Jeanette Hough was elected to the Fairfax County School Board in 2015. She is an “at-large” Board member, which means she was elected by voters from all parts of Fairfax County. Professionally, Jeanette is a physical therapist at Inova Fairfax Hospital. She holds her master’s of physical therapy from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a bachelor of arts in economics from the University of Virginia (UVA). She is a proud graduate of Oakton High School and a mother of three current FCPS elementary students.
What about being on the School Board is different than you thought it would be?
The biggest surprise is the amount of time it takes to do this job to the best of my ability. Between School Board meetings, constituent communications, community events and conversations with individual Board members, the time spent per week certainly adds up. I knew it was going to take time, but really I feel like I could spend all of my waking hours doing Board work. The good news is I am enjoying (most of) it!
You have strongly advocated for openness and transparency in all School Board matters. Do you feel you are making progress?
I have pressed for more community input and public conversation on the issues we face. This is an important priority and an ongoing effort. We have certainly made progress, but there is always room for improvement. I hope to be part of that happening!
Part of openness means being willing to listen to our constituents. There have been a couple of times just recently where Board members wanted to make important decisions without allowing the community to weigh in. I am happy to say that with the help of some of my colleagues, we were able to stop that from happening, open up the discussion and get the public involved.
Parents must be allowed to remain the primary educators of their children. Being part of the public education conversation is essential to this process.
You have tried to introduce “zero-based budgeting” for the School Board. What is that and how would it benefit the school system’s finances?
Currently FCPS operates with baseline budgeting, which means FCPS budgets each year by building on what it spent the prior year. By contrast, zero-based budgeting would require that the budget be built from the ground up without assuming any expenditures except those mandated by state and federal law. This would push staff and the Board to understand and analyze the priorities more thoroughly and follow the dollars more closely.
Zero-based budgeting is more time consuming, but I believe it can be an important tool to help us get on the path to fiscal sustainability. Although it may not be practical to complete this process annually, it could be done on a rolling basis or periodically. It is a responsible, respectful way to treat the money given to us by Fairfax County taxpayers.
I have been appointed to the Audit Committee and look forward to being part of this work for FY18. As we go through these budget cycles, I really want to help the Board work towards this process.
As an At-large member, you have constituents from all across the County. How are you staying touch with them? What are you hearing from them?
Understanding what my constituents are thinking is a big part of the job! I have done a few things during my first 8 months on the Board to make sure I am in touch. For one, I have been working to keep my Facebook page up to date with items the Board is discussing in our meetings. To make myself personally accessible, I have been holding office hours in different locations around the County. I am happy to say that these efforts have been well received.
I am also attending different school and community events where I make myself available. Then, of course, I do my best to respond to the many emails I receive daily with concerns and comments regarding FCPS.
What priorities would you like to see the School board tackle?
I think continuing to press for openness and transparency in the way the Board conducts its business is essential. And once I have served on the Board a complete budget cycle, I hope to have suggestions and ideas to improve the budget process along with improving the way in which the budget is displayed for the community.
Copyright 2016, the Fairfax County Republican Committee.