Fairfax School Board Should Focus on Schools, Not Environmental Policy

Fairfax County Environmental, er, School Board

by Emilio Jaksetic

Not content with running the county’s public school system, the Fairfax County School Board now is involved with developing strategies and recommendations for county environmental policy. The results can be seen in the Final Report of the Oct. 1, 2020, Fairfax County Joint Environmental Task Force (JET).

In April 2019, the JET was established “to identify areas of collaboration between Fairfax County Government and [Fairfax County Public Schools] to further county efforts in energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, developing implementation strategies. and making recommendations to the [Board of Supervisors and School Board].” During the period April 2019-October 2020, five members of the board served as members of JET’s Executive Committee.

The JET was tasked to “provide a forum for informing, advising, collaborating and addressing Countywide issues and aligning institutional policies and practices pertaining to climate change and environmental sustainability through the lens of One Fairfax and to appointing bodies.”

The JET was directed to “communicate to the Board of Supervisors and School Board on a regular basis. Items identified by the JET, Superintendent or County Executive that require modifications to budget, policy, or capital improvement planning will be referred to respective Boards for consideration.”

With respect to land use, the JET was instructed “to prioritize co-locating resources, usage densities, types and intensities of development, and green space planning and preservation. Plans will incorporate walking, biking and multi-modal trails, employing green energy opportunities and carbon capture. Comprehensive Plan decisions, which more effectively partner and plan for ‘smart growth’ and align with nearby, right-sized public facilities, will be key JET goals essential for reducing misaligned facility needs and transportation costs. The JET will recommend measures for assessing improvements and best practices for land use.”

With respect to transportation, JET was responsible for “developing recommendations for decreasing per person carbon emissions per mile traveled.”

Furthermore, “Impacts of climate change to public health will be considered in our joint roles of protecting and improving quality of life in our community. The JET will work to identify needs, seek and grow available public health resources, and advance use of modern health care technology.”

The Final Report does discuss some matters that directly affect, or relate to, the operation of the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). On those matters, it is understandable that the School Board would be consulted. However, the Final Report also discusses matters unrelated to schools:

  • Countywide issues.
  • Land use decisions.
  • Types and intensities of development.
  • Walking, biking and multi-modal trails.
  • Comprehensive Plan decisions.
  • Best practices for land use.
  • Decreasing per person carbon emissions per mile traveled.
  • Identifying public health needs.
  • Growing available public health resources.
  • Advancing use of modern health-care technology.

The Final Report states the JET’s mission “is to join the political and administrative capabilities of the County and the school system to proactively and equitably address climate change and environmental sustainability” (emphasis added).

Does that mean the JET was expected to develop or use FCPS resources for political purposes? I question how many parents of FCPS students or Fairfax County taxpayers expect or want the School Board to use the public school system to develop or use unspecified “political capabilities” rather than focus on its educational duties and responsibilities.

The School Board’s involvement with JET on matters unrelated to its educational responsibilities raises the question of how was it authorized to do so.

Virginia Code Section 22.1-71 identifies the powers and duties of school boards: A school board “is vested with all the powers and charged with all the duties, obligations, and responsibilities imposed upon school boards by law . . . . School board members . . . shall have no organization or duties except such as may be assigned to them by the school board as a whole.” (Emphasis added) Where in Title 22.1 of the Virginia Code is the School Board given non-school duties and responsibilities like those identified in the JET Final Report?

The people of Fairfax County should ponder the following questions:

Why should School Board members work on non-school duties instead of devoting their full time and attention to school matters? Is the School Board interested in bureaucratic empire building? Are School Board members so bored with their educational responsibilities that they are looking to engage in other, more interesting activities?

What impact on the Fairfax County school budget was there when School Board members (and presumably their staff assistants) spent their time and office resources working on non-school matters covered by the JET? Why should any part of the school budget be used — directly or indirectly — for non-school matters?

Finally, are there any other instances where the School Board has been “moonlighting” on non-school activities?

Emilio Jaksetic, a retired lawyer, is a Republican in Fairfax County.

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23 responses to “Fairfax School Board Should Focus on Schools, Not Environmental Policy

  1. Government function in Virginia today is devoted to handing out to crony allies other people’s money to enrich one’s own private interests and power, all to the exclusion of the public interest, and the governing body’s mission granted by charter. Now obliviously this rot extends down to schools boards.

    • Sir, the school boards in Virginia are now elected, in contests growing ever more partisan, so political advantage is trumping educational policy and concerns. See for example the debate over opening schools right now — politics over policy. Not exactly new….Democrats now all bow to GAIA as their goddess (asking us all to make the economic sacrifices on her altar), so there is nothing surprising here. But thanks for bringing it to light.

      • Translation: Education of kids is the disguise by which these thieving ideologues gain political power then run wild. Drunk with power and ideology, these thieves spend vast sums of other other peoples’ money collected on the lie and false promise that it will be spent to educate those other people kids while, in fact, these thieves waste those public monies promised for education of children, to promote their own virtue, power and religious ideology. This is tyranny built on the lies and self interest by few running an out of control government that is bankrupting the public coffers, public trust, and representative government, along with their bankrupting the education of generations of children.

      • This out of control Fairfax County School Board’s illegitimate conduct goes a long way towards explaining Fairfax County’s refusal to open their classrooms to students for the direct education of those children by teachers.

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          The elected school board is essentially the minor leagues for amateur politicians who might one day aspire to higher office. Since Fairfax is so big this school board is a AAA minor league. Who will be called up to “The Show” next?

  2. Baconator with extra cheese

    I think the over reach in school boards is great. I hope it will awaken some of the minority groups who have gained upward mobility to become fiscally conservative.
    I believe you are asking for it when you “F” with asian kids’ education….

  3. I am blow away by how oblivious most public school parents, and those of college age kids, are to the awful education their kids are getting in public schools, and many, even most, colleges today. It is all quite amazing, what is happening in front of our noses in schools all over the country, to our most precious and irreplaceable asset, our children.

  4. Query –

    Is there a war of annihilation and genocide against the males of the human species ongoing in Fairfax County? Apparently so, should one click on and enlarge to the photo showing the composition of the “Fairfax County Environmental, er, School Board.”

    The only other plausible explanation would be the apparent reintroduction of the practice of polygamy in Fairfax County.

    Can our Fairfax experts on BR enlighten us as to the radical demographic change ongoing in Fairfax County? Where is UVa.’s Hamilton Lombard when we need him?

  5. Let’s see. FCPS leaders cannot successfully execute a program to identify and assist talented black and Hispanic kids for inclusion on a path for likely entry to TJSHSST. They cannot find a way to work with teachers to develop an entrance exam that is not coachable, even though at least one “super educator” says he could do it.

    FCPS leaders could not update remote learning software for three years, permitting a failure to provide distance learnings to students last spring. Neither could they prevent hacking of databases containing private and sensitive personal information belonging to employees. They cannot even open in-person instruction for vocational and special education students.

    And the public should take their guidance on land use and transportation issues.

  6. I view Fairfax/Virginia as historically not too eco-minded, to put it mildly. Today’s liberals view virtue signaling as an extremely important objective, so Fairfax residents are being asked to voice their opinion in on things we should be doing to show our demand for assertive/pro-active climate change action. So I am expecting lots of new mandate actions. Meanwhile the woods behind my house gets wiped out every year with herbicides, but nobody cares about that. But the Supervisors assign top priority to eliminating for example, plastics trash bags for garbage/yard-waste. To my knowledge that stuff is no problem…goes to our Waste to Energy plants. But will those be closed? Do we see it as more ethical to outhaul our waste to somebody else’s yard? Probably. As long as we use paper trash bags, liberals are OK with huge landfills.

  7. Given the significant infrastructure footprint of public schools in a locality, especially one the size of Fairfax, I’m not surprised that the school board would have a significant seat at the table in land-use planning. Given that school board members are elected, and so are county supervisors, I’m not surprised that such an effort would have a political component. And given that Biden won 70% of the Fairfax vote the other day, I’m not surprised to see the county focusing on these issues. Really, there is nothing surprising, shocking, or outrageous about any of this. As for state law dictating how school boards should conduct their business, I think that’s a bit of overreach.

    • They’ve been involved in land use. They look at projected population growth figures from the County based on building permits, rezoning, etc. and are supposed to make accurate projections about the number of new students likely to come from those land use changes. Those, in turn, drive the amount of school proffers negotiated from the builders/developers.

      In the case of Tysons, FCPS totally blew the projections such that many schools are even more overcrowded. Shouldn’t the buffoons get their estimation process working correctly before they engage in land use policy?

    • Best school districts in the country. Only Virginia system that gets a grade of A+ is Falls Church City (one high school): I stopped looking for Fairfax County after 500. Fairfax County is the 7th wealthiest county in the US but not in the top 500 school districts. Incompetence, pure incompetence.

      https://www.niche.com/k12/search/best-school-districts/?page=17

      • From that same site:

        Fairfax County is #6 on the best school districts in the Washington, DC area.

        Prince William County is #7.

        That should tell you right then and there that the problem isn’t confined to Fairfax County. It’s endemic to the region.

        • Fairfax County is a classic example of gross dysfunction. It is a place where the sum of its parts adds up to far more than its whole, a place that is quite literately eating its citizens alive daily. Recent commentary from its citizens on this blog illustrate this vividly. Remarkably, this has been going on since the early 198os, and it was plain to see by the late 1980s, particularly by those of us who then worked there but did not reside there. We were able to leave altogether. I gather that today many feel trapped there now, unable to leave.

      • That can’t be true. We regularly hear from school officials, school board members and supervisors that Fairfax County Public Schools are one of the very best in the Nation. Next , you’ll be suggesting that Post editorials lie. What is this world coming to?

    • Three observations: (1) My op-ed specifically stated there is no objection to School Board being consulted about matters that affect the public schools. (2) Nothing in my op-ed objected to the County considering the various issues noted; but, I specifically objected to the School Board getting involved in matters clearly unrelated to the schools. (3) If you think Virginia state law on education is overreaching, you can ask your elected representatives in the General Assembly (Senate and House of Delegates) to amend the statute.

  8. “I specifically objected to the School Board getting involved in matters clearly unrelated to the schools..”

    So who is responsible for Operational policies for the School buildings, as a portfolio of buildings, across a given school district, if not the School Board? Is there a management entity that should be assuming this and determining operational policy regarding energy use for public school buildings? If the County has operational and financial goals regarding the use and operation of its school buildings, and it should, then having the entity responsible for executing those strategies should be involved.

    Most managers can focus on more than one issue at a time.

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