Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Letters in response to my School Board columns.

Two letters were published in the Potomac News in response to two columns I wrote about the trailers at Brentsville, "It's not just about the trailers (May 24, 2007, blogged HERE) and "Tying up some loose ends" (June 14, 2007, Blogged HERE)

From Tying up some loose ends, my comment about the school board:

Fortunately, the head of the School Board, who is most responsible for the lack of planning that left the school grossly overcrowded and with inadequate bathroom and other facilities, is resigning to run for another office. Milt Johns, my School Board representative, is running for the position. He has worked hard to mitigate the disaster of Brentsville, including pushing a plan to help parents who want to transfer to less crowded schools. I hope under his leadership the School Board can get along better with the citizens of Prince William County and our elected government.
The first response School Board doesn't have power over it's fate, (June 17, 2007) said in part:

Regarding Charles Reichley's column of Thursday, June 14, 2007, Mr. Reichley needs to understand that it doesn't matter how much planning is done to provide enough schools for our growing population, the School Board has no taxing authority and must work with within a limited budget.
On a final note, the School Board chairman, Lucy Beauchamp, has done a superb job. She will be a great loss to the school system.
I actually think Lucy has done a lot of good as School board chair. However, I believe her recent beligerent attitude and attempts to become more autonomous are bad for the board. Further, while it is true that the School board doesn't control their income, or the number of children in the system, they do control HOW the money is spent, their income has gone up by huge amounts over the last 5 years (only this past year has there been any need for fiscal restraint), and they have control over the school boundaries which determine how much an individual school is overcrowded.

Sure, a lot of people didn't want to be districted out of Brentsville -- but a leader should make the hard decisions, not just blame the supervisors for their problems. All the money in the world wouldn't fix the problem of not redrawing boundaries for Brentsville. Meanwhile, Stonewall Jackson High school isn't near capacity, so it's not just building new schools.

The letter Reichley off base on Brentsville issue (June 24, 2007) was harsher in it's criticism. Excerpts:

In his June 14 column, Mr. Reichley was off base about the Brentsville High School trailer issue and who caused the fiasco. The School Board does not control the amount of residential development in the county and cannot accordingly plan accurately for school growth.
This seems to be a common theme for School Board supporters. But the Board has access to that information, and should do a better job of planning. It's not a total mystery where the houses are being built.

There is a new High School in planning that will relieve the pressure at Brentsville. However, failure of the county supervisors to adequately fund for the school system has pushed the start of construction of this new school back more than once.
Since this year is the first that the board has held the line on tax growth, it's hard to see how that could be the excuse for delaying construction, especially when it didn't delay the new 38 million dollar administration building. Further, how will a new school help if the Board won't re-draw boundaries? They could have forced some students back to Stonewall Jackson High School, which is currently well under capacity, but they didn't seem to want to make the hard choice to upset parents who wanted their kids to go to Brentsville.

Mr. Reichley expounds on how he believes Mr. Milt Johns will bring a solution to the problem. One needs to remind Mr. Reichley that Mr. Johns was on the School Board through several budget iterations that got this problem to this stage.
My comment was not that I BELIEVED Milt would do better, simply that I HOPED he would do better. Milt was part of the board, and voted with Lucy on many of these issues. But at least he is trying to mitigate the problem while Lucy seems more concerned with getting people back that she thinks slighted her.

Maybe, Mr. Reichley is touting Mr. Johns more from his position on the County Republican Committee than reality.
Milt has no challenger, so he hardly needs me to tout him for the position. I have spoken to Milt about this issue, and it is that conversation, and not blind loyalty, that gives me a little bit of hope that things will be better. I don't think he will be as confrontational with the BOCS, and I think cooperation will serve us all much better than what we had this past year.

Mrs. Beauchamp has worked many, many years on the School Board to provide the children of Prince William County with a first rate school system. Mr. Reichley's backhanded slap at her accomplishments and achievements was, in my opinion, completely out of line. Maybe his comments were motivated more by Mrs. Beauchamp choosing to leave the county's Republican Party than reality.
I wasn't a great fan of Lucy when she was running for the republican nomination. But I do think she did well as Chair, and I voted for her for the position in the last election. I just think in the past year, maybe because she was setting herself up for the Clerk election, she tried to pick fights rather than solve problems.

I think her push for all-day kindergarten over fixing overcrowding and funding teachers was wrong-headed. I think her suing me for independence after screwing up the Brentsville overcrowding issue shows a lack of consideration that makes me think it's best she is moving on.

Maybe it's time Mr. Reichley did a little more homework on how our school system got in the present overcrowded condition. Brentsville is the tip of the iceberg for our inadequate educational facilities and the School Board didn't put it there.
I never blamed the school board exclusively for overcrowding, just the extreme overcrowding and totally inadequate response at Brentsville High school. Oddly, when they were fighting for more money and publicly attacking the BOCS, they never mentioned needing more money to solve any overcrowding issues -- just to fund the teacher raises they neglected for all-day kindergarten, since they knew that people weren't going to call their supervisors over a few more hours of school for their 5-year-olds.

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