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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Stuart and Glasgow communities meet new principals

Bailey’s Crossroads Rotary Club President Harry Henderson (in the middle) presents a ceremonial check for $25,100 to FCPS during a community meeting at Stuart High School April 22.
Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza told the Stuart and Glasgow communities their schools are in good hands with new leadership.

Last week, Garza appointed Penny Gros, the former principal at Glasgow Middle School, to be the new principal at JEB Stuart High School. Shawn DeRose, a former assistant principal at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology who had been assigned to Stuart last year to provide additional leadership support, was named acting principal at Stuart.

Stuart Principal Prosperanta Calhoun, who had been struggling with a number of issues, was reassigned to a new position created for her at the FCPS central office earlier this month.

Garza said DeRose is a top candidate to be the permanent principal at Glasgow. He was appointed “acting principal,” rather than “interim principal,” because interims can’t apply to be the permanent principal.

DeRose “has my complete support to make whatever decisions he needs to make,” Garza said. “We have a lot of confidence in Mr. DeRose.” She conceded that the staff changes were abrupt, but said, “this is a critical time of year. We want both of these individuals in place now so they can be part of those decisions.”

Both DeRose and Gros “really care about this community,” Garza said. “It makes a big difference when you have a great principal.”

Garza said she is grateful that the community supports this change. “I am absolutely and completely confident good things are ahead for this school system and this pyramid,” she said. “Stuart has the potential to be “among the most high-achieving schools in this system.”

Fabio Zuluaga, the assistant superintendent for Region 2, said the process for hiring a new principal at Glasgow will start April 23. He plans to explain that process to Glasgow parents at a meeting April 23, 7 p.m., in the school’s library.

“Stuart is a very good high school. We want it to become a great high school,” Zuluaga said. “It has incredible potential.” Some areas that need to be addressed include the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which offers a rigorous curriculum to high-achieving students, and English as a second language, he said.

DeRose said he wants to focus on literacy and collaboration and look for “better ways to engage students in the classroom.”

Gros told parents that a new system that will be implemented next fall across FCPS will give parents real-time online access to teachers’ grade books. Teachers at all schools will be required to use the new system.

Stuart has faced a large increase in immigrants this year, many of them with no English language skills and little experience with formal schooling at all.

To respond to those students, FCPS is developing an English Language Academy at Stuart and Lee high schools, and possibly Herndon, the schools hardest hit by the recent wave of immigrants. The academy will provide accelerated, intensive English language instruction and more support for students.

FCPS is looking at ways to address overcrowding at Stuart and Glasgow, Garza said, noting,  “We recognize growth is a concern in this community.”

In June FCPS plans to submit a zoning waiver to the county to pave the way for adding another story to Stuart, she said, and expects to add modular classrooms at Glasgow “in the near future.”

FCPS officials are reviewing the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) and looking at capacity and boundary issues in each region, starting with Region 3. A meeting for the Region 2 community, which includes Stuart and Glasgow, will take place in the fall.

Garza said she is “very disappointed with the Board of Supervisors” for not fully funding the school board’s budget request. As a result, FCPS will have a shortfall of $7.5 million. Nearly half a billion dollars have been cut from the operating budget since 2008.

That means teacher salaries will continue to fall behind those of neighboring jurisdictions. This part of the county has been hardest hit, Garza said, as teachers are leaving for better-paying jobs in Arlington and Alexandria.


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  2. Personally I was disappointed to hear that Garza took over the auditorium from the Drama department that was doing final rehearsals for the Spring production. they could have used the cafeteria just as easily. I know it seems like no big deal, but when you talk about putting the students first, its things like this that demonstrate what you are really about. Still glad to have Ms. Gros at Stuart!!

  3. "Stuart has faced a large increase in immigrants this year, many of them with no English language skills and little experience with formal schooling at all" How do students pass these days. Does anyone ever get held back.

  4. To respond to those students, FCPS is developing an "English Language Academy at Stuart and Lee high schools, and possibly Herndon, the schools hardest hit by the recent wave of immigrants. The academy will provide accelerated, intensive English language instruction and more support for students" And who is paying for this? If my child needs help I am told to get a tutor. Why should taxpayers flip the bill here, .

    1. Amen! So nice to hear that after years of school board excuses and pseudo-rationale about small CIP budgets that unaccompanied minors take priority over existing students in schools in need of renovation. And all this at the same time the school board is giving themselves raises, warning of budget shortfalls and holding near steady the pay of those who actually teach the kids. The whole situation is beyond belief and shameful.

    2. The School Board didn't decide to let the unaccompanied minors enter the United States. Now that they are here, FCPS must "educate" them. So it makes perfect sense to figure out what that should mean for older students with limited literacy, and it probably will shore up schools like Stuart and Lee if other parents hear that there is a special "Language Academy" for those who need a different type of instruction. It essentially reinforces the message that their own kids are not going to be held back in Gen Ed classes (if they aren't on the IB track) with students who need to be taught the basics. I'm glad that Karen Garza is tacking this directly and putting talented administrators in charge at Stuart and Glasgow.

    3. They may not have "decided to let them enter the United States", but there was a certain amount of approval for them to enter the system in this area that almost certainly factored into the decision to have them remain in Fairfax County. That issue aside - because that's not the main issue here - is that we've been hearing about CIP budget shortfalls for years only to watch our close-in schools (where the stronger tax base is) get passed over, while new school construction further out continues. Good for Stuart...but don't expect people to be happy about it when FCHS continues to need a major overhaul (despite being bumped down the queue due to a flawed scoring system). Had FCHS's original queue position been retained the new FCHS would have already opened its doors...but now they're talking sometime after 2020. You can "rah rah rah" all you'd like, but don't expect tax-payers to willingly "come along" for a ride over which they have little if any control (because we too didn't "let the unaccompanied minors enter the United States").

    4. I have no idea what the phrase "a certain amount of approval" means. FCPS had no alternative other than to open its doors to these students; if it denied them access to FCPS, it would immediately have been hit with lawsuits from "public interest" advocacy groups alleging that FCPS was failing to comply with Supreme Court precedent.

      As for school construction, Mason is getting more than its fair share of capital dollars - brand-new Glasgow MS; brand-new Mason Crest ES (which primarily feeds to FCHS); brand-new Bailey's Upper Elementary. Every area in the county has capital needs, whether for renovation or new construction, and Mason District residents need to stop whining just because they don't get every last dollar in the capital improvement plan. And people at FCHS are likely misinterpreting what Karen Garza said if they think FCPS is going to build a new addition at Stuart before FCHS gets renovated. They just have to seek the zoning variance now to make that possible later.

    5. Anonymous wrote, "The academy will provide accelerated, intensive English language instruction and more support for students" And who is paying for this? If my child needs help I am told to get a tutor. Why should taxpayers flip the bill here, "

      The answer is because the voters of this area wanted this to happen. They elected the federal officials who have encouraged the flow of illegal immigration while providing zero funding for the consequences.

      U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine along with Congressman Gerry Connolly have opposed all efforts to control the border or stop the attempt by President Obama from ignoring the law and granting sweeping amnesty. They have offered no funding to the local communities that must deal with this. That is the definition of an unfunded mandate on local communities.

      What's worse is that if they did offer funding, it would be "paid for" with more debt on the backs of our children who are already getting education resources taken away from them to redistribute to the illegal immigrants.

      The people and their kids are getting exactly what they voted for.

  5. This is positive news for Stuart. Let's be thankful for some good news (finally!) about our district and the Stuart pyramid. Personally, I know there is a lot to do, but I'm feeling optimistic for the first time in a long time.

  6. The way the Board of Supervisors treats FCPS - and particularly this part of the county - is a travesty. The Board of Supervisors refuses to fully fund our schools, yet last July Penny Gross (aka, the Bad Penny) announced that she "asked County Executive Ed Long to....provide the Board with recommendations about steps that may be needed to handle an unexpected influx of unaccompanied children"-
    Where did she think those services were going to be provided, if not in the schools? And where did she think the money was going to come from? We need someone to represent us (and our students) in actions as well as words. Principal Gros is a credit to the community. Supervisor Gross has got to go.

    1. If you want to discuss school funding, let's start with those boutique elementary foreign language immersion classes. If money is so tight, why is there still enough available to teach Mandarin to a bunch of eight year olds. At least there's an immediate tangible reason for teaching English to those unaccompanied kids. You may not like immigrants, but I'm not crazy about pretentious bourgeois Fairfax hypocrites either.

  7. Now, please Dr. Garza--do something about the Principal at Bailey's. It is long known that she is not easy to work with and has distracted from the good of the school with her recent lawsuit. And, how much did you pay to defend her? Time for a change.