Tistadt, 63, who retired on Dec. 31, had seen and fixed it all. But he left behind one problem he always wanted to solve: overcrowding at Bailey’s Elementary near Seven Corners.
“Of the challenges I’ve faced in my career, this is the most insolvable,” Tistadt said, acknowledging that this particular issue stymied him. “I’ve prided myself on being creative, being a problem-solver. . . . I leave with regret at not being able to change it.”
At Bailey’s Elementary, the total enrollment this year surged above 1,300, making it the largest elementary school in the region. Within five years, its enrollment is projected to reach 1,600. Tistadt said much of the recent growth is driven by a high birth rate in the Bailey’s Crossroads area, which has attracted many immigrant families. The school has become one of the most culturally diverse in the county.
It is also home to some of the school system’s poorest students, with about 65 percent of the children receiving free or reduced-price meals.
The school, built in 1952, was last renovated in 1995, and it was designed to accommodate 1,000 students. Tistadt’s team set up 19 mobile classroom trailers to compensate for the lack of space.
Bailey’s Parent Teacher Association member Christine Adams, the mother of a fifth-grader, said children are crammed into “every nook and cranny.”
“It’s been a problem plaguing us for years, and it gets progressively worse,” Adams said. “The truth is, it’s just a matter of time until we hit the breaking point because you just can’t keep filling up a school that’s already over capacity.”
Adams said that Tistadt was dedicated to helping the parents at Bailey’s find a solution to the school’s overcrowding problem. “I know he would have loved to wave his magic wand and fix it,” Adams said. “But he couldn’t.”
A George Mason graduate, Tistadt was a county budget analyst before joining the school system in 1988. He worked his way up through the administration, and he garnered broad authority in 2002, when he took over as chief operating officer and assistant superintendent.
“Any public official wants to be able to walk away believing they have made a positive difference in the lives of those for whom they served, and that is certainly Dean’s legacy,” Superintendent Jack Dale said. “He demonstrated a great passion for and belief in FCPS and worked tirelessly and unselfishly on behalf of Fairfax students and their families.”
But the situation at Bailey’s Elementary stumped Tistadt. In his last interview before retiring, Tistadt said he was unable to win over the Board of Supervisors, specifically Supervisor Penelope A. Gross, who represents the Mason district, home to Bailey’s Elementary.