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.
Earlier this year, when Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy unveiled his proposed schools budget, he coined a new phrase to describe school expenditures which he was NOT proposing. He called them “unfunded investments”. George Orwell would have tingled with admiration.
Among Dr. Murphy’s unfunded investments was any money to start foreign language instruction at any Arlington elementary school that is not already offering such instruction. Acknowledging the inequity of the current situation in which some elementary schools offer this instruction while others do not, Dr. Murphy polished his Orwellian credentials by calling these unfunded foreign language programs “lighthouses to places we need to be going”.
Let’s acknowledge right up front that in a schools budget currently exceeding $500,000,000, there are areas in which savings could be achieved and should be achieved. Let’s also accept Dr. Murphy’s estimate that it currently costs about $450,000 per school to add a foreign language program to each of the nine elementary schools that currently lack one. In Arlington’s current budget environment, the best that could be hoped for is that this instruction could be phased in over several years. There is no sign, however, that any such gradual phasing is actually going to occur.
Parents at Tuckahoe Elementary are mounting a last ditch petition drive to ask the County Board to provide such a program in their school. In their petition, the Tuckahoe parents state:
“Tuckahoe students are being denied the important educational opportunity of learning a second language at an early age. 13 out of 22 Arlington elementary schools have this opportunity, including nearby schools such as McKinley, Jamestown, Ashlawn, and Glebe.”
These Tuckahoe parents may not succeed this year, but by taking their case directly to the County Board they have found the right target. It is the misplaced spending priorities of the County Board, not those of the School Board, that are primarily responsible for the unfair and inequitable situation in which these Tuckahoe parents now find themselves.
As I wrote last week, excessive and extravagant spending by the County Board on projects like the Artisphere, the Aquatic Center, the Clarendon dog park, and the Columbia Pike streetcar are directly impacting the ability of Superintendent Patrick Murphy to honor promises to the schools’ community to expand elementary foreign language instruction.
The County Board has dropped a black curtain over the beacon that might otherwise shine from Dr. Murphy’s lighthouse.
Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) Students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School (STM) are taking part in what has been dubbed “Mission Possible.” It’s a rare opportunity build a satellite and launch it into orbit.
According to an article published this week by Satnews.com, students will get assistance from a NASA Mission Manager in building a CubeSat, which is a miniature satellite used for space research. The satellite will collect data to be used for school research in math and science.
STM computer teacher Melissa Pore is helping to manage the project. She said yesterday was the official kick off and construction should begin in about two weeks.
“The really unique part about it is making the projects tie in to what’s already expected in the classroom, and giving that real world simulation for the kids,” Pore said. “Every student will have a part and will touch a piece of the hardware, whether they’re screwing in a bolt or putting together an onboard camera, they will all have a part.”
One of the things the satellite is expected to do is to take wide angle photos of small asteroids, of Earth and of St. Thomas More Cathedral School.
More than 60 high schools and universities participate in the CubeSat program, but STM would be the country’s first Pre-K through 8th grade elementary school to participate. The goal is to launch the CubeSat in late 2014.
STM received a donation of $10,000 to assist with the satellite launch from ATK Space Systems. The school has also received equipment such as solar panels and cameras from space industry donors. Anyone interested in donating additional resources or time to the project should contact Melissa Pore at email@example.com.
CubeSat photo via Wikipedia
(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, Rep. Jim Moran (D) spent the morning reading to first graders at Barcroft Elementary School and talking with them about autism.
After meeting with some students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Moran read the first graders a story about everyone being different and how everyone’s differences should be celebrated. He explained that autism is another difference, just one that can’t be seen.
“Nobody is the same as everybody else, which is wonderful! Some children have different challenges,” Moran told the children. “Some children have autism. Autism is a challenge that affects the way our brains work. So some children have different ways their brain works.”
One of the students noted his brother has autism, to which Moran responded, “So he’s different and special and wonderful.”
Moran also talked to the students about the “AUTISM Educators Act,” a bill he is re-introducing to request funding for training educators how best to work with students with autism. Barcroft is one of the schools currently offering special services for students with autism, and training all staff members how to work with students with ASD. It is considered a model for other schools across the country.
“We’re going to try to teach other teachers around the country how to be as good of teachers as you have at Barcroft Elementary,” Moran told the students. “We’re going to use Barcroft Elementary as a model for other schools to learn from.”
The bill would establish a five-year pilot program to provide the special training for teachers and school staff. There would also be a focus on recruitment and retention of trained personnel and implementation of a program for parental support and involvement.
“I actually think this bill is going to become law. This is one that I think is going to make an enormous difference in the classrooms around the country that have children on the autistic spectrum,” Moran told ARLnow.com. “This is going to be groundbreaking legislation. I know it’s going to be bipartisan, I already have Republican sponsors. So I think we’re going to get it passed in the House, and I’m confident we’ll get it passed in the Senate as well. It’s going to become law all because the parents in the Arlington school system worked with the superintendent and the principals and the teachers and the teacher aides to make it happen in a way that other school systems can learn from.”
Moran is requesting up to $5 million for the pilot program and could ask for more once the program expands around the nation. We’re told the funds will come from existing teacher development accounts.
APS to Benefit from State STEM Funding — Arlington Public Schools will be getting a boost from the Virginia Department of Education’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) grants. A $247,000 grant to George Mason University will provide support to 90 educators in seven school districts, including Arlington. Additionally, a $250,000 grant shared by four colleges and universities will support 76 teachers in 45 school districts, including Arlington. [Sun Gazette]
Public Hearing for School Boundary Changes — On Wednesday, the Arlington School Board will host a public hearing on the recommendations for boundary changes. Last month, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy presented his recommendations for boundary changes. The hearing will take place at the Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday (April 3).
JBM-HH Works with County to Reduce Use of Energy — The Directorate of Public Works at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBM-HH) has been working with Arlington County to share information about energy use and conservation. Although the two entities aren’t sharing policy yet, they’re sharing information about a community plan to reduce the use of energy. [U.S. Army]
Election Officials Seek Funding for Scanners — County election officials hope the County Board approves funding for bar code scanners that could speed up voter check-in at the polls. The scanners would read the codes on voters’ drivers’ licenses and voting cards, which would more quickly bring up residents’ information. A final County Board decision might not happen until the end of the fiscal year. [Sun Gazette]
Local Woman to Appear on Jeopardy! — Arlington resident Mary Jo Shoop will compete tonight on America’s popular quiz show, Jeopardy! During her time taping the show, Shoop was able to meet and get photos with host Alex Trebek. The episode will air tonight (Friday) at 7:30 p.m. on ABC 7 (WJLA).
APS Requests $0.005 Tax Rate Increase — (Updated at 10:00 a.m.) — Thursday night’s School Board meeting began with the announcement that the schools have asked the county for a one-half of one cent increase in the tax rate, which adds up to about $3 million. The funds would cover shortfalls in the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget of $520 million. APS Board Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez said the spring 2013 enrollment figures were higher than expected, prompting the need for more county money. [Arlington Mercury]
School Board Appoints Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations — John Chadwick was named the new Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations at last night’s (March 21) School Board meeting. He has served as the interim assistant superintendent since Feb. 1, and has served as the APS Director of Design and Construction since 2011. “John is a calm and reassuring leader as he has worked to collaborate with staff and the community on initiatives such as our recently-adopted ten-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). He has also been an adept manager for all of our recent capital improvement projects, including the construction at Yorktown and Wakefield and the planning of a new elementary school to be built on the Williamsburg site and the addition at Ashlawn,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. “John’s leadership over the past two years for our ‘More Seats for More Students’ deliberations, as well as his support for the work of our new Multimodal Transportation Committee and our many other collaborative efforts with the Arlington County Government have been a tremendous asset to APS.”
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The recommended changes are detailed in a memo that also lists two alternative plans. The intent is to ease school overcrowding and to assign students to a new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus. The shuffle will affect students at seven elementary schools in North Arlington — Ashlawn, Glebe, Jamestown, McKinley, Nottingham, Taylor and Tuckahoe.
The major changes will involve moving around 900 students in the following ways:
- Reassign 67 students from McKinley to Ashlawn
- Reassign 56 students from Glebe to McKinley
- Reassign 164 students from Jamestown to the new school at Williamsburg
- Reassign 71 students from Taylor to Jamestown
- Reassign 347 students from Nottigham to the new school at Williamsburg
- Reassign 146 students from Tuckahoe to Nottingham
- Reassign 49 students from Taylor to the new school at Williamsburg
“We went through a process of community meetings starting this past fall. There was lots of input and lots of options,” said APS Transition Facilities Planning Consultant Meg Tuccillo. “The superintendent examined the input he received, and the need to address capacity, and determined that this recommendation met that need.”
The plan also includes recommendations for grandfathering that would also need to be approved by the School Board. The ideas especially apply to fifth graders so they don’t have to move for their final year of elementary school. Siblings of fifth graders also would not have to move immediately. The grandfathering recommendations are as follows:
- Rising fifth graders and concurrently enrolled younger siblings (grades K-4 as of June 2015) may choose to remain at their current school for the 2015-16 school year only. Transportation will continue for current bus riders for that year.
- A student attending either Immersion School, in grades K-4 as of June 2015, who resides in a planning unit being moved from one Immersion School group to another Immersion School group, may remain at their current Immersion School through fifth grade with transportation provided by APS.
- A student attending Arlington Science Focus in grades K-4 as of June 2015, who resides in a planning unit being moved to the New Elementary School #1, may remain at ASFS through fifth grade with transportation provided by APS.
APS reports that its staff has participated in more than 40 community meetings since the beginning of the boundary changing process. Two additional public meetings will take place in April, and the School Board is scheduled to give a final vote on May 16. If approved at that time, the changes will go into effect for the 2015-2016 school year. An exception would be made for students reassigned to McKinley. Those students would be delayed a year and instead would switch schools in time for the 2016-2017 school year, when McKinley’s expansion is expected to be completed.
Changes have been approved for parking regulations at the county’s schools and recreational facilities.
At its meeting on Saturday (February 23), the County Board voted unanimously to amend the Zoning Ordinance, which was necessary in order to modify parking regulations for elementary and middle schools and noncommercial recreational facilities. The amendments allow the Board to change the number of required parking spaces at the facilities, which it previously was not permitted to do.
The approved revisions reduce the number of spaces needed at elementary and middle schools. Additionally, the Board now has the ability to alter requirements at individual sites and to locate a portion of the parking spaces off-site.
County staff members have been looking into parking requirements since the issue arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School, the new school to be built on the Williamsburg Middle School campus and the planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. Parking demand at all the sites in question was deemed less than what was required by the Zoning Ordinance.
“With APS expanding some facilities and adding new ones to keep up with growing enrollment, we needed to come up with a new approach to parking for our schools and public facilities,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. “The changes the Board is making in the Zoning Ordinance will ensure that our schools provide for adequate, but not excessive, parking and have plans in place to reduce parking demand.”
All schools and public facilities must also submit a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan to ensure the sites do not build excessive amounts of parking, and that strategies to reduce the demand for parking are examined.
At its meeting on Saturday (January 26), the County Board is being asked to provide authorization for staff to advertise public hearings regarding the proposed amendments. The changes include revising parking standards for elementary and middle schools, permitting off-site vehicle parking at community swimming pools and allowing the County Board to modify parking standards.
The issue first arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School and the new school to be built on the Williamsburg campus. Arlington Public Schools felt that using the existing Zoning Ordinance for parking requirements would result in an excessive amount of parking. For instance, the addition to Ashlawn would require 228 parking spaces under the ordinance, when APS says it only needs about 100.
“That is way more than we need and it means we would lose open space and ball fields,” said John Chadwick, Director of Design and Construction for APS. “If we do that and we lose open space, ball fields and green space, that sort of counters what everyone is trying to do in Arlington.”
Another concern is that the ordinance requires all of the parking spaces to be on site. One of the proposed amendments would allow for off-site parking on the street or in other lots, like the lots of private swimming pools, which are typically open during the summer but closed during most of the school year. County staff offered the example of Ashlawn’s ongoing shared parking agreement with the Dominion Hills Pool.
Residents who live close to the affected schools haven’t all been supportive of the measure considering it would force more cars into neighborhood streets.
“We are having some push back from neighbors, but very few of our schools provide the number of spaces currently required under this ordinance,” Chadwick said.
The ordinance is not retroactive, so schools already in existence would not have to suddenly rework their parking situation; only new schools, such as at Williamsburg, or school expansions, such as Ashlawn, need to comply.
The changes would also alter the definition of “design capacity.” The new parking proposal suggests allotting one teacher parking spot for every 7.5 students, and one visitor spot for every 40 students.
“We’re very much in favor of the plan and the change and we’ve worked with them [the county] all the way. We really need to get this change approved so we can move forward with the Ashlawn campus and Williamsburg site,” Chadwick said. “This is all good from our point of view. I know it’s a bit complicated, but it actually makes sense.”
Similar parking issues have been identified with the county’s planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. That prompted County Manager Barbara Donnellan to ask staff to examine not only regulations covering school parking, but county recreational facilities as well. As with the schools, parking demand at the aquatics center site was deemed lower than the existing requirements in the Zoning Ordinance.
While some of the amendments deal specifically with parking either at schools or recreational facilities, there are also general provisions covering both categories. County staff recommends that one of the general principles should be to base parking requirements on average daily use and not peak facility uses. Additionally, it recommends sites be examined individually to determine parking needs instead of forcing all facilities to conform to the same regulations. Such a recommendation would be fulfilled by the proposed amendment allowing the County Board to grant special parking exceptions, which it currently cannot do.
The public hearing with the Planning Commission is scheduled for February 11 and the one with the County Board is scheduled for February 23.
In addition to accidents, police scanner traffic indicates dozens of drivers skidding and nearly spinning out on the slippery roads. There are also numerous reports of vehicles getting stuck, particularly in hilly areas. Police report some drivers not paying attention closely enough and running into other vehicles, or even running over flares that are marking existing traffic problems. Drivers are reminded to slow down and use extra caution.
All Arlington Public Schools will open two hours late and the Extended Day program will open two hours late. Morning field trips are canceled. All APS administrative offices and the pools will open on time.
The Office of Personnel Management confirms that federal agencies are open, but employees have the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. Arlington County government is opening on time, but workers have the option for unscheduled leave or telework, with supervisor approval.
The following closures and schedule alterations are in effect for the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation:
- All Preschool programs are cancelled.
- All senior centers will open at noon, but lunch programs and transportation service at Walter Reed, Langston-Brown and Arlington Mill at Fairlington are cancelled.
- All Enjoy Arlington classes and nature center programs scheduled to start prior to 11:59 am are cancelled in all buildings. All Enjoy Arlington classes and nature center programs with scheduled start time of noon or later will proceed as scheduled.
- All joint use facilities Drew, Carver, Gunston, Langston, and Thomas Jefferson Community Center will open at 10:00 a.m. Barcroft, Lee, Madison, Dawson Terrace, Lubber Run, Fairlington and Walter Reed center hours and programs will proceed as scheduled.
The Department of Environmental Services reports that crews are currently working to treat all primary (red) and secondary (blue) roads on the snow map, and expect to move into the neighborhoods later in the day. DES offers the following tips:
- Do not drive unless necessary so roads will be open for emergency and snow removal vehicles.
- Help your neighbors clean the sidewalk on the same side of the street as parked cars to increase pedestrian safety.
- Keep snow cleared from fire hydrants, storm drains and downspouts on your home.
The National Weather Service’s Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect until 9:00 a.m.
(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools is relocating two of its education centers to a renovated facility on Washington Blvd.
Administrative offices, classrooms and staff currently at the Clarendon Education Center (2801 Clarendon Blvd) and the Syphax Education Center (1439 N. Quincy Street) will be moving to a space in the Sequoia Building 2 (2110 Washington Blvd). The new facility is in the same cluster of buildings housing the Arlington Employment Center and the Arlington County Department of Human Services.
A learning center in the new facility will be open from 8:00 a.m.-9:30 p.m., and will provide space for adult education classes and the Arlington Education and Employment Program (REEP). The welcome center will be open from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
All offices currently located at the APS Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street), including the School Board office and the School Board meeting room, will remain at the current location.
The new 61,000 square foot Syphax Education Center will open on January 2, 2013. Photos of the renovations inside the building have not been released, but renderings from the construction plans are available online.
No word yet on what might be taking the place of the Clarendon Education Center, which is located across the street from Whole Foods, in the midst of Clarendon’s main business district.
$23 Million House Up for Auction — Its address might say McLean, but a $23 million house that’s now up for auction on Chain Bridge Road is technically located in Arlington. The house, once featured on the MTV show “Teen Cribs,” will be auctioned off at the Arlington County Courthouse on Sept. 27 after its owner went into foreclosure. [Curbed, Tranzon Auction]
School Bus Stop Next to Sex Offender’s House — A local mom is lobbying Arlington Public Schools to get her middle-school-aged daughter’s bus stop moved, after finding out that the stop is located near a convicted child sex offender’s house. [WUSA 9]
APS Not Formulating New School Names, Yet — Arlington Public Schools say the process for naming two new elementary schools expected to be built over the next couple of years will start when the schools’ boundaries have been decided. At that point, a committee of parents, teachers, staff and residents will be formed to recommend a name. If the school is to be named after a person, that person must have been dead for at least five years. [Sun Gazette]
Lacrosse Team Selling Mulch — As part of a fundraiser, the Yorktown boys lacrosse team is selling hardwood mulch for delivery. The mulch, which is $4.95 for a 3 cubic foot bag (minimum 10 bags) will be delivered by on Saturday, Oct. 13. The deadline for ordering is Oct. 2. [YHS Patriot Lacrosse]
APS Posts Pass Rates for State Test — Arlington Public School students passed the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests at rates above statewide averages, with one notable exception. Hispanic students in Arlington passed the English reading test at a rate 5 percentage points below their statewide peers. [Arlington Public Schools]
GOP Opposes Recreation Bond — Calling it a “boondoggle,” the Arlington County Republican Committee has voted overwhelmingly to oppose a $50.6 million bond that would help to build a new aquatics center at Long Bridge Park. At the same time, Republicans voted to support a $42.62 million school bond. The bond issues, along with bonds for Metro and for “community infrastructure,” will appear on the November ballot. [Sun Gazette]
Public Meeting for Housing Study — Arlington County is seeking public input for the first stage of a three-year affordable housing study. The county spends about $52 million, or 5 percent of its budget, on affordable housing. The affordable housing study public meeting will be held from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Wakefield High School cafeteria. [Arlington County]
ABBIE Award Nominations Starts — Nominations are being accepted for the ABBIES, the Arlington best business awards. The online nominations, in categories from Best Pizza to Best Place to Pamper Yourself to Best Community-Based Nonprofit, will run through Oct. 3. [Shop Arlington]
Disclosure: The ABBIES are an ARLnow.com advertiser.
The 2012-2013 school year is a big one for Arlington Public Schools, as it takes on the task of changing school boundaries and admissions policies. The first opportunity for the public to get involved is at a School Board work session tonight (Wednesday).
At the meeting, the School Board will review the current boundary policy and discuss the scope of the boundary changes to be considered. The work session will take place in room 101 of the Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) at 7:45 p.m.
The public is allowed to attend but not offer comments at the work session, which is considered a preliminary meeting to figure out the direction the boundary process will take in the coming months. Public engagement sessions will officially kick off late next month. At that time, residents may raise concerns and offer suggestions for boundary issues requiring further examination.
“We’re very interested in being transparent and engaged with the community in this process. We want people to be engaged because boundary changes will be a part of our future for many years,” said APS Director of Facilities Planning Alison Denton. “We want to establish a process that works and that is transparent.”
Policy requires this process for projects listed in the proposed APS Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) presented by Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy in May. The $538 million CIP includes funding for two new elementary schools and additions to three others to address the school system’s capacity issues.
“We’re seeing an influx of students to the point where we’re running out of space, especially at the elementary level,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.
In preparation for the new schools and new additions, new school boundaries must be decided upon to better distribute students in the most overcrowded areas, such as the northwest portion of the county.
“This is just the beginning discussion. We don’t know yet how large the boundaries are going to be or how small they’re going to be,” Bellavia said.
So far, there’s no firm timetable for having a boundary plan completed. It could be finished by the end of this school year, but that’s still up in the air and should be discussed at tonight’s work session, according to Denton.
School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy announced the new policy, devised after an independent study of the system last fall, in a letter to parents in July. APS sent parents another letter on Aug. 1 urging them to update their addresses.
From the July letter:
With the start of the school year this fall, we will be moving forward with the plans that the Office of Transportation has outlined. One of the first steps underway includes the implementation of bus-routing software to help us plan routes that are more efficient so we can maximize the capacity of our bus fleet.
The second step that is critical to this plan is to serve students who are eligible to receive bus transportation services. As outlined in School Board policy, elementary school students who live more than one mile from school and secondary school students who live more than 1 1/2 miles from school will receive bus transportation.
In early August, principals will be sending families of students who are eligible for transportation services a letter that will include their child’s bus stop and route. This addresses a critical safety concern for students who ride buses and allows us to better communicate and serve families when we may experience a delay or other changes in service.
The distance rules are not a change to the transportation policy, APS spokesperson Linda Erdos said. Students who live within the mile or 1.5-mile radius who would have to cross large roadways or highways to get to school will still be allowed to take the bus.
The vouchers will be a way for bus drivers to become accustomed to the students on their routes, Erdos said, providing for what APS hopes is a safer, more efficient system with an expected 900 more students and the same amount of buses.
“We have had problems in the past when students who live in the walk zone walk outside the walk zone and get on the bus,” Erdos said. “Our priority is to add classroom teachers to teach children, not more buses. More important, the new system will let us know every student who is on a bus route. If something happened, this will let us know who’s on that bus.”
Students within the “walk zone” are being encouraged to walk or bike to school. Still, one parent thinks the new system will actually increase the number of students from inside the walk zone who drive or who hitch a ride to school, which could cause traffic and safety issues.
“I applaud Dr. Murphy on working to reform the bus system,” wrote Donaldson Run blogger Robert Cannon. “But creating a voucher system, and refusing to transport students who live just less than 1.5 miles from school is only going to make things worse.”
Arlington public school teachers will have restrictions put on their use of Facebook and Twitter. The Arlington School Board adopted a new policy at its meeting on Tuesday, June 19, setting guidelines for social media use between students and teachers.
The School Board said it recognizes the importance of social media as means for parents, students and teachers to collaborate through evolving forms of communication. However, board members noted the need for clear and reasonable boundaries for interactions between students and adults.
The policy is designed to protect students from misconduct and abuse, and to protect adults from misunderstandings and false accusations. In addition to preventing inappropriate sexual contact from occurring between students and teachers, the policy is also intended to curb harassment and bullying.
Arlington Public Schools will allow students and employees to interact via social media while in online groups, but all content must relate to classroom instruction or school-sponsored extracurricular activities. Adults will not be permitted to engage in one-on-one electronic communication with students, with an added caveat for instances of an emergency.
“One-on-one emergency contact is permissible, provided that the employee would then contact their supervisor, so that the parent could be notified as soon as possible about the reason for the exception being made, or the emergency,” said Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos.
APS has defined social media as any online media that allows users to collaborate and engage in multi-directional conversations, to create personal profiles and to view the personal profiles of other users. This may include APS-approved media tools such as BlackBoard or Google. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, online forums and other social media tools generally available to the public are also included in the definition.
The policy is designed to provide guidelines for transparency, privacy protection and responsible use of social media. Some of those guidelines are as follows:
- Information about the use of any social media should be included in the classroom syllabus or extracurricular information, and department supervisors and school administration should be aware of what social media tools are being used. The classroom syllabus should include a clear statement of the purpose and outcomes for the use of any networking tool.
- Teachers/staff must ensure that the social media tools they are using have been submitted to the school administration for approval each school year. This may be an ongoing process throughout the school year, to be reevaluated annually.
- Employees should establish clear rules and expectations and a code of conduct for all network participants. Just as in the classroom setting, online rules should be established to foster an atmosphere of respect, trust, and clear professional boundaries.
- Parents should be informed of the social media tools being used, how their children are being contacted online, and the expectations for appropriate behavior.
- Employees should be aware that they will be identified as working for and representing the school in what they do and say online.
- Communications with students should be professional and appropriate within the context of the teacher/student relationship.
- Employees should not discuss students or coworkers publicly.
- Teachers should treat social media as an extension of the classroom, and should weigh every posting for how it affects their effectiveness as teachers.
- Employees may not use commentary deemed to be defamatory, obscene, proprietary, or libelous. Caution must be exercised with regards to exaggeration, inappropriate language, legal conclusions, and derogatory remarks or characterizations.
- All laws pertaining to copyright and intellectual property must be obeyed.
- Remember that all online communications are stored and can be monitored.
- Inappropriate communications with students in any electronic or other format may be grounds for termination and loss of the educator’s license.
- Teachers/employees have the obligation to keep all student information private.
- Users must pay close attention to the site’s security settings and allow only approved participants access to the site.
APS said it will regularly monitor social media used by schools and departments. Staff found not adhering to the new policy will be subject to disciplinary actions. Before Tuesday, there was no formal social media policy in place at APS.