At the monthly meeting of the Falls Church Schools’ citizens’ voluntary Special Education Advisory Committee Monday night, committee chair Becky Smerdon, a candidate in the School Board election coming Nov. 3, ruled as “out of order” a motion and second to call for her resignation, according to News-Press sources from the meeting. Smerdon was the center of controversy for her petition filed in Arlington Circuit Court against the School Board earlier this month.
According to the News-Press source, four members of the Special Education Advisory Committee, or SPEAC, called for a vote on the motion and second, but Smerdon did not allow it. One citizen volunteer member then called for the committee to be dissolved because the atmosphere had become so bad.
In a statement by Bronwen Rankin, a citizen and parent of a special needs student presented at the beginning of the meeting, she said that “During the past year the current chair and co-chair of SPEAC disrespected staff on SPEAC through negative messages, rude silencing, and protracted, bullying public comment.” Describing herself as a “clinical psychologist specializing in testing for learning disabilities who has served on the board of an independent school for five years and as a former SPEAC member, she added, “Negativity and intimidation does not create constructive, collaborative change in our schools. By taking legal action against the board they serve, they have a conflict of interest. Their public actions serve their own agendas and are not in line with duties and appropriate boundaries of committee members.”
Five of the seven parent members of the committee spoke about the lack of collaboration in the leadership, lack of civility in the meetings, a feeling that if they speak up in meetings they will be attacked, and feeling belittled by the leadership when opinions are expressed. They said that due to the poor leadership, he said, the committee cannot move forward.