In anticipation of the upcoming election on November 7th, BTW has reached out to all Supervisor and School Board candidates to answer some questions about their candidacy. Today, we present the responses from Scott Hirons, incumbent in the Falmouth School Board race. We thank Mr. Hirons for his time!
BTW: Tell us about yourself
I was elected to the Stafford County School Board by the voters of the Falmouth District in 2013. Previous to serving on the School Board I served on the Planning Commission for four years. On both boards, I have served as Vice-Chairman. On the School Board, I am currently Chairman of the Finance, Budget and Audit Committee (FAB). I have also served on the Joint Schools Working Committee (commonly known as the 3-on-3 committee of School Board and Board of Supervisors members), and was selected as co-Chair in my first year of service on that committee.
Professionally, I am an IT Consultant for a Fortune 50 company and work with DoD customers.
My proudest accomplishment is being a father of three outstanding boys. My oldest two boys attend the 9th and 11th grade at Stafford Senior High School and my youngest is a 4th grader at Conway Elementary School. If it’s a fall or spring afternoon, you can likely find me on the baseball field with at least one of the three.
I have been married to Heather for 21 years. We are members of Summit Presbyterian Church. I hold a B.S. in Public Administration from George Mason University and a M.B.A. from the University of Maryland University College.
BTW: Why are you seeking re-election to the Board?
Serving on the School Board is a great honor. It’s one I don’t take lightly.
Four years ago, I recognized the school division was in serious trouble. There were significant issues with financial management of the division. There were a number of other issues with the division including how the division communicated with parents and other stakeholders. I knew if elected I could help improve the division.
During my tenure on the School Board, we have made vast improvements within the school division, but we were also faced some significant challenges. Responding to the challenges, we have made significant changes in the SCPS organization.
Responding to issues that arose around financial practices of the division we conducted a forensic audit on the accounting practices that led to financial mismanagement, and the office of Chief Financial Officer was reorganized, with significant oversight conducted by the FAB Committee of the School Board.
We are now working to reorganize several offices within the division to flatten the organization and remove the stove pipes, that enabled nefarious practices to be conducted without informing the School Board or Board of Supervisors.
We are headed in the right direction on many fronts, to include reducing class sizes, improving starting teacher pay, staff retention, student achievement and overall workplace environment satisfaction, however, there is still significant opportunity to continue to improve the organization of Stafford County Public Schools. I want to continue to work to complete the transformation of Stafford County Public Schools, to ensure we are getting the most value we can out of every tax dollar we invest in the division. I want to ensure we improve student achievement and gain recognition as one of (if not the) best school divisions in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
BTW: What have you or the board in general achieved during your tenure on the board that you are most proud of? Has anything happened on the board during your tenure that you would change, if you could?
We, as a Board, have achieved many things over the course of my tenure. It is important to acknowledge every accomplishment is the result of the entire Board and not necessarily the effort of any one member. As stated above four years ago the organization of Stafford County Public Schools was not in good shape. One item that I am most proud of is the adoption of the division’s Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan is the blueprint for how we are going to create improvements in the division. Organizationally we have been able to make significant changes to improve the quality of work; we have been able to prioritize implementing new tools to enable the organization to become a modern environment; and we have been able to create an organization that is no longer last place in new teacher salary, last place in class sizes, last place in desirable work environment. While we are not at the top of the charts in those categories or other areas, such as all teacher and staff compensation, student-achievement and staff retention, we have created the plan and are building the organization to enable us to make the climb.
I wish we could change the speed bumps we have hit along the way. While many of those things were and are outside of the control of the School Board, the fact that they did occur informed us about some necessary culture changes we had to create in the organization and create process improvements than included more stringent oversight.
BTW: What skills do you bring to the table that your challenger lacks? How does the experience you have had on the board make you the better candidate?
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. Chase. She and I have communicated often during my time on the School Board. She is incredibly intelligent and is always well intended. She and I ultimately have the same goals of where we would like to see SCPS be, however we have slightly differing visions and points of focus on how to get there. I don’t think one of us lacks something over the other.
Experience is very important, and I do think having the experience of service on the School Board and having a thorough understanding of funding and staffing needs is critical for the Falmouth District right now. I have served as Chairman of the Finance and Budget Committee of the School Board over most of the last three years. During my service our budget process has had measurable improvement each year. We have received praise from the Board of Supervisors and national organizations on our budget documentation and transparency. We are also making significant improvements across the division from employee compensation to student achievement.
My focus is on making improvements across the division. Having children from high school to elementary school with various levels of academic ability gives me an advantage in being able to witness and feel first-hand the various experiences throughout the school division on all levels.
BTW: What are the most pressing issues that face SCPS?
Funding 2. Funding 3. Funding
Funding to be able to improve staff relations (recruitment and retention)
Funding to be able to make improvements in student-achievement
Funding to be able to continue to improve the organization to create the world-class school division that is called for in the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
BTW: If re-elected, how do you plan to address the issues from the previous question?
Funding is heavily reliant on the Board of Supervisors and their setting of priorities on how to spend county tax dollars. They have many priorities they need to attend to. My goals are to continue to work with the Board of Supervisors to ensure they understand the needs of the school division and our plans to make improvements. We are currently working on developing a funding agreement with the Board of Supervisors that will enable the school division to have a more dedicated line of funding and predictable levels of revenue from year to year. If we can establish such an agreement with the Board of Supervisors, the school division will be in a better position to map out the road to improvement.
With better funding strategies and better prioritization of education priorities, we can continue to create improvements in staff recruitment and retention, improve student-achievement and create a world-class learning environment.
BTW: The relationship between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board has long been a rocky one. Are you willing to work hand in hand with the Board of Supervisors to deal with the problems facing our school system?
I think some of the news, social media discussion and other reflections of the relationships between the Board of Supervisors and School Board can tend to be exaggerated and dramatized. For the most part, over the last four years, I have seen the two boards work together more often than as adversaries. However, with that said I am competitive by nature, will stand for what I believe in and will fight to ensure the best outcome is achieved.
Relationships between the two boards begins with the relationship between the district representatives to each board. Supervisor Bohmke and I have a terrific relationship. I’m fortunate in that she has previously served on the School Board and understands the work that we do. We speak several times a week and I try to keep her fully informed on what we are doing on the School Board and in the school division. She is very respectful of work we do and ensures she does not overstep our boundaries and enables the School Board to do our work.
Thanks again to Mr. Hirons for his participation. While BTW does not endorse any candidate, I feel it is important to note that Scott has been a huge supporter of this blog and it's mission since it's inception. He has made it very clear from the outset that more information and transparency is always a positive. If you would like to learn more about Scott and his candidacy, please visit him at ScottHirons.com or on his Facebook page.