Loudoun County School Board

Members of the Loudoun County School Board

The Loudoun County School Board is considering next year’s contract with Fairfax County to continue sending Loudoun students to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, again sparking a debate over pulling out of the program.

Fairfax County extends contracts to the board on a year-by-year basis. This year, 250 Loudoun students attend Thomas Jefferson High School, and 83 of 102 accepted eighth-graders said they will attend the school next year.

Loudoun County Public Schools pays Fairfax County for the student’s tuition as well as covers transportation for the students. FCPS invoiced LCPS for $3.79 million for the students this fiscal year and LCPS allocated $500,000 for transportation.

Saving money is one of the arguments for discontinuing Loudoun’s involvement at Thomas Jefferson. Board members who wish to phase out the Thomas Jefferson option say the money spent on students’ tuition rate and transportation could instead be invested in Loudoun programs and initiatives, expanding opportunities within the county.

Additionally, LCPS continues to invest in the Academies of Loudoun, which offers advanced Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or STEM, courses.

“We continue to grow and expand the programs there to make it available to more students, and we will continue to do so,” Debbie Rose (Algonkian District) said. “I feel at this time, this is the responsible and right thing for our county to do, to go ahead and celebrate the win that we have at the Academies and claim it as our own and let it be the shining star.”

Eric Hornberger (Ashburn District) said Loudoun also has no control in how students are evaluated for admission, or even if the contract is offered in subsequent years. Hornberger added it is more worthwhile to invest in Loudoun programs where the board has control over how programs are run.

“We had a speaker come and say we need to commit long-term [to Thomas Jefferson], well, that’s not our option, because this isn’t our school. We don’t have control over that,” Hornberger said.

Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles District) said that though applications to the Academies of Loudoun are increasing, students are still choosing to apply and attend Thomas Jefferson, and LCPS should provide students with the opportunity to attend Thomas Jefferson – the country’s No. 1 STEM magnet school.

“Academies of Loudoun is not and never will be a Thomas Jefferson. It is different. It is for different people, for different purposes that have different needs. So provide those opportunities to the families willing to take that risk and work that hard to get into the No. 1 school in the nation,” Morse said.

Beth Huck (At Large) said that until LCPS comes up with an exit plan that includes expanding opportunities for gifted and high achieving students in all disciplines, such as the performing arts and STEM, she could not support withdrawing from Thomas Jefferson.

The board will vote on whether to continue to send new students to Thomas Jefferson High School at its May 28 meeting. Even if the board votes against sending new students, students already accepted into Thomas Jefferson won't be affected.

The board has until June 1 to notify Fairfax County if it is renewing or not renewing the contract.

(18) comments

Loudoun4Trump

with the money we are spending ont he school system it is odd that the AOC is not up to par with TJ....cancel the contract and put the money into AOC to make it on par if it truly isn't....

Virginia SGP

It costs more to educate a child as AOS than we pay to TJ. It's not about money. It's about the quality of the management and the aggregated talent of the students (TJ draws from over 300K students, AOS from only 80K).

Loudoundad

My opinion of TJ plummeted after the Talent show disaster. There was this Steinway piano with a sign on it reading "Please, no food or drinks on the piano." So, TJ students stacked their coats,backpacks,instrument cases, etc. on the Steinway. When instructed to remove the items from the piano, the students balked, and refused, because the sign said only food and drink. The police had to be called in.

Duncan Idaho

Um, OK?

LoudounPulse

We don't need TJ, we have the Loudoun Academy.

Duncan Idaho

Not the same. What a clueless comment.

Teacher33

Pegasus' comment demonstrates why we need to keep sending kids to TJ. His/her suggestion for Loudoun kids wanting to attend TJ is "move to Fairfax." That is exactly what they will do if Loudoun cuts off the program. On many lists of top high schools in the country, TJ ranks #1. The Academies of Loudoun is a good start towards bringing top-notch STEM education to Loudoun's best and brightest, but it has a long, long way to go before it can compare to TJ. Families with kids smart and motivated enough to get accepted by TJ tend to be the sort of hard-working, tax-paying, productive members of society that we should want to keep in Loudoun. If we start telling them they can't live in Loudoun if they want to attend the best high school in the country, they will move. Let's keep those families here in Loudoun. If, one day in the future, the Academies of Loudoun catches up to TJ in terms of national recognition, ivy league interest, etc., THEN we can discuss cutting ties. But for the foreseeable future, we need to keep TJ as an option.

P.S. The people who want to cut ties with T.J. tend to be the families whose kids did not get accepted. Show me a Loudoun parent whose kid GOT ACCEPTED to TJ who thinks we should cut ties and focus solely on "the Academies." There aren't any. If you got into TJ, you want to go to TJ. Of course, they don't have 100% yield, but that could be for any number of reasons, the most common being the extremely long bus ride. The reason certainly isn't because anyone thinks "the Academies" has all the advantages of TJ. If your kid gets into Harvard but wants to stay close to home and for lower tuition, you could send him to Shenandoah University. But that doesn't mean Shenandoah=Harvard.

Concerned

Another great option is to send them to NOVA while in high school and get dual credit. They have many online courses too. Their math, biology, physics and chemistry courses are far better than those taught at LCPS. NOVA is already in place with room for more students.

WesternSky

$15000 per child it too expense -- plus its an extra cost. Adding the kids back into Loudoun classes will be effectively free.

Locojrt

But a much poorer education! There is no comparison. Our kids are our future, which lately in Loudoun, sure isn't looking that bright!

Pegasus

We need to invest in our own educational programs. If parents want their kids to go to TJ, then move to Fairfax, Arlington, or PW counties!

Virginia SGP

What does this comment even mean? Does "invest" mean paying high salaries to even more teachers in Loudoun? If somebody offered a superior product at a reduced cost, why would you not take them up on it?

It costs MORE to educate kids in ACL than to pay to send them to TJ. It is crazy we are even thinking of cancelling that opportunity.

BobOhneiserEsq

Which current board members have a child or had a child at TJ or AOS? Which board members are expressing opinions without ever visiting TJ for a detailed tour? My son attended AOS while I was on the school board. What I know is the demand for advanced classes from the almost 80,000 students is FAR MORE than is currently offered. So do we limit what we offer to the current capacity at AOS by negating the TJ option? Should that really be the question? NO! The real answer is for board members to understand what AOS is before offering public relations type output. AOS is two course offerings built into a four year program. The first two years is a transcript numbered advanced course comprised of 3 years of science and math into one two year inquiry based, integrated course THAT CAN BE OFFERED AT ALL THE HIGH SCHOOLS IN LOUDOUN! So why isn't that the question? The third and fourth years of AOS are project based which can get into highly specialized equipment not at all the high schools. Parents should ask their board representative "Why haven't you made a motion to expand where the first two years of the AOS program are taught so my child can get the high quality scientific differentiation AOS offers which doesn't even require losing a course from commuting which both AOS and TJ do? After fixing what should not even be a problem (as all classes are conditioned on having sufficient student demand to justify them) maybe the school board could work on improving the quality of what the other 79,600 or so students receive such as agricultural sciences, advanced problem solving, genetics, advanced physiology, advanced machine language skills, Farsi, Arabic AND remove the current barriers to teaching more students how to be carpenters, plumbers, auto repair, HVAC technicians etc. If I am fortunate enough to receive support toward chairing the BOS I will endeavor to use the BOARD OF SUPERVISOR AGENDA to help the SCHOOL BOARD see why having the best school system in the country has more to do with offering great content in a great, accountable environment instead of using precious county resources for what might become a multi-million dollar per year cultural competency program as just one example of the recent loss of focus and loss of effective, efficiency based management as required by state statute.

Virginia SGP

Let's understand the scorecard.

1. The school board gave teachers $75M for raises this year, nearly double any prior year. This provided 7-14% raises despite LCPS having the LOWEST vacancy and attrition rates in the state. Of course, this was in part due to at least 3 school board members' spouses standing to benefit from those hefty raises.

2. The LCPS employee health plan costs $4000 more than any surrounding district. That adds up to $40M+ spent each and every year on LCPS employees beyond what any other district provides.

3. LCPS has 150 "nationally board certified teachers" that receive $5000 stipdends each year despite virtually no benefits for students. That costs $750K/year.

Yet the school board is considering whether to drop 250 advanced STEM seats because it costs $550K in incremental funds!!!! Say what?

Schools don't exist to employ (and pay humongous salaries to) teachers. They exist to effectively educate students.

For once in their lives, why doesn't the school board put students first.

Socr8s

The article states the county pays almost $4 million a year, not $550k as you wrongly state. You are judging the adequacy of teacher salaries by turnover? How about the fact that Fairfax schools (you know, the ones with the #1 high school) pay more than LCPS across the board. They also provide more classroom support, which means less money out of teacher's pockets to cover things in the classroom. And take a look at where more and more LCPS teachers are coming from... WV! You know, the state where teachers recently went on strike due to low pay and poor working conditions.

(Edited by staff.)

Virginia SGP

Socr8s,

You are mistaken. Suggesting that TJ costs $4M is like suggesting the charter schools of HIllsoboro and Middleburg cost $M's as well. They do not. If those kids were not educated in Hillsboro (or TJ), we would have costs to educate them here. The only "cost" of TJ is the incremental cost above what we would have to pay. That is $550K.

Guess what. NYC pays its teachers more than LCPS does because it costs more to live in NYC. San Francisco does as well. Yet LCPS has a lower vacancy and attrition rate than Fairfax thus we are paying above market rates for our teachers. If you were correct that Fairfax "supports" their teachers more than LCPS, then why do FFX teachers transfer INTO Loudoun at more than 3x the rate that LCPS teachers transfer to Fairfax?

You are simply wrong. It is sad that we must document and publish true costs on social media because LCPS is either unable or unwilling to do so.

chrisnich

Time for a new "scowling school board photo." This one has been used to death.

Duncan Idaho

We go through this every year.

Is AOS on par with TJ? no. Is AOS a full-time HS like TJ? No.

Keep sending deserving and motivated kids from Loudoun to TJ if theat's what they want and FCPS will continue to have them.

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