City Receives Unsolicited Proposal for New High School

By Stephen Siegel
Falls Church Times Staff
March 19, 2015

City officials have been meeting for over a year to discuss ways to commercialize 10 acres of the new land gained in the water sale in order to help to finance a new George Mason High School. But it’s not yet clear how much interest there will be from developers, or how much revenue could be realized.

However, City officials disclosed Thursday that they have received an unsolicited proposal from a developer who would build a new high school along with some new commercial establishments on the site. That would seem to indicate the site may be in considerable demand.

Details are sketchy. Officials aren’t offering any, saying that the proposal is exempt from public scrutiny under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, which generally requires government officials to release information on such proposals, with some exceptions.

It’s exempt presumably to protect the developer’s information from the prying eyes of other developers that might also wish to bid on a new George Mason.

Without any information, it, of course, makes it hard for residents to evaluate. But if a developer has gone to enough trouble to prepare a proposal, it would behoove that developer to offer a proposal that has a reasonable likelihood of being accepted, perhaps with some relatively minor tweaks.

The unknown developer submitted the proposal under a 2002 Virginia law called the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act (PPEA). Its purpose was to allow agencies, institutions, and local governments to form partnerships with the private sector.

“The City Council and School Board will review the conceptual proposal in accordance with their PPEA Guidelines,” the City press release announcing the submission said. “If the proposal is accepted for further evaluation and consideration, additional conceptual proposals from competing proposers will also be accepted for consideration. Acceptance of the unsolicited proposal for further evaluation is not a commitment to proceed with the project and the City and Schools may reject the proposal at any point.”

Consultants have suggested that commercial development at the site, which is bounded by Broad Street, Haycock Road, Interstate 66, and the Virginia Tech campus, could bring in enough revenue to cover 60 to 80 percent of the cost of a new high school, which certainly is a significant amount.

However, those analysts, such as the non-profit Urban Land Institute, also have suggested the City build the high school first so developers have more clarity on what land is actually available for them.

The drawback to that approach is that the City would have to float the cost of the school for a number of years before development materializes to help offset that prodigious expense, which many have said could reach $100 million.

In the case of this unsolicited bid, the developer is also offering to build the school, which could present a much more favorable financial situation for the City and the taxpayers.

By
March 19, 2015 

Comments

137 Responses to “City Receives Unsolicited Proposal for New High School”

  1. raindrops on April 1st, 2015 6:15 pm

    Interesting. Is there salary data for the city manager, assistant manager, etc.?

  2. wendie on April 1st, 2015 6:15 pm

    Curious about overlap…..for example, what is the difference between a Community Outreach Director and a Communications Director with both positions costing taxpayers a total of close to $300,000? Are both positions justified?

  3. kristina, Falls Church on April 1st, 2015 6:17 pm

    Mr. Royce, Thank you for publishing the salaries of the Director and Superintendent. I’m assuming this includes benefits? Either way, I think these need to be published to the general public. Do you think FCNP would report this? I had no idea that there were so many layers of management and that we are paying them so well, while presumably, we are under paying our teachers. Additionally, I’m assuming that those with titles of “Director” probably have people working for them so there are additional costs associated with each of the department heads and maybe we need a study to determine what is really necessary. What an eye opener.

  4. wendie on April 1st, 2015 6:27 pm

    Neither the FCNP nor the Times are going to touch this…..the Falls Church Post would. I am not sure how new you are to this city but both publications maybe with rare exception only will not report on anything questionable when it comes to schools. And the City Council is not strong enough to push back on much of anything. Plus, the City Manager is powerless when it comes to the schools.

  5. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on April 1st, 2015 8:05 pm

    Before Bill glosses over this I’m hoping he’ll clarify something. He posted this chart: http://goo.gl/MuOinU that I assume he put together. It claims to show 2014 english reading SOL pass rates for ESOL students.

    Mr. Brett pointed us to the site where this data can be found (https://p1pe.doe.virginia.gov/reportcard/) and it sure looks like most of Bill’s numbers are just wrong. Bill’s response was that Falls Church provides the numbers – but they only provide the Falls Church numbers.

    I assume there’s a logical explanation for this discrepancy because otherwise it looks like Bill’s numbers are just fabricated. I’m wondering why Bill didn’t address that in his response?

  6. kristina, Falls Church on April 1st, 2015 9:45 pm

    @wendie – my comment regarding FCNP was kind of tongue in cheek, but really, why shouldn’t @BillRoyce submit the data for all to see? Presumably, the FCNP wouldn’t even print this as an editorial? Perhaps even FCNP readers might see how FCCPS has high paid layers of bureaucrats that are complaining of not paying our teachers competitively.

  7. Bill Royce on April 1st, 2015 10:25 pm

    Andy — No gloss here and I did address it “I reported data I pulled from VDOE databases: VDOE databases are feed by FCCPS.” I used the VDOE “build a report” function here — http://bi.virginia.gov/BuildATab/rdPage.aspx

    To alleviate any problems with data, FCCPS should post all the information it has (except that which is explicitly protected by law) to its web site w/o out characterization or commentary.

  8. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on April 2nd, 2015 5:16 pm

    Bill, I’m asking about the non-Falls Church numbers. Mr. Brett pointed out that your chart seems to have the wrong numbers for Tazewell County, Danville City, and Suffolk City – and many others.

    I ran what I think is the report you used to create your chart and got these results: http://goo.gl/gj9JPk

    The numbers I spot checked didn’t match up with your chart. These are numbers for other cities and counties. I assume Falls Church doesn’t provide those numbers to the state.

    Can you explain what your chart is showing and how to get those numbers from the Build-A-Table tool?

  9. Bill Royce on April 2nd, 2015 9:16 pm

    Andrew –I’d be happy to recreate my chart (a hint for you though, you need to be careful as to which switches you select when setting up a report query. Look at the parameters you set when you pulled your report.)

    To be honest with you though, I’m less interested in figuring out how well Tazewell County, Danville City, and Suffolk City are doing than I am with how poorly FCCPS is doing — most of FCCPS’ funding is local and it is way out of proportion to what other school districts spend per pupil.

    There is little question Tazewell County, Danville City, and Suffolk City ESOL students are doing better than their peers in “America’s Premiere School District” as Dr. Jones’ likes to refer to FCCPS — the data you pulled shows FCCPS ESOL students SOL pass rate for 2013-2014 English Reading at only 26%.

    What’s intriguing though is, those three districts are spending considerably less on a per capita basis than FCCPS (according to Virginia’s Auditor of Public Accounts).

    It’s also worth noting FCCPS has about 7% of its student body classified as economically disadvantaged while Arlington County (which is “most like Falls Church” according to Dr. Jones – go figure that statement out) has 34% classified as such. This is interesting because a recent think tank report shows Arlington County spends 1.8 times more on its economically disadvantaged students than on its non-economically disadvantaged students.

    So when you take Arlington’s and FCCPS’ reported per pupil costs, the data provided above and use some simple algebraic manipulation, you quickly see FCCPS spends around $7 Million a year more than it needs to, yet gets poorer objective results.

    This is what I call:

    “Getting a lot less for a lot more (unless your a FCCPS administrator.)”

  10. Bill Royce on April 2nd, 2015 9:19 pm

    I just noticed I called you Andrew…I’ve got a guy named “Andrew (not Andy)” on a project team right now so excuse the mix up.

  11. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on April 3rd, 2015 9:51 am

    Bill, I agree that care should be taken when configuring the report – if I’ve selected something incorrectly please let me know. This is what I picked: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4600/Screenshots/0zdw.png

    You’ve been really pushing the idea that the school administrators are unscrupulous and the school board members knowingly misrepresent data so I think it’s important for us to know if you’re misrepresenting data in this case or if you’ve just made an error (or, if I’ve made an error).

    Mr. Brett mentioned that the 26% number is incorrect. You’ve pointed out that Falls Church must have reported it wrong – ok, so someone made a mistake, but either you don’t believe the real number is 46%, as Mr. Brett has said, or you’re willing to keep misrepresenting data to try and make a point.

    If you’re willing to misrepresent this data it makes me wonder what other data you’re misrepresenting.

    No worries about the Andrew/Andy thing – either one is fine with me.

  12. Bill Royce on April 3rd, 2015 12:34 pm

    Andy —

    I’m digging through my downloads folder to find the original data set I pulled. I dont have a quick way of doing that, but I’ll get there…

    WRT Mr. Brett, I lost confidence in him a while back when among other issues (and as reported in the January 2014 edition of GMHS’ Lasso) he explained to a student reporter that he [Mr. Brett] left his job in local television at a station in Kentucky [before coming to Falls Church] because “I was aging out, and there were prettier people coming out who were cheaper to hire,” he said. “I was no longer network material, and I was good, but not anything outstanding.”

    There is much evidence that contradicts this statement of his and, while seemingly an obscure point, I found it troubling.

    So when the new data (whatever its source) is added to VDOE’s data store I’ll take another look. Assuming the new data moves the dial as reported by Mr. Brett, it still shows FCCPS ESOL students as scoring well below state average. In the meantime VDOE is the state system of record.

  13. Bill Royce on April 3rd, 2015 1:00 pm

    Andy — BTW, I don’t mind the scrutiny, a second set eyes is helpful.

    So with that in mind, please validate my demographic data and charts — % economically disadvantaged vs. % ESOL vs % Special Education vs all others for Arlington, Fairfax and Falls Chruch in recent years, and Falls Church vs all other VA school districts, re: economically disadvantaged students.

    Thanks in advance

    Bill

  14. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on April 3rd, 2015 3:20 pm

    Bill, I’m not volunteering to do QA for you. Mr. Brett pointed out some errors you made, you glossed over them, and that was interesting to me considering how focused you are on the misuse of data. It’s still not clear if you made a mistake or used incorrect data on purpose.

  15. Bill Royce on April 3rd, 2015 5:41 pm

    Andy – Your characterization of my graph as having errors, based on information provided by FCCPS’ John Brett, is a bit amusing. Particularly in light of Mr. Brett’s inability to be honest even with a GMHS student during the course of a simple interview about his employment history. (I’m curious as to how he characterized his departure from the Kentucky TV station on his application for employment with FCCPS.)

    I admit I only skimmed Mr. Brett’s post (as I find him to be a rather unsavory character) but I’ll take a look this issue in detail over the weekend and find the original VDOE report containing the ESOL student pass rate data from which I created the chart and post it.

    In the meantime FCCP’s ESOL student remain underserved…

    And when need

  16. Kevin Falls Church on April 3rd, 2015 5:59 pm

    Bill, where are you getting your information on John Brett? Seems to me that a smear campaign is underway against the administration of FCCPS. Mr. Brett disproved your data and has also disproven Lou’s ideas of available space at the high school.

  17. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on April 3rd, 2015 5:59 pm

    Bill, I’m basing my characterization of your graph as having errors based on the data I get when using the Build-A-Table tool provided by the VDOE that you pointed to me.

    The longer you dodge this the more it seems like you purposefully used incorrect data to try to make a point – which is what you keep accusing others of doing. That is a bit amusing to me – but mostly it just makes me not trust anything you post.

  18. Bill Royce on April 3rd, 2015 11:29 pm

    Kevin — Mr. Brett questioned my integrity with his post while simultaneously attempting to cover up data missing from the state system of record on 56 out of 2426 FCCPS students and minimize the plight of students with the greats need.

    Mr. Brett’s disingenuous post seems to have emboldened Andy to behave much like a boil with which I was once inflicted.

    Folks in FCC who don’t know me or Mr. Brett might mistakenly believe he is being truthful. I simply pointed out one specific instance, which is readily verifiable google, in which Mr. Brett was clearly dishonest about the grounds for his dismissal from an employer before he came to work at FCCPS.

  19. Another FCC resident on April 4th, 2015 7:51 am

    I didn’t see anywhere in Mr. Brett’s response that questioned your integrity. You’ve been saying all along that FCCPS is last in that metric, you even called out Dr. Theisz in somehow implicitly endorsing it because he wrote that he volunteers here (?). You attack people constantly (but that’s ok, you speak the truth, everyone says, ignore the nastiness).

    And Andy’s a boil now, because he is trying to follow up and see if you made a mistake or did it on purpose? If you made a mistake – repeatedly saying FCCPS is last in that metric – why not just own it? If you still believe it to be true, then show what report parameters you used. Just bizarre.

    Enough with the insults, smears, veiled threats – what’s next, an FOIA request to look at the handwritten notes taken from Mr.Brett’s interview? And what? He wrote a response to the stuff you’ve been posting, in (current) job capacity. Many of us appreciate that the schools are double checking the claims posted here in the comments – especially since you do seem to have such an agenda. Why not stop with the insults, the petulance and let your numbers and arguments speak for themselves? I have a sincere interest in seeing the schools challenged, pushing up against the status quo. But no interest in hitching my letter campaigns or emails to council to someone who is letting his zeal cloud his behavior and judgment. You mention that you didn’t fully read Mr. Brett’s (measured, specific, and non-petulant) response because you find him unsavory. Many are getting to that point with your comments as well.

  20. Kevin in Falls Church on April 4th, 2015 8:24 am

    Bill, at this point I, and I think several others here, are questioning your integrity based on the fact that you are still trying to skirt the question to you.
    As far as Mr. Brett goes, I don’t know the guy, seems he may have made a mistake 15 years ago but don’t we all, hell, I made a mistake 15 minutes ago.
    I think at this point you should either a) prove your claims or b) get over yourself

  21. Lou Mauro on April 4th, 2015 11:39 am

    Kevin. You are wrong. With the exception of noting that a few computer labs have been converted to classrooms in recent years because we paid half a million dollars to buy all students laptops, the “Morning Announcements” slide show merely pointed out that space available for conversion to classrooms is currently being used for other purposes, e.g., the school system storage space under the Science Wing, the City radio station, the auxiliary gym. Well, duh. That’s the point. It is preferable to convert space used for something else into classrooms than to smother taxpayers with the estimated $105 million cost of a new school built for the convenience of developers. The school system’s unresponsive “response” does nothing to invalidate my proposition that there is space for up to 20 additional classrooms at the high school. Apparently, the school administration would rather use its slick public “information” apparatus to condescendingly dismiss that proposal than to devote to it the serious study and effort it (and City taxpayers) deserve.

  22. Kevin in Falls Church on April 4th, 2015 11:51 am

    What do you suggest the school does with the stuff in the storage area? You suggested converting the gym, an explaination was given as to why that could not happen. You suggested doing away with alternate education, it was explained that was done several years ago and those classrooms are being used. You suggested classrooms at the end of the art hallway, again those rooms are being used.
    I agree it is difficult to hear that the city needs to spend so much money on a school but if it is needed then it is needed. The current school can only be expanded so much, and that does not change the fact that the rest of the school is falling apart

  23. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on April 4th, 2015 1:09 pm

    Bill, I have no idea what you mean when comparing me to a boil. That’s quite a comeback.

    I realize you’re trying to drag Mr. Brett into this but he has nothing to do with the point I’m trying to make.

    While making an argument you gave us a chart that’s wrong. I’ve been trying to give you a chance to say, “whoops, looks like I grabbed the wrong data” – because I’m sure it’s easy to make mistakes with this data. But you haven’t done that – which leads me to believe you purposefully used wrong data while trying to make your point and I suspect this isn’t the only situation where that’s the case.

    This is ironic considering your sustained campaign against the schools, claiming they do the same thing.

  24. TFC on April 4th, 2015 1:43 pm

    Sorry to say…I think y’all gotta take it offline or …outside.

  25. D. Wayne Jones on April 4th, 2015 7:41 pm

    TFC, I’m with you. We don’t even know what the proposal is. Another case of “if X is for it, Y is against it.”

  26. Lou Mauro on April 4th, 2015 10:34 pm

    Kevin. It is not for me to solve all the school system issues. It should be enough that I propose of course of action intended to save an enormous amount of money, which proposal should not be dismissed out-of-hand but should be studied seriously by those whose responsibility it is to resolve such issues. However, since you asked, some thoughts, briefly:

    1. Does the high school need to be the central location for all system storage needs? Why can’t TJ, MEH and MD meet their own needs, thereby freeing up the storage space at GM? Or, why can’t a stand-alone storage shed be built on the MEH/GM campus and accomplish the same result? Especially, if common sense prevails, as part of GM renovation/repairs instead of a new school?

    2. The explanation for not converting the auxiliary gym is that it is being used for PE. Does the school Administration seriously want us to believe that PE schedules could not be adjusted to use both main gyms in GM and MEH? And if necessary, double the space for PE in either or both gyms by dropping the gym divider curtain? Again, especially if the alternative is a $105,000,000 new school?

    3. No, I did not mention both rooms at the end of the art department. The one I did not mention was being used as a computer lab and is now a classroom. Wonderful. That’s one. I did mention the other one, which is currently used as a print shop. Again, is it still necessary to use it as a print shop? Is there no other place to locate a print shop?

    4. You did not mention the City radio station. The Communications slide show said that moving the radio station to a City, rather than school, location is being worked on. Well, if so, I suggest the City and the school Administration work on it a bit more diligently. Again, the alternative is a $100 million dollar new school built for the convenience (and profit) of developers and located in an urbanized, commercial area dangerous to middle and high school age students.

  27. Bill Royce on April 5th, 2015 1:06 am

    While this might disappoint Andy, John Brett and a few others, the data charts I created do in-fact show “2014 SOL English Reading SOL Pass Rates for ESOL Students” drawn directly from the Virginia State database of record, and demonstrate the point I repeatedly (and according to Mr. Brett “hurtfully”) made – FCCPS has the lowest pass rate for English reading SOLs of the entire state in 2014. (Imagine the real hurt for the students exiting FCCPS without fundamental reading skills, but I don’t hear much crying from the central office over this reality.)

    Here is a link to the file created from the VDOE build-a-chart utility – https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B19kdDE1_AEySEFfUU81ZTV4Z2c/view?usp=sharing

    The report is based on the following recognition: (1) ESOL, economically disadvantaged and disabilities are three separate and distinct subcategories, representing different learning challenges to students; (2) students fitting multiple subcategories often face more complex learning challenges (and thus might be expected to earn lower SOL pass rates) than those in a single category; and (3) the percentage of students fitting multiple subcategories is likely to vary among school districts potentially causing SOL pass rate data to be skewed by the various combinations and percentage subcategories represented. Accordingly, as shown in the linked file above, the data are SOL pass rates for students classified as ESOL without data for students who are both ESOL and economically disadvantaged, and without data for ESOL and disabled, etc. The resulting data set provides a more level division to division comparison of ESOL student performance. (In one of my charts I actually started to show the effect of the skew caused by students in multiple subgroups.)

    The data Mr. Brett offered, while drawn from the same state database, is aggregated and presented in predefined “report cards” designed for evaluating the performance of an individual school, a school division or the entire state. These canned reports do not offer the data granularity of the Virginia SOL Assessment Build-A-Table utility I used and thus do not provided as strong a basis for comparing ESOL student performance between divisions.

    If one is truly interested in comparing the performance of ESOL students among school divisions, the data in the chart I created is the correct one to use, not the numbers John Brett provided and he should know this to be true. But Andy, John Brett and a few others were trying so hard to besmirch my reputation they applied little or no thought to the meaning of the data they touted, instead focusing on the simple fact that their data was different from that which I provided; different yes, better no.

    And if Mr. Brett has found new data to boost the dismal FCCPS scores, let me know when its in the system of record and I’ll run a new report. (I won’t even bother to ask how its possible for FCCPS to lose data on 56 ESOL students.)

    So there you have it – while I’m a very busy man – I do my research carefully and think about what the data represents. Also, I don’t take delight in calling out the profligate spending and misbehavior of FCCPS administrators, nor do I enjoy fussing with my neighbors. However, I believe doing that is far better than knowing what I know and understanding what I understand and simply acting like it doesn’t exist.

    As far as Andy the boil goes – I actually answered his question the first time have now provided further elaboration. I told him I would find the data set I used and provide it when I had the chance. Instead of patience, I got impertinence.

    What is rather sad in all this is the complete lack of concern shown by Andy, John Brett and several others towards the children in our neighborhood who need the most help. Worse yet, instead of providing support for these students as is her job, the superintendent deploys at least one of her two communications directors to provide misleading and disingenuous information to distract from the problems or her making.

    One of the major problems was reported by the co-chairs of school board’s ESOL advisory committee just two months ago:

    “…for the whole Falls Church School Division only 29 percent of the ESOL student population passed English compared to 54 percent of ESOL students passing at the state level. For the whole Falls Church School Division only 58 percent of the ESOL student population passed mathematics compared to 62 percent of ESOL students passing at the state level. For the whole Falls Church School Division only 27 percent of the ESOL student population passed science compared to 59 percent of ESOL students passing at the state level.”

    “… After meeting with all the principals we also realize that TJ with 62 ESOL students has also needs for more teachers. 86% of TJ ESOL students failed the English Reading SOL test, or if you want to say 14% passed. So we have 62 kids and more or less 4, 5 or 6 passed this test. This for me is a crisis. The decreasing performance of the ESOL population is coming so fast that it really requires an expert assessment. The Falls Church schools needs to have a coherent ESOL program, determine who leads the program, who coordinates the program, who is accountable for the success of the ESOL students, are we using research based practices, what are the ESOL classes and support provided by grade levels and English level, are we implementing our ESOL program, are we doing outreach?”

    So Andy, go use your powers of annoyance on the FCCPS superintendent about the plight of ESOL students.

  28. Bill Royce on April 5th, 2015 7:17 am

    In the link above the percent pass rate values are on the 2nd, 4th and 6th pages of the spreadsheet due to page width.

    The same data is shown here, on a single page:

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1wlp6mq5NYVa353AVPkz6UJLf2FidETKbopZkAigemcw/edit?usp=sharing

  29. Another FCC Resident on April 5th, 2015 8:58 am

    Seems a bit disingenuous – excluding kids who are economically disadvantaged – aren’t they the ones who we need to serve most? I’d rather focus on those kids than ones who’s parents may not be able to (money or time-wise) help as much versus on kids with parents who have more advantages. Unrelated to this cluster, it would also be interesting to see how long these kids have been here, at the time of the tests (across divisions). i.e. a kid who arrived 5 months before taking the SOL versus one who has been here for 2 years. If you run the report for Yes/No for Economically Disadvantaged , it gives both rows – we have no numbers listed for Economically Disadvantaged/ESOL, so that means less than 10? I guess that is where the missing tests may lay. When Mr. Brett gets the revised numbers in writing from VA, until it is corrected next year, it will be interesting to revisit.

    Regardless of the numbers, I do agree that ESOL should be a priority. Definitely sounds like more is needed, particularly at the TJ level – even if the numbers are incorrect (missing some) or skewed (not including our most at-risk kids). I care much more about the word on the ground – from our teachers and staff who are working with the kids , than these tables which (as we can see by excluding certain subsets of underserved kids, or by tests being missing) be so easily skewed. We are so small, that many things can easily skew the percentages (versus in larger districts).

    I’m hoping our wonderful teachers, staff, administrators (and parent volunteers) are on this. We can always do better.

  30. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on April 5th, 2015 12:36 pm

    Bill, let’s make this really clear to everyone. Your chart shows, “2014 English Reading SOL Pass Rates for ESOL Students by Virginia School District who aren’t economically disadvantaged or disabled” – which isn’t the same thing as what you originally claimed.

    It’s fine for you to have an explanation for why excluding some of the people from the report makes sense to you – but that’s not what your original chart explained. It’s funny because you got on me about setting my parameters properly but didn’t tell me which parameters you used (and using just the title and explanation of the chart resulted in not using the same parameters you used). I encourage you to be more accurate with your description of data in the future (and you should update the title of your chart if you use it again).

  31. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on April 5th, 2015 1:15 pm

    Bill, in your chart, for Fairfax County and Arlington County, it looks like you use the pass rates that include economically disadvantaged and disabled SOL students – is there a reason for that?

  32. Bill Royce on April 5th, 2015 6:38 pm

    Not sure how “Another FCC Resident” and Andy became FCC’s “arbiters of data correctness” but their rationale is thin and it smells a bit self-serving.

    What started my interest in the treatment of ESOL students in FCCPS were the statements of the co-chairs of the FCCPS school board’s ESOL advisory committee (shown in my prior post) and the following statement from page 8 of FCCPS 2016 budget book:

    “While Virginia utilizes the Standards of Learning (SOL) to measure student proficiency, we do not utilize the SOL to measure our success. We utilize individual data for each child, and the goal is for every student to grow as quickly and rapidly in skill development as he or she is capable of achieving. If a student moves to FCCPS in 3rd grade, and does not speak English, it is unrealistic and unfair to expect that child to pass a 3rd grade Reading SOL after only 7 months of instruction.”

    It seemed odd to me that FCCPS’ school superintendent devoted a significant portion of her letter to the community (17.4% — excluding the salutation and signature) to what appears to be an excuse as to why ESOL students perform so poorly in FCCPS.

    Dr. Jones statement “…we do not utilize the SOL to measure our success” seemed particularly odd – Was she asserting FCCPS’ ESOL students are different than ESOL students in other school district, so they must be measured differently?

    Since that didn’t ring true to me, I went to the state database of record for SOL test data. Knowing ESOL, economically disadvantaged and disabled are separate and distinct subcategories, representing different learning challenges to students, I focused in on results for the subcategory ESOL (so my results wouldn’t be skewed by differing patterns and percentages of students categorized in multiple subfactors.

    The results are stunning (same data file as in prior post just sorted to show ranking and with highlighting added for clarity):
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B19kdDE1_AEybEJ6elpua2xNcTg/view?usp=sharing

    To me the table explains Dr. Jones statement “we do not utilize the SOL to measure our success” because there is no success to measure.

    (Mr. Brett claims he has found new data to boost the dismal FCCPS scores and once this data becomes accepted into the state database of record, I’ll run a new report. But even if FCCPS were to rank higher, our ESOL students would still be well below the state average.)

    No wonder Dr. Jones and the defenders of the status quo are unhappy with me. They tried to make this issue go away — towards the end of the very disturbing report from the co-chairs of the FCCPS school board’s ESOL advisory committee (documented in my prior post) the co-chairs were told:

    “Ok I gotta give you the hook its three minutes for everybody, so thank you very much, have a good evening.”

    No request from the school board for follow-up with the co-chairs, no request to FCCPS staff for an explanation or an alibi; these ladies were told to “have a good evening” and sent on their way. They were dismissed.

    Some in our community love the “funded-by-the-public” part of public education, but strongly dislike like the “provided-to-the-public” part of public education and prefer that a select few benefit from FCCPS. Who easier to prey on than a minority class of students.

  33. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on April 5th, 2015 10:37 pm

    Bill, you’ve been highly critical of people using data in misleading ways. In previous debates I’ve been suspicious of some of the data you’ve presented but I haven’t had the time or interest to investigate further. However, when Mr. Brett recently pointed out an inconsistency and it was clear to me that it would be easy to double-check I decided to take a look.

    What I found was that your data (or how it was labeled) was wrong and/or misleading. It still is. The chart you just posted has this title: “2014 English Reading SOL Pass Rates for ESOL Students by Virginia School District (Source VDOE)” – but that isn’t what you’re showing. You’re showing a subset of that data which excludes economically disadvantaged, migrant, homeless, and disabled ESOL students (which are actually called Limited English Proficient students).

    Maybe you think that’s a minor distinction, not worthy of including in the chart’s title, but the results would be different – including changing a key point you keep claiming (that Falls Church is last). Your rationale for using this subset (about 30% of the total number of ESOL students) comes across to me as thin and self-serving.

    Also, your initial report also used numbers for Fairfax County and Arlington County which were not using the same parameters as the rest of the school districts. I assume that was an error on your part since the numbers that match your criteria for the other districts actually reinforce your point better.

    What’s interesting to me is that I haven’t been challenging the point of your argument and yet instead of just checking your data and better explaining what you’re showing you continue to claim that I’m somehow being self-serving or unfair to you. This suggests to me that maybe a lot of your data wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny.

    Okay, I’ll weigh in on the ESOL situation. I actually pulled up the section of the school board meeting where the co-chairs of the ESOL Advisory Committee spoke. This link will take you right to their comments: http://goo.gl/eSDCAI

    Overall, they were quite complimentary of the effort the schools are making. They mentioned that last year they made many recommendations and most of them were implemented.

    They did talk about two recommendations that haven’t been taken on yet – the request for more ESOL teachers and a study of the ESOL program. They talked some about the SOL pass rates and the fast growth of the ESOL student population.

    I don’t know much about ESOL in the schools but both of their suggestions sound to me like they could be reasonable. While the school board didn’t comment on them at the conclusion of the public comments, I hope they take them into consideration.

    For what it’s worth, the co-chairs spoke together and were given a total of 6 minutes to talk – although it wasn’t until 7 minutes in that Mr. Castillo asked them to wrap up.

  34. Jim Bledsoe on April 6th, 2015 12:03 am

    @Andy Rankin…Did we watch the same youtube video? I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I believe those co-chairs on the video espoused the same 29% SOL pass rate for English relative to ESOL students that Bill Royce has previously stated. Your agenda for the past five years has been ‘thin and self serving’. I imagine you probably believe the tax relief program in Falls Church actually helps anyone. It’s okay to be a cheerleader. As you question Mr. Royce’s agenda, I also question yours. It must be nice to be a believer. Have you ever wondered why folks like Bill Royce don’t like folks like John Brett? Never mind.

  35. Alison Kutchma on April 6th, 2015 1:06 am

    Andy:

    I sort of hear what you might be saying (if I had time to check) but honestly the incessant focus on the fabric of the deck chairs seems a bit ridiculous to me.

    Bill does not work for the school (though perhaps he should, the pay for senior management is high) nor does he serve our community as a member of the school board (though it’s been suggested) so can we please cease and desist here and turn our attention to the ship wreck that is taking us down?

    Runaway taxes and no one that is actually in charge that seems willing to step in and address the real issues that people like Bill and publications like The Falls Church Post have brought to our attention.

    I have never seen so many excuses in my life from people who are (adults and) so replaceable. Excuses, half answers, finger pointing, bullying, dodging; – read the emails – watch the videos folks. What flavor Kool Aid runs from your Moen because we need to wake up or we will find that what we have here is not sustainable.

    Why are there so many FOIA requests? Because the trust in leadership is lost. For example, the in depth investigation I did into the ILMS situation should have been done by the School Board themselves but they did not. I think the school board read the information I pulled together — perhaps – I mean I hope – but after that I believe they wanted to know if there was an injured party (as in could there be some legal standing here against the schools) — not an interest in that laws were not followed but if there might be an injured party and could that be proven — all the while our Superintendent stated something along the lines that learning was not impeded. Is that the educational bar in Falls Church for Special Education students — that learning isn’t impeded? (And if so can you prove it?.) The board had to have heard that and instead of saying “Excuse me? What did you say? Can you kindly repeat that Dr. Jones?” They listened politely.

    The Board didn’t ask questions of those involved; nor seek additional information from those in the trenches; issued no proclamation that laws will be followed or stated that someone would get to the bottom of what happened – nothing. That is called turning a blind eye. That behavior should be what ignites people’s curiosity and concern not chart titles.

    I didn’t vote for blind eye. I didn’t vote for listen politely. I voted for those elected to ask questions; ask follow-up questions; get smart about the answers and follow-up some more; expecting leaders to be accountable. (You know the sort of thing that Bill has been doing.)

    And the 6 minutes you refer to Andy is 3 + 3 for each of those women as allowed per public comment, who it seems were trying to be polite, complimentary when they could (I admit it — I’ve done it too) but firm and quite clear as to how bad the situation really is. What they did say should have caused some serious action by the board but it hasn’t seemed to have done that as far as I can tell.

    It makes me very curious about the criteria used to grant Dr. Jones a 6% raise last year — I mean if these are the results.

    I think it’s true what you say — that you don’t know much about the ESOL situation which is exactly true probably for most people and that is exactly what needs to change. I wish the school board would do what some of us are doing out here which is finding out what is going on with ESOL in fact and sharing that information with everyone — as a service to all.

    Can I suggest you turn your inquisition towards the school board and the City Council and ask them why they allow this to go on and why they keep fully funding this scam. The scam being that it should not cost this much.

    With the percentage of our students who attend our schools that are the easiest to educate; are destined for high SAT scores and assured SOL passage by genes why do we pay as if we had populations like Arlington or Fairfax? Andy, please persist in asking that of our school board.

    I’m not saying our teachers don’t work hard; what I’m saying is that something isn’t adding up and we need to be focusing on a solution to that — not these details about how we should have lined up the deck chairs.

  36. Another FCC Resident on April 6th, 2015 7:38 am

    Oh my gosh, the Bill worship is beyond. (Although I do get a chuckle imagining his yearly review if he worked for the schools – the charts, the disdain for everyone else, I’d want to see that on YouTube…).

    I hear what you are saying Allison, I do. Did these women present their report anywhere else except the school board? It sounds like some of previous the recommendations were put into effect (homework club) – was that done purely by giving 6 minutes to the school board or through some other route? How do you know nothing is being followed up on about ESOL? Based on what? Again, their cause seems valid and true…and I sincerely hope (once the numbers are corrected) that work progresses. But it’s not lining up the deck chairs to call out a guy who made repeated claims that FCCPS is #0/Last and used that basis to try and get people riled up and mad and take action. Again, people are careful about who they hitch their wagon to. The truth should be enough and when people feel manipulated , it can cause the opposite of what’s intended. Details do matter. People are jumping over Bill because we are in a comments section and his words invite it. That has nothing to do with other things people do in other places.

  37. TEC on April 6th, 2015 10:31 am

    Thank you Andy for following up and double-checking Bill’s “analysis”. It’s always good to have someone look a little deeper at whatever assertions are being made. Obviously the schools will take raw data and present it in as positive a way as possible. Bill seems to want to take raw data and present it in a way as he sees fit to make his points.

    Both are fine – as long as we know that we aren’t getting objective analysis from either.

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