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Photos: Ashley Wagner Visits Arlington Science Focus ES

by Ethan Rothstein | April 21, 2014 at 4:45 pm | 1,510 views | No Comments

U.S. Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner paid a visit to the children and faculty of Arlington Science Focus Elementary School this afternoon to campaign against underage drinking.

Wagner, sporting the bronze medal she won this year as part of the U.S. figure skating team, told the hundreds who gathered in the school’s gymnasium that after she started training to become a figure skater when she was 5 years old, she vowed to do whatever it took to get to the Olympics.

“When you’re an athlete, your body is a machine,” she said. “You want the ultimate machine, so you want to take care of it. So I made a lot of important decisions. I ate my fruits and veggies, I drank a lot of water and, when the time came, I said no to underage drinking.”

After the crowd of kids answered questions on the basic facts of underage drinking, they got a chance to ask questions of their own. One student asked how old the 22-year-old is –”someone should teach you not to ask a lady that,” she gamely replied before answering question — and another asked how much her medal weighed, which led to Wagner giving the little boy her medal to hold.

“This medal stays in a sock,” she said when asked where she keeps her hardware from Sochi, Russia. “I should probably find a better place for it.”

In addition to students and faculty, attendees at the event included state Sen. Barbara Favola, Del. Patrick Hope and Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibly.

Police Sponsoring HS, MS T-Shirt Design Contest

by Ethan Rothstein | March 28, 2014 at 10:15 am | 512 views | No Comments

2014 ACPD T-shirt Design Contest flyerThe Arlington Police Beneficiary Association is asking Arlington middle- and high-schoolers to design a T-shirt for Police Week in May.

Students are asked to submit designs for the theme “Honoring the Fallen By Remembering Their Sacrifice,” by Friday, April 4 at 3:00 p.m. Designs are asked to be drawn in marker — with no more than four colors — on a sheet of letter paper. The winning designs will be printed for shirts during Police Week, May 11-17.

The grand prize for the contest is $100 gift card, a press release with the winner’s name and school in it and a free T-shirt with the winning design. Each school’s School Resource Officer will be collecting the submissions, which will be printed on the back of black and/or blue shirts.

SOL Grades at Drew School Falling Behind

by Ethan Rothstein | March 25, 2014 at 3:35 pm | 4,008 views | No Comments

Pass rates in Arlington elementary schools in SOL exams last 10 years average (courtesy of the Coalition for a New Drew)(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) The standardized test scores for elementary school students in the Nauck neighborhood are slipping well below the county-wide average, and some parents are fed up with the disparity.

Over the past 10 years, the graded program at Drew Model Elementary School has performed at an average of 23 percent below the county’s average in the 3rd-through-5th grade Standards of Learning exams, according to data from Arlington Public Schools’ Department of Planning and Education.

The numbers get worse the older the students get. Third-graders in the graded program — as opposed to Drew’s Montessori program, which takes children from around the county and performs on par with other elementary programs — pass the reading SOL 23.9 percent less frequently than APS average and the math 17.9 percent less frequently. For fifth-graders, that drops to 30.4 percent worse in reading and 23.2 percent worse in math.

The numbers were highlighted during last Thursday’s meeting of the Arlington School Board when Terron Sims, former County Board candidate and co-chair of APS’ Superintendent’s Committee on Eliminating the Achievement Gap, spoke out decrying Drew’s struggles.

“Since the children of the Nauck community have been allowed to attend their neighborhood school, the school has failed them,” Sims said. “For years, Drew parents and administrators bickered over whose program was better, who should occupy Drew. But now, after 10 years of failing our kids, the fighting has stopped, for all those concerned now understand that a drastic change must occur at Drew if we are to save the children from a mediocre education, and thus save them from a mediocre life.”

Drew School (Photo via Google Maps)A group of parents and community members, led by Sims, have formed the Coalition for a New Drew to try to reverse the school’s fortunes. In a press release, the coalition alleges that APS had been releasing Drew’s Montessori SOL statistics over the past few years, but not the results for the students from the graded program as some members have requested.

The statistics cited above were compiled by the Coalition. APS officials confirm the data is pulled from its report from Planning and Education’s presentation to the Arlington Montessori Action Committee.

“The data compiled by the coalition shows there is a stark difference between the educational readiness for most Arlington students and a disproportionate number of SOL-tested Drew Graded students,” Nauck Civic Association Community Affairs Committee chair Portia Clark said in the release. “We know the students at Drew have the desire to learn and we just want them all to succeed.”

Another chart released by the Coalition shows that less than 50 percent of fourth and fifth graders in the Drew graded program are passing any SOL test. The combination of the Montessori and graded programs still makes Drew the worst-performing school in the tests.

The push for change comes at a time when the school is already in administrative flux. Drew’s principal, Jacqueline Smith, resigned earlier this month after being arrested for driving under the influence. Smith has been replaced by interim Theresa Bratt, who had retired from APS last year.

“A new Drew is overdue, and the time is right to fix this instructional problem,” Cathleen Drew, a former Drew PTA president, said in the press release. “As APS looks for ways to solve its capacity problems, it should put instruction first and prioritize solutions that promote both academic and space solutions.”

Photo (top) via Google Maps. Chart (bottom) via Coalition for a New Drew. 

APS Seeks Quite a Few Good Teachers

by ARLnow.com | March 24, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 3,397 views | No Comments

Arlington Public School has created a video as part of its effort to recruit new teachers to the burgeoning school system.

To keep up with rising student enrollment and teacher attrition — retirements, etc. — APS hired about 300 new teachers in 2012 and more than 400 new teachers in 2013. School enrollment is projected to increase from 23,316 to 24,153 in the coming school year. Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s new proposed budget calls for 53 new K-12 teacher positions — in addition to new teacher hires to replace those retiring or leaving for other school systems.

To help promote its careers web page, APS created a PSA video (above) with the tag line “Inspire Generation.”

Drew Elementary Principal Resigns After DUI Arrest

by ARLnow.com | March 19, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 12,023 views | No Comments

Former Drew Elementary principal Jacqueline Smith (photo via APS)Drew Model Elementary School principal Jacqueline Smith resigned earlier this month, just days after being arrested for driving under the influence.

Smith, a 53-year-old Arlington resident, was arrested on the 1100 block of S. Rolfe Street, in the Arlington View neighborhood, around 3:30 a.m. on Friday, March 7. Smith was observed by an officer stopping at a green light, weaving in and out of lanes and almost striking a parked car, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

The officer pulled Smith over and she subsequently failed a field sobriety test, Sternbeck said. Smith was arrested and taken to the Arlington County Detention Center. Four days after the arrest, Drew Elementary parents were notified that Smith was “retiring.”

“We wanted to let you know that Jackie Smith, Principal of Drew, has informed us that she plans to retire from her position with the Arlington Public Schools for personal reasons,” wrote Arlington Public Schools superintendent Patrick Murphy. “She will be on leave the remainder of this week, and will retire effective March 17. We wish her the best in the future.”

“I have been grateful for my 21 years in Arlington as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal,” Smith said in the letter. “The support I have received through the years from Dr. Murphy, APS administrators, the School Board, and the many dedicated teachers and educational leaders throughout the county has been greatly appreciated. I want to express my best wishes to the Drew Model School staff, students, and community, and I hope for their continued success as they work to provide excellent learning opportunities for our children.”

Asked by ARLnow.com if Smith had been fired, APS spokeswoman Linda Erdos said “that statement is not accurate.” Theresa Bratt, who retired from APS last year, is now serving as interim principal at the school.

Smith’s next court appearance is scheduled for May 19. Court documents indicate that, if convicted, this would be her first DUI.

Photo via APS

Electrical Fire at Washington-Lee HS

by ARLnow.com | March 14, 2014 at 11:00 am | 1,304 views | No Comments

Water damage from a small fire at Washington-Lee HS (photo courtesy @RobertoClaure)Washington-Lee High School was evacuated this morning due to a small electrical fire.

The fire broke out near the attendance office, according to Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman Linda Erdos. It was quickly extinguished, but not before the school’s sprinklers caused some flooding in the hallway.

Students and school personnel were evacuated for about 15-20 chilly minutes. They reentered the school when the fire department gave the all-clear.

“Everyone is okay and the students and staff did a great job responding to the alarm in the way that we have practiced,” Washington-Lee principal Gregg Robertson said in an email to parents. “The APS facilities team are here to help with the clean up. We are thankful for the support of our county agencies.”

Photo courtesy @RobertoClaure

APS Wants Nearly 100 Trees Removed For Ashlawn Addition

by Ethan Rothstein | March 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 1,326 views | No Comments

Ashlawn Elementary School addition site planArlington Public Schools has almost doubled its estimate for how many trees need to be removed to make way for the 12-room addition at Ashlawn Elementary School.

The initial use permit for the addition called for 54 trees to be removed to make room the expansion. After consulting a certified arborist, Arlington Public Schools staff is asking the County Board to approve the removal of 40 additional trees.

Once construction is complete, APS is suggesting planting 224 new trees, up from the 127 that was approved by the County Board last May. The increase is to comply with county policy on replacing trees that are removed for construction, Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick told ARLnow.com.

“We’re adding more trees than required in order to be good neighbors and help to screen our property from our neighbors,” Chadwick said.

The revision is necessary because the original use permit was approved before the construction designs were finalized. APS and county staff agreed more trees needed to be removed to make room for stormwater construction, Chadwick said, and the arborist recommended dead and dying trees for removal.

The tree removal at Ashlawn generated some local outrage when the school system started removing trees not included in the use permit. That led to a verbal reprimand from the County Board in January.

“We cannot let this happen again — we cannot allow trees to be chopped down… this is a problem,” board member Walter Tejada said at the time, according to the Sun Gazette.

The use permit amendment that’s being considered on Saturday only addresses the trees, Chadwick said. The “loop road” dropoff from N. Manchester Street, which had been a source of controversy last spring, is not being recommended for change.

Road Closed After School Bus Hits Utility Pole

by ARLnow.com | March 11, 2014 at 9:25 am | 2,112 views | No Comments

Williamsburg Boulevard is closed between N. Somerset Street and N. Rochester Street due to a school bus that hit a utility pole.

It appears that the top of the bus clipped the pole, which is located directly adjacent to the street. The accident snapped the top of the pole. Dominion Power is responding to the scene to repair the pole and the power lines.

No children were on the Arlington Public Schools bus at the time and no injuries have been reported. No word yet on whether the driver will be cited for the accident.

Williamsburg Boulevard is expected to remain closed for part of the day while Dominion crews repair the lines. Some local power outages are also expected.

Arlington Public Schools Closed Tuesday

by ARLnow.com | March 3, 2014 at 8:00 pm | 2,809 views | No Comments

Snow 3/3/14(Updated at 11:00 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools will be closed Tuesday and the federal and Arlington County governments will open on a two-hour delay.

Frigid temperatures have officials worried about a potential refreeze and hazardous road conditions following today’s snow storm.

It’s at least the 6th day off for Arlington students this school year. All meetings, extracurricular activities, events and adult education classes are also canceled.

There will be no classes Tuesday, but school offices will be open, on a two-hour delay. Essential employees should report to work as scheduled, the school system said Monday evening.

Wakefield Basketball Wins Regional Title

by Ethan Rothstein | March 3, 2014 at 11:00 am | 714 views | No Comments

Dominique Tham shoots over a Mt Vernon defenderThe Wakefield High School basketball team knocked off previously undefeated Potomac High School Saturday night and clinched the Region 5A North championship, 70-66.

The Warriors (24-4) kept their 14-game winning streak alive with the victory, and will move on to the state semifinal game on Saturday at noon at Robinson Secondary School (5035 Sideburn Road, Fairfax). They’ll play the loser between Maury and Henrico High Schools, and if they win, they’ll play Friday, March 14, at 2:00 p.m. at VCU for the state championship.

The Warriors were led by Capitol Conference Player of the Year Dominique Tham, who scored 18 points, and Jalen Walton chipped in 17 to lead a balanced attack against the Panthers (27-1). Marqua Walton also scored 18 and hit a key free throw at the end of the game to seal the victory.

The win was the first regional championship for the Warriors since 2005 — they were regional runner-ups last year and lost in the state semifinal game. The Warriors defended their home court, just like they did in the conference championship game last week against Mt. Vernon. Walton told Dave Facinoli of the Sun Gazette that the Warriors didn’t feel any pressure.

“They came in undefeated and we felt they had all the pressure,” said Wakefield senior guard Jalen Carver, who scored 17 points and made three three-pointers. “So we wanted to play our game, slow them down in transition and keep playing hard.”

Wakefield coach Tony Bentley said the pre-game plan was to keep his players loose.

“The key to this game for us wasn’t on the court,” he said. “We wanted to get our players so relaxed like they were playing a game on the playground.”

File photo courtesy Rob Laybourn 

Arlington Schools, Gov’t Closed Monday

by ARLnow.com | March 2, 2014 at 8:35 pm | 1,530 views | No Comments

Snowy scene along Columbia Pike 1/26/11(Updated at 9:40 p.m.) All Arlington schools, courts and government offices will be closed Monday, the county announced Sunday night.

It’s at least the fifth time Arlington Public Schools have closed due to snow this school year.

“Essential personnel are to report to work as scheduled,” said APS spokeswoman Jennifer Harris. “Extracurricular activities, interscholastic contests, team practices, field trips, adult and community education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled.”

All ART bus service has been suspended, in advance of a winter storm expected to drop 6-10 inches of snow Monday. Arlington’s western neighbor, the City of Falls Church, has declared a snow emergency now.

The Virginia Department of Transportation, meanwhile, is encouraging residents to leave their cars at home on Monday.

“By midnight tonight, 4,000 trucks will be staged along interstates, major roads and neighborhood streets in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties,” VDOT said in a press release Sunday night. “Drivers should stay off the roads tomorrow… snow and frigid temperatures to northern Virginia.”

Staying off the roads should be easier for non-emergency federal workers — the Office of Personnel Management announced tonight that federal offices would be closed Monday.

Residents have been reporting a shortage of salt and other snow clearing supplies in local grocery and hardware stores.

“Gonna have a slick sidewalk [tomorrow],” said Twitter user @TheRhino26.

File photo

APS Budget Funds Enrollment Increase, New Initiatives

by ARLnow.com | February 27, 2014 at 6:55 pm | 3,103 views | No Comments

APS superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy gives his FY 2015 budget briefing(Updated at 9:00 p.m.) The proposed FY 2015 Arlington Public Schools budget funds an increase in enrollment without increasing class sizes, but includes cuts to alternative high school programs.

The $539.4 million budget — a 3.1 percent year-over-year increase — also provides a cost-of-living salary increase for APS teachers, launches a new early literacy initiative and funds an APS-provided take-home iPad for every 2nd grader and a Google Chromebook for every 6th grader.

APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy presented his proposed budget to the Arlington School Board Thursday night. It’s the beginning of a process that will culminate with the School Board’s final budget adoption on May 8.

Murphy’s budget includes $7.3 million in cuts and “efficiencies.” APS expects to save $1.6 million by merging the Langston High School continuation program into Arlington Mill High School (located at the Arlington Career Center) and by reducing day classes offered to students over the age of 22.

“I understand the commitment of the community to provide this option for adults,” Murphy said. “But in these challenging budget times… one of my concerns remain core services for children who are school-aged and on the K-12 continuum.”

Murphy also proposes saving $800,000 via cuts to special education assistants and $1.1 million by eliminating library assistants from elementary schools. Another $200,000 will be saved by reducing non-mandated elementary school field trips.

Because the school system is growing, Murphy says APS employees impacted by the cuts will be transferred to other roles instead of being laid off.

A chart showing APS class sizes, illustrating increased enrollment at lower grade levelsAPS expects school enrollment to increase by about 800 students in the coming school year, from 23,316 to 24,153. That will cost APS $9.8 million for the hiring of teachers, acquisition of textbooks and materials, and for relocatable classrooms, furniture and technology. Another $300,000 will go to hiring four additional bus drivers and a route coordinator. Murphy’s budget keeps class sizes the same, but the cost per pupil will increase, from $18,678 to $19,244.

The proposed budget includes the beginning of a number of significant initiatives.

Starting in the fall, every 2nd grader will be issued an Apple iPad and every 6th grader will be issued a Google Chromebook. All 2,150 iPads and 1,650 Chromebooks will be internet-accessible at school (via WiFi) and students will be able to take them home. Officials say the computers will be leased and the cost in FY 2015 will be $200,000. Dubbed the 1:1 Initiative, APS expects to gradually expand the program to every grade level, with 3rd and 7th grades next in line.

Fiscal Year 2015 will be the first year of a three-year goal to eliminate early release days and to spread foreign language programs (FLES) to all elementary schools. Two of the seven schools with early release days will have the early release eliminated under Murphy’s budget, thus providing additional instruction time for FLES. It’s yet to be determined which two schools will be chosen.

A third major initiative in Murphy’s budget is early literacy. Murphy hopes to boost reading levels for those in two grade categories — PreK-2 and 3-6 — via investments in technology, summer reading programs and professional development for teachers.

“I feel a real responsibility that we need to build in that area,” Murphy said of the literacy initiative.

(more…)

Photos: Wakefield Defeats Mt. Vernon

by ARLnow.com | February 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 611 views | No Comments

The Wakefield High School boys basketball squad defeated Mt. Vernon in the Capital Conference 13 championship game Friday night.

The Warriors were led by junior guard Marqua Walton, who had 18 points, and senior guard Jalen Carver, who had 16 points. The 65-50 victory gives Wakefield a first round bye in the upcoming 5A Regional Tournament.

The Sun Gazette has a complete recap of the game.

Photos courtesy Rob Laybourn

Weekend Fire at Yorktown High School

by ARLnow.com | February 24, 2014 at 10:00 am | 2,444 views | No Comments

Fire at Yorktown High School (photo courtesy S. Stein)A fire at Yorktown High School caused minor damage to the school’s band room.

The fire broke out just before 9:00 a.m. Saturday in an HVAC unit on the roof of the school. Firefighters from several jurisdictions responded and helped to extinguish the blaze. The HVAC system was damaged and water from the firefighting effort flooded into the school’s band room, below.

“There was just water damage to the band room,” said Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. “Crews were able to dry the carpet over the weekend.”

“The fire has not impacted any classes or extracurricular activities at the school,” Bellavia said.

Photo courtesy S. Stein

BREAKING: Barcroft Elementary Locked Down After Assault

by ARLnow.com | February 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 12,766 views | No Comments

Barcroft Elementary School 2-19-14(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) Barcroft Elementary School was briefly locked down this morning after an incident involving a cafeteria worker.

Police say a cafeteria manager got into a verbal and physical altercation with school administrators around 11:15 a.m. The altercation moved to a cafeteria office — out of view of students — where the manager punched an assistant principal, threw water on him, and then brandished a knife in a threatening manner, according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

Police were called to the school. Upon arrival, the suspect threatened officers, said she had a gun and then reached into a bag, Sternbeck said. The woman was tased by police. No gun was found, but she was in possession of the knife, Sternbeck said.

Paramedics evaluated the suspect and she was then transported to Virginia Hospital Center on a mental evaluation order. The assistant principal was not injured. So far the school system is not pressing charges.

“While we understand that many people would like to have additional details of this incident, it is considered a personnel matter, and we cannot divulge additional information,” Barcroft principal Colette Bounet said in a written statement. “I want to assure everyone that students are safe and were not affected by the occurrence.”

The school was locked down for about five minutes during the incident, according to Sternbeck.

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