Letters to the Editor: October 26 – November 1, 2017
Call for Tolerance During & After November Election
“Believe it or not, reasonable people can disagree on issues…. It would be shameful and ironic if the discussions about the education of our future leaders are full of vitriol, confrontation, accusations, disrespect, and divisiveness rather than community, listening, constructive criticism, and compromise.”
The words above come from a letter published right here a year and a half ago on the tone of budget discussions, yet they seem truer than ever as we approach voting on the referendum to fund a new high school. I have witnessed individuals — on both sides — disrespect or intimidate others, acting as though anyone who disagrees is wrong, ill-informed, doesn’t care about children, or doesn’t care about rising taxes. Elected leaders have been attacked despite sacrificing a lot of time to serve our community and often putting the City before their own jobs or family.
Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, on Nov. 8 we will still be neighbors, walking dogs past each other’s houses, bumping into each other at the farmer’s market or block party, borrowing sugar, taking classes at the community center, or cheering our children on the soccer fields. Whether the bond passes or fails, the only certainty is that there will still be many difficult decisions to make. Unless we act as community, listening and tolerating dialogue and disagreements, our challenges will be even greater.
Headline Not Clear On Sze’s Referendum Position
Please explain your Oct. 19 page 1 headline “Sze Shifts on Bond Referendum.” The text of the article merely states that while Councilman Sze voted against putting the referendum on the ballot, he expects the referendum to pass in November. I see nothing more. Should it pass, your article cites him saying he will support the building of the school.
Was your headline implying that he previously said he would oppose building the school if the referendum passed? If not, then the headline seems like nothing more than an unsubstantiated charge of flip-flopping by a Council candidate.
School Bond is Premature, Need to Think Outside the Box
I have no problem with a new Falls Church high school but want it built economically while balancing competing City priorities and the citizens’ ability to pay.
The current proposal has a $120 million bond issue that City Manager Shields says will initially add $0.06 to the property tax rate (4.6-percent increase). This increase is before any assessment increases that will, of course, increase actual taxes still more.
1. The new school will have two gyms.
2. Air rights for commercial development above the school buildings were not considered and school proponents have no interest in the concept.
3. No significant interim revenue is planned from empty classrooms overbuilt initially for future expansion.
4. Former Superintendent Schiller proposed a $60 million alternative school concept. School proponents say that his proposal is most like alternative 4 of 13 considered and would cost over $100 million. Schiller was not consulted on this conclusion since he has left Falls Church.
5. Previously, a developer proposed a “free school” as part of his plan for the site; the School Board followed up with an RFP for similar proposals; two were received. School proponents say none provided a “free school,” but it is unclear whether portions of those proposals might significantly save costs to the taxpayers.
Now, Mr. Shields says the City will clear the bond issue only after development options have been fully evaluated by the City and could take eight years to decide on an issue of the school bonds.
So, why the rush to judgment?
A $120 million bond issue for the school is at the outer limit of costs for the alternatives; if bonds are approved for that amount, the politicians ultimately will spend it. If the bond issue fails, the city is not left with only a draconian alternative of renovating the existing plant. Instead, they should scrub the proposals further thinking outside the box on both costs and revenues and bring a revised proposal for a smaller bond issue to the voters in a future election. I plan to vote no on this premature bond issue.
James E. Schoenberger
Our Responsibility To Provide for Future City Needs
Our family relocated to the D.C. area in 2001. We sifted through the options for buying a home with good schools, a strong community, and close proximity to downtown to shorten the commute. We found all of those things in the City of Falls Church.
Good schools not only enable the future for our kids, but they also are a key determinant of property values – so they’re in all of our best interest whether we have students in the schools or not.
Two of our children have graduated from George Mason and are away at college; one is a student at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School. Even if construction of a new high school were to start this fall, there is only a remote chance our middle schooler would get to spend any of her academic career at the new high school.
Yet I strongly support the Nov. 7 referendum to replace our aging facilities at Mason. The GMHS facility has now outlived its useful life and needs to be replaced. A patch job will not fix the problems, and in fact will make them more difficult and expensive to fix later. It’s much like a decision we faced at home recently: do we spend a minimum of $400 to fix a 14-year old dryer that failed, and more to fix its paired washer when it fails? Or do we invest in a new set of appliances that will hopefully last another 14 years? We chose the latter.
We found good schools when we moved to Falls Church because those who lived here before us paid it forward, investing in the schools and the community. Thackrey preschool, Henderson Middle School, and the expansions at TJ and Mt. Daniel are all testimony to this foresight. Now our high school is in need of investment. We’ve spent three years studying and refining options and it’s time to move.
This responsibility is now ours to provide for current and future needs of our City and its schools. Please join me in voting Yes on the referendum on Nov. 7.
Webb Deserves Re-Election to F.C. School Board
I had the honor of serving as the Interim Superintendent for the Falls Church City Public Schools. For almost six months, I had the privilege of witnessing an outstanding educational program, working with highly dedicated staff, and partnered with the committed leadership of the School Board members. I hold in high esteem all seven FCCPS board members.
I believe the F.C. community owes a debt of thanks to those members who are leaving the Board in a few months: Michael Ankuma, John Lawrence, and Margaret Ward; and to Lawrence Webb, who is seeking another term of public service as a board member. Their dedication, countless hours of commitment, and unswerving desire to do the right things for FCCPS and the City must be recognized.
Mr. Webb rose to the many challenges of serving as Chairman this past year when critical decisions had to be made. He has brought to the role incredible grace, dignity, integrity, and passion for the schools, students, and staff. As the Chairman, Lawrence shepherded through the Board many challenging and difficult matters. He unselfishly gave his time, late at night, early in the morning, and during the workday, whenever asked.
I have worked with many board chairpersons over the course of a very long career in many states and districts. Mr. Webb ranks in the highest echelon of those dedicated public servants to public education in their communities.
High quality school districts are characterized by the continuity of leadership at the board level. I urge the you support Lawrence Webb for re-election to the FCCPS Board of Education. The Board, the School Division, and the City benefits greatly by his calm presence, thoughtfulness, and dedication.
Robert E. Schiller
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