The REAL State of LCPS Education

[Promoting this post to get the conversation going. I don’t agree with every point in this post, but I like the thoughts behind them! – Liz}

I’m going to upset a bunch of people, but guess what?..I don’t care. I don’t have a child in the LCPS system (yet), he is in a private Pre-K school and I do not work for LCPS. I’ve lived in the county since 1999 and the problems persist year after year. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

The REAL State of LCPS Education, from a taxpayer’s perspective:

1. Teachers are horribly under paid and they are stretched far beyond any reasonable limits.

2. Furthermore, the teachers do not have adequate resources they need, and the LCPS Administration is either unwilling or unable to resolve this issue.

3. Parents/Tax Payers are required to pick up the financial deficiencies, because we are required to purchase the most basic classroom items for our children.

4. Dr Hatrick uses, and I mean uses, our children and teachers as pawns in his yearly money grab from the County’s overall budget. This practice is shameful and our kids/teachers should not be collateral damage or pawns in Dr. Hatrick’s political game.

5. Children spend their weekends and nights walking the streets of their neighborhoods selling fund-raiser “stuff”, because the LCPS Administration has not properly allocated funds for extra-curricular activities.

6. In the recent days Dr. Hatrick was quoted “Right now, we’re buying textbooks now just to say we buy them, and they’re not being used because they’re not up-to-date”. WTF? Really? Dr. Hatrick, here is a really novel idea; purchase a more sustainable technology such as iPads or other tablets which can download electronic versions of text books.

7. It is a fact, as cited in the published “State of Education”, that LCPS is the 4th largest school system in the entire state of Virginia, yet 50% of the schools recently failed to meet Federal standards. That is an embarrassment to the taxpayers. The LCPS Administration has failed our children.

8. As of 2011, LCPS does not have a specific school designated towards Innovation/Technology, yet Fairfax County’s flagship Thomas Jefferson school continues to be nationally recognized for their achievements. The children of Loudoun County deserve better than this.

9. The Busing/Walking programs. Good grief! Where do I start with this debacle? I recently discovered that the School Administration instituted such a poorly designed policy that it is angering thousands of parents. The “new” busing/walking policy is downright inefficient, a huge waste of gas, and just plain ridiculous.

10. LCPS Administration continues to make land acquisitions that are not only questionable, they are fiscally irresponsible. Why does the LCPS Administration continue to buy land at an inflated value, even after land appraisers report millions of dollars in devalue?

11. The schools that have been constructed in the past decade were modeled after 1980′s projected capacities. Which makes me wonder, why are the schools using the same cookie cutter mold for our new schools? Shouldn’t the new schools have a mandate that they build for 120% of capacity? For example: Briar Woods and Heritage High Schools have 10+ trailers on-site due to over capacity. At Freedom HS, the new freshman will go to Mercer MS for 1/2 of the school day. Bottom line is these newer high schools were built for a specific capacity and in a few short years it has proven to be inadequate. I am not a mathematician nor an architect (so I’m not that smart), but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Dr. Hatrick’s cookie cutter school no longer works. In the planning stages of constructing a new school, we need to build for actual capacity and over capacity. Otherwise our children will continue to suffer.

12. Yes, the “cost per child” has gone down slightly over the past 3 years — but the student enrollment has increased at a rapid rate and that can attribute to the lower cost per child. Certainly Dr. Hatrick has not made any drastic budget cuts to the “administrative” line items.

13. Our children and their parents are required to pay extra for AP classes, parking, sports , etc. A majority of our tax dollars go to the school budget, yet each year families spent an additional $1,500 to pay for their child’s extracurricular activities. Who knew that being really smart would require to you pay for Advance Placement classes?

14. LCPS administration should be looking into alternative fueled vehicles (buses,cars etc). And why are the tax payers paying mileage expenses for “in-county” travel?

15. If we are constructing new schools, why are we not requiring them to integrate solar power, re-filtered rain water systems etc or finding other kind of LEED/self sustaining construction?

16. Why is the LCPS Admin not evaluating a merit/incentive based pay for our teachers. Give the really exceptional teachers a cash incentive for their efforts. This boost moral and the under performing teachers will have more incentive to improve their performance. This is a net win for the teachers and our children.

17. The LCPS Admin should be looking into technology partnerships with Fortune 1000 companies. Let our children and teacher beta test emerging technologies.

18. Food/Nutrition: Our County still has strong agricultural roots. Why are we not utilizing the local farms to supplement our kid’s lunches with locally grown fruits/veggies? This approach would be cost effective, help out local farms and provide nutritional benefits for our kids. Again another net win for local farmers and our children. For example, a field trip for children to local farms to pick strawberries, apples, etc. This becomes a science lesson as well as teaching our children the value of food and sourcing sustainable food.

19. Start/Dismissal times. There are proven studies that later times (especially for teenagers) leads to better performance. Why does the LCPS Admin refuse to even entertain this topic? Full Day Kindergarten, in the immediate NoVA area I believe that Loudoun is the only school system that does not offer a full day program. And for that reason alone I am spending $24,000 a year to send my 4 year old to a private All-Day Kindergarten.

20. Student to Teacher ratio; everyone is getting harmed with the current ratio. Teachers are spread too thin and kids are getting lost in the “crowd”. The LCPS Admin needs to review their massive budget and hire more teachers. The Admin also needs to make some massive cuts to other wasteful programs and invest in the teachers/kids.

21. LCPS Administration needs to make a plea to the general business community. Requesting their help to supplement any budget short falls. Business could donate computers, tablets, software, chairs , etc. For goodness sakes we have the privilege to live in one of the richest Counties in the Country. The LCPS Administration just needs to ask and the business community would be more than willing to help .

22. Why is the LCPS Admin spending hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to send “Administrators” to feel-good conferences. I would fully support using “conference budget line item” and reallocating it to sending Teachers to career improvement classes or continued education.

23. School Board members seeking party endorsements for elections is just wrong. These positions should be comprised of principals, members of PTO, etc. I am concerned that the education of our children has turned into a political game, funded by anonymous PACs (Political Action Committees) or influential businesses. Too many former School Board members have gone on to work for the very same companies that generously donated to their campaigns. Doesn’t anyone see a problem with that?

24. School Security. I am thankful that our schools do not have metal detectors and are a relatively safe environment for our children and teachers. I am concerned that some schools do not have enough intervention type programs for drugs, gang violence and bullying.

25. Dr Hatrick’s immediate removal. For many of the reasons I have stated above and for reasons I have yet to state…he has got to go.

Bottom line is our children’s education in paramount and the LCPS Administration is failing our kids as well as our teachers. The Return on Investment should translate to higher scores and a world class school system. During the Hatrick era there is an appearance that our children have become secondary to his personal agenda.

13 thoughts on “The REAL State of LCPS Education

  1. Epluribusunum

    Wow. I’m sure there’s enough here for everyone, so have at it.

    9. What is the current walking/busing policy? This is systemic beyond LCPS to the extent that communities and connections between them aren’t walkable.

    13. Please tell me that there are needs-based exemptions for these fees. AP classes? Really?

    15. Because we would be subjected to a relentless name-calling campaign by Mr. Delgaudio – even though there are ways to achieve cost savings via some of these strategies.

    18. Same as 15.

    At the very least, I would say that the lack of confidence in Dr. Hatrick’s ability to ensure bias-free treatment of all students and employees is a big problem. There is the widespread perception that things get swept under the rug and people are bullied into not speaking up. That means that even where there might not actually be bias, the default assumption would be that there is. I don’t see how one can run anything with an absence of confidence like that.

  2. The Shadown-redux

    E,

    My post is just the tip of the iceberg. Can you imagine if I had more time? To answer your questions, please see below for my answers:

    9 – Busing/walking. Part of the issue is the “new” demarcation point of defining which children will walk or be bused to school. Another logistically the issue of AM/PM pick up or drop off from both kindergarten sessions and it. Specifically; buses will pick up but do not drop off due to schedule conflicts with MS/HS. So parents must make arrangements and allowing a 6 year old to walk home (alone) is not a viable option.

    13. AP expense. To my knowledge the LCPS administration does not have any exceptions or waivers. If you take an AP class you required to pay for it, period. I personally know several families who have teenagers that are bright and they are taking up to 5 AP classes. Their families are required to pay a $85 fee per child and per AP class. Again I never thought our school system would financially “fine” children who are smart.

    16 & 18. I can’t believe that I am defending Delgaudio, but this really isn’t his responsibility, it is the school Superintendent’s. However if you review Virginia’s Statewide school ranking system, the ES, MS & HS within Delgaudio’s district continue to rank in the lowest percentile (in performance, SOL scores etc). I think part of the issue is language based. Some Sterling schools would benefit from bi-lingual teachers and a greater emphasis on language immersion.

  3. Wolverine

    I think the language problem in Sterling Park schools might be resolved eventually as the younger Hispanic kids move up the educational ladder. In our neighborhood, which remains about 45% Hispanic immigrant, the Hispanic youngsters at the elementary and early middle school levels can often be heard at play speaking English to each other, even within families, and with hardly any accent. I think this bodes well for a change sooner rather than later at the higher educational levels as these kids move up — barring another large influx of new immigrants.

    Moreover, I have also noticed a socio-cultural change over the last year or two within our own neighborhood Hispanic community. When the economy took a downswing and blue collar jobs became more difficult to find, many of the younger, unattached Hispanic males left the area for parts elsewhere. We now seem to have more settled immigrant family units rather than clusters of overcrowding most often consisting of unattached males. These remaining families in many cases appear to me to be adjusting far better now to the quality of life standards in the larger community, and the previous problems of inter-ethnic hostility are starting to diminish. Bit by bit there appears to be some welcome assimilation going on here. Just one man’s opinion; but it does come from being the principal Neighborhood Watch patrol here for almost six years, from that time when tempers were really hot to now, when things seem much, much cooler all around. Overall, I think these changes also bode well for the future of the younger Hispanics in the school system here.

  4. Yvonne

    I totally agree that it is wrong for the parties to endorse school board candidates. I am also a little confused how a school board member and candidate can form a PAC to hand select school board candidates (did on no one see the conflict there), and yet still get the endorsement of the party…??? Any requirement for me to vote for a member ofthe school board is that they will promise to vote not to renew Hatrick’s contract. We have lost the focus of what’s really important in education…it’s the children, not the fleet of busses, or the latest technology. I don’t disagree that we should have technology in the classroom, but we need to be able to afford the basics before we mortgage or children’s future for fancy P boards with hefty maintenance budgets —when LCPS can’t even buy pencils, paper, crayons and Kleenex for the classrooms. I want a Mercedes, but will have to settle for my Volkswagon! Hatrick needs to learn the same budget restrictions! I am also extremely concerned about the push for Charter schools as a way to “alleviate taxpayer burden”. It is unacceptable to depend on charter schools a replacement for public education. If the charter’s aren’t renewed (and many of them aren’t), then we will have an even worse overcrowding problem than we do now. Many of our School Bpard candidates are pushing for charter schools under the disguise of “choice”, and we need to pay attention!

  5. Ann Getalife

    The initiator obviously wants the school system to be the responsible party for her/his kids. It is OK for you as a parent to pay something toward your kids education, really. Save your money on your cell phone or cable bills, don’t buy a second big screen TV, etc and you will somehow find some money for YOUR kids school supplies, including a laptop if they need one and ipad if want one. It is also OK for you yourself to pay something for their sports, clubs, and social activities. You really don’t need to send them to my house to sell me a pizza. It really is OK for you to pay something for your kids, really. Did you know some areas of the country actually charge fees for buses to take kids to school. We could do that here, then we would not have to complain that kids close to school have to walk or be driven to school. In my neighborhood we have a bus, and I have seen parents drive their kids 150 feet to the bus stop rather than have them walk that great distance. Perhaps we could get a public bus to take that family to the bus stop so they don’t have to start their car. I would recommend that you send your $24,000 to LCPS as a donation so they can start on your wish list.

  6. Epluribusunum

    13: If true that is completely unacceptable and needs to be remedied immediately. There are several hundred homeless kids attending LCPS. Enough said.

    16 &18: Not his responsibility, but you can be confident he would make it his business – cue a ‘Dear Sterling American’ letter screaming about “the GREENIES!!” It’s hate fodder too good to pass up.

    It’s been a long-standing problem that the demographics of the teachers and administrators are so dramatically unlike the demographics of the students in some schools. The NAACP has been documenting and asking why this is the case for many years. That’s the only reason I can say I’m not surprised at the lack of bilingual teachers.

  7. Ann

    I agree with all 25 points, as far as my information allows me to… And “E” it really doesn’t matter if DelG screams to high heaven as far as I’m concerned. The two-year old next door does the same thing at times. We ignore him. Let’s at least TRY to do the right thing. I’d add a #26 that students need more Physical Education. Also what’s wrong with buildings that are 2-3 stories high? Saves land and walking stairs is good for the health. Installing a handicapped ramp would be do-able (I saw a school in Maryland that has this.)

    Priority No. 1 — end the legality of political party-endorsed candidates, and especially end their conference travel budgets. They can video conference. Priority No. 2 Give students highly qualified faculty and staff that reflect the diversity of our community. This is currently way out of alignment.
    Priority No. 3 End the Hatrick reign. He was appropriate for the transition from segregated schools, but he has not grown beyond that “struggle” paradigm towards the celebration of each child as a remarkable human being. It’s time for a change. Priority No. 4 If you are going to focus on interactive white boards and other high tech teaching aids, then more teacher training and creative collaboration are necessary. I teach at 3 community colleges. They all have these boards; I’ve never seen anyone using them. When I went in for a training session, the person in charge of the training department could not make them work either. Support systems for all the high tech equipment in schools will come at a high cost in $ too. But if we don’t jhave it, they are useless.

  8. Lloyd the Idiot

    Anyone who spends $24K on kindergarten has her priorities so far out of whack that she does not deserve to be listened to seriously. And that’s a shame because I agree with many of the points, vehemently disagreeing with others.

  9. Liz Miller

    Lloyd, that’s what private kindergarten costs. The half-day schedule that LCPS uses doesn’t work for families where both parents work outside the home, and once you factor in day care costs, you almost climb up to that amount again anyway.

    I’m grateful my mom helped us out with my son’s full-day kindergarten tuition.

  10. Liz Miller

    If you talk with the LCPS’s kindergarten teachers, they are really frustrated with the half-day set-up. Each teacher teaches both morning and afternoon kindergarten, which gives them twice as many students, with only half as much time to work with each of them. Considering the very wide spread of capabilities of that age group (some are reading simple chapter books, while others don’t know all their letters yet, for example), the half as much time with twice as many kids formula really hurts the teacher’s ability to make sure that all of them are ready for first grade.

  11. Elder Berry

    Not to say that your points aren’t important, but many of them are not by any means unique to LCPS, they are systemic national problems with public education.

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