Leesburg Today: Last Words: Chamber Hosts Final School Board Candidate Forum

One week before Election Day, the 24 candidates for the Loudoun School Board got a final chance to illustrate how they stand out among the rest. The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce hosted the candidate forum Tuesday morning at the Belmont Country Club.

The candidates were split into three panels, and each was asked four questions. The questions touched on some of Loudoun County Public Schools’ hot-button issues such as the acquiring land for new schools, the relationship between the School Board and the Board of Supervisors and the use of technology in the classroom.

Comments from the incumbents in the race pointed to what is going well in the school system and the gains the School Board has made-from improving the business-school partnership to keeping up with record-breaking growth-throughout the last four years. New candidates maintained a message of the need for reform and improvements in how the school system spends money, how it trains teachers, how it prepares students for careers and how it acquires land for schools, among others.

The first panel of candidates was asked whether Loudoun is competitive enough in recruiting high-performing teachers and rewarding the ones it already has. Current School Board Chairman and Algonkian District candidate John Stevens suggested introducing a new pay scale to reward people who enter education as their second career. “We need a pay scale that reflects that kind of mobility in the workforce as the rest of the workforce has,” he said.

One of his challengers, Debbie Rose, challenged Stevens’ comments about the need to improve pay for teachers. She referred to the School Board’s decision last year to give teachers two furlough days to save needed money. Prior to the scheduled days off in November 2010, the board received federal dollars to pay teachers for those two days, even though they remained school holidays. The school system later had a surplus, which the School Board voted to partially spend on interactive white boards for classrooms.

“He said we could all feel good about the furlough money because it could go to the teachers, but that money didn’t go to the teachers,” Rose said. “That money went to interactive white boards and GPS for buses. I don’t think it’s very genuine when he says he wants to put that money back into teachers because the evidence is contrary.”

The third candidate for the Algonkian District Eileen Tagg-Murdock, a former LCPS teacher, said teachers need a competitive salary, but also need more training once hired. “I think that teachers feel very overwhelmed and they need a greater support system,” she said.

When asked about how the school system can improve its relationship with the business community, Catoctin District candidate Paul Arias said he’d like to see the school system working with businesses to offer student internships. “I truly believe that if children had the opportunity to do limited internship, they might change their career path and they might understand what it’s like to live in the real world.”

Catoctin District incumbent Jennifer Bergel responded: “We have business partnerships. A lot of this has been going on.” She added that there is room for improvement. “Let’s start bringing more business leaders into the schools during the day so you can see what you can do to help,” she said.

A question about technology in the classroom brought a variety of answers from candidates. Dulles District candidate Jeff Morse urged the school system to allow others to go before Loudoun in testing new waves of technology, such as replacing textbooks with digital tablets. Blue Ridge District candidate Jill Turgeon said the school system should not focus as much on the gadgets, but purely on what will improve learning in the classroom, saying “As an educator, I am well aware that education has very little to do with the tools that we use, but the interaction between a teacher and a student.”

She challenges incumbent and current School Board Vice Chair Priscilla Godfrey, who reminded the roughly 60 people in the audience that Loudoun will need to bring in improved technology sooner rather than later.
“Virginia is going to go totally digital with their tests, and it’s very difficult for us to do that with the four computers we have in each classroom, so one way of getting around that is to give students a 1-to-1 device,” she said.

The third panel pitched ideas about how to better prepare students for higher education and the workforce. All five Ashburn District candidates voiced their support for equipping students for their careers earlier.

Chris Souther suggested encouraging businesses to get involved to teach career skills, such as Volkswagen of America training the next generation of automobile engineers right here in Loudoun.

John Ryan said he wants to see more options for students to fit their unique learning styles and interests. Similar to Souther, Debbie Piland suggested bringing businessmen and women, such as architects into the classroom.

John Andrews agreed that students should be engaged in what they might do after high school well before their senior year. “You see the rest of the world-Europe, Asia-that have ways of getting students interested earlier in their career paths,” he said.

Eric Hornberger showed his support for a variety of education models for Loudoun students, including charter, magnet and vocational schools, as well as more involvement with the local business and nonprofit communities. “These are ways we can provide opportunities for students to think broader,” he said, “and expose them to their world.”

The candidate forum was the fourth of its kind the Loudoun Chamber has hosted this election season. Anjan Chimaladinne and Margaret Michaud, both Dulles District candidates, and Sterling District candidate and incumbent Brenda Sheridan, who is running unopposed, did not attend.

Photos: Cascades Fest

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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.

Loudoun Times-Mirror: Algonkian district about dollars and sense



Rose, a parent of two Loudoun students, announced her intention to run at the Loudoun County Republican Committee meeting May 23, the first of the three candidates to commit in Algonkian.

“I am running for School Board because I am a concerned parent and taxpayer,” Rose said. “As a proud resident of Loudoun County, I am impressed by the education my children are receiving in our Loudoun County Public Schools; however, the economic well-being of this county is threatened by the size of the school budget. All too often I am frustrated at the amount of taxpayer money spent by the LCPS on line items that are unwanted, unnecessary, and not in furtherance of its mission to provide our students with a world class education.”

Rose, who grew up in California and attended UCLA, is no stranger to the board, a frequent and vocal attendee of meetings since she settled into the county.

“Over the last four years, I’ve been very vocal on every cycle of the budget,” Rose said. “There are a lot of great things in our schools, great students and great teachers, but we need to be using the money better.”

Rose said the budget, a 300-page behemoth document, is difficult to understand unless you’re actually a part of the board and are able to see how the money is being spent. She believes her background as an attorney will help her tackle understanding the budget.

Her campaign is focused on opening up the board and allowing more people to have a voice.

“I’m just one voice. I would love to hear other voices,” Rose said.

She proposed an idea where the bead meetings move around to different schools, allowing community members an easier time getting to certain meetings.

Rose said that the board needs to take a hard look at the budget and many of Loudoun’s school programs which she said have been ineffective. She also wants to examine personnel and determine if there is overlap between departments.

“I intend to ask a lot of questions to push back on programs, and seeing if they’re actually effective and if the teachers even want them,” Rose said. “We need to present a good faith budget to the Board of Supervisors. Everyone has to cut back. The Board of Supervisors is less trusting and less cooperative with the School Board. We need to mend that relationship, and have those two bodies working cooperatively as a team.”

To learn more, visit debbierose.org.

Loudoun GOP Meeting

Caren Merrick, Debbie Rose, and Barbara Comstock after Debbie won the Loudoun County Republican Committee Endorsement

Back to School BBQ

Photo: Back to School Night

Back to School Night with Suzanne Volpe, Barbara Comstock, and Caren Merrick

Back to School Night with Suzanne Volpe, Barbara Comstock, and Caren Merrick

Parents+Teachers+School Board=Successful Students


Since I announced my candidacy for school board a couple months ago, I have been hard at work going door-to-door talking with parents and taxpayers about public education in Loudoun County. It has been a great learning experience to hear what issues are important to them.

There are the perennial problems with growing class sizes, quality teachers, budget concerns, and the need for more facilities to accommodate students in the future. And, there are many issues new to me, such as transfer credits, participation in sports for home-schooled students, curriculum standards, inclement weather closings, quality of school lunches and the use of technology in the classroom.

A common sentiment expressed by many people is that the school board is not hearing their concerns. This should not be the case. It is the job of the school board to actively bring together parents, constituents, teachers and the administration to find creative solutions to all of our public education issues.

As a member of the school board, I intend to reach out to parents and taxpayers on a regular basis for input on every issue possible. The public should be given the opportunity to be involved and have an impact on the result. Many of the educational concerns can be resolved through a cooperative effort by all the interested parties.

Leadership is not defined by knowing what the answers are, but rather by understanding how to bring people together to work collaboratively toward the core mission of providing students with an excellent education. Loudoun County Public Schools need leaders who can develop solutions with all stakeholders and take action to implement the solutions.

Debbie Rose

Potomac Falls

Ashburn Patch: Letter to the Editor


To the Editor:

Last week I attended the campaign kickoff for Debbie Rose who is running for a seat on the Loudoun County School Board to represent the Algonkian District. The event was well attended and I was very impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd.

Delegate Tag Greason (R-32) gave a ringing endorsement of Debbie and she outlined her plans for the School Board. I agree with Debbie that we need to provide greater transparency on the budget and look for ways to make LCPS more efficient.

As a mother, I am concerned about our public schools and our quality of life here in Loudoun County. If we can eliminate waste in the school system and invest in our students and teachers, we can improve our schools and free up resources to support other essential functions of government like public safety and even provide tax relief. Seventy percent of our tax dollars are spent on LCPS, we need School Board members that will provide better oversight and direction.

I will be knocking on doors to help spread the word about the campaign, and I encourage my neighbors to learn more about Debbie’s campaign at www.debbierose.org.

Cathy McNickle
Sterling, VA

Press Release: Debbie Rose Kicks Off School Board Campaign

For Immediate Release:
June 20, 2011

Phil Tran

Potomac Falls, VA – Debbie Rose kicked off her Loudoun County School Board campaign on Friday. A crowd of over sixty people were present including elected officials, candidates for public office, friends, and neighbors. Rose, a mother of three children and an intellectual property attorney, is seeking to represent the newly created Algonkian District in the School Board.

Delegate Tag Greason, introducing Rose, said:

“Debbie Rose is one of the most hard-working, caring, and honest people I know. She will be an outstanding School Board member.”

Delegate Barbara Comstock issued the following statement in support of Rose:

“I am delighted to see my friend Debbie bring her diligence and passion for educational excellence to work for Loudoun schools. Her legislative background and experience, as well as her involvement in the schools with her own children, will be a tremendous asset for our schools, our parents, and our students.”

Rose emphasized the need to make the LCPS budget more transparent so that parents and taxpayers can see how their tax dollars are spent. She is also advocating more parental involvement and input in how their children are educated in LCPS.

Addressing the crowd, Rose stated, “You have my promise that I will listen to your concerns and work hard to refocus the Loudoun County School Board’s priorities toward providing our kids with an excellent education.”

The Algonkian District was created by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors this year during the redistricting process. It comprises most of the old Potomac District and significant sections of the old Sugarland Run District. The election is on November 8, 2011. For more information, visit www.debbierose.org.