More than 100 business leaders attend kickoff event for FCPS foundation
More than 100 Fairfax County business executives attended a June 4 kickoff luncheon for the Foundation for Fairfax County Public Schools and heard from speakers making the link between a successful school system, a well-trained workforce and a county economy that can continue to be the economic powerhouse of the Washington area and Virginia.
The program at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner featured three speakers: Thomas M. Davis, director of the Government Affairs Group for Deloitte; Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent Karen K. Garza, Ph.D.; and Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) and chairman of the Foundation board of directors.
Created in 2010 by former Superintendent Jack Dale and the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, the Foundation is the strategic advancement arm for the school system and the means for coordinating partnerships between the school system, business community and philanthropists. Michelangelo Infurnari is executive director of the Foundation.
Davis, a former congressman and chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, reminded the audience that the Fairfax County business community of the 1970s believed one of the strongest magnets for building the economy was a strong school system. He said the school system must be equipped and prepared to supply those workers, including students who come from difficult circumstances.
“How many times have we lost kids who could have been productive citizens,” Davis said. “We have a lot of jobs that we can’t fill. These kids can lead productive lives if we just give them a chance.”
Garza, who has been the FCPS superintendent since July 2013, acknowledged many successes of the 11th-largest school system in the nation but said continued enrollment growth (projected to be 200,000 students in 2020) and exploding diversity of the student body pose significant challenges. FCPS is seeing a rapid increase in students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals, those who are not native English speakers, and those who come from homes where English is not the primary language.
“Our ability to handle growth and changing demographics will require positive action, and we need you to stand with us,” Garza told the business people.
Gordon, who has been with the FCEDA since 1983 and has chaired the Foundation for a year, reiterated the challenges facing FCPS and told the executives that the Foundation will offer an opportunity for business leadership that sees the connection between a successful school system and local business and economic success. The Foundation board last week adopted three strategic funding objectives: initiatives to prepare the workforce of tomorrow, technology solutions for students not achieving their potential, and capital improvement innovations.
Gordon contrasted workforce growth predicted by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis with the number of Fairfax County students who don’t have access to the Internet at home. “Twelve thousand students in Fairfax County don’t have Internet access,” he said. “We need these kids. Your business needs these kids. This economy needs these kids.”
Rajesh Khubchandani, the new general manager of the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, welcomed the crowd to the hotel. He came recently from Boston and said Ritz-Carlton recognizes the value that strong education systems make to the Boston and Fairfax County economies.
Time magazine called Fairfax County “one of the great economic success stories of our time.” Business growth and innovation helps Fairfax County fund the nation’s top-rated school system and other public services that contribute to the quality of life of residents. Fairfax County offers businesses a state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure, access to global markets through Washington Dulles International Airport, a vibrant investment capital community and a highly skilled, well-educated workforce.
The award-winning Fairfax County Economic Development Authority promotes Fairfax County as a business and technology center. The FCEDA offers site location and business development assistance, and connections with county and state government agencies, to help companies locate and expand in Fairfax County. In addition to its headquarters in Tysons Corner, Fairfax County’s largest business district, the FCEDA maintains marketing offices in seven important global business centers: Bangalore, Munich, London, Los Angeles, Seoul and Tel Aviv.