Dulles South Parents Speak Out Against Proposed School Boundary Plan

Visibly upset parents packed the school board room tonight to voice their concerns over pending attendance boundary changes that could shuffle thousands students in southern Loudoun County.

Most of the 100-plus people who attended the meeting on the upcoming secondary school boundary changes stood during the entire hour-long public hearing to show their support for their neighbors.

Attendance zone changes at Dulles North and Dulles South secondary schools are inevitable ahead of the opening of a new middle school along Braddock Road, known as MS-7 in fall of 2018, and to provide much needed relief to overcrowded schools in the Dulles area. As the Loudoun County School Board redraws attendance lines, it is also taking into account a new high school (HS-11) that will open in Brambleton in 2019 and a new high school (HS-9) scheduled to open just south of Rt. 50 in 2021.

The overwhelming message from the 30 speakers who addressed the board tonight was to keep students who live south of Rt. 50 at schools south of Rt. 50.

Last week, the school system’s Planning Department unveiled three proposed attendance maps and one, Option 3, would reassign students in planning zones DS 12.2 and 12.3—which are south of Braddock Road and east of Gum Springs Road—outside of their normal school cluster to Stone Hill Middle School, until HS-11 opens in fall of 2021. The plan would also move middle schoolers in planning zone DS 16 from Mercer to Lunsford.

In all, those shifts would move about 500 students out of Mercer Middle School.

Executive Director of Planning Sam Adamo has recommended the board go with Option 3 because it would keep enrollment at all of the area’s middle schools below 1,650. “Our concern was the instructional program, and how to provide continuing education in a reasonable environment,” he said at the Oct. 24 meeting.

But parents and students from those neighborhoods, including Virginia Manor, Lenah Run and Kirkpatrick Farms, said it would mean hour-long bus rides and disconnected communities.

“I’m concerned my daughter and her peers are being penalized for adults’ inability to plan for the future,” Virginia Manor resident Tonya Williams told the board. “You say you didn’t know this growth was coming. Loudoun County has been one of the fastest growing counties in Virginia since the 1990s.”

She called Option 3 dangerous and unworkable.

Ashley Eagan, also a Virginia Manor resident and a student at Mercer Middle School, said she is a nationally ranked champion Irish dancer who travels to Baltimore twice a week for classes. She’s a straight-A student and a frequent recipient of student of the month awards. “I can do all this because my school is less than one mile away,” she said, adding that it will be impossible to keep up with everything if she is reassigned to Stone Hill Middle School seven miles away.

A comment made by School Board Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) at the beginning of the meeting about the concerns of busing Dulles South students to schools north of Rt. 50 prompted loud applause and cheers from the audience.

That was one of several moments Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) had to quiet the crowd. He encouraged them to show their support for speakers by either quietly waving their hands or standing.

One speaker, Avram Fechter, asked board members to take a straw vote to indicate to community members their opposition to any plan that would send students living south of Rt. 50 to schools north.

“It is such a concern, as you see tonight. It would put all of us at rest, if you could put that on the record,” he said. “We could all sleep easy. We could all leave you alone.”

The three plans proposed by the Planning Department will likely be just a starting point. School Board members often draft their own proposals to be voted on.

[See more details about Options 1, 2, and 3 here.]

The board will hold several work sessions and public hearings ahead of adopting a final boundary plan Dec. 13. The next public hearing is 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14. People can sign up to speak at lcps.org or by calling 571-252-1050. The meetings are held at LCPS School Administration Building, 21000 Education Court in Ashburn.

dnadler@loudounnow.com
twitter.com/danielle_nadler

9 thoughts on “Dulles South Parents Speak Out Against Proposed School Boundary Plan

  • 2016-11-02 at 1:01 am
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    Folks need to understand what’s going on with LCPS and the board. Parents south of Rt 50 want to keep their students in schools to the south regardless if they are overcrowded. They are aware of the effects and feel the overcrowded schools are a necessary evil to prevent multiple school transfers and unworkable commutes. They erroneously believe the school board will draw the boundaries based on the interests of the kids.

    But the parents should look back to 2012 to what happened in Lansdowne. The school was approaching enrollment of 1000 students, well below what some elementary schools would reach in Dulles recently. Yet, LCSB and LCPS determined a rezoning was required. Parents spoke about wanting to keep the Lansdowne community together especially since two school sites had been offered during its construction. Parents objected to sending elementary school kids 5+ miles down a busy Rt 7 highway when 3 other Ashburn schools stood in between. Bill Fox pushed for year-round school both on policy grounds and as a potential solution to splitting the community.

    But Eric Hornberger, Landowne’s own rep, was secretly undermining the entire effort. He pushed for Lansdowne kids to be barred from any of the 3 closer elementary schools to protect his chosen neighborhoods. Given assurances from other board members they would reject the all-around school, he made it appear that he supported the residents’ preference. But he was actively working against it.

    Why? In a mistakenly leaked survey, it because clear that the teachers were incensed they had to teach any more students than the school’s capacity. They were too burdened by having to rotate classes through the cafeteria. Mind you none of this compares to what Dulles is going through now. But to placate a few teachers, the community was forever split in two and kids are still bused 5+ miles so Ashburn Farm kids won’t be inconvenienced. Hornberger was making backroom deals then. You better believe Hornberger and Morse are making backroom deals now. They just won’t tell you about them till the last minute. And they try to block me from even highlighting the negative effects of splitting neighborhoods during public comments.

    The interests of parents and children should come first. The board and staff needs to be clear about whose interests they are protecting and exactly who is in support of busing kids across Rt 50. It is not in the interests of families.

    • 2016-11-02 at 12:17 pm
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      Wrong again, sgp. The enrollment was over 1000 students. Those elementary schools between SLES and SWES were overcrowded as well. The parents pushing for the year-round option acknowledged SLES was crowded, but still wanted all of Lansdowne to attend one big “community school”.

      Were you even at SLES at the time? Did you attend the meetings with Bill Fox and Eric Hornberger? I was there, and I don’t recall seeing you there. Did you ask questions regarding the year-round option and how it would affect transportation, SpEd, FUTURA, and families with older children in middle and high school? And by the way, those questions were never answered; the parents that did not want to go to SWES pushed for a one year “trial” of the year-round option, to see if they could “make it work”. Sorry, but my kids aren’t guinea pigs.

      Have you even talked to any of the families now at SWES? I seem to recall them being happy with the school and principal. A “rainbow after the storm” was how one parent described it. I’m sure they were much happier with Loudoun County’s Principal of the Year than with SLES’s principal at the time.

      Once again you demonstrate your ignorance. You aren’t interested in what’s best for students. You only care about your personal vendetta against Hornberger and LCPS. Misusing statistics is bad enough, but now you’re talking about a situation you know nothing about and making stuff up as you go along.

    • 2016-11-02 at 12:37 pm
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      I would like to get more information. I have to apologize, I thought last night you were against our efforts but from reading what you posted leads me to believe you were trying to warn us.

  • 2016-11-02 at 12:11 pm
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    I predict none of the current 3 options will be picked. That another option that is released the day before or on the day of the vote is the one picked. It is the SOP of the current establishment to keep parents in the dark and blindside all the stakeholders in the process. The whole thing is a travesty but this is what we get when a majority bloc is formed and is protected by special interests.

  • 2016-11-02 at 9:25 pm
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    Concerned-Mom, yes I am trying to warn you. Nearly everyone on this board is making backroom deals in their own self-interest. They appear to support you but it’s no different than on the TV Survivor series. Most of the time you won’t even know what happened and the final decision comes from left field. Board members should answer questions directly and publicly for all to see (such as on Facebook). Why meet with different groups, say different things, and then deny all that come election time unless they are trying to hide their true motivations.

    Locomom, it’s too bad I have written evidence to demonstrate you are wrong. Seldens had just barely passed 1000 students for the first time in 2012 (1033 students on slide 24) but was projected to start declining again. Compare that to the 2015 enrollment at Rosa Lee Carter (1060), Legacy/Moorefield Station (1120), and Creighton’s Corner (1300) on Slide 12 and it pales in comparison. Seldens could have easily accommodated the entire neighborhood. So why did we need to split up the neighborhood and bus elementary kids 5+ miles down the road?

    Two reasons. Teachers’ interests and demographics. Teachers’ interests. I asked at the 2012 meeting why we needed to split the school at all. The parents didn’t mind an overcrowded school. Nobody was pushing to eject anyone from the neighborhood. I asked if they were getting pushback from the staff at the neighborhood meeting. Hornberger acknowledged as much (you have to take the staff’s interests into consideration). Then, in an anonymous neighborhood survey, a resident who also was a teacher railed against the other parents. She said the school was only “good” because of the teachers and the entitled parents had no clue. It’s true that it’s a little harder for teachers but there are ways to accommodate that. The real question is whose interests are considered. When 3 board members have spouses who teach (Hornberger, Turgeon, and DeKenipp), do you honestly believe the teachers’ interests don’t come first? Just ask each board member at the next meeting how much of their decision is based on needs of teachers vs parents. Ask them why not use trailers and keep neighborhoods together. Board members don’t want you to know they are caving to their spouse’s (and teacher union) demands to split these neighborhoods to make their jobs a little easier but that’s the truth.

    Demographics is next. I support equalizing demographics but it should be done fairly. I asked Hornberger at the 2012 meeting if they were busing Lansdowne kids to balance out demographics at Steuart Weller (it had ~20% FRL whereas Ashburn other schools had less than 10%). He acknowledged for the very first time that was a factor and then about 20 hands were raised (from parents who had finished all their questions but suddenly realized how the backroom deals were going down). The problem was the Ashburn schools had similar demographics as Lansdowne and were closer to Weller. But rather than inconvenience his preferred neighbors (who already lived south of Rt 7 btw and were closer to Weller), Hornberger pushed to bus our kids 5+ miles down the road. They also rezoned Lansdowne town center kids from an Ashburn school into Seldens forcing even more Lansdowne kids to Weller. This was done to increase Seldens FRL %. Later, when I asked about moving all Lansdowne kids back to Seldens in a 2015 rezoning, Hornberger stated that deal was done and he wouldn’t even consider moving all of Lansdowne back. If your community is split now, it is likely you will NEVER be reunited.

    You can see that many of the plans from the school board members for Madison’s Trust split neighborhoods to get the numbers down. They care about teachers more than families.

    The real irony is while Locomom claims I was not there (ask Fox about that or just wait till he testifies in federal court on the witness stand), that was the reason my SGP saga began. I wanted to see which schools were more effective. So I asked Hornberger for VAM data. He lied and said none existed when in fact SGPs were required to be used by all Virginia schools. In fact, Hornberger and his cronies had just two months earlier voted to update the teacher evaluation guide to include SGPs (see page 11) as a possible other data source. They defrauded the US DoE and VDOE by not requiring their use as required by ESEA but in Oct 2012, I wasn’t even aware of SGPs. Later I would FOIA emails with the term “SGP” from 2012 and LCPS tried to charge me $4000 to produce them. There were literally 1000’s of emails on SGP including from that timeframe but Hornberger knew it would prove he had lied to me for years on the subject. By looking at the raw SOL scores, I was able to determine Weller was more effective than Seldens but I needed the SGP scores to see the scale. Even now, Seldens scores below the LCPS average across all subjects and grades when you remove the FRL scores for an apples-to-apples comparison. You note that Principal Stephens is now ousted from Seldens. Why do you think that is? Could it be because someone at Seldens (wonder who) reported me to CPS to have my kids removed because my daughter chose to attend school in rain boots one day? Or maybe because I came to retrieve my kids from the school boundary after she illegally banned me from the grounds and still didn’t want to allow me to pick up my kids? What Stephens didn’t know was I had met with a high-level LCSO manager to ensure I would not violate any laws even if the LCPS no-trespass order was illegal. I served in the Navy and held cleared positions ever since. I am the only one law enforcement or federal judges believe. Stephens is now personally liable for these constitutional violations in federal court where judges are not biased or incompetent. Not to mention she was demoted to a school of about 150 students. Now that a new principal has arrived at Seldens, I expect these scores will greatly improve.

    Given I had enlightened the public on Hornberger’s backroom deals (demographics, teacher interests, busing kids past his own neighborhoods, and VAM data), was it any surprise he didn’t even respond to my email two years later in 2014? Or that when I offered to have lunch to discuss SGPs with the board in Dec-2014, none of them would even respond either? They knew I was on to their tricks and would call them out. Now, rather than allow me to comment on their Facebook pages, they have blocked me and stopped commenting altogether because the federal court has rebuked multiple Loudoun officials who took similar action. They would rather suppress information from all than treat each citizen equally.

    I would recommend you demand the following:

    1. Demand that all plans are submitted 2 weeks before the vote and PRIOR to the last public hearing.

    2. Demand that board members tell you whose interests take precedence: teachers/staff or parents/students?

    3. Demand that questions are answered from all citizens and provided equally to all.

    Most of these boards are as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

    • 2016-11-04 at 9:12 am
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      Well sgp, if you were there at the meetings I do apologize. However, I stand by my statement. There were many factors involved in shooting down the year-round option, but backroom deals was not one of them. The other schools in the area were over capacity as well. SLES was at 1049 students, not “approaching 1000 students” like you claimed. If you think it could have easily accommodated the entire neighborhood then I doubt you spent much time in the building back then. The only parents that did not mind an overcrowded school were the ones that didn’t want to go to SWES. And why would some parents that were still zoned for SLES choose to send their kids to SWES if it were so bad? As for the “entitled parents with no clue” remark, that is entirely true and not really a big secret.

      Yes, Principal Stephens is no longer at SLES and that is a good thing. But you don’t know the reasoning that went behind that decision, and I don’t feel the need to enlighten you. The world doesn’t revolve around you and your personal vendettas. You’d be a much happier person if you would just sit down and shut up instead of inserting your opinion in matters you have no stake in.

      • 2016-11-04 at 3:29 pm
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        Locomom, at the meeting, multiple people asked why couldn’t the whole neighborhood stay at Seldens. Nobody spoke out against keeping the school over capacity. Maybe you were speaking behind the scenes because you didn’t want public accountability for requesting the neighborhood be split but everyone was confused why moving was even necessary.

        That is when I asked if the teachers were pushing this and Hornberger acknowledged as much with his usual spin (“staff has to be considered”).

        You have no understanding of why Stephens was ousted just like you don’t recall me at that meeting. As I said, I was able to determine that SWES was more effective than SLES prior to the shift. That doesn’t mean Seldens is not changing as we speak and that Lansdowne parents don’t want to attend a neighborhood school (based on Hornberger’s comments about leesburg, that’s the most important thing). I realize you are a big fan of Hornberger and his big spending. You overlook obvious corruption because of your tribal loyalty. Many people encourage me to hold LCPS accountable. I fully understand you couldn’t care less about misdeeds as long as you get what you want.

        Dulles South parents should understand their students may never return to neighborhood schools if they are split, if only for the spite of various school board members.

        • 2016-11-07 at 8:05 pm
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          Nobody spoke out against keeping the school over capacity because the meeting was about the year-round option – a way of keeping the neighborhood together WITHOUT being over capacity. It sounded great until I asked Hornberger about the details. That’s when I lost all respect for him. So nice try, sgp – I’m not a fan of either Hornberger or Stephens. Really…..people are encouraging you? Certainly not the SLES PTA, or any other SLES parent that has had the misfortune of dealing with you. But hey, you win the Idiot of the Year award. I’ll leave your trophy at the front desk of the Admin building. Feel free to pick it up at the next school board meeting. Cheers!

          • 2016-11-08 at 8:32 am
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            LoComom, several folks asked the question “Why do we need to rezone anyway since we are happy with the school being 10% over capacity?” Right now, the discussion in this article is about Dulles South schools being 25% over capacity. They are trying to get them down to 10% over capacity. Thus, this begs the question why did Lansdowne need to be split into two elementary schools at all? It was only because Hornberger and others were placating the staff who demanded they not teach one student over capacity. Right now, the school is well under capacity. Kind of destroys the school board’s arguments about using facilities more efficiently.

            Hornberger was opposed to year-round school. He just showed up so the residents wouldn’t think he was abandoning them (he was not only abandoning them to a neighborhood split, he was encouraging others to ship them past 3 of his own Ashburn schools to protect his own). Only Bill Fox was for year-round school. So it’s not a coincidence that you weren’t sold on the idea of year-round school working. I can understand some folks being against that concept but make no mistake that Hornberger was completely against it.

            And yes, I have received encouragement from a wide range of folks. This includes LCPS staff as well. One school dean told me after watching the videos that he couldn’t disagree with a single thing I had raised. It is true that we have a PTA at Seldens full of stay-at-home moms (see what Ronda Rousey has to say about all of you) who aren’t interested in educational outcomes or policies. Here is a paraphrase from a new LCPS principal about PTA meetings:

            “At my last district, PTAs were focused on educational issues and 75% of the meetings were focused around key speakers and topics. Here, the PTA parents don’t seem to be interested in those things. I find it very strange.”

            But what else is new, a bunch of pretender housewives in LoCo. That’s what happens when you schedule meetings at 8:30am when the intelligent, working folks can’t attend.

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