Meet Dusty Sparrow Reed
My name is Dusty Sparrow Reed. I am the mom of three children, married to a county police officer and am an attorney for families and at-risk children. Helping children realize their potential has always been my passion.
As a product of unmarried, teen-aged parents, I grew up on a farm in Indiana in a hardworking, blue collar family of farmers, plant employees, construction workers and veterans. I began working at the age of twelve. My local school district in Indiana is similar to Loudoun County, consisting of mostly rural land and today is experiencing explosive suburban growth. Like Loudoun County, it has always been known for being one of, if not the best school district in my home state. Education was the way I forged a different path for my life. As I reflect back, and in light of my family's background, decisions I made had a lot to do with the support of educators who helped me along the way and forged opportunities to which I was exposed in school.
While I believe the home environment and parental involvement play a significant role in a child's success, I believe a school that embraces the diversity in the community and addresses the environmental factors among its varying populations is most successful in growing children into successful adults. I am a strong supporter of the rural communities in our county and doing whatever it takes to preserve our rural schools. I am also a strong supporter of programs that enhance education for the large population of children in our schools that don't fit the traditional mold – children with disabilities, children with intellectual gifts and talents, children who are economically-disadvantaged, minority children, and our English language learners.
I believe Loudoun County Public Schools provide a well-rounded education for the 'typical child' - children who don't require significant additional resources to reach their education potentials. It is my goal to be a contributing member of the Board that takes LCPS to the next level – by providing a "world class education", one that inspires all diverse groups of children – the children that school systems often have difficulty reaching effectively – by meeting them where they are, engaging them and catapulting them to their individual potentials. When every child's learning needs are met, when each child is engaged, inspired, and learning, then all children - including our typical children - benefit from this high-functioning school environment.
My passion for helping at-risk kids succeed and my professional background underlie the perspective I will bring to the Loudoun County School Board. I am approachable, I am responsive, and I am results-driven. I can and will be a voice for an innovative, effective “world class education”. For the Catoctin District, for all of Loudoun County.
Meet Eric Dekenipp
Eric has been happily married to Elizabeth F. DeKenipp, Guidance Counselor at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn for the last ten years and is the proud father of two beautiful daughters, Ava and Alexa, students at Sycolin Creek Elementary School. Eric is the eldest of 8 children and spent a majority of his childhood trying to keep his siblings together while moving between various family members and foster homes in New York City. After the attacks on September 11th, 2001, Eric voluntarily enlisted and served honorably with the United States Marine Corps and through great mentorship, worked hard to establish a professional post military career and founded www.semperfistaffing.com, a Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (DVOSB) based in Loudoun County.
Eric currently serves as the Senior Manager of Human Capital at Vencore Inc. in Chantilly, VA. Prior to Vencore, Eric served as the Director, Resource Management with Unisys Corporation where he oversaw financial and resource management initiatives for over 22,000 employees that resulted in business operations and productivity improvements globally. Other leadership roles that Eric has held include serving as a Staff Advisor under Secretary Salazar at the Department of the Interior and oversight of deployment planning for the 3rd Marine Division of United States Marine Corps in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
We asked both candidates for the Catoctin District a set of questions that relate to how they view the current situation with Loudoun County Public Schools and how they aim to make a difference on the School Board.
What are your thoughts on large class sizes?
It's important that class sizes take into consideration the additional resource needs of special needs students.The more special needs children there are in the classroom, the more large classroom sizes are harmful to student learning. On the other end, if the teacher is properly trained and equipped, classroom size becomes less of an issue for advanced academic learners. In general, appropriate classroom size is important, affects overall learning - and one size does not fit all.
Class sizes are one of only four, evidenced based reforms that will further Loudoun’s progress toward improving student achievement. Therefore, as a matter of policy I believe the school board must regularly evaluate, report and make significant efforts toward improving our teacher/ student ratios. Whether, the student/ teacher ratio is 45:1 or 15:1- there are proven student achievement benefits to having smaller class sizes and we must strive for continuous improvement with the expectation that these ratio’s will improve over time.
We know there is a heated debate about full day kindergarten. What's your stance?
I support equity in education. To the extent we offer FDK to any LCPS students, it should be offered to all LCPS students. FDK should be implemented in all elementary schools within the next 4 years.
I support FDK but am disappointed that we’ve already begun to go down the path of implementation. In all my years as a leader, I’ve never initiated or approved a large scale project without a clearly defined schedule and financial plan. The fact is, full day kindergarten wasn’t properly planned for and as a result, it is now a heated and expensive debate.
With that, I think it’s important that we begin to recognize the strategic value that Western Loudoun schools (a majority of which are located in Catoctin) bring to the table with this discussion- CAPACITY. By using our capacity to meet county demand for full day kindergarten, we have the ability to effectively reduce the need for new construction, alleviate unnecessary boundary changes, help keep western Loudoun schools OPEN and get the additional resources our administrators, teachers and students so desperately need.
What would you do to ensure that Western Loudoun schools have the resources they need (since Eastern Loudoun schools are such a different dynamic)
Again, equity is a primary issue for me. The facilities and resource support in western Loudoun is lacking. I will be a staunch advocate for equity ensuring that new schools do not provide advantages over more established Western Loudoun schools. This is an area of big concern for me.
It’s about priorities and making sure our teachers and students have what they need to be successful. The key to ensuring our schools in the west have the resources that they need is 1) ensuring that decision makers know that the need exists and 2) what the needs are and at this point I am not sure the school board does. It still amazes me that we are several weeks into the school year and we still have teachers and students in western schools without basic classroom supplies. At the same time, the rest of the county is talking about building more turf fields and providing computers to all students. Don’t get me wrong, turf fields and computers are nice things to have but until I am 100% sure teachers and students in Catoctin have the basic resources that they need, I will not be comfortable talking about making luxurious purchases that will only further widen the resource allocation gap. I have the support of 6 of the 9 current school board members and I look forward to making sure they are aware of our needs and advocating and providing critical resources for all students in our western schools.
What are the top two issues you will work to change or protect if you win the school board seat?
Keep our rural schools open.
Bring equity to our schools so that all students receive the same opportunities and appropriate education, regardless of background or location.
Immediate priorities for me include improving communication with my colleagues on the school board, the public and the Board of Supervisors. I will also be placing significant emphasis on responsible financial management in terms of the administration and support functions of LCPS and addressing various workforce management issues.
By improving communication and ensuring it occurs regularly and consistently, I will be in a position to preserve the values and culture of the Catoctin district and our schools- this includes ensuring we keep all of our schools OPEN.
With proper financial management and forecasting, I will ensure that your tax dollars are effectively and efficiently managed and spent. With that, I can ensure that schools in the Catoctin district are funded and that more money is going toward academic programs and purchases such as investments in STEM, special education and ensuring our teachers and students have the resources that they need to be successful.
Finally, I intend to spend a significant amount of time working with our teachers to ensure we are attracting and retaining the best in the nation. At the end of the day, we all want our children to have a world class education experience and having the right teachers in our schools is absolutely critical to make this happen.
What do you wish most voters knew about you?
That I am genuinely bipartisan. I have a strong history of bringing together opposing sides.
I want voters in Catoctin to know that I share the same concerns as them with regard to our schools. I am a parent with 2 children who attend school in Catoctin and have been very involved in education in Loudoun for years. I want to use my experience to ensure our children are receiving a world class education and bring the skills required to make that a reality.
I bring many years of leadership experience from the executive levels of the Federal government and Fortune 500 companies and want to use that experience to ensure that we are preserving the values of Catoctin. Those values are why those who are native to Catoctin stay and why I decided to move my family here almost 10 years ago.
I have a steady track record of success and includes being recognized as one of Loudoun County’s “40 Under 40 Business and Community Leaders to Watch” in 2014, awarded “Marine of the Year” by Marine Corps Base Hawaii, managing large budgets and implementing policy and programs across organizations with 80,000+ employees.
With a budget of $980 million, 10,000 employees and 75,000 students at stake, it is absolutely critical that we have someone representing Catoctin with a holistic operational understanding of how LCPS works and that is exactly what I bring to the table.
What is the future of the small school in Western Loudoun?
OPEN and operating, business as usual.
My vision for the future of the small schools in Western Loudoun is they are not only able to keep the doors open, but they will thrive and continue to rank as some of the best schools in the state. Our small schools will feel comfortable asking for the resources that they need and not have to worry about “staying off of the radar”. Our small schools will receive the funding we need to restore and upgrade existing facilities.
I’ve advocated for our schools for years and those efforts continue today. As Catoctin district representative, I look forward to representing the community in an official capacity and working to enhance my efforts and deliver measurable results for our smaller schools.
What do you see happening for next year's budget when it is NOT an election year?
If I am in office, the budget will be fully funded. I believe that last year's approach leaves this year's budget problems. But I also know from experience that I am the type of person who can problem-solve and inspire solutions. I have no doubt that this year's budget will be challenging, but resolved favorably for LCPS.
The school board has already begun working on next year’s budget and early projections put LCPS at +10% over last year’s $980 million allocation. With that said candidates from the school board all the way up to our candidates for state delegate agree that education is a top priority for the county and voters.
In my many conversations with members of the board of supervisors, the common denominator is that they are looking for responsibility in the school boards budget. My question is, with the school boards budget accounting for 70-80% of the overall county budget, why aren’t members of the board of supervisors more active in the budgeting process?
This is a key reason why my top priority is communication. By pro-actively engaging the board of supervisors throughout the budget cycle, LCSB can ensure all stakeholders have input, priorities are aligned and we are working together to achieve Loudoun County’s education strategy.