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Falls Church School Board {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

The School Board s primary responsibilities are to set policy for the school division, approve the annual budget, develop a strategic plan, and hire a superintendent to operate the school division in accordance with board policy.

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    Susan C. Dimock
    (N)

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    Laura T. Downs
    (N)

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    Philip R. Reitinger
    (N)

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    Douglass G. Stevens
    (N)

Biographical Information

How will you support students to assure they have the opportunities and services they need to be successful? Include possible improvements in the Individualized Education Plan process. What are your views on continuing to incorporate Social and Emotional Learning into the curriculum in each of the FCCPS schools.

What are your ideas to provide better support for teachers in the work that they do?

What is your approach to balancing the use of technology in the classroom with learning fundamentals as well as recognizing the concerns about increasing screen time that may affect the mental/physical health of children/teens?

What do you see as the most important issue facing the Falls Church City Public Schools in the next year or two?

Biography 19-year resident of Falls Church, Chair of FCCPS Health and Wellness Advisory Committee. Career focus on experiential learning in semester-in-DC university programs, helping young adults successfully launch from school to life to career fulfillment.
Web site www.dimock4fallschurch.org
Email address dimock4fallschurch@gmail.com
To serve all of our students’ needs, I would work with the Superintendent to hire and retain highly qualified certified teachers who are strong communicators. While the IEP process is set by federal law, we should educate parents on their rights and the process; foster strong communication between staff and families; give middle schoolers the option of keeping their case manager through Henderson; and encourage and support students to advocate for their needs with their teachers. Anxiety and depression are critical issues in our schools, and as director of a university program I have increasingly seen extremely bright and inspired students sidetracked by these issues. Our top-rate academic programs must be accompanied by social and emotional learning if we are to successfully “launch” young adults into a more complex world.
To keep our great teachers and attract more, our school system must be a great place to work. Our teachers are professionals: we need to respect their input, provide for professional development and ensure that they have a voice at the table. A great work environment provides autonomy, support and room to develop and grow. While we are competitive on our starting salaries with Arlington, we need to work to increase compensation for our teachers with advanced degrees and years of service to FCC.
It is essential that we consistently use research-based best practices for technology in schools. Technology can be a great academic tool if used well and our students must be prepared for a digital world. But computer access is not a fix in and of itself. Research shows mixed results on the academic benefits of technology in the classroom. To serve our students well we must empower our teachers and staff with both applications and professional best practices that are evidence-based.
FCCPS is on a great trajectory: our community has made critical capital investments in facilities and our school board has recruited strong leadership in Superintendent Noonan. Our focus now is making sure our investments pay off for all students. I see five critical priorities in this progression: (1) moving from technology access to technology optimization, (2) ensuring that students of all abilities and interests are supported and challenged in their growth, (3) attracting and retaining strong teachers, (4) focusing on a culture of caring and inclusion, and (5) instilling independence, self-confidence and socio-emotional resilience to prepare our students for a complex world. Looking ahead, we must also be mindful that the strong economic growth of the past decade may not continue even as Falls Church attracts new residents and students. These dual challenges will require that the school board plan and think creatively about the future.
Biography FC Elem PTA President, 2017-18; Board Member, FCEF; Board Member, FCKLL; Member, GMHS ASAC Cmte.; Former Asst. Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Executive Director of Student Life at George Washington Univ; MA, Higher Education Administration
Web site DownsforSchoolBoard.com
Email address lauradowns4fccsb@gmail.com
Telephone 703-536-6628
To better support all students, I will work to enhance services by adding more ESOL teachers and social workers. At GMHS, I will ensure students know of the free tutoring service, Arlington Career Center and the EIP Program at GMU. I will support the career fairs and career chats at MEH and Mason. I will also make certain that the college and career guidance office helps students understand options like trade schools and community colleges. In terms of the IEP process, parents indicate they need more support. An orientation for parents and a parent liaison who would help parents navigate the system would be helpful. It would also help parents if someone could explain the 504 vs. IEP process. There also needs to be more transparency of services offered for 504 and IEPs. I feel that social and emotional learning occur both at home and in the schools through the IB curriculum and programs such as the Mindfulness elective at MEH. At the high school, freshmen are participating in a mental health curriculum. With recent hate language incidents at MEH and property destruction by a student at Mason during school hours, it is clear that work still needs to be done.
During my time as Elementary PTA President and as a current Board member of the FCEF, I have read many grant applications from teachers. They want professional development opportunities, new equipment and supplies and want to try new approaches to learning. The schools’ budgets are tight so organizations like the PTAs and FCEF must fill-in the gaps. The School Board must ensure that regular Step and/or COLA increases are part of the budget and benefits such as the Employee Assistance Program are comprehensive so that we can recruit and retain great teachers. With the IB curriculum and preparing students for the SOL exams, teachers have a heavy workload. We need to make sure they have sufficient planning time and professional days.
Our schools need to prepare students for the technology they will encounter in college and the workforce. After discussions with principals and students, I feel the use of technology in FCCPS is age appropriate and limited until students reach GMHS. A recent report by Johns Hopkins University indicated that social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) does have an impact on young people’s mental health. Accessing social media on personal devices outside the classroom, does seem to have an effect on children's mental health. Inside the classroom, I feel our school system’s use of technology is age appropriate and enables our students to build their skills as they mature and will ultimately prepare them for post-secondary education and careers
The budget and enrollment. Though enrollment has been flat recently, there is an increase in ESOL and economically disadvantaged students. As a result, there is a need for additional staff to better support these students. Parents have also indicated that we need to improve our mental health services especially at MEH and GMHS. Additional school psychologists, counselors, college counselor at GMHS, ESOL teachers and social workers would improve the student experience and close achievement gaps. We also need to have competitive salaries to recruit and retain great teachers. If enrollment stays flat or slightly increases, we should be able to gradually hire more support staff while maintaining competitive salaries and benefits packages for teachers and staff. However, if enrollment begins to increase at a faster pace, it will be a challenge to hire new support staff as we must keep teacher salaries competitive and class sizes small which would require hiring additional classroom teachers
Biography I have lived in Falls Church City since 1998 and served on the School Board for four years, two of them as Vice Chair. I have three kids at GMHS who are FCCPS "lifers." I have come to know may of the teachers and administrators in FCCPS personally.
Web site www.reitinger.org
Email address phil4fcc@gmail.com
FCCPS needs to meet the needs of all students. This includes options ranging from career-oriented programs (such as at the Arlington Career Center) through IB and AP classes. To do this with limited resources, we need to use technology effectively and partner with larger jurisdictions and local colleges. We must continue to improve the process and results for special education curricula (as our staff is doing), and help student to grow as people, and not just academic performers.
Teachers need a number of things, but the two most important are planning time and better access to professional development. The latter requires that we find way to devote additional resources to professional development, and continue to work through the Administration to find ways to improve access to the training that is available. The former also depends on the resources to have additional planning time for teachers.

Paraprofessional face these same challenges.
Technology offers great potential for personalized learning, in letting students learn at their own pace in their own way. Materials can be more interactive, and more up to date, than is possible with textbooks. But screen time remains a significant issue especially for younger students. My approach is the one I have advocated since before I joined the board - use of technology where it makes sense, not just because it is available, and watching overall use.
There is no single issue. The most important issues include: (1) Addressing the needs of ALL our students, including those receiving special education and with limited English proficiency. We must recognize that the needs of our students are changing, and adapt. (2) Addressing stress in our students. In a school district such as ours, stress is significant challenge. Eradicating bullying from our schools, and building a caring environment, are a part of this. This requires both programs, like Mindfulness, and resources for counselors, psychologists, and others. (3) Ensuring all FCCPS students benefit from the inclusive, problem-solving IB approach. (4) Successfully finishing the build-out of the new George Mason High School. This is the biggest project in Falls Church's history, and will and must be a cornerstone of our efforts.
Biography My entire career has been in public service—first as a Naval nuclear propulsion officer, now as a civilian supervisor, where I have managed technical research projects, multi-agency teams, and relations between the executive and legislative branches.
Web site DouglassStevens.com
Email address DouglassForFallsChurch@gmail.com
Ensuring each student graduates equipped to succeed in life is the object of all school board activities. As I have listened to parents, I have heard suggestions of how to improve care for children across our entire student population, such as better handling of IEP and 504 plans, more specialized classes for high achievers, a larger selection of non-advanced classes, stronger vocational training programs, and improved integration of English learners. As a school board member, I will support our excellent educational professionals in applying best practices to improve learning across our student population. I believe the home is the primary place for students to learn strong social and emotional skills, but I fully support the schools supplementing that in a way that takes the students' various backgrounds and needs into consideration.
I believe quality teachers and staff are the most important factor in our children’s education and should be one of the school board’s highest priorities. The City’s 2018 average teacher salary was the second highest in the state, yet many of our teachers cannot afford to live in the City. Inflation adjusted U.S. teacher wages are lower than in 1996, and teachers earn 18.7% less than comparable workers. My own sister is a special-needs teacher and feels this acutely. Other important factors are a teacher’s relationship with their supervisor, having all the resources they need, and having their accomplishments acknowledged. I would like to hear more from teachers about how their needs are being met and other suggestions for improvements.
Ensuring the school administration is wisely using technology only in ways that enhance learning is an important part of the school board’s responsibility. Under the previous school administration, there were concerns about whether new technology introduced into the classrooms was truly improving the educational process. The current administration has made improvements, and our students’ overall level of academic achievement is impressive, yet the board must continue to monitor how technology use enhances learning. Being technologically savvy is practically a requirement for our students’ future, and there are valuable educational resources delivered through technology, but use of technology is just one piece of a balanced learning plan.
The school budget may not be a hot conversation topic, but it underpins everything the schools do. In recent budgets, a strong economy enabled both the city council and school board to fund their priorities and enjoy a smooth negotiation process. But future economic conditions will vary, and it will take some time for the new development projects around the city to begin generating tax revenues. Additionally, the current school budget incorporates cost reductions and realignments that were one-time events and will not be available to cushion future budget needs. The school board should oversee detailed planning for how future budgets will continue to provide excellent results for all students in the face of potential downward economic pressures. I will also work for a strong relationship between the board and the city council because I believe the citizens of Falls Church are best served when the two bodies work cooperatively with a holistic goal of serving our entire community.