With Outspoken School Critic as New President, LEAP Moves on Without LCPS

After a rough season of disagreements among executive board members and with school system administration, the parent-led organization known as LEAP seems to be moving forward without its affiliation with Loudoun County Public Schools.

During a heated meeting May 9, the Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents apparently elected outspoken school critic Brian Davison as its president for the 2018-2019 academic year. But a post this week on the LEAP website, which is housed at LCPS.org and administered by the school system’s Public Information Office, states that an election was not held that day and suggested that LEAP will be dissolved at the end of the month. The post cited a LEAP bylaw that states that officers for the next school year shall be elected no later than May.

Assuming the position as president of the group, Davison said he wants to run the organization independently of LCPS, even if that means that the school system does not house LEAP’s website or allow the group to meet at its administration building.

Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne, now retired, founded LEAP in 1989 to provide a forum for concerns and ideas for a network of parents, teachers, administrators and School Board members, according to its mission’s statement.

Davison said that, years later, it gradually became a mouthpiece for the school system.

Wednesday night, the newly branded organization held a meeting at Rust Library in Leesburg, where they elected Wendy Lane as vice president of programs and Sara Hiltner as treasurer. The meeting was calm and orderly, and attended by just a handful of parents, according to School Board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg), who was also in attendance.

With Davison at the helm, LEAP— the equivalent of a countywide PTA organization—will certainly operate very differently.

The parent of two Loudoun students is one of the most controversial figures in the county. He often speaks at School Board and Board of Supervisors meetings, accusing the elected representatives of corruption. He has taken County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman, Loudoun County Public Schools and members of the School Board to court on multiple occasions.

Davison said he had attended very few LEAP meetings and wasn’t planning to run for its president. “It was a surprise,” he said. “I’m rather controversial and some folks may not want to work with that, but I think there are people who like the idea of LEAP operating as an independent organization.”

He argues that school administrators have had too much control over the organization that is meant to be a safe space for parents to ask difficult questions and advocate for their children. He stressed that LEAP is not “anti-LCPS,” but he does want to ensure its delegates can boldly and openly discuss controversial topics, such as mental health and when parents should hire a lawyer to advocate for services for their special education students.

“There are a lot of topics that parents want addressed that are not being addressed anywhere else,” he said, adding that he wants LEAP to continue to cover “FYI-type” topics, such as gifted education, but have the freedom to bring in outside experts who do not represent the school system.

Beth Barts, a Loudoun parent who served as a LEAP delegate this school year, said she plans to stay involved this coming school year, even if the organization operates without its affiliation with the school system.

“As a former LEAP rep being able to attend forums on current topics and the sharing of common educational concerns and ideas is important. I also think it is important for parents to have an independent voice,” she said. “If LEAP needs to use alternate space in order to remain an independent organization and have parents feel they can speak freely so be it. As a parent I will still benefit from the resources they offer to the community.”

The parent-teacher organizations at each of the county’s schools are invited to appoint two LEAP delegates, and the organization is looking for more delegates. Parents interested in serving as a delegate are asked to contact their children’s schools’ PTA or PTO.

To that, Davison said, “We’re looking for anyone who is interested in running and making LEAP independent.”

He’s pointing people to Facebook and Twitter for updates on the organization, instead of the LEAP website housed at lcps.org. Find them at facebook.com/LCPS.LEAP and twitter.com/leaploudoun.

Loudoun school administration may try to fill the void LEAP leaves within the school system. A statement posted on its website says, “LCPS is developing plans to enhance communication with parents related to topics that have been the focus of LEAP in recent years.”

dnadler@loudounnow.com
twitter.com/danielle_nadler

3 thoughts on “With Outspoken School Critic as New President, LEAP Moves on Without LCPS

  • 2018-06-08 at 5:08 pm
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    I served as president of LEAP for the 1999-2000 school year.

    The Loudoun Education Alliance of Parents (LEAP) is a noncommercial and nonpartisan organization. LEAP has been serving the community since 1989 as a network for interaction among local parent groups, parents, students, teachers, administrators and the School Board concerning key issues regarding the Loudoun County Public School (LCPS) system. The organization back then functioned as a forum to promote the discussion and distribution of current educational thoughts, plans and ideas. The Mission Statement was to secure for all students in the Loudoun County Public School System the highest advantages in academic, vocational, physical and social education. At the time LEAP delegates were comprised of at least one representative from each of Loudoun’s forty-five public schools.

    This meeting were never confused with Loudoun County School Board meetings. LEAP was an independent voice for superior education and was managed by parents with school children. The LEAP delegates recommended LEAP monthly topics and the monthly meeting structure emphasized the continuous data exchange between guest speakers and delegates via question and answer sessions. LEAP never endorsed political candidates nor took sides in any proposition. LEAP served as a vehicle or a platform to review and evaluate both sides of each issue. The superintendent of LCPS did attend every meeting.

    The LEAP theme for the new millennium was as follows:

    We as an organization need to see beyond our own children and our community schools. We need to have a greater vision. To understand the concept that LEAP supports a countywide community. When we assist somebody else’s children, we assist our own children. We are all interconnected. We are a family community and we want to assure that every school receives the same benefits generated from our LEAP efforts. Let us commit to equity in the classrooms throughout the county public school system.

    Back then, everybody made an effort to accommodate each other. There were many compromises made regarding the selection of LEAP monthly topics and how would the meeting structure manage the information exchange between guest speakers and delegates via question and answer sessions. Loudoun was still a rural community and I guess it was just an easier time to get along.

    • 2018-06-08 at 9:29 pm
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      The LEAP mission for 2018-2019 will match that of the 1999-2000 school year.

      Among the Loudoun community at large, nobody disagrees that delegates should pick the topics. However, last year LCPS became upset at some of the topics and tried to force LEAP to change them. LEAP will continue to reach out to LCPS in 2018-2019 but LCPS simply will not set the LEAP topics. It’s not an LCPS role.

      Here are some of the topics on which we received positive feedback from LEAP delegates:

      – Title 1 guidelines/Effects of FRL on education effectiveness

      – Know your rights (FERPA, FOIA, IDEA, DCDA)

      – Gifted education

      – Preparing for transitions

      So the question is if LCPS doesn’t like some of these topics, should LCPS being to prevent an independent non-profit from discussing them?

  • 2018-06-08 at 9:06 pm
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    Mark, this is an excellent summary of what LEAP is and can be again during the upcoming school year. With delegates from every school and a diverse board, there should and – I predict – will be compromises about priorities for the year’s program topics and business. Your phrase, “When we assist somebody else’s children, we assist our own children” resonates with me and reflects the attitude of every LEAP delegate I’ve ever met.

    January-May 2018 was not LEAP’s finest hour and didn’t reflect what LEAP delegates wanted. The LEAP liason assigned by the superintendent allegedly held multiple private meetings in his private office and after the public argument in December that led to LEAP presenters and delegates leaving the meeting, it was clear there were two views about whether LEAP is an independent organization.

    My advice to anyone who fears LEAP will lose ground with Mr. Davison as president is “Get involved!” Become a delegate for the school nearest you, or become a volunteer, or attend meetings. You’ll soon see that no one person runs LEAP and that you have an important role to play. I think LoCo needs LEAP now more than ever and I that LEAP’s greater vision has more of a chance today than it did the first half of 2018.

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