Even in tough economic times, it’s not normal in polite Fairfax County for the head of the vaunted public school system to accuse other county leaders of not caring about children’s futures.
So, when schools superintendent Karen Garza began making that charge to parents and news organizations in April — after the county board passed a budget that was $14 million short of what her team said it needed — there was indignation among county supervisors, to say the least.
Garza launched a “#saveFCPS campaign” on social media, venting her disappointment via Facebook and Twitter. Angry parents bashed county leaders in the comments.
At one point, board of supervisors chairman Sharon Bulova (D) publicly expressed her surprise at Garza’s attacks, noting that the county had met 99.8 percent of the school system’s funding request.
On Tuesday there was a truce, of sorts.
Garza and Bulova sought to move past the acrimony by issuing a joint statement that promised the two agencies would work nicely together from here on out.
“We acknowledge that all involved care very deeply about our community, our young people, and our schools,” the statement read. “We recognize that it is critical for FCPS and the County Board of Supervisors to continue to work together to find viable financial solutions that are in the best interest of our children and the community as a whole.”
The two leaders discussed the feud by phone last week, Bulova said, just before the school board formally accepted a $2.6 billion spending plan that, among other things, includes $70 million in pay raises for teachers.
“We talked about the fact that we really need to ratchet down the rhetoric,” Bulova said. “It’s extremely important that we put some angry words behind us. And we actually need to move forward together because next year is going to be challenging again.”
Garza wasn’t available for comment on Tuesday afternoon, but schools spokesman John Torre issued his own e-mailed statement:
“Supt. Garza met with Chairman Bulova, and the Superintendent believes it is in the best interest of FCPS to work together with the Board of Supervisors to address the school division’s ongoing budget challenges,” the statement said.
Kimberly Adams, president of the Fairfax Education Association, said her group of about 4,000 school workers has been frustrated by the budget fights.
“We definitely want to see both boards working together,” said Adams, noting that county and school system officials are each projecting budget deficits of as much as $100 million for the 2017 fiscal year.
“It doesn’t help when they’re at cross-purposes and our children don’t get the resources that they need,” Adams said. “There is this dynamic between the two boards that has got to be fixed.”