Tysons Corner, VA

Candidates vying for the Providence and Dranesville district seats on the Fairfax County School Board debated a variety of issues — from guns to vaping — at local debates.

Two recent candidate debates hosted by the League of Women Voters-Fairfax Area gave community members a chance to hear from the school board candidates.

The audience questions varied drastically at the two debates — except for the issue of school safety and bullying of LGBTQ students.

Guns in Schools and Active Shooter Drills

Dranesville District candidate Ardavan Mobasheri and Providence District candidate Karl Frisch said that they are worried about excessive school safety procedures.

“Schools are becoming fortresses,” Mobasheri said.

Frisch said that active shooter drills are unnecessarily and cause harm. “I’m afraid we are traumatizing our kids,” Frisch said.

Frisch made a point that telling teachers to put black paper over windows and hiding in the corner is not an efficient measure during an active shooter situation.

Karl Frisch’s opponent, Andrea Bayer, agreed with him that drills are not effective. During the debate, Bayer said that many of the active shooter training drills are costly to the taxpayers and not backed by statistical evidence that shows they work.

“Let’s do the thinking before we invest tax dollars,” she said.

Frisch and Bayer suggested bulletproof glass in the classroom, more efficient teacher training and cameras monitoring the schools.

The other two Providence District candidates — Anastasia Karloutsos and Elaine Tholen — focused on school resource officers (SROs), agreeing that they should have guns.

Tholen said that SROs should be the only people in schools allowed to have guns, while Karloutsos said that guns should be expanded to SROs or retired police officers in elementary schools.

How to Address LGBTQ Bullying 

All of the candidates agreed that LGBTQ students should feel safe at school.

“We need to make sure every single student that walks through our doors feels protected,” Frisch said.

Bayer noted that “Fairfax County has always accommodated LGBTQ students.” She said that she’s never heard of any issues.

Tholen, a Providence District candidate, said that she wants to see more community schools, mentor programs and peer-to-peer programs. One of her opponents, Karloutsos, said that mental health counselors could help students struggling with bullying.

Providence District Candidate Debate

At the Providence District Candidate Forum last Wednesday (Oct. 16), popular topics for the school board candidates included vape pen and e-cigarette use among kids, prayer in schools and retention. (Providence District School Board candidate Jung Byun did not attend the event.)

When it came to bus driver retention, Bayer said it’s low “because behavior is a major issue on the bus.”

“I don’t like driving my van. Why would I want to drive a school bus?” she said, adding that traffic leads to frustrated drivers.

Frisch said that bus drivers — and the rest of school staff — need higher wages.

The candidates sparred over how they would approach prayer and vaping in schools.

Frisch said that he supports expanding holidays for Muslim and Jewish kids because kids can lose out on education when they are forced to take off school days for religious holidays, while Bayer said that students have opportunities to practice whatever they want.

“Our schools are freedom of religion not freedom for religion,” Bayer said.

As for vaping, Bayer said that vaping is a parenting issue, while Frisch said he would use his platform, if elected, to educate students on vaping.

Dranesville District Candidates Spar Over Overcrowding, One Fairfax 

Meanwhile, at the forum for Dranesville District candidates last Thursday (Oct. 17), the candidates debated how to address overcrowding at McLean High School.

Karloutsos and Tholen agreed that the principal needs to be involved in the decision making.

While Tholen said that she is supportive of a boundary adjustment that would switch some McLean High School students to Langley High School as a short term solution, Mobasheri said he does not support the proposal.

“McLean [High School] needs an addition,” Mobasheri said, calling for a new high school in Tysons. “It is no longer suburbia.”

While only brought up briefly, One Fairfax — a joint social and racial equity policy of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board — was one of the most contentious topics of the night.

Karloutsos blasted it as a “big issue,” while Mobasheri called it the “21st-century rendition of the Bill of Rights.” (Tholen did not comment during that debate on One Fairfax.)

There were two topics that the three Dranesville District candidates all agreed on — students should be vaccinated and that restraint and seclusion should either be used when there is a threat of imminent danger or never at all.

The election is on Nov. 5.

Ashley Hopko and Catherine Douglas Moran contributed to this story.

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This op-ed was submitted by Steve Descano, the Democratic nominee for Fairfax County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney and former prosecutor for U.S. Department of Justice under the Obama administration. It does not reflect the opinions of Tysons Reporter. We publish op-eds and letters to the editor of specific interest to the Tysons community. Contributions may be edited for length or content. 

The national conversation on immigration can be debilitating. While national politics on this issue is a catastrophe, local District Attorneys can implement policies in their offices to protect our immigrant communities.

Fairfax County’s next Commonwealth’s Attorney (Virginia’s version of a District Attorney) will lead a criminal justice system larger than seven states and the District of Columbia. The foreign-born population of Fairfax County makes up about 30% of its population of 1.1 million.

Where you come from doesn’t give you less of a right to fair treatment under the criminal justice system. Additionally, because prosecutors have the potential to touch so many when it comes to immigration, they must take the lead.

Immigrant populations are often vulnerable to a criminal justice system that does not treat them in the same way as non-immigrants. If we want Fairfax County to continue to be welcoming and for diversity to be a central characteristic of the community, then those values need to be reflected in the criminal justice system.

District Attorneys can change the way their offices interact with ICE and other immigration officials. I have promised not to assist ICE. This paradigm shift will increase public safety.

For example, domestic abusers regularly exploit their victim’s immigration status to stop the victims from reporting abuse, thereby trapping their victims in a recurring cycle of domestic violence. Allowing these victims to report their abuser without having to fear their own deportation gives them a real opportunity to escape continued victimization.

Regardless of the crime committed, when undocumented individuals feel that they can report crime to the police, our communities are safer. Instead of sowing distrust between immigrants and law enforcement, public safety demands that we ensure everyone feels protected.

Charging and plea guidelines in a DA’s office can also affect undocumented communities. Considering the immigration consequences of charging and plea decisions is critical to ensuring equality and opportunity. If two people commit the same minor offense, but only one’s punishment includes the breaking up of their family via deportation, the result is unequal treatment based on status.

Furthermore, deporting parents and removing them from their children for minor offenses serves no social good. It merely creates more hardship and exacerbates inequality.

For too long, the criminal justice system has been skilled at breaking up families and systemically fostering criminal behavior. This failure has taken the most vulnerable down with it.

As prosecutors, we have the opportunity to build up communities by rooting out the systemic causes of crime. We should be leaders in our communities in bringing equality to immigrants even if we can’t reform immigration policy nationally.

— Steve Descano

Photo via Steve Descano/Facebook

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Haycock Elementary School’s new principal has been placed on administrative leave just a month after joining the Falls Church school.

Scott Bloom was placed on leave involving a personnel matter, Lucy Caldwell, a spokesperson for Fairfax County Public Schools, told Tysons Reporter.

“Personnel matters are confidential. Employees are on leave for a wide variety of reasons and those reasons vary with each employee. We cannont share personal information due to confidentiality/privacy regulations,” Caldwell said.

It is unknown how long he will be on leave, which started yesterday (Wednesday).

Bloom began his position as the principal at the elementary school (6616 Haycock Road) on Aug. 15 but was originally hired by FCPS in 2012 as the principal for Freedom Hill Elementary School, according to the Falls Church News-Press.

Bloom has over 12 years of experience as an educational administrator, Assistant Superintendent Fabio Zuluaga said in a previous press release.

Caldwell said families and staff received the following email this morning:

Good Morning Haycock Staff:

I am writing to inform you that Principal Scott Bloom is on leave. We are thrilled to announce the return of Mr. Augie Frattali to Haycock, who will now serve as our interim principal.

As many of you may know, Mr. Frattali is a retired principal with over 30 years of service to FCPS. Augie served as principal at Rachel Carson Middle School from 2003-2015. Under his leadership, Haycock was recognized as a School to Watch by the National Forum for Middle School Reform and received the Virginia Governor’s Award for Educational Excellence numerous times.

He has worked as a teacher and administrator both at the elementary and middle school levels. Augie was named FCPS 2010 Principal of the Year and was the recipient of the Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award.

We are confident that Augie will help us ensure the highest level of academic excellence for our students and that his presence will continue to support our wonderful learning environment for Haycock students, staff, and community.

Thank you for your continued support of Haycock Elementary School.

Photos via FCPS Region 2/Twitter and FCPS

Catherine Douglas Moran and Ashley Hopko contributed to this report.

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Tysons Reporter’s first birthday is next week.

To celebrate, editor Catherine Douglas Moran and reporter Ashley Hopko will be working at a different coffee shop each day next week, so come by and say hello. (There will be free swag!)

Here’s where to find the editorial team from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.:

In addition to the newsroom pop-ups at local coffee shops, Tysons Reporter’s editorial and business teams are hosting a happy hour party at Tysons Biergarten next Thursday evening.

Can’t make it but still want to chat with us?

Shoot an email to [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip.

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Come help us celebrate the first year since founding Tysons Reporter at Tysons Biergarten next week.

The first 50 guests will enjoy a drink on us next Thursday (Oct. 3).

You will have the chance to meet the editorial and business teams that work behind the scenes to bring all of the local news to you each day.

Find us on the patio between 5-7 p.m. Kids and dogs are welcome.

Check out the Facebook event to RSVP and stay updated on the latest birthday bash news.

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(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) One person has been taken to the hospital after a car ended up on its side in the front yard of a McLean home.

Fairfax County police received a call about a sedan in a ditch at Kirby and Birch roads shortly after 3 p.m. today (Monday), spokesman Sgt. Greg Bedor told Tysons Reporter.

Bedor said that rescue personnel responded, and one person was taken to the hospital with minor, non-life threatening injuries.

The crash caused a “brief road closure” of Birch Road “to get the car out safely,” Bedor said.

When Tysons Reporter showed up around 3:50 p.m., the car was lying on its side atop utility lines with the roof ripped off — though the roof might have been removed by rescuers trying to free the vehicle’s occupant.

Utility crews are checking the tension wire to the utility pole, Bedor said, adding that the crash is under investigation.

Map via Google MapsJay Westcott contributed to this story.

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Tysons Reporter will soon have a sister site in Alexandria.

In case you were wondering why former editor Vernon Miles has had fewer and fewer bylines on Tysons Reporter, he is now heading up the team behind ALXnow.

As Washingtonian reported, ALXnow — feel free to call it “Alexandria Now” — will offer “high-tempo online coverage” of “a mix of news about local government, transportation, restaurant openings, and the culture of the neighborhoods it serves.”

Our team is looking forward to providing a fresh look at Alexandria, with more immediate, online-only coverage that is intended for all who live, work or follow happenings in the city. Whether you rent an apartment in Old Town, own a house in the West End, work along Eisenhower Avenue or frequently visit Del Ray, we will be providing coverage that’s relevant and interesting to you.

Make sure to check out the new site when it launches Oct. 1 — the same week as Tysons Reporter’s one-year birthday — for Miles’ witty headlines and detailed civic coverage.

Follow ALXnow.com on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for its daily email newsletter here or below.

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The Tysons area, including McLean, Vienna and Falls Church, is under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning as an intense storm rolls through the area.

More from the National Weather Service:

…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 1130 PM EDT FOR THE WEST CENTRAL DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA…SOUTH CENTRAL MONTGOMERY…NORTHWESTERN ARLINGTON AND NORTHEASTERN FAIRFAX COUNTIES…THE SOUTHEASTERN CITY OF FAIRFAX AND THE CITY OF FALLS CHURCH… AT 1108 PM EDT, A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WAS LOCATED OVER MERRIFIELD, OR OVER MANTUA, MOVING EAST AT 5 MPH. HAZARD…60 MPH WIND GUSTS AND QUARTER SIZE HAIL. SOURCE…RADAR INDICATED. IMPACT…DAMAGING WINDS WILL CAUSE SOME TREES AND LARGE BRANCHES TO FALL. THIS COULD INJURE THOSE OUTDOORS, AS WELL AS DAMAGE HOMES AND VEHICLES. ROADWAYS MAY BECOME BLOCKED BY DOWNED TREES. LOCALIZED POWER OUTAGES ARE POSSIBLE. UNSECURED LIGHT OBJECTS MAY BECOME PROJECTILES. LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE… ARLINGTON, BETHESDA, ANNANDALE, VIENNA, FALLS CHURCH, MANTUA, PIMMIT HILLS, AMERICAN LEGION BRIDGE, MCLEAN, POTOMAC, NORTH BETHESDA, TYSONS CORNER, MERRIFIELD, LAKE BARCROFT, CHEVY CHASE, SOUTH KENSINGTON, FOREST GLEN, NORTH CHEVY CHASE, I66 AND I495 INTERCHANGE AND FRIENDSHIP VILLAGE. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… FOR YOUR PROTECTION MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A BUILDING. && HAIL…1.00IN WIND…60MPH

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Tysons-based Gannett is merging with fellow newspaper chain GateHouse to form what is by far the largest newspaper publisher in the country.

The merger was announced Monday and will result in a behemoth that owns 1 in every 6 newspapers in the U.S., including hundreds of local daily and weekly papers and the flagship USA Today national paper. The debt-financed, cash-and-stock deal was valued at nearly $1.4 billion.

The combined company will be called Gannett and will continue to be based in Tysons, at the Valo Park office complex, at 7950 Jones Branch Drive. Gannett signed a 12-year lease on the space in 2015.

Valo Park was sold by TV station owner TEGNA, which was split from Gannett and is now based at The Boro in Tysons.

Photo via Valo Park

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