Falls Church and Fairfax County officials are revisiting efforts to rename schools with names linked to the Confederacy as communities across the U.S. tackle a racial reckoning.
The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of police killing George Floyd in Minneapolis has reignited discussions of how buildings, monuments and places with Confederate ties perpetuate racial oppression.
The push to remove names and images linked to the Confederacy at local schools isn’t new.
Fairfax County officials renamed JEB Stuart High School to Justice High School in 2017, with students changing the mascot in 2018. Fairfax High School’s principal changed the mascot this year. A few weeks ago, the Fairfax County School Board voted to rename Robert E. Lee High School to honor late U.S. Congressman John Lewis.
Tysons Reporter looked into how the two public school systems have tackled the renaming issue this summer and what’s coming up for schools in the Tysons area.
Falls Church Moving Forward With Renamings
After several meetings and hundreds of public comments, the Falls Church City School Board made the decision to move forward with renaming George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in late June. Both Founding Fathers were slaveholders.
A few months ago, a petition with more than 250 signatures and growing public pressure prompted the school board to start considering the name changes in the second week of June.
“We’re at a point where it’s time to really begin the conversation,” Greg Anderson, the school board’s chair, said at a school board meeting this summer.
One of the biggest renaming questions the school board tackled is whether or not to hire a consultant to aid in the process, with some members saying it was a good idea in order to maintain neutrality and to gather more information about Mason and Jefferson and others pointing out the costs.
“Lots of folks don’t really know the history of who he is,” School Board member Lawrence Webb said about Mason.
The school board resolved that dilemma this week by voting to hire Herndon-based K-12 Insight to conduct the surveys, the Falls Church News-Press reported.
Now that the school board has approved moving forward with the renaming process, they will need to decide what the new names will be.
The school board wants to make sure the renaming process isn’t rushed, agreeing that it’s important to get many perspectives on this issue.
“I think we need to take our time so we know what the community has to say,” said Susan Dimock. Read More
Haycock Elementary School recently told families who will head the school for the time being after the school’s newly hired principal faces charges related to alleged abuse of students at a different school.
Scott Bloom was hired as the principal for Haycock Elementary School in Falls Church in August and was placed on leave in September involving a personnel matter.
Bloom, a 39-year-old Reston resident, was indicted for allegedly failing to report assaults on students with intellectual disabilities during his time as the principal at Freedom Hill Elementary School in Vienna.
August Frattali became the interim principal in September.
In a letter to Haycock families on Monday (Dec. 16), Region 2 Assistant Superintendent Fabio Zuluaga said that Frattali will continue that role.
“We are in the process of updating the policy and regulation that covers the procedures for reporting cases of suspected child abuse or neglect to ensure that all of us understand our reporting obligations,” Zuluaga said in the letter.
More from the letter:
FCPS Administration was made aware of these allegations in September, following Mr. Bloom’s appointment at Haycock. Staff members under investigation were immediately removed from their positions and placed on leave for the duration of the investigation.
We are saddened and distressed by these allegations involving our employees. There is no greater responsibility of a school system than the safety and well-being of our students and, as a result of these incidents, we have learned that we need to do more. Our teachers and staff have been trained annually in best practices and legal requirements regarding mandated reporting of suspected abuse and received additional training this year to reinforce reporting requirements.
Fairfax County police said two employees at Freedom Hill Elementary School — and the school’s former principal — have been indicted by a grand jury in connection to assaults on students with intellectual disabilities.
Major Crimes Bureau Commander Edward O’Carroll said at a press briefing today that “18 counts have been handed by a grand jury.”
The two former employees — Cylmeera Gastav and Cecilia Maria Benavides — face charges for allegedly assaulting non-verbal children with intellectual disabilities, O’Carroll said.
Benavides, 59, of Alexandria, was hired by FCPS in 2000, while Gastav, 48, of Herndon, was hired full-time in 2019 after working for FCPS part-time, O’Carroll said.
They were both charged with felony cruelty and injuries to children and misdemeanor assault and battery.
All of the assaults happened at the Vienna school between April and September this year, O’Carroll said.
The investigation began in mid-September after a teacher reported seeing bruises on students, police said.
Police said they believe six children were allegedly assaulted by the Gustav and Benavides.
“We believe with all certainty that all of the victims in this case have been identified,” O’Carroll said, adding that people with any information about the case are urged to contact the police.
O’Carroll said that complaints of suspected abuse were reported to the former principal, Scott Bloom, “however those complaints were not subsequently reported to Child Protective Services or to law enforcement that is required by law.”
Bloom, 39, of Reston, was indicted for allegedly failing to report the assaults.
Bloom was originally hired by FCPS in 2012 as the principal for Freedom Hill Elementary School, according to the Falls Church News-Press. He was hired as the principal for Haycock Elementary School in Falls Church in August and was placed on leave in September involving a personnel matter.
O’Carroll said that the current school administration at the elementary school reported the concerns once they made aware of them.
Marty Smith, a spokesperson for Fairfax County Public Schools, said the school put the two female employees on leave during the investigation.
FCPS assigned new teachers to the classrooms of the former employees and let families know about the staffing changes, Smith said.
The case is an active investigation, and FCPS is cooperating with the police, Smith said.
“We are deeply saddened by this situation,” Smith said. “While the investigation is still underway we are committed to doing all we can to prevent similar actions from happening in the future.”
O’Carroll declined to answer questions about whether or not the victims were in a restraint and seclusion situation or what kinds of injuries the victims sustained.
“The actions of these offenders is shocking. It’s unacceptable,” O’Carroll said.
Image via Google Maps, three mugshots via FCPD
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.
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.
Catherine Douglas Moran and Ashley Hopko contributed to this report.
A proposal under consideration by the school board would allow the school board to rename schools to “reflect an inclusive, respectful learning environment as outlined in our adopted One Fairfax Policy.”
Two local elementary schools are named after individuals with Confederate ties — Haycock Elementary School (6616 Haycock Road) in McLean and Shrevewood Elementary School (7525 Shreve Road) in the Falls Church area, according to the school board.
They are a part of six FCPS schools and one facility owned by the City of Fairfax School Board that have names with Confederate ties.
The school board has been discussing the issue over the past year, Reston Now reported, adding that school board members recently said that “Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community.”
The school board is scheduled to vote on a proposal this Thursday (Sept. 26).
If the proposal is approved, it is unclear how soon the schools and facility might undergo name changes.
Wristbands are now on sale for Haycock Elementary’s Fall Festival.
For $12 pre-purchased or $15 at the door, children will have access to unlimited games, moonbounces, face painting, magic and more. There will also be food trucks, pony rides, a cupcake walk, a scarecrow walk, balloon animals, a “butterbeer garten” and a 50/50 raffle.
Advance tickets are only available online until noon tomorrow. Children under two and adults are free. Armbands bought for children will be delivered to students by teachers on Friday (Oct. 19).
The event will take place on Sunday, Oct. 21 from 12-4 p.m, rain or shine. Parking at the festival is limited to handicap spaces, so attendees are encouraged to walk or use other parking spaces in the neighborhood.
The festival is also looking for volunteers to help run the event, promising shifts to be short and suite so volunteers can also enjoy the festivities. Sign up is available online.
Photo via Fairfax County Public Schools