Local Commentary

Letters to the Editor

F.C. Schools Remain At Top in State, Nation


Since Falls Church City elections are being held in a month, we are hearing from politicians who are criticizing the schools as part of their platforms. Some are saying that the Falls Church City Public Schools are falling behind.

When we moved to Northern Virginia seven years ago, we chose to live in Falls Church because of the excellent schools. I have been very involved in the PTAs/PTSA (holding executive board positions including president of each of the Associations).

I believe that our schools are doing exceptionally well. Here are some of the schools’ successes:

This past year Governor Tim Kaine began a program of rewarding school districts that advance the Governor’s “competence to excellence” agenda. Gov. Kaine recognized our schools with the Virginia Board of Education’s VIP Excellence Award.

Nine teachers in the FCCPS became National Board certified this past year. Those teachers are the first in Falls Church to attain certification since our school district began promoting National Board Certification.

New programs of study which further the education of our students are getting underway in the schools. For example, the elementary schools are implementing the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP). This program is being introduced at no additional cost to the community. The PYP offers a framework of interdisciplinary learning for all elementary students.

George Mason High School offers a challenging and rigorous academic program for all students. For students who desire a higher level of challenge and rigor, GM offers Advance Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. Also, GM offers college preparatory and general education courses which are high quality courses without the intensity of the AP and IB courses. Last year at GM, 75% of all seniors participated in the IB program. GM continues to score higher than state and national averages on the SAT. Over 90% of the GM graduates go on to college.

Some local politicians and media have focused on the Washington Post’s Jay Mathews and Newsweek’s Challenge Index rankings of high schools. Mathews says, “The rating is not a measurement of the overall quality of the school but illuminates one factor that many educators consider important.” Although GM’s Challenge Index ranking has decreased, its Challenge Index score has increased from 3.743 in 2000 to 4.18 in 2007. Even still, based on the Challenge Index, GM is in the top quarter of 1% of all the nation’s public high schools.

The education of the Falls Church students remains excellent and continues to improve. The Falls Church students are continuing to receive a first-class education.

Cecily Shea

Falls Church

Referendum is ‘Bottom Up’ People’s Voice


With regard to your most recent (3/27/08) editorial – – I am amused by your evident annoyance that the citizens of Falls Church are not falling into line and taking the ‘top down’ direction from the City Council and you.

I think one thing now abundantly clear to many City residents is that a hotel, bowling alley, and grocery store do not a “City Center” make. And… unless we triple or quadruple our road surfaces, what are we going to do with that traffic?

Further, I believe the current referendum came to be only after articles and detailed drawings became generally available, in The Washington Post and elsewhere, showing exactly where and how the planned buildings would sit too close to the sidewalks and tower over the streets, creating our own lovely ‘concrete canyons’ in miniature.

Residents look at how the Byron and Broadway buildings crowd Broad Street and hulk overhead as they drive by, and cease to worship at the altar of ‘economic development.’

Residents can also see the magnificent ‘public space’ at The Spectrum (two driveways, three tables, six benches, and nine parking spaces) and fear they will have even more of this kind of ‘benefit.’

They begin to worry about the change in the character of the city, a potential decline in their quality of life, and wonder why a “I must be in Ballston” feeling is replacing the aesthetics that have always defined Falls Church.

The referendum appears to this resident to be the ‘bottom-up’ workings of democracy.

It really might be best if those who want to re-make Falls Church in the Ballston model simply pick up and move to Ballston, and let Falls Church be Falls Church.

Karl Stegenga

Falls Church

Funding for Robotics Team Should Be Now


As we entered the wonderful Falls Church Art show on Friday evening we noticed the successful GMHS Robotics team collecting funds for their upcoming trip to Atlanta. They certainly deserve to attend! We are extremely proud of these bright and talented students.

We do wonder why the Falls Church City Council gave $30,000 to the Falls Church Education Foundation instead of funding the team's journey to Atlanta. The Council now has no say as to how those funds will be spent by the FCEF. The FCEF has many good people working hard with a vision for the future. However, like many others in our urban village, we are wondering why that money cannot be used immediately. In our opinion, the FCEF should fully fund the team and many other projects needed in the school system. Or perhaps our community needs a new 100% volunteer organization to fund the schools now instead of sitting on millions of dollars for the future.

We have great concern for the immediate finances of our school system. We would prefer to see tax dollars given to the schools by the Council and not to an independent foundation.

June and Mike Beyer

Falls Church

Besen Criticism Will Always Be of Right Wing


Besen’s column on Obama’s speech said that right wing opponents have repeatedly suggested that Obama is a Muslim. It has also been left-wing Clinton supporters. Of course, Besen is so left-wing himself, he’s going to always make his criticism of the right wing.  

Ronald Johnson

Via the Internet