Bob Frye is taking his experience in education to the college level. The Springfield resident, who served for 19 years on the Fairfax County School Board, was recently appointed to the Board of Visitors at Longwood University in Farmville, Va. Frye, whose primary achievement on the School Board was pushing for need-based funding at FCPS, is a graduate of Cardoza High School and Howard University in Washington, D.C. He sat down recently and answered a few questions about his appointment and his work.
How long have you lived in the community and what brought you here? I moved to Fairfax County in 1967, to the town of Reston. It was a very exciting time, new town. I was working in Arlington and living in Washington, D.C. and we came out to be a part of the new town of Reston.
Family? I have a son [Robert Frye Jr.] and a daughter [Amanda Leinhos]. Both my children went from kindergarten through the 12th grade to Fairfax County Public Schools. My son graduated from Herndon High School. My daughter went to Harvard and graduated from there.
How has FCPS changed during and after your years on the School Board? My biggest accomplishment was to get [FCPS] to look at student need in school, and to base the staffing on elements of need. ... By giving more resources to the schools that have more challenges, they were able to reduce the teacher-pupil ratio to the point where each student would get more individual attention. I’m concerned that since I left the board, there may have been some moving away from emphasis on class size. What I fear is that somewhat mistaken reliance on technology has replaced the emphasis on reducing and maintaining low class sizes for all students, but in particular for classes in schools where the children present a number of challenges. Also, there’s a need to find a way to get the most talented teachers to teach in some of the more difficult situations ... to get those teachers to fight the extra traffic, to move to schools where the parents may be working two jobs and can't come to PTA meetings, where there are more challenges.
How do you feel about being a part of Longwood's Board of Visitors? There again I had expressed some interest in serving on a commission or a board at the state level. The office of the Secretary of State came back with Longwood University so I thought about it, and it looks like it’s going to be very interesting. One thing, the school is led by a Dr. Patricia Courmier, who’s really an outstanding educator and leader. She’s been there about 10 years and, I’ve always been something of a student of organizations and management and it really was a pleasure to watch her, a tremendous administrator and leader for the campus. ... I was surprised that in one of the briefings we had, a person said they were having difficulty attracting students from Northern Virginia. And I attribute that primarily to the fact that many Northern Virginia students including Fairfax County do not know very much about it.
What are your plans for service to Longwood? One thing I’d like to do is increase the awareness of the school among students, parents and the counselors who advise students where to go to college. I think it’s unique in the sense that it is a public university and the tuition rates are adjusted for instate students. And I think the vicinity is such that I think students can get away from some of the distractions of the urban-suburban area and not get lost in a huge university.
What are your hobbies? For exercise I used to do a lot of bicycle riding, but I regret that in recent years I have not gotten the bicycle out as often. Although I do walk for exercise. I like music of all kinds, in high school I played the violin in the orchestra. I’m very proud to say I sat second chair, first violin section. I like to go to the beach ... and I’m a great sports fan, too. The Redskins football team, but I really love college basketball. My years on the School Board I just didn’t get a lot of time to do some of these things. It used to be funny, where the NCAA finals in basketball would be on and we’d be in a meeting and someone would come in every so often with a note saying “North Carolina’s leading 45 to whatever,” or “Duke’s leading.” Of course what we were doing [in the meeting] was very important.
What’s one of your favorite things about the Springfield area? Well, I live in what’s called North Springfield, and one of the great things about it is the trees. Old, original trees which, despite as the county’s developed, there’s not been wholesale cutting of trees. Spring, summer, fall is just magnificent with the trees in the area. The proximity to Washington is good and important because the museums and concerts and plays and that sort of thing are readily available, and my wife [Rotha Holbert Frye] and I do enjoy going to the theater.
Personal goals? I still want to continue my work with Longwood University ... one of the things they’ve just established is a project to interest more African-American males in teaching. ... There’s always a shortage of male teachers, especially in elementary school, and school systems have to go to extra efforts to find them and to improve the numbers and availability of male recruits. It’s very important. So I’m looking forward to watching this program grow. Also, just generally, through my many years of experience with an education-related board, to bring whatever knowledge and talents I have to Longwood, to improve, generally, its performance.
--Lea Mae Rice