Wednesday, November 11, 2009

School Board 2, My Comments

This post is a continuation of my post from early this morning on last night's School Board meeting. It is also, however, an interruption of the topic of that post. I will return to that topic shortly, but wanted to post here, now, the comments that I prepared to read last night. This is in it's entirety as I was unable to finish my comments due to both the time constraint of two minutes AND the fact that I lost my place while I was reading and had to repeat part of a sentence. I am leaving out the salutation and identification info at the beginning.

It does not please me to be here tonight.

You have heard many of my neighbors give details on how tonight’s Action Item is the result of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior by members of this board. This information is available as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. It is shocking that citizens in this school district must file FOIA requests to have the facts about their schools. It is especially disgraceful in light of the fact that this board revised it’s Code of Conduct for School Board Members in August.

A4 of that policy begins: That my fellow board members and I should take the initiative in helping the people of this community to have the facts about their schools…

It is offensive that these words have been so quickly forgotten and replaced with behavior intended to spread disinformation. As a special ed parent, I cannot communicate with the members of this board or administration about any educational issue that my child may have if FOIA is the new preferred method of disseminating information; I will not participate in violating my child’s rights.

And where does a communication process that requires the use of FOIA as a starting point proceed to? I’m afraid to imagine what the next steps may be. I am personally trying to avoid a due process hearing for my fifth grader by working my up the chain of responsibility within the special ed department. But when elected representatives don’t represent and communication is at a standstill, what is the equivalent of due process for an entire neighborhood?

Meanwhile, I have heard new, good options for the students of Dulles North that you may never hear if this process continues to intentionally pit neighborhood against neighborhood. Stop now and do it correctly and openly.

I will end where I started, it does not please me to be here tonight. I should be in room 105, engaged in the presentation by the Parent Resource Center on transitioning to middle school with IEP.

In hindsight, I should have gone to the presentation!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

To the School Board: YOU DON'T GET IT!

For almost a year, Dulles North parents have been dealing with boundary issues. And tonight the process lost at the expense of the children in Lansdowne. Adding insult to injury, Bob Ohneiser - the duly elected school board member of the affected children - LECTURED Lansdowne parents from his cushy chair behind the dais.

I got involved in this last year when Little Dude was a fourth grader and the boundaries for all levels of schools were affected - elementary, middle and high school. I didn't think at the time that he would be moved for 5th grade or that our neighborhood would be moved for middle school, although here is a link to a plan that everyone denies has ever been promoted to take part of Lansdowne out of Belmont Ridge Middle School. I worked with others who were interested and self-selected myself to work on maps. Having been through many boundary changes with our older two children, I was familiar with the process - including when Stone Bridge High School opened. As a group, we pretty much determined that Seldens Landing would be over capacity, but moving one section of students to another elementary school to overcrowd them by the same amount was silly - a neighborhood elementary school should be overcrowded with it's own students, not with a handful of students from another neighborhood.

The staff and the school board apparently agreed and there were no boundary changes for our elementary school students. Middle school was more difficult, from a map perspective, but after many options by parents all over the Central and Dulles districts and, of course, the staff, it became clear that in one, two, or three years they would all be over capacity. So the same reasoning must have prevailed and the middle school boundaries were not changed.

But then we have the Almighty Stone Bridge High School!

Our family moved to Ashburn Farm (planning zone DN28) when Ms Giggles was in 3rd grade and Floggy was in 6th grade; I was pregnant with Little Dude; we moved from Ashburn Farm when Little Dude was starting kindergarten, and Ms Giggles was a Freshman and Floggy was a Senior at the Almighty High School. I never anticipated that Little Dude would go to the Almighty SBHS. And I am not alone among my neighbors with elementary only children, hence the poor turnout at neighborhood and school board meetings by parents of elementary aged students. Frankly, I think they trusted their neighbors with older children to represent the best interests of the community when it came to high school planning.

There were a number of different priorities that members of the community had. Teens at the Almighty Stone Bridge, naturally wanted to stay there. Younger sibs in middle school naturally wanted to not only follow their older brother(s) or sister(s) to the Almighty SBHS, but wanted to maintain the friendships that they had developed in middle school.

As a community we learned about the academic and social benefits of the feeder system, and liked what we learned. Everyone agreed that this was a common priority. We agreed that we wanted our children to have not just a stable neighborhood, but a stable school community. As a neighborhood, we will never be big enough to need a 1600 student capacity high school. Even with the largest elementary school in the district, we will not ever have 400 students in a grade, although we are over half way there with current second grade.


Our children attended Seldens Landing with the children from neighboring University Center until a new elementary school was built near One Loudoun and University Center was moved just over a year ago. Our middle school aged children have attended Belmont Ridge with children from Belmont Country Club, Belmont Green and part of Ashburn Farm.


Before I get into the particulars on tonight's meeting, I think we need to remind ourselves of the terminology that different groups use to describe our children. The Board of Supervisors refers to our children as seats; the School Board refers to our children as students; I have personally birthed three children that I call by name or refer to as my/our (older or younger) son and my/our daughter.

So who did what that was outrageous tonight?

I am compelled to start with Dr Hatrick because I hope that I can be as persuasive as he tried to be tonight.
Dr. Hatrick, nice try, but frankly, I don't believe you. It is futile to say you weren't steamrolled when: 1)members of the community have copies of the actual e-mails that were sent; or to use your experience on the job as justification for being able to hold your own when : 2)you clearly lost the grade weighting for honors classes debate; and most importantly: 3)I have never seen you have so little regard for the children that we have entrusted to your care. If you truly believe that it is in the best interests of the children who live in Lansdowne to become an academic and social island in your school system then I have been trusting you for way too long. We might all agree that it is the politically expedient thing to do, but I am not talking about seats, I am talking about the best interest of the teenage children that you have just agreed to isolate. There is a better process and there are better options. And I believe that you have the education and experience as both an educator and an administrator to know that this isolation is not necessary. I understand that the increased high school enrollment figures, especially for Briar Woods HS, were a surprise and that the original staff recommendation from last spring is no longer an option. But for a person who gives a great speech on the world that you are preparing our children to enter, this lacked any notion of the innovation that I hoped that you would model for those children.

And now the gloves come off.

Bob Ohneiser. I sit here trying to come up with one word that appropriately describes my impression. But maybe I should just describe the behavior and let the rest of you decide! You are the school board representative for the majority of the Lansdowne neighborhood, and at this exact moment I am jealous, for the first time, of my neighbors who happen to live in West Goose Creek. Clearly, you did not represent us tonight, and it seems that you have spent quite some time preparing to not represent us. And you have not communicated with us, in any manner, not only what your position is about where our teenagers should go to high school, but that you were going to throw us under the bus! You have also not solicited any input from us as to what we would consider reasonable, would be willing to accept, or what our priorities are. And on top of that, you had the gall to lecture us DURING A SCHOOL BOARD MEETING! Why didn't you meet with us sometime in the past two weeks? Is your precious phasing more important than our children. We think not, but it seems you disagree. And the whole hat demonstration was ridiculous. But not nearly as laughable as presenting it to the principal of Tuscarora HS. For anyone who was there or watched it on TV, maybe the word "Wegman's" is all that we will ever need to remind ourselves of your spectacle tonight.
There were plenty of comments from my neighbors about your phasing plan: What happens if you have a current 8th grader and a current 9th grader? How is it beneficial to a family to have two children, especially two children only one year apart, going to different high schools? How do we get out of Tuscarora? If you have a freshman when the next boundary adjustment is made and our children can go to school with children in nearby neighborhoods closer to home are we stuck at Tuscarora? Yeah, it's a nice new school - FULL OF STRANGERS! And you did not have our permission to trade 130 of our children for your pet project.
Do you realize that we do not want to drive our children to Lucketts or Point of Rocks to visit their new friends or work on a project. And we have no interest in having our children with drivers licenses making that trek up and down Rt 15.
You need to come here and meet with us, in person.

And it's almost 3:30am and I need to get some rest. More tomorrow. After the PTA meeting, but before the IEP meeting hopefully.