The language is intended to prevent discrimination and harassment against transgender individuals.
The School Board also voted to ensure that all of its employment policies include protection against discrimination based on disabilities, marital status, sexual orientation, economic status and national origin.
“I’m very proud that we have these policies, and we are going to implement it,” said Emma Violand-Sánchez, who was elected as the School’s Board 2015-2016 chair during the meeting. “And that we are going to implement it with students, with the staff, within the hiring process, and I think we have to eliminate bullying, harassment and more than anything enhance the candidates in our school system for employment.”
Including gender identity and expression is in line with the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX, a law that requires schools to provide an equal opportunity learning environment for both genders. Title IX includes gender identity and expression, according to Ellen Kennedy, the director of Employee Relations at Arlington Public Schools.
Complying with the federal government was one reason the board members adopted the new changes. But members also said it was the right thing to do.
“We do not want to put our community, legally, down the road,” outgoing chair James Lander said. “And so, again, in alliance with our County Board colleagues, the state and the federal government, we again are showing progressive leadership.”
The School Board did receive emails about the changes, Lander said. However, many questioned the procedure and not the policy. Residents were worried that the board would make the decision behind closed doors.
There were no public speakers at the meeting, which was a surprise, member Abby Raphael said. However, throughout the process, there had been little dissent from the community or APS employees, Barbara Kanninen noted.
“It was very clear from the beginning we were going to do this,” she said. “I don’t think it was ever an issue of any disagreement in terms of wanting to do this.”
The School Board also updated its bullying and harassment policy today to include protections based on creed and age. The bullying policy, which had last been updated in 2008, already included protections based on gender identity or expression.
Update at 12:40 p.m. — Democratic County Board candidate Christian Dorsey has issued a statement commending the School Board’s action and calling on Arlington County to make similar policy changes. “I urge the County Board to pursue ways to update the County Code to ensure that people are not discriminated against in Arlington based on their gender identity,” he said.
The funding was approved after an amendment to stop it failed one to four.
The professional development will help teachers be able to better incorporate digital tools, such as laptops or iPads, in lesson plans. It is part of the Arlington Public Schools’ digital learning initiative, which has the goal of equipping children in second to eighth grades with an iPad and high school students with Macbook Airs.
Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sánchez submitted the amendment to defund the professional development for digital learning. She argued that while technology is important there were other areas recommended by advisory committees that needed the money more, she said during the School Board meeting on June 16.
“We have forgotten the whole child,” she said. “We have forgotten any of the support systems or professional development we need for that. We have forgotten professional development that could be needed for English language learners. We have forgotten the needs for the middle schools and other areas I feel are needed.”
But other board members said that the professional development was key to the success of the already-approved digital learning initiative.
“I fundamentally believe that technology is going to be a key component of any future change for our children, our ability to include all students in a general education setting and to provide the differentiating instruction,” member Nancy Van Doren said.
Van Doren agreed with Violand-Sánchez that professional development was needed in other areas but said it was not a question of one or the other. Instead, the School Board should look to providing the financial needs for multiple areas of professional development, she said.
The digital learning initiative also provides for the whole child, member Abby Raphael argued. In order for the digital learning to be successful, teachers need the training, she said.
“I think it is so meaningful. And it affects special education students, it affects [English language learners], it helps accelerate students, and it really, I think, does personalize learning and individualize learning,” Raphael said.
The digital learning also provides low-income children with the opportunity to interact with technology that they would not have otherwise, Chair James Lander said. Low income families often only buy what they need, and laptops and iPads do not always make the list, he said.
“I believe in technology, and I believe this is a way for a school that is majority minority to have an opportunity to get their hands on technology and start to close the digital divide,” he said.
But the program is not without its problems. Members brought up monetary concerns about the costs of the actual devices and the software that each would need as APS increases the number of devices it maintains from 5,000 to 25,000.
Barbara Kanninen also brought up concerns about the lack of planning involved in the rollout of the devices and questioned whether they actually helped to accelerate learning. She attempted to halt the program in the past until budget and educational concerns were addressed.
“I still feel, as I did then, that we need a full evaluation of this program,” she said. “So far we had a work session earlier this year, we’ve heard a lot of anecdotes about successes in our schools system, but we don’t have solid evidence that it’s truly achieving our goals.”
Despite that, Kanninen voted against Violand-Sánchez’s amendment, saying that the training is necessary.
Van Doren said there is also a need to look a security and privacy concerns brought up by parents.
“We must address the parent concerns related to security, privacy and the continuous feedback and improvement related to the devices,” she said. “That is tantamount in allowing parents to be partners in this process.”
Parents need to feel that their children are safe while using these devices, and they need to feel as if they are partners with the school system, she said.
Lander agreed that those areas are important and should be part of the next steps going forward. However, despite the budget, educational and concerns, utilizing technology in school is too important of a priority to stop, he said.
“We can’t hold back the tide of technology,” Lander said. “This is how we do business.”
Graduation Live Streaming Nixed — Arlington Public Schools canceled internet live streaming of its high school graduation ceremonies this year due to budget cuts. Graduation ceremonies has been streamed online for the past two years. [InsideNova]
Police Foot Chase in Pentagon City — Last night, after the Pentagon City mall was evacuated due to a power outage, mall security spotted two men lingering and entering closed stores. Police were given a lookout and one of the alleged suspects was spotted outside the mall. A foot chase ensured and the man was apprehended behind nearby Pentagon Row. No word yet on any changes.
Economic Chief Has a Plan For Arlington — New Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins says he has a plan for economic growth in the county that will reduce the county’s office vacancy rate from the current 21 percent to 10 percent over the next six years. The plan includes “a mix of much more aggressive marketing efforts, incentives and other government aid, and the help of ‘frenemies’ in competing local governments such as the District and Alexandria.” [Washington Business Journal]
A-Town Plans ‘Sunday Funday’ Summer Kickoff — “Ballston’s rowdiest bar,” A-Town Bar and Grill, will be kicking off its summer “Sunday Fundays” this weekend with “squirt guns, beach balls, popsicles, barbecue, water balloons” and multiple DJs. [Clarendon Nights]
Oakridge Elementary is getting desks with bicycle pedals and swinging bars in an effort to incorporate movement and exercise into classroom learnings.
The new desks, as well as yoga ball chairs, are part of a pilot program to improve kids’ ability to learn while in school.
The idea behind the new equipment is based in science, said Heather Suave, a member of Oakridge’s 2Fit2Quit Committee and Wellness Council. Research has shown that when kids’ brains are active, which happens during exercise, they are able to retain more information.
“Kids in elementary school have the wiggles, and it’s a good energy release,” Suave said.
Oakridge Elementary was able to raise $9,000 through sponsorships and donations — from Pentagon Mixed Martial Arts, the Oakridge PTA and individual donations — to buy three of the two person pedal desks, four stand-up/swinging desks and eight yoga ball chairs.
The pilot program has only been in place for a month, Suave said, but it is already showing promise.
Jenn Crain, a third and fourth grade teacher, said the new equipment has helped with keeping her students focused and have not been a distraction in the classroom. She has had the pedal desk and standing desks in her class.
“Some of them prefer the pedal desk, some of them prefer the standing desk, some of them prefer none,” she said.
The kids have also had positive feedback toward the equipment, she said during a presentation.
Maxwell Thomas, an 8-year-old student, likes the pedal desk because they help him concentrate while he does his math schoolwork.
“I can get my body moving while I work,” Maxwell said.
Annabella Brooks, a fifth-grade student, likes the standing/swing-desk “because people have a way to fidget without making noise.”
The desk helps her concentrate and she finds it relaxing, Annabella said.
“It’s easier to think while moving,” she said.
This is the first pilot program in Virginia. The equipment is also used in 30 schools in Texas and in 32 other states, said Lowell Lease, a representative with KidsFit, the company that provides the equipment.
The company has received good feedback on the equipment from other schools as well, Lease said.
“The kids love it,” he said. “The teachers love it because the kids pay attention better.”
GOP Offers Support to Gun Store Owner — A Change.org petition against a planned gun store in Cherrydale has reached more than 1,900 signatures. The store’s landlord now says he’s trying to figure out ways to legally break the lease. Countering the backlash, the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans have launched a petition in support of the store and its owner, 28-year-old Marine Corps veteran James Gates. “We can’t remain silent while Arlington liberals push their radical anti-gun agenda,” the petition says. [AFCYR]
Hynes Fires Back at Reevesland Sale Critics — Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes is firing back at criticism of the Board’s 3-2 decision to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse to a private owner. Critics charge that the sale was hastily added to the Board agenda the day before the vote and that citizen groups should have had more time to propose alternatives. Hynes said the house would have needed $2.5 million in work to be brought up to code for public use and noted that interested groups have had 5 years to suggest better alternatives for using the house. [InsideNova]
Arlington’s Outdoor School in Fauquier County — Every year thousands of Arlington Public Schools visit the APS-operated Outdoor Lab in Fauquier County, experiencing nature and wildlife first hand. The property was purchased with private funds for school use and is beloved by students. However, some worry that a proposal to increase summer use of the 225 acre site may overtax the lab and its ecology. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Memorial Day Closures — Arlington County government offices, courts, schools, and community centers will be closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Arlington’s public indoor pools will be open, trash and recycling will be collected and ART buses will operate on a holiday schedule. [Arlington County]
Flags In at Arlington National Cemetery — More than 1,000 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as the Old Guard, placed small American flags in front some 275,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. The annual ceremony, known as “Flags In,” has been taking place before Memorial Day for more than 60 years. [U.S. Army]
Arlington Man Convicted of Sexual Abuse — Arlington resident Gary Hankins, a 45-year-old former licensed clinical social worker, has been convicted of sexually abusing a 17-year-old patient. The boy’s parents first contacted authorities after they discovered sexually suggestive texts from Hankins on his phone. [NBC Washington]
Candidates Bash Board’s Reevesland Vote — The Democratic candidates for County Board are criticizing the County Board’s vote this week to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. At a debate lacking one candidate — School Board Chair James Lander, who had a School Board meeting — candidates took turns bashing the decision, calling it “shameful,” “bad business” and “beneath Arlington.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]
APS to Discuss Swanson, Williamsburg Plans — Next month Arlington Public Schools will hold public forums to discuss “interim options” for addressing capacity issues at Swanson and Williamsburg Middle Schools. “These interim solution options include the use of both on-site or off-site locations to house some portion of the school populations, the possibility of some interior redesign, the use of relocatables as part of the solution, and changes in scheduling,” APS said in a press release. [Arlington Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Taste of Arlington Winners — The judges at Sunday’s Taste of Arlington event in Ballston selected four winners among the dozens of restaurants that participated. Il Forno won for Best Appetizers, Liberty Tavern won for Best Fast Casual, Water and Wall won for Best Fine Dining and Northside Social won for Best Dessert.
Real Estate Prices Rise — Real estate prices in Arlington continue to rise. The median home sale in Arlington between January and April was $545,000. That’s up 9 percent year-over-year. [InsideNova]
Clarendon Real Estate Was a Bargain in 1900 — Clarendon is full of nice restaurants, luxury condos and million dollar homes now, but in 1900 it was an emerging suburban community with vacant land for sale. How much were plots of land going for? Between $90 and $140. [Ghosts of DC]
Presidential Candidate in Arlington Today — Mark Everson, a former IRS commissioner and a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, will speak and greet supporters at a $100-a-head reception in Courthouse today. The event is being held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Courthaus Social, 2300 Clarendon Blvd. [Mark Everson for President]
APS Educator Named Top Hispanic Teacher — Arlington Traditional School art teacher Veronica Perez has received the Victoria D. de Sanchez Northern Virginia Hispanic Teacher of the Year Award. [InsideNova]
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.
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.
Candidates: APS Needs Better Community Engagement — Arlington Public Schools should be doing a better job of community engagement, both Democratic candidates for School Board said at a debate Friday night. Sharon Dorsey said that APS tends to listen to the “squeaky wheel” while those who don’t have the time, energy or connections to press their case are often largely ignored. Both Dorsey and Reid Goldstein both pointed to the rollout of iPads and MacBooks in schools as an example of an APS decision-making process they would have approached differently. [InsideNova]
Britt McHenry Returns to ESPN — D.C.-based sports reporter Britt McHenry is back at work at ESPN following the release of a video that showed her berating an Advanced Towing employee in Arlington. McHenry issued an apology and was suspended for a week. [New York Post]
More on I-66 Plans — Arlington officials have “softened” their stance on widening I-66, says Virginia’s transportation secretary, but County Board Chair Mary Hynes insists that the county will only consider widening as a last resort — and only after evaluating the impact of changes to I-66 ten years from now. [Washington Post]
County, APS Consolidate After-School Programs — Starting this fall, Arlington Public Schools will take over the previously county-run Charles Drew and Carver after-school programs. “The consolidation is expected to save $123,000 the first year and $160,000 annually after that,” according to a press release. [Arlington County]
Arlington Man Sentenced for Child Porn — Arlington resident Patrick Friedel, 29, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for the production and possession of child pornography. Friedel pleaded guilty in January, admitting to meeting five underage girls via social networking apps and coercing them to send him sexually explicit images. Prosecutors say Friedel also picked up one of girls and videotaped himself engaging in sadistic and masochistic sexual activity with her.
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk
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
Record No. of Arlington Runners in Boston — An “all-time record” of 116 Arlington runners are registered to participate in the 2015 Boston Marathon today. [InsideNova]
Vehicle Overturns in Ashton Heights — A vehicle “pinballed off two parked cars” and overturned near the intersection of 6th Street and N. Lincoln Street in Ashton Heights Sunday morning. [Twitter]
H-B No. 1 in Challenge Index — Three Arlington high schools have made the top 10 of the Washington Post’s 2015 Challenge Index of local public high schools. The H-B Woodlawn secondary program ranked No. 1, Yorktown ranked No. 6 and Washington-Lee ranked No. 10. [Washington Post]
Complaints Against Towing Co., Questions About Video — While ESPN reporter Britt McHenry serves out her suspension for berating an Advanced Towing employee in Arlington, there’s some push back against the towing company and the video it produced of McHenry’s mean-spirited remarks. NBC 4 notes that there have been 155 complaints to police against Advanced from 2012 to 2014. Us Weekly, meanwhile, gossips that “a source close to the situation” says the video was edited “to make it look like Britt has gone on a one-way tirade as opposed to being in a two-way verbal spat with someone.” [NBC Washington, Us Weekly]
Net Migration Negative for Arlington in 2014 — More people moved out of Arlington than moved in last year, according to new census estimates. Arlington’s net migration in 2014 was -1,520, compared to +2,004 in 2013. That follows a broader trend of slowing growth in the D.C. region, which is still growing thanks mostly to births. [Washington Post]
County Board to Pay School Delays Costs — The Arlington County Board, which in January put the brakes on a plan to build a new elementary school in South Arlington, pledged last week to “take the financial hit” for the project’s delay, which is expected to cost up to $2.1 million. The County Board rejected the plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School after residents raised concerns about traffic and the school’s impact on a nearby park. [InsideNova]
‘Enhanced Risk’ of Severe Weather Today — The National Weather Service says there’s an enhanced risk of severe weather in the D.C. area this afternoon, including a 1-in-3 chance of damaging wind gusts and hail. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
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.”