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Oh, look who’s back for another round! It’s none other than “Home Depot” Harris, gracing us with his presence as he runs for his second term as the LCPS SB rep for the Ashburn District. Can you believe it’s only been 4 short years since his enlightening Q&A session with the Loudoun Times Mirror? Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?

Now, there were many gems in that Q&A, but one stands out like a sore thumb. It’s question #2, the one that oh-so-casually brings up the locker-room sexual assault at Tuscarora. Why does it stand out, you ask? Well, let’s just say that on one fateful day in June 2021 (6/22/21, to be exact), our dear Beth Barts was the only one smart enough to ask the following question:

“Are you (Ziegler) familiar with that at all the Tuscarora HS locker room incident? No ma’am. Is anyone in here familiar with the Tuscarora HS locker room incident? NOBODY? I just simply want to say the test for a locker room incident involved teammates and it was very sad and it was very upsetting for the community and it brought to light a series of conversations with Dr. Williams about safety security and making sure everyone is safe.”

Oh, what a surprise! “Home Depot” Harris was actually present at that meeting when Barts fired off that question. And guess what? Despite being asked, specifically mind you, about the Tuscarora HS sexual assault incident from way back in October 2019, our dear “Home Depot” Harris, a year and a half later, puts on a masterclass in cluelessness. He pretends to have absolutely no idea what Barts was going on about.

And here’s the kicker: living in Ashburn, with a student attending Stone Bridge at the very time the Smith rape occurred, our dear “Home Depot” was also blissfully ignorant to the realities around him. I mean, who needs awareness when you can just be oblivious, right?

On the question of “What can a School Board representative do to help parents trust LCPS?” “Home Depot” Harris replies with:

Open transparency and communication are key towards building trust and is a major part of my agenda for the school board. As a board member my goal would be engage with the parents through open dialogue and timely communication.”

Oh, brace yourselves, folks! Anyone who’s had the pleasure of observing LCPS in the past 3-4 years knows all too well that our beloved “Home Depot” Harris was probably the shining star of poor communication on the LCPS SB. I mean, even after being bestowed with the honor of heading up the Communications Committee, he still managed to drop the ball. Quite the achievement, wouldn’t you say?

And then, get this, he has the audacity to talk about “engaging with parents.” I mean, come on, I haven’t laughed this hard in ages! It was just a month ago that he was busy criticizing and speaking ill of parents. Talk about a 180! So much for that whole “engagement” thing, eh?

Below is the LTM Q & A.

Harris Mahedavi

What are your two top priorities to help improve Loudoun County Public Schools? 

My top priorities for LCPS are as follows:

APPRECIATE & UPLIFT: All of our children, from those struggling to those soaring, deserve attention so that they may reach their fullest potential as our next generation of decision-makers and thought-leaders. We must APPRECIATE and nurture all of those children and their potential. The mental and emotional health of a child is the most predict indicator of how happy they will be later in life. We must UPLIFT our children’s current and future mental health through improved access to counselors, social workers, and special needs support programs.

INVEST & OPEN: We entrust our teachers and school staff with the most valuable human capital we have, our children. That’s why we must INVEST in hiring the best out there, keeping them compensated, and providing budgets that support their vision for learning. Parents, teachers, students and community members need to know what is happening in our schools in real-time. From websites, to social media platforms, to focus groups, to one-to-one coffee meetings and emails, we must OPEN every communication channel to keep our community informed.

The past school year was a controversial one, with roughly one LCPS employee arrested each month, a locker-room sexual assault at Tuscarora and a former student bringing a gun into school, to name just a few major issues. Do you think Loudoun County Public Schools could’ve done anything different to avoid some of these troubling incidents? If so, what? 

Today we only have access to public information regarding the incidents that took place. Some of the incidents it seems maybe avoidable through better hiring screening process and some it seems perhaps through better monitoring of our student activities. When elected I would work with the LCPS administration in reviewing all the past issues in order to better understand and identify any systematic problems with processes or culture issues within LCPS. I believe the security and safety should be a topmost priority for the school, school should be a safe place for every child. Rules should apply to all and be equitable, e.g. nobody except the parents or listed guardians should be allowed to enter schools without appointments, and others be allowed only if they have an appointment. In addition, timely communication of the issue and its mitigation with the parents is once again very critical in ensuring the trust and safety of the children.

Similarly, some parents have expressed that trust in the school system is lacking. What can a School Board representative do to help parents trust LCPS? 

Open transparency and communication are key towards building trust and is a major part of my agenda for the school board. As a board member my goal would be engage with the parents through open dialogue and timely communication. For e.g. I would not be afraid to share the challenges we face with certain decisions and seek their input in the process (school board members are nothing but mere representatives of our community). Another e.g., as trivial may be, the new updated LCPS website, I would encourage our administration to seek feedback from parents, teachers and students via a beta site approach and then launch it after a through analysis of their feedback. Once again, open and transparency should be culture of how LCPS does things going forward and I will work tirelessly to improve it.

What is something you feel the current School Board has done/is doing well? How can you carry that progress forward? 

After relentless requests from the community, creating a budget for an equity office was finally the move towards the correct direction. I would however work with board members and the superintendent in ensuring that equity and inclusion are part of LCPS culture and not just one position.

How can LCPS improve in the area of diversity and equity? What steps should the School Board take to acknowledge the rights, abilities, values and individuality of students of all backgrounds? 

Every large organization succeeds because they have a strong culture and when a culture is strong it creates a sense of belonging and that brings everyone together for that, one mission. In a strong culture, the entire organization works harmoniously to achieve the goals of the mission. In order for us to LCPS to embrace diversity it needs to create a culture of Inclusion and Equity, a culture that believes in fair treatment, equal access to opportunities and advancements for all; by embracing diversity and all the positives it brings to make LCPS a better organization than before. The culture begins with the leadership through actions and by living it. The culture of appreciating and acknowledging every child that walks in through the building, regardless of gender, race, religion should be a daily routine of LCPS. Hiring a diverse workforce also plays a significant part in building inclusive culture, and as such I would work with the board and the Superintendent to review the LCPS hiring process and make it more equitable.

What is your vision of a well-rounded education? What level of importance do you believe extracurricular activities — athletics, arts, debate, etc. — play in the life of a student, and what can the School Board do to ensure those programs are successful? 

Today there is a lot of emphasis on STEM education, for e.g. computer science, robotics, engineering etc. Today’s job market requires that our students are ready and prepared with STEM knowledge, and LCPS should continue to offer it with the same intensity. However, LCPS is an organization that should not only prepare our students for jobs of tomorrow but more importantly focus on creating great leaders, thinkers, entrepreneur, scientists, athletes, artists, engineers, and dreamers of tomorrow. A strong well-balanced curriculum, that not only includes STEM courses, but humanities, arts, languages will guide them towards a wholistic education. Extra-curricular activities are strong part of giving students choices in expanding their horizon or interests, whether it be athletics programs, a debate team, chess clubs, programming clubs, drama or music.

What grade (A through F) would you give Superintendent Eric Williams? Do you have any concerns about his leadership? 

Dr. Eric Williams is the only employee that reports to the LCPS board, it would be inappropriate to grade Dr. Williams before conducting a through performance assessment.

Do you believe there are areas of the LCPS budget that should be cut? If so, what are they? 

As we prioritize the next year, I would keep all options on the table that principals & teachers do not feel are necessary and help towards the education of our children. As a new member to the school board it gives me a fresh perspective and I would not be afraid to ask questions to ensure that all our spending is towards uplifting the education and its experience for our children. For e.g. teachers are designing curriculum that meets the standards of learning and the textbooks are not part of their process, then we should look to make the change and replace the textbooks with other tools that will help teachers.

Do you believe there are areas of the LCPS budget that should be increased? If so, what are they?

 School board must be prudent and fiscally responsible with the budget appropriated by the Loudoun County residents. As a school board member my initial focus will be to review existing budget and find opportunities to prioritize items within the current budget before seeking additional increase to the budget. We should also look for opportunities to grow revenue through grants and invite private companies to come and partner with our school programs.

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