Last week we asked the four candidates who are seeking the Democratic School Board endorsement to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the caucus on May 19 (tonight) and May 21.
Here is the unedited response from Michael Shea:
After years of serving on advisory committees to both Arlington Public Schools and the County government, I decided to run for School Board. My intention is to ensure that the high quality education our son has received is available for the students coming after him, as well as to help APS shift in some new directions so we can do even better. I’m an advocate for open data, problem-based learning, and new designs for our school construction.
The “new designs” theme encourages us to plan new schools and facilities in areas such as Rosslyn and Crystal City, even using former office space to convert into classrooms. Arlington has a high office vacancy rate and an urgent need for new school facilities. A continued focus on new construction in the rest of the County will cause us to lose park space and create more traffic.
To advocate for these ideas, I have knocked on thousands of doors all across Arlington. As I expected, I have had many conversations with parents who have had highly positive experiences with Arlington Public Schools. But I have also talked with families who are frustrated that we do not offer a more inclusionary learning environment for students with special needs. I have talked with teachers who are frustrated by excessive testing requirements, poor planning in the program to distribute notebook computers, and decisions where their voice is not heard. I have talked with families who are disappointed by the lack of socioeconomic diversity in many of our schools. And I have talked with parents and teachers who are disappointed that the quality of some facilities has deteriorated while our attention seems to be only on the new construction.
Learning from these frustrations and disappointments has affirmed my view that we can do better. We need to expand the conversations and affirm our commitment to a consistently high quality of facilities all across Arlington, to a more inclusionary learning environment for students with special needs, and to reducing testing time.
I have not been filling up the median strips of Arlington with campaign signs, so my name is not as widely known as some others. But my doorstep conversations with families has filled my life for the past several months. I better understand the problems we face and I thank everyone who took the time to talk with me. I am asking for your vote in the Democratic School Board Caucus to be an advocate for those ways in which we can do better and for protecting the high quality of education so many families have known.