The 2012-2013 school year has begun, and the Fairfax County School Board will be working from now until next summer to keep the doors open and the lights on for the nation's 11th-largest school system. On Tuesday, Patch spoke with Mount Vernon School Board representative Dan Storck to talk about the specific issues he will tackle this school year.
Storck, who was reelected last November, has served on the board since 2003, and served as chairman from 2007-2009. His tenure has been marred by difficulty, particularly with a growing student population during a recessionary period and has resulted in tough budget calls, including freezing teacher compensation and postponing capital improvement projects.
"Funding per student is going down and student growth is going up," Storck said. "The system is being pushed hard to maintain the quality that we're known for around the world. How is it that other school systems spend so much money and we get better results? We have more kids, and more of them speaking other languages, and more special ed. students."
Cost Per PupilSchool Division FY 2011 Approved FY 2012 Approved Arlington County $17,322 $18,047 Alexandria City $16,983 $17,618 Falls Church City $16,729 $16,309 Montgomery County n/a $14,776 Fairfax County $12,597 $12,820 Prince George's County $11,611 $11,753 Manassas City $11,351 $11,478 Loudoun County $10,833 $11,014 Manassas Park City n/a $9,888 Prince William County $9,577 $9,852
Fairfax County Public Schools gets nearly 70 percent of its budget from the county, and it looks like there will be no increase in the county transfer this year.
"County departments have been told they have to look at 5 percent cuts across the board, and we should not look at any increases," said Storck. "But what does the community want? We're one of the best school systems on earth, we're continuing to grow and we can't continue to negatively impact the quality of what we're trying to do by being held back."
That means that teacher salaries may be frozen. Fairfax County teachers are, on average, ranked third in the state when it comes to salaries, according to the Virginia Department of Education. Arlington and Alexandria have average teacher salaries of roughly $70,000. Fairfax County has an average teacher salary of about $64,000.
"Previously, we froze wages for two years," said Storck. "It's essential we continue to pay our staff well, especially if we want to retain the best and the brightest."
The Mount Vernon District will also be looking at a boundary study this year. "We're in the initial steps, but we are going to be identifying steps that we need to take over the next six months for all of the middle and high schools in the Mount Vernon district," said Storck.
The School Board will also be looking at moving up the start time at county high schools. "They need to start after 8 a.m. It's essential to student health," said Storck. "Their biological clocks are set different than that of adults. When young kids have to be up at 5 a.m. to get to the bus at 6 a.m. - for most adults that would be a killer. We can do better."