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by Ethan Rothstein — May 19, 2014 at 11:00 am 1,159 0

Barbara Kanninen votes for herself in the 2014 School Board Democratic caucus (Flickr pool photo by wolfkann)(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Barbara Kanninen won the Democratic endorsement for the Arlington School Board this weekend, a narrow victory in the caucus over Nancy Van Doren and Greg Greeley.

Kanninen, who narrowly lost to School Board member James Lander in last year’s Democratic endorsement caucus, defeated Nancy Van Doren by a similar margin this year, with 1,812 votes to Van Doren’s 1,794. Before an instant runoff was conducted, and Greeley’s votes were distributed to voters’ “second choice” candidates, the margin was a bit wider: Kanninen received 1,549 votes, Van Doren 1,329 and Greeley received 839.

Kanninen campaigned for reduced standardized testing among Arlington Public Schools students and said she was “uncomfortable” when Arlington was announced as the top-spending school system in the state. She also said that one way to solve APS’ growing capacity issue was flexible spending during a debate among the three candidates last month.

Kanninen, an economist and children’s book author, said through working on advisory boards for both the School Board and County Board over the years, as well as with children in Arlington and D.C., she has the experience needed to be a productive Board member.

“Our schools are important to all of us, whether we are parents, teachers, homeowners, or citizens who want to live in a community that values education,” she wrote in her candidate essay for ARLnow.com this month. “Collectively, we have the energy, the brains, and the will to do great things for our kids and our community.”

Kanninen told ARLnow.com in an email Monday afternoon that she enjoyed “the many lively and informative discussions” she’s had with the community during what she called “a vigorous campaign that highlighted Arlingtonians’ deep commitment to making our schools the best they can be.”

Van Doren announced after the caucus results were counted that she would be throwing her support behind Kanninen for the general election in November, for which Kanninen now becomes the odds-on favorite. She will run to fill the seat left vacant by retiring School Board member Sally Baird.

“I wholeheartedly support Barbara in the upcoming general election as she faces the challenges in our school system,” Van Doren said in a press release. “Our community needs to work together to face the challenge of continuing to improve educational outcomes while working with the county to find space for our growing student population.”

Greeley, in an email to ARLnow.com, also congratulated Kanninen, saying the campaign was a chance to have “a great discussion about the future of our schools.”

“Barbara ran a strong campaign,” Greeley wrote. “She had the experience and organization from her campaign last year. Last year’s campaign also provided a degree of name recognition that ultimately proved decisive this year. I look forward to working with her to address the important issues our school system faces, most notably our looming capacity crisis.”

Flickr pool photo by wolfkann

by ARLnow.com — May 14, 2014 at 3:30 pm 966 0

Greg Greeley in the 4/22/14 School Board debateLast week we asked the three Arlington School Board candidates who are seeking the Democratic endorsement to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the endorsement caucus on May 15 and 17.

Here is the unedited response from Greg Greeley:

Over coffees and breakfasts, and outside the more than 1,000 doors I’ve knocked on since December, I’ve had great conversations about how to make our good schools even better.  It’s been a chance to listen and learn and to share my own vision for our schools.

I’m so grateful to have earned the support of Sally Baird, Karen Darner, Ingrid Morroy, Patrick Hope, Adam Ebbin and so many other community leaders.  The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Past PTA Presidents from across Arlington have endorsed me, as have even the Wakefield High School Young Democrats.  Now I’m asking you for your support.  I hope you will agree that I am the best choice to serve on the Arlington School Board right now.

Why should you vote for me?  Here are four reasons:

I’m the only candidate who lives in South Arlington.  A 27-year resident of Columbia Pike, my son attended Randolph Elementary School, a Title 1 school that has struggled to meet the needs of its diverse learners.  There I worked closely with families, staff, school administration, and neighbors to build a stronger neighborhood school.  My son now attends Jefferson Middle School and will attend Wakefield High School.  With a perspective shaped by my experience in South Arlington schools, I will bring a critical balance to the School Board.   I will work to meet the needs of all school communities.

I’m the only candidate working on our school system’s crowding problem.  As a member of the Arlington Public Schools (APS) Facilities Advisory Council (FAC) and chair of its Projections and Capacity Subcommittee, I have been immersed in the most critical issue facing our school system–our capacity crisis.  Over 7,000 additional students will enter APS in the next decade.  I am already working to ensure that APS provides sufficient resources to meet the needs of all our children in the best way possible.  I am also working to ensure that our solutions are constructive and positive, serving the needs of all students.  The School Board named me an “Honored Citizen” for my service to our public schools on this important issue.

I am the only candidate with more than 25 years of professional leadership experience.  An Air Force veteran and business professional, I have managed budgets and staff and know how to address our community’s needs in fiscally responsible ways.  Working with the County Board (which funds our schools), I will guarantee that we plan smartly, use our resources wisely, and ensure our school system’s current and future needs are met.

Finally, I am the only candidate who is the parent of an English language learner.  As a foster parent and the parent of an English language learner who is now a Dream Project scholar, I know we can do better for our kids with special needs.  We must serve all of our children with special needs, be they students with language and ability needs or students with gifted needs.  I will work to ensure that all of our learners with special needs get the early intervention and consistent, effective support they need to succeed in school and in life.

To learn more, please visit my campaign web site at www.gregreeley.com.  Thank you for your support on May 15th or 17th!

by ARLnow.com — May 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm 736 0

School Board candidate Barbara KanninenLast week we asked the three Arlington School Board candidates who are seeking the Democratic endorsement to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the endorsement caucus on May 15 and 17.

Here is the unedited response from Barbara Kanninen:

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.

We’re facing complicated issues that span many dimensions–from budgeting and meeting capacity needs to optimizing classroom instruction–and I bring an equally expansive set of experiences to the table. I have volunteered in schools and worked with children in Arlington and DC for over 20 years.

I have served on School Board and County Board advisory committees, and I’m a professional economist, children’s book author, and long-time Democratic activist. These experiences have given me a deep familiarity with data analysis, hundreds of hours with kids and teachers in classrooms, and a history of working at the community level on grassroots organizing and engagement.

Here are my priorities for our schools:

  • Promote critical thinking over standardized testingI believe our kids spend too much time in class prepping for and taking tests, and teachers have told me they feel this way too. 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 and constructive community engagement. 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. We need to work closely with citizens and the County Board to bring a whole-community mindset to the issue, and we must maintain flexibility so that we can adapt, over time, to our changing population and needs.
  • Give teachers the support they deserveTo 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 mentorsAn 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, exactly as they are.
  • 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.

Our schools are important to all of us, whether we are parents, teachers, homeowners, or citizens who want to live in a community that values education. 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.

You can vote on either Thursday, May 15th from 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. at Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street South) or Saturday, May 17th from 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Washington-Lee High School (1301 North Stafford Street).

by ARLnow.com — May 14, 2014 at 2:30 pm 694 0

Nancy Van Doren in the 4/22/14 School Board debateLast week we asked the three Arlington School Board candidates who are seeking the Democratic endorsement to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the endorsement caucus on May 15 and 17.

Here is the unedited response from Nancy Van Doren:

Arlington Public Schools are at a critical juncture: We must continue to improve educational outcomes for all our students while also finding space for over 700 new students each year. This challenge requires a leader who has a deep understanding of our students and schools. I am that leader. I ask for your support and vote on May 15 and 17 at the Democratic School Board endorsement caucus.

For the last decade I have dedicated myself to working with scores of parents, students, and teachers across Arlington to ensure APS is responsive to individual student needs. I am the only candidate with such extensive experience at the operational level in our schools. I am also the only candidate with hands-on experience at the school and system level in multiple areas, including facilities improvement, transportation, instruction, special education, family engagement and diversity. I am also fluent in Spanish and helped to found the Arlington Latino Network. This experience and knowledge is essential to ensure student, parent and teacher voices are heard at the Board table while critical decisions are made related to facilities and student achievement.

I work collaboratively and build coalitions to fix problems and find solutions. This track record of “getting the job done” is my hallmark. For example, as Jefferson Middle School PTA President, I worked with civic associations, feeder schools, parents, and staff to get Jefferson and its playing fields renovated cost-effectively; I also ensured families from all backgrounds were supported and welcomed in school. I lead the effort and successfully secured Jefferson’s designation as a County-wide school, which enables students from across Arlington to attend the school and receive bus service.

When APS disrupted its transportation system, I stepped up, served on the Multi-Modal Transportation Committee, and worked to issue recommendations to get students safely to school. I lead the successful effort to obtain school bus service to dozens of students along the Columbia Pike Corridor attending Kenmore and Jefferson Middle Schools.

As Chair of the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee, I spearheaded an effort to have special needs services evaluated, resulting in a blueprint for improved services and instruction. I also created support groups for families and advocated on their behalf, ensuring students got what they needed to succeed in school.
These concrete accomplishments in leadership positions over the past ten years at the school and county level set me apart from the other candidates.

I am education advocate with extensive business and international experience. I spent 12 years in the private sector with Connecticut National Bank, The Travelers Companies, The Hartford Courant and Newsday. I am fluent in Spanish and lived in Nicaragua and Spain. I spent eight years overseas with my husband Jack Zetkulic, a Foreign Service Officer, and my family living in Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland. For the last decade, my family and I have lived in Ashton Heights and my children attend Jefferson Middle School and W-L High School). I served on and/or Chaired the following Committees in APS: Multi-Modal Student Safety Special Services Committee, Arlington Career Center Parent Advisory Committee, Family and Community Engagement Working Group, Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee, ADHD Task Force, Advisory Council on Instruction, County Council of PTAs, Jefferson Middle School PTA President, Washington-Lee Crew Boosters and Fundraising, Arlington Latino Network (Founding Member), ArlingtonADHD and ArlingtonReading Parent Support Groups (Founder).

To read more about my candidacy, please visit my website www.nancyvandoren.org. I can also be found on Facebook at Nancy Van Doren for School Board.

by ARLnow.com — May 13, 2014 at 9:10 am 1,312 0

View of Four Mile Run near Carlin Springs Road

Two Drop Out of Congressional Race — Del. Charniele Herring and entrepreneur Satish Korpe have dropped out of the race to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) in Congress. There are now eight candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the June 10 primary. [Washington Post]

Bike ‘Fix-It’ Stands Being Installed in Arlington — Arlington County has been installing stations where bicyclists can change a flat tire, add air, or adjust brakes and derailleurs free of charge. The stands have been installed in Clarendon and Ballston and one is coming soon to Pentagon City. [Greater Greater Washington]

School Officials Worry About Debt Ceiling — Arlington’s student body is growing by 700 students per year, but Arlington Public Schools is in danger of hitting its legal debt ceiling as it continues to build more schools and school additions to keep up with rising enrollment. Going forward, at least one School Board member is publicly hoping for more money from the county government. [InsideNova]

GMU Students Make Transportation Recommendations – In an 80 page report, graduate students from George Mason University’s School of Public Policy say that Arlington County should continue investing in transportation in order to “stay ahead of the curve.” Arlington, the students say, should “follow more of the international urban-planning trends rather than just those that are happening in other U.S. cities.” [Mobility Lab]

Fourth Grader Makes Case for Libraries — In a hand-written letter to Arlington library staff, an Arlington Traditional School fourth grader by the name of Lillian said she loves books and libraries. Despite talk of younger generations only being interested in iPads, smartphones and other electronics — instead of old-fashioned print — Lillian says she “can’t even list” all the reasons why she likes Arlington Central Library. [Arlington Public Library]

by ARLnow.com — May 9, 2014 at 9:45 am 2,599 0

Rosslyn skyline from the Roosevelt Bridge (Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen)

Reporter Embeds with Clarendon Bar Crawl — Reporter Dan Zak embedded himself with revelers participating in the Cinco de MEGA-Crawl over the weekend. He found plenty of loud, opinionated young people — one of whom compared Clarendon to Brooklyn — but he apparently did not find any public urination, vomiting or destruction of property worth noting. [Washington Post]

Parents Rip Board on Autism Program Cut — Parents of children with autism swarmed the Arlington School Board’s budget meeting, angry with a proposed $270,000 cut to a program that provides assistants for autistic students and their teachers. [InsideNova, Fox 5]

Bracket Room Facing Backlash? — A backlash seems to be forming against so-called “female-friendly” restaurants. Some women say the designation is insulting. One such restaurant mentioned in an article about the backlash: Clarendon’s the Bracket Room, which has billed itself as a female-friendly sports bar. [The Week]

Preservation Arlington Mourns 2013 Losses — The group Preservation Arlington is lamenting the loss of 179 single-family homes lost in Arlington in 2013. The group is also marking the loss or impending loss of the Blue Goose building; part of the Arlington House Woods and Arlington National Cemetery’s Seneca sandstone perimeter wall; and a number of garden apartment buildings. [Preservation Arlington]

Ft. Myer Road Closed – Cyclists who bike on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall may be impacted by a road closure on the base. McNair Road is closed from Lee Avenue to Marshall Drive due to “road damage.” The closure is expected to be in place until Monday. [Facebook]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen

by ARLnow.com — May 6, 2014 at 2:05 pm 1,522 0

The capacity crunch at Arlington Public Schools and the need for establishing better coordination with county officials were two of the major topics addressed by the three candidates for School Board at a forum last month.

The candidates who are seeking the Democratic School Board endorsement — Barbara Kanninen, Nancy Van Doren and Greg Greeley — politely agreed on many topics, including the urgency of the school system’s overcrowding issues, but some differences did emerge during the two-hour forum at the Arlington Mill Community Center on Columbia Pike.

Kanninen, for instance, was outspoken in her belief that there’s too much emphasis on standardized testing in Arlington Public Schools. She said students shouldn’t be spending an entire week of instructional time preparing for Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests.

“I believe every child in Arlington deserves a bright future,” she said. “They are more than their test scores… we should de-emphasize test prep.”

Greeley agreed, to an extent, saying that he believes the tests are not “an accurate reflection” of many students’ skills and abilities.

“It’s pretty clear that the pendulum for standardized testing has swung too far,” he said.

Van Doren emphasized her volunteer work for students with special needs, including six years on APS’ Special Education Advisory Committee. She said the school system is doing a better job serving students with special needs, but more must be done. Greeley echoed that sentiment.

“If there’s any area where we as a school system must improve, it’s how we treat our students with special needs,” he said.

Asked about the rising per pupil cost at Arlington Public Schools — it will rise past $19,000 next school year, the highest of any school system in the region — Van Doren said most of APS’ costs go to teacher salaries.

“I just don’t see how we’re going to be able to cut that,” she said.

Kanninen said she was “uncomfortable” when it was announced that Arlington was the top-spending school system. She said she believes that it’s possible to cut “hidden” costs in the budget, and that savings can be found by reducing technology and test preparation spending. With the current budget, Kanninen argued, there’s no excuse for poor performance in any Arlington schools.

“We’re funding our school system at a level where we should be the best,” she said. Kanninen, Van Doren and Greeley all expressed concern about student performance issues that have come to light at Drew Model Elementary.

Greeley had some strong words about APS’ allegedly top-down approach to community communication. He said that school staff is told not to attend community forum and discouraged to communicate with the public outside of official channels.

“The notion that we don’t want staff to talk to the community is part of the broader philosophical issue that we need to address,” he said.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — April 28, 2014 at 9:45 am 1,734 0

Tree in bloom near Four Mile Run

Death Sentence Recommended for Torrez — A federal jury on Thursday recommended that former Marine Jorge Torrez be put to death for the 2009 murder of Navy Petty Officer Amanda Jean Snell on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. A judge is scheduled to formally sentence Torrez on May 30. [Washington Post]

Van Doren Picks Up Endorsements — Arlington School Board candidate Nancy Van Doren announced over the weekend that she has picked up the endorsements of the Arlington Education Association PAC, which represents Arlington teachers, and of current School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez.

Republicans Pick Congressional Nominee — Marine Corps veteran and former congressional staffer Micah Edmund has captured the GOP nomination for congress in the race to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D). Edmund won 51 percent of the vote in a party convention held Saturday at Bishop O’Connell High School. [InsideNoVa]

Autistic Boy Punished at Randolph Elementary — The mother of a 7-year-old Randolph Elementary student is crying foul after a teacher moved his desk as punishment for bad behavior. The boy has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and his mom is trying to get him transferred to a different elementary school. [WUSA 9]

Wardian Wins Big Sur Marathon — Six days after his impressive Boston Marathon performance, elite distance runner and Arlington resident Michael Wardian has won the Big Sur International Marathon with a time of 2:27:45. Wardian’s time set a record for the 40-and-over age group in the Big Sur marathon and he also set a record for best combined time in the Boston and Big Sur marathons, with 4:51:17. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]

Problems for Potomac Yard Metro — The location of a future Potomac Yard Metro station is in doubt after the National Park Service raised concerns about the station’s visibility from the George Washington Parkway. Changes to the station’s location are expected to cost more than $50 million and delay the project by three years. [WAMU]

Route 50 Courthouse Interchange Update — Several long-term closures associated with the Route 50 Courthouse interchange project have been lifted. Among the routes that have reopened by VDOT are: 10th Street to eastbound Route 50, and Courthouse Road and N. Fairfax Drive to westbound Route 50.

by ARLnow.com — March 21, 2014 at 9:05 am 3,045 0

Inside Ben's Chili Bowl (Flickr pool photo by Christaki)

School Board Nixes Controversial Proposed Cuts — The Arlington School Board on Thursday took three key cuts proposed by superintendent Patrick Murphy off the table. The nixed proposals are: combining the Langston-Brown High School Continuation Program with Arlington Mill High School, reducing day classes offered to students over the age of 22, and eliminating elementary school library aides. The cuts would have saved at least $2.7 million. The Board is also “asking for more information about” a proposal that would outfit every second and sixth grader with an iPad or Chromebook at a reported annual cost of $200,000. [InsideNoVa]

WHS Video for Happiness Day — The Wakefield Asian Club at Wakefield High School created a musical video from Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” in honor of International Day of Happiness on Thursday. [YouTube]

Girl Scout Troop Orders Too Many Cookies — A new Girl Scout troop from Arlington’s Nottingham Elementary School misread an order form and accidentally ordered 12 times as many cases of Girl Scout cookies to sell as intended. Luckily, other local Girl Scout troops rallied and helped the troop sell the 1,440 excess boxes of Samoas, Tagalongs, Do-si-dos, etc. [Washington Post]

Bennington Apartments Sell for $101.1 Million — The Bennington apartment building at 1201 S. Eads Street in Pentagon City has traded hands for $101.1 million. The 348-unit building was purchased by New York-based Pantzer Properties, which plans to rebrand the building as “The Point at Pentagon City.” [Washington Business Journal]

SPRC to Meet on Key Blvd Apartment Plan — The county’s Site Plan Review Committee will meet Monday to discuss a plan to demolish and redevelop the Key Boulevard Apartments near Rosslyn. The group Preservation Arlington has expressed concern about the proposal. “Built in 1943, Key Boulevard Apartments are a nearly perfect garden apartment complex with all the right details and scaling,” the group wrote on its blog. [Preservation Arlington]

Road Closures for Nottingham 5K – Several streets will be closed Saturday morning for the Nottingham Elementary 5K race. The closures will be in place on parts of Williamsburg Blvd, Little Falls Road and N. Ohio Street from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Christaki

by ARLnow.com — March 10, 2014 at 9:00 am 1,758 0

Winter Sunrise by BrianMKA

Wakefield Falls in Semifinals — The Wakefield High School boys basketball team lost in the 5A state tournament semifinals Saturday. Wakefield lost to Henrico 63-55, ending their season. [Sun Gazette]

Contract Loss Could Cost 165 Jobs in Arlington — Some 165 Lockheed Martin employees in Arlington are set to lose their jobs after the company lost a contract with the U.S. Army for information technology work. The contract was instead awarded to General Dynamics. [Washington Business Journal]

Construction Contract Awarded for New School – The Arlington School Board voted last week to award a $32.3 million contract for the construction of a new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus. The school “is anticipated to be the first Net Zero Energy School on the East Coast,” thanks to a large solar array on the roof. With design, contingencies and “soft costs” factored in, the total cost of the school is projected at $43.8 million, down from the original $46.5 million cost estimate. [Arlington Public Schools]

W-L Falls to Yorktown in Shootout — Yorktown high school hockey club defeated Washington-Lee 3-2 in a four-round shootout Saturday night at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston. It was the last game of the season for both teams.

Big Lines for Car Washes — With spring-like temperatures on Saturday came spring-like lines at local car washes. Motorists lined up to get the salt residue and winter grime washed off their cars. The line for Mr. Wash on N. Glebe Road extended all the way to Route 50 at one point. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA

by ARLnow.com — March 5, 2014 at 9:00 am 1,352 0

Dedicated cyclists riding in the snow (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Walter Reed Drive Water Main Break — Drivers should expect traffic impacts and slippery conditions when driving on Walter Reed Drive in the area of S. Pollard Street, between S. Glebe Road and Four Mile Run Drive. The water from a 16-inch water main break has frozen and the southbound lanes of Walter Reed Drive are reportedly blocked. [Twitter]

School Board Candidates Critical of Budget Proposal — The three candidates running for the Democratic endorsement in the Arlington School Board race have qualms with Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s proposed $539.4 million budget. Specifically, the candidates were concerned about Murphy’s proposed cuts to diploma programs for students over the age of 22. [Sun Gazette]

Opower Prepares for IPOCourthouse-based energy efficiency tech firm Opower is preparing for a $100 million Initial Public Offering. The company, which has been losing millions every year as it focuses on growth, will go public under the New York Stock Exchange OPWR. [InTheCapital]

Registration Open for Phoenix Derby — Registration is now open for the inaugural Phoenix Derby. The urban cyclocross bicycle race will be held on May 17 in a Crystal City parking garage. The event will benefit local bike education nonprofit Phoenix Bikes, which is in the process of raising funds for construction of a new headquarters along the W&OD Trail. [Crystal City]

Peak Bloom Date Predicted – The National Park Service revealed its cherry blossom peak bloom prediction yesterday. The famous blossoms are expected to be at their peak from April 8-12. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

by Peter Rousselot — February 27, 2014 at 1:45 pm 1,658 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotThe proposed FY 2015 Arlington County Budget continues the Arlington County Board’s pattern of providing too small a share of our tax dollars to Arlington Public Schools (APS).

Background

While school enrollment is projected to continue to surge, and while educational challenges are continuing to rise, APS’ share of the tax revenue we provide to the County was shrinking even prior to the latest County-proposed budget:

“The share of revenue that APS has received from the County has declined in recent years, from 46.1 percent in FY 2011 and FY 2012 to 45.6 percent in FY 2014,” School Board Chair Abby Raphael wrote in an open letter to County Board Chair Jay Fisette.

The FY 2015 Budget

Despite repeated pleas last fall from parents to the County Board to rectify this inequity — pleas that were rudely and inappropriately criticized by some County Board members — the latest proposed County budget fails to rectify the inequity. It still proposes the 45.6 percent shrunken share.

On Feb. 21, the School Board once again requested that the share be restored to 46.1 percent.  If granted, this increase would produce an additional $4.8 million in revenue in FY2015.

Why is the County Board continuing to shortchange our public schools?

Why have we gotten to the point where the School Board feels compelled to write a public letter to the County Board asking the County Board to restore APS’ historic share of the tax dollars we pay? Why do some members of the County Board tell members of the taxpaying public (who fund our government 24/7/365) that there are only certain months each year when the public can ask the County Board for more resources for our schools?

If anything, the School Board was too deferential when its Chair noted in her letter that “the School Board understands that the County Board has many priorities to balance in meeting the needs of our residents.” The persistent problem the School Board faces is that the County Board has the wrong priorities.

The County Board’s priorities are wrong because the County Board is:

  • committing our money to vanity projects like an unnecessary $310+ million Columbia Pike streetcar, a gold-plated $80+ million Aquatics Center, and an extravagant $1.7 million Clarendon dog park;
  • pouring our money into tax increment financing schemes (TIF). Under TIF, increased revenues amounting to millions of dollars are no longer available to fund any other services such as schools;
  • failing to give first priority to using our money to fund core services like schools.

In these times of surging enrollment and new instructional challenges, APS deserves an even higher share of our money than the School Board seeks in its Feb. 21 letter. 

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Ethan Rothstein — February 6, 2014 at 4:30 pm 412 0

School board member Sally Baird at the Civic Federation candidates forumOutgoing Arlington School Board member Sally Baird has endorsed Greg Greeley to fill her seat after she retires.

Greeley is one of three candidates, along with Barbara Kanninen and Nancy Van Doren, vying for the Democratic nomination. The Democrats’ endorsement caucus will be held on May 15 at Drew Model School and May 17 at Washington-Lee High School.

“Greg offers a needed balance to the Arlington School Board,” Baird said in a press release. “He has the depth, temperament, and experience to be a key leader on the Board as it addresses our looming capacity crisis. And I know he values — in fact, he lives – our community’s diversity. He will work to improve our school system for all of Arlington’s children.”

School Board candidate Greg GreeleyBaird joins state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) and Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) in endorsing Greeley. Baird announced her endorsement at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s February meeting, where she introduced him.

If elected, Greeley, a resident of Douglas Park with one adopted child enrolled in Arlington Public Schools, would become the first openly gay man on the Arlington School Board, and he would be replacing the first out lesbian elected official in Virginia history in Baird.

by Ethan Rothstein — February 6, 2014 at 3:30 pm 1,580 0

South Arlington parents protesting School Board capacity plansMore than 500 parents and residents have signed a petition asking the School Board to hold to its plans of building a new elementary school in South Arlington.

School Board Chair Abby Raphael sent a letter to community members last month notifying them that the Board was considering diverting $4.5 million in design funds — slated for a new elementary school next to Kenmore Middle School in Glencarlyn — to relieving middle school overcrowding in North Arlington.

The elementary school was originally supposed to open in Glencarlyn in 2017. The plans are not the only changes Arlington Public Schools facilities could be due for when the Capital Improvements Plan for 2015-2024 is adopted in June — a move or expansion for H-B Woodlawn is also on the table.

The list of options for the CIP won’t be narrowed until April or May after a long community involvement period, according to APS.

The $4.5 million was part of a bond Arlington voters approved by referendum in 2012. Glencarlyn neighbors protested the location of the school at the time, claiming the added traffic would be a hazard for the neighborhood. Raphael references their objections in her letter as a reason to reconsider the school.

Below is the Change.org petition, which has garnered 555 signatures as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday:

… we ask that you remain true to the original intention of the 2012 School Bond by moving forward with the design (and later construction) of a new South Arlington elementary school.

As busy residents of Arlington County and/or parents of young APS students, we may not have the ability to attend every… CIP stakeholder meeting — e.g. the Community Forum on Feb. 5th at Washington-Lee High School; however, we remain concerned citizens who want to ensure that our voices are heard on this issue. We voted for the 2012 School Bond based on a specific plan laid-out in the bond’s FAQ sheet (http://www.apsva.us/CIP), and we want to ensure that APS and its School Board follow-through on their original intention to alleviate imminent elementary school overcrowding south of Arlington Blvd., rather than re-directing those bond funds toward the design (and later construction) of a new North Arlington middle school.

Thank you!

Photo via Change.org

by Ethan Rothstein — February 4, 2014 at 4:05 pm 3,917 0

H-B Woodlawn (via Google Maps)(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Relocating H-B Woodlawn and building a new middle school next to Washington-Lee High School are some of the preliminary options on the table for the Arlington School Board to address overcrowding.

Last week, the School Board held a work session to determine the basis on which it will make its decisions when it develops a new Capital Improvement Plan this spring. APS, which has been busy planning and building new elementary schools and school additions to address overcrowding in primary schools, is now shifting its construction planning focus to middle schools.

APS facilities staff presented eight options for increasing elementary school capacity, seven options for increasing middle school capacity, two options for relocating or adding on to the H-B Woodlawn secondary program’s facility in the former Stratford Junior High School, and three other options for high school capacity.

The proposed changes to H-B Woodlawn are already drawing some concern from parents and students. The Board will weigh whether to build an addition to the facility and expand the program or move the H-B Woodlawn program to a leased space and build an addition to create a 1,200-seat middle school in the current facility.

“This is terrible,” said one apparent former student, via Facebook. “I hope the school board sees sense and doesn’t institute either of these ‘ideas.’”

Another capacity-increasing idea being considered is building a 1,200-seat middle school on the site of the Arlington Public Schools administrative offices next to Washington-Lee High School.

APS spokeswoman Linda Erdos was careful to note that these “options” are very preliminary, and are being floated for the purpose of further community discussion.

“Yes, a lot of options have been thrown out by staff and community members… but there is no plan at this point,” she said. “We’re hoping that more options become available. We need to work with the community to determine what will be the next best step.”

The School Board will vote on its CIP in June, but before then it needs to finish or update feasibility studies on the 20 possibilities. Nine of the options already have completed studies, and Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations John Chadwick said they were “all feasible to some degree.”

“The School Board has made it clear it wishes to address the areas of most critical need for new seats within APS’ available debt capacity,” Chadwick told ARLnow.com.

The School Board listed capacity planning, alignment with APS’ Strategic Plan, feasibility and smart growth as criteria for its decision. Chadwick said ranking the options won’t happen until April or May after an extensive community outreach process.

There is a community forum to discuss the issue scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) in the Washington-Lee High School auditorium.

Photo via Google Maps

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