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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Group cites lack of transparency in FCPS community engagement process

Those of you following the Annandale Regional Planning Study and appreciate the opportunity for community engagement might want to look at the political machinations involving the school board’s decision to close Clifton Elementary School.

The future of Clifton Elementary was part of the Southwestern Regional Planning Study, a process similar to the one going on now to explore options for addressing overcrowding at Annandale High School and other nearby schools and determine the boundary for the new school to be constructed on the site of the Lacy Center.

FCPS e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by concerned parents show that Springfield School Board member Elizebeth Bradsher and her allies pushed for the closure of Clifton in return for moving up the renovation of West Springfield High School from a 2007-19 to 2011 bond referendum. The e-mails encourage members of SOAR (Spartans Organized for Action on Renovation) to bombard other school board members to urge them to approve the Springfield renovation and coach them to cite fiscal responsibility and not mention Clifton. The school board voted July 8 to close Clifton Elementary.

In one e-mail, a SOAR member talks about the “game behind the game” involving Bradsher's meetings with FCPS officials to push for West Springfield to be on the 2011 bond. In another e-mail about last month’s PTSO meeting at Woodson High School, Assistant Superintendent Dean Tistadt tells Bradsher, “we will have them eating out of our hands just like we did at Clifton.” In other messages, FCPS staff and Bradsher identify Woodson/Frost/Oak View parents as possible “hijackers” of the Annandale Regional Planning Study

According to Elizabeth Schultz of Friends of Community Schools, “conflicts of interest are rampant, ethics are completely absent, the Open Meeting Act appears to be ignored. In all, there is absolutely nothing transparent about this process and the lack of transparency is about to be exponentially compounded by the pending boundary study.”

Friends of Community Schools is having a public meeting tomorrow evening at the Clifton Elementary School cafeteria, 7 p.m., on efforts to save the school before FCPS community engagement meetings on the Southwestern Boundary Study Oct. 25 and 26.

A group of parents has filed suit against the school board, charging that the decision to close Clifton Elementary School violates state law. A letter to the editor by Janet Otersen, published in the Fairfax Times, notes that closing Clifton was supposed to save $11 million, but FCPS must now spend $15 million to renovate surrounding schools to accommodate the 400 Clifton students.


  1. Closing Clifton Elementary School wuuld make sense if it was the elementary school in Fairfax County wiht the lowest enrollment and that that sending the kids to other schools meant supporting a countywide plan for there being larger elementary schools to improve the availability of programs like the school based Level IV GT program to all the kids in the county.

    However, the new model schools like Eagle View and Laurel Hill don't have school based or center based Level IV GT Programs.

    FCPS and the School Board should ensure that there is a Level IV GT Program at every elementary school in the county.

  2. The Annandale boundary study is incredibly frustrating. The entire process is just a public exercise in futility. There is obviously a plan already in the works – we just won’t know about it for another year or so, after the boundary hearings are completed.

  3. Sham Republic10/23/10, 2:32 PM

    What the School Board has revealed in its antics in the southwestern boundary planning is that they and FCPS have their agenda items - school 'diversity' [forcing social reengineering], huge elementary schools, failure to listen to parents and teachers is that it does not matter - they are going to make their agenda. No matter what. Remember, Stu and Tessie said they "listen to the silence". The basis of representative government - listening to nothing and executing your plan? We should not have to wait until next year when there is such an overwhelming vote of no confidence.

  4. The boundary meetings were painful. FCPS seemed uncomfortable answering pretty basic questions. Facility people did not really talk about any details. We kept trying to figure out how much all of this costs. The maps were just terrible and it seems like it was shuffling for shuffling sake. Everyone at my table just kept saying "why are we here?" All the plans still leave things overcrowded - even more so, it seems after the changes than before.
    It seemed like a big waste of everyone’s time and a lot of the small groups didn’t even rank the plans because they said they are all bad.

  5. At least the community part will be done soon (in January) so the staff can start the actual study.