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School Board Outlines Agenda at Legislative Breakfast

 

The Loudoun County School Board detailed its legislative priorities to the area's delegates and state senators at its annual Legislative Breakfast on Friday, November 12.

For the first time, the breakfast was held in the Culinary Arts Department of the Academies of Loudoun. The breakfast was prepared by students.

School Board Chair Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) began the breakfast by thanking State Sen. John Bell (13th District) and Del. David Reid (32nd District) for the budget amendments for the cost of competing and allowing the School Board to initiate staggered terms. She also thanked Del. Suhas Subramanyam (87th District) for allowing the School Board to designate the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Administrative Offices in Ashburn as a gun-free zone and Del. Kathleen Murphy (34th District) for fighting for higher teacher pay.

LCPS Superintendent Dr. Scott Ziegler thanked Del. Karrie Delaney (67th District) for passing legislation to improve literacy learning throughout the Commonwealth. “This was a priority item for us last year. As a school division, we are continuing to take steps to improve early literacy in particular, but literacy across all educational levels.” Ziegler thanked State Sen. Jennifer Boysko (33rd District) for her work in expanding broadband access. “It was evident throughout the pandemic that students didn’t have the high-speed Internet access needed to effectively participate in education.” State Sen. Barbara Favola (31st District) was praised by the superintendent for her passionate advocacy in expanding mental health services. “This was a priority item for us and will continue to be a priority moving forward. We have also learned through the pandemic that student mental health is extremely important. Loudoun County Public Schools is looking to be on the forefront of, not only providing mental health services through our normal school counselors and school psychiatrists, but we’d all like to set up a mechanism to extend it through therapeutic mental health.”

Ziegler cited Del. Wendy Gooditis (10th District) for fighting to fund additional school nurses and school counselors. “Nurses are often the first line of health care, and sometimes the only access to healthcare that students get.”

The superintendent added that state and federal government funding helped improve HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) systems at LCPS schools and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) helped greatly during the pandemic. Ziegler said the next round of federal emergency funding will be used to address learning loss through after-school and summer learning programs. “I don’t like to say that students lost learning during the pandemic. I feel they are right where they need to be. They came out of the pandemic, maybe a few SOLs behind, but kindergartners learned how to conduct an online meeting. That’s a skill that will follow them through life.”

Ziegler also encouraged representatives at the federal level to keep funding free school lunches. “We know that food insecurity is often a hidden plague for families.”

School Board Vice Chair Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian District), chair of the Legislative and Policy Committee outlined the School Board’s agenda for the 2022 legislative session in Richmond. “This year, the program is aimed at precise sections of existing laws and potential laws related to instruction, funding, assessment and accountability, staffing and governance, which are all vital to the success of our mission.” Reaser said the School Board is asking the General Assembly to consider a fully funded pre-K program and incentives for candidates entering the teaching profession.   

The legislators also outlined their legislative goals for the School Board:

Favola said she was working on licensure issues regarding teachers. “We’re trying to expedite the pipeline.” She has sponsored legislation that allowed colleges to condense their traditional five-year licensure programs to four years. Many colleges are doing this, which also leads to debt-relief for students and more teachers available for hiring.

“I will be carrying legislation on broadband – not only on the affordability piece,” said Boysko. She added that she wants newly-built areas to put in the infrastructure to support broadband.

Reid said maintaining and increasing teacher pay is a priority for him. “We’re still not at the national average as far as teacher pay is concerned.” He also is working on a cybersecurity program to protect schools from Ransomware; a teacher-training program akin to ROTC; and increased state funding for school renovation and the construction of new schools. 

Gooditis, a former teacher, said she wanted to defend gains made by teachers. “Not only that we don’t go backward, but we go forward… Supporting our teachers and understanding  how difficult life has been for the last year-and-a-half is really, really important to me.” She also will work on funding more school nurses and counselors.

Subramanyam also said protecting gains made by teachers during the last couple of years, including teacher pay, is important. “I look forward to being on the education committee again and protecting all of our priorities.”  

Delaney plans to continue her work on furthering legislation involving literacy; overall literacy and work being done with dyslexic students experiencing.

The newest member of the delegation, Del.-Elect Irene Shin, who was elected November 2, attended the breakfast. “Throughout my campaign we talked a lot about education. Access to pre-K was a big part of why I was running.”

School Board members attending the breakfast included Sheridan, Reaser, Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn District), Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge District), Andrew Hoyler (Broad Run District), John Beatty (Catoctin District) and Jeff Morse (Dulles District). Student School Board members attending included Vishnupriya Alavala (Academies of Loudoun), Laila Masumi (John Champe High School), Rohan Bangalore (Dominion High School), Aaron Weidner (Freedom High School), Reese Brown (Independence High School), Sanjay Jacob (Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology), Tarynn Martin (The North Star School), Angela Rivera (Park View High School), Kaitlin Sullivant (Riverside High School), Ellie Schubert (Rock Ridge High School), Diana Altenhof (Stone Bridge High School), Courtney Poole (Tuscarora High School) and Lauren Rosales (Woodgrove High School).

 

 

 

 

Published November 18, 2021