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2010-03-22 - 9:48 p.m.

As a mother who has had six children attend Lincoln Elementary since 1999, I would like to share my opinion that while I do think it wise to keep small schools open, I agree that one of the SMARTEST things our county could do fiscally is to have the principal at small schools work only Part Time.

Make no mistake about it I actually really LIKE Al Johnson as a principal overall.

However, Considering that Al Johnson has time to spend pursing a Class 1 Misdemeanor charge of me, a parent of four little ones under age 9 for alleged "non compliance" with attendance laws when the girls were in fact tardy no more than 2 or three times a month within only minutes of the bell ringing gives me the message this is a principal with time on his hands and not alot going on that really requires his intervention.

I furthermore think that a review of the expense of truant officers should be made.

It appears to me that when parents are slammed with misdemeanor charges that cost everyone time and money, and are then threatened that if late again a 2nd charge will be made which will then be a CLASS 2 misdemeanor punishable by 12 months IN JAIL, that LCPS really needs to evaluate just who this investment of our tax dollars for truant officers and full time principals in small rural schools is benefitting.

It certainly is not an investment that is benefitting me or my children. To send them the message that being on time is more important than their relationship with their mother to me is downright destructive. To consistently send them the message that their mother is not fit because they are late to school on occasion is downright destructive to their well being. For the school to say that is NOT a message that is being sent is for LCPS to absolutely ignore the message kids get when a school sends a parent to the Loudoun Juvenile and Domestic Court on such a charge. To then threaten to throw their mother in jail is what I consider downright cruel; and I think a stop to that situation of the school being overreaching is a good reason to consider at least this one budget cut of truant officers which I don't think anyone other than the truant officers themselves will complain about. I am sure the court docket won't mind the lightening the load. I am sure the parents won't mind not being threatened with being seen as unfit and losing their "privilege" to parent due to their lack of perfection. I am sure the state won't mind facing the potential absorbing the responsibility and fiscal care of not only parents who happen to run late (but are otherwise successful in life) who HAD been contributing members of society, and then also taking on the burden of now being responsible for the children the state then needs to assume care and control of should the threats made to parents be carried out such that once working contributing parents are thrown in jail and kids are then turned over to the state.

To be clear-- turned over to the state FOR TRUANCY of less than ten minutes two or three times a month?

I personally think that if the principal were only there half time, and the kids didn't know the difference, the impact of leadership of a strong principal would not be lessened, but the atrocity of LCPS embarrassing itself by overreaching control and threatening the fabric of family life by this PARTICULAR principal could be alleviated by sending a message that such lack of respect and blurring of the boundary of parental rights is not something that LCPS believes is productive.

Furthermore, it appears this was not an isolated use of the school law for the state to be overreaching into the control of family life which it would not otherwise have any arm of the law which could reach into that private domain. When I did show up for the Class One Misdemeanor charge I couldn't help but overhear a conversation between two OTHER truant officers (not Ms. Valpone) in which it was being discussed how CPS had called seeking assistance, and the Truant Officer was relating how "He was not happy to hear me tell him I couldn't help him. It turned out they watched the house to see what was going on and she was working until 3am with her stepfather at his business"

Now regardless of what one thinks of that child-(in that case a high school student) staying up late working at a family business, the fact remains that in that conversation there were two things very apparent:
There had been no evidence of any abuse or maltreatment of the child;
He , as he said " Could not help them as she was on time, and had no outstading absenses- in fact was not even tardy"

So what I found most amazing was the conversation attested to the very fact that attendance laws in Loudoun County ARE NOT BEING ENFORCED over the issue of ACTUAL ATTENDANCE BEING THE CONCERN.

This leaves the very serious question of whether our LCPS chooses to continue to fund the use of truant officers and the enforcement of attendance laws at such a draconian level that even lateness is construed as "non compliance with the obligatory attendance laws"

in order to achieve a DIFFERENT goal.

Regardless in fact whether the different goal is a worthy one or not- if it is not a goal that is in fact within the domain of the LAW, do we , as taxpayers, want to choose for OUR SCHOOL'S BUDGET to be utilized TO FUND SUCH AMORPHOUS GOALS?

Or do we, as taxpayers, think that there are BETTER Things that REALLY WILL BENEFIT OUR CHILDREN WHO ARE IN SCHOOL-

like Reading teachers,or Full time kindergarten, actual Educational instruction, Or Textbooks that are not outdated, or bus service, rather than paying for administrators such as principals and truant officers
When it is possible that strong leadership is STILL strong leadership even if the time of the leader is cut;
and it is possible that the Loudoun County Sheriff Dept is sufficient for enforcement of attendance laws in the few rare cases where ACTUAL truancy is a REAL CONCERN

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