Statements from other three candidates will appear online and in print next week.
Like many families moving to Falls Church, my wife and I were attracted by the reputation of the schools. Entering our fourth year with FCCPS, I certainly cannot imagine my children— Orrick (6) and Huxley (4)— having better teachers and paraprofessionals. Starting at Jessie Thackrey Preschool, my oldest in particular has received additional support to enable his full participation and success in the classroom. I am running for school board to help ensure (in collaboration with other board members, school administration and staff, and other community members) that the schools continue to provide the excellent educational experience they are known for.
My work in the fields of education, economic development, and health statistics has provided me with hands-on experience through which I have developed a holistic perspective on the many factors that impact student success. In my work, I have consistently leveraged data to improve student outcomes, ensure teacher satisfaction, and direct effective use of government resources. This has involved balancing needs and concerns of multiple stakeholders (including teachers and school and district level administration) when making decisions, and using a range of methods of communication and feedback loops to gather information both before and after decisions have been made. I would bring this experience in statistical analysis and collaborative problem-solving to the board.
After knocking on over 2,000 doors (and counting), I have gained a great appreciation of how many different voices there are in our community. The 2019 equity report noted that “FCCPS must do more to ensure that all voices are represented, not just the loudest and most fervent.” This is a sentiment echoed throughout last year and is something that FCCPS should take to heart. We should give everyone the opportunity— through annual surveys, widely publicized town halls, or some other broad-based feedback method, including in languages other than English— to have their voices heard and to allow them to represent themselves in their own words.
In my many conversations with parents, teachers, and other community members, I have been asked about a wide range of topics, including alternatives for addressing bullying, relevance of professional development for teachers and paraprofessionals, and closing existing gaps for special populations in academic performance, participation in advanced classes, and extracurricular opportunities. By actively seeking systematic feedback from community members, the board can ensure the budget is effectively allocated to address these and other priorities, strategic planning is performed with full information, and policies can be thoroughly evaluated.
I think the FCC schools are special and unique, and I want FCCPS to be a caring community where all students thrive, all staff feel supported, and all parents can engage as partners in their child’s education. Importantly, we should encourage a culture of empathy where no student experiences school as an environment of exclusion. I am committed to making certain that the educational experience in Falls Church City schools is consistent with these values.
There have been and will be various forums during this school board race. Each with its targeted audience. Today, I want to address the audience that led me to want to run for a board seat in the first place— our city’s parents. Yes, our schools are great, as are the teachers, staff, and administrators in them. But it is the support, involvement, personal accountability, and trust from you, the parents, that makes this school system what it is.
The connection between parents and our school system is a relationship centered around our kids. Healthy relationships are powerful springboards for mutual achievement. They also require people feeling empowered to speak up and share in responsibility and transparency. That is not always easy or comfortable. Which is why our school board must be unflinchingly committed to providing strong leadership and be both facilitator and arbiter of consistently building and maintaining a healthy relationship between parents and the school system. We do not achieve this or build excellence with a “war behind the door” that leaves most in the dark as to what conversations are being had or opinions/concerns are being weighed. Our school board must instead set the tone of openly engaging each other and our Superintendent in honest scrutiny and respectful discussions/debates which are representative of the various views, questions, concerns, and ideas of the community and its parents. When feedback and concerns go unaddressed, unvalidated, or parents feel guilty for having them, it undermines the parent/system relationship which is so critical to our success. People need to see mutual accountability play out. They need to hear themselves being represented.
If elected, I am deeply committed to creating an environment where parents feel heard and the school board holds itself to the highest of standards, starting with myself. This is why I am running. I want every parent to feel they have someone who is empathetic, accountable, and an advocate, in me. I have spent the past year filling that role. I am committed to the management of our Superintendent so that person can be the best leader they can be. I want to help set clearly defined measurable goals that support our students both academically and mentally/emotionally. I want to ensure our school system is one that puts the children in its care, first. That can rise to whatever challenges it faces swiftly and with nuance.
My former basketball teammate, now college coach, wrote the other day, “Someone holding you accountable is not the same as someone attacking you.” This simple but profound truth I learned long ago. People, teams, or organizations who are truly seeking to achieve and maintain excellence understand some version of this. While they celebrate victories and milestones, they also welcome constructive criticism. They hold themselves up for scrutiny and to be challenged. They encourage good faith debate and dissent. They constantly ask themselves how they can be better… even when they are great.
If this resonates with you, I’m asking for your vote.
Like many families, our family moved to Falls Church City (in 2016) because we wanted to be part of a great community, have our two kids attend excellent schools with caring teachers, and live among neighbors who look out for each other. The Little City is truly a special place and has lived up to our expectations.
The pandemic has tested communities around the country, including ours. It has and is still taking so much from all of us. In our schools, we are still understanding the impact of the social, emotional, and academic losses of our students. Our collective patience as parents or teachers is strained.
Yet, I believe we can do the hard work of listening well and healing and remember the many strengths of our school community. I am running for School Board to be part of the team that leads our school community to help ensure our district is forward-thinking, yet reflective of its past missteps, not just its past successes. I am running because I know the difficult policy decisions this next Board will be facing.
What sets me apart from the other candidates are three attributes that I believe are critical for effective school board functioning, regardless of which other candidates are elected. First, I offer a breadth and depth of educational knowledge and experience, based on 25 years of working in the education sector in a variety of roles, which I hope will be an asset as our School Board navigates math curriculum reform, collective bargaining, and strategies to combat learning losses, among many other issues.
Second, I understand the importance of school board governance and the function of providing fiscal oversight. As an accountability body, we must reflect on previous decision-making and ensure we implement school board governance best practices, initially focusing on strengthening communication with the community. We must maintain a strong relationship with the City Council, our partners in adopting a responsible fiscal plan for our schools. I have experience, having provided direct oversight for billions of federal grant dollars and now serving as the CEO or owner of multiple education companies.
Finally, I have a long history of bringing people together from different camps to work towards a common good. I have worked closely with governors and state superintendents in both political parties on their education policy. At the US Department of Education, I directed a major federal investment that spanned two administrations (Bush, Obama). As a CEO, I have led the merger and acquisition of 5 companies to successfully bring together groups of staff with different work styles and cultures.
No matter which other candidates get elected in November, I believe I can help bring our School Board together to ensure the best outcomes for our entire learning community. I ask for your support, as I would welcome the opportunity to use my skills and experience to serve this community that I love. Learn more or contact me at www.tategould.org.
In 2013, we moved to Falls Church City because of its excellent schools and supportive and open-minded community. The Little City warmly welcomed us, and we immediately felt at home. The commitment to education was apparent in the resources and programs at the library, and in the schools’ support for our children. Our son is in tenth grade and focuses on music and computer science. Our seventh-grade daughter is a very active student organizer and advocate. The schools have supported them every step of the way. My sister and her family moved to Falls Church City in 2020 so that their children (currently in second and fourth grade) could attend our schools.
I am running for a seat on the Falls Church City School Board to serve the schools that have served us. I have over 20 years of experience executing the core functions of the School Board: strategic planning; budgeting; setting policy; and performance oversight. I know how to work with communities to develop a shared vision for the future and put it into practice. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the School Board, the community, and teachers to help all students achieve their dreams, develop and implement a vision for the future of our schools, and perform effective oversight of the administration of our schools.
The schools, and school board, will lead the emergence of our schools and community from the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2020-2021 school year was disruptive to the entire community. I am happy and grateful that children are back in school and that mitigations are in place to keep the community safe. The pandemic amplified two existing challenges that we must face.
The first is mental health and emotional growth. Promoting the mental health of our children is an essential aspect of preparing them for adulthood. Depression and anxiety among children were issues before the pandemic. The isolation and suffering of the pandemic have amplified them. Being away from peers significantly affected students’ social and emotional development.
The second is equity. We were fortunate: my wife and I were able to transition our work to home. Our schedules were flexible, and we could help with homework or technical issues during virtual school. Many families were not so lucky. They had to work outside the home or lost their jobs. Some struggled with English. Others had special needs that could not be met in a virtual setting. Consistent with the International Baccalaureate principles we profess, we have an obligation to address the root causes of these unequal outcomes.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on the school board, the Falls Church City community, and especially teachers when developing solutions to these and other challenges. Teachers are most families’ direct connection to our schools. Teachers inspire our children and hold them accountable. Teachers implement the policies the school board approves. Teachers are a source of innovation and creativity. Their voices should sing in the school board’s work.