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Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Editor’s NotebookEditor’s Notebook: Tossing in the towel at FCPS

Editor’s Notebook: Tossing in the towel at FCPS

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Embedded down at the bottom of this missive is my favorite rendition of the Dee Snider/Twisted Sister version of “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” It kind of fits the news that Fairfax County Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced, last week, that he’d be running out the clock, serving for the 2021-22 school year, then departing the commonwealth’s largest school district after a relatively brief tenure.

Can you blame him? Even before COVID, he was learning the hard way that he might be superintendent, but that didn’t mean he would be running the school system. From parent pressure groups to the nutsy School Board to the bullying teacher unions, his efforts at common-sense leadership were undermined at every turn.

(We noted in an editorial a year or two ago that the only way to run the Fairfax County school system was through jack-booted, top-down authoritarianism, as perfected by the late Robert “Bud” Spillane, the Al Haig of public-school superintendents. It’s simply too big and too unwieldy to be a democracy, and the minute a superintendent loses control, he/she never gets it back. Why, yes, it is a curse being right all the time …)

Brabrand is by virtually all accounts seen as a good guy, and he tried to have Fairfax lead responsibly at the outset of the COVID crisis. But he kept being overruled and berated, and it seems he just gave in to the hide-under-the-bed brigade. The result: A year of virtually no learning for 180,000 students. Not really his fault, all things considered.

Anyway, if there’s anyone out there who wants to be superintendent of schools in Fairfax County, an opening will soon exist. Don’t say you haven’t been warned about the way things play out. Lather-rinse-repeat … the same way, again and again and again.

SEEMS JUST LIKE YESTERDAY: Dipping into the archives, we see that 85 summers ago, the Arlington County Democratic Committee was planning a rally at Washington-[Redacted] High School in support of the re-election bid of U.S. Rep. Howard “Judge” Smith, seeking his third term in office.

The guest speaker was going to be entertainer Arthur Godfrey.

Judge Smith, Arthur Godfrey, Washington-Lee … a different time, indeed.

This being Virginia in 1936, Democrat Smith would have no trouble winning re-election that November. He would continue to represent the local area in Congress as an increasingly powerful panjandrum (a word loved by the late, great Tim Wise) for three decades.

His tenure lasted until 1966, when his conservative nature rubbed some Democratic activists in the district the wrong way. So they put up a liberal to challenge him in the primary that year; the liberal (George Rawlings) defeated him but ended up getting trounced by a conservative Republican (William Scott) that November.

Scott later would use the congressional seat as a springboard to the U.S. Senate. (As Mitch McConnell likes to remind congressional Democrats: “Be careful of the immutable law of unintended consequences …”)

HEREWITH THE AFOREMENTIONED VIDEO: Ah, Dee Snider, a beacon of sanity in a mixed-up world!

  • Scott McCaffrey
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