LEAP-MSAAC Candidate Forum Speech

Video: (From LCPS)

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Text: (Delivered on October 12, 2011.)

Good Evening. First, I would like to thank the Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents and the Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee for hosting this candidate forum.

My name is Debbie Rose and I am running for the Algonkian District school board seat.

I came to Washington, DC, in 1997 to work as an attorney for the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. After 7 years on the Hill, I left to represent the video game industry- one of the few where America leads the world in creativity and production. Now, I work part-time for a technology association that advocates for software developers and entrepenuers.

My husband, Randy, and I moved to Loudoun County over 5 years ago from Vienna. We have 3 children who attend our local elementary school.

Like most parents, my interest in our public school system increased when my children began attending school. I paid closer attention to the curriculum, grading, expenditures, personnel, and programs. And while there are many talented and dedicated teachers providing students with an excellent education, there are many areas where the school administration and board are not doing a good job of serving the students and citizens of this community.

The root problem that cuts across all the issues is that neither the school board nor the administration is really open and accessible to input from the community.

In talking with parents and taxpayers throughout the Algonkian District and Loudoun County, I have found the overwhelming majority are frustrated by a school board that simply doesn’t listen to their ideas and concerns – on issues such as school siting, transportation, teacher salaries, FLES programs, school lunch menu, spending levels, discipline, transfer credits, class size, no full-day kindergarten, enrollment projections, the new grading system for elementary school, technology purchases, home-school, charter school and academy options, and SOLs.

It is time to have a school board that works for us; the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Loudoun County.

To do that, we need to focus our school board on the mission of providing students with an excellent education on a transparent and efficient budget created with input from parents and the community.

Specifically, if elected, I would initiate the following measures:

One. The budget must be presented in a standardized format year to year that is easy for anyone to understand. Currently it is 300+ page behemoth.

Two. The budget must be analyzed to find both the major cost centers and unnecessary expenditures. Budget problems need to be solved at the source and definitely not by furloughs.

Three. Make LCPS functions and processes as open and transparent as possible. For example, school siting and construction are contentious processes that divide communities. Engaging the community early and openly will reduce downstream costs and increase community support.

Four. Provide the community with opportunities to have meaningful involvement. I propose regularly reaching out to parents, local businesses, and community members with relevant expertise or experience for input and assistance to develop and implement solutions. Questionnaires, tele-town halls, and rotating school board meetings among each local district would enable the community to be more involved.

Five. Develop teacher evaluation criteria with input from administrators, teachers, and parents. Incentive bonuses should be provided to high performing teachers. Teachers consistently not meeting the criteria should not be working in Loudoun Schools. And let me say this, I believe test scores are an important component of evaluating a teacher’s effectiveness, but should not be the sole criteria.

Six. Develop a cooperative relationship with the Board of Supervisors. For too long this relationship has been a power struggle between the two bodies. Developing good-faith budgets and sharing certain responsibilities will foster a positive working relationship that will be to the social and economic benefit of Loudoun County.

With many big issues on the horizon, the next school board needs real leadership to bring this community on board.

Now, my opponent is asking you to re-elect him after more than 4 years on the board and 4 years as chairman. Mr. Stevens has said his priorities would be on issues such as cutting class size, increasing teacher salaries, and implementing full-day kindergarten. Has he actually delivered on any of them? His own website doesn’t even list a single accomplishment during his tenure.

When asked about full-day kindergarten, he has a list of reasons why it is a hard problem to solve. But, every other county in the region has found a way to solve those problems and deliver full-day kindergarten, so why hasn’t Loudoun done so under Mr. Stevens’ leadership?

Mr. Stevens was at the helm of the decision to impose two furlough days last year to address a perceived shortage in funding. He later voted to use federal funds to pay the teachers for those days but did not reinstate the school days. Working parents had to pay for child-care. And then, to top it off, there was an $8.5 million dollar surplus at the end of the fiscal year! With only a short notice for public input and a handful of participants, the board voted to purchase $4 million in smart boards and GPS for buses. The money should have gone into the teacher retirement fund or back to the citizens of Loudoun County. And now he wants us to trust him as he pursues his dream to eliminate textbooks in schools and purchase tablets for all students. This mismanagement is unacceptable and people are mad about it!

I can assure you that if elected, I would not stand before you asking to be re-elected unless I have made real progress on the improvements I described.

Leadership isn’t about knowing the answers, but about bringing people together to work cooperatively to find solutions and implement positive change. I have the skills and passion to do that.

My name is Debbie Rose and I ask for your vote on Nov. 8. Thank you.

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