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School Board Matters: Honoring Outgoing School Board Members

December 14, 2023


School Board meetings have become ground zero for the culture wars. Our “School Board Matters” blog will include analysis and links to video, agenda, and votes that affect you and your student(s), including links to primary source documents to support involvement in your student’s experience and education. We hope this will provide better access to and understanding of the Fairfax County School Board, including their powers and duties, as governed by the Code of Virginia.

Although this blog will primarily focus on Fairfax County, we will share school board meeting reports from around the state, when possible.

 

The 12/14/23 Fairfax County School Board (FCSB) meeting began with a performance of the National Anthem by the Glasgow Middle School Band Wind Ensemble

Although the agenda was fairly short, the meeting ran quite long, because there were eight proclamations honoring the outgoing School Board Members for their years of service and dedication, some of whom had served for twelve years.

Many in the audience learned new things about school board members. I, for one, learned that many of them have deep friendships and relationships that go back over a decade or more. Also, I learned of long commitments against discrimination, for equity, and in support of improving mental health. These proclamations gave a different perspective to each of these hardworking women–I strongly recommend a listen to better understand them.

Many thanks for your years of hard work and steadfast desire to improve education, support students and teachers, and represent the interests of families and your constituents.


Public Input

Surprisingly, we lost very few speakers after close to two-and a half hours of proclamations. In fact, a few additional speakers were added to the list. Most of the speakers expressed appreciation for the dedication and hard decisions that the school board needed to make during and after the pandemic, including the Fairfax PTA and two leaders of 4 Public Education (Robert Rigby and Vanessa Hall).

Quite a number of the speakers thanked specific school board members including speeches by two school board members’ husbands: most of us laughed out loud at a funny, poignant speech by Mrs. Corbett Sanders’ husband and I doubt that I was the only one with tears in my eyes during a sweet speech by Ms. Abrar Omeish’s husband.

There was criticism also laid at the feet of FCPS by a student and her brother describing bigotry from and a lack of consequences for a teacher at Lake Braddock, and two fathers demanding action and accountability after a data breach exposed over 35,000 students’ data. A student from Oakton High School spoke of the need for a more robust driver’s education program and pedestrian safety after too many accidents and deaths involving student pedestrians.

School Board Business

Strategic Plan Baseline Report on Goal 1: Dr. Ried provided an update on Strong Start, Goal 1 of the Strategic Plan, covering priorities related to the availability of pre-K programs and language progress for english-language learners that meet the community’s needs. 

Action Items: Three action items were on the agenda:

  • FY 2024 Midyear Budget Review. Ten voted yes and two abstained (Ms. Omeish and Ms. McLaughlin).

  • Strategic Plan Goal 1 Baseline Report:  Strong Start: Pre-K-12. After significant discussion, nine voted yes and three voted no (Ms. Heizer, Ms. Cohen, and Ms. Omeish).

  • Amend School Board Policy 2418. Three votes were held regarding the policy:

  • Amend School Board Policy 2418 to include that high-school credit-bearing classes will utilize the 100 point letter grade scale with pluses and minuses. Eleven voted yes and one voted no (Ms. Meren).

  • Have the aforementioned policy to be effective August 2024. Seven voted yes, one abstained (Ms. Meren), and four were not present during the vote (Ms. Heizer, Ms. Cohen, Ms. Pekarsky, and Ms. McLaughlin).

  • Direct the Superintendent to share the findings of the Grading Working Group in a work session for further evaluation. Nine voted yes and three were not present during the vote (Ms. Heizer, Ms. Cohen, and Ms. Pekarsky).

This is the last meeting of the School Board elected in 2019. It adjourned at approximately 12:21 am on December 15, 2023, requiring part of the meeting to be on a different youtube video. The next school board meeting is scheduled for January 11, 2024.

Starting in January 2024 School Board meetings will include the twelve newly elected FCSB members who were sworn in on December 13, 2024. All twelve took the oath of office and swore to uphold the Nation’s and Commonwealth’s constitutions with Fairfax Circuit Court Judge, the Honorable Robert J. Smith.

It was a moving ceremony filled with solemn reverence for the important job they would hold for the next four years. Each school board member chose to individualize their swearing-in ceremony by the personal books they chose and who held those books.

For more information about the incoming FCSB, please see our blog.



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