Jack Dale, superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, said the announcement of his retirement on Sept. 22, just weeks before new school board members are elected, was carefully timed.
He said he hopes that by announcing it early it will help provide a smooth transition for the school system. He said if he were to leave sooner it could result in everyone trying to go different directions at once, without focus.
“The community should know about this, the new school board coming in should know about it, before they go through the election process,” he said
Dale said the FCPS school board needs to reflect the values of the community and when there are 12 members that is what typically happens. He said the incoming school board’s biggest issue is going to be the ability to function as a 12-member team.
“That will help them have a very successful school system,” Dale said. “Contentious boards don’t help lead a community forward.”
Dale said the first thing he wants to do in what time he has left as FCPS superintendent is work with the new school board after November’s election. He said the board will have to define their mission, directives and goals for the next decade, and how they want to move forward.
“That is their core job,” Dale said. He said the next thing on their plates will be to find a new superintendent. He said he expects it will take about a year for the board to begin to focus on their mission and goals and engage the community.
In recent years many parents have been unhappy with the way Dale handled issues such as the FCPS budget, discipline issues and teacher workload and pay issues. He said he wouldn’t have done anything differently, however.
“I think we got them all out on the table,” Dale said. He said the group of people working together on those issues is large and includes the school board, the leadership team, teacher associations, teachers and the community, and he aims to get those issues out and figure out how to best move forward.
Dale said when he came into Fairfax County Public Schools in 2004 the biggest issue was fostering a better relationship between the school board, school system and the county board of supervisors. He said they spent a lot of time developing relationships with them.
Additionally, at that time the school board was making decisions on implementing programs such as full-day kindergarten in all FCPS elementary schools and having foreign language classes available in all elementary schools—programs that were delayed at the start, or more recently cut because of budget issues.
The full-day kindergarten, which was implemented in all elementary schools this year, and foreign language programs continue to be among FCPS current issues. Dale said the new school board will have to decide if they still want those types of programs across the county’s elementary schools.
Dale said one of his biggest accomplishments during his time as superintendent is the Teacher Leadership Initiative, which provides extended contracts to teachers to improve instruction by continuing their work outside the classroom.
He said another legacy he is leaving is one he hopes everyone forgets about—the tight budget years FCPS has faced in the past few years.
“I hope they forget because I hope they never have to go through it again,” he said. He said the school board and leadership team, among others, were able to work well to stick to their core educational values.
Dale said his retirement plans are wide open, but he hopes to spend more time with family members on both the East and West coasts, travel with his wife, golf, read and fly his airplane. He received his pilots license in 1999 and owns a plane with two other pilots.
“Those are on the horizon but I know I’ll still probably remain involved in some facet of education but just not at this level and this intensity,” he said.