Local Commentary

Editorial: Making the Schools’ ‘Honor Roll’ Again

Once again, the Falls Church News-Press was honored by the Falls Church School Board and named to the Virginia School Board Association “Media Honor Roll.” It is the fifth time the F.C. School Board – despite being made up by many different folks over the last 22 years – has so expressed its appreciation to the News-Press.

To us, our depth-coverage of the school system week-in, week-out over going on two dozen years, from its academics, to its music and drama programs and its sports, to its battles to ensure decent salaries for its staff and facilities for all its students – is about much more than any of that.

Rather than a passive chronicler of these matters, the News-Press has been since its inception in March 1991 a proactive, passionate, unapologetic advocate on behalf of all persons marginalized or powerless in our society. It is in our DNA to be this way, and among those persons we advocate for are those who have no vote and no say of their own in our society – the young.

So, just as we have fought for programs vital to the elderly, especially to the poor elderly, most often pushed off to the political margins, the homeless, and the bullied and discriminated against, so we fought from Day One of our existence not so much for the schools as for the young people who populate them, and their well being.

Those who have come through the Falls Church School System have been the beneficiaries of an extraordinary roster of caring, dedicated teachers and staff over the years. Never have we found them wanting in their dedication to the young ones they’ve served. (It is always mind-blowing for us to contemplate that someone born the same year that the News-Press came into being is now a 22-year-old and that anyone born from the late 1980s on never knew a Falls Church without its weekly News-Press.)

In the first month of the News-Press’ existence came a banner headline touting a 4-3 City Council vote against cutting the School Board budget, and in June 1991 one that cheered, “Landslide!” for a 62 percent vote in favor of a $12.8 million school bond for the renovation of the George Mason High and Middle School. It’s been like that ever since.

But our most important achievement came in the mid-1990s, when our editor became president of the local Chamber of Commerce and was instrumental in engineering an unprecedented detente between the City’s business community and the schools that has held since. It involved convincing the Chamber that good schools were good for business, and convincing the school community that robust business development provided the tax revenues need to help fund the schools.

These notions seem elementary now, but weren’t then, not by a long shot. Urged on by scores of supportive editorials in the interim, the City’s business development boom that began in 2001 grew from that achievement.