The $26 million headquarters

School administrators in Loudon County, Virginia will work in a $26 million building reports the Washington Post.

The new headquarters has 23 conference rooms, two staff break rooms on each floor and a top-floor library with floor-to-ceiling windows. Inset on the building’s brick facade is a nine-foot color replica of the school system’s seal. The School Board meeting room, now a converted gym in Leesburg, will be a high-ceilinged auditorium with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment and a seating capacity of 760.

Two break rooms per floor in a five-story building means they’ll be taking a lot of breaks. When will they have time to fill those 23 conference rooms?

Voters in the rapidly growing district rejected funding for a new headquarters in 1999, The Ed Wonks points out, but the board of supervisors approved it anyhow in 2001.

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  1. P. Abel says:

    And the voters haven’t gotten a) a court injunction to stop the building when it was first started or b) gone to court to force the use of the building as a school? Even the Planning Commission was over-ruled? That board needs to be replaced, post-haste.

  2. Richard Nieporent says:

    a symbol, school officials say, of the county’s suburban transformation and commitment to government services

    No, it is a symbol of extreme arrogance and distain for the taxpayers.

    Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac), who was elected after the project’s approval, said the building had to be nicer — and more expensive — than necessary because school officials decided to put it in the middle of a housing development, where residents would have to see it every day.

    I’m only surprised that they didn’t ship over one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces brick by brick. After all how can you expect them to do their job in a lesser surrounding? Please explain to me again how the public school system is being underfunded.

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Send the board to Palo Alto. They would fit right in here.

  4. Foobarista says:

    Why do schools have to own real property? This sort of thing could easily be in standard commercial office space, which would likely be far cheaper than servicing the debt on this glorious edifice. If they need an auditorium, I’m sure a deal could be cut with a local church or union hall.

    Of course, I wonder why schools themselves can’t be in commercial space – where landlords would be free to make needed improvements without going through the corrupt gravy train of government contracting – but that’s me…

  5. ragnarok says:


    Last I heard, someone had discovered that Scarsdale schools get more money than Palo Alto schools, and pretty much everyone fainted. Still, I believe there’s a parcel tax on this November’s ballot, that should help revive the faintees.

  6. If you think the building is expensive, think about the salaries, benefits, and payroll taxes for all the employees. Just what is the size of the school system, and why in heck does it need enough administrators that don’t work in a school to fill a five story building? It sure looks like the symbol of an overcentralized bureaucracy to me.

  7. One Harvard B-school prof advises against owning stock in companies that spend big on their headquarters buildings:

    “If I see a big, spanking-new headquarters, the stock’s a sell. There’s just too much shareholder cash sloshing around.”

    The same principle applies to schools and nonprofits. When an organization loses interest in its primary mission, it tends to focus on buildings instead.

  8. ragnarok says:

    $26M? Pikers! Here in San Jose, CA, Mayor Gonzales has built a new City Hall for $500M in the middle of the ’01 recession, squealing all the while about the devastating effects of the downturn.

  9. with regard to the makeup of the staff, I live in NYC and the last report I read of the proportion of teachers to administrators to other staff was that the teachers made up les than 35%, the administrators made up about 50% and the staff made up the difference. That was a couple of years ago but based on the complaints the teachers’ union comes up with every time there is anything about their contract I think it is still true today. What really bothers me about it is that many of the supposedly best teachers are among the administrators. They are the ones we need in the classrooms if we ever want our kids to get a good education. With the union involved I doubt that will happen but it really should. When you consider the amount that is spent per student anything less is a crime.

  10. PhotonCourier: Besides that, I suspect that if any organization smaller than GM needs a building this big for headquarters, it’s overcentralized. Decisiona are being made at HQ that should be made where the organization’s mission is actually performed (that is, in the schools).

  11. markm–Arguably, this is true of GM also. They need to move more decision-making authority to the product line executives, who should *not* all be clustered together in a single building.

  12. Mike in Texas says:

    This reminds me of a story one of the news programs, maybe 60 Minutes did on school administrations. They found schools that were literally falling apart, non-functioning bathrooms, etc. but not once did they find anything but spotless and perfectly maintained administration buildings.

    My school districts administration building was remodeled recently, and a new enormous showplace gym was built, all in the same year we were told there was no money for training. This past year a half million dollar addition was added onto the “Taj-Ma-Gym” but as I’ve mentioned previously, our primary and elementary schools have no Music program.

  13. Mike in Texas wrote:

    This reminds me of a story one of the news programs, maybe 60 Minutes did on school administrations.

    It was a generic story. You can fill in the blanks with the name of any large, urban school district.

    My school districts administration building was remodeled recently, and a new enormous showplace gym

    Within walking distance of my house is a former elementry school that had a substantial gym added on. Six months after the gym was completed the school was shut down due to a decline in elementry school enrollments and turned into a charter school for high-school aged tech heads who have little use for the gym.

    Now there’s no parking for two blocks around the school and the gym is used as a lounge and common room there being nothing much else to do with it.