Patch has asked the candidates running for an at-large seat on the Fairfax County School Board a series of questions on discipline policy reform - a topic fast becoming a key issue in this race.
1. Do you think the recent reforms passed by the school board changing the discipline policy were appropriate?
I do not believe that the current measures and policy changes are appropriate for a simple reason: They come across as a knee jerk reaction to totally called-for pressure from parents and community for a more comprehensive disciplinary reform. What I mean by this is that it appears to be a cosmetic change and it fails to address some of the "structural fissures" in the system.
Personally, being the parent of two teenagers, I can't emphasize enough the crucial need of parental involvement and keeping parents informed in depth of situations affecting their child.
I had the opportunity to attend a hearing in Committee to testify in favor of a bill that would include language to require parental notification when and if your child incurred in an action requiring disciplinary measures. FCPS, the Virginia School Boards Association, and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents all have FULL-TIME lobbyists during GA sessions and they were there to OPPOSE this bill. The Virginia Council of PTAs was rendered essentially impotent and other than the parents that drove down to Richmond that day, there was no organized support for Delegate Kaye Kory who was spearheading the effort.
Apparently, the bottom line is that parents and children are totally outnumbered and outmaneuvered in Richmond by the tax-paid lobbyists of school systems and their administrators. What an irony. Do you realize who pays their salaries? Yes, the taxpayer. You would not believe how small the change needed was. But we were soundly defeated by lobbyists paid with our own tax dollars.
2. How would you have voted on this issue?
I would have voted for reform, deeper changes and would encourage a change in attitude towards our teens. Again, I insist on the need of looking at the problem as a structural one. FCPS must not forget who is responsible for the child in the eyes of the law. The policy of "in loco parentis" supported by some members of the School Board appears to completely disregard parental rights.
While the school system bears responsibility for the safety and well-being of a child when in their hands, this should not void parental rights and parental need of involvement accompanied by in depth communication. Subjecting students (minors) to questioning without parental notification by authorities may have adverse effects on the child, some so drastic that they can lead a child contemplate the unthinkable.
Our children are one of our most valuable resources. They also are at such varying degrees of maturation that it makes the job of disciplinary policy design a daunting one. Implementing half-measures is not an option. Above all we need to strengthen the parent-child relationship and be inclusive of this fundamental node in the education system. After all, parents usually know the child much better than a bureaucrat tucked in an office miles away.
3. What is your opinion on the involuntary transfer policy that allows schools to move students to other schools as punishment?
This policy carries the risk of exacerbating the behaviors that they are trying to punish. Changing the location of the child doesn't ensure a change in behavior. In my opinion discipline should be swift, immediate and hopefully carried out by the network of teachers, principals and caregivers closest to the child.
4. Do you think the discipline policy needs to be further reformed? If so, what recommendations would you make?
Discipline absolutely needs to be reformed. I also have the suspicion that the problems stem not only from the flaws in the policy but from flaws in the current educational structure. Perhaps we should look at the school models that the current FCPS aadministration is pursuing. They have changed in size dramatically. Larger student populations concentrated in one educational center tend to dilute accountability at all levels. Lack of accountability increases the propensity to disciplinary issues. It also appears that application of less stringent disciplinary measures (detention, to limited suspension) has been removed as an option from the repertoire of principals and sub school principals.
In essence, I believe that disciplinary measures should be decided at the local level whenever possible. However, even when the case merits intervention by representatives of the law, the principal and the parent should be the first points of contact. Although you could argue that transferring the latter responsibility to school board members or FCPS would allow for impartiality, we must not lose sight that these are children we're dealing with, often not fully matured psychologically, or perhaps with special needs. We should err on the side of caution and opportunity. Their futures should be in the hands of those that know them and have their best interest at heart.
There are three recommendations that I intend to seek implementation for.
- The first is introducing language where necessary to reflect in the SR&R that parents are to be kept informed in depth at all stages of the disciplinary process.
- The second would be to implement a layered intervention process that would allow students more opportunity to respond positively with changes in behavior after being submitted to disciplinary measures.
- Third, I would seek to revise and reform disciplinary measures resulting from the use in school of o-t-c medication.
Managing a system with 175,000+ students is a challenge independent of your qualifications. But I am convinced that if we have the best interest of the community that elects us at heart, seek their input and actually listen to their needs and suggestions, Fairfax County's school system can once again live up to it's reputation as one of the top in the nation.
Lin-Dai Kendall, a Honduran by birth and a proud American by choice lives in Fairfax Station with her husband of 18 years and two of their four children, all products of Robinson High School, a Fairfax County Public School education center. For her education is a top priority. She believes there is no country on Earth like America and truly admires the principles on which it was founded.
Lin-Dai is a Fullbright Scholar and small business owner, with training in business management, architecture, and urban planning. She holds an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management (Tbird, '91) obtained on a Fullbright Scholarship and obtained her Masters in Urban Planning & Public Administration on a scholarship from the Spanish Government in Madrid, Spain. She remained three years in Mexico City after obtaining her undergraduate in one of the top schools in Latin America the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, in Monterrey Mexico. There she worked mainly in civil projects including design and project management of water treatment plants, multi-family residential complexes and office high rises.
After her return to Honduras to fulfill her ambition of one day becoming the capital's mayor, she was appointed the youngest Chief of Urban Planning ever for the metropolitan area of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Lin-Dai has spent more than fifteen years in architecture, including residential, commercial, and civil/public sector projects. She migrated to the United States after fulfilling her Fulbright scholarship. While raising her family she has worked in a variety of disciplines, most recently as the proprietor of her own design studio. From Fairfax Station, she designs, manages residential renovations, and creates artisan, artistic finishes.
Being part of a group of activist citizens concerned with our education system for the last two and a half years she has witnessed first hand the complete lack of representation of the current school board and their failure to make rational, analytical decisions. The most blatant example is the closure of Clifton Elementary School. Her part in the effort included submitting a request for the school to become part of the Registry of Historical sites in Clifton, fully supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The petition was approved, but summarily dismissed by FCPS and the current school board.
Patch will be running a question-and-answer series with the remaining school board candidates who are seeking an at-large seat on the Fairfax County School Board.
Check back to read why each of these candidates thinks discipline policy reform has become a key issue in this race.