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PART 2: Policy for Setting Length of School Day

January 9, 2011 by Greg Brandon

[During the January 6 School Board Meeting FEC Member Greg Brandon delivered the following statement. The School Board then voted 10 to 2 in favor of delegating to the Superintendent the authority to establish the length of school days. G. Brandon, Web Editor]

Good evening Chairman Smith, members of the board, and Superintendent Dale. I’m Greg Brandon, speaking tonight as an individual member of the public. For the sake of full disclosure, I will state that I’m a member of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs, McLean Citizens Association Education and Youth Committee, and the Fairfax Education Coalition.

Last month, Ginger Shea, of the Fairfax Area League of Women Voters, stood before you to express her concern about the short notice and limited discussion for the change to School Board Policy 3415, Length of School Day for Students. The summary of the proposed change is that it will “delegate authority to the Superintendent to establish length of school day in accordance with school system needs and state law.”

I’ve heard that this change has been characterized as a matter of “housekeeping.” What exactly is “housekeeping?” A neighbor of mine had a housekeeper who kept moving things around without telling her. Apparently, the housekeeper wanted to be an interior designer, but all my neighbor wanted was someone to clean the bathrooms and fold the clothes.

I think this change in Length of School Day policy is a strategically delayed response to the Snow Days Make-Up debacle following last year’s Snowmageddon. Rather than give the Superintendent these powers, I suggest that you take the lessons-learned and the public comments received during the Snow Summit and craft, again with public comment, a rubric for dealing with lost school days due to inclement weather or extended emergency situations.

Allow me to quote from a Washington Post article from May, 2004. “’I want greater collaboration with all the stakeholders.’" That was Dr. Dale the day before he signed his first FCPS contract of employment.

I have an idea that will enhance collaboration with some major stakeholders: Invite the teachers unions, Fairfax County Council of PTAs, and maybe the Chamber of Commerce to have a permanent seat in the media section during Regular School Board Meetings. Invite these major stakeholders to speak for three minutes about the agenda items without requiring them to submit prepared statements ahead of time. Invite them to participate on an equal standing during Work Sessions.

I can almost hear some of you thinking, “But what about the PTOs.” Well, what about them? Most of them choose to be PTOs because they don’t want a small part of their dues paying for important family and child advocacy at the local, state and national levels. If they want to become PTAs because they see value in enhanced participation during Regular Meetings and Work Sessions; or, if they want to coalesce into a group for the same purpose, that’s their choice, and, frankly, none of the School Board’s business.

Let’s get those major stakeholders together and collaborate on a stronger School Board Policy 3415.

Thank you and good evening.

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