Falls Church City Education Association Questionnare
1. Describe how your professional and community experiences qualify you to be on the FCC School Board.
My professional career has focused on working with different people from various backgrounds and different viewpoints, helping them come together, collaborate, and working toward a common goal. I'm a good listener and a thoughtful voice. As a (non-practicing) lawyer, I'm trained to ask questions, advocate, and effectively communicate. In my career, I work closely with organized labor and have a deep commitment to workers' rights and ensuring they have a collective voice (I even spent a summer union organizing while in college!) I'm confident I can bring these skills and passion to the Board in order to benefit our teachers, staff, community, and most importantly, our children.
2. One of the tasks of the SB is to formulate a strategic plan. What elements of the current plan would you like to expand upon? What new elements could be added?
While I would definitely welcome input from teachers, staff and the administration to hear their thoughts, one of the elements I would like to expand upon in the strategic plan falls under Priority 1: Student-Centered Teaching and Learning. I would welcome feedback from the teachers about the amount of testing, review the non-state mandated testing, and determine if all of the testing is necessary. This would allow teachers to be more creative with the curriculum and do what they do best: teach.
An element that can be added to the strategic plan: under community engagement, I would welcome real town hall meetings (with a Spanish-speaking translator present). This would allow for true dialogue and real transparency. I'm happy to hear that Dr. Noonan, Chair Litton and Vice Chair Downs are beginning to hold office hours. But that still doesn't replace town halls. Currently, the plan states that the evidence of effectiveness, when evaluating whether the community has a means for public comment or feedback, is: "Robust use of online forms allowing posts and feedback. Board meetings are streamed live and recording posted to websites and social media outlets." I believe we can do better than that. Even during COVID, it's possible to host outdoor town halls or town halls via zoom with back and forth dialogue. This would allow for true communication and collaboration between the administration and the community.
3. As a School Board member, you are tasked with hiring a superintendent. In addition, however, you oversee an organization of over 450 employees. What ideas do you have to increase transparency and communication between the Board and staff at the schools?
I strongly believe in open communication and giving an authentic voice to our teachers and staff. I would work to ensure teachers and staff have an authentic voice up the chain of command, and feel comfortable presenting issues and concerns. I want to ensure that teachers and staff could bring up their issues and concerns in a way that feels safe, and that they feel truly heard. If this isn't happening, for whatever reason, I would want teachers and staff to feel comfortable coming to me as a last resort. I understand and respect the chain of command, but at the same time, if teachers and staff for whatever reason don't feel as if they are being truly heard, I would be available to them. As stated above, I applaud Dr. Noonan, Chair Litton and Vice Chair Downs for holding office hours. I will do that from Day 1, my virtual door via email will always be open, and if my scheduled office hours don't work for some people, I would find a mutually convenient time to talk or meet. Teachers and staff will always receive a timely response from me. Finally, I would want access to the schools to be able to see our fantastic teachers and staff in action!
4. If you could lobby to change one policy at the state or local school board level, what would it be and why?
I support universal pre-k as a funded mandate, similarly to what one of our gubernatorial candidates is talking about in his campaign. This ensures that every student has access to an equitable education at the early, critical years.
5. What are your top three school board budget priorities?
Ensuring that teachers are adequately compensated for summer school so we can be properly staffed and offer summer school to any family who wishes to enroll in summer school. During COVID, this is especially important, but this should be offered every year.
I know this falls under Capitol Improvement Plan, but updating Oak Street Elementary to a level that meets the needs of students, teachers, and staff is a priority.
We need to ensure that our diversity, equity and inclusion policy puts money in the classroom to implement the curriculum. I would want the teachers to help and be heavily involved in the process, given their expertise, to determine what exactly that looks like to them. But now that we passed the policy, we need the curriculum in the classrooms and the money to implement the programs.
Falls Church City Democratic Committee School Board Candidate Questionnaire
1) Knowing what we do today about the COVID-19 pandemic, should Falls Church City schools have returned to in-person learning sooner?
YES. I don't plan to focus my campaign on the past, hindsight is 20/20, and I want to look forward in terms of how we live with this virus which won't be going away anytime soon. The more we've learned about the virus, and what we know today, the more convinced I am that our schools could have opened, in some capacity with at least a hybrid approach, in August 2020 when our case positive numbers were actually lower than they are today when we're open full time. Study after study has shown that schools are not the source of the spread. In fact, Dr. Noonan stated there was ZERO in-classroom spread of the virus last year. A very critical point: we would have needed our teachers and staff to be on board with this plan in order for this to work. This would have involved much more communication and collaboration during the summer of 2020, and on a continuous basis, to determine what their needs were in order to feel safe. Additionally, they would have needed to be given grace if learning standards weren't met because of the focus on social and emotional needs. Finally, the teachers and staff would have needed an authentic voice during the 2020 summer to ensure there was real buy-in of the reopening plans.
2) Do you support the mandate that all students wear masks at school for the Fall semester?
YES. No mandate should be required for outdoors unless students are in a large crowd of people.
3) Should transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom or lockers rooms of the gender with which they identify?
4) Should the Board increase educational opportunities, including career and technical, for non-IB diploma high school students?
YES. I strongly support union-based apprenticeship programs (different from the programs promoted during the last presidential administration).
5) Do you support school faculty entering into collective bargaining agreements with the City?
YES. This is one of the most important issues to me. I'm not just a yes vote, but I will work my hardest to ensure there are at least 3 other yes votes with me.
6) Should there be school resource officers in Falls Church City schools?
7) Should Falls Church City curriculum include information on systemic racism in the United States?
8) Should all FCCPS teachers and administrators take annual diversity, equity, and inclusion training?
9) Should Falls Church City school curriculum include climate change, resiliency, and environmental justice?
10) Once the COVID-19 vaccine has full FDA approval, should it be mandated for all eligible students in order to attend school in-person?
YES. My answer is yes if the Center for Disease Control and/or the American Association of Pediatrics recommends mandating this, with medical exemptions and state-authorized religious exemptions. I'm neither a scientist nor a doctor, and therefore follow the experts in this area. I do know that my children will be getting their shots as soon as they possibly can, and I will highly encourage others to do so as well.
VPIS School Board Candidate Questionnaire
1. In what organizations have you been active that helped prepare you for office?
I’m active with political committees and elected officials where I advise them regarding hard decisions they make each day, assist with analyzing budgets, and steer them down the best path to serve the public interest.
2. Why do you want to serve on the School Board?
As the mother of a third grader and kindergartener, I want to ensure our schools prepare all of our children to become the best versions of themselves. We have great schools here, and I want to work hard to keep them that way.
3. What policy or programs are most important to you for changing?
I want to give our teachers the right to vote on collective bargaining.
4.What policy or programs are most important to you for strengthening?
I want to ensure our students get the necessary extra academic, social, or emotional support after a rough year.
5. As we return from Covid restrictions, what is your view on the best approach to support and provide education safely for students, staff and parents?
The most important thing we can be doing is ensuring our children stay in school, full time, with as few disruptions as possible. I support mask mandates indoors if the Center for Disease Control or the American Association of Pediatrics recommends it, even if the Governor (or future governor) retracts the masking mandate. We need to ensure that all of the ventilation systems are upgraded and that we have the proper spacing at 3 feet. I would also look to the state for guidance on what more we could be doing in order to keep our children in schools and keep everyone safe and healthy.
6. What is your view of the International Baccalaureate Program for levels K-12? Do you agree with the mission to “... develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect?”
Yes, education is not just about academic success. It’s about teaching our children to leave the world a little better than it was before them, making a difference, and understanding people from different backgrounds.
7. Do you have an opinion on the school yearly schedule, start times, and daily class schedules at various schools?
While I understand the need to recognize cultural diversity, especially as a Jewish mother, it can’t be at the detriment of equity. I’ve spoken to many parents who really struggled for a variety of reasons in early September with the additional school closings. I would want to reexamine the calendar.
8. As we return from Covid restrictions, what is your view on the best approach to support and provide education safely for students, staff and parents?
Giving decent pay and benefit packages, maintaining small class sizes, treating them with the respect they deserve as professionals, and allowing them to grow in their careers is the best way to attract and retain great teachers.
9. When the new school was being built, community access and use after hours was an important commitment and included in the building design. Will you ensure that is achieved?
Yes. I know that was a key point in order to gain community support, and I intend to keep that promise.
10. Several candidates have suggested that the lack of transparency by the current School Board is a major issue. Do you agree and if so, how would you make improvements?
I would encourage all Board members to hold office hours (two of them just recently announced that they would start to do so). If elected, I plan to hold office hours from Day 1. Additionally, as a Board member, I would ensure that tough questions are asked, answered, and publicized. I would also want access to the schools so I can see our amazing teachers and staff in action!
11. The new high school was designed to accommodate up to 1800 students but now has fewer than 1000. Do you support a study of options to reduce crowding at other City schools by shifting some students to the new school?
Yes, I would support a study. According to the triennial plan, some classes are approaching or exceeding the recommended size. Maintaining low class sizes is critical.
12. In 2020, the FCC school Board declared that "it is not enough for us to declare that we are not racist and that we are non-discriminatory. It is imperative that our School Board and the Falls Church City Public Schools (FCCPS) community at large commit to equal opportunity and actively practice and promote anti-racism and call out injustice, inequality, and inequity." And that "the Board will continue to reexamine our policies and practices using the dual lenses of equity and equality to ensure they support the entire staff, our students, our families, and all whom we serve in the wider community". Will YOU publicly commit to this as well; how have you demonstrated this commitment in the past? How will you PUBLICLY demonstrate YOUR commitment to this while on the Board?
Yes. I teach my children about this at home, and hope the schools will also teach my children, and all Falls Church City children, how to be anti-racist. I intend to put the resources into the classroom now that we have the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy. Funding the Policy is the next step.
13. Are you in favor of including a curriculum in schools to better address racism in American society?
Yes. Teaching the children about all forms of discrimination should be taught in all grades at age-appropriate levels.
14. Recent research found that diesel school buses emit pollutants that pose a health risk to students and the community. They also are a major contributor to the City’s carbon footprint. The City recently announced purchase of two new all electric school buses. Will you commit to supporting purchase of electric school buses as existing diesel buses are replaced in the years ahead?
Yes, and I will support other innovative technology as well in order to further reduce our carbon footprint.
15. Children in the City schools today will live most of their lives in a world dramatically altered by greenhouse gases that are warming the planet and changing the climate. Will you support a review of the school curriculum to identify grade appropriate additions that help students understand climate change and human’s contribution to its causes?
Yes, it is critical that our children learn about climate change, their own contribution toward the change, and what they can do to help save our planet.
16. The City has agreed to purchase solar panels for the new high school. Do you support an assessment of the potential to install solar panels or expansion of solar on other school property?
Yes, I support an assessment.
17. What is your assessment of the current diversity of the school system teachers and administration staff as a group? Do you support efforts to increase diversity of teachers and administrators?
While I don’t know the current breakdown of diversity among our teachers and staff, I do believe that we need a diverse workforce. Now that we have the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy, we need to fund it, and that includes ensuring our workforce is diverse. While we should always hire the most qualified person for the job, we should ensure the pool of resumes come from different backgrounds.