Loudoun County’s school employees have a new advocate.
David Palanzi, a longtime business teacher, has been named Loudoun Education Association’s new president. The 51-year-old started his new role earlier this month and will serve a four-year term, taking over for previous LEA president Joey Mathews.
The LEA is an advocate organization that represents 3,300 Loudoun County Public School employees who are members.
Palanzi served as vice president of the group for the past two years, while he continued to teach business at Stone Bridge High School. In all, he has 29 years of teaching experience, 15 with Loudoun County Public Schools.
Always the educator, Palanzi said he’s taking what he learned encouraging leadership in his students and applying that to his new position at the helm of the LEA.
“With students, I always worked on growing leadership. Older students would mentor younger students and teach them to lead,” he said. “At the LEA, I want to grow people’s capacity for leadership, and that’s already been happening.”
He’s been impressed with the willingness of school employees, from teachers and bus drivers to custodians and counselors, to offer their ideas and volunteer to serve on LEA committees.
An area he wants to see improvement in is the organization’s connection with those in the private sector. “I really want to make in roads with the business community. I think they are great allies for us,” he said.
Welcoming business leaders’ feedback can help shape education in Loudoun to meet industries’ future hiring needs, but the communication can go both ways, Palanzi added. He wants to work on clearly illustrating some of the needs of the 78,000-student school system that could be met by a small tax increase. He gave the example of overcrowding at schools in the southern end of the county.
He also said that carving out a few more minutes of time during the school day for teachers to collaborate on instruction methods would not cost much but could reap big benefits. “That’s one thing I think would improve education in a big way is if teachers could talk more and share with each other what’s working for them in the classroom,” he said.
LEA staff members and volunteers spend much of their time supporting for the school budget. Palanzi said, as talk has already begun about the fiscal year 2018 operating budget—which will be approved by the School Board in February—he wants to work on restoring some of the services that have been cut in recent years of fiscal belt-tightening. As examples, he listed changes to employees’ health care coverage options and reimbursement for educators who become nationally board certified.
“Cutting that was a mistake,” he said of the teacher reimbursements. “The more education our teachers have, the more prepared they are to teach students.”
At the end of the day, Palanzi said he will carry out what he calls the 20/80 rule—“talk 20 percent of the time, listen 80 percent of the time. That’s how the most progress is made.”