Fairfax schools chief Jack D. Dale gets a new set of bosses tonight when the county’s next school board take the oath of office in a 7 p.m. ceremony at Luther Jackson Middle School.
The new board will be composed of six returning veterans and six members who were elected for the first time in November.
Ten of the board members are endorsed by Democrats and two by Republicans – but political affiliation, while key to winning votes on Election Day, is likely to matter very little when it comes to making policy decisions.
Instead, the board appears likely to be divided among long-serving members who defend the school system’s way of doing business and generally seem to trust Dale and his staff, and newer members who come to the board with a record of challenging Dale and advocating for change.
At a Dec. 10 team-bonding retreat for the new board, there were already hints of alliances, divisions and frustrations during heated discussions over discipline policies and how deeply board members should be involved, for example, in addressing parent complaints about principals, teachers and policies.
Two of the most outspoken critics of the current board were incoming members Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield), who led community resistance to the closure of Clifton Elementary School, and Megan McLaughlin (Braddock), who headed the Fairgrade campaign to revise the county’s strict grading policy.
Outgoing member Brad Center (Lee) advised them spend time learning how the system works before trying to overhaul it.
“Try on the shoes for a couple months before you decide you want to change the shoes,” he said. “If you don’t like it, tweak it.”
The new board doesn’t have much time to find its footing before it’s tossed into that annual whirlwind of heartache known as the budget cycle.
Dale is slated to present his proposed 2013 budget on Jan. 12, the board’s first regular meeting. A week later, on Jan. 18 and 19, the board will hold two sessions to hear community feedback.
Returning board members:
Jane K. Strauss (Dranesville), current chair; Ilryong Moon (At Large), vice chair; Kathy Smith (Sully); Dan Storck (Mt. Vernon); Patty Reed (Providence) and Sandy Evans (Mason).
New board members: