Last 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 May 9, 11 and 13 caucus.
Here is the unedited response from Monique O’Grady:
Arlington Public Schools is at a crossroads. APS is short on seats, short on money, and short on the time to fix these problems before they reach a crisis level. It’s time to bring new ideas with a fresh perspective built on years of experience.
As a former PTA president, community volunteer, schools advocate, and parent of three children who attended five public schools in Arlington, I will bring my 19 years of experience advocating for our schools to bear on the challenges facing Arlington Public Schools.
I firmly believe our children should not just like school, but develop a lifelong love of learning. Our kids go through the school system only once; they only get one shot at success. We owe it to them to fight for our schools–and all too often our School Board hasn’t been up to the task. We can and must do better, by focusing on the ABCs:
We need a renewed focus on academics, putting as much emphasis on school instruction as we do on school construction, and a real strategic plan that ensures our teachers have the training and resources needed to help all children succeed.
We must balance using technology to foster innovative ways of learning with tried-and-true teacher-student personal interaction. Finally, we can’t keep “teaching to the test” and expect our students to learn and grow; rather, we must ensure each child receives the comprehensive education she deserves.
School boundary decisions should respect communities while also embracing diversity. Our students won’t take an SOL in multiculturalism; that test will come in life and those who learn in diverse settings will be best prepared to succeed in a multicultural world.
Our schools must be open and welcoming to all students, and it is imperative that we ensure that every child under our care feels safe and secure.
Capacity & Communication
Arlington is growing fast, and our public schools are facing a capacity crisis. For too long, the School Board and APS have failed to get in front of this challenge, resulting in overcrowded schools and a series of band-aids when we really need solutions.
The answer is not, however, to create a “mega high school” that crams 4,000+ students into Washington-Lee, as some on the School Board have suggested.
Rather, we need a fourth comprehensive high school, whose students can enjoy the same amenities and opportunities to learn as those enrolled in the other three. We need creative solutions that don’t overburden neighborhoods or existing schools.
But we can’t stop there. We must find innovative ways to make use of our community’s limited resources and space while still maintaining the high educational standards Arlington families expect and deserve.
As a leader on the South Arlington Working Group to site a new elementary school, I did just that: my creative proposal, adopted by APS, leveraged the building of a new elementary school while also addressing several other capacity challenges. It is just this new, outside-the-box thinking that we need if we are to finally get in front of the capacity crisis.
Lastly, we must rebuild trust between the School Board and parents, students and teachers. We must communicate better, with data and enrollment projections we can rely on, an open door policy for constructive criticism, and commitments kept when made.
Arlington Public Schools is indeed at a crossroads, but our challenges are not insurmountable. I will fight every day to meet them head on, and to ensure a love of learning for all Arlington children. I hope I will earn your vote for Arlington School Board on May 9th, 11th or 13th.