Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: A Triennial Plan for Falls Church City Schools

By Susan Kearney

My name is Susan Kearney and I am running in the special election for a two-year term on the School Board. I am currently serving my second term on the School Board and have been Chairman for the past two years.

This past June the School Board held a community wide forum to envision the future of our schools. More than 140 citizens from all parts of our city attended representing parents, residents without children in the schools, students, city and school staff, members of City Council, and local businesses. The group discussed challenges facing our schools today, its vision for our schools in the future, and priorities for the next several years. Over the summer the School Board took that input and created a triennial plan for the school division including a vision, mission, pillars of excellence (i.e. areas of focus), and priorities. At our September meeting we formally adopted the plan and it is now our roadmap for the next three years.

As a member of the School Board for the next two years, my top priority will be to implement this plan that reflects the values of our entire community. Here it is:

Vision and Mission

In the City of Falls Church, our vision is innovative and student-centered schools where every child is engaged and achieves his or her full potential.

In partnership with families and the entire community, our mission is to educate each child according to their unique needs so that each child achieves at least one year of student growth in academic subjects each year, and every graduate is prepared for college, career, and responsible citizenship in the global community. To ensure success we will focus on the following pillars and priorities during the 2013-2015 triennium:

21st Century Teaching and Learning

• Develop a strategic plan for innovative and effective implementation of instructional technology across all schools by June 2014. Implement plan recommendations beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

• Complete the implementation of the International Baccalaureate program across all schools PK-12 to insure that all students are developing critical thinking and creative problem solving skills.

• Improve performance for all special populations PK-12 (Special Education, ESOL, Gifted, etc.); all schools meet annual measurable objectives for every subgroup each year.

• Increase learning opportunities for all students by extending class time and offering more flexible learning formats.

• Expand and enhance STEaM related course offerings and activities across all schools.

Excellent Staff

• Complete consistent implementation of the performance growth system by June 2016 so that every teacher is evaluated annually, there is clear delineation among performance levels, and all principals are highly engaged in visiting classrooms and leading instruction.

• Increase teacher pay to be no more than 3% lower than Arlington, Alexandria, or Fairfax County by June 2018.

• Implement and fund the Master Teacher program recognizing outstanding contributions in the classroom and to the school community by June 2014.

Modern, Secure Schools

• Collaborate with the community, City Council, the Planning Commission, and Fairfax County to:

• determine school site placement of the 2nd grade by June 2014,

• complete renovation/expansion of all elementary facilities by September 2016, and

• complete planning for George Mason, to include funding strategy, and begin permitting and design by June 2015.

Readiness for Learning

• Evaluate the effectiveness of readiness programs for students in need – access to food, books, technology, additional instructional time, and enrichment activities – and refine, expand, or discontinue as necessary each year.

Small Classes

• Maintain small class sizes to ensure individualized instruction for all students: K-2nd grade < 23, 3rd-12th grades < 25.

Responsible Fiscal Management

• Define and adopt a rolling three-year planning cycle to include vision, mission, pillars of excellence and priorities, financial forecasts (range low to high) based on expected student enrollment, and an annual work plan by June 2014.

• Collaborate with City Council to establish a multi-year, predictable funding model for school operations by January 2015.

• Conduct a third party audit of operations by June 2014 and implement recommendations as appropriate in 2014-15.

Complementing this triennial plan is a detailed work plan for this year. Both documents are posted at www.fccps.org.

If you have questions about the results of the community wide visioning session or the triennial plan, I would be happy to answer them. Please email me at skearney@fccps.org. Thank you for the opportunity to serve Falls Church, our families, and our kids as a member of the School Board for the past seven-plus years. I look forward to continuing this incredibly rewarding work for two more years.


Susan Kearney is the Chair of the Falls Church City School Board and is running for reelection in November.