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EDITORIAL: As school district builds, future turns to learn

The start of the school year brings sighs and expectations. As our children go off to school and into the embracing arms of educators, we shed a tear as we smile at the faces of the future.

Didn’t we just send 4,500 graduates from Loudoun County into the world?

Hasn’t it been just a few weeks that we celebrated commencement at John Champe High School in Aldie, the first graduating class at Loudoun County’s 13th high school?
This week we open No. 14, Rock Ridge High School in Ashburn. And then, next year, No. 15: Riverside High in Leesburg.

Elementary schools are opening everywhere in the county as new neighborhoods grow faster than late summer corn. One of Loudoun’s oldest elementary schools, Middleburg Community School, reopens as a charter school, Loudoun County’s first, fulfilling a wish to maintain community values and a sense of belonging.

Such is the heartbeat of education in the fastest growing county in the nation.

Schools are just a part of it. One way to look at Loudoun County Public Schools is as the county’s largest and most important business. Take a look at the balance sheet:

Public schools: 87
Students: 73,000
Buses: 854 on the road before 6 a.m.
Employees: 5,700
Budget: $900 million

That’s bigger than the operations of Inova Hospital System, AOL and Orbital Sciences in the county. Bigger than any of the 900 federal contractors or 40 data centers in Loudoun.

This week, there be can be no doubt that Loudoun County schools are open for business.

But the best way to measure assets is to count the young minds that are products of our school system. One is Shreya Kurdukar, an eighth-grader at J. Michael Lunsford Middle School who won a nationwide science competition. The competition targets students in the years when research indicates their interest in science begins to wane and encourages them to explore scientific concepts and creatively communicate their findings. Students nationwide are asked to create a short video communicating the science behind a possible solution to an everyday problem. Shreya’s video detailed her work on the solar-powered Magic Bike, a solution to the growing problem of pollution.

Students like Shreya fail to get their due in the relentless conversation about economic development in the county. Last year’s budget go-around with county supervisors left a number of 21st century learning programs, including educational technologies, on the chopping block.

For more than two decades Loudoun has been celebrated as a “build” school district, with 52 new schools built since 1991. The emphasis now turns to a “learn” district that prepares students for advanced education and the skills required for a complex world.

Educational attainment should be Loudoun’s top priority. Bigger than economic development. Bigger than competition on athletic fields. Bigger even than the Silver Line.
Like Shreya Kurdukar’s Magic Bike, the beginning of the school year provides a vehicle to solve the problems of the future.


“Educational attainment should be Loudoun’s top priority.” YES

last time lcsb didn’t cut super’s budget or bos didn’t cut lcsb budget?  keep up sos work, rdj

@rdj, I’ve lived in Loudoun over 25 years and every year, the school(Dr Hatrick) put forth a bloated budget. and every year, the school board lacks ba!!s to cut a few items off that budget. Just like you stated, cutting out the smart boards only saves a $1 million/year, however you have to start somewhere…
What about building bigger HS, similar to Fairfax(since we’re always compared to Fairfax)? You sound like a past/present school board member. Only in it for the ego trip. Not willing to cut out the fat. We’re about 40-50% student body of Fairfax, yet we have just as many chiefs in LCPS.

Wow, when I see a 500 word essay that doesn’t get to the point in the first couple sentences I move on.  Blah, Blah, Blah,  underfunded, Blah, Blah, Blah, our kids are at risk, Blah, Blah, Blah

Well, here we go again. Folks, neither of these peoples’ objections hold up. For anyone else who is interested in what happened earlier this year and what LCPS is facing in the coming year(s), you may want to read the clear and balanced summaries at Support Our Schools:

Back to School Part I: What We Lost

Back to School Part II: What We Gained

Back to School Part III: What We Need

(Incidentally, contrary to assertions that the BOS had made on several occasions, SOS is NOT an appendage of the Loudoun Education Association. It happens to be run by an extraordinarily industrious citizen who has NO AFFILIATION with the LEA but who, like those of us who applaud and support her efforts, does it out of concern for the illogical and irrational course that our BOS has taken with respect to LCPS. As the members of the BOS seem much better at pontificating to their constituents than at listening to them, it should not be surprising that they misjudged this as well.)

@SWSWSW: no, last year’s funding wasn’t enough. It left LCPS without the funds it needed to provide the set of services that this community asks of and expects from its school system. The ELL (formerly ESL) question not really germane to what we “should” or “should not” spend: those services, along with the services for other disadvantaged kids, are ENTIRELY due to (mostly) unfunded mandates imposed by the Commonwealth of Virginia in its statutes. The School Board has no choice but to provide those services!

It was an underfunding issue last year. It was an underfunding issue in prior years (and those issues don’t just evaporate when the calendar flips to a new year.) It will be an underfunding issue next year as well, however, this time, the BOS won’t be able to get away with claiming that the people crowding their public hearings demanding appropriate LCPS funding were “planted there” by the LEA or do not represent the wishes of the majority of the community. And you won’t be getting away with spouting irrelevant and uninformed platitudes.

more cowbell: I don’t disagree that mis-managed growth (that is, growth that is allowed to happen without careful planning for its realistic costs in terms of public services and infrastructure) may have been a factor in LCPS’ current difficulties. Far more insidious than those decisions was the BOS insistence on establishing the personal property tax while outright refusing to consider either the school system’s needs or public request and demand NOT to do that. We know they heard that from the majority of citizens who attended their public hearings, but we are now learning (through FOIA) that they also heard it in the overwhelming majority of emails that they received on the matter.

As for your other objections, c’mon man, I know you’re smarter than that. Whether you agree with it, the decision to go with Smart Boards was made years ago, and there’s absolutely no way you can make a case that their ongoing expense represents anything other than a minuscule fraction of the school’s budget. Moreover, if we were to call your bluff and remove all of those Promethean Boards from the classrooms, how much would that cost the schools (along with the purchase and maintenance of the overhead projectors that would be needed to replace them)? Don’t tell me you don’t actually know why those boards are there or how they’re used…

You must also have missed the multiple, lengthy School Board discussions that resulted in deciding to keep the small schools open: it’s not the straightforward, easy solution that you present it to be. And you know very well that other factors such as student transportation and the cost of ink and paper for back-to-school notices (many of which are driven by – once again! – state law) offer, in effect, ZERO impact on the overall cost of public education.

All of this makes people like me wonder what you’re really getting at – what you’re really after here. It’s clearly NOT effective, efficient public schools. There are a few things that come readily to mind and seem imminently plausible, but none of them are consistent with the widely-shared values that our community places on having and maintaining strong, freely-available public education.

The MIA media at is again. Blame the BOS who allow way too many condos, apartments, townhomes and homes on very small lots. Blame the School Board for allowing Smart boards in every classroom, buses half full, small schools to stay open, all the marketing materials and papers sent home on first day of school. I went through at least 20 pages(spanish on the back side). I signed 3 and threw out the rest in recycle bin. All the ink and paper wasted… Why does LCPS need so many chiefs? And why so many LCPS cars/trucks/vans? And why not outsource non teaching jobs/suppor staff????

Leave it to the LTM’s liberal editorial board to turn the start of the school year to turn the subject into an underfunding issue.  Isn’t $900 million enough?  How much are we spending on ESL?  Last time I checked it was more than English, Mathematics, Science, Physical Education, Music, Foreign Languages and Gifted/Talented Education…COMBINED!!

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