The H-B Woodlawn secondary program should move to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy told the School Board yesterday.
Murphy recommended moving the H-B and Stratford programs to a new, 900-seat facility at 1601 Wilson Blvd and renovating the Stratford building they currently occupy on Vacation Lane into a 1,000-seat middle school.
If the School Board were to take Murphy’s recommendation, it would mean at least 1,197 additional middle school seats — between H-B, Stratford and the new middle school – by September 2019. APS projects the capital projects could cost as little as $114.5 million, which would free up $11.5 million to build 300 seats in expansions at existing middle schools.
The School Board’s adopted Capital Improvement Program stipulated that the secondary seat plan for 2019 build 1,300 additional seats for no more than $126 million. The “high” estimate for the two projects, according to APS, comes in at $147.2 million — which would be over budget and below the number of seats required, as it would not allow the 300 seat expansion at existing schools.
Murphy recommended what APS referred to as the “SWE3″ option, one of six the School Board and APS are mulling. All of the options still on the table involved some combination of work at either or both of the Stratford and Wilson sites. The SWE3 option is the only option with a “low” cost estimate below $126 million and with a seat expansion of more than 1,100.
The other options that would have provided more seats than Murphy’s recommendation were: moving H-B and Stratford to the Wilson school and building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school on Vacation Lane (the SW option) and building a 1,300-seat secondary school at Wilson. The Wilson plan is projected to cost more than $126 million and the SW option’s lowest cost estimate is $126 million, leaving no financial flexibility, despite adding 1,497 seats.
Previously, APS was considering moving H-B Woodlawn to the Reed School/Westover Library site, but staunch community opposition and losing the location as a possible future elementary school eliminated it from contention earlier this month.
The School Board will conduct a public hearing on the secondary school capacity on Dec. 3 before voting on its plan Dec. 18.
First, a plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, at 125 S. Old Glebe Road, a project which has come under criticism for its reduction of the green space next to the TJ Community Center.
Second, a plan for building $54 million of expansions onto Barcroft and Randolph elementary schools. The Arlington School Board approved the expansion plan at its meeting last night as the alternative to the TJ plan. Whichever option is built is expected to open by September 2018.
The Board will vote in January on which option it will move forward with. Arlington voters approved $50.25 million toward the new elementary school seat plan on Tuesday as part of the $106 million school bond package.
Arlington Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said last night that there could be measures APS takes to bring the two expansions closer to the $50.25 million budget.
Two parents spoke out last night against the plan to expand Barcroft and Randolph, telling the School Board they should focus expansion efforts on schools that don’t lag far behind the rest of the school system in state testing. School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez echoed those parents’ concerns, and was the lone vote against the alternative plan.
“When we look at adding more seats, we keep on talking about seats. We’re not talking many times about students,” she said. “We’re not talking about instructional programs and options we have before us. The part of the county where Barcroft sits and Randolph sits, we have serious instruction issues when we have low achievement of Latino, African-American, students with disabilities, low-income students not perfomrming as they should. We have a problem.”
The other School Board members countered with the fact that APS capacity issues will affect every building in the school system, and performance issues can be addressed during expansion. School Board member Abby Raphael suggested that concerns about the schools’ performance are being overblown.
“Barcroft is a wonderful school. Students are achieving, there’s a wonderful staff. Of course we can do more,” she said. “Because of our growing enrollment, our elementary schools are going to reach 725 students, and we’re running out of land. Ideally, we’d love to have a number of very small elementary schools, but we just simply don’t have the land and the money to achieve that.”
The School Board’s “preferred plan” remains building a new elementary school next to TJ, but that plan is opposed by community group Friends of TJ Park. The group says the new school would reduce crucial parkland, including the community garden. TJ Middle School students spoke up at a School Board meeting last month to advocate for keeping the garden.
“I am so proud to work in the TJ Garden and seeing it every morning reminds me of how important it is to our community and school in Arlington,” seventh-grader Lucy Robinson said. “If the TJ garden were separated from the school, fewer people would go there and be involved. The TJ community would be hurt by this. Please leave our garden in its current location.”
The TJ plan would add 725 seats with the new school, while the two expansions would add a total of about 500 seats, according to APS estimates. The disparity may make the decision clearer after APS released its new set of student growth projections last night.
APS Director of Facilities Planning Lionel White told the School Board that APS figures to grow by 19 percent, or 4,957 students, in the next five years. According to the district’s projection model, APS will hit 30,000 students in 2020. Because of this growth, APS is considering refining elementary school boundaries for next fall.
“This year we had our highest kindergarten class on record, 2,196,” White told the Board. “Next year we’re anticipating [more than] 2,200.”
Many of the students affected by the school district’s boundary changes will be attending the new elementary school next to Williamsburg Middle School. Last night the School Board approved the school’s name: Discovery Elementary School.
“When you go into successful schools, they use language like ‘discovery’ and ‘creativity’ to spark inspiration in the children,” School Board Chair James Lander said. “The fact that Discovery is the recommended name really pleases me.”
Photo (top) via Arlington Public Schools
(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) One of the proposals on the table for Arlington Public Schools’ middle school seat expansion plan is moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed School/Westover Library site, a proposal that has caught the ire of many Westover residents.
The Reed/Westover building currently houses the Children’s School — the early education program for young children of APS employees — and the Integration Station, which serves pre-K students with disabilities. The building underwent a $22.5 million renovation in 2009, by far the most recent project of any of the sites APS is considering for expansion.
A group called “Concerned Citizens of Westover” has launched a Change.org petition asking the Arlington School Board to not move the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed/Westover building. The petition has amassed 973 supporters as of publication.
“The proposed new HB Woodlawn renovation, would build over the recent costly renovation, displacing The Children’s School, the Integration Station, impacting the current Westover Library and farmers market and would reduce/change the green space and fields in Westover,” the petition states.
Two of the options currently on the table would see H-B Woodlawn move to the building with more construction: one would see the Stratford building on Vacation Lane expanded into a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school, and another would expand the Stratford building to 1,000 seats and build a 300-seat addition somewhere else.
Other options on the table include moving H-B Woodlawn to the Wilson School site and expanding the Stratford site, or building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site, an option members of the School Board are leaning against.
A recent APS staff presentation suggests that Reed is “underutilized” and may be a suitable location for H-B Woodlawn because it would allow the school to maintain its current size and provide more green space than the Wilson School site.
According to APS staff, the 2009 Reed/Westover renovations were done to allow the building to structurally support future expansion, but expansion was originally planned for an elementary school, considering that Swanson Middle School is about a third of a mile away. Concern about too many students in a two block area of Westover is listed as a “challenge.”
In addition to the petition, Westover residents created a video explaining why they oppose moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the building in their neighborhood. They have also created a video talking about how to “use Reed the right way” (below) — by using it as an elementary school instead of as a secondary school.
The School Board plans to vote on Dec. 18 on which middle school expansion plan to move forward with. The total budget for the 1,300-seat expansion is $126 million, and the Capital Improvement Plan the School Board passed this summer requires those seats to open by September 2019.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Just 18 months after Arlington’s School Board approved a new elementary school boundary plan for North Arlington, an influx of more new students is prompting the Board to reconsider those plans.
Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia says 652 additional Pre-K and elementary students came to the district this year, outpacing APS’s growth projections by 52. That, along with variances on a school-by-school basis, has caused APS to explore “possible refinements to the boundaries.”
Following a series of three community meetings, the School Board is scheduled to fast-track a vote on a new boundary map for the 2015-2016 school year in January.
The process for determining the new school boundaries will begin with a community meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 17, at Williamsburg Middle School. There, APS staff will present data showing the need for the boundary change, demonstrate the online tool that parents can use to recommend their boundary maps and “begin work with the community to refine boundary options,” according to an APS press release.
The schools whose boundaries will come under review are the under-construction elementary school next to Williamsburg Middle School, Glebe Elementary, Tuckahoe, Ashlawn, Nottingham, Taylor, Jamestown and McKinley.
The approved boundary change from May of last year reassigned 900 students and resulted in five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Tuckahoe, McKinley and Nottingham — sitting at more than 100 percent capacity, but no school above 105.1 percent capacity. The decision was reached after an eight-month community process, and previous boundary realignments have resulted in tension among parents.
The boundary revision process, from the first School Board information session to its scheduled adoption, will take two and a half months.
“After we received updated enrollment projections based on Sept. 30 enrollment numbers, the Superintendent directed staff to begin looking at refinement of the 2015-16 boundaries,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com in an email. “The projections confirmed that we will have enrollment imbalances within the those schools and there is a need to do boundary refinements for a relatively small number of families.”
At tomorrow night’s School Board meeting, APS staff will present their newest school population projections and outline the need to revising the boundaries. From Nov. 18 to Dec. 5, parents and community members will be able to go online and submit their boundary recommendations for staff to consider. Staff will review those recommendations at another community meeting Tuesday, Dec. 9, in the Williamsburg auditorium.
“The community meetings will provide an opportunity for the families that may potentially be impacted to work with staff to develop recommended adjustments using the Online Boundary Tool originally introduced in the boundary process two years ago,” APS said in a press release. “Individuals will be able to see the possible moves that can help to further balance enrollment for these schools. Information shared at all community meetings will help shape the discussion and prepare individuals to use the Online Boundary Tool.”
In January, the School Board will take up the issue. First, with a work session on Jan. 5, then with an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before voting on a new boundary alignment on Jan. 22. All of the School Board meetings will be at 7:30 p.m. at 1426 N. Quincy Street.
File photo via APS
Here is School Board candidate Barbara Kanninen’s unedited response:
I am Barbara Kanninen, and I am running for Arlington County School Board because I believe that together we can make Arlington Public Schools the best that they can be.
Our schools and community face complicated issues right now, from meeting capacity needs, to budgeting, to achieving our most important goal: optimizing classroom learning and addressing the needs of our students. I bring an expansive set of experiences to the job of tackling these challenges. I have volunteered in schools and worked with children in Arlington and DC for over 20 years, and I have served on School Board and County Board advisory committees. I am a Ph.D environmental economist, children’s book author, and Democratic activist. These experiences have given me a deep familiarity with data analysis, hundreds of hours with kids and teachers, and a history of working at the community level on grassroots organizing and engagement. I will ask tough questions and dig deeply to find new, creative solutions to our budget and capacity challenges.
In the coming months and years, we’re going to have to make tough but important decisions. As we look ahead, here are my priorities for our schools:
- Promote critical thinking over standardized testing.
Our kids spend too much time in class prepping for and taking tests. Teachers tell me this takes too much time away from instruction. We need to take a hard look at the testing schedule and process to see which tests are essential to classroom learning.
- Tackle overcrowding with strong leadership, constructive community engagement, and transparent decision-making.
As we work to catch up with the growth in our school population, we need to create a long-term plan that considers instructional needs and programs first, work closely and collaboratively with the County Board and the community to consider the full array of potential school sites, improve community engagement to allow for true dialogue and transparency, and build a safety net of potential temporary solutions.
- Give teachers the support they deserve.
To create an environment in which every child can excel, teachers need support and resources. They also need the flexibility to adjust their teaching approach and pacing to their students’ needs as well as avenues for providing feedback to school principals and county administrators.
- Support children with mentors.
An adult mentor is a developmental asset that contributes to kids’ problem solving, self-esteem, and achievement. I’d like every student in Arlington to know that there is at least one adult in school who knows them, whom they can go to with problems, and who believes in them.
- Continue investing in the arts and strengthen STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs.
We should strengthen STEM skills through, for example, more hands-on science programs in all elementary schools and more accessible STEM programs across all schools, including the Arlington Career Center. At the same time, students need opportunities to express themselves creatively, so we need to give students at all levels access to a variety of art forms.
- Be budget-minded by prioritizing funding for teachers and classroom learning.
In this time of tight budgets, we need to be both disciplined and principled about spending decisions. My number-one principle is the need to focus on the day-to-day classroom experience and teacher-student relationships, so my budget priorities will be teachers and the resources they need.
This year, as part of my School Board campaign, I canvassed door-to-door in all 52 precincts in Arlington, engaging parents, teachers, and community activists and learning about our school issues neighborhood by neighborhood. These experiences have given me a holistic understanding of our diverse community. Collectively, we have the energy, the brains, and the will to do great things for our kids and our community. I’m excited about the possibilities, and I would be honored to have your vote.
Here is School Board candidate Audrey Clement’s unedited response:
I’m Audrey Clement. I’m running for ARLINGTON SCHOOL BOARD, and I seek your vote. Democratic candidates for local office recently issued a press release promising to deal with Arlington’s enrollment crisis.
But Arlington Public Schools (APS) will not be able to meet the challenge under its recently adopted capital budget, as it projects a 2,500 seat deficit even AFTER spending hundreds of millions of dollars to produce 4,000 additional seats.
To address the crisis, School Board ought to ask the Superintendent some hard questions:
- Why does it cost Arlington $2 million to build a new classroom, when it costs Alexandria $900,000?
- Why does it cost Arlington $50 million to provide a new elementary school when it costs Fairfax County $20 million?
- Why does Arlington spend $5,000 more per pupil per year than Fairfax County?
- Why are voters asked to approve a $105 million school bond without knowing how half the money is going to be spent?
Since eighty percent of the schools’ half-billion-dollar operating budget is funded by local taxes and nearly half of every local tax dollar you pay goes to it, Arlington County Board should ask some hard questions too.
- Why, for example, has the School Board never addressed the 2012 the Virginia Department of Education report which concluded that APS administration is top heavy with eight assistant superintendents to Richmond’s three?
- Why does Federal Graduation Indicator show lower graduation rates for disadvantaged students in Arlington than elsewhere in the state?
County Board member Mary Hynes cast these concerns aside at a recent County Board meeting, saying: “I caution about doing the straight math.” She pointed out that there’s a lot more to a school upgrade than new classrooms, and the high per pupil cost reflects community values. In other words, the School Board must continue business as usual because that’s what the community wants.
The problem with business as usual is that the County can no longer afford it. According to a recent Washington Post article, Arlington’s “office market has been in near free fall recently. Between 22 and 23 percent of all the office space in Arlington County — more than 8 million square feet — is vacant. That is nearly triple the rate in 2010.”
As vacancy rates rise commercial tax receipts will erode, forcing County Board to raise residential tax rates to pay for the bonds issued to expand classroom capacity.
Under these circumstances Arlington should elect an independent to School Board who will stretch our tax dollars.
As a 10-year Westover resident and long-time community activist, I routinely urge the County Board to invest in basic services like libraries and schools over wasteful capital projects. With a Ph.D. degree in Political Science and classroom experience as a college instructor, I also strongly support APS’s focus on academic excellence.
Having served the U.S. House subcommittee for congressional oversight of special education programs, I am a strong advocate of remedial education.
If elected, I will work with my School Board colleagues to streamline the budget and guarantee success for all Arlington students. I will also encourage input from the public before key decisions are made. Visit my web site at www.AudreyClement.org and vote CLEMENT on November 4.
(Updated on Oct. 24 at 10:15 a.m.) The option to make the Wilson School site in Rosslyn a new, 1,300-seat middle school does not appear to have support on the Arlington County School Board.
Although no final decision will be made until December on Arlington’s plan to construct school facilities for 1,300 middle school seats by 2019, School Board Chair James Lander and School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez both said last night they are not in favor of an urban middle school location.
“I still look at middle school kids, 1,300 middle school kids needing more green space, more fields,” Violand-Sanchez. She also said that, despite the strong support for keeping the H-B Woodlawn program in its current home at the Stratford building, “alternative programs have been moved. I know that H-B Woodlawn is a very, very valuable program. It’s an outstanding school. However, sometimes we may have to be open to see if there’s options for movement.”
Lander echoed Violand-Sanchez’s comments, saying “It is still my preference that the [Wilson School] site is not one that would be my first option.”
School Board member Abby Raphael, however, said she believes “the Wilson School site is a viable option.” New School Board member Nancy Van Doren did not express an opinion on the issue at the School Board’s meeting last night.
The School Board will vote on Dec. 18 to determine which middle school plan they would move forward with:
- Building a 1,000-1,300-seat neighborhood school at the Wilson site
- Building an 800-seat secondary school at the Wilson site and expanding the Stratford building to 1,300 seats
- Building 1,300 seats in additions onto the Reed/Westover Library site and Stratford
- Building 1,000 seats in additions onto the Reed/Westover or Wilson sites and 300 seats onto an additional middle school
The vote will be cast before either Barbara Kanninen or Audrey Clement — running against each other for the vacant School Board seat — are sworn in in January.
One option that appears to no longer be on the table is constructing additions onto four existing middle schools. The plan, which was the least-preferred by Arlington Public Schools staff, was determined to be too expensive and complicated relative to the others.
Thirty-six speakers from the public spoke before the Board, many of whom were advocating for keeping H-B Woodlawn in its current location. One of those speakers was Elmer Lowe, the president of the Arlington chapter of the NAACP, who said if the School Board decided to make Stratford a neighborhood school site, it would be turning its back on the country’s racial history.
Making Stratford a neighborhood school “was added on very late in the process in response to intense pressure and lobbying from parents in the surrounding neighborhood,” Lowe said. “It should be noted that these neighborhoods are made up almost entirely of white, affluent families… Choosing the neighborhood school option, which means that the current diverse and high-achieving student body would be moved out and the new students coming in from the neighborhood. It would therefore approximate the segregated student body that existed before the former Stratford Junior high School (integrated) in 1959.”
Lowe, who received applause for his speech, was not directly addressed by School Board members, but Lander and Violand-Sanchez both mentioned preserving diversity in their comments.
“The diversity issue often comes up, and folks manipulate the conversation to strategically make a point, and sometimes I take offense to that because, Arlington, I sometimes say, is a great party with a huge cover charge,” Lander said. “The population in Arlington is what it is. The Board and the county does not control, nor should they penalize for, where people live. I want a diverse school system. There’s people who prioritize what’s most important for their child. And we all have that right.”
Photo courtesy Preservation Arlington
Va. ‘Fully Committed’ to Streetcar Funding — Despite budget cuts, the Commonwealth of Virginia is still “fully committed” to providing up to $65 million for the Columbia Pike streetcar project, according to the director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. [Washington Post]
Name Proposed for New Elementary School — “Discovery Elementary” is the name proposed by a steering committee for the new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus. The name will be formally presented to the school board on Thursday. [InsideNova]
Firefighters Endorse Vihstadt — The Arlington County firefighters and paramedics union has endorsed John Vihstadt for reelection in the race for Arlington County Board.
Candidate Forum Tonight — The Radnor Fort Myer Heights Civic Association will hold a forum with the candidates for Congress, County Board, Treasurer and School Board tonight at 7:00 p.m. [Ode Street Tribune]
Wardian Featured in Runners World — Prolific ultramarathon runner and Arlington resident Michael Wardian was the subject of a full-page spread in the latest Runners World magazine. Wardian, 40, holds the record for fastest marathon dressed as a superhero, fastest marathon with a stroller and fastest marathon on a treadmill. He was photographed on the Potomac Heritage Trail, where he regularly goes on morning runs with his puppy, Rosie. [PDF]
Candidates Question School Costs — School Board candidates Barbara Kanninen and Audrey Clement both said that there are ways to contain costs at Arlington Public Schools. Clement said the school system should consider increasing class sizes, while Kanninen said she was concerned about the cost of technology initiatives. [InsideNova]
GW’s Barcroft Park Field to Be Named – George Washington University will name the field its baseball team plays at Barcroft Park after a major donor. The field recently underwent a $3 million renovation. It will be named after Avram “Ave” Tucker, a former GW baseball player and the owner of a financial firm, who is making a $2 million donation to the school. The newly-christened “Tucker Field” will be dedicated in a ceremony Saturday morning. [George Washington University]
Orthopaedic Center to Open in Clarendon — The Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Center of Falls Church has announced that it has opened a second office, at 1307 N. Highland Street in Clarendon.
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Some parents of Barcroft Elementary School students are concerned about Arlington Public Schools’ plan to expand the school if a controversial plan to build a new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School falls through.
The School Board says it’s their preference to build a new school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson, at 125 S. Old Glebe Road. Amid protests from those who want to preserve the parkland next to the school, the School Board has appointed a working group to determine the feasibility of that plan. The group will present its findings to the School Board in January.
If the TJ site cannot be developed, APS’ backup plan is to expand Barcroft and Randolph elementary schools. Barcroft (625 S. Wakefield Street) is currently at a 460-seat capacity and the expansion would add 265 seats. Randolph (1306 S. Quincy Street) has a 484-seat capacity and would expand to seat 725 students.
While APS struggles to keep up with rising school enrollment, county and school officials have warned that there’s precious little open land left in Arlington to build new schools.
Some Barcroft parents, however, are crying foul over being targeted for expansion. They’re worried about the effect it would have on the surrounding community and how the school would be able to adjust to the influx of space and students.
“Barcroft has tireless, dedicated administrators and teachers, but they face serious challenges,” one parent, Sarah Freitas Waldman, told ARLnow.com in an email. “I feel the top issue is whether it is fair for the community and the students and whether it is responsible policy for APS to propose a plan that places the entire burden of South Arlington’s overcrowding on two small schools with ongoing issues of student performance.”
Barcroft’s performance on the state Standard of Learning exams has been dwindling in recent years, culminating in only 71 percent of students passing the English reading exam and 68 passing math, compared to the state average of 74 percent for each subject and the Arlington-wide average of 81 percent in reading and 83 percent in math. Randolph performed about the same as Barcroft, with 61 percent passing English reading and 70 percent passing in math.
“Barcroft consistently underperforms the County in terms of student achievement on the Virginia SOLs,” Waldman wrote. “Is it wise educational policy to expand a program by 50 percent when it is already struggling to meet the needs of its students?”
Waldman said parents were distributing flyers in the neighborhood this past weekend, including bilingual flyers, to notify residents and other parents of APS’ plans. APS facilities staff will be conducting a meeting tonight at 7:00 p.m. Barcroft to inform parents of the process to address the district’s capacity crisis. For those who can’t make it, there will be another meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 22.
Van Doren replaces Noah Simon on the Board and will serve her interim turn until the Nov. 4 general election. Van Doren is running unopposed for the seat in the election, and she will be sworn in for her full, four-year term after she wins. Simon resigned this summer to take care of his children after his wife died on Dec. 30, 2013.
Van Doren will fill one of two open seats on the Board. Former Board member Sally Baird also resigned this summer; Barbara Kanninen and Audrey Clement are running to replace her in the Nov. 4 election. Baird originally had announced she wouldn’t seek re-election but would serve out her current term, but changed course and resigned on Aug. 22.
“Nancy is a well-regarded civic leader who has supported the Arlington Public Schools for a decade,” School Board Chair James Lander said in a press release. “Nancy has been highly engaged and is well-informed about the many complexities associated with Arlington’s needs. She will make a tremendous addition to this Board.”
After the jump, the full release from Arlington Public Schools on Van Doren’s appointment: (more…)
APS Mulls Contract for School at TJ – The Arlington School Board tonight will consider a $4.7 million contract for architectural and engineering work on a proposed elementary school on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson Middle School. That’s despite well-organized neighborhood opposition to the school encroaching on Thomas Jefferson Park. [InsideNova]
Unreliable Mail Delivery in Douglas Park – Residents of Arlington’s Douglas Park neighborhood say their mail delivery has become considerably less reliable in the past year. Talk of missing mail, misdirected mail and delayed mail has reached a crescendo. The Postal Service says it’s investigating. [WJLA]
HOT Lanes Lawsuit Had ‘Unintended Consequences’ – Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze acknowledged at Tuesday’s debate that Arlington County might have erred in pursuing an aggressive lawsuit against proposed High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395. Howze said the suit “had unintended consequences with our relations with Richmond.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) Vying for a seat on the Arlington County Board, challenger Alan Howze and incumbent John Vihstadt made their cases for and against the big-ticket Columbia Pike streetcar and described other goals should they be elected November 4.
Speaking before the Arlington Civic Federation last night, Howze, a streetcar backer, repeated his call for a public referendum on the transportation option, calling it a huge economic opportunity for the county.
“When you look at the capacity and the economic development that will be driven by the streetcar versus the buses, it’s a smart investment to make,” he said. “We’re talking about passing on thousands of jobs in our community and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue that can go toward funding our schools and our social services.”
Howze suggested looking at renewable energy to power the streetcar. “If we can get into a long-term power purchasing agreement, it may actually not cost anything” beyond current energy rates, he said.
Vihstadt countered that the streetcar’s operating costs will have to be funded by bonds and tax dollars and that improved buses are a cheaper and more flexible option.
“The way to keep taxes under control in this county is not to spend so much,” he said. “People want to get from point A to point B in the fastest amount of time, in reasonable comfort and at a good price. The bus is the way to do that.”
Vihstadt said he is not a “single-issue candidate” and stated he would focus on creating affordable housing if elected.
“We want an Arlington that’s welcoming, that’s diverse and that’s affordable to everybody and it’s just really a question of how we’re going to do that — whether it’s through additional committed affordable units or additional housing grants or a special program for workforce housing, I am completely open to that,” he said.
Howze said he was also committed to making affordable housing a priority.
Vihstadt touted his successes thus far in bringing “balance and accountability” to the Board and reminded audience members that he won their vote in April. Vihstadt, a Republican who ran as an independent, won the special election in April to replace Chris Zimmerman (D) on the board. He captured 57 percent of the vote, to Democrat Howze’s 41 percent.
“Since I’ve been on the Board, we have lowered the property tax rate for the first time in nine years, freed up more bonding authority for more new schools and additions to address our capacity crisis, and we’ve directed the County Manager to examine staffing levels for our fire and police,” Vihstadt’s opening statement said.
In his opening statement, Howze criticized Vihstadt’s work on the board thus far.
“He put politics ahead of the needs of our community when he voted this summer against funding for school construction, Metro and parks in the Capital Improvement Plan, just to make a political point,” the statement said. “But political obstruction won’t build schools for our children or secure a more prosperous future.”
Also participating in the Civic Federation candidate forum were the three candidates running for two open Arlington School Board seats. Nancy Van Doren, who is running unopposed, addressed the capacity crowd at Virginia Hospital Center’s Hazel conference center, as did Nov. 4 opponents Barbara Kanninen and Audrey Clement.
Nancy Van Doren, who’s running unopposed to replace Noah Simon on the Board, is being considered for the appointment.
The three remaining members of the Board — Chair James Lander, Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez and Abby Raphael — have approved a process by which Van Doren could be appointed at a special meeting on Friday, Sept. 12 at 8:00 a.m.
“The interim appointment will help to ensure fair and responsive leadership to represent the citizens of Arlington County and to make certain that decisions made during this period of transition reflect support by at least three members of the five-member body,” Arlington Public Schools said in a press release.
Simon resigned from the School Board earlier this summer. Sally Baird, who had already decided not to run for re-election, officially resigned from the Board last week, prompting the remaining three members to consider an interim appointment.
Residents will have a chance to voice their opinions on the appointment during a public hearing at the School Board’s regular meeting on Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
“The public hearing will provide an opportunity for citizens to comment on whether Nancy Van Doren… or any other potential candidate(s), should be appointed,” APS said.
Baird’s seat will remain vacant until the Nov. 4 election, which includes two competing School Board candidates: Democrat Barbara Kanninen and Audrey Clement, who’s affiliated with the Green Party. In May, Van Doren finished second to Kanninen in the Democratic endorsement caucus for that race. After Simon announced his resignation, however, Van Doren was the only candidate to step forward.
Van Doren is a mother of four and an Arlington Public Schools volunteer.
School Board member Sally Baird has resigned, effective Aug. 22, after previously announcing she wouldn’t seek re-election.
Baird is the second School Board member to resign this summer, following Noah Simon’s resignation on Aug. 1. That leaves the School Board with just three members: Chair James Lander, Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez and Abby Raphael.
There will be no special election to replace Baird, since the election to fill her seat is already on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. Barbara Kanninen and Audrey Clement are running to fill her seat, while Nancy Van Doren is running unopposed to fill Simon’s seat.
“Commitments in both my personal and professional life have put increasing pressure on my time since the beginning of 2014,” Baird said in a press release announcing her decision. “I have worked to balance these commitments, trying to ensure that I dedicate the amount of time to my School Board duties which I truly believe a member must commit in order to perform this role effectively. This is the manner which our Arlington voters are fair to expect. But the time has come that I can no longer do that without great cost to my family.”
Baird was originally elected in 2006 and won re-election in 2010. She has two sons, who are students at Drew Model School and Gunston Middle School, according to her Arlington Public Schools bio.
Lander has yet to decide whether an appointment will be made to bring the Board back up to four members. If he does, APS said it’s possible that Van Doren will be chosen as appointee, since she is the only candidate to have filed.
“We have received Ms. Baird’s resignation with sincere regret,” Lander said in the release. “All of us on the School Board are thankful and appreciative of Sally’s eight years of leadership and dedication as a Board member. She has worked diligently to ensure that Arlington Public Schools provides high quality educational opportunities for all of our students. On behalf of all of the School Board members, I want to thank her for her dedication and service and we wish her well in all of her future endeavors.”
“To ensure that decisions by the Arlington School Board continue to be representative of the community,” Lander continued, “our goal is to see that those decisions made by the Board during this period of transition reflect support by at least three members of the five-member body.”