Hoyler/King Q&A

Andrew Hoyler, left, and Leslee King

Two candidates – Andrew Hoyler and Leslee King – are hoping to represent the Broad Run District on the Loudoun County School Board after this November's election. Incumbent Joy Maloney is not seeking re-election.

Hoyler and King recently responded to a Times-Mirror questionnaire to give voters more insight into their platforms. Here are their responses.

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Andrew Hoyler

What are your two top priorities to help improve Loudoun County Public Schools?

After spending 12 years as a student in LCPS, I am aware of many issues that affect our students on a daily basis. One of my top priorities is working with our school counselors, administrators, and School Resource Officers on furthering our mental health resources and support for our struggling students, as this was something I suffered through for over two years as a middle school student. Despite increasing the number of school psychologists and making changes to anti-bullying campaigns, the main problem surrounding mental health hasn’t been addressed: our students do not want to go to the trusted adults in our schools to talk about their concerns. When I was a student, I was terrified of seeing my guidance counselor (now referred to as school counselors), despite her always having a smile on her face and working to provide a welcoming atmosphere. I felt it would have been uncool and embarrassing to go to her during school hours when my peers who were attacking me and bullying me were in the same building. We need to find a way to allow our students to talk with their counselors without fear of their classmates judging them for seeking help.

Another priority is working to ensure the needs of ALL students are met. I worry that the county’s continued focus and push for the Academies of Loudoun is at the expense of other choices and paths our students have the option of taking. We need to ensure that we continue to expand the technical options for our students who may not excel in our AP/honors classes, as well as working to find more ways to push our students to take electives while still maintaining solid GPAs (did you know an A+ in an elective can lower the GPA?).

The past school year was a controversial one, with roughly one LCPS employee arrested each month, a locker-room sexual assault at Tuscarora and a former student bringing a gun into school, to name just a few major issues. Do you think Loudoun County Public Schools could've done anything different to avoid some of these troubling incidents? If so, what?

This question asks if Loudoun County Public Schools could’ve done anything different but I’m going to take that one step further and ask - what could’ve Loudoun County as a community done better? Just because something happens in the schools doesn’t mean that the root cause is one that the schools could’ve changed. We tend to do that here in Loudoun County – we never look in the mirror to ask what “I” could’ve done differently. It’s always someone else’s problem.

  • Why are teachers drinking at school? Could it be because they have health issues and they don’t know how or where to get help?
  • Why can’t LCPS stop guns from entering the schools? It’s an unfortunate reality, but without searching every backpack that enters a school, we will never truly know what our kids are bringing in.

One of the most common responses to these issues I saw after some of these arrests was that LCPS needed to do a better job screening applicants during interviews. We need to be honest with ourselves—how could an interviewer, or even an employee, been able to predict this? While you will not find me defending showing up intoxicated to work, I’ll go on record and say that we have lost some very good teachers to alcoholism. The county (and our society as a whole) needs to do a better job destigmatizing talking about our issues.

That’s my overall point – LCPS gets to deal with a lot of issues that are created by root causes that occur outside of the schools. If we all own our parts of the problems, then we can work together to implement real solutions (instead of just blaming LCPS for issues that we may have caused outside of the schools). We can do better!

Similarly, some parents have expressed that trust in the school system is lacking. What can a School Board representative do to help parents trust LCPS?

I believe the lack of trust stems from a lack of communication. Adequate communication can keep everyone connected. I am fortunate to have great community interaction on my campaign Facebook page where we cover a wide variety of issues. I look to continue these discussions and to leverage the diverse perspectives of the community when I contribute to future policy improvements. Parents, students, teachers, administrators, and taxpayers in general need to see that their feedback matters. Trust is earned – not merely elected.

We also need greater transparency. If stakeholders feel information is being withheld, there will be a feeling of distrust. We must be open and honest about both our accomplishments and our shortcomings as a county. By being open about our issues, it once again sets expectations about when and how we expect to fix them. One strategy that I believe would help to build trust is to implement lessons-learned sessions in a public forum after any significant events (LCPS arrests, guns in schools, etc). Let’s get the FACTS out on the table with stakeholders from all corners of the community and determine what we all could’ve done better. Let’s own the areas we need to own as individuals.

What is something you feel the current School Board has done/is doing well? How can you carry that progress forward?

The county has been under constant change for many years now, and the growth of Loudoun shows no signs of slowing. With new schools opening up every year, the board has labored through countless boundary change hearings and meetings. These meetings always cause worry and angst as most parents and students wish to keep the status quo and prioritize their own desires over what might be best for the community. I know many board members have spent hours creating their own boundary proposals, aiming to please as many constituents as possible, with great success. With more schools slated to open this next decade, carrying this progress forward will require immense time, effort, research, and community interaction, and I am optimistic the new board will excel in all of these categories.

How can LCPS improve in the area of diversity and equity? What steps should the School Board take to acknowledge the rights, abilities, values and individuality of students of all backgrounds?

Hiring minority teachers has been a priority for many years, yet it continues to be a struggle—in my twelve years as a student in the county, I had only one teacher who was a minority. My hope is that the new committee on equity will be able to forward proposals to assist with this important issue, and that the county will be receptive to these suggestions. This new committee may also better show that the county does indeed care about diversity in the workplace, and may result in applicants of diverse backgrounds choosing LCPS due to its commitment to tackle the diversity issue. The county first has to better understand why the diversity of our staff is not consistent with the diversity of the student body, despite an increased effort to increase the diversity on staff. Let’s determine the root cause first and then we can take steps to address the real issues.

When it comes to students, we have an incredibly diverse student body. We must recognize that with such a diverse population, the “one size fits all” model does not, and will not, work. While the new Personalized Learning initiative aims to meet this need, if our teachers and staff members do not have access to the resources they need to better personalize their curriculum, the initiative will be a failure.

What is your vision of a well-rounded education? What level of importance do you believe extracurricular activities — athletics, arts, debate, etc. — play in the life of a student, and what can the School Board do to ensure those programs are successful?

What I see as a well-rounded education may not fit the lifestyles of many of our own students. I think it would be irresponsible for me to set expectations that a well-rounded education must include any type of extracurricular activities, and imply that any student who is not a part of sports, band, or the arts does not have a well-rounded education. At the end of the day, we must realize that each student has their own vision as to what a well-rounded and balanced education looks like, and that they have full access and ability to engage in whatever activity they see fit. I fully support continuing to expand our extracurricular options for our students, but we must ensure that these programs do not come with insurmountable costs that families cannot afford. Certain club sports carry fees hovering around $1,000 per season, which for a majority of our families, is a big investment for a 3 month long activity.

What grade (A through F) would you give Superintendent Eric Williams? Do you have any concerns about his leadership?

In order to properly grade Dr. Williams, we must fully understand the duties that are outlined in his contract. Of these duties, the majority involve working with the School Board and keeping them informed. I do not feel I can properly grade him being that I am not currently a member of the board, and do not have access to the communications and closed meetings he has with the current board members. From the perspective of the public, does it appear that he goes above and beyond his required duties? Is his communication with the public always timely and sufficient? I would say the majority of the public would say no. While I do think he has room to improve in many aspects concerning community/staff involvement, I do not feel I have enough information to grade him on how he is performing his required duties outlined in his contract.

Do you believe there are areas of the LCPS budget that should be cut? If so, what are they?

Over the next 5 years, the county will spend $430,000 on stage curtains, $305,000 on auditorium seats, $942,000 on folding partition doors, and tens of thousands on professional development speakers. While nobody would deny that these things would be nice to have, imagine how that money could have directly benefited our staff and students. I am not proposing that we let our school’s image and infrastructure deteriorate over time without replacing certain items. Instead, we should exercise due diligence and replace items that are nearing the end of their useful lives/warranties or need actual repair, and not replacing them simply because we have room in the budget and past precedent said to replace certain items every 10 years. I don’t typically buy into the argument that we have no money in the budget- it is merely a matter of prioritization as how we spend the money.

Do you believe there are areas of the LCPS budget that should be increased? If so, what are they?

I recommend that we focus on areas of the LCPS budget that should be prioritized instead of increased. We have the money – we just need to be diligent with how the money is spent. I would prioritize an annual stipend for all teachers since they are our boots on the ground and they know what they need in order to create a strong learning environment in their individual classrooms. While high school departments have budgets, our elementary schools have little continuity when it comes to how much their teachers receive.

I would also like to consider strategies that would lower the fees that our families currently must pay in order to participate in activities. With an overwhelming majority of taxes already going to our schools, parents should not have to pay $1,000+ per year in fees. So again, we need to focus on smart budget prioritization – not irresponsible budget increases.

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Leslee King

What are your two top priorities to help improve Loudoun County Public Schools?

Actually I have 4 goals/priorities:

  • Seek out LCPS successes and expand upon them for continuous improvement
  • Strive for equity so all students are able to work up and beyond their capabilities
  • Improve communications with the Loudoun Community – with our rapid growth, things continually change, like school boundaries, and information needs to be presented early and often.
  • Work to provide a safer environment for learning

The past school year was a controversial one, with roughly one LCPS employee arrested each month, a locker-room sexual assault at Tuscarora and a former student bringing a gun into school, to name just a few major issues. Do you think Loudoun County Public Schools could've done anything different to avoid some of these troubling incidents? If so, what?

LCPS needs to review its vetting and investigation procedures of potential employees, both teachers and staff, looking for improvement. In addition, if not currently done, periodic reinvestigation should be done. Because the safety of our children is paramount, we need to have ongoing training that emphasizes child protection policies.

Communication with students and parents must improve although the community must understand that certain information is prohibited when an investigation is open and both Federal and Virginia law prohibits certain information from release, especially when dealing with children. Information about the LCPS hotline needs to be communicated often so that parents, students, teachers and staff can register any concerns they may have.

Similarly, some parents have expressed that trust in the school system is lacking. What can a School Board representative do to help parents trust LCPS?

Listen to parent concerns.

Spend time at the schools. I will have the time to visit schools often and interact with all parties.

Be responsive to reasonable communications in a timely manner.

Work on improving communications with the community. My strong background in technology brings knowledge to technology used both in the classroom and in communications with students, parents, etc.

What is something you feel the current School Board has done/is doing well? How can you carry that progress forward?

The current School Board seems to collaborate well with LCPS staff. Their recognition of various student, teacher and principal excellence in public at their meetings is admirable. I will continue with this and I will ask the School Board part-time admin to release a press statement to encourage the local papers to print these recognitions in the paper and online.

Expanding All Day Kindergarten throughout Loudoun County is very good.

Hiring a Director of Diversity and a Director of Safety improves the overall learning experience.

My varied and long time experience along with common sense will enable me to work on continuous improvement of our schools.

How can LCPS improve in the area of diversity and equity? What steps should the School Board take to acknowledge the rights, abilities, values and individuality of students of all backgrounds?

At its June 25th meeting, the School Board defeated a motion to add two Strategic Actions titled Equity and Inclusion. These need to be added in order to give emphasis to their importance.

More interaction is needed with SEAC and looking at implementing recommendations from the Special Education Advisory Committee created in March, 2018. By the way, I could not find this report.

It seems from the SEAC website that “Inclusive Schools Week” occurred on 2013 and 2014. See if this has continued and if not, why not?

Superintendent Williams released an Equity Statement on August 19, 2019 calling “for all students, staff, families, and other members of our community to engage in the disruption and dismantling of white supremacy, systemic racism, and hateful language and actions based on race, religion, country of origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, and/or ability.” Why didn’t the School Board release this statement?

What is your vision of a well-rounded education? What level of importance do you believe extracurricular activities — athletics, arts, debate, etc. — play in the life of a student, and what can the School Board do to ensure those programs are successful?

First all students must learn the basics and understand how they are meaningful.

Well rounded means going beyond the basics and this is where extracurricular activities come into play.

Athletics are important for encouraging healthy exercise, fair play on the field and team cooperation (there is no “I” in TEAM as Together Everyone Achieves More).

The arts, painting and music, feed a different area of our minds. Future great artists and musicians are advanced by these extracurricular activities.

Debate, Chess Club, etc. teach our students the importance of seeing both sides of an argument or a game. They teach crucial thinking.

First, reduce or abolish the sports activity fees currently charged. Second, encourage art and music as classroom subjects in elementary, middle and high school. Third, attend events these extracurricular groups produce.

What grade (A through F) would you give Superintendent Eric Williams? Do you have any concerns about his leadership?

Dr. Williams met with me on Tuesday, August 20th and is meeting with all of the other candidates. This is a good thing. Our discussion was insightful and meaningful. His focus is to recapture the joy of teaching and learning. His push to expand all day Kindergarten was successful.

The Superintendent gives a presentation yearly to MSAAC (Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee) which points out the good as well as the not so good LCPS information in minority achievements by LCPS.

Dr. Williams released an “Equity Statement” on August 19, 2019 which was very comprehensive and very good. Remembering that some of the difficulties existed before Dr. Williams came and everyone can improve, my grade for him right now would be a B.

Do you believe there are areas of the LCPS budget that should be cut? If so, what are they?

The school budget is almost 400 pages and requires in-depth study and discussion before increasing or decreasing areas.

One area to cut: An activity fee of $150/student/sports activity is high. Nearby counties are half this amount and it puts an undue burden on parents. Also, this does not encourage joining in healthy activities.

Do you believe there are areas of the LCPS budget that should be increased? If so, what are they?

I believe transportation for students from Loudoun to Thomas Jefferson High School should be included in the budget. Cutting this puts an unnecessary burden on these students and their parents.

As stated above, the school budget is huge both in the report of almost 400 pages and in money collected and spent. My background in finance and single parenting three children without child support gives me the experience to look meaningfully at the budget in-depth and then to make informed decisions.

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(7) comments

DavisB

I have no idea why all but one candidate is giving Williams a pass. I would have thought they had talked to families or had kids in schools themselves. If they truly are representing the community, they would know how bad it is over at LCPS - is that not why they want to be a board member - to make changes?


Virginia SGP

Very few will make substantive changes. It appears they want a title.


BobOhneiserEsq

Ace10, Although I agree with your statement the BOS also bears a great deal of responsibility for understanding what makes up the $1.5 Billion they will be asked for in 2020. If the school board is required by state statute 22.1-79 to use utmost efficiency in managing LCPS the BOS should do the same when deciding on how to apply funding. I was in an event this morning at Ashby Ponds (gorgeous place for seniors) and he was very impressive. If he gets on the board I would expect bullying to get a lot more attention and accountability which from my perspective is way overdue.


Loudoun4Trump

Going with Hoyler on this one....


ace10

Cutting a Revenue line item doesn't count toward reducing a budget. In fact, that's the exact opposite. The school budget is out of control. How about electing board members with some fiscal responsibility?


Cmonnow

Not sure what is worse- the fact that King will get a couple thousand votes simply because she is on a sample ballot and Hoyler is not, or the fact that she thinks cutting athletic fees is a budget item that she would like to cut. That would be a budget ADDITION not a cut.


LetSanityPrevail

Very impressed by Mr. Hoyler’s responses and realism. He also seems to be closer to conditions on the ground than many of his seniors.


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