James Lander, the Chair of the Arlington School Board, has responded to public concerns about use of school facilities raised by the Arlington Girls Softball Association.
On Monday afternoon Lander wrote to Steve Severn, president of the 30+ year old organization, regarding use of Wakefield High School’s softball field, as well as proposed batting cages and sponsor signage at Arlington Traditional School.
Lander said that the Wakefield softball field is closed to all teams due to safety concerns, that the school system is willing to find a location and design for the ATS batting cage that doesn’t interfere with school operation and that AGSA may put up temporary sponsor signage around school fields but must then take it down after games.
Lander, a Democrat, is currently running for Arlington County Board.
The full letter is below.
Dear Mr. Severn:
I am writing to respond further to concerns that have been expressed about use of Arlington school facilities by the Arlington Girls Softball Association (AGSA).
The Wakefield softball field is not being used by any teams until some improvements have been made. The positioning and safety measures for the softball field at Washington-Lee High School are different and, as a result, decisions are made to meet the unique needs of each space. The safety inspector was concerned about the proximity of Wakefield’s field to the parking lot and walkway through the site, and so APS has agreed to install safety netting. Regarding Wakefield’s use of other fields in the community, today was the last day for practice or play by the Wakefield softball teams, and the Wakefield Varsity Softball tournament will take place at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County on Monday, May 18.
The AGSA has proposed building a batting cage at Arlington Traditional School. APS believes that the initially proposed location for the batting cage would be disruptive to the school’s program and that the specific design would not be appropriate on school property. The Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations, Mr. John Chadwick, has spoken to Mr. Severn about this issue and has explained that APS is willing to consider other potential placement of the batting cage at the school and an alternative design. We look forward to working with the County and community representatives on this measure to find a solution that meets the needs of all parties.
We understand the important role that the AGSA sponsors play in supporting this opportunity for young girls in our community. Regarding the issue of posting banners on the fence at Arlington Traditional, as noted in earlier replies, the School Board policies do not allow outside groups to post and leave signs in schools and on school grounds over an eight-week period. However, when community groups such as the Babe Ruth and Arlington Little League teams use our fields and local groups like churches and other community organizations use our schools, as part of their community use they regularly post signs and/or distribute flyers during their activity and then the signs and flyers are taken away at the end of the event. We hope that the Arlington Girls Softball Association will consider this option so that the girls softball sponsors can be recognized during your practices and games.
Finally, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has contacted APS about these and other concerns, and our staffs will be working collaboratively over the coming months to develop a consistent framework for all athletics and community groups to follow when using county and school spaces so that we can avoid any future misunderstandings.
James Lander, Chair
Reid Goldstein has won the Democratic endorsement in the race for school board.
Goldstein received 1,252 votes in the Arlington County Democratic Committee caucus, which was held on May 14 and 16. His opponent, Sharon Dorsey, received 648 votes.
Democrats were quick to embrace Goldstein after his caucus victory.
“Reid will not only be a great voice for balancing the needs of school facilities, but also for improving instruction for all of Arlington’s students,” said ACDC Chair Kip Malinosky. “He has demonstrated leadership on educational issues and in the larger community.”
A 30-year Arlington resident and father of two Arlington Public Schools graduates — both of whom are pursuing careers in education — Goldstein has a record of civic participation on PTAs, county and school commissions and committees, and the board of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.
Goldstein is running to replace School Board member Abby Raphael, who is not seeking reelection in the fall.
“We face the challenge of growing enrollment as families are drawn to Arlington by our tradition of excellent education,” Goldstein said in a statement after he was declared the winner. “We must maintain that excellence going forward as we work to close the achievement gap, provide for growing enrollment, and ensure openness and respect for diversity.”
“I thank Sharon Dorsey for a positive, thoughtful and energetic campaign, and Abby Raphael for her years of service to Arlington families,” Goldstein added.
School Resource Officers will conduct “saturation patrols” and educate students about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Until school lets out June 18, ACPD plans to put more officers at malls, parks and community centers around Arlington. Police will also have a heightened presence at school and community events.
“This initiative encourages positive interaction between officers and the students of Arlington County,” School Resource Officer Supervisor Lt. Ron Files said in a press release. “Our goal is to provide a safe environment in the school communities by using crime prevention strategies and utilizing enforcement measures.”
The initiative coincides with the department’s efforts to curb underage drinking and drinking and driving during prom season.
(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) The president of the Arlington Girls Softball Association says a lack of field space and a newly enforced school policy against signs has him very concerned for the future of the youth league.
The AGSA has been in operation for more than 30 years, President Steve Severn said, and currently serves about 500 girls, 92 percent of whom are Arlington residents. Those girls make up 38 local teams and six all-star and travel teams, who play games on just five fields in the county: Greenbrier Park next to Yorktown High School, Barcroft Park, Wakefield High School, Quincy Park and Arlington Traditional Elementary School.
This year, delayed construction at Wakefield has taken away that field, and Wakefield’s softball teams have taken the AGSA’s field at Barcroft Park. At the same time, the field at Arlington Traditional School is becoming increasingly problematic after Principal Holly Hawthorne banned sponsorship signs, a move the Arlington School Board supports.
“Having so few fields available creates havoc,” Severn told ARLnow.com today, after he sent an email to AGSA’s parents informing them of the issues the league faces. “High schools have the first choice to have fields, and that’s the way it should be… But there aren’t enough fields to go around. Youth sports are screaming for outside field space.”
Severn said the Wakefield field opened for one day this spring, but Arlington Public Schools closed it after it determined the fences were too short to protect the surrounding neighborhood. APS facilities staff said it will reopen in June, but high school teams historically have asked to be the first team to use a new field. Hence, Severn said, he doubts AGSA will be able to use that field until spring 2016.
While field space is a serious issue for every league, sport and age group in Arlington, the sign ban is one that could jeopardize AGSA’s future.
“If sponsors cannot see their banners or recognition for the money they contribute to our organization, they’re not going to contribute,” Severn said. “These are by and large community businesses. Their kids play on the team. That is going to hurt us. We depend on sponsorship money, we do not take in enough money from registration. I don’t know what the end result is going to be. Our sponsorship base is going to dry up eventually.”
Severn said the league has been hanging banners recognizing sponsors for decades. This year, they tried to hang small, individual signs for each sponsor, which Severn said Hawthorne put a stop to. He asked the School Board to step in, and they did — to affirm Hawthorne’s decision.
“Ms. Hawthorne contacted APS senior staff to review APS policies on the display of sponsor banners, and we agreed that display of such banners on school property is not permissible,” School Board Chair James Lander said in an email to Severn. “The School Board wishes the AGSA success with the remainder of their season and we appreciate the patience the teams have shown.”
Hawthorne did not respond to an interview request this morning. When asked for comment, APS forwarded to ARLnow.com Lander’s message to Severn.
Severn said he’s met with APS Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operation John Chadwick, which “opened up a line of communication, but didn’t resolve anything.” The School Board’s ruling could mean no more banners at Wakefield when the new field opens, either. Severn told parents that an anticipated decline in sponsorship revenue could mean a significant increase in league fees.
“I’m not trying to fan any flames here, but I’m upset because the decisions are made in a vacuum,” he said. “When we got the note back from James Lander, it’s the end of the story. There is no other avenue for us. We have no real recourse there. That’s just the disturbing part.”
Photo, top, via AGSA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps.
The spill has been contained to a classroom, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani.
So far no injuries have been reported.
Students are currently in the building, according to Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. The facilities staff is trying to determine whether the school will need to be evacuated in order to flush the HVAC system, he said.
Photo courtesy @KateMuth
Because of changes to local grocery stores’ policies in the last two years, donations that have come from shoppers signing up to donate a portion of their purchase to schools have almost disappeared. According to Drew PTA President Evan Thomas, grocery store donations accounted for $22,700 of the PTA’s $30,000 budget in the 2012-2013 school year.
This year, the PTA projects $495 in revenue from the two stores that it has received money from, Harris Teeter and Safeway.
A manager at Harris Teeter said their program hasn’t changed, but schools are no longer allowed to sign up shoppers on the way in, which has hamstrung participation, Thomas said. According to a manager at Safeway, the chain was just purchased, and in the lengthy negotiations over the past two years, the “program has changed some.” According to Safeway’s website, donations through its eScrip program aren’t taken from credit card purchases.
Thomas doesn’t begrudge the grocery stores, he said, but the fiscal reality of the PTA’s current budget is inescapable.
“We felt fortunate that we were able to work within the program as we were before those changes were made,” he told ARLnow.com today. “It’s just a reality of where we are, and we’re just trying to look for ways to move forward and fundraising without doing it on the backs of our families.”
The PTA has responded by hosting a Spring Fair next Saturday, May 16, to draw families to the school and raise a few thousand dollars.
The fair will take place on the school’s grounds (3500 23rd Street S.) from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. There will be foods from a variety of food trucks, a moon bounce, a cake walk game, and raffles. There will also be carnival style games, with the price of participation going to the Drew PTA.
“We’re really hoping the Spring Fair can serve as a signature event so we can have a little more certainty going into each year to allocate comfortably,” Thomas said.
The PTA has received help from its counterpart at Nottingham Elementary School in North Arlington. The Nottingham PTA has chipped in $1,500 to offset costs and provided mentorship and support — Drew is hoping to model the Spring Fair after Nottingham’s annual MayFest.
As for the drastic downturn in PTA revenue, Thomas said purchases the group has made in the past, like smartboards for classrooms and a climbing wall, will no longer be feasible. Thomas said 65 percent of Drew students are on a free or reduced lunch program. APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said it’s one of nine schools in the county that have at least 40 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunches.
Image, top, courtesy Drew Model School PTA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps
With schools bursting at the seams and student growth outpacing new construction, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy is proposing to place 71 new relocatable classrooms around Arlington elementary and middle schools over the next five years.
Murphy’s plan, which he presented to the School Board last week, calls for 27 new relocatables for elementary schools in South Arlington by fall 2020. By fall 2019, Murphy plans for middle schools around the county to add 44 new trailers.
In five years, that would bring the total number of trailers for middle schools and South Arlington elementary schools to 120.
Relocatables are just one part of APS’ response to the Arlington County Board’s denial of a plan to build a new elementary school at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Other ways to mitigate school overcrowding that could be implemented are: converting computer labs to classrooms; making internal modifications like the ones just approved at Washington-Lee High School; and moving programs to facilities with more space.
When asked how many seats the average relocatable classroom provides, APS Community Liaison Meg Tuccillo responded “It varies by school depending on the program using the classroom, needs of the school and class size guidelines,” and provided no specifics.
The county has offered four facilities — Drew Community Center, Carver Community Center, the Fenwick Building and Madison Community Center — that schools have the option to use temporarily while waiting for new schools to be approved and built.
In Murphy’s plan, none of those facilities are used, but Tuccillo said “we are considering use of county sites offered for interim solutions.” She did not offer more specifics on which facilities APS is considering, how they might be used or when.
The total cost for the new trailers outlined in Murphy’s plan is $7.92 million — $5 million for the new middle school trailers, and $2.92 million for South Arlington’s.
“While waiting for new permanent construction, relocatables offer less disruption for families and for school programs, avoids need for disruptive, temporary boundary moves, offers possiblity of flexible configuration of grades together with specials (art, music, etc in same configuration),” Tuccillo said in an email.
While the relocatables are interim solutions, APS and the School Board are also laying the groundwork for permanent relief of school overcrowding. The County Board and School Board must approve a new South Arlington elementary school by December, Murphy said, for it to be ready for the 2019-2020 school year.
If the two sides cannot reach a decision by then, South Arlington will have to wait at least two years longer than initially promised for a new school. Staff is continuing its community outreach process and gathering more information to recommend a site for the new school, but no specific alternatives to the preferred Thomas Jefferson site have been identified.
The Generals (5-4) built a commanding lead deep into the first half, going up 13-6, behind the skill and goal-scoring of junior Meghan Fox. Fox had five of her game high eight goals in the first half, with senior Colleen Salazar adding three.
The Patriots (7-2), however, were able to cut the lead to three, 13-10, going into halftime.
W-L added four goals in the first five minutes of play of the second half. The two teams then traded goals, but Yorktown was able to mount a strong comeback, tallying seven unanswered goals, tying the game at 18. After the teams traded goals again, and with under two minutes to go, W-L sophomore Emma Vogel scored what would be the winning goal.
Generals freshman Caroline Laybourn won the next draw control — women’s lacrosse version of a faceoff — giving W-L possession as time was running out. However, the Patriots caused a turnover with under 30 seconds remaining, bringing the ball down to their offensive zone, but Salazar was able to pick up a ground ball and hold possession as the game ended.
The Generals’ superior defensive play held Yorktown’s Metro region standout sophomore Laura Crawford to just three goals. W-L also dominated the draw control, taking 28 of 39 in the circle.
In addition to scoring by W-L’s Fox (8), Salazar (3) and Vogel (4), other goal scorers included Laybourn (1), senior Julia Fyffe (3) and sophomore Brooke Tannehill (1). Senior Kristen Somers led the Patriots scoring with 6 goals. Other Yorktown goals came from junior Kate Grattan (4), junior Emma Thurman (2), freshman Claire Kuwana (2) and senior Margaret Doyle (1).
Photo courtesy Celia Slater
The Arlington School Board approved the design and construction schedule of the school’s capacity expansion at its meeting last night, paving the way for the $5 million project to begin work this summer.
The exterior of the building will, for the most part, remain unchanged. Much of the work will go to re-outfitting classrooms to expand their capacity, adding lockers, shifting around offices and ensuring each room is being used to accommodate the greatest capacity possible. When completed, the school’s capacity will grow to 2,200 from its current 1,900-seat capacity.
“I think it’s a great use of our resources, and I know we’re looking forward to doing the same thing at the high schools as well as the other secondary schools, and to the extent possible, all of the schools in Arlington so we could maximize every space,” School Board member Nancy Van Doren said. “And I know there are a lot of people very excited about this design and this renovation.”
So far, there is no timeline in the Capital Improvements Plan for the capacity measures to begin at the other high schools.
The modification will add a science lab on the second floor of the building, install room dividers to create more flexible space, add teacher workrooms and expand lunchtime capacity in the school’s concourse and courtyard.
In addition to the measures to increase capacity, the school’s technological capability is getting a boost. The project aims to strengthen the school’s WiFi signal, install charging stations for devices, and install electronic pads outside rooms that will display each room’s schedule.
Arlington Public Schools will put the project out to bid at the beginning of May. June 22, when the school year ends, is when construction is expected to start. While the interior of the schools is getting its multimillion facelift, the artificial turf on the outside will be getting one of its own.
Photo via Google Maps
Instead, Arlington Public Schools has been directed to incorporate pieces of the old building into the new, 775-seat school that will replace it and house the H-B Woodlawn secondary program. The vote was the final hurdle before APS can move forward designing the $80.2 million project, including demolition of the Wilson School.
“We appreciate that there is community passion around preserving sites that help tell Arlington’s story,” Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “That is why we have directed the Manager to collaborate with APS to honor the history of Wilson School in a meaningful way even as we move forward to build a new school designed to address the challenge posed by our rapidly growing student population.”
The Arlington School Board and Planning Commission each recommended denying the historic district status, while the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board voted unanimously in favor of the status. If the County Board had sided with the HALRB, the new school’s construction would have had to go through more regulatory processes. APS Assistant Superintendent John Chadwick said the costs would likely exceed the $80.2 million budget, but he added no formal study of the costs had been done.
“We do feel keeping [the school would cost] a great deal more than has been quoted in the community,” Chadwick told the Board on Saturday. “The interior of the building does not comply with current codes. Therefore we would have to replace staircases. It does not have any level directly accessible from grade, which is clearly an issue with persons with disabilities.”
The building has been significantly renovated from its initial form, but the HALRB ruled it still meets at least six of the 11 criteria for historic district status; a building needs to meet just two to qualify for approval.
HALRB chairman Joan Lawrence noted the Wilson School has an architectural style “that is an important visual reminder of the time period” when it was built, and “provides a sense of place and connection with our past in the most urban area of Arlington, other than Crystal City, where there are no remaining connections to the past.”
More than a dozen speakers spoke before the Board, most in favor of preservation. Many of those speakers were among the 161 who signed a petition to preserve the building. In giving her presentation, Lawrence acknowledged it was likely falling on deaf ears.
“Preserving significant reminders of the county’s history was important to the County Board at one time,” Lawrence said. “I wish I could say with confidence that it has the same importance today. Too many times, I feel like the Lorax speaking not for the trees but for historic buildings.”
Photo, top, courtesy Preservation Arlington
School Board member Barbara Kanninen, serving the first year of her term, proposed pausing what’s called the “1:1 Initiative” during the School Board’s budget deliberations last week. Her motion failed, 2-3, with Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez voting in favor.
The initiative has already provided second- and sixth-graders with iPads and freshmen with MacBook Airs. Next year, devices will again be provided to students in those grades.
“We have conducted a very large pilot project this year in terms of this initiative,” Kanninen said, estimating about 3,000 devices are now in the hands of students. “That is a very large and potentially very informative data set. I made this motion because I believe it is now time to evaluate how it’s working and ask some basic questions. Is it helping students learn? Is it helping teachers teach?”
The Board and Superintendent Patrick Murphy had extensive discussions the week leading up to their meeting about the initiative, and the majority, including Murphy, agreed that an evaluation can be completed while pushing forward with handing out devices.
“I have moved from thinking we needed to pause to believing we can do that evaluation and do that assessment at the same time as we continue forward,” Board member Nancy Van Doren said. “Many people have called me about the problems we’ve been having … When I suggest pausing the program, I was surprised people said ‘don’t pause, just do it better.'”
Many of the complaints around the devices have focused on teachers not being adequately trained to use the devices, preventing an optimal environment for the students. Murphy said many teachers have “emerged as leaders” in using the devices while other teachers are more hesitant.
“I will say, with any new initiative, there have been a variety of issues with the rollout,” Murphy told the School Board. “We need to continue to strengthen our training models. I think we’ll continue to focus on professional development, working with families so they understand and working with safety, so students aren’t spending an excessive amount of time in front of these devices.”
The 1:1 Initiative is budget neutral because it is funded by diverting money away from APS’ annual technology replacement funds. While Murphy and the School Board majority acknowledged hiccups with the rollout, Kanninen pushed for a more detailed look at what went wrong.
“One of the main reasons a pause would be necessary is we also need to ask, “are we implementing this model the right way?'” she said. “There are other models and ways we could be rolling this out. By taking a pause here, we then can work on developing curricula, designing professional development programs, developing our principles for use, clarifying our budget implications.”
School Board member Abby Raphael said many of the concerns expressed in the community have been alleviated by a more thorough explanation of the program.
“It’s all about personalizing learning, it’s not about the devices,” she said. “I agree that we can continue to roll this out and evaluate what we’re doing, because I really do think this is a very valuable tool in eliminating the achievement gap.”
Oakridge Principal Lynne Wright will be honored with APS’ top award for administrators, 11 years after she won the 2004 Teacher of the Year Award while she was at Taylor Elementary School. Wright managed to improve Oakridge’s Standards of Learning test scores while at the helm of Arlington’s most overcrowded elementary school.
“Lynne is an energetic and charismatic leader who creates a positively charged school where students thrive and families are welcomed,” APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy said in a press release. “She recognizes the importance of building relationships with families and community that supports the diverse student population. Lynne is an exceptional educator and dedicated instructional leader who creates connections among staff, families and the community, all leading to the success of students.”
In the 2013-2014 school year, Oakridge raised its SOL pass rate in math from 76 to 85 percent and in reading form 74 to 81 percent. She accomplished this, in part, by integrating technology, data and stronger assessments into her school’s instruction.
Wright was named Oakridge’s assistant principal in 2007 and was promoted to principal in 2010.
“She is firm and demanding, yet friendly and approachable,” counselor Anne Terwilliger said in the release. “She encourages staff to hold each other to high expectations by modeling how to do so in a comfortable and respectful manner.”
Arlington’s 2015 Teacher of the Year is Dahlia Constantine, who serves as an instructional lead teacher and student teacher host, as well as leading her third-grade class.
“Dahlia is an outstanding educator who builds strong relationships with her students and families,” Murphy said in a release. “She has a special talent to inspire children to become lifelong learners and continually seeks ways to involve families in the instructional process to create a comprehensive learning network.”
Constantine came to Arlington, and Patrick Henry, in 2011 after stints teaching in New York City, La Puente and Monterey Park, Calif., and Woodbridge, Va. Her principal, Annie Frye, lauded her use of data to inform her work in the classroom.
“Dahlia’s style, technique and passion for the educational profession are immediately evident when you walk into her room, when you meet her or, better yet, when you see her in action with her class,” Patrick Henry parent Colleen Godbout said. “The children are at such ease in the environment she creates. She respects her students and they can sense it.”
Constantine and Wright will be honored, as well as winning teachers from the other 34 schools in Arlington, at an awards reception at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27 at Washington-Lee High School. The winners from each other APS school can be seen after the jump.
(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) The Arlington School Board has approved a proposed $555.9 million budget for the 2015-2016 school year, requesting $6.18 million more than County Manager Barbara Donnellan proposed in her budget.
The School Board’s approved cuts of $7.4 million from Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s budget, unveiled in February. Some of those savings have come from updated revenue figures, but others have come from slashing Murphy’s budget, including cuts to the Arlington Public Schools central office staff.
Other savings came from moving money around, funding replacement buses and new technology with one-time funds from last year’s closeout budget as opposed to ongoing funding.
“We have now shrunk by $6.2 million, and that’s been a lot of hard work,” School Board member Abby Raphael said at the decisive meeting last week. “Everyone was asked to really scrub their budgets and make changes, so we’re making some hard cuts and some hard choices … I think it is very reasonable, very responsible.”
The Arlington County Board will vote on its budget next week, and in the process it could either approve the School Board’s budget, or force APS to make further cuts. If the School Board is not granted the $6.2 million, the next cuts to make would be step increases for staff, eliminating early release from the four elementary schools who still have it. APS could also increase class size by one, which would cut 55 jobs.
If the County Board approves the Board’s adopted budget, all early release programs at Arlington elementary schools would be a thing of the past, paving the way for broader implementation of the Foreign Language in Elementary Schools program.
The adopted budget would mean a cost-per-pupil of $18,558, APS’ lowest since FY 2012 and third-lowest since FY 2008. The Board and staff managed to reduce the cost from Murphy’s budget by $131, while adding new positions along the way.
“We’ve worked well together and stuck to our common values, which is what’s important,” School Board member Barbara Kanninen said. “The changes we’ve made, every one has been careful and deliberate with thought to the taxpayers dollars. When we made a new addition, it’s because we need it.”
Some of Murphy’s proposed cuts the School Board elected to restore, including the World Languages distance learning courses, and its six associated positions. The Board also added three facilities and operations positions to help with the ever-continuing school construction.
The Board also made community outreach a priority, adding a full-time family and community engagement coordinator and allocating $67,000 for “communications support” for the Board.
Initial reports suggest the pedestrian — a family member of a Barrett student — was crossing in the crosswalk at the intersection of George Mason Drive and N. Henderson Road when a car ran a red light and struck her.
The victim suffered injuries described as “minor.” A crossing guard came to her aid immediately following the collision, and she was alert and conscious when paramedics arrived, according to scanner traffic. The driver of the striking vehicle remained on scene.
In a message to parents, Barrett principal Dan Redding said that the victim was taken to a local hospital and police are investigating.
Dear Families –
I am writing to provide information regarding a pedestrian accident that occurred at dismissal time today, April 7, 2015. A family member of a Barrett student was crossing the street and following the directions of a crossing guard when a vehicle turned and struck her. Police and EMS responded immediately. The injuries did not appear immediately to be severe, but the pedestrian was transported to the hospital, and the driver did stop. Police are investigating the accident.
As always, we are grateful for our amazing crossing guards and for the Barrett families who stopped to provide assistance.
Brandi Moore is far from your typical high school student.
Most days, she goes to bed at midnight or later to study or finish. Some days, she wakes up at 5:00 a.m. to get in a few extra hours of studying before attending classes at Washington-Lee High School. In the evenings or on weekends, you can find her performing in one of a handful of theater groups — at school or otherwise — or volunteering to clean up streams and mark sewer grates.
High-achieving students, especially in Arlington, are hardly news. But what makes Brandi stand out, her father George tells ARLnow.com, is her own self-possessed drive.
“I never had to push her to read or anything,” he said. “I used to have to tell her to stop reading and go to bed. I’ve never even had to look at her grades online. She just naturally absorbs stuff and wants to learn.”
Brandi’s hard work has paid off. This week, she received acceptance letters from all five Ivy League universities she applied to: Cornell, Brown, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia and Harvard. Those letters came after she had already been accepted at eight other schools, making her 13-for-13 in college applications.
A month before her flood of Ivy League acceptance letters, Brandi said she received “likely” letters from four of the schools, something she said the Ivy League universities only send to a few hundred students.
“They helped the process a lot. I knew my fate would be decided, because I was already pretty sure I was getting in,” she said.
Before she got those “likely” letters, it was a different story. Her first letter and package was from Brown University in Providence, R.I., which had been her dream school since she was 8 years old.
“When we got a pretty sizeable package from Brown, we didn’t know what it was,” she said, referring to the piece of mail that came. After she opened it, “I lost it. I was really excited.”
The Moores live in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, and Brandi has risen through the ranks of Arlington Public Schools, from Campbell Elementary School, to Kenmore Middle and now Washington-Lee. The 18-year-old senior has narrowed down her choices to Brown and the Ivy League school that gave her the biggest financial package: Harvard. The family will be traveling to Cambridge, Mass., tomorrow to visit the oldest university in the United States.
“Harvard is really, really pushing her,” George Moore said. He added that the whole process has been “so strange,” because, after all, what parent expects Ivy League schools to fight over any student? Reed College in Oregon paid for her to fly across the country to visit the campus. “I knew something was going on when they flew her out there and paid for everything. I thought ‘something special’s going on here.’ It just sort of comes one after another. It’s hard to keep up.”
Brandi said she hopes to make her decision in the next week. Next year, she hopes to start studying biology or something in the life sciences, while keeping up with theater, her passion. Brown appeals to her because the school doesn’t have a core curriculum; students can take whatever classes they want. On the other hand, Harvard is Harvard.
Either way, it’s clear she’s ready for bigger and better things.
“Our classes in high school, there are kids who love what’s going on in the classroom, there are kids who don’t love it as much,” she said. “I’m excited about being in the class where everyone loves learning. I’m just generally excited to see what my limits are and what I’m really going to end up doing. I really want to find myself.”
Photo courtesy George Moore