Letters to the Editor: March 3 – 9, 2011

Offers to Draft Special Ed Action Plan for Schools


As I am sure members of the Falls Church City School Board now all know, there is obviously (still) a huge problem with special education in Falls Church. As a parent of special education students, we cannot wait until a new leader comes in — for next fall — for some possible relief or some potential solutions. That is the pattern — we just wait until the next meeting or year or decade.

As a parent, I need solutions in real time — just like it is required out here in the real world, the business world. Any business that addressed their clients’ needs by saying wait until the next meeting or with a foray of emails pretending not to understand the question at all would not have that client anymore.

I believe that like any big problem there needs to be an actual plan to solve it. I believe this problem needs an action plan.

As a parent of special education students I have been on the receiving end collectively for 20 years. I see where the problems occur. I see where and why communication breaks down. I see a way it could be different. I have plenty of concrete suggestions.I am offering to write an action plan to fix Special Education in Falls Church. I have not seen such a plan or even discussion of one. I believe a problem of such magnitude deserves one.

If this problem were fixed it would save money and I know that is priority number two. If this problem were fixed it would also save children from permanent damage and time they can never retrieve. I believe that is priority number one.

Also, because this problem has persisted for so long, I am suggesting that the new superintendent have a parent liaison to the superintendent to report to him or her directly from the special education community in order to directly — not through staff. I am offering to serve as that person.

I think taking me up on these ideas would be a way to show the community that the school board hears us and also very much want things to be different.

Alison Kutchma

Falls Church


Some, But Not All Special Ed Parents Frustrated


I am a fan of the Falls Church City Public Schools (FCCPS) Special Ed department. My son is a special needs student who has been enrolled here since 2006. He has derived immeasurable benefits from the loving support and dedication of mainstream and special ed teachers and paraprofessionals alike, across the board, with Jamie Lahy as his case manager for three years in a starring role. Jamie is indeed “an example of what is right in our schools.”

Mrs. Nooter resigned her appointment to the Special Ed Advisory Committee as a protest to the School Board, “because there is no point wasting time on a committee that is heard by neither the School Board nor FCCPS Administration.” Mrs. Nooter has every right to resign her position, but I do not agree with her stated reasoning. Most engaged citizens have experienced being on committees whose recommendations were not approved. That doesn’t mean they weren’t heard. The Committee acts in an “advisory” role by definition. You meet, you provide recommendations, you present them, and they are acted on, favorably or unfavorably, which is a far cry from not being heard.

I’m also a five-year employee at George Mason High School, with up-close and personal contact with every special ed professional on the staff. These dedicated teachers/paras are “twice exceptional” in their own right, first as educators/classroom assistants, and second as disability specialists, and they consistently act in the best interests of our children. This is the rule rather than the exception.

Some parents are frustrated, but not all of us. “Some kids are denied needed services” – as defined by their parents. Parents are sometimes wrong (I have been).
My kid is struggling because he has a disability, not because the school or the system is failing him.

Mrs. Nooter said “Ask the parent of a child with special needs if he or she feels included in the ‘partnership’ mentioned in the School Board’s mission statement.” My answer is a resounding “Yes.”

Peggy Monahan

Falls Church

More Spending Per Pupil in F.C. Worth the Results?


I read with great interest the report in the Washington Post of a study of achievement and per-pupil spending in local schools carried out by the Center for American Progress.

What struck me is that Falls Church spent nearly twice as much per pupil as Manassas Park ($11,760 to $6,887) to gain only 3 more points on the Achievement Index. In addition, Falls Church has only 7% low-income students, while Manassas Park has 40%, which typically is associated with lower student achievement.
What does this say to me? That, constant public praise notwithstanding, maybe Falls Church teachers are not that great. I can’t even count the number of times over my 10 years living in the city that budgets for paying city staff or helping low-income residents were slashed, while school budgets were considered inviolate. Even one more student per class was anathema: Our fine teachers will go somewhere else!

Well, perhaps they are not so fine. Perhaps the city should recruit from Manassas Park. Perhaps city budgets should not treat the schools like the GOP treats the Dept of Defense.

Chris Raymond

Falls Church

Ravenswood Citizens Oppose Denser Townhouse Development


The property at 3236 Peace Valley Lane has been a source of debate for many years. Our community (Ravenwood Park) as well as surrounding communities, have an intimate connection to and interest in this plot. No community is closer and more connected to it than ours.

Townhouse development may be “but one” proposal, but it is the one being pursued with dogged determination. Any suggestion of single-family home development, which the current zoning allows, is dismissed out of hand.

It is laughable at best to believe that somehow a say in landscaping mitigates the many serious negative consequences of amending the county plan a mere year after it has been and four years before it is scheduled to be again, and then changing the zoning for one developer.

As for “access issues,” we have heard explicitly multiple times that opening Peace Valley Lane, the interrupted road that reaches this parcel, to Route 7 is not happening. Opposition to opening Peace Valley is visceral and universal. Is the threat to open it a clever tool in the arsenal of those who make and support this proposal to force acceptance of a dense development to which so many are opposed?

We are not simply “single-family detached homes (1950s era).” We are an established and vibrant community, connected by volunteer and service events by which we support one another and those outside our community, as well as social events that express our community’s interests and flavor. We seek the stability the county comprehensive plan itself purports to recognize, embrace and protect. A townhouse development would accomplish the opposite.

We are united in our support for single-family homes and our opposition denser development. The resources and time of public servants could be better spent on other compelling issues. Already time — and money — have been expended concerning a revision desired by a very few people who have everything to gain and nothing to lose by pursuing dense development in a place where they do not live near people who do not want it.

John Iekel


Ravenwood Park Citizens Association

Notes Film Version of Williams’ ‘Orpheus Descending’


Nicholas Benton deserves kudos for his piece on Tennessee Williams.

A great man of The Theatre deserves thanks and honor, particularly on the 100th anniversary.

Only thing is, the mention was not made of one of the quirky best movies, starring Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward, called “The Fugitive Kind,” including Victor Jorry and Maureen Stapleton.

Based on Williams’ “Orpheus Descending,” it’s an amazing twisted tale of fantasy, dark motives, and anger.

Thanks for your fine quality journalism!

Stephen Zendt

Concord, Calif.


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