Board of Supervisors Approves Islamic Saudi Academy Lease Extension Following Heated Public Hearing
Boos and yells from audience members objecting to lease renewal cause supervisors to leave hearing
After a heated public hearing that lasted over an hour, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a one-year lease addendum for the Islamic Saudi Academy in Mount Vernon at last night's Board of Supervisors meeting.
Owned by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) has been leasing the 148,000 square foot building on Richmond Highway from the county since 1989. The ISA requested a lease extension from the county earlier this year. Its current one-year lease was set to expire in June of 2011; however, the lease addendum, which was approved with a 6-3 vote, will extend the current lease from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. Included in the lease addendum is an option to extend the lease for two additional one-year periods, which must be approved by the County Executive.
The lease addendum is expected to generate $2.6 million in revenue the first year with a five percent increase each year after. All revenue will be deposited back into the county's general fund.
This move was met with debate from Fairfax County residents, including some who claimed that the private school lacked transparency and feared its teachers taught anti-American ideology in its curriculum.
James Lafferty of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force voiced his opposition to the school during the public hearings, claiming that the school "teaches Shar'iah, and it manages the school with Shar'iah."
"Shar'iah is anti-constitutional," said Lafferty. "We need to get as tough with these people as you do with those who aren't cleaning up their front yard."
However, residents like Lynne Strobel who support the lease renewal say that the school is a "strong contributor" to local businesses who put $2.5 million into Fairfax County each year.
Angela, a supporter of the renewal and the mother of two students enrolled at ISA, countered opponent's claims that the school promoted violence. She remarked, "This curriculum does not include murder."
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland presented 11 letters from community organizations supporting the renewal, including the Mount Vernon Citizens' Association and the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce. According to Supervisor Hyland, the lease amendment allows the County Executive and the Board to terminate the lease.
After a line of speakers spoke in opposition to the ISA renewal, the first supporter of the renewal, Robert Pegues of the Herndon/Reston Gaming Tea Party, received boos and yells from the crowd. Hyland interceded, asking the crowd grant Pegues the same respect they gave to earlier speakers and threatened to leave the hearing if they continued to disrespect Pegues.
When the verbal outbursts and boos turned on to Hyland, the supervisor stood up and exited the auditorium. Hunter Mill Supervisor Catherine Hudgins silently followed her colleague, and the pair didn't return until about an hour later.
Later on into the hearing, Bulova informed the audience that the board hadn't allotted time for dinner in the agenda and that her colleagues stepping in and out were able to watch the hearing from a closed circuit monitor in the back room while they ate dinner.
Both Supervisor Hyland and the Islamic Saudi Academy were unable to be reached for further comment at this time.