2013: Pat Hynes' Goals for Fairfax Schools

Fairfax County School Board member shares visions for the new year.

As 2013 approaches, 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.  (patricia.hynes@fcps.edu)

Pat Hynes
FCPS School Board
Vice Chair and Hunter Mill District Representative

See also:

2013: Ryan McElveen's Goals for Fairfax Schools

John Farrell December 30, 2012 at 02:11 PM
What's missing from this list: Parental notification before interrogation of students by principals. Phasing SROs out, helping to end the prison like atmosphere at most FCPS high schools. A social worker or psychologist in every high school to help the large fraction of our kids who report depression. Did anyone else notice that one of the victims at Sandy Hook, a school of 578 kids, was the full time school psychologist! But FCPS refuses to put these mental health professions into our overcrowded high schools of 2000+ kids. Requiring every principal to have 10,000 hours experience in the relevant level classroom before being considered for any leadership position. Requiring high school principals to have graduate level course work in adolescent cognitive and emotional development as a condition of employment. To have at least 1/3 of our high school principals hired from outside Fairfax and end the crony hiring that is almost exclusively from within FCPS. Later high school start times. An FCPS ombudsman to help parents and students navigate the byzantine bureaucracy at Gatehouse. Desegregating FCPS. Reopening Willton Center to reduce the overcrowding at Bailey's. Putting a hard cap on the number of kids we try to crowd into our elementary schools. That's an agenda worthy of FCPS.
Audrey Hassett December 30, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Right now, FCPS is facing a huge problem that didn’t make your list: overcrowded advanced academic centers (AACs). This has resulted in some local AACs being closed to new 3rd grade students -- and already overcrowded schools (like Westbriar Elementary) being proposed as locations for new AAC programs. FCPS is avoiding the real problem: too many children are being accepted into the AAC program. AACs were originally formed to meet the needs of truly gifted (i.e. brilliant) students for whom the regular education program is not appropriate. These students were to be identified by the teachers and by the CogAT and Naglieri tests. What we have now is a situation where parents, who understandably want to give their child every possible advantage, are trying to wedge their child into an AAC by completing their own referrals and paying potentially huge amounts of money for tutoring programs to prepare their child to take these two ability tests. As a result, the AACs are being inundated with children who, though very smart, could have their needs met in the regular education program. In the past, when the test prep centers obtained a copy of the CogAT test, FCPS’s band-aid solution was to pay for a new “FCPS” version of the test. It's only a matter of time before test prep centers get ahold of this test. Bottom line: FCPS needs to address the root causes of the AAC overcrowding, rather than creating new centers in already overcrowded schools.
Kathy Keith December 30, 2012 at 05:48 PM
FCPS either needs to start over on AAP or go back to relying exclusively on testing. However, the latter is not necessarily valid now that parents send their kids to "prep" schools for the IQ tests. Years ago, these tests were under lock and key. Today, these tests are being used in practice sessions in these "prep" schools. This takes away any validity the tests may have. Go back to keeping kids in community schools. If not, then release the test scores to the community and let's see how much difference there is between the top students in regular classes and the bottom students in AAP. My guess is: not much.
Pat Hynes December 31, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Though it's been difficult, and will continue to challenge us, I'm pleased that the school system has begun to reform Advanced Academics. Relieving overcrowding at AAP centers is one important goal, as part of an overall effort to better align facilities and instruction. My hope is that we are headed away from centers and toward a goal of meeting every child's needs in their own neighborhood schools. The creation of centers for "advanced" learners probably made sense years ago, but there have been unintended consequences. We know better now how to meet individual student needs. We know that good curriculum is curriculum that challenges every learner and provides teachers with built-in opportunities for differentiation. The transition from the current centers to a more decentralized approach will not happen overnight, and may not be appropriate everywhere. But to the extent that we are providing more families the opportunity to remain at their neighborhood schools, rather than forcing them to make difficult choices between programs, I think we will be on the right track.
Pat Hynes December 31, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Westbriar's overcrowding will most likely get worse as the result of closing the Louise Archer AAP center to future Westbriar students. Westbriar families have sent 20 to 30 students every year to Louise Archer's center, effectively moving the crowding issue across town. Fortunately, Westbriar is due for a major addition in the next few years, which will help. In addition, the two schools that would feed into a Westbriar center - Freedom Hill and Stenwood - will both have local AAP programs, to encourage families to stay. The AAP decisions for the 2013-14 school year will be made by the school board in January. Please check the web site at fcps.edu for meeting dates and agendas, and if you would like to sign up to speak.
Kathy December 31, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Pat, I think you've done an outstanding job your first year on board. You've listened and paid attention to a variety of comments and concerns on different issues. You've made some necessary but difficult choices. I appreciate you sharing some of your ideas which I'm sure are a tip of the iceberg. Everybody has an agenda of what's most important to them. I'm glad to have a spokesperson who's been a parent AND worked in a classroom so you "get it". Thank you for all of your hard work this year.
Virginia Fitz Shea December 31, 2012 at 05:45 PM
"The teachers’ lament of “not enough time” stands in for frustration with policy-makers and administrators who aren’t listening," Pat Hynes says. " We need to listen more." Discussions of time involve students as well as teachers. Who is speaking on behalf of students? Are administrators speaking on behalf of students? Let’s hope so. It’s not very fair for individual members of school board try to pressure administrators to listen only to the teachers. Who speaks up for the students? Parents don’t have access to the internal workings of the school system. Do we need to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to represent the interests of the students? The Fairfax County School Board DOES have a duty to provide a school schedule that takes into consideration both students and teachers. In past years the school board has ignored the pleas of the School Health Advisory Committee to provide more time for physical education and recess in the elementary schools. The 12 school board members are the ones who aren’t listening to their own advisory committee. The Fairfax County School Board recently forced the 16 elementary schools that had full day Mondays to switch back to early dismissals. Granted, switching all elementary schools to full-day Mondays would be controversial. However, this option should be openly considered and debated. The school board should listen to everyone, including parents.
Audrey Hassett January 02, 2013 at 02:45 AM
Pat, I appreciate that you also see issues that need to be resolved with regard to the AAC program. In terms of the immediate changes that are being made, I feel strongly that a center program should go into the Marshall pyramid elementary school that has the most space to accommodate it. The needs of the non-AAC children at Westbriar are being overlooked by choosing Westbriar as a center based on the number of children who leave to attend the center. Please ask that Jim Kacur and others show which of these elementary schools has the most space and will have the least negative impact on the school as a whole. Westbriar's addition is not slated to take place until 2017 and it has not yet been funded. Who knows what could happen between now and then. Further, one might argue that with local level 4 services being offered at Westbriar in 2013/14, WES parents of center qualified children have yet another reason to leave their kids at Westbriar. The non-center qualified WES kids are the ones without the options and will endure the negative impact of adding a center.
Karen January 11, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Pat Hynes wrote: "The transition from the current centers to a more decentralized approach will not happen overnight, and may not be appropriate everywhere." You have raised such an excellent point -- this decentralized approach is not appropriate everywhere. As it exists today, there is not consistency from AAP Center to AAP Center in the county. That's part of the reason there is such overcrowding at Haycock (unofficially known as "the best AAP Center in FCPS") and not necessarily at other centers. Hopefully the School Board will think of students across the ENTIRE county, versus "throwing out" a nationally-recognized Advanced Academics model due to overcrowding at a relatively small number of schools.


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