Oak Hill consultant Mark Wilkinson is one of two candidates running for the Fairfax County Public Schools Hunter Mill school board seat. Reston Now is running Q-and-As with both candidates. Incumbent Pat Hynes’ responses were published earlier this week.
The two candidates will participate in a forum in Reston on Oct. 24. The election is Nov. 3.
Reston Now: Why do you want to serve on the school board?
MW: First and foremost, I’m a dad of a recent graduate of FCPS, and concerned, as all of us are, that our Fairfax County school system risks losing its status as a world-class system. And in my over 20 years residing in Fairfax County, I’ve seen some very disturbing trends in large class sizes, mismanagement of the FCPS budget, and a “we know best” attitude from the School Board.
My desire to serve on the FCPS School Board stems from my desire to give something back to the Fairfax County community, put our children first, and use my 35 years budget experience to turn around the FCPS budget. I want to re-establish the community’s trust in the School Board as advocates for our children.
RN: What makes you uniquely qualified to serve the school board?
MW: I’m not a politician, yet it doesn’t take a politician to see that this school board needs financial expertise and strong leadership to fix its $75-100M budget deficit. Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is the 10th largest school system in the United States, and it requires strong leadership and people who know how to manage government programs, and who understand policy, budgets, strategy, and contracts. These are the key activities of a school board member.
I have 35 years as a public servant doing just that – managing budgets five times the size of FCPS’s budget, establishing policy, setting strategic direction that crossed multiple federal agencies. I will demand accountability and transparency, and ask the hard questions that are necessary to ensure that FCPS does not lose its status as a world-class school system.
RN: What are the three biggest concerns you have about FCPS?
MW: My plan is simple — reduce class size, fix the budget, increase teacher compensation, and close the achievement gap — which will improve the lives of ALL FCPS children. And as an independent and non-partisan advocate for our children, teachers, and the taxpayers of Fairfax County, I will do what is right for all children of Fairfax County — to improve their education, their quality of life, their future.
We need to improve student/teacher ratios because part of being responsive to the needs of children is a lower student-to-teacher ratio in overcrowded classrooms. The more interaction a teacher has with each student, the better the student will comprehend and retain what is taught. Unfortunately, over 50 percent of our Hunter Mill District elementary schools have had the largest class sizes in the county for the past several years.
The current FCPS School Board’s failure, to date, to remedy our children’s class size disparity — despite an overwhelming need to do so — is an issue I intend to address. Many current school board members distort the facts by talking about decreasing the classes across the entire FCPS when only 20 percent of the schools need reduction. Hunter Mill schools happen to be in that situation. (more…)