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The At-Large Race: Ryan McElveen

One in a series of at-large school board candidates responses to reader questions

Seven candidates will vie for three at-large seats on the Fairfax County School Board in the Nov. 8 elections.

As election day approaches, Patch has selected six questions and sent them in a survey to all at-large candidates.

Over the course of the next week, Patch will run the responses of the six candidates who returned the questionnaires. These responses are unedited, in the candidates' own words. Note: Candidate Lin-Dai Kendall did not return the survey.

Oct 7: Ryan McElveen

Oct. 10: Ilryong Moon

Oct. 11: Steve Stuban

Oct. 12: Ted Velkoff

Today, Ryan McElveen

Is FCPS underfunded, overfunded, or properly funded at the current level? Explain.

FCPS is properly funded, but as our student population increases, school funding should increase proportionately. We cannot expect to provide the same quality education when our schools are bursting at the seams, our students are forced to eat lunch on hallway floors and our teachers face stagnant salaries. This is why voters should vote to approve the school bond and elect leaders who will fight during the budget process to ensure our schools receive necessary funding and avoid candidates who pledge not to raise taxes. The simple fact is the School Board doesn’t set tax rates.

When you compare high schools in Fairfax County, especially looking at free and reduced meals and band and athletic booster numbers, there is a large disparity between some high schools, resulting in “Have vs Have-not” schools within Fairfax County. How do you intend to deal with this growing disparity? How does the School Board and Board of Supervisors plan to help the most needy schools, as its budget continues to shrink?

We need to look outside of traditional methods to further close the achievement gap. The Priority Schools Initiative, which identifies schools to target for extra funding and support, brings with it bureaucratic reporting requirements that burden participants.

In re-examining this initiative, we should consider providing grants to teachers and schools that develop programs to engage parents in communities with socio-economic barriers to achievement. Although accountability is important, we should not let bureaucratic requirements hinder the imagination of well-meaning teachers.

Most important, in these communities we need to consider piloting pre-K programs to address the Kindergarten-readiness gap and ensure that students who are otherwise disadvantaged don’t start off their schooling with avoidable academic weaknesses. In the long run, pre-K will save FCPS money by averting student remediation down the road.

The School Board is almost entirely dependent on school system staff for knowledge and understanding, and, there is no standing ombudsman function. Do you trust the central office staff of FCPS to provide the School Board with honest, well-reasoned, fact-based analysis of policy questions facing that body?

I have been the only candidate advocating that the School Board employ ombudspersons to oversee and make recommendations based on the concerns of both teachers and parents. However, I do not believe the School Board should be forced to hire a middleman to check the work of the central office staff.

Along with parents and community members, I am concerned that the central office staff presents to the School Board their preferred plans for approval instead of providing policy options from which School Board members can choose. It is up to School Board members to challenge the upper-echelons of administration to provide adequate information and policy options.

As a School Board member, it is impossible to know every situation at every school at all times, but as the only former FCPS employee and graduate running, I will be ready on day one to challenge the administration when necessary.

What role do you think parents should play in setting policy and effecting change in our school system? If you had to draw a pie chart showing all those whom you think should be involved in overseeing FCPS policies, what would it look like?

 I don't think it comes down to percentages; it comes down to common sense. Our policies need to allow for a nurturing learning environment for our students. When concerns arise, we need to first consult students and teachers, who experience first-hand the impact of our policies on a daily basis. As a student advocate, I am greatly concerned that students are being forgotten in the equation. Students are greatly concerned about athletic fees, for example, but I’m the only candidate even talking about them.

School start time is an issue that has not been addressed in some time. Will you seriously consider pushing the starting time of our high schools back? Why or why not?

As a former student, I can't believe this is still an issue. The start times should have been changed decades ago, and the fact that they haven't shows the school administration has been deaf to the concerns of the students they are serving. The incoming School Board needs to finally take action, even if it means creating a long-term plan for implementation.

Do you support video surveillance in the county’s high schools? To what extent?

That video surveillance inside schools is even being discussed shows that the welfare of students is often the lowest priority for FCPS. Aside from being an utter waste of money and resources in terms of crime prevention and crime solving, the cameras will completely demoralize our students. I want young voters, many of whom may happen to be high school students, to understand that I am pledging to do everything in my power to not let this happen. Just because some of our schools still look like prisons doesn’t mean we have to equip them with high-security tools.

Mozart October 12, 2011 at 02:04 AM
Hate seeing the comments hijacked by a candidate for a different position. In any case, congratulations, Ryan; yours are probably the most concise and responsive answers to the questions posed that I've seen in this series.
The Convict October 12, 2011 at 02:47 PM
As I pointed out earlier, if your numbers are correct, your complaint is that the incumbent held back $28.7m from 100 children. Now, I'm not as sensitive to big government initiatives as our right-leaning neighbors, but spending $287,000 per child seems a tad foolhardy. Whatever their need, I'm sure that these issues can be resolved for substantially less than $287,000 per child.
Marta D. Saltus October 12, 2011 at 11:05 PM
I agree, it appears Mr. Radle is spamming all school board related articles to advertise his run for chairman of the board of supervisors. I'm not sure if he's trying to confuse people, or get free advertisement for his run. In any event, the comments have nothing to do with the SB races.
Will Radle October 17, 2011 at 04:41 PM
My goal remains expanding awareness of what the incumbent Fairfax County Chairman has been doing to our teachers and students. Every year she has reduced or frozen funding for our growing student population resulting in fewer resources for classrooms. One process measurement is the student to teacher ratio. It has been going in the wrong direction. As past School Board Chairman Dan Storck recently wrote, “The school budget this year is less than it was four years ago and there are 10,000+ more students.” Every year the incumbent has been chairman, the take home pay of teachers has decreased in the shadow of rising health care premiums, food costs, gas prices, and real estate taxes. We have a 42 percent attrition rate. Within their first 5 years, nearly half of our teachers are leaving Fairfax County Public Schools. The incumbent Chairman has not been helping by lowering their take home pay every year. She blames the economy for everything; however analysis shows Fairfax County is beginning to lose our competitive edge to Prince William County who suffered greater losses in the Great Recession. I will offer no excuses as Chairman. A. Will Radle, Jr. (I) Independent Candidate for Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors FairfaxAdvocates@gmail.com 571-358-9711
Paul S. November 01, 2011 at 07:16 PM
I am so thrilled to vote for Ryan McElveen because he's a got the charisma, energy, and first-hand experience in what is actually happening in Fairfax County education. He's been the underdog through out the campaign season and I think he's really going to surprise everyone.

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