Mental well-being is as important as physical well being. As a School Board Member I advocate for increased resources for students, including additional staffing in our middle and high schools, lesson plans about social-emotional learning and mindfulness to provide students with tools to address concerns about mental well being and increased recess time for elementary school students.
As part of the security review in the aftermath of the Parkland Shootings, the School Board identified the need for increased mental health supports in all of our schools. The state has set a cap on "support professionals" which includes social workers, psychologists and counselors. Working with our local delegation to Richmond, we were able to obtain some flexibility and funding in the FY 2020 budget. Additionally, we have funded behavior intervention teacher specialists, and alcohol and substance abuse counselors in each of the high school pyramids. Additionally, we are now working with the Governor's Secretary of Education to make needed changes in the Standards of Quality (SOQs) to allow us the opportunity to introduce more supports.
Providing pathways to career and workforce opportunities beyond secondary school is a core part of my work on the School Board. It is why I was instrumental in getting the Governor's Health Sciences Academy established at West Potomac, and why I am collaborating with Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA CC) to establish early college and career certification programs at the original Mount Vernon High School (Richmond Highway). A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the County Government, FCPS and NOVA CC has been signed. Grant funds have been obtained to develop the curriculum. Working with our State Delegation, I was able to obtain flexibility in our teacher licensure to allow career experts to teach CTE courses. Additional high school curriculum opportunities for career exploration for students include:
In addition to curriculum, I have worked with the business community and Fort Belvoir to advance work experience opportunities for Mt. Vernon area students. These include:
I have addressed "green initiatives" for several years. In 2018, I suggested and the Board agreed to direct the Superintendent to incorporate green technologies in our capital improvement planning process. Additionally, in early 2019 we identified a number of schools in which we could deploy solar panels. Subsequently, we partnered with the County to issue a request for proposal to identify and retrofit schools that would be suitable for solar roof panels. Moreover, we established a Joint Environmental Task-force (JET) in which I am a founding member. We are currently evaluating applications for citizen participation in the work of the JET. The JET's mission is to proactively address climate change and environmental sustainability. Lastly, common goals in the areas of workforce development, in infrastructure and sustainability of public facilities and transportation, and, in land use planning and communication and community engagement-will be explored.
Working with the Board of Supervisors, we have been able to decrease the number of trailers in Fairfax County Public Schools. We have increased bond funding by $25 million/annually for capital improvements. However, the funding is still not sufficient to address the needs of the county as it has grown. The current renovation cycle is 37 years. Many of the building in Mount Vernon have undergone or are in the process of undergoing renovations. I obtained funding for building enhancements to West Potomac High School to address overcrowding. However, with EMBARK Richmond Highway underway, county planners estimate up to 5,000 new students will be coming to the Richmond Corridor and similar developments underway in the Dulles Corridor are putting capacity pressure on the schools in these two regions. This increase in numbers necessitates a comprehensive look at our boundary policy in Fairfax County.
In addition to the career and technical education curriculum enhancements discussed above, I worked with FCPS administrative staff to introduce additional curriculum on substance abuse, bystander awareness, intervention strategies, and STEAM. Additionally, working with the state board of education the School Board was able to obtain reductions in the number of standardized tests (SOLs) required of students.