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Issues

My thoughts on issues of importance to Fairfax County students, parents and educators will be posted here.Your thoughts are of great interest to me; please write to hynesforschoolboard@gmail.com and let me know what you think!

The School Board’s Role

The Fairfax County School Board has three important roles:  to set policy priorities for our schools with leadership and vision; to provide independent oversight to ensure that school system practices are in line with policy; and to be an inclusive and respectful communication link between the school system and the community. 


Maintaining Fairfax County Public Schools’ world-class reputation in the twenty-first century demands visionary leadership.  We are preparing our students for careers that do not yet exist.  What we know for sure is that our graduates will have to be flexible, creative problem-solvers who collaborate well and have strong communication skills.  That means measuring our students’ progress on those critical twenty-first century skills.  It means keeping our schools at the cutting edge of technology and providing the support students and educators need to make powerful use of that technology.  It also means constantly challenging our assumptions and looking for proven innovations in our own classrooms and around the globe.


Independent oversight of the school system depends on school board members’ asking the right questions and having access to a great deal of information.  Because the school board has a skeletal staff - four administrative assistants for twelve board members - finding and evaluating information can be challenging.  An independent auditor, who reports directly to the school board, would be a welcome support for school board members as they make budget decisions.  In other policy areas, school board members must leverage their time by empowering other people - citizens, employee groups and other experts - to help them stay informed.


Communication is the daily work of school board members.  With no office space or desk to sit behind, a school board member’s office is the whole community.  That, of course, is an enormous responsibility, so in addition to being visible several times a week at events and gathering places throughout the community, board members must have access to user-friendly communication tools.  Fairfax County Public Schools’ web site contains a tremendous amount of information, but is clunky for users and should be updated.  School board members could make better use of social media tools, like Facebook and Twitter, powerful platforms for give-and-take between elected officials and the community.  Finally, it is very important for school board members to be in constant communication with other elected officials at the local, state and federal levels, advocating for our schools and for strong communities to support them. 

 
 
 
Support for Educators
 
Teachers, specialists, instructional assistants, school-based administrators - all the people who educate our children every day - deserve our respect and support. We know that is not just about money, although after two years of frozen salaries, it’s a little bit about money. Mostly, job satisfaction for educators is about knowing they can do a great job with the time and resources they have. We must maintain competitive salaries and benefits for our teachers and school staff. That means restoring annual step and cost-of-living increases. It also means protecting defined benefit pension plans, a promise we have made to our educators in part to compensate for wages that do not keep up with the cost of living in Fairfax County. We should not move to a less-secure retirement option for new school employees unless the employees themselves unequivocally tell us that is an option they prefer. Job satisfaction is about more than pay and benefits. Our excellent educators deserve the training and support they need to maintain nurturing environments and high expectations for our children. We should recognize teachers who take on leadership roles in our schools and encourage all of our employees to participate in policy discussions at the highest levels. Employee organizations should be active partners in policy making as well.
 
 
Transparency
 

School Board members represent the communityʼs wishes about our most important public resource: our schools. Formal School Board meetings and work sessions are not sufficient settings for those essential conversations between School Board members and constituents. The day-to-day work of being on the School Board is being out in the community, listening to parents, students, educators and other interested citizens, taking questions and suggestions, finding answers and making sure everyone has a chance to be heard.  
 
“Office hours” for School Board members should include regular town halls, shopping center sidewalks on Saturdays, after-school events and PTSA meetings, Sunday morning coffees, ice cream socials at community rooms, book talks at libraries and any other setting where community members can participate easily. Engaging in conversation on social media, like Facebook and Twitter, is also an increasingly powerful way to keep in touch with the community. Regular contact with other elected officials at the county, state and federal levels, builds the spirit of cooperation and support our schools need to excel. Ultimately, School Board members use their judgment in making tough decisions, but that judgment must be informed by the input of a respected, engaged electorate. 

 

Accountability 

Accountability in public education is essential. The community deserves to know that our schools are doing a great job. Our current system of accountability, built on high-stakes tests, is not worthy of our students.

As the President and leaders in Congress grapple with how to fix No Child Left Behind, the federal education law that is predicted to give every school in America a failing grade by 2014, we here in Fairfax County should be thinking about how we want to evaluate our own schools. Our loftiest goal for our children is not that they will pass a battery of multiple-choice tests at the end of this school year. On the contrary, we have important long-term goals for their success in college and the twenty-first century economy. The current School Board has begun asking school staff how we can assess our progress on those goals. We must vigorously pursue that conversation as a community, with input from teachers, looking to build on successful examples in the U.S. and around the world.

 

 
Closing the Kindergarten Readiness Gap 
 
We have high expectations for every student, but some begin their school years already behind.  The differences in reading and math readiness show up on the first day of kindergarten and take years to remedy.  Research clearly shows that support in the preschool years pays for itself many times over throughout a child's school years and beyond into successful adulthood.  We know how to create rich early environments for all children, but we're not doing as much as we can.  I will focus on coordinating and expanding existing efforts to meet our youngest children where they are - at home, in daycare or preschool - and give them the school-readiness support they need.  From the maternity ward to the kindergarten door, by training caregivers, mentoring parents and building relationships between schools and neighborhood child care providers, we can ensure every child access to an excellent education on day one.