Parents at a community meeting Tuesday designed to gather input about Fairfax County's next superintendent say the new leader will step into an excellent school system, but also one with dwindling resources and an achievement gap it is struggling to close — challenges they said would be best navigated by someone who could maximize a limited budget and respect and listen to the community.
The Tuesday meeting at Langley High School in McLean was one of several this week facilitated by the search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the company hired to lead the search for a new Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent as Superintendent Jack Dale's retirement approaches in June.
The firm also led the search for Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr in 2011, and for Dale in 2004.
Only five community members attended the meeting at Langley - the same number that attended a similar meeting at South County High School in Lorton on Monday.
Consultant Hank Gmitro asked attendees three questions:
- What do you believe is working really well in the school system?
- What are the challenges, issues and problems you think the new superintendent is going to face?
- What will it take to be a successful superintendent?
The small group reached some consensus about what qualities they are looking for in a future superintendent, including someone who could manage state and federal expectations, someone who would maximize a limited budget, someone who will help average students succeed and someone who values diversity.
Other challenges mentioned by the group: providing a wholesome and healthy environment and closing the achievement gap without leaving behind middle-of-the-road students.
More than one community member expressed the desire for a future superintendent who will listen and value community input. Meeting attendees agreed Dale has not respected and valued that input.
Cheryl Howard, whose child attends Marshall High School and had another student attend McLean High School, said she is "looking for someone who shows you respect outwardly, who at least portrays respect to the community."
Howard also said Fairfax County does a "great job" with high achievers, and directs resources to low-achieving students, but doesn't always necessarily pay enough attention to average students — something she hoped could be improved with a new superintendent.
Gmitro said he will collect this feedback and deliver it to the school board for consideration Dec. 20.
The search firm will begin vetting candidates in February.
The other forums will be held:
- Wednesday t Robinson Secondary School, 7 p.m. in the cafeteria
- Thursday at 8115 Gatehouse Road in Falls Church, 10 a.m.
- Thursday at Annandale High School, 7 p.m. in the cafeteria
- Friday at 8115 Gatehouse Road in Falls Church, 1 p.m.
All Fairfax County residents and FCPS employees are invited to attend the meetings and offer feedback.
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