At the Monday work session held by the Fairfax County School Board, members discussed the timeline for selecting a new superintendent, the upcoming fiscal year budget and amending the admissions policy at the county’s elite school for math and science.

The School Board talked about the superintendent search process with representatives of the talent acquisition firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates. Last Thursday, the board awarded a $35,000 contract to the consultants.

The firm’s representatives gave a timeline for the search. In early March, School Board members will interview the first candidates and nominate semifinalists before April. The new superintendent will be announced by early May and will assume the duties of incumbent Jack Dale on July 1.

School Board members also talked about the budget for the current fiscal year and the next.

Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) urged her colleagues to consider several austerity measures. She said it was the board’s responsibility to be conscious of budget spending in light of the slow-recovering economy and the looming possibility of sequestration-related cuts in the coming months. Schultz also mentioned the possibility that under certain conditions, Fairfax schools could face a $145 million deficit in 2014.

“We are Greece, we are Spain,” Schultz said.

To lighten the conversation, member Patty Reed (Providence) suggested that the board host “a bake sale” to raise money for the budget.

The board’s work session ended with a discussion on the admissions policy at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. School Board members have been grappling with how to improve diversity at the school for the area’s brightest mathematical minds.

Diversity at TJ, as the elite school is known, has been the center of debate for a long time. (Two good articles on the background are here and here.)

Last night, the School Board talked about amending TJ policy 3355.3, especially this part identifying ideal candidates: “for those who have demonstrated high achievement, aptitude, commitment, intellectual curiosity and creativity in mathematics, science, and technology.”

Essentially, the School Board wants to change some of that language so that TJ can cast a wider net in the applicant pool while not lowering the high admissions standards.

There was one “Aha!” moment during this discussion. At one point, it was suggested that the School Board revisit the language in the state’s policy regarding governor’s schools. TJ was founded as a governor’s school in 1985.

The School Board decided to pass the TJ admissions policy back to the governance committee, chaired by Dan Storck (Mount Vernon), for further revision with this passage in mind from the Virginia Department of Education Web site:

“Governor’s Schools give gifted students academic and visual and performing arts opportunities beyond those normally available in the students’ home schools. Students are able to focus on a specific area of intellectual or artistic strength and interest and to study in a way that best suits the gifted learner’s needs. Each programs stresses non-traditional teaching and learning techniques. For example, small-group instruction, hands-on-experiences, research, field studies, or realistic or artistic productions are major elements in the instructional design at all schools. Students become scientists, writers, artists and performers as they work with professional mentors and instructors. Every effort is made to tailor learning to needs of the community of learners that compose the program.”