids $279,950 under the terms of the contract. The majority of that sum ($224,000) was set to be paid in Year 1 as Battelle for Kids worked with 12 underperforming schools. The contract does not identify which schools.

According to FCPS documents “BFK will implement school improvement practices of six schools identified as high needs during the 2015-2016 school year (Work Stream 1), and six additional schools during the 2016-2017 school year (Work Stream 2).”

“Additionally, BFK will strategically build the capacity of a core team of district personnel as Rounds Facilitators, and will provide turnaround leadership development for the administrators of these
schools. As an extra benefit, BFK will provide access to 15 online courses on Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) to the leaders and teachers at the six campuses during the 2015-2016 school year.”

BFK says through their process, schools learn what is going well, what is not working and how to improve it. and instill “a culture of learning and self-reflection.”

Under FCPS rules, BFK’s history does not appear to be a conflict of interest because Garza was not directly involved in awarding the contract.

She told The Washington Post on Monday she was made aware of the BFK job when contacted by a recruiter this summer.

Garza, who came from Texas to lead FCPS in 2013, signed a four-year contract extension in July. The extension increased her salary by 3 percent, to $300,000.

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FCPS Superintendent Garza Will Leave Job in December

Superintendent Karen Garza/FCPSFairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza says she will resign from her post Dec. 16 to take a new post as President and Chief Executive Officer of Battelle for Kids, an education nonprofit in Columbus, Ohio.

Garza was hired by FCPS in June 2013. She was the school system’s first woman superintendent.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to have served this world class school system since June 2013,” she said in a letter to FCPS employees on Monday. “It has been an honor and privilege to have worked with the dedicated and professional staff who make FCPS the finest school system in the country.”

During Garza’s tenure, she led continuing efforts for school funding, smaller classes and staff compensation. She eliminated the elementary school’s half-day Mondays, instituted the system’s “Portrait of a Graduate” and changed high school start times to after 8 a.m. so teens could get needed sleep.

The school board says it wishes Garza the best in her new job.

“The School Board is extremely sorry to lose Dr. Garza, but is very grateful for her leadership since 2013,” board chair Sandy Evans said in a statement. “We wish her the very best in her next endeavor.”

Added Evans:

“As the first woman to lead FCPS in its history, Dr. Garza has been a transformational leader who has had a tremendous positive impact on our schools, families, employees, and most importantly the children of Fairfax County. She has taken FCPS to new levels of achievement with vision, candor, and grace. Dr. Garza and her Leadership Team worked closely with the School Board to establish the Portrait of a Graduate and to create our strategic plan, Ignite.”

Evans said Garza should be proud of her many achievements, including “maintaining FCPS standards of excellence to providing focused attention and action to support our most challenged schools.”

“Dr. Garza succeeded in implementing later high school start times and full day Mondays for elementary students, and reducing elementary class size,” said Evans. “A tireless advocate for teachers, she navigated one of the most challenging budget environments in recent memory, and achieved the largest investment in FCPS teacher compensation in a decade.”

The school board will soon name an interim superintendent and in the coming weeks will provide details regarding a search process, Evans said.

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Op-Ed: FCPS Can’t Cut Any More From Budget

fcps logoThis is an op-ed from Vienna resident Jason V. Morgan. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Something on your mind? Send an opinion to [email protected]. Reston Now reserves the right to make edits to accepted submissions.

Dear Editor,

I am writing because there was a major misrepresentation of Fairfax County’s budget in the August 4, 2016, commentary submitted by Claude Andersen (Director of Operations, Clyde’s Restaurant Group).

Mr. Anderson opposes the upcoming meals tax referendum, but he is providing very bad information to justify his position. Mr. Andersen erroneously claims that the Fairfax County budget has increased by almost $1 BILLION since 2012.

However, the nominal growth since 2012 is only $442.1-474.8 MILLION, depending on whether one looks at FY2012/FY2016 or FY2013/FY2017. And in inflation-adjusted terms, the growth is only $265.1-298.4 MILLION (2016 dollars).

More importantly, Mr. Anderson ignores the fact that Fairfax County already suffered years of cuts before 2012. When unemployment went up and housing prices went down, Fairfax County Public Schools and the Fairfax County government shared in the pain by embracing austerity.

By FY2012, the inflation-adjusted Fairfax County budget was down $237.3 MILLION from FY2008 (2016 dollars). And inflation-adjusted per-pupil operating fund spending at Fairfax County Public Schools was down $1,451 (2016 dollars). Inflation-adjusted per-pupil operating fund spending at FCPS still has not fully recovered.

The fact is, the Fairfax County budget annual percentage inflation-adjusted growth since FY2008 is only 0.44 percent; the FCPS operating budget annual percentage inflation-adjusted growth since FY2008 is only 0.73 percent.

In contrast, the annual percentage growth of the general population during around the same period is 0.97 percent (2007-15), while the annual percentage growth in the number of pupils at Fairfax County Public Schools since FY2008 is 1.3 percent.

Thus, both the Fairfax County budget and the FCPS operating budget have been outpaced by increased demand since FY2008. The FCPS budget has been particularly stretched thin because both the number of students receiving English for speakers of other languages services and the number of students eligible for free or reduced price lunches have increased by almost 50 percent since FY2008 (an annual percentage growth of over 4.5 percent). Many of these students are at risk of falling far behind without some additional time, attention, and resources.

Additional time, attention, and resources costs a little extra, but every child deserves the opportunity to make the most of his or her vast, innate potential.

Mr. Andersen’s baseless claim that our county just needs to better emphasize “frugality, efficiency, and good management” is a dangerous fantasy based on a distorted picture of Fairfax County finances. In the face of economic challenges and increased demands, Fairfax County and FCPS have become significantly more efficient since FY2008. But the low-hanging fruit has been picked.

Neither Mr. Anderson nor anyone else has proposed reasonable ideas for greater efficiency that come anywhere close to the much-needed $97 MILLION revenue boost we would get by adopting a meals tax.

The time for mindless austerity in Fairfax County must come to an end. Unemployment is down while income is up; yet Fairfax County is at risk of being ideologically-driven into a self-inflicted prolonged decline. We need to vote YES! for the meals tax referendum on November 8th to diversify our tax base, to keep real property tax rates from rising sharply, and to preserve the quality of our schools, services, and communities.

Jason V. Morgan

Vienna

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