School Leaders Eye ‘Paradigm Shift’ for Leesburg Boundaries

Most Loudoun County School Board members seem to be leaning toward making major changes to Leesburg school assignments to fix what they consider an unwarranted distribution of the town’s poorest and non-English-speaking students.

Attendance zone boundary changes have to be made to reduce overcrowding at Evergreen Mill Elementary School. A few board members and some residents favor reassigning just a few hundred students to bring down Evergreen Mill’s enrollment. But comments from board members Monday night indicate the majority want to see what board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) called a “paradigm shift.”

Hornberger and board member Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin) unveiled their proposal that would return hundreds of students to their neighborhood schools. Their attendance map, Plan 12, would reverse decisions made by previous School Boards in 2006 and 2011 to assign students from the cluster of apartment complexes in central Leesburg to schools that are as far as 3 miles away.

The shifted boundaries would mean a higher concentration of low-income students at two schools. It would mean that 59 percent of the student population at Leesburg Elementary and 56 percent at Frederick Douglass Elementary would qualify for the federal free and reduced meals program. The rate is currently 26 percent at both schools.

Hornberger said the proposal, if adopted, would assign students to the closest school that has space. “As it appears now that there is more interest by individual board members to explore and look into this paradigm shift, I thought it’d be important to bring forward a plan that actually does it,” he said.

It also frees up classroom seats at Cool Spring, Evergreen Mills and Tolbert elementary schools for future developments such as Tuscarora Crossing and Market Square to avoid future boundary changes. “This is a district that’s gone through four boundary reviews in eight years,” DeKenipp said. “We’re tired of this.”

Board members Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) and Debbie Rose (Algonkian) said they liked Plan 12 because it would return students to their neighborhood schools.

Turgeon had strong words in response to several emails she received urging the board to send academically at-risk students to the best schools, referring to busing low-income students and English Language Learners to schools where they can be with more affluent students.

“There’s not a school within Loudoun County that’s not the ‘best school.’ To say that a particular school is not the ‘best school’ is insulting to that population and insulting to the education professionals who teach there,” she said.

Rose pointed to data that showed Loudoun County students do best when they attend schools closer to their home. She noted that elementary schools with some of the highest rates of poor and non-English speaking students in Sterling have tallied impressive test scores in recent years.

Tom Marshall (Leesburg) countered Rose’s point. Marshall, who favors evenly distributing students based on their socioeconomic make up, said “the jury’s still out” on which model is best for students.

“Central Loudoun is happy with what we’re doing and we feel we have good results,” he said, prompting cheers and applause from several in the audience.

Jeff Morse (Dulles) also questioned the school system’s research. He said it differs from what research shows on a national level, and much of the progress made by Sterling schools has been over the past couple of years.

“I don’t know if I’m ready to throw out the entire model of distributing low-income students when we have just two years of data,” he said.

Of the more than 70 speakers who approached the board during a public hearing Monday, parents fell on both sides of the issue. Several from Leesburg Elementary spoke against Plan 12 because it would split Exeter, assigning some students to Frances Hazel Reid Elementary. They waved blue signs urging the board to “Keep LES Together.”

Others, including Kara Griffin, wore green to show solidarity to stay at Evergreen Mill Elementary. “Plan 12 is brilliant,” Griffin said. “It’s the right thing for the students, the teachers and the principals.”

Read more about the other proposals on the table here. See all of the plans on the LCPS website here. The board is expected to adopt a map March 29.

16 thoughts on “School Leaders Eye ‘Paradigm Shift’ for Leesburg Boundaries

  • 2016-03-14 at 11:57 pm

    I was rather shocked at what I saw tonight. “Plan 12” was released at the very last minute (literally today) with neither the public nor other board members even having time to fully consider it for the hearing. I have posted an analysis of the FRL/ESL concentrations across the plans. At the top of the scale (std dev of FRL/ESL percentages), Plans 3 and 12 come in at around 20 (highly concentrated ESL/FRL). The other plans come in with a score between 2 and 5 for most (nearly evenly distributed). In middle, DeKenipp’s plan 4 comes in around 16 and Hornberger’s other two plans (5 & 8) come in around 8 – still double the concentration of FRL of the majority of plans! It is clear that Hornberger and DeKenipp conspired to re-segregate students by race and SES in their plans.

    So let’s review the LCSB majority’s (Hornberger, Rose, DeKenipp, Turgeon, Huck, Morse) rationale for this re-segregation:

    1. They say they want “community schools”. This is a joke. They are glad to send neighborhoods past schools when it suits their needs (e.g. helps satisfy their political allies). Hornberger represents Lansdowne and Ashburn. During the Seldens Landing rezoning, he supported sending Lansdowne elementary students 5 miles down the road to Steuart Weller, past 3 other Ashburn schools so he didn’t upset his allies. But now Hornberger is proposing a “paradigm shift” to send students to the closest school? Is he kidding? Hornberger is on record as saying he “will not consider” moving the Lansdowne student back closer to their neighborhood as that move is “permanent”. We can see Hornberger is not telling the truth about his motivations. That’s what congenital liars say when the facts are inconvenient.

    2. LCSB members claimed that there was “powerful” data that showed Title 1 schools can outperform other schools. Let’s ignore for a minute that none of these board members have a clue about mathematics.

    – They certainly weren’t interested in Professor Friedman’s testimony in a Richmond Circuit Court about student growth scores since they have fraudulently disregarded that data and broken federal laws. I wouldn’t hold my breath that these board members even understand the scientific method much less real research.

    – Speaking of federal law, the ONLY reason LCPS had intervention teams work with the Title 1 schools in Sterling is because the federal funds REQUIRED that intervention to receive the funding. It also required school districts to use SGP data but LCPS open defrauded the US DoE on that. If LCPS is so interested in doing what’s best for students, why haven’t these best practices been implemented in the other schools?

    – The point is that when school follow best practices as Sterling’s Title 1 schools have, their performance improves. LCPS has completely refused to implement those best practices in the other schools. That’s why Seldens Landing ranked 900th out of 1140 in math growth scores across the state despite its affluence and that many of the LCPS Title 1 schools are literally better than the county’s richest schools. That does NOT mean that if all schools were following best practices, a school with highly concentrated ESL/FRL will perform as well as an affluent school. In fact, highly concentrated schools are what the federal law tries to avoid. If all LCPS schools employed best practices, we would rank much higher on the PISA exams, but there would still be a need to balance SES among the schools.

    – The school board should have an open discussion on what the data shows. In fact, teachers told Hornberger/DeKenipp/Turgeon/Buck at a public discussion at Frederick Douglass meeting last week that raising the ESL/FRL percentages significantly hurts their ability to provide quality instruction. These board members are completely ignoring that teacher feedback. Will the LEA step up and demand an open discussion on this issue? Maybe using that SGP data is not so bad after all. For folks that don’t know, SGP/VAM data is the only way to have an objective comparison of school performance.

    3. They say that Plan 12 best utilizes capacity. That’s also false. When you create a metric for capacity utilization (std dev of percent of school capacity), Plan 12 is among the worst. In other words, some schools are barely half full while some are completely full or even oversubscribed.

    Folks, I am not a big fan of using the race card. However, in this case, I see no other justification for what some on the school board are doing other than segregation. They believe that by keeping affluent neighborhoods isolated from the ESL/FRL populations, those neighborhoods can maintain their home values. This is why DeKenipp took the district to court a couple years back. It’s rather ironic since SGP data show that his kids’ target school from that rezoning (Frederick Douglass) is now among the top 2-3 schools in all of Loudoun. DeKenipp moved to get away from a school that has 30% ESL/FRL despite it being the best of Loudoun. I certainly wish my kids attended Frederick instead of Seldens Landing in Lansdowne. DeKenipp and Hornberger have made no attempts to improve the instruction at any school, simply to keep that affluent bunched together. Such honorable guys.

    For more info, see the posts on the Virginiasgp Facebook page. It has analysis and charts showing the ESL/FRL concentrations by plan.

  • 2016-03-15 at 8:55 am

    I don’t think too many of the plans would be a serious concern to most parents should we first require and give resources to ensure that all children and parents speak fluent English prior to entering our school system as this is a team approach and the kids can’t be successful without the help of their parents. I watched a good portion of the telecast on Channel 40 and it was apparent who represented the liberal and conservative ideology, but there were some good comments representing both sides and they have more in common than believe. To not be PC, it seems the language barrier is more of an issue to most parents, as they don’t want their children left behind educationally, versus the financial aspects.

  • 2016-03-15 at 9:41 am

    Virginia – I can only make several comments as a Father of a child at EMES. 1. My child contracted a major disease from an unknown “at risk” child at her school that could have killed her a few months ago. She spent a week in the hospital hooked up to a ton of machines and will now need medical care for the remainder of her life. Your kids may be at risk, and due to our financial burden, I hadno option but to place her back into the same situation. 2. The “at risk” children slow many of the classrooms down as many are not fluent in OUR language, which by the way is English. 3. The parents of the “at risk” children are not fluent in OUR language and are not available to help their children with homework, so teachers rarely give it, which was typical when I was growing up, but it seems rare now due to the “new norm”. This is a team approach and all team members should learn OUR language. 4. The “at risk” parents have 0 (ZERO) involvement with the PTA and most other school activities, which is primarily due to the distance between the school and community and acceptance. 5. The “at risk” parents have 0 (ZERO) involvement with the numerous volunteering programs within the school. They are readily available when the opportunity arises to receive free clothing, etc. You can coin the situation however you like, but often segregation is the most prudent option for ALL people. I see the situation as more of a language issue than of a socioeconomic issue. Learn the language (children and parents) and all children are afforded better educational opportunities. It also equates to better opportunities for all in life, it’s just common sense, but our society would rather sink millions into dual faceted signs, pamphlets, menus, books, etc. Saddening…..

  • 2016-03-15 at 11:06 am

    LeesburgFinest, your issue is with our immigration policy which is a completely separate issue (one in which we might have more agreement). Given the fact that President Obama’s DHS has placed many of these children in our community, we are required to educate them (per Supreme Court – again, one can disagree with their ruling). So this decision just involves how we distribute them to the schools.

    Once in a school, there is no requirement to put them evenly among the classes. They can be grouped in bilingual classes or tracked according to ability. Either of these solutions would minimize the impact on those students capable and ready to learn. Our school officials CHOOSE not to take those routes.

    But let’s just compare the two alternatives in central Loudoun. One plan concentrates kids at the mid-50%’s at 2 schools and the mid-30%’s at another school, all 3 are higher than the vast majority of plans. In those 3 schools, you still have 40-65% of the students who are NOT FRL or ESL. The other plans distribute the students so that all schools have about mid-20% ranges. This is manageable for the schools. And nobody is being bused “across town” to distribute these demographics (my home town school did bus and this ain’t busing!) Are you simply abandoning those students/families in the concentrated schools to what you claim is an unenviable situation because it benefits your family? Is it your strategy to run faster than your friend so that the lion will eat someone else and not you? I think many European countries take this take with ISIS. Better to keep quiet and sacrifice others.

    I don’t know about your personal situation. Based on other posts, it does not appear that all rare diseases are communicable but I am not making any judgments. Given our legal requirements, the question is whether we will stand by and watch school board members from outside the districts in question come in and intentionally re-segregate Leesburg to satisfy their political allies or whether Leesburg will be allowed to continue its integrated districting. If these board members thought this was an important issue, how come not a single one ran on this issue during their election?

  • 2016-03-15 at 12:16 pm

    SGP Hits the nail right on the head. The current school board new full well during election seasion what they intended to do. It started with the gutting of Sycolin Creek and the artificially created Evergreen Mills problem. I heard it from the horse mouth, Bergel, who would not vote for her own district because thats what the other board members wanted. Unfortunately the wrong candidate won in Catoctin. He seems more involved with right past slights than doing what is right for Central and Leesburg.

    The eastern block school board members are just doing what is right for Ashburn and surrounding and damned be Leesburg and the West. Folks need to wake up and watch what it happening.

  • 2016-03-15 at 1:56 pm

    Ok, Debbie Rose has been chiming in on Loudoun Now’s Facebook page under her personal account. (She believes that using a private Facebook account will help her get around constitutional censorship issues but that’s another issue). Of particular note, Debbie says she is “committed” to getting the resources needed for these segregated schools. What does that mean?

    1. According to the Title 1 system, FRL students are expected to cost 40% more in per pupil funding to educate. So if the avg LCPS student costs $13K/yr, then a general education student might cost $11K/yr, an FRL student costs $15.4K/yr and a SpEd student might cost $20K/yr. That’s an extra $4.4K/yr for every FRL student.

    2. The feds were supposed to help fund the different but have yet funded the full cost of the FRL students since the program began. And both states and localities are supposed to pony up extra money. Has Loudoun done so? No, just the minimum federal reqt despite Debbie’s pledge of “commitment”. The only reason the Sterling and Leesburg school obtained superior results is because they followed “best practices” that are forced on high FRL schools by federal regulations (ESEA). LCPS should have implemented those at all schools but Debbie and Hornberger haven’t been interested in the quality of our schools just the budget and these rezonings.

    3. If Debbie is now “committed” to providing the requisite funding, is she really offering up an additional $1.5-2.5M/yr to each of these high-FRL schools? You see LCPS’ budget of $1,080M breaks down to about $15M/yr for each elementary school. If FRL students cost an extra 40% to educate, then the additional funding for the 55% of FRL students is in the $2M+ range. The $100K/yr that LCPS gives the Sterling schools (only because of federal reqts, mind you) is a joke. It pays for maybe 1.2 teachers/year. Is Debbie really suggesting that 0.7% of additional funding ($100K/$15M) is responsible for increased performance? Debbie needs to use the other 90% of her brain on this one.

    Folks, here is the deal. This was a set up from the beginning. Hornberger/Rose/DeKenipp/Turgeon were looking to segregate the schools. Marshall/Maloney/Sheridan oppose it. It all comes down to Huck (undecided) and Morse (likely leaning toward segregation). It’s likely a done deal because I question whether Morse is really neutral. Trying to convince any of the first 4 to leave the schools integrated would be like trying to convince a Nazi that Jews are not a threat or an Afrikaner that Apartheid was immoral. Good luck!

    • 2016-03-15 at 5:24 pm

      Trying to draw parallel in the same liberal-minded, race/religious-bated paragraph that integration of the schools is comparable to the holocaust or apartheid is abhorrent.

  • 2016-03-15 at 6:53 pm

    leesburgsfinest, so let me get this straight… you are calling me “liberal” now? Is there anybody on this site that thinks I am “liberal”?!

    Brown v Board of Education determined that separate is not equal. What Hornberger, Rose, DeKenipp and Turgeon are doing is re-segregating a Leesburg district that currently has integrated schools. The constituents voted for Tom Marshall who wants to keep the schools integrated. It is board members from outside (Ashburn, Algonkian, etc.) who are trying to segregate the schools along socioeconomic lines. How is that much different than Apartheid which aimed to separate the groups by race? Or the 1950’s/1960’s South which tried to do the same thing?

    Note that this all has its roots in our land zoning. The great conservative (note that leesburgsfinest – conservative!) economist from Stanford has noted how zoning artificially inflates land prices and leads to bubbles like the 2000’s. Loudoun is one of the most heavily zoned counties in the nation. It effectively forces SES groups apart. A homeowner has to be able to afford 3 acre lots to live in many of the affluent neighborhoods. Multi-family units are heavily restricted and concentrated together. Without these zoning restrictions, communities would be more even integrated. And we’d have affordable housing for all different SES levels I might add. Not to mention everyone would have paid less for their current house and have much smaller mortgages. But now that we have this zoning, to claim that it necessitates segregation via “community based schools” is nothing more than the same “separate but equal” mentality from 50 years ago.

    And you try to claim I am race baiting? (it’s baiting, not bating btw) It is no different if everyone in Loudoun were white and we were segregated by SES. There would still be an issue. Note the primary differentiation is FRL (as in free and reduced lunch). There are more poor white kids than any other race in the US. Please try a little harder in making accurate smears next time. This attempt was an utter disaster.

  • 2016-03-15 at 11:30 pm

    Let’s put to rest the assertion by Debbie Rose, Hornberger and Turgeon that the “jury is out” on whether concentrating FRL students hurts their performance. It unequivocally hurts the performance of all students at that school.

    I have offered on Loudoun Now’s Facebook page to scientifically prove to Beth Huck (one of the few neutral members in this) that concentrating ESL/FRL students hurts academic performance. All I ask is that she vote against plans that segregate (like 12) and work on turning other members if I can prove that point to her. This vote hinges on 2 board members: Morse and Huck.

    Let’s see if Beth will accept the offer. Debbie Rose is welcome to sit in on the discussion but given that she wasn’t interested in the testimony of Professor Friedman (from Brown University) in the lawsuit that she, herself, filed I won’t be holding my breath.

  • 2016-03-16 at 9:20 pm

    Eric Hornberger is putting out disinformation that Sterling schools (and their concentrated FRL/ESL populations) have superior results to the integrated Leesburg elementary schools. This is patently false.

    It is true that some Sterling schools do well, but Leesburg schools are better. Sterling’s Forest Grove and Sterling Elementary have among the lowest performance in the district. And that is doubly true to the non-FRL populations who get largely ignored in these high-poverty schools.

    It is true that some Sterling elementary schools do well since they are actually following best practices provided by the state and federal gov’t. We should implement those best practices everywhere. But Hornberger, Rose, Turegon and DeKenipp are not being honest in these discussions.

  • 2016-03-17 at 3:47 pm

    Tom Marshall you are clueless. The days when you were in school are long gone. Put aside you desires social engineering. Society can engineer itself without your help. If you want to help these kids in need you will let them go to schools closer to home. Then take all those limited resources that you want to spread all over the county and focus them into the Intensive Learning Schools where those students who need the most help. By spreading it all around we are getting learning and test scores that are just all around getting lower and lower.

    Marshall when you want averaging of the students you get average results.

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