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by ARLnow.com — July 15, 2016 at 11:45 am 0

Screenshot of new Arlington Public Schools (APS) website

Earlier this month, Arlington Public Schools relaunched its website with an updated design and new technology.

There are still some minor bugs evident — many older links to specific pages on the site are not working — but for the most part the transition appears to be complete.

Here’s what APS said about the relaunch, in a press release.

The multi-year redesign will relaunch the APS website with improved functionality and technological integration for the future.

After a rigorous search, APS selected local vendor Materiell to custom-build the new website using the WordPress platform, which was chosen for its adaptability to new technology, and its potential for future development as an open-source platform.

APS invited staff, families and the community to provide feedback in three rounds of user testing over the past year; the most recent was completed mid- April. Their comments and suggestions have been incorporated into the site functionality and design

When the site launches, it will feature:

  • an intuitive user interface
  • seamless integration with our back-end systems
  • improved video and social media integration
  • an elegant new design

Among other features, the APS homepage now includes academic highlights from the previous school year at the bottom of the page.

Screenshot of new Arlington Public Schools (APS) website

by ARLnow.com — June 22, 2016 at 10:15 am 0

Wakefield High School(Updated at 12:50 p.m.) The summer starts today for Arlington high school students.

Arlington Public Schools high school students will have an early dismissal today, their last day of the school year.

The last day of school for APS middle school students is Thursday; it’s Friday for elementary students. All schools will have early dismissals on their last day.

(Barcroft elementary ends its school year early — it had its last day yesterday. Private, Arlington-based Bishop O’Connell High School had its last day of school on Friday, June 10.)

The graduation and celebration schedule for Arlington Public Schools is as follows.

  • Wednesday: Williamsburg Middle School (8:15 a.m.), Gunston Middle School (8:30 a.m.), Kenmore Middle School (8:30 a.m.), Swanson Middle School (8:30 a.m.), Jefferson Middle School (9 a.m.), H-B Woodlawn (6:15 p.m.)
  • Thursday: Washington-Lee High School (10 a.m.), Yorktown High School (3 p.m.), Wakefield High School (8 p.m.)
  • Friday: Arlington Mill High School (9:30 a.m.), Langston High School Continuation Program (1 p.m.)

by Adrian Cruz — June 21, 2016 at 2:45 pm 0

Recycling BinsStudents at Yorktown High School have released a petition seeking integrated recycling bins for the school’s hallways and classrooms.

Right now, the school uses a system of regular trash cans and blue recycling bins to sort its garbage.

“One would think that we already have an effective system as there are blue recycling bins in every single classroom,” said the petition. “However, these recycling bins are just treated as normal trash cans by a majority of students. This eliminates the whole purpose of the recycling bins and teaches students that the environment is not that important and can be overlooked or put aside.”

The new integrated recycling bins would streamline the recycling process into one large bin. One side is marked for recyclables such as paper, glass and plastic. The other side is labeled for landfill trash.

The petition has a goal of 1,000 signatures. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had received just over 150 signatures.

by Andrew Ramonas — June 20, 2016 at 6:00 pm 0

Renee Bostick (Photo via Arlington Public Schools)Hundreds of have signed a petition calling on the county to keep Randolph Elementary School’s principal in place after she was told to step down this month.

In a June 15 petition to the Arlington School Board, more than 330 Randolph parents, school employees and their supporters said they are “deeply concerned” about the panel’s decision to give principal Renee Bostick a new, unspecified role at Arlington Public Schools July 1. She has led the school at 1306 S. Quincy Street since 2004.

APS told the Randolph community her removal was due to “test scores,” but didn’t elaborate, according to the petition.

“The Randolph community is in total disarray,” the document says. “Students and staff are distraught. We have many unanswered questions, not least why a beloved, experienced, dedicated, and effective principal is being shown so little respect.”

In a letter he sent to the Randolph community today, APS superintendent Patrick Murphy didn’t address the petition, but he wrote that APS is slated to hold a meeting at the school with parents next Monday, June 27, at 7 p.m. to discuss the principal hiring process.

Interviews for Bostick’s successor are expected to begin in early July, Murphy wrote. By August, he anticipates the school board will appoint a new principal.

“We will keep you posted throughout the process and look forward to working with the Randolph community in the coming weeks,” Murphy wrote.

Photo via Arlington Public Schools

by ARLnow.com — June 15, 2016 at 3:00 pm 0

iPadStudents at some Arlington elementary schools will be allowed to take their school-issued iPads home for the summer.

Letters were sent to parents of eligible students last week, asking them to “supervise and monitor your child while on the device” but also giving them the option of refusing the take-home iPad.

“The decision to allow students to take the APS issued iPads home over the summer is made individually by the administration at each school,” said Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia. “We are excited for the opportunity for our students to be able to extend their learning over the summer through access to high quality digital resources including curriculum specific tools as well as thousands of eBooks through the APS Library and Arlington Public Library systems.”

The letter sent to parents of Hoffman-Boston Elementary students, after the jump. A full list of the schools allowing take-home iPads was not immediately available.

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by ARLnow.com — June 10, 2016 at 10:30 am 0

HB Woodlawn Secondary School (via Arlington Public Schools)A group of anti-abortion protesters conducted an unannounced demonstration outside of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program Thursday afternoon.

The group “had graphic signs, they filmed students, parents and staff members, attempted to distribute flyers and to engage students in discussion,” according to the following letter to parents, sent by the school’s principal.

Dear Parents/Guardians,

This afternoon, at dismissal, members of an anti-abortion group appeared in the auditorium parking lot and then on bus loop sidewalk in front of H-B Woodlawn. No advance notice was given to Arlington Public Schools or to H-B Woodlawn and this was not an approved event. HBW administrators and the Arlington police asked the group to move off of school property, but they claimed that they were in the public domain on a public sidewalk.

They had graphic signs, they filmed students, parents and staff members, attempted to distribute flyers and to engage students in discussion. It is unfortunate that they chose that type of confrontational method to express their views to students who are mostly ages 11-18. Please be assured it is not anything we would ever approve of or encourage, and we regret that the events took place. We will continue to have conversations here amongst staff and students about our procedures should they return.

Sincerely,

Casey Robinson
Principal

by ARLnow.com — June 7, 2016 at 4:50 pm 0

A car caught fire this afternoon in a parking lot at Washington-Lee High School.

The fire broke out around 4:30 p.m. Arlington County firefighters responded to the scene and quickly extinguished the flames in the car’s engine compartment.

The car appeared to be an older red Mustang convertible. No injuries were reported.

by ARLnow.com — May 18, 2016 at 11:45 am 0

Gunston Middle SchoolArlington Public Schools and the Animal Welfare League of Arlington are trying to figure out how to get a cat and her kittens off of the roof of Gunston Middle School (2700 S. Lang Street).

The feline family recently took up residence on the school’s roof, apparently after the cat climbed a tree to get there.

Both APS and AWLA want to get the cat and kittens down from the roof, but are still formulating a plan for how to do it.

“We think that the mother cat is feral, and we want to capture the kittens while they are young enough to be socialized,” said AWLA’s Susan Sherman. “Once the kittens are old enough to get down from the roof on their own, they will likely be too old to socialize.”

Sherman said an AWLA animal control officer has been to the school “several times” to talk to officials from the school and the attached Gunston Community Center. One sticking point is deciding who’s going to go up on the roof. School workers don’t want to get attacked by the cat and animal control officers don’t want to play Spiderman.

“We offered to assist the school facilities people to set a humane trap on the roof, but they said the mother cat might attack them,” Sherman explained. “Our officers do not climb up on roofs. The part of the roof the cats are on is flat, and we requested access from classroom windows but the school facilities person told us the windows cannot be unscrewed or removed.”

“We are working on a plan to capture the kittens as soon as possible but want to do it in a way that is safe for the cats and people,” she said.

by ARLnow.com — May 12, 2016 at 4:05 pm 0

(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) The Reed School building in Westover may be tapped as the site of a new elementary school.

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy has included a $45-63 million renovation of the building, to create a new 725-seat elementary school, in his proposed FY 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The school would help to alleviate what’s currently projected to be — without further building — a 1,387 elementary seat deficit countywide.

The Reed School building currently houses The Children’s School, a co-op child care center for APS employees, and the Integration Station, a program for Pre-K children with disabilities that allows them to integrate with The Children’s School students. The Westover Branch Library is also located in the building but is not expected to be displaced by the new school.

Some Westover residents are organizing on Facebook to speak out against the plan at the School Board’s public CIP hearing, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 19. They say APS is planning a choice elementary school for the site — and thus would be busing in students from around the county. While seeming to accept the inevitability of changes to the Reed site, one of the few APS-owned pieces of land suitable for a new school, residents say they would prefer any new facility be a neighborhood school, open to local students.

Some residents have suggested that the newly county-purchased Buck site, across from Washington-Lee High School could instead be a good location for a choice school.

In 2014, more than 1,000 people signed an online petition opposing a proposal to move the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program to the Reed site. At the time, APS staff described Reed as “underutilized.” Ultimately, the Wilson School site in Rosslyn was selected as H-B Woodlawn’s future home.

Dr. Murphy’s CIP identifies Rosslyn-Ballston corridor elementary capacity and countywide high school capacity as APS’ most pressing capacity problems.

The CIP also includes:

  • Two 200-seat elementary school additions
  • Two minor modification projects to add new 60 seats apiece to Gunston and Kenmore middle schools
  • Modifications to add 300 seats apiece to Wakefield and Yorktown high schools
  • A 600-seat facility for the Arlington Tech secondary program

If the CIP is approved by the School Board, work on the new Westover elementary school could start as soon as 2017.

by ARLnow.com — May 11, 2016 at 1:30 pm 0

Lucas Mendes, a 5’5″, 125 lbs. senior at Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School, has been named the 2016 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

Mendes helped to lead the No. 1 ranked W-L boys team to a 9-0-2 record this spring. The team is scheduled to play its first game in the Liberty Conference Boys Soccer Tournament tomorrow.

Mendes was presented with his award from Gatorade by former pro soccer player and current ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman at Washington-Lee on Tuesday. (A video of the presentation is above.)

From Mendes’ profile on the Gatorade Player of the Year website:

At the time of his selection, Mendes had scored 10 goals and passed for five assists in his first year playing high school soccer after previously playing with D.C. United in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Ranked as the No. 24 recruit in the Class of 2016 by College Soccer News, he attended a training camp with the U.S. Soccer Under-20 Men’s National Team in January.

A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he has volunteered locally as a youth soccer coach. He has also donated his time to the Color of Leadership Conference, where he served as a mentor and participated in workshops to help middle school students of color discover and utilize resources to achieve their personal goals.

Mendes has accepted a full-ride scholarship from the University of Virginia, according to a press release from Arlington Public Schools (below, after the jump).

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — May 9, 2016 at 10:50 am 0

Oakridge fitness classes flyerLast year, Oakridge Elementary parents used donations and sponsorships to buy pedal desks, standup desks and yoga ball chairs to help fidgety kids learn while staying active.

Now, parents are back trying to raise money to expand the program, which received both local and some national attention.

On Tuesdays this month, starting tomorrow, the Oakridge PTA is hosting four evening fitness programs for adults, featuring local fitness and wellness businesses like SpecOps Fitness and Mind Your Body Oasis.

“These adult May fitness classes are one of two fundraising efforts we are currently doing to raise additional funds for the kinesthetic equipment,” explained Dana Dougherty, a mother of three and substitute teacher. “All donations will go toward our mission, all classes are sponsored by the individuals teaching.”

Oakridge student on a pedal deskDougherty said parents hope to provide new equipment for the kinesthetic classroom initiative, but what they buy will be determined by how much they raise.

“We have had incredibly positive feedback from parents, students and teachers — they want more!” she told ARLnow.com. “Depending on the funds raised, we will look at adding pieces the teachers would like to add. You can see tons of different options at www.kidsfit.com… there are several great options under kinesthetic classroom desks.”

Money for the initiative will also be raised at the PTA’s Spring Fling on May 22, where teachers and administrators will be dunked for the cause.

“We will have a dunk tank with favorite teachers, principal and perhaps even a school board member participating,” said Dougherty.

by ARLnow.com — May 6, 2016 at 4:05 pm 0

Arlington Public Schools proposed budgetMore money for teachers, staff, relocatable classrooms, maintenance needs and student laptops and iPads.

Those are some of the highlights from the $582 million Fiscal Year 2017 budget adopted by the Arlington School Board on Thursday night.

The budget adjusted Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s proposed budget to include about $10 million in compensation increases, including:

  • A step increase for all eligible employees ($7.6 million)
  • An increase of 1.75% for eligible employees at the top of the salary scale or on a longevity step ($2.4 million)
  • An increase in the minimum wage to $14.50 per hour ($150,000)
  • An increase in School Board salaries ($14,760)
  • Implementation of a parental leave benefit of two weeks of paid leave ($0.5 million)
  • An increase in the Live Where You Work program to provide additional grants as well as the implementation of rental assistance grants (similar to the County’s program) at a cost of $68,700

The full proposed budget is available online, as is a budget presentation from Thursday’s School Board meeting.

Arlington Public Schools issued the following press release about the budget’s adoption.

The Arlington School Board adopted its FY 2017 final budget at last night’s meeting. The approved budget totals $581,941,859 which includes an additional $2,042,993 in ongoing County funds and an additional $1,336,437 from the Future Budget Years Reserve. The additional County and Future Budget Years Reserve funds closed the funding gap to ensure a balanced budget was adopted.

“We worked closely as a Board with our staff and advocated to our County colleagues to make certain that APS has the funding that is necessary to meet the needs of our growing school division,” stated School Board Chair Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez. “The Board has also invested in additional areas that will meet the instructional needs of our students, support the whole child and provide the necessary staff to ensure all students can succeed.”

The School Board has designated that all of the additional funds be used to invest in instructional support, infrastructure, and staff needed to continue progress toward achieving strategic goals of the school division.

The School Board’s adopted FY17 Budget also included staff compensation increases totaling $10.2 million, including a step increase for all eligible employees, an increase of 1.75% for eligible employees at the top of the salary scale or on longevity steps, and implementation of two weeks of paid parental leave.

“It is critical that APS offers competitive staff compensation and benefits to ensure that we continue to retain and attract the most talented employees to work here,” said Dr. Violand-Sanchez. “We are proud to provide, for the first time, two weeks of paid parental leave, to enhance our “Live Where You Work” assistance for our employees, and to raise the minimum wage to $14.50 an hour. Our APS educators are a crucial factor in our students’ success.”

The FY 2017 budget designates APS operating funds for July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017.

by ARLnow.com — April 28, 2016 at 11:15 am 0

Arlington Public Schools administration buildingArlington Public Schools says around 40 more employees have been victims of a data breach that compromised employee tax information.

That’s in addition to the 28 employees APS said were affected last week.

APS said an unknown party or parties were able to login to APS’ secure data system, STARS, via use of “personally identifiable information… from an unknown source.”

Employees were given the latest update on the data breach Wednesday afternoon, said Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos.

APS is taking steps to better secure its systems, employees were told.

In addition to the steps we took last week to contract with cybersecurity experts to assist with our on-going investigation, we have put in place several more precautions to protect all employees’ personal information.

1.       We have changed the STARS password for all accounts that may have been compromised.

2.       We have disabled the “self-service password reset” feature in STARS. Now, if you need to reset your password, you need to call the Help Desk at x2847.

3.       We also have added a new requirement for logging into STARS with a device that is outside of the APS network.  The system will now require you to provide your APS network username and password first before you can log into STARS.

With the help of the outside organizations and experts that we have hired, our entire team in the Department of Information Services continues to focus on the ongoing investigation.  In addition, we have obtained the services of an outside cybersecurity expert to advise us on additional steps that can be taken to further ensure our network security.  We have also contracted with an outside organization to perform regular security audits of our network in the future.

Shortly after our first article on the data breach was published last week, a tipster told ARLnow.com that the problem was bigger than APS had admitted.

What the ‘announcement’ did not say was that multiple APS employees have been informed by the IRS in the last two weeks that fraudulent returns for 2015 have been filed with their name and social security number along with that of their spouses and children, information beyond W2 information. This is beyond the supposedly 28 employees breached by the exposure of their W2s.

Here’s what the same tipster said earlier this week.

In a follow up to your story of a week ago. In addition to the 28 employees, there are over 90 APS employees who have been impacted by a data breach with many having fraudulent tax returns filed using their names and social security numbers along with their dependents.

Said APS: “We will continue our investigation of the most recent event and update everyone if we obtain additional information.”

by ARLnow.com — April 19, 2016 at 3:00 pm 0

Arlington Public Schools administration building(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) More than two dozen Arlington Public Schools employees have had their social security numbers and tax information compromised in a data breach, according to a memo sent to APS employees Monday.

The breach exposed the W-2 tax forms of 28 APS employees, the school system said. APS issues around 7,000 W-2 forms to employees annually, according to Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos.

The breach occurred on a third-party server and there is no evidence that APS’ own systems were compromised, the memo says. However, APS has notified the FBI about the incident.

More than 40 companies reported attacks that compromised employee W-2 data during the first quarter of this year, according to news reports.

The memo to employees is below.

Recently, the staff in our Information Services Department was notified that files of W-2 tax forms for 28 APS employees were discovered to have been stored by an unknown party on an out-of-state organization’s server that had been hacked.

After reviewing the circumstances and the contents of the 28 files, at this time we believe that the W-2s were generated individually through the “employee self-service” feature of our STARS ERP system. We have not found any indication or evidence at this time to indicate that this represents a breach of APS the data systems.  Currently, we believe that this is a limited incident.

Human Resources staff has contacted the 28 staff members directly to inform them of this discovery, and to provide them with some guidance to help them address the situation.

We have heard recent news reports that this has happened to other individuals in our region and throughout the country, particularly right now as we are at the conclusion of the federal tax filing period. Therefore, APS is taking several steps that are in line with our standard data practices. They will also assist us with our continued investigations, and will help to ensure that our data continues to be protected.

  • First, we have contacted the FBI and notified them about this incident.
  • We have also contacted the AT&T Cybersecurity Unit and they are performing a complete threat assessment for all of our APS systems.
  • Finally, while we will continue to collaborate with the FBI and all parties who are investigating this incident, we have also hired Dr. Naren Kodali, who is an information security expert, to consult on our APS data security systems.  Dr. Kodali is a highly-qualified and well-known professional in the field of cyber-security as well and is a professor of Information Security at George Mason University, and has also served as the Dean of Computer Information Systems at other universities.

In addition, as a precaution, we are providing all APS staff with recommendations of best practices that everyone should take to safeguard your personal information online, both at work and at home. Those tips have been posted online in the Staff Central section of the APS website.

by ARLnow.com — April 15, 2016 at 2:45 pm 0

Claremont school yard (Photo via claremontschoolyard.blogspot.com)Arlington Public Schools will be taking some steps soon to address a rocky outdoor play area at Claremont Immersion Elementary School.

As we reported Tuesday, parents complained about the condition of the fields around the Claremont playground, posting photos of bare, rocky ground and other hazards.

Unlike a previous effort, this time around parents appear to have succeeded in getting the school system to take action.

“After several Claremont parents and I contacted APS about the schoolyard conditions at Claremont Immersion, APS responded within 24 hours,” Melissa Schwaber told ARLnow.com. “They indicated that they are already working on some short term fixes to the schoolyard, while also working with Arlington County Parks and Recreation to identify more sustainable long term solutions.”

“I was gratified to hear such a positive response so quickly from APS, and am optimistic they will follow through on these commitments,” Schwaber added.

APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said school facilities staff plans to remove the rocks, plant new grass and put down mulch in a portion of the field, in addition to extending one of the playgrounds by adding mulch. So far, there’s no estimate for when that work will take place.

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