Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.
By Reid Goldstein
With high school, middle school and a portion of elementary school boundary adjustments behind us, this is a good time to reflect on the recent boundary processes and consider how we can collectively improve future ones.
There will be a continuation of the elementary boundary process in 2020, and boundary adjustments will most likely need to be considered more frequently as we grow in 2020-29.
Boundaries help to ensure that we consistently deliver quality instruction and services to all of our students, so the School Board needs to make decisions in the best interest of the entire county. At the same time, we need to be cautious that in improving service delivery, we are not setting neighborhood against neighborhood.
One of the most important priorities for me as we move forward is to leverage the success of all of our schools and to build a community sense of ownership. We want the community to understand that they own all APS schools, not just the ones closest to them or the ones they currently attend. Recognizing that they all provide excellent resources for student learning and are places to come together will go a long way to avoid communities fighting one another.
In any boundary process, I think it is also important to keep communicating the complex interplay among:
- Arlington Public Schools (APS) staff who analyze enrollment data and propose changes;
- the community, which gives feedback on staff’s data, assumptions and proposals; and
- the School Board, which holds responsibility to make a decision that optimizes the present and prepares for the future.
During the past boundary processes, all Board members heard input from myriad individuals, PTA representatives, teachers and advisory commissions during open office hours, Board meetings, work sessions, over coffee, on phone calls and via email. Here are some of the lessons I have taken and my thoughts on how Board leadership can guide in the future.
The first lesson is that change happens, but it happens differently in different locations. Many think we can accommodate growth without affecting the current situations. That is not realistic. Leveling enrollment across boundaries is one of the most cost-effective tools we have. After planning, siting, funding and constructing new facilities to reduce crowding, then boundary changes are a necessary step in the process to alleviate overcrowding.
Second, the Board needs to find ways to better educate the community about the six considerations in the APS boundary policy (Policy B-2.1). The six considerations (efficiency, proximity, stability, alignment, demographics and contiguity) are not ranked, and sometimes they collide with each other; not all are 100 percent achievable in any decision.
Third, we need to continue to find new strategies for communication with families about the boundary deliberations. Despite the time devoted to discussing the pros and cons of various options, boundary processes can become muddled and contentious. I would like to see:
- More engagement with the community using the County Council of PTAs (CCPTA) and the cadre of parent ambassadors we have at every school. I believe community engagement through these channels can make options and outcomes more understandable.
- Greater appreciation by the School Board and staff that people have carefully calibrated lives. It has taken families months to arrange child care, transportation and work schedules, and school changes can be disruptive. The process is not simply about numerical balancing.
- APS staff proposals with full supporting data and explanations, so the community can see the basis for proposals. Data and assumptions can often change, but we need well-scrubbed proposals and robust community response.
- Avenues for families to connect and engage with their new school community. As soon as the boundary process starts, then “Meet the Principal” sessions and PTA Leadership Nights can provide tangible experiences for families to allay fears and confusion. Families can find great educational experiences everywhere! That’s why Arlington’s enrollment is booming.
- Everyone promoting civility in discussing boundary options. There are many ways to express alternative ideas, disagreement and dissent while modeling civil and respectful behavior for our children and neighbors.
I am looking forward to future boundary discussions that integrate the best actions and outcomes of the Board, the community and APS staff. I invite you to join us in this journey.
Reid Goldstein has been an Arlington resident since 1985, School Board member since 2016, and its chair since July 2018. His opinions do not signify APS policy or practice, or a consensus of the School Board.
In loving memory of Joseph Robert Kapacziewski, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 41.
In loving memory of James Stuart Edmonds, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 84.
A man was shot in front of a lounge on Columbia Pike early this morning, continuing a string of violent incidents.
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 17124 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
YULA’s ultimate frisbee spring season is now open for registration. We offer programs for middle and high schoolers – open to all players, whether they are new or have previous experience.Middle SchoolIn the Middle School league, mixed-gender teams practice once during the week and have games on Sunday afternoons. Spring league is a fun, safe, and positive environment. The season begins mid-March and wraps up with a tournament in early June. There are several options for practice days, so we can often work around schedule conflicts with other sports & activities.High SchoolThe High School program is organized by school of attendance and teams are classified by gender. New players will learn the basics in a supportive, welcoming environment. Experienced players will continue to develop their skills, and enjoy competition with other high school programs. The season concludes with a state level championship tournament in late May.All players are guided by experienced coaches who emphasize sportsmanship and good spirit. Ultimate is a fun sport with great camaraderie!YULA does not want finances to limit anyone from participating. Our middle school program offers a “Pay What You Can” cost structure and our our high school program is offering a $50 discount to new players.Visit our website to register and learn more. Sign up with a friend, but don’t delay, the season starts in March!http://www.yula-ulti.org
The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.
The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village