Pat Hynes' 2013 Goals for Fairfax Schools
Fairfax County School Board member shares visions for the new year.
Patch has asked Fairfax County School Board members to share their goals and priorities for 2013.
Member Pat Hynes' (Hunter Mill) goals run unedited below.
As I finish my first year on the school board, I’m humbled by many debts of gratitude. Thank you to all those who helped me understand, were patient with my mistakes, who had the courage to advocate and the courage to move forward with faith. Thanks, especially, to the educators, who take good care of our children’s minds and hearts every day.
Finally, thanks to The Patch for giving me this opportunity to look forward. My five goals for the next year on school board - in no particular order because everything is crucial and should have been done yesterday - are:
- Provide funding for meaningful expansion of early education programs. We know our achievement gaps start at the kindergarten door and we know that early education is far and away the smartest public investment we can make, returning up to $14 for every $1 spent. Our school system and county governments are working together to try to close kindergarten-readiness gaps, but it’s simply not enough. With 800-plus families on our Head Start waiting list, we are way behind.
- Begin replacing standardized test scores as our measure of academic achievement, and using instead reliable assessments that measure individual growth toward FCPS goals for whole-child development and twenty-first century skills. The test-score chase has opened our eyes to gaps in achievement, and we can not lose that vigilance, but there must be a better way to measure growth and report results to the community. As an elementary teacher, I administered the SOL tests for nine years and I do not have faith in them to measure reliably even the content-based standards they purport to measure, never mind the critical life and career skills we want our children to master. There are better alternatives and I am confident that FCPS staff, with board support, will make progress toward meaningful assessment reform.
- Empower our teachers to participate more effectively in policy debates, and put more trust in them as professionals to manage their time and make good decisions in their own classrooms. In our well-meaning way, we policy-makers continually add to teachers’ burdens and we seldom ask first. I want us to ask teachers, every year, what works and what doesn’t, what we can take off their plates and what they need to do their jobs. The teachers’ lament of “not enough time” stands in for frustration with policy-makers and administrators who aren’t listening. We need to listen more.
- Hire a new superintendent who will pick up where Dr. Dale leaves off, advocating for our children and leading the school system on a course of continual improvement. This hiring decision is an enormous responsibility. I am grateful for the help of the community and our excellent consultants, Hazard, Young & Attea. Dr. Dale will leave an important legacy, as will the next superintendent. I want to feel certain it’s a legacy this community will celebrate.
- Challenge the “new normal” of pessimism, distrust, and tight budgets, and be an effective voice for the many in this community who expect their elected officials to invest in great public schools. I have never been a fan of the “new normal,” in which we all glumly accept sub-par public investments in schools, roads, parks and other public services. We live in a wonderful community here. We know that an excellent public school system is a fundamental part of who we are. We local elected officials owe it to this community to spend their tax dollars wisely - FCPS spends much less per pupil than comparable surrounding districts, and is undergoing a system-wide state-funded audit right now. But we also owe it to our constituents to be firm in our advocacy for adequate school funding, at the local, state and federal levels. After a half decade of ballooning enrollment and static revenues, it’s time to turn the ship around.
Happy New Year! Please keep in touch. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
FCPS School Board
Vice Chair and Hunter Mill District Representative