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Posted at 2:03 PM ET, 09/10/2009

Who Is Right in Fairfax Schools Contract Issue?

By Valerie Strauss

A coalition of Fairfax County parents groups and teachers unions are upset at what they say was little public input into an expected decision tonight by the School Board to extend the control of Jack Dale, the schools superintendent.

This is a situation in which both sides are right.

The school board in the Washington area’s largest school system has not in the past sought much public comment during this process, instead relying on what members see as concrete and measurable markers on which they can make their decision.

The areas that most concern the board are with student achievement and operations in the 169,000-student school system. And by standards set by the board, Dale deserves four more years, which he is expected to get.

The board should measure Dale on what they set forth as performance measures.

And the public deserves a chance to talk to a school board about the performance of their schools superintendent, something the board ought to consider for future contracts.

Some of the issues that Dale’s critics want to raise are worth serious discussion. One in particular that interests The Answer Sheet is the start time of school for teenagers.

A group called SLEEP has argued for years that schools should start class later for teens, whose body clocks, scientists have shown, are different than younger kids and adults. It sounds like a teenage excuse, but experts say it is true: It is hard for teenagers to go to bed early.

Superintendents serious about helping kids perform their best should reconsider the very basic notion of when kids go to school.

Stay tuned to The Answer Sheet for more on Dale--and more on sleep.

By Valerie Strauss  | September 10, 2009; 2:03 PM ET
Categories:  Fairfax County Public Schools  | Tags:  Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County School Board, Jack Dale, teenagers and sleep  
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I am sorry, but as a teacher in Fairfax County I feel like I need to point out the fact that the class schedule is fine the way it is. I say this because if they were to allow high school to begin later it would disrupt both the middle and elementary school bus systems, cause high school sports practices to go later, and subsequently cost the county more money. The members of SLEEP cause a minor disturbance when compared to the uprising that would actually occur if we moved the high school start time back.

Posted by: learningshouldbefun | September 11, 2009 12:49 AM | Report abuse

"Some of the issues that Dale’s critics want to raise are worth serious discussion. One in particular that interests The Answer Sheet is the start time of school for teenagers."

How do you know he didn't? I was on the Superintendent's Teacher Advisory Council last year and this topic was discussed multiple times. Start and end times for all levels were looked at and discussed.

While the start times might not be best for teenagers, the decision was made looking at the best interests for the majority of the students (K-8) which far outnumber the high-schoolers. The new bus routes are a direct result of some of this discussion about the start times.

I have been enjoying the postings on the new Answer Sheet, but with this statement, it appears that you did not check your information before posting. Just because the parents don't agree with the decision, doesn't mean that it wasn't seriously considered.

Posted by: debs125751 | September 11, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse


You obviously did not check the facts. FCPS did an extensive community engagement campaign last year on start times. The process took over a year and involved focus groups, community dialogues, task forces, and online surveys. Over 75% of respondents said to keep the start times the way they are. This included parents, high school students, and community members.

Not sure how SLEEP can say there was no community input. The public spoke and they did not want to change. SLEEP won't accept it. Try doing a search in the Post archives and see for yourself.

Posted by: URStoopid | September 11, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

While the current Board seems within their rights to extend Dr Dale's term to the NEXT election, it appears beyond the pale to extend the term beyond that. If the parents who want change win the election, their representatives should have the ability to hire a new superintendent. This has nothing to due with any of the issues, just the elected school board should hire someone they believe in. It is nothing personal. Just politics. The people of Farifax should choose.

Posted by: mbc7 | September 13, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

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