Friday, February 15, 2008

A new kind of Loudoun sausage being created....

Some observations just in regarding yesterday's joint Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and School Board Committee meeting...it's definitely a new kind of Loudoun sausage being made in the county school board administration building. By the way, visit this very impressive building - a really well-done horse sculpture right in the front hallway, with small paintings of all the schools within their school clusters, along with a number of historical artifact displays.

This committee (Sally Kurtz - Chair, Tom Reed - Vice Chair) met with representation from the BOS (Kurtz, Burton, Buckly absent), the School Board (Reed, Godfrey, Stevens, with Dupree in attendance), a guest representative, John Wood, Vice-Chair of Loudoun's Economic Development Commission, Deputy Schools Superintendent Ed Waterhouse, and Ari Sky, Loudoun County Budget Manager.

The meeting kicked off with a Tom Reed replaying the "Shift Happens" video detailing challenges of education in this new century. Burton, always the pragmatic skeptic (he admitted being skeptical of the whole committee idea, but willing to get engaged), wondered what the point of it was...this evolved into a discussion of one of the goals of the committee, to find ways to collaborate on making sure children were educated per 21st century requirements. John Wood was very supportive of this discussion, adding that Loudoun business leaders are most concerned in the area of education with:

- the global threat on US business leadership, especially from China
- making sure that technology is viewed only as a necessary tool, not an outcome (though must be available as needed)
- the consistent concern that kids aren't getting strong enough education in math and science, plus learning the "softer" skills dealing with communication, presenting, etc...things not tested by the SOLs.
- reigning in capital development costs
- adequate and competitive teacher's pay
- measurable outcomes vs. outputs in educational performance - for example, recent accomplishments given of "17 national merit scholars" from Loudoun; "is this a good outcome"?

One interesting bit of news concerned the recent "Technology Resource Teacher Share Fair", evidently held recently for teachers to share information about how they're using technology to help in the classrooms...we'd certainly like to see more of this, and perhaps there's a way for the business community to participate, and more public exposure and input solicitation for this kind of thing.

Another interesting point evidently raised at the last meeting by Ms. Buckley, dealt with examining possible overlaps in spending and activity between the Boards, with respect to administrative and technical support - i.e. perhaps overlapping organization functions could be in some way consolidated. We look forward to hearing more on this.

Otherwise, the meeting served the nascent purposes of its intentions, to try and find ways to get the very different BOS and School Board cultures to collaborate earlier and more often, before the annual periods of conflict seemingly inevitable of the budget cycle. Additionally, with EDC representation, the business community seems to now have another avenue of input into the education strategies of the County, coordinate with the overal county budgeting and spending decisions.

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