Low Enrollment Prompted West Potomac TV Cuts

Teacher layoffs, program reductions are not a budget issue, Fairfax County Public Schools says.


Fairfax County Public Schools says the decision to cut professional television production classes from four schools in the county - and three teachers along with them - is not due to budget cuts, but instead to declining enrollment.

FCPS spokesperson John Torre told Patch that TV production programs at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, South County High School in Lorton and JEB Stuart High School in Falls Church will also be canceled.

Patch reported last week that Dave Ruby, a professional TV production teacher at Fairfax Academy, who also leads the student-run production company, Digital Wave, will be laid off at the end of the school year. Students, alumni and supporters alike started an online petition soon after to try and help save his job.

Torre said the program at Fairfax Academy will remain, but Ruby had received a "reduction in force" notification.

The reasons behind the cuts? Plummeting enrollment.

"It's an enrollment issue, not a budget cut," he said.

Torre said in the 2010-11 school year, for example, enrollment in the program at JEB Stuart went from 53 to just 10 in 2011-12.

At West Potomac, enrollment also dropped from 53 in 2010-11 to 10 in 2011-12.

Enrollment at Fairfax Academy, on the other hand, has remained steady over the past few years, which is why that program will remain open.

Students from high schools that are losing the program will have the option of transferring to Fairfax Academy, Torre said.

Nancy Mantelli, who taught professional TV production using the same curriculum at West Potomac Academy, is one of the other teachers who, like Ruby, has lost her job.

"I am shocked and saddened at the fact that a county the size of Fairfax, with 180,000 students, has chosen to close three of the four programs that teaches these 21st-century technology classes," she said.

Mantelli said the classes are AP classes (Advanced Placement). And, just like any other AP class, they should be valued as such. She said it's not just about being "the next Steven Spielberg," it's about having a highly sought-after and marketable skill that will win you real jobs.

"There isn't a vertical market in the world that doesn't use video to either sell a product or train its people," she said. "Every industry has a team on staff or an employee to do what I train these students to do. Taking away these classes from high school students is like taking pen and paper away from a child."

"YouTube doesn't have five million hits a day by accident," she added. "All I wanted to do was teach these kids a marketable skill, and now it's gone."

Mantelli said though FCPS says students from the three other county schools who still wish to take the professional TV production classes will be told they can transfer to Fairfax Academy, she knows that is too far out of reach for some of them.

"Go from Mount Vernon to Fairfax? It will take an hour. Some won't be able to do it," she said.

FCPS has not yet confirmed who will run the professional TV production at Fairfax Academy now that Ruby has been let go.

Patch will update this story as more information becomes available.

What do you think of the reduction in high school TV production classes in Fairfax County? Tell us in the comments.

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Annabel Baer May 03, 2013 at 12:49 PM
Ms. Mantelli and her video production class were what prompted our oldest son to go to college and pursue a film degree. Perhaps if the school system had done a better job marketing the value of the program, more students would have applied. We are losing a valuable, dedicated teacher. How very sad.
J Price May 07, 2013 at 12:54 PM
What a shame


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