Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale Deserves to Have Contract Renewed

Thursday, September 10, 2009

FAIRFAX schools Superintendent Jack D. Dale inevitably has ticked off some people in his five years leading Virginia's largest school system. The result is an effort by some to block renewal of his contract. But being superintendent is not about making everyone happy. Any objective measure of Mr. Dale's record shows he has been successful in making a good school system even better.

The county Board of Education will meet tonight to decide whether Mr. Dale, in the final year of his contract, should continue at the helm of the 170,000-student system. The proposal would extend his service to June 2013 with his salary staying at $292,469 for the first year. Teachers unions and parent advocacy groups are grumbling that their concerns about Mr. Dale aren't being heard.

We know that Mr. Dale irked groups that wanted changes in school start times or grading and disciplinary policies. But weigh those complaints against the concrete, measurable -- and public -- standards that the board set to judge Mr. Dale's effectiveness. He has more than measured up to those -- and nowhere more than in the critical area of student achievement.

Whether you use SAT scores or state proficiency tests or advanced placement exams, Fairfax students stand out. Mr. Dale inherited a first-class school system, but he has had to maintain that excellence as the student population became larger, more diverse and more challenging. He did so while shrinking the achievement gap between minority and white students. A system that used to do well for white students is now better serving the needs of students of all colors -- without sacrificing anyone's progress.

There are challenges ahead, exacerbated by shrinking resources. That's one more reason why the board would be ill-advised to listen to the complaints of a few in deciding what is in the interests of the many.

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