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Former Herndon High School Teacher Becomes FCPS Superintendent

Dr. Scott Brabrand began his time at Fairfax County Public Schools in a Herndon High School classroom in 1994.

Brabrand, who on Thursday was confirmed as FCPS’ new superintendent, worked five years as a social-studies teacher at HHS before moving into administration. According to FCPS, during that time Brabrand “founded a Model United Nations Club at the school, mentored new teachers and proposed a new teacher education initiative, and redesigned the county’s U.S. and Virginia government Program of Studies to align with new state and national standards.”

Brabrand then became an assistant principal at Herndon High and an associate principal at Lake Braddock Secondary School before being named principal at Fairfax High School in 2005. He was promoted to FCPS cluster assistant superintendent in 2009 before leaving to become superintendent of Lynchburg City Schools, where he has been for the past five years. He was named Region V Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents this year.

“Dr. Brabrand brings a wealth of experience in education and a broad perspective to the job of superintendent,” said Sandy Evans, Fairfax County school board chair. “His collaborative leadership style and his knowledge of Fairfax County schools will be strong assets for him as the new superintendent. We look forward to working with him as we move forward to improve salaries for our teachers and ensure our students are prepared for college and beyond when they graduate.”

Brabrand has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service; a master’s degree in education from George Washington University; and completed his doctorate in educational administration as part of Virginia Tech’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Program.

Brabrand’s tenure in the position will begin July 10 and he’s been contracted through the 2020-21 school year. His starting salary is $290,000, FCPS spokesperson John Torre confirmed.

Former FCPS Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza left the post in December, just months after getting a four-year contract extension. Dr. Steven Lockard has served as interim superintendent.

Photo courtesy Fairfax County Public Schools

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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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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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FCPS’ Garza Gets Four-Year Contract Extension

Superintendent Karen Garza/FCPSThe Fairfax County Public Schools Board (FCPS) has voted to extend the contract of FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza, effective today, for an additional four years. The new contract will run through June 30, 2020.

Garza came to FCPS in July of 2013, and has made a number of changes to the nation’s 10th-largest school system.

Garza’s based salary will increase 3 percent, to $300,000, FCPS said.

“Dr. Garza has been an agent of positive change for Fairfax County Public Schools,” School Board Chair Pat Hynes said in a statement. “She has positively engaged the community in a number of critical issues and has been a passionate advocate for our students and teachers.”

“We are pleased to be able to recognize Dr. Garza’s contributions by extending her contract, ensuring administrative stability and continuity in the district,” said Hynes.

Some of the school system highlights under Garza since 2013:

  • Creation of the “Portrait of a Graduate” model.
  • A new five-year strategic plan for the system
  • Later start times for high schoolers
  • Elimination of early release Mondays for elementary students
  • Lobbying for staff salary increases to keep FCPS competitive with neighboring systems.
  • Lowering class sizing and finding funding to keep special programs and extracurricular activities.

Photo: Karen Garza/file photo

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Tuesday: FCPS Superintendent Makes Hunter Mill Listening Stop

Superintendent Karen Garza/FCPSFairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza will hold the Hunter Mill-area meeting of her Superintendent’s Listening Tour Tuesday, March 29 at Madison High School.

The stop is rescheduled from earlier this year, when it was cancelled due to snow.

Garza has been holding meetings in FCPS’ various regions to hear what is on the minds of citizens and also discuss what is happening in Fairfax County Public Schools.

The school board will vote on the final Fiscal Year 2017 budget in May. After warning of a large budget deficit, Garza proposed a budget with raises for teachers and no program cuts in January. But that budget depends on full funding from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The Supervisors recently approved a 4-cent rise in the advertised real estate tax rate (to $1.13 per $100 of home value), which is enough to provide the schools with a 3-percent raise (for a total transfer of $2 billion) from last year, but far short of the 6.7 percent Garza requested to cover such items as capping elementary classroom size and raises for staff.

The schools annually receive about 52 percent of the county’s $3.99 billion budget.

The session runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Madison High is located at 2500 James Madison Dr. in Vienna.

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FCPS Budget Task Force Needs Additional Time for Final Report

FCPS School Bus

The Fairfax County Public Schools’ Budget Task Force should have final recommendations by Nov. 9 on how to close a potential $72 million shortfall for Fiscal Year 2017.

The task force has met seven times and was slated to deliver its final report to FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza on Oct. 15. The task force has requested additional time to prepare the report, which is now expected to be presented to the school board at its Nov 9 work session, a school spokesman said.

FCPS says it arrived at the latest budget gap figure (down from $100 million) by plugging in updated revenue and required expenditures and including a 3-percent transfer increase as included in the County’s budget guidance.

“The budget shortfall could fall above or below the estimate,” FCPS Department of Financial Services staff said at a board work session in late September.

“The shortfall contains uncertainty because there are costs and funding that are not determined until later in the budget process,” the Financial Services presentation said.

Garza has said a large portion of the school system’s rising costs are due to increases in compensation, rising health care costs and retirement fund contributions. The school system — now with 188,545 students — has a growing enrollment with an increased need for special services.

Garza will present her proposed budget in January. The final budget will be adopted by the school board in May — and it may contain changes such as increased class size, cutbacks in sports and activities and a reduction in staff positions, among others.

Meanwhile, FCPS Hunter Mill School Board member Pat Hynes, who also serves as the school board chair, is hosting the Hunter Mill  District Community Budget Meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 4, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Madison High School (in the Lecture Hall), 2500 James Madison Drive, Vienna.

Hynes will be joined by Budget Task Force member Sridhar Ganesan,who lives in Reston, and a representative from the Office of Financial Services. They will give a brief budget overview, demonstrate a budget proposal tool, and answer questions about the process and how community members can make their voices heard.

Meanwhile, here are some of questions submitted by county residents to the Budget Task Force and the answers from the FCPS Office of Budget Services:

Q: What number/percentage are ESOL students and receive free/reduced lunch?

A:  English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) eligible students (service levels 1-4) are projected to be 17.0 percent (31,989) of FCPS enrollment in FY 2016. Students eligible for free/reduced lunch are projected to be 28.2 percent (53,170) of FCPS enrollment. A student may be in both of these categories.

The FY 2016 Approved Budget includes an overall net increase of 2,631 students over FY 2015 actual enrollment. ESOL students are projected to increase by a total of 885.

Q: Does the health insurance increase reflect the portion that FCPS pays? Does it already reflect any increase in the employee?

A:  The health insurance increase in the FY 2017 preliminary forecast reflects the projected change in the employer cost for health expenditures from FY 2016 to FY 2017. A change to the health plan premium rate affects both FCPS and the employee. FCPS contributes 85 percent of the established medical plan premium for employees enrolled in individual plans, and 75 percent of the established premium for employees
enrolled in mini-family or family plans. Also, FCPS contributes 70 percent of the established dental plan premium for employees enrolled in a dental plan.

Q: When did compensation last increase and by how much? What is the trend?

A:  Employee salaries increased for FY 2016. All employees will receive a market scale adjustment of 0.62 percent and eligible employees will receive a step increase that averages 2.5 percent.

Q: The chart of FCPS annual budget change shows increases in the budget in 2012-2016 but Dr. Garza indicated in her intro the budget has been cut every year since 2008. Which is true? To what was she referring?

A: FCPS’ budget shortfalls are largely a consequence of expenditures growing at a faster rate than revenue.

FCPS did not receive sufficient revenue to offset increasing expenditures from student enrollment increases, student demographic changes, employee compensation increases, and other expenditure requirements. As a result, reductions were the only available means for the division to produce a balanced budget. FCPS has
addressed significant budget deficits through a variety of means including increases in class size.

Between FY 2009 and FY 2016, FCPS has endured cuts of nearly $500 million dollars, including the elimination of approximately 2,275 positions. These reductions, that were made each year to balance the budget, have all directly impacted the operation of FCPS schools and departments.

Q: How much is spent on transporting students to schools that are not their home/base schools?

A: Based on the FY 2015 Program Budget, approximately $8.4 million is allocated to fund transportation outside of students’ base school. That includes: Transportation – Academy $2,206,047; Transportation – Advanced Academics $4,467,473;  Transportation – Elementary School Magnet $451,203; Transportation – Thomas Jefferson $1,261,790.

See many more questions and answers on this page on the FCPS website.

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FCPS Superintendent: Supervisors ‘Unconcerned’ About Schools

FCPS Superintendent Karen GarzaFairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza calls the approval of the Fairfax County 2016 Budget “disheartening.”

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed the $3.8 billion Fiscal Year 2016 budget.

Real estate taxes for Fairfax County residents remain unchanged, at $1.09 per $100 of assessed value.

The Supervisors (who passed the budget with a 7-3 vote) approved a $2 billion transfer for Fairfax County Public Schools. That is a $66.7 million increase over this year’s school transfer from the county but still about $14 million short of what FCPS says it needs for programs and teacher raises.

Garza minced no words in reacting to the budget news.

“Supervisors are sending a clear message that they are unconcerned about the increasing challenges of our students, our teachers, and our schools,” she said in a statement. “The supervisors refused to fully fund our budget for the 2015-16 school year (FY 2016), when faced with a nominal $7.6 million deficit. We have grave concerns as to what will happen in the 2016-17 (FY 2017) school year when we face a devastating shortfall of more than $100 million.”

“The entire Fairfax County community has a critical decision to make: either we invest the necessary funds in our students and schools, or we will have to work together to decide what to cut – and we cannot cut our way to excellence.”

Garza said that growing enrollment combined with budget cuts will force the school system to “take a serious look at the programs that we must cut starting in the 2016-17 school year.”

Garza predicts a $100 million budget shortfall for the schools in 2017.

“These cuts will likely affect all current academic programming including limiting elective choices, reducing career and technical programs, impacting advanced offerings, and again raising class sizes at all levels,” she said, adding that those decisions will come as soon as December 2015.

Added Garza: “Since 2008, we have cut 2,175 positions and nearly a half-billion dollars from our budget affecting every school and department. We have fallen so far behind in teacher salaries that we are no longer competitive and are losing talented staff to neighboring school districts. Our teachers are the reason FCPS students excel and achieve.  Losing our most experienced teachers will have a significant effect on student performance and will ultimately affect the reputation of FCPS.

The school board will adopt its 2016 budget on May 21.

Karen Garza/file photo

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FCPS Will Overhaul Administration Structure

FCPS Superintendent Karen GarzaFairfax County Public Schools will drastically overhaul its structure, according to an internal memo sent to staff members from Superintendent Karen Garza.

Effective July 1, FCPS will no longer have eight clusters. Instead, it will have five regions, each with about 36,000 students.

In the Reston area, South Lakes High School and Herndon High School pyramids will be in Region 1 with Langley, Madison and Oakton High Schools. One regional superintendent and one executive principal will oversee 40 schools.

The new structure also reduces the number of assistant superintendents to five from eight and adds an executive principal for school improvement in two of the regions (regions 2 and 3). FCPS will also eliminate staff that concentrated on professional learning and accountability.

Other regions:

  • 2: McLean, Marshall, Stuart, Falls Church, TJ
  • 3: Edison, Lee, Hayfield, Mount Vernon, West Potomac
  • 4: Robinson, Lake Braddock, West Springfield, South County, Centreville
  • 5: Woodson, Fairfax, Westfield, Chantilly

Garza did not elaborate whether administrators would lose their jobs under the new structure.

New FCPS regions/Credit: FCPS “The future of FCPS is up to us and it begins with how we design ourselves to move our important work forward,” Garza said in the memo. “Today, I am pleased to share with you our new organizational structure. After one year of evaluating our current situation, we have developed a new structure that I know will serve to better align our systems, improve our decision making and facilitate stronger and more differentiated support of our schools.”

Garza said FCPS took into account conversations with administrators, surveys and looking at other school systems of a similar size since she took office nine months ago. FCPS is one of the largest school systems in the country with more than 180,000 students.

The superintendent said the new structure will create “significant” budgetary savings. FCPS received less than the $98 million requested from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for Fiscal Year 2105, but FCPS will also receive additional money from the state.

Garza warned in January there may need to be more than 700 layoffs, some by attrition, if the system’s monetary needs were not met.

“All of this information was used to shape our new organizational structure,” Garza said. “There were a number of reasons for considering a new organizational structure primarily to help us to be more effective and responsive to our schools. I am pleased to report that this new design is also cost effective and will create significant budgetary savings, once fully implemented.”

Garza said in the memo that “this is an administrative change and will not affect teachers and most other employees throughout this organization.”

Photo: FCPS Superintendent Karan Garza/File photo

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FCPS May Cut 700+ Positions As $130 Million Budget Deficit Looms

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza

Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Karen Garza says the school system will need an increase of $59.4 million for Fiscal Year 2015, even if FCPS makes suggested cost-cutting measures that include eliminating more than 700 positions and adding in $42 million in fees for students taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests.

The new superintendent presented the $2.5 billion budget to the school board Thursday night.

“We have been presented with a daunting task dealing with a proposed budget deficit that is for the most part driven by cost increases,” Garza told reporters earlier Thursday. “We are facing a number of increased expenditures that are beyond our control.”

Garza said the biggest cost drivers are increased enrollment, an increase in employee health insurance rates and an increase in the mandatory contributions to the Virginia Retirement System.

Enrollment is projected to be 188,000 next year, up 4,000 from 2013-14, Garza said. That requires $25.8 million in school-based resources, she said. Retirement rate increases will cost the system $38.9 million. Increases in insurance rates will cost $23.9 million.

The school system also is beginning the fiscal year with a structural deficit and depleted reserves. Garza also wants to give $41 million in step increases to employees.

Salary increases are important if Fairfax wants to be competitive with other school districts, said Garza. FCPS lags behind Arlington and Alexandria in new teacher pay and lags behind six school systems for Masters Degree holders and maximum teacher pay.

The school system will ask for $98.1 million — an increase of 5.7 percent from FY2014 — from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to cover the mounting costs.

For its part, FCPS will slice $96.5 million from the budget.eliminating 731.2 positions. Garza said she hopes the reductions can come from attrition, but she is not ruling out layoffs.

“We are working with the human resources department,” she said. “Each classification may be impacted in a different way. We have already began to identify what we can absorb though attrition and growth. We are striving to mitigate the number of layoffs, but likely we will have some. I cannot guarantee we will not.”

The proposal includes a reduction of 82 positions ($13.4 million) from central support; 180.5 positions ($17.1 million) in school support potions such as assistant principals, technology specialists and custodians; and 468.7 classroom positions ($36 million) such as instructional aides. Classroom cuts would be offset by staffing reserve allowances and staffing increases allowed for population growth.

“We worked diligently to protect the classroom as best we could,” she said. She added that special programs such as language immersion, Accelerated Academics and vocational education will not be affected.

Still, class size may rise with staffing cuts. Elementary school (currently 26.5 students per class) and middle schools (26.9) would see an increase of half a student, but high schools, already at 29.5, would ride to 30.5 students per class.

Other sources of money for the $2.5 billion budget will comes from state aid ($375 million), state sales tax ($171 million), federal aid ($42 million) and miscellaneous fees of $66.6 million. Additional state money may be available, but it was not included in the budget, said Garza.

The school board will discuss the budget and a number of public hearings will be held through the spring. See key dates on FCPS’ website.

School Board Vice Chair Illryong Moon (at-large) said tough decisions will have to be made in this economic climate.

“We are still not out of the great recession,” he said. “The system is faced with tremendous fiscal challenges. The superintendent is taking a very reasonable approach. The board is going to look at every line item and I am hopeful whatever we do will not negatively affect classroom instruction.”

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Morning Rundown

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza/ Photo: FCPS

News you need to know for Monday, Oct. 28:

1. We’re live! Welcome to Reston Now. Check back often, the site will be updated throughout the day. The morning rundown brings you news briefs of interest each morning.

2. FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza continues her countywide listening tour today in Reston.  Parents,  students, employees and community members are all invited to share their thoughts about the school system at 7 p.m. at Sunrise Valley Elementary School,  10824 Cross School Road, Reston.

Hunter Mill School Board member Pat Hynes will also be on hand.  More information is available online. Citizens interested in attending are asked to register online and indicate if an interpreter is needed.

The FCPS school board this week began looking at budget cuts for FY2015. Garza has said that there is a $140 million deficit and that major cuts may have to be made.

3. Check out how your friends and neighbors did in Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon.

4. As Election Day nears, surely you have all the details about candidates for governor Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe. But there is a third candidate, Robert Sarvis. Sarvis, a Libertarian, has not been permitted to participate in any of the debates, yet he is polling about 10 percent. [Washington Post].

5. Gabriella Miller, the 10-year-old Leesburg girl who founded “Make A Wish With Gabriella,” has died. Gabriella, who suffered from brain cancer, used a Facebook campaign to rally area supporters and help  Macy’s raise more than $1 million for the Make A Wish Foundation last year. Earlier this month, Gabriella received a degree from Shenandoah University, fulfilling one of her own wishes. [Leesburg Patch]

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