WHERE TOM STANDS
Did you know...?
Your School Board controls 3 BILLION in tax dollars every year. Since few people tend to vote in local elections, these elections are decided by a relatively small, politically active portion of our community that likely does not represent the majority opinion.
Each year, partisan politics is becoming a large part of School Board decisions. Tom wants to do what is best for kids, not score political points. A great school system is not "guaranteed" in Fairfax County; decisions that board members make really do make a difference.
Some of the issues at stake include threatened boundary changes, name changes for certain schools, increased fees for parents, new assessment procedures for Thomas Jefferson High School, Family Life Education "enhancements", violence in our schools, runaway spending, and much more...
Majority liberal School Board members can, and do decide what the public knows about important decisions. They have utilized tactics to stall, obfuscate, and shut down public comment and free speech. Without keeping independent voices on the board, such as Tom Wilson's, Fairfax County can expect even more politicians to act as if the public's voice does not matter.
It’s true most of our spending is on salaries and pensions, but that is no reason to fritter away the rest of the budget on things that do not directly affect students in the classrooms. The budget is so big, most Board members act like a million dollars here or there is no big deal. It is a big deal. Every dollar needs to be accounted for and used for the purpose for which it was intended; educating students.
It is great that our students have access to the technology they need to compete in today’s world. Every year I have been on the Board there have been more enhancements. I have heard, however, that some parents and students, are frustrated by the lack of textbooks. As a parent myself, I understand this concern. There is a place for pens and pencils and books you can hold and read. We need to have a balance.
I support teachers. That’s the bottom line. I want FCPS teachers to be paid a salary that is commensurate with the other salaries in our area. We need to retain good and experienced teachers. I think it is also possible that we may need to look our shortage areas, such as special education, and see what we can do financially to attract these professionals. We need to listen to our teachers. They know what is happening in their school communities and what support they need. The people sitting in administrative offices don’t always get it.
No one wants any of our students harmed. Ever. Therefore, we can’t play politics with this issue. We can hire psychologists and provide security cameras. We can consider arming some of our school security officers and work on preventing bullying. This is not a question of either/or. It is a both/and. We need to do everything we can to keep our students safe and have honest discussions with experts to figure out what “everything” entails. We have started having these discussions and should continue them.
Board meeting are too long and too inefficient. The public should be considered first and foremost. We need public engagement. Right now, we are keeping the public at arm’s length. There are too few spots for the public to speak. The public is given too little time. We spend too much time talking about things the public does not care about and too little time having the conversations they want to hear. Too many sensitive and controversial topics are hidden behind closed doors. Too much time is spent thanking the leadership team members of FCPS and too little time is spent asking tough questions. These are all aspects of Board meetings I would change if I could.
School Board members do not make immigration policy. We educate every child in Fairfax County, regardless of immigration status. We are proud of our immigrant families and our diverse community. I say “we” because I believe this is the way all members of our current School Board feel. I think the public would benefit from learning more about some of the immigrants who are currently running for the school board, including Vincent Xaivier Palathingal, Priscilla DeStefano, and Laura Hernandez Drain. They will bring new ideas to our school system and will help represent our whole community.
Some members of the community feel that the school system is not providing the kind of academic rigor that the students need to compete. Therefore, there are a lot of parents spending money on outside academic tutoring. Other parents are worried that their kids are spending too much time hitting the books, particularly in high school, and they are overextended with too many AP classes. I can understand both points of view. The kids I am most worried about is the kids who are living in situations where everyone around them has low expectations of what they can achieve. This leads to missed opportunities. As a school system we need to look at what expectations we have of ALL our students because an “okay” education is not good enough.
We talk about Special Education issues non-stop at my home. My wife has worked with children with special needs for over 20 years as a Speech Language Pathologist. I also have a mother who is physically disabled, and we have several family members who have various learning disabilities such as ADHD and dyslexia. I’ve learned that such challenges do not have to be major roadblocks to a person’s best life! I am proud of the special education services and programs we offer in Fairfax County Public Schools. However, there is always room for improvement. Helping teachers handle students with challenging behavioral issues is one area I’ve been focused on. I have suggested we have a mobile, quick response team of behavior experts who can go to any FCPS school and embed themselves in a classroom to help staff with challenging situations. I also believe we need to look more creatively at teacher/student ratios. We can’t have a one-size fits all approach. Some students need more attention than others. I hope these ideas can soon be put into practice so parents are assured their child’s behavior challenges can be managed effectively at all our schools.
I’ve maintained from the beginning that the School Board is no place for politics. Serving on the Board for the past three and a half years has only reinforced my belief in this core value. Why do I think this? It is simple. The kids come first. What your political party believes you should say or do is not always what is best for kids, parents, teachers, and community members. There is a reason there are no R’s or D’s next to the names of the candidates running for School Board. The Board is, by law, a non-partisan body. If that is the law, then Board members should approach the job with an open and independent mind on every issue. Frankly, the current Board has been very political. Even minor issues or procedural questions are dealt with in such a way that politics always plays a part in decision making. The mission of the school system is educating kids. What is best for kids is my North Star.