Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler continues to face harsh criticism over safety concerns in the Virginia school system.
Ziegler’s handling of two assault cases involving students, came to the forefront during the school district’s fiscal 2023 budget presentation to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on Thursday.
Loudoun County Supervisor Caleb Kershner said he no longer has confidence in Ziegler’s administration, pointing out what he called a lack of transparency and the national attention the county has received for its handling of the incidents.
“I talk to constituents who are beside themselves on a regular basis,” said Kershner, who has previously threatened to withhold funding for the Virginia school system unless it releases a law firm report it commissioned to investigate the system’s handling of two sexual assaults at a pair of county high schools involving a then-14-year-old boy, that Kershner’s law firm — Leesburg-based Simms-Showers — and he personally represented.
Last year, a student was found guilty of sexually assaulting two girls in two separate incidents at Stone Bridge High School in May and at Broad Run High School in October.
Ziegler called Kershner’s comments an ambush and an attack on his character.
“Integrity to me means that when information needs to be kept confidential, it’s kept confidential. And if that means I need to continue to be the lightning rod, I will continue to be the lightning rod,” he stressed.
Ziegler then encouraged Kershner to judge LCPS on its academic results and the “most progressive budget” that had been delivered to the board of supervisors.
Supervisor Matthew Letourneau shared a perspective similar to Kershner’s, saying that while the attacks on the school board have been unfair, elected officials would not be doing their jobs if they did not address community concerns.
“All I’ve ever said about this particular controversy regarding the sexual assault cases is that I just simply want to know what happened and if there was a mistake and if it’s been corrected. I don’t think those answers have come yet,” said Letourneau.
As other supervisors questioned the school board about how the budget would better assist teachers and students, Kershner said, given the recent incidents, he could not support the $1.6 billion budget proposal, an increase of $75 million over the current budget.
Kershner expressed concerns about the proposed budget resulting in a higher tax rate, coupled with more spending and lagging revenue, as well.
Before the meeting ended, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall said it’s OK to admit the school system has made mistakes, adding, “If we do not get back on balance, what I honestly believe is the best county in the country will tear ourselves apart.”
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