Ten candidates are vying for an at-large seat on the Fairfax County School Board. Patch has asked each of them a series of questions on discipline policy reform - a topic fast becoming a key issue in this crowded race.
1. Do you think the recent reforms passed by the school board changing the discipline policy were appropriate?
The June 9 discipline policy reforms were both much needed and long overdue. They improve the Hearing Office’s accountability to families and to the public, and they improve the flexibility of school personnel in handling the infractions of individual students at the local school level.
2. How would you have voted on this issue?
I am in favor of all of the reforms enacted on June 9 and would have voted for them. I believe they do not fully address the concerns of families, and some additional measures are still needed.
3. What is your opinion on the involuntary transfer policy that allows schools to move students to other schools as punishment?
The focus of FCPS discipline policies needs to be on helping students learn from their mistakes. As a parent, I want school officials dealing with my children to have a teaching attitude. I want them to help my daughters recognize the impact of their behavior on others, accept responsibility for their actions, and learn from their mistakes. Preferably, that would be done without an involuntary transfer. In 2009-2010, of 69,430 discipline infractions at local schools, 636 cases (0.9%) were recommended for expulsion, and of these, 139 (0.2%) resulted in involuntary transfers to regular Fairfax County public schools. Involuntary transfers may still be appropriate consequences for some of the most egregious infractions such as assault, gang activity, and drug dealing on campus.
4. Do you think the discipline policy needs to be further reformed? If so, what recommendations would you make?
Additional reforms are still needed. If elected, I am likely to add to this list of changes that I would currently advocate:
- The right of parents and guardians to appropriately advocate on behalf of their children still needs further clarification in the SR&R. No statement signed by a student should lead to pre-determined consequences. Parents need to be brought into the process and involved before consequences are determined.
- The procedures and instructions that govern the hearing process should be reviewed and amended, if necessary, to guarantee respect and fairness toward all participants.
- Conformance to these procedures should be verified by periodic audits, either through observation or review of recorded hearings. Any such auditing must be performed in a manner that conforms to legal requirements that ensure privacy.
- Discrepancies across schools in the handling of incidents need to be reduced.
Ted Velkoff will bring a diverse set of perspectives to the School Board, including problem solving ability honed as a software engineer for almost twenty-five years; appreciation of the arts and multi-disciplinary thinking from many years of musical training; and the perspective of a Fairfax County working parent that volunteered in his children’s schools and activities. Ted and his wife Patricia have been married 29 years and lived in Chantilly for the past 19. Their two daughters attended Fairfax County Public Schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade; Catherine graduated from South Lakes High School; Elizabeth from Chantilly High School. Ted served as PTA treasurer at Poplar Tree Elementary School, Rocky Run Middle School and Chantilly High School. He also served as PTSA president at Chantilly High School. He also volunteered as Stage Manager for the Fairfax Ballet, where his daughters studied dance and performed. He is a software architect for Integrity One Partners in Reston, and previously worked for both Lockheed Martin and IBM.
Patch will be running a question-and-answer series each day with the remaining school board candidates who are seeking an at-large seat on the Fairfax County School Board.
Check back daily to read why each of these candidates thinks discipline policy reform has become a key issue in this race.