Loudoun Public Schools Administration Building

The Loudoun County Public Schools administration building in Ashburn

Two teachers in cuffs. Just another week in Loudoun County Public Schools.

Last week saw the months-long investigation into Loudoun County High School teacher Alison Briel come to a head with Briel's arrest and three charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Briel, who pleaded guilty Monday, sent salacious pictures to several of her juvenile boy students via the Snapchat app. She went so far as to ask one of the boys if he'd like to consummate the relationship – although her language was a bit more direct.

A couple days later, Mill Run Elementary School teacher Brian K. Chamer was charged with public intoxication and having alcohol on school property.

These incidents, of course, come amid a horrific 10 months for Loudoun County Public Schools administration. A non-exhaustive review recalls:

-A Loudoun County Public Schools bus driver being charged April 12 with felony possession, distribution and exhibition of sexually explicit material involving minors.

-A 30-year-old reading instructor, Samuel Hermens, was arrested in late 2018 at Woodgrove High School and charged with three felony counts of unlawful filming. He was reportedly walking near high school cheerleaders and taking secret images of them in their uniforms.

-Also in the 2018-2019 school year, members of the Tuscarora High School football team allegedly perpetrated a sexual assault in the locker room while the parents who were supposed to be in charge were asleep at the wheel.

What else … what else …

-Oh, we almost forgot, last month a former Tuscarora student casually strolled into the Leesburg school with a gun.

Still, not a public peep on the incidents from Superintendent Eric Williams. In his defense, he probably doesn't have time to respond to all the criminal charges facing the school system's employees.

Loudoun County Public Schools spokesman Wayde Byard said LCPS reached out to the communities involved in last week's incidents, but there was nothing from the man in charge.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: At what point do Loudoun's kids come first? When do parents' right to know trump the school system's reckless determination to maintain a glowing reputation?

We agree with LCPS that there are benefits of community schooling and letting individual schools' leadership handle their respective problems. But there is also something to be said for leadership from the top – or, in this case, lack thereof.

When a school system has seen as many alarming incidents and arrests as Loudoun County Public Schools, it's time for the chief executive to say something. A smidgen of leadership isn't too much to ask for a public official making nearly $300,000 a year.

Williams' non-existent voice in the face of what appears to be systemic hiring and training problems at LCPS is deeply distressing. With school shootings erupting on a monthly basis, the school system's CEO should be front and center, working to ensure confidence and calm anxious parents' fears. When it comes to that test, Williams gets an F.

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Editor's note: Less than one hour after this opinion piece was published online, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office reported another Loudoun County Public Schools instructor had been arrested at school for public intoxication.

(16) comments

BobOhneiserEsq

Davis B . You may be right that the BOS does not direct the School Board but they are not prohibited from doing so and frankly knowing how the financial metrics drive costs does have value in being a BOS member. When I chaired the finance committee of the school board I don't remember you being in the meetings or on the board so what facts are you using to make your assumptions? Sorry you don't like my posts but at least I provide substance rather than anonymous insults or conclusions without facts.

Jack Sauce Dickinson

I don't know why we are spending so much on Eric's salary when we could send the money to Isreal! - Jack

BobOhneiserEsq

Davis B . I will ignore your insults as that is part of what must be absorbed in any campaign especially when dealing with anonymous postings, however, welcome to contract law. The BOS AVOIDS making demands on the school board to avoid the political fallout from doing anything but giving a funding amount. There is no reason condition precedents or condition subsequents can not be part of the negotiation. This is where the BOS can make (and should make) it clear that we live in the county but our kids attend the schools 6 or so hours per school day. Efficiency (which is mandated as a school requirement by state statute) and fairness can be mandated and after many years as Chair of the School Board Finance Committee I know how to accomplish that as part of the BOS agenda. Lets' skip the insults next time or at least log in with your real name and which party you are a rabid member of.

DavisB

Bob - the BOS does not direct how the SB operates- the voters do - time for you to realize this. And time for you to stop using every story as a campaign add.

BTW - your time on the school board put in place many of the problems we live with today.

TomPaine

Did you even ask for an interview before publishing this hit piece? Did you ask anyone in the school system if anything is being done? Doesn't seem like it.

Did you know that several high schools are going through a major renovation to move the front offices so that there is a security checkpoint for all visitors?

In an organization the size of LCPS there are going to be personnel issues often. The fact is, the systems are working in that we actually DO know about these things. In most companies things like these incidents would never be known even inside the organization due to fear about the impact on shareholder value.

It's a good thing that teachers are reporting other teachers and these people are removed from the classroom. But there are still issues of fairness and privacy that need to be addressed. Not every accusation is true and investigations take time. The system is working as far as I can see. What do you want? Should we be dragging teachers out of the classroom and waterboard them if there is an accusation?

Chris McHale

WOW, talk about excuses. No I don't want waterboarding, but I do expect to hear something from the high-hockie-finockie as to what is going on. They fact that parents learn if think via LTM rather than LCPS is unacceptable. It is no surprise the the School Board will renew his contract and throw money down that rabbit hole. An "F" is too high of a score.

Deborah Morbeto

Thank you for this. I sincerely hope that someone is listening because I feel this county is ripe for a very serious incident to occur. I would like to see both security and communication be addressed immediately. I fear that our children have been and continue to be at risk. No one wants Loudoun County to become another statistic.

FallHarvest

The common response from those avoiding accountability - diffuse it, distance from it and do everything to avoid an internal review. Support the old boys’ leadership club, cover for each other on behalf of the “greater good”. Try to hold out until the dust settles and the “uncomfortable” stuff hopefully goes away. So in short, don’t really do anything with real accountability and transparency, essentially, acting irresponsibly via complicity, dysfunction, lack of leadership, and cowardice. The Loudoun County School system, students, parents, and teachers deserve better.

David Dickinson

An "F" as in "Fired!"

Just sayin

I could not agree more with this opinion! My kids are Tuscarora students, the last one graduates this year and I could not be more thrilled to be done with LCPS! My daughter was in the cafeteria that day the former student came to our school with a gun, and she interacted with him. She said they engaged in conversation and that at no time did she feel uncomfortable which I was extremely grateful for. However, I cringed at what could have happened had his intentions not been innocent.

I gave the administration ample time to "respond" to the incident. Seven days later we got an email update from the principle. Within her message was the following from Dr. Williams:

Our superintendent, Dr. Eric Williams, shared the following statement with me and asked that I share it with you:
“Focusing on the safety and security of LCPS students and staff is our most important responsibility. In addition to partnering with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and the Leesburg Police Department, LCPS continues to make significant additional investments in safety and security. These investments include significant expenditures for equipment, capital renovations, and staff members in the Safety and Security Office. Next year’s budget includes funds for 72 Safety and Security staff members for the next fiscal year, up from 52 staff members this year and 43 last year.”

I was so upset that Dr. William's would use this crisis to promote his budget rather than address the incident. As I indicated to he and others, there is a time and a place to promote the budget, this was not it. I emailed my thoughts and concerns to Dr. William's office, Wayde Byard, our principle and our school board members. Who did I hear back from? I received a personal phone call from our principle which I appreciated, and an email from one board member....no one else. To me, that speaks volumes! I don't care how much money per pupil our county pays to educate our kids if they can't keep them safe!

David Dickinson

Never let a good crisis go to waste. That's the liberal mantra.

BobOhneiserEsq

Before reviewing the nexus between irresponsible behavior near the classroom and absentee management the reader should first decide if they expect LCPS to be managed under proven business management concepts (including zero based budgeting) or merely as some sort of culture club theme of go along to get along. If you fall into the category of management should be accountable and expect managers to plan, organize, staff, direct and control as I was taught in grad school then the $1.3 Billion yearly budget would be closer to $800 million and not be growing faster than the student population! The layers of management, redundant duties within almost every department, lack of measurable metrics or enforcement of commitment criteria would certainly support the above article contention of questioning managerial skill. The School Board, however, is given authority to manage the school system THROUGH the Superintendent and even mandated by state statute to "INSURE THE UTMOST EFFICIENCY" yet chooses to not even be able to review the Superintendent's contract (4 years) within the same election term of the school board (4 years). This means that even "IF" the school board were to actually mandate measurable performance by the Superintendent it would fall to the next school board to enforce their intent. After 8 years of being an active member of the school board chairing the finance committee for most of that time it is clear to me that adding $10,000 for school board members to spend on doing a part time job, the focus on cultural competency, the focus on adjusting victim behavior instead of publishing/punishing bullying behavior and looking to 60 person advisory committees instead of the Superintendent to develop a long term plan is evidence that the Board of Supervisors needs to represent the county citizens and demand better management rather than just throw what will soon be $2 billion over the transom. The education of all children in LCPS is a real duty parents notice not one that has to have a huge PR machine convincing us it is both efficient and effective. So why aren't parents even allowed to provide direct input into teacher performance reviews? I am well prepared to provide a BOS agenda to accomplish this if I am given the honor to chair the BOS on November 5th.

Loudouneer

Bob,

You make some very interesting points above. Given it is the School Board's responsibility to manage the performance of the Superintendent, it would be helpful to see how they rate him on his annual performance appraisal.

Last year, I recall a meeting where his performance appraisal and associated pay increase were discussed publicly. Based on my best recollection, all of the School Board raved about his performance in an attempt to justify a total compensation increase that was 5 times what our teachers received.

Further, I would love to see LTM ask candidates for School Board and the BoS what their thoughts are on his performance during his tenure in Loudoun. Additionally, I would also like to hear what if anything they would improve upon if elected to the offices they're running for.

I suspect many will fall in line and bow down so as to not disrupt the "system".

DavisB

Bob - this editorial is about the schools - it is not about you! Your egotistical, self-righteousness is getting old. I think you forget that the Board of Supervisors decides on the funding for the schools, nothing else - you will not be king if you get elected again.

swampfiller

dr bob o - get your own web site instead of trying to use LTM's for free. It''s hard enough getting factual news from LTM without you taking your own ego trips in the comments every day. Enough is enough.

VeggieTales

Student experience is the mantra of many higher Ed institutions. Instead of enabling our students achieve their highest potential, the current admin is only a drag limiting our children.

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