A new school year is upon us, and here's to hoping this one is better than the last.
We want to be optimistic about the year ahead, but we must first see changes within both Loudoun County Public Schools administration and the School Board.
As the saying goes, “It starts at the top,” or, more bluntly for LCPS in recent years, “A fish rots from the head down.”
While it may be a new school year, we can't clear the slate for Superintendent Eric Williams after his egregious missteps during the 2018-2019 year. After bungled communication on items ranging from the Tuscarora High School sexual assault to chaos in the halls of Loudoun Valley High School, it's our sincere wish that Williams takes greater steps into public view and becomes a more forceful, reassuring and, if it calls for it, disciplinary leader for the 84,000-student school system.
With those greater steps toward accountability in mind, it is incumbent on School Board members to become more independent from the grip of LCPS administration. Not nearly enough honest inquiries and firm voices were heard on last year's problems, which, in case you've forgotten, included: the aforementioned locker room sexual assault at Tuscarora High School; another incident wherein a former Tuscarora student was free to walk around the school with a firearm; an LCPS reading instructor charged and eventually convicted of unlawfully filming – “upskirting” – female students; numerous public intoxication charges against employees; a Loudoun County High School teacher charged with soliciting sex from students; repeated reports of students freely roaming the Loudoun Valley High School halls whenever they please, many of them heading to the bathroom for a quick vape; and a shameful physical education lesson during which students acted out the role of slaves escaping through the underground railroad.
And that list isn't even exhaustive.
The School Board's primary charge is to ensure a safe and productive learning environment. For that to happen, the School Board must hold the administration accountable, ask the hard questions – doing so in a public setting – and not write off the concerns of everyday parents. We hear far too many stories from Loudoun parents who reach out to their board representative and either never hear back, or wait several weeks for a reply.
Within the schools themselves, we know the majority of LCPS principals are honest, hardworking educators who love their students. But a select few – Dominion's John Brewer, Tuscarora's Pamela Croft and Loudoun Valley's Sue Ross among them – have soured the perception of the ever-growing school district. We press principals at all levels to communicate with their teachers, to give them support and encouragement and, most essentially, to spot simmering troubles. That at least four LCPS employees were arrested on charges related to alcohol and intoxication at school last year is more than a little disconcerting. That roughly one LCPS employee was charged with a crime every month during the 2018-2019 year is downright frightening.
Principals, know your school, know your teachers. Be present.
As we find ourselves reminding those that blindly support LCPS without considering the system's shortcomings: What if it was your child? What if it was your son under the care of an inebriated instructor? What if it were your daughter who was being preyed on by a teacher?
Let's do better this year, LCPS.