Seven candidates will vie for three at-large seats on the Fairfax County School Board in the Nov. 8 elections.
As election day approaches, Patch has selected six questions and sent them in a survey to all at-large candidates.
Over the course of the next week, Patch will run the responses of the six candidates who returned the questionnaires. These responses are unedited, in the candidates' own words. Note: Candidate Lin-Dai Kendall did not return the survey.
Oct. 6: Lolita Mancheno-Smoak
Oct 7: Ryan McElveen
Oct. 10: Ilryong Moon
Oct. 11: Steve Stuban
Oct. 12: Ted Velkoff
Today, Lolita Mancheno-Smoak
Is FCPS underfunded, overfunded, or properly funded at the current level?
It may not be “properly” funded at the current level due to a myriad of factors, as it depends on one’s perspective. FCPS’s $2.2 billion budget consumes 53 cents of every county tax dollar. The 75% of county residents, who do not have children in the public schools, may feel the schools receive a sufficient share of county resources. Whereas, parents with children in crowded classrooms, may feel differently. Currently FCPS does not get a fair share of state funding from Richmond, as it receives about 20% of its funding from the state while other school districts in Virginia receive about 70%. The state education funding formula (Local Composite Index) takes into account gross local wealth factors, but doesn’t factor in that many of Fairfax County’s growing urban poor are children enrolled in the public schools.I will fight for a greater share of state funding from Richmond.
Furthermore, there has not been a baseline cost assessment of the efficacy and efficiency of major programs or functions over the past ten years against their originally established performance metrics in order to objectively determine if desired results have been achieved for the level of investment. This fundamental void in financial accountability and oversight beckons the immediate need for an independent, FCPS audit function that reports directly to the School Board with the ability to conduct program evaluations and financial audits that may uncover alternative ways to reallocate funds for improved results.
When you compare high schools in Fairfax County, especially looking at free and reduced meals and band and athletic booster numbers, there is a large disparity between some high schools, resulting in “Have vs. Have-not” schools within Fairfax County. How do you intend to deal with this growing disparity?
First, we must acknowledge that the demographic make-up of Fairfax County is changing dramatically; there is a significant growing immigrant population that needs to be recognized with the increase in public school enrollments. The School Board’s responsibility is to ensure that there is equitable distribution of resources across the system so that every student receives the same caliber of excellent educational services and learning opportunities regardless of their individual socio-economic status. As members of the School Board we must be aware that in this highly affluent county there are a growing number of families in which both parents or a single parent must work multiple jobs in order to just subsist and therefore have limitations on discretionary income. These income limitations and parental time constraints make it difficult for some students to participate in band and athletic programs. This situation is ripe for businesses, non-profits, and faith-based organizations to partner with the FCPS and explore innovative ways to facilitate access to music, arts, and athletics without over dependence on discretionary family income and by doing so, as a community, mitigating the actual and perceived disparities amongst all children.
How does the School Board and Board of Supervisors plan to help the most needy schools, as its budget continues to shrink?
As the budget becomes tighter, it is imperative that the School Board establish an independent audit function reporting directly to the School Board to help identify operational efficiencies and opportunities for more effective reallocation of funding to yield better service system wide.
The School Board is almost entirely dependent on school system staff for knowledge and understanding, and, there is no standing ombudsman function. Do you trust the central office staff of FCPS to provide the School Board with honest, well-reasoned, fact-based analysis of policy questions facing that body?
Trust is a very personal human relationship that requires time to build and it would be disrespectful on my part to the highly professional staff to make an attribution without having personally engaged with them. However, the issue is that the School Board does not currently have the ability to obtain independent expert advice without filters, as central office staff is bound to their respective chain of command and cannot serve two masters without conflict. The School Board must maintain its independence and objectivity in order to best execute its fiduciary responsibility and oversight; however, it is hindered by the potential lack of neutrality with the current arrangement of loaned shared staff support.
What role do you think parents should play in setting policy and effecting change in our school system?
Parents should play a very active role in policy-making, as FCPS is a “community-owned school system” that is supported by county tax dollars contributed by parents and taxpayers.
If you had to draw a pie chart showing all those whom you think should be involved in overseeing FCPS policies, what would it look like?
25% School Board & central office leadership
25% Parents & parent advocacy groups
25% Teachers & school system employees
15% Board of Supervisors & government regulators
10% Community stakeholders
School start time is an issue that has not been addressed in some time. Will you seriously consider pushing the starting time of our high schools back?
Why or why not?
Empirical data indicates healthier school start times for HS students to be within the range of 8:30am to 9:15am to best align with teenagers' Circadian rhythm. I am supportive of a school start time that provides the best opportunity for the student's mind to be fully alert while driving to school and at maximum performance in first block classes. However, this is an issue that needs comprehensive evaluation and full community engagement to ensure a feasible solution that addresses critical factors such as athletic schedules, bus routes, work schedules, etc.
Do you support video surveillance in the county’s high schools?
To what extent?
I believe that video surveillance is in contradiction to the progress being made with establishing a restorative, educational, and therapeutic discipline process within FCPS.