Board Puts Water Chief

Ahead of Its Customers

Re: "Fairfax Water Doubles Pension of Retiring Manager" [Metro, Sept. 28].

The article about retiring General Manager Charlie C. Crowder could not have been timelier, as my mail that day included a letter from Fairfax Water advising me that the rates were being raised. A mere coincidence, I am sure! Shame, shame, shame on the water board for approving such a retirement package without allowing public scrutiny. It is a slap in the face of every Fairfax Water customer.

Andree Johnson

Alexandria

Suddenly, Cost of Water

Is Starting to Add Up

The article about Charlie Crowder's pension certainly helped me understand why my water bill has increased over the years from $2.50 a quarter in the late 1960s to over $60 a quarter today for essentially the same service. That's a 2,300 percent increase while there has been no evident improvement in the water supply.

I can understand the pressing need for Mr. Crowder to retire twice as comfortably as he would have, with $80,000 a year to spend on life's accoutrements. The article's accompanying photo showed him smiling like a Cheshire cat over the way things have turned out. Mr. Crowder is lucky, because many residents' salaries have actually gone down during the same period, and many pensions have been eliminated while the cost-of-living index has increased.

Thank goodness for little favors. Today's water bills don't contain the customer-friendly promise they used to, advising the customer point-blank that if he didn't pay his bill, the amount due would be placed as a lien against his house. Instead, today the back of the bill has definitions of a litany of charges that would be applied should the victim dare to deviate one whit from the straight and narrow.

Fairfax Water could definitely use a customer-relations expert, instead of the crop of arrogant bureaucrats who grant their cronies exorbitant favors and have little more than water on the brain.

Alfred G. Alby

Springfield

At Fox Mill, 'No Child' Law

Has Unintended Effects

The Fairfax County public schools are justifiably proud of their performance under the No Child Left Behind law, a performance the school system announced in a press release on Aug. 16. Yet at the same time, unintended consequences are piling up at one school in particular that administrators and elected officials appear powerless to address.

Fox Mill Elementary in western Fairfax has accepted 71 transfer students under No Child Left Behind in the past two years, and the school's total student enrollment has gone from 619 to 750, a 21.2 percent increase. During the 2003-04 school year, Fox Mill had an average class size of 21.8 students -- exactly at the county average. But in 2004-05, Fox Mill's average climbed to 22.4, while the county average dropped to 21.4. The average size at Fox Mill is now 24.

There are 26 students in our younger son's class. There are 27 students in our older son's afternoon classes. The school has one fewer kindergarten class than last year. Many of Fox Mill's third-graders must pack up and move to other classrooms at midday, which isn't conducive to learning and may ultimately affect their performance on the Standards of Learning tests later this school year. These overcrowded classes are simply unacceptable.

Why must the burden fall so severely on this school? Where are the administrators and elected representatives who will stand up for us? Where are the additional resources to address the situation? (No, we don't include trailers -- "learning cottages," says the county -- as additional resources.)

At the same time that class sizes are increasing, so are taxes. On Sept. 13, The Post reported that real estate tax assessments in Fairfax County are up 85 percent since 2000 and that the county had a $46.6 million surplus in its 2005 fiscal year. Tax assessments in the Fox Mill neighborhood are up more like 100 to 125 percent. So at Fox Mill, taxes and class sizes are increasing. What are we getting for our money?

If the premise of No Child Left Behind is that every child deserves a quality education, then an important corollary should be that no child's education should suffer because of the law's unintended consequences. Our elected representatives and our administrators must be held accountable for both the current failures and for fixing the problems immediately. We must make ourselves heard frequently and repeatedly in the school, in the community and in the voting booth.

Michael and Jennifer Herd

Herndon