Superintendent Jones ‘Excited’ By Schools Visioning Exercise

Praise and high marks were generated all the way around from the novel day-long “visioning” session hosted by the Falls Church School System on June 29, reflecting an unprecedented level of concord among disparate elements of the F.C. community about the direction and future of the school system.

“I was really excited by the number of people and the cross section of people who were willing to spend an entire Saturday to contribute their ideas,” F.C. Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones told the News-Press Wednesday.

“It was very refreshing to know the degree of agreement on matters of technology, facilities and programming for all students,” she said. “We received affirmation that we are working in the right areas now, and will move forward with community togetherness.”

She said the results of the day-long event, which drew 140 people, are already finding their way into the School Board’s emerging draft work plan for the fall, a number of additional opportunities for community input have been announced.

Six shorter, one-hour opportunities for citizens who missed the June 29 event, or who were there and want to provide more input, have been scheduled. They will be held on July 22, 24 and 25 and August 5, 6 and 8 at the School System’s central office, 800 W. Broad St., Suite 203, all beginning at 7 p.m.

Some of the most positive remarks came from F.C. Chamber of Commerce board chair Christopher Bergin of Tax Analysts, one of the largest private sector employers in the City. He, executive director Sally Cole and board member Michael Ankuma were among the Chamber members who attended.

“The room was packed. It was impressive that one a beautiful Virginia summer day that so many people would be sitting in that room incredibly engaged,” he said in an oral report to the Chamber board Tuesday.

Also impressed by the leadership of Superintendent Jones, he said, “She’s on the cutting edge. She’s got it,” adding, “What they teach (in the Falls Church schools – ed.) is what we need: innovation, creativity, teamwork and problem solving.”

Such an education provides “the kind of employees I want to hire. It is so different now. I think they’ve got it,” Bergin added.

Positive feedback also came from members of the Falls Church City Council who attended, beginning with comments from Council member Johannah Barry made at Monday night’s City Council meeting. It was a “collegial atmosphere,” she said, focused on “looking for solutions.” It was “choreographed well, and there was excellent dialogue,” she said.

Councilman Phil Duncan said he was impressed that “not just the usual suspects were there,” and efforts were made to increase awareness of the connection between the City’s water deal with Fairfax County and the schools’ facilities issues. “The role of economic development to cover the cost of the schools was discussed,” he added.

Vice Mayor David Snyder said he was impressed at how the meeting reflected the efforts of the school community to “reach out to other sections of the community.” He added, “The schools recognize we need the entire community. There was great interest in overall financial issues.”

Barry noted, “There was much discussion of the budget, and the pressures on both the schools and the community. It was eye-opening for many.” She added that members of the business community, neighborhoods, and “folks with no kids” were all involved.

Superintendent Jones said the event went so well, that she’s already talked with Vice Mayor Snyder about whether such an exercise be expanded to include City as well as school issues in the future.