Monday, October 25, 2010

First impressions of Southwest Boundary Study "meeting" at GBW

After hearing a report from my husband and reviewing the literature that he brought home, I am appalled at the how the "Southwestern Boundary Study" meeting held at Greenbriar West ES this evening was conducted. In short, it was a supreme disappointment. It was not an open forum, nor were there opportunities for attendees to get questions addressed. Some of our questions (which were never answered by FCPS representatives at the meeting) include:

1. If my child attends a school impacted by the proposed boundary changes (and would normally be forced to switch to another school), will he/she be allowed to remain at the elementary school until he/she moves on to middle school?
2. If my child is allowed to remain at a school impacted by the proposed boundary changes, will his/her younger sibling be allowed to attend the same school? Essentially, will my children's attendance be "grandfathered" at the original school?
3. If my child(ren) is(are) forced to attend another school, will their SACC enrollment at their current school be honored, or will we be forced onto a waitlist behind children already attending the new school, even though we have been forced to change schools against our will?
4. When will the FCPS Board respond openly and honestly about their intentions to redraw boundaries for the middle and high schools?
5. How does the FCPS Board expect to address existing overcrowding issues? None of the "options" presented addressed this core issue.
6. Why didn't the FCPS Board inform the leadership of the schools affected that their schools were going to be directly impacted by the proposed boundary changes? For example, the leadership of Poplar Tree Elementary School was not aware that PTES would be directly impacted by these proposed changes.
7. Why didn't the FCPS Board inform the parents before Friday that their neighborhoods would be directly impacted by the proposed changes?

I expected that FCPS Board members would provide community members with an opportunity to ask questions regarding the Boundary Survey. I expected that, in one of the richest school districts in the country, information would be made more available to parents and educators.  However, the meeting was nothing more than a group think multiple choice test parading as "community dialogue" survey. Attendees were ASSIGNED to specific tables. The instructions provided were as follows:

- Each table should select a facilitator and recorder and evaluate the three preliminary boundary changes and options introduced in the presentation.
- If you have a question, please raise a white index card if it regards facilities and transportation issues and a blue index card for any other question. A meeting assistant will direct a staff member to your table to answer your question.
- The facilitator should keep the group's discussion focused on the evaluation of the three options.
- The recorder should take notes of your table's responses to the preliminary boundary changes and options.
- Your group should rate each of the three preliminary options - from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) and submit your results and the sign-in sheet prior to leaving.


Groups were required to reach a consensus, and information provided to the groups was extremely limited. In other words, individual responses were NOT tolerated. Questions asked by group members were responded to with very bland and uninformative answers. If the FCPS Board was looking to get Option C supported by the community, they certainly succeeded; it was the least horrible option and groups were effectively peer pressured toward supporting it.  Again, this was not a "community dialogue" - it was a group think multiple choice test.

Here are pictures of the questionnaire that groups were instructed to complete.





According to the information passed out to meeting attendees, "Feedback from the six boundary meetings will be posted on the Southwestern Boundary Study website at http://www.fcps.edu/fts/planning/southwesternstudy/index.htm. I encourage all parents, whether or not you feel you're impacted by this situation, to keep checking on the meeting feedback in order to identify whether or not our voices are being heard.

The handling of this "boundary survey" has been broken from the beginning. Parents feel that the Board has been deceitful and underhanded in their actions. The FCPS Board must respond to these concerns swiftly, completely and transparently.

20 comments:

  1. I would urge people to remember the following:

    * Refuse to be bunched into pre-selected groups that encourage groupthink. It leads the group to pick one 'right' options on this exam out of fear of the worst ones. The only option really presented tonight was Option C. FCPS should be ashamed for even proposing A and B, they are so detrimental to students and communities. I expect better of my Board.

    * Remember that these are not the only options, only those presented. They are all bad. Keeping Clifton Elementary open would address many of the issues of this boundary study at far less expense.

    * Question the assumptions posed in this study. How will related county services be affected? Clearly FCPS is not coordinating with Fairfax County SACC programs on the direct impact boundary studies have on their ability to serve their communities. The personnel I spoke with had no idea our school was part of the boundary study and asked me to report to them when I had news. This level of closed operation among County services is not acceptable.

    * What is the cost of this survey compared to that saved by closing Clifton ES? Is it worth impacting 2500 students, families and communities as opposed to expanding three schools?

    * How do ANY of these options address the core issue of continued growth and overcrowding in our region? In the best scenario, all SW schools are maxed out in five years. What is the plan to expand services and facilities for one of the fastest growing counties in the mid-Atlantic? What are the 5, 10, 20-year plans?

    * As one of the richest counties in America, do your children deserve to spend half of their elementary experience in permanent modular buildings, as the best option proposed by the Board?

    * And finally, remember that the map presented only represents the communities in SouthWest. This is to help focus your attention on your local problem. But the money for FCPS schools flows to all corners of the county. What disappears from communities like Clifton has to go somewhere... and those issues are not to be touched by those pressed.

    Frankly, I'm embarrased these options were even presented publicly. Our County can do - and our community deserves - so much better.

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  2. We should ask for Option D. Let parents design D. We were asked to rate A, B, C without a full deck of cards. While many believe FCPS would stack the cards, we were surprised that they would do it so openly.

    Please attend a meeting tomorrow night. Also, FCPS might have a place to submit questions.

    Also write to your supervisor and stress how you feel that FCPS is spending more money that will not solve the undercapacity/overcapacity problems.

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  3. I am not surprised by what is going on with the school board and the SW Boundary Study...what I do find ironic is that none of the other schools stopped for one moment to think about what would happen to their schools when Clifton ES was voted to be shut down...their attitude was lackadaisical to say the least. So, by shutting down our little school it will now impact 28 schools...Next time the board votes to shut down a little school in uncrowded area of the county maybe the support will be stronger with neighboring PTAs...

    Right now, my biggest concern is keeping my child in her current middle/high school. She attends Robinson and is already been earmarked for the IB/AP programs...my questions are: what about the IB/AP programs? Will the high schools affected have to have a new curriculum for IB/AP students?

    Remember...vote...vote...vote during the next school board elections...time to clean house and NO! new school bonds!

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  4. Those of us in Clifton have tried for almost two years to get the other schools on the area involved and to make sure you knew that you were aware how closing Clifton would affect you. Your PTA's refused to return our calls and your reps on the study committee spent their time accusing us of demanding "special treatment ".

    So guess what? Now Clifton is closing and and in all 3 options almost every school will end up at maximim or over capacity.

    Next time, consider a little bit more empathy and willingness to listen and less judgementalism and maybe we can get our School Board reps to represent the people who elected them and not their own political ambitions.

    They will ram this down our throats because communities did not come together over the planning study issues.

    Oh, and for those of us who did demand answers last nigt, Clifton students will be moved in Fall 2011 regardless of which plan they choose. Fairview and Union Mill - that means get ready to be super crowded because they won't wait for renovations.

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  5. these comments are completely valid - this needs to be raised to the press - someone? PLEASE. Let's call these people out.

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  6. Liz Bradsher said that each school addition would cost $5 million.

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  7. Option A actually INCREASES the number of schools over capacity. Options B and C basically maintain the status quo (B increases the number of overcrowded schools by 1 and C reduces it by one).

    Option D is the answer!

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  8. It's impossible to evaluate these options when we don't know the full implications on costs, services, and middle/high school placement.

    Speak OUT loudly tonight!

    You can stand up (literally ) and demand answers!

    Don't let them box you in to the format they have chosen. SPEAK UP!

    Because when this farce is over they will ignore you otherwise!

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  10. Here's the reality folks...the final decision on all of this will take place with this School Board. Replacing them will be too late. If you genuinely have a problem with what you are witnessing, speak up now!

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  11. Interesting tactics our school board uses:

    Coordinate e-mail storms in support of their pet projects (Liz Bradsher)

    Have an early vote based on incomplete estimates of costs

    AND then (Drum roll)...
    Do the study that evaluates the real impact!!!!

    If I wasn't convinced of their corrupt ways, I would think they are the dumbest people in the county.

    Now, these options and briefings are set up to continue the disingenuous pattern that this board has been on for the past two years.

    Option C hoses over the folks in high density areas in Centreville, treating them like pariahs, and moving them AGAIN!

    Clifton Should have been left open and renovated it would have been cheaper, and preserved stability, academics, and alleviated overcrowding.

    This Schoolboard needs to be tossed out in total for even tolerating this kind of shady process!

    PARENTS, GO HAVE YOUR SAY! Let these people know that their "Plan, without planning" is unacceptable. Ad Hoc, is not a strategy for success...

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  12. Unless parents and families affected want to be herded like cattle as the Clifton community was you must band together and publicly refuse to be limited the the choices fed to you and to call into question the entire charade and all the "facts" you have been fed. You must not allow youselves to be led to slaughter.

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  13. But prepare to be marginalized with ad hominem attacks, procedural road blocks, as these "representatives" railroad you. Bring your packet of tea to leave with them, or perhaps a "Navy Jack", and remind them of the long heritage of the saying "Don't Tread on Me".

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  14. Drew has the take away comment of the night!

    "Frankly, I'm embarrased these options were even presented publicly. Our County can do - and our community deserves - so much better."

    Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

    FCPS gets not a "F", but a "ZERO" for preparation for this test - GO BACK AND START OVER.

    A, B and C are NOT the only options if we do not accept that they are the only options.

    Thomas Jefferson: "We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate."

    So, PARTICIPATE!

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  15. Just as Liz Bradshear did to us in the Clifton Community she will do the same to all of you. I encourage you parents outside of Clifton to visit our website SaveCliftonElementary.org and view the FOIA emails from Bradshear to others showing how she planned to screw over the Clifton community and how she will do it to you too! And just think, Liz Bradshear was the school board rep for Clifton.

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  16. Liz Downing RevellOctober 26, 2010 at 5:51 PM

    It appears that some people have had concern over those of us who did not use our real names when blogging our concerns (don't we have more important issues to complain about?!)

    Anyhoo, I, Liz Downing Revell, posted the 2nd anonymous blog at 0732 this morning....

    Not ashamed, just didn't want the backlash/spam like last time on Fairfax Underground...

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  17. To the writer of the anonymous post about surrounding PTA reps who ignored Clifton and refused your calls - you might want to think before you speak like that, not to mention checking your facts. You have offended many of us "local PTA reps" who did support Clifton and have done nothing but try to help you as much as anyone can help against the tyranny of the school board. Pointing fingers is doing none of us any good.

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  18. You are correct in that it does none of us any good to point fingers now. Unfortunately, there were a few PTA reps that did not return calls, ever. They were few and far between. To all the local PTA reps that did support CES and help, you have our sincere thanks and we're willing offer our support and guidance now for your communities. Even those that did not support CES, you still have our support and sympathy if your child is now being displaced. We would not wish that on anyone.
    Rather than pointing fingers, we need to all band together and SAY NO TO THE BS! (Boundary Study, no pun intended) If this entire SW Region of the County refuses to accept this BS, we can stand up to the School Board. People, they work for US!! Moving kids around for the sake of moving them when it solves NOTHING is UNACCEPTABLE. But if we don't speak out against it, ALL OF US, they will win. Period. It will take an overwhelming majority of parents, not just a few that are die hard fanatics about it, to make a difference. THE SCHOOL BOARD WORKS FOR US! WE ARE THE BOSS!! It's time they understand that and listen to the very people that hired them in the 1st place.

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  19. I was speaking to a mother at my soccer practice about this mess. Her 8 year-old daughter, out-of -the blue, walked up and chimed in "I don't want to change schools!" She was very distressed.

    I know that Ms. Bradsher is very concerned about filling in the last funding hole she created in funding her own expansion efforts in South County, by closing clifton and then force feeding this ridiculous boundary solution to us to complete it, but our children are impacted by all of this. The lack of discourse on this reminds me of a Kangaroo Court working toward a predetermined solution. This is unacceptable.

    Send this bag of fertilizer back to Cows that made it.

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  20. Get ready for all the FCPS Outreach emails you are going to start seeing. The Clifton experience was that they will just take whatever you express as concerns and then spin them and send them out to everyone in the County to try and minimize everything you have to say. Get ready. They will be coming. Guaranteed.

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