News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Redistricting Fever: Hey, who told the Washington Post people were upset about this?

In anticipation of tonight's awesome meeting at which the Fairfax County School Board will decide whether to redistrict South Lakes High School into what folks in transitional neighborhoods like the ghetto-like, $758,000-a-home Oakton Heights might call a magnet reeducation center for affluent children, kind of like the classic 1980s movie Richie Rich, only a) without MacCauley Culkin and b) with slightly more focus on IB, the Washington Post ran a front-page story about this whole sordid mess. Guess what they figured out? People are upset!

At least they clued into how damaging all these months' of back-and-forth about band programs, Bratz dolls, and vaguely racist anonymous message board comments have been, using the Fox Mill neighborhood as an example:

For months, Fox Mill parents have managed an uneasy peace, smiling across driveways, agreeing to disagree. But lately, tempers have flared. About two weeks ago, board member Kathy L. Smith (Sully) proposed an alternative -- to split the Fox Mill area in two, keeping half of the residents at Oakton.

Rona Ackerman, president of the Fox Mill Elementary PTA, dashed off a survey before the plan was publicly announced to gauge parents' opinions. A few days later, she sent a PTA letter home with students, urging parents to contact the School Board about the proposal.

Her actions touched off a furor. She supports the school system's plan for new boundaries. Some neighbors accused her of seeking to kill Smith's proposal since it would not move all Fox Mill students to South Lakes High. Disgruntled parents circulated e-mails urging a boycott of the elementary school's biggest fundraiser, the PTA-sponsored Family Fun Night.

Ackerman said she wanted only to keep the school community together, a goal she thought neighbors supported. But fallout from Smith's proposal to split Fox Mill showed she might have been wrong.

"Once they drew that line, it became us against them," she said.
Meanwhile, the awesome, positive pro-school group FairfaxCAPS, after basically saying they wouldn't even think about suing the School Board if they failed to meet its demands by promising to end all redistricting forever and build a giant fence around South Reston and give everyone ponies is now... wait for it... talking about suing the school board.
Fairfax CAPS will continue as a watchdog after the vote, Pesce said, but the organization also has plans to bring legal action should the School Board vote to approve the redistricting.

Storck said the School Board has not been sued in recent years, but it isn't concerned about potential lawsuits.

“The legal record is clear, we will be successful,” he said.
Opponents of redistricting made it an issue in the fall's school board elections. They backed Christine "If I thought Reston was bad, I wouldn't live here" Arakelian in her failed attempt to unseat Stu Gibson on the board, and now they're pointing fingers at him and others.
Many parents at the public hearings questioned the motives of school board members whose districts were affected and suggested the process was politically motivated by Stu Gibson, who represents Hunter Mill District.

Tom France, a parent of three elementary-age children in the Madison district said the study's overt political motives has disenfranchised many of the parents.

“The fact that this is so politically driven, Stu Gibson is obviously the main driving force behind this. Janie and Kathy also have a dog in the fight, but the others seem to have the appearance that they just want this to go away,” he said.

Storck said that is an unfortunate inevitability of any boundary study, and he himself was the target of similar accusations during the South County study.
But it sounds like they do have at least one dog in their fight.
One school board member who appears to be more sympathetic to parents who oppose the study is newcomer Tina Hone (At-Large), who told The Times on Feb. 8 that she would like to re-examine the entire process and look at a countywide redistricting.

“If Jim Rainey doesn't offer an amendment, I will offer one that says stop, and it will fail. I think we really need to talk about this issue, otherwise next year it will be somebody else,” Hone said.
Somebody else, sure. But it won't be Langley.


  1. Thanks for your current & continuing coverage of this heated issue. It's important, but your spin puts it all in a little bit better perspective.
    Thank you.

  2. This whole issue makes me sick. I am a SL alumnus. I am proud of it. After graduation, I went to UVA and am now working at a top-tier consulting firm. Success is something you work at - overcoming barriers to succeed. If anything, attending a "less" stellar school with more diversity and challenges should strengthen a student’s ability and resolve. I am interested to see once the redistricting occurs (which it will – it’s all about capacity) whether these same parents that are fighting so hard against South Lakes will decide to improve the school and help it reach its potential. I doubt they will and that’s just sad.


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