Drew Model Elementary School Principal Darryl Evans has resigned, citing family reasons and a desire to seek a job closer to home.
Evans led Drew Model for one year after coming to the school in the summer of 2014 after former principal Jacqueline Smith retired following a driving-under-the-influence arrest.
“I spoke with Mr. Evans yesterday and I hope you will join me in wishing him well in his next endeavors, both personally and professionally,” Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy wrote in a note to Drew Model families (below, after the jump).
APS has not yet released a plan for hiring a new principal, Murphy said. For the time being, APS staff will work with assistant principals Catharina Genove and Wendy Pilch to help the school get ready for the next school year while a new principal is sought. School is back in session on Sept. 8.
“We will continue to work together to ensure that Drew provides an excellent instructional program for our students,” Murphy said in the statement.
Drew Model serves the Nauck area and has about 502 students in kindergarten through fifth grade — 642 including pre-Kindergarten programs — with more than half requiring free or reduced meals.
Last May, the school’s PTA held its first Spring Fair in order to close a $22,000 funding gap. Last year, the school struggled with test scores, ARLnow.com reported. In 2014, the school was performing at an average of 23 percent lower than the county average on third through fifth grade Standard of Learning Exams.
APS did not have any information on how Evans’ departure will affect the school at this time.
Parents and teachers at Barrett Elementary have started a weekly outdoor library to encourage kids to keep reading during their vacation.
The program, Barret Book Blast, was created by the Family and Community Engagement committee at Barrett Elementary as a way to combat the seemingly inevitable “summer slide” in reading comprehension.
The outdoor library can be found every Friday from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. outside of the Gates of Ballston Community Center (4108 4th Street N.). At the weekly event, which is run by Barrett Elementary teachers on an entirely volunteer basis, neighborhood kids can check out up to three books or listen to a librarian from Arlington Public Library read some stories.
Barrett Elementary teacher Emily Sonenshine estimates that on June 19, the program’s second week, almost 65 children came by to check out books and visit their teachers. Sonenshine added that attendance at the weekly checkout hour has been consistently on the rise.
This Friday will mark the program’s fourth week. Sonenshine says the events are scheduled to continue through the summer, ending Aug. 28.
Photos courtesy Emily Sonenshine and Jen Flores
Despite budget cuts, Arlington Public Schools may get to keep its mobile app after all.
The school system originally planned to cut the app on July 1, in order to shrink its budget. The app cost about $12,000 a year to maintain, said Linda Erdos, APS assistant superintendent.
The app, which launched two years ago, allowed parents to view messages from APS’s Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts and gave them quick links to APS sites like the Family Access Center, MySchool Bucks, the APS directory and lunch menus.
“The app was intended for those who prefer the convenience of receiving and checking information and notifications on their mobile device through a single application,” Erdos said.
APS was ready to stop the app when fate intervened: Parent Link, the company that built the app, was bought by Blackboard, a company that provides an online platform for assignments, grades and communication between students and teachers. Blackboard, APS recently found out, was willing to give them a sweet deal.
“Because we are already a customer with Blackboard for School Talk and these other educational web-based solutions, Blackboard has offered to include the app into our current contract for APS School Talk as an added feature at no cost to APS,” Erdos said.
APS is still waiting confirmation from Blackboard before announcing that the app will continue, Erdos said.
If the contract does go through, the app will not look any different.
“Blackboard won’t do anything different with the app,” she said. “Based on what they have proposed, since Blackboard now owns Parent Link, they will continue to support the availability of our app, and will support APS staff if changes are needed.”
Photo via screenshot
Blowing past a school bus with its stop sign extended may result in a $250 ticket, if the driver is caught by one of Arlington Public Schools’ newly-installed cameras.
Some APS buses are now equipped with cameras to help police officers catch drivers who do not stop when a bus extends its stop sign. APS operates 165 buses to transport about 10,000 kids a day, said Dave McCrae, APS director of Transportation.
“Essentially, the safety of our students is our primary focus,” McCrae said.
McCrae declined to say how many buses have the cameras, saying that revealing that information may encourage drivers to try their luck. Last year APS officials said that 10-20 percent of buses would get the cameras.
There are six total cameras on the buses: five in the front, one of which is a motion sensor camera, and one at the rear. Together the cameras work to capture the vehicle, including the license plate number, as it drives past a bus with its stop. Footage is then wirelessly sent to the Arlington Police Department, where the footage will be reviewed to determine if a violation has occurred, before a citation is issued.
“Cameras are a way of capturing video and providing law enforcement with evidence needed to prosecute a violation,” said Charlie Territo of American Traffic Solutions, which provides the cameras.
The new program is a result of a partnership between American Traffic Solutions, APS and the Arlington Police Department. The program is self-funded with the money collected from tickets paying for the cameras and upkeep.
Without the cameras, it is often difficult to catch drivers who run the bus’s stop sign, said Ken Dennis with Arlington Police Department. If a police officer follows a bus, drivers use their best driving behavior. It’s when they don’t think they can get caught that most drivers will break the law, he said.
Bus drivers told APS that drivers were often ignoring their extended bus stop signs, which led to the program’s implementation, McCrae said.
Driving past the signs is often not malicious, said Daniel Roseboro, a bus driver of 25 years. Instead, he has noticed that people are often just not paying attention or in a rush when they drive past a bus’s stop sign.
“I think the cameras will help, but I think one of the biggest things is the publicity,” he said. “It’s always good to know Big Brother is watching.”
McCrae said that he is hopeful that the cameras will prompt drivers to pay more attention when they see a school bus.
“If I had one goal of the program it would be no gets a ticket,” he said.
Cameras on school buses have proven to be effective, Territo said. American Traffic Solutions has provided equipment for buses in about 30 school districts across the country, he said. And drivers who get violations are often not repeat offenders.
Fully equipped buses rolled out yesterday. From now until the start of school (July 8-Sept. 7), drivers who pass a bus stop sign will receive a warning. Once school starts (Sept. 8), a violation will result in a $250 ticket.
The bus cameras work similar to red light cameras, Dennis said. Tickets are issued to the vehicle so violations will not result in points on a license.
“This is a good thing. This is to stop bad driving behavior,” Dennis said. “And sometimes the only way to do that is with a fine.”
The language is intended to prevent discrimination and harassment against transgender individuals.
The School Board also voted to ensure that all of its employment policies include protection against discrimination based on disabilities, marital status, sexual orientation, economic status and national origin.
“I’m very proud that we have these policies, and we are going to implement it,” said Emma Violand-Sánchez, who was elected as the School’s Board 2015-2016 chair during the meeting. “And that we are going to implement it with students, with the staff, within the hiring process, and I think we have to eliminate bullying, harassment and more than anything enhance the candidates in our school system for employment.”
Including gender identity and expression is in line with the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX, a law that requires schools to provide an equal opportunity learning environment for both genders. Title IX includes gender identity and expression, according to Ellen Kennedy, the director of Employee Relations at Arlington Public Schools.
Complying with the federal government was one reason the board members adopted the new changes. But members also said it was the right thing to do.
“We do not want to put our community, legally, down the road,” outgoing chair James Lander said. “And so, again, in alliance with our County Board colleagues, the state and the federal government, we again are showing progressive leadership.”
The School Board did receive emails about the changes, Lander said. However, many questioned the procedure and not the policy. Residents were worried that the board would make the decision behind closed doors.
There were no public speakers at the meeting, which was a surprise, member Abby Raphael said. However, throughout the process, there had been little dissent from the community or APS employees, Barbara Kanninen noted.
“It was very clear from the beginning we were going to do this,” she said. “I don’t think it was ever an issue of any disagreement in terms of wanting to do this.”
The School Board also updated its bullying and harassment policy today to include protections based on creed and age. The bullying policy, which had last been updated in 2008, already included protections based on gender identity or expression.
Update at 12:40 p.m. — Democratic County Board candidate Christian Dorsey has issued a statement commending the School Board’s action and calling on Arlington County to make similar policy changes. “I urge the County Board to pursue ways to update the County Code to ensure that people are not discriminated against in Arlington based on their gender identity,” he said.
The funding was approved after an amendment to stop it failed one to four.
The professional development will help teachers be able to better incorporate digital tools, such as laptops or iPads, in lesson plans. It is part of the Arlington Public Schools’ digital learning initiative, which has the goal of equipping children in second to eighth grades with an iPad and high school students with Macbook Airs.
Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sánchez submitted the amendment to defund the professional development for digital learning. She argued that while technology is important there were other areas recommended by advisory committees that needed the money more, she said during the School Board meeting on June 16.
“We have forgotten the whole child,” she said. “We have forgotten any of the support systems or professional development we need for that. We have forgotten professional development that could be needed for English language learners. We have forgotten the needs for the middle schools and other areas I feel are needed.”
But other board members said that the professional development was key to the success of the already-approved digital learning initiative.
“I fundamentally believe that technology is going to be a key component of any future change for our children, our ability to include all students in a general education setting and to provide the differentiating instruction,” member Nancy Van Doren said.
Van Doren agreed with Violand-Sánchez that professional development was needed in other areas but said it was not a question of one or the other. Instead, the School Board should look to providing the financial needs for multiple areas of professional development, she said.
The digital learning initiative also provides for the whole child, member Abby Raphael argued. In order for the digital learning to be successful, teachers need the training, she said.
“I think it is so meaningful. And it affects special education students, it affects [English language learners], it helps accelerate students, and it really, I think, does personalize learning and individualize learning,” Raphael said.
The digital learning also provides low-income children with the opportunity to interact with technology that they would not have otherwise, Chair James Lander said. Low income families often only buy what they need, and laptops and iPads do not always make the list, he said.
“I believe in technology, and I believe this is a way for a school that is majority minority to have an opportunity to get their hands on technology and start to close the digital divide,” he said.
But the program is not without its problems. Members brought up monetary concerns about the costs of the actual devices and the software that each would need as APS increases the number of devices it maintains from 5,000 to 25,000.
Barbara Kanninen also brought up concerns about the lack of planning involved in the rollout of the devices and questioned whether they actually helped to accelerate learning. She attempted to halt the program in the past until budget and educational concerns were addressed.
“I still feel, as I did then, that we need a full evaluation of this program,” she said. “So far we had a work session earlier this year, we’ve heard a lot of anecdotes about successes in our schools system, but we don’t have solid evidence that it’s truly achieving our goals.”
Despite that, Kanninen voted against Violand-Sánchez’s amendment, saying that the training is necessary.
Van Doren said there is also a need to look a security and privacy concerns brought up by parents.
“We must address the parent concerns related to security, privacy and the continuous feedback and improvement related to the devices,” she said. “That is tantamount in allowing parents to be partners in this process.”
Parents need to feel that their children are safe while using these devices, and they need to feel as if they are partners with the school system, she said.
Lander agreed that those areas are important and should be part of the next steps going forward. However, despite the budget, educational and concerns, utilizing technology in school is too important of a priority to stop, he said.
“We can’t hold back the tide of technology,” Lander said. “This is how we do business.”
(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) The Arlington School Board will consider a proposal to add gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policy for teachers and other employees, ARLnow.com has learned.
The proposal is on the School Board’s consent agenda for its meeting tomorrow morning. The policy would prevent Arlington Public Schools from discriminating against transgender individuals in its hiring process.
“The School Board seeks to employ highly qualified, well trained and committed teachers, administrators and support personnel to fill vacancies, without regard to race, national origin, creed, color, religion, gender, age, economic status, sexual orientation, marital status, genetic information, gender identity or expression, and/or disability,” the proposed policy states.
The policy adds “genetic information” and “gender identity or expression,” while removing “political affiliation or affiliation with an employee organization” from APS’ nondiscrimination hiring goals. Another sentence dealing with politics remains at the end of the policy: “The private, religious and political life of an employee is not a concern of the School Board unless it prevents the employee from performing properly his or her assigned responsibilities during the workday.”
Political affiliation and employee organization affiliation are not currently included in two other policies: APS’ human relations and equal employment opportunity policies. The proposed revisions, meanwhile, add genetic information and gender identity or expression to those policies. The goal is to “align the protected class categories with other School Board polices,” according to a memo from APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy.
Fairfax County made headlines when its school board proposed and then voted to add gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy last month. Some parents said they were concerned that the policy could lead to mixed-sex bathrooms.
Arlington County is considering a local historic designation for the former Stratford Junior High School on Vacation Lane, causing some parents to worry that preservation efforts may mean more school overcrowding.
With the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program set to move from the Stratford building to a new building in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools is planning a $29.2 million renovation of Stratford that would allow it to house a new 1,000-seat neighborhood middle school. Both schools are set to open in 2019.
Tomorrow night, however, the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board will hold the first of six public hearings on whether to recommend designating Stratford, which was built in 1950, a local historic district. It’s already on the National Register of Historic Places as a result of its role in the civil rights movement: in 1959 Stratford became the first public secondary school in Virginia to be racially integrated.
“A local historic designation will provide a framework for preserving and telling the important story of this building and site while allowing plans for a separate new school to be designed and built,” the group Preservation Arlington said in support of the designation. “Stratford Junior High School is an incredible part of Arlington’s history… as well as an excellent example of International Style school architecture.”
Parents worry that a historic designation could push back the opening of the new middle school beyond 2019.
The Jamestown Elementary PTA, which last year decried APS delaying a decision on a new middle school, says a middle school at Stratford is key to alleviating overcrowding at Williamsburg and Swanson middle schools. The PTA asked parents to make their voice heard at meetings this week.
“Right now the Arlington County Board is considering turning Stratford into a historical property, which would likely delay the opening of Stratford as a neighborhood middle school,” the PTA said in an email to parents. “That delay will impact all of the surrounding middle schools leaving the overcrowding issue as one that will remain for much longer.”
At a meeting at Williamsburg Middle School last night, parents were told that the school may need up to 28 relocatable classroom trailers by 2018. The trailers could ultimately hold the school’s entire 6th grade class, school administrators said.
Another APS meeting on middle school capacity issues will be held Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Swanson Middle School. The historical review board will meet at the County Board room (2100 Clarendon Blvd) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“At this time, the air conditioning at Key Elementary School cannot be maintained at a comfortable temperature for students to return on Tuesday,” the school said in an email to parents. “If APS needs to close Key School on Wednesday, an additional notification will be sent. Otherwise, school will be open on time on Wednesday, June 17.”
“Fifth grade promotion will take place in the Washington-Lee High School auditorium (1301 N. Stafford St.) at 6:30 p.m. Fifth grade students should arrive at Washington-Lee by 4 p.m. for promotion practice.”
Earlier: Key Elementary students were bussed to Washington-Lee High School today due to a lack of air conditioning in the school.
A power outage on Sunday caused Key’s air conditioning system to fail, prompting the evacuation this morning, according to an email sent to parents.
Students will be bussed back to Key in time for normal dismissal.
From Key Elementary principal Dr. Marjorie Myers:
Dear Key Families:
I wanted to let you know that a power outage occurred yesterday that led to an air conditioning failure today at Key. With temperatures expected to be in 90s, for the health and safety of students APS will transport students by bus to Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford St.) for the remainder of the day. Instruction and meals will be provided at Washington-Lee; however, families who wish to pick up their children early may do so at Washington-Lee at any time today.
All students will be transported back to Key Elementary before normal dismissal so they can walk or ride the bus home at the regular time. Students who attend Extended Day will still be able to do so at Key, but families are encouraged to pick up their children as early as possible today.
Update at 5:50 p.m. — The County Board’s action on the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group Charge has now been deferred until July, according to an Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman.
The debate over lighting the fields at Williamsburg Middle School is making a comeback.
At its meeting
tomorrow (Tuesday) in July, the County Board will charge a working group with leading a community process to evaluate whether or not to light the Williamsburg synthetic fields.
After the County Board decides on the working group’s exact tasks at tomorrow’s meeting, members will be appointed to the group next month. It is expected to make a recommendation to the Board in May 2016. The Board will then deliberate in June 2016.
Two synthetic fields are currently under construction as part of the Discovery Elementary School project, located on the Williamsburg campus, and are scheduled for completion at the end of the summer.
Arlington Public Schools split the cost of the fields with the County, according to Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. Kalish said that APS paid for the cost of installing natural grass fields, and the County then funded the difference.
In an APS question and answer session about the construction project held in the fall of 2012, the County stated that if it funded an artificial field, “it would expect that the field be lighted in order to maximize their investment in the field.”
While Kalish confirmed that this is typically the County’s policy regarding turf fields, in this case the Rock Spring community pushed back.
“That’s why we’re having this work group,” said Kalish.
Fifteen community members representing diverse interests will comprise the work group, including one representative from the Arlington Soccer Association and one from the Rock Spring Civic Association. The ASA and the RSCA disagreed vehemently on the construction and lighting of the field when the plan was first proposed in 2013, eventually launching dueling petitions.
President of the RSCA Carl Cunningham said that while he could not speak for all residents, most who live near the Williamsburg fields do not support the addition of lights because of concerns about potential light spillage into their homes.
Cunningham added that residents were concerned about evening noise and traffic from extended hours of play on the field, which might “fundamentally alter the basic character and their peaceful enjoyment of what has been a small, secluded and quiet neighborhood in the evenings.”
The ASA, on the other hand, stressed the need for a lit synthetic field.
“We have more children playing sports in Arlington every year, and the rate of field construction or redevelopment is not close to keeping pace, thus we have to squeeze what we can out of existing play spaces,” said ASA Executive Director Justin Wilt.
Oakridge Elementary is getting desks with bicycle pedals and swinging bars in an effort to incorporate movement and exercise into classroom learnings.
The new desks, as well as yoga ball chairs, are part of a pilot program to improve kids’ ability to learn while in school.
The idea behind the new equipment is based in science, said Heather Suave, a member of Oakridge’s 2Fit2Quit Committee and Wellness Council. Research has shown that when kids’ brains are active, which happens during exercise, they are able to retain more information.
“Kids in elementary school have the wiggles, and it’s a good energy release,” Suave said.
Oakridge Elementary was able to raise $9,000 through sponsorships and donations — from Pentagon Mixed Martial Arts, the Oakridge PTA and individual donations — to buy three of the two person pedal desks, four stand-up/swinging desks and eight yoga ball chairs.
The pilot program has only been in place for a month, Suave said, but it is already showing promise.
Jenn Crain, a third and fourth grade teacher, said the new equipment has helped with keeping her students focused and have not been a distraction in the classroom. She has had the pedal desk and standing desks in her class.
“Some of them prefer the pedal desk, some of them prefer the standing desk, some of them prefer none,” she said.
The kids have also had positive feedback toward the equipment, she said during a presentation.
Maxwell Thomas, an 8-year-old student, likes the pedal desk because they help him concentrate while he does his math schoolwork.
“I can get my body moving while I work,” Maxwell said.
Annabella Brooks, a fifth-grade student, likes the standing/swing-desk “because people have a way to fidget without making noise.”
The desk helps her concentrate and she finds it relaxing, Annabella said.
“It’s easier to think while moving,” she said.
This is the first pilot program in Virginia. The equipment is also used in 30 schools in Texas and in 32 other states, said Lowell Lease, a representative with KidsFit, the company that provides the equipment.
The company has received good feedback on the equipment from other schools as well, Lease said.
“The kids love it,” he said. “The teachers love it because the kids pay attention better.”
James Lander, the Chair of the Arlington School Board, has responded to public concerns about use of school facilities raised by the Arlington Girls Softball Association.
On Monday afternoon Lander wrote to Steve Severn, president of the 30+ year old organization, regarding use of Wakefield High School’s softball field, as well as proposed batting cages and sponsor signage at Arlington Traditional School.
Lander said that the Wakefield softball field is closed to all teams due to safety concerns, that the school system is willing to find a location and design for the ATS batting cage that doesn’t interfere with school operation and that AGSA may put up temporary sponsor signage around school fields but must then take it down after games.
Lander, a Democrat, is currently running for Arlington County Board.
The full letter is below.
Dear Mr. Severn:
I am writing to respond further to concerns that have been expressed about use of Arlington school facilities by the Arlington Girls Softball Association (AGSA).
The Wakefield softball field is not being used by any teams until some improvements have been made. The positioning and safety measures for the softball field at Washington-Lee High School are different and, as a result, decisions are made to meet the unique needs of each space. The safety inspector was concerned about the proximity of Wakefield’s field to the parking lot and walkway through the site, and so APS has agreed to install safety netting. Regarding Wakefield’s use of other fields in the community, today was the last day for practice or play by the Wakefield softball teams, and the Wakefield Varsity Softball tournament will take place at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County on Monday, May 18.
The AGSA has proposed building a batting cage at Arlington Traditional School. APS believes that the initially proposed location for the batting cage would be disruptive to the school’s program and that the specific design would not be appropriate on school property. The Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations, Mr. John Chadwick, has spoken to Mr. Severn about this issue and has explained that APS is willing to consider other potential placement of the batting cage at the school and an alternative design. We look forward to working with the County and community representatives on this measure to find a solution that meets the needs of all parties.
We understand the important role that the AGSA sponsors play in supporting this opportunity for young girls in our community. Regarding the issue of posting banners on the fence at Arlington Traditional, as noted in earlier replies, the School Board policies do not allow outside groups to post and leave signs in schools and on school grounds over an eight-week period. However, when community groups such as the Babe Ruth and Arlington Little League teams use our fields and local groups like churches and other community organizations use our schools, as part of their community use they regularly post signs and/or distribute flyers during their activity and then the signs and flyers are taken away at the end of the event. We hope that the Arlington Girls Softball Association will consider this option so that the girls softball sponsors can be recognized during your practices and games.
Finally, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has contacted APS about these and other concerns, and our staffs will be working collaboratively over the coming months to develop a consistent framework for all athletics and community groups to follow when using county and school spaces so that we can avoid any future misunderstandings.
James Lander, Chair
Reid Goldstein has won the Democratic endorsement in the race for school board.
Goldstein received 1,252 votes in the Arlington County Democratic Committee caucus, which was held on May 14 and 16. His opponent, Sharon Dorsey, received 648 votes.
Democrats were quick to embrace Goldstein after his caucus victory.
“Reid will not only be a great voice for balancing the needs of school facilities, but also for improving instruction for all of Arlington’s students,” said ACDC Chair Kip Malinosky. “He has demonstrated leadership on educational issues and in the larger community.”
A 30-year Arlington resident and father of two Arlington Public Schools graduates — both of whom are pursuing careers in education — Goldstein has a record of civic participation on PTAs, county and school commissions and committees, and the board of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.
Goldstein is running to replace School Board member Abby Raphael, who is not seeking reelection in the fall.
“We face the challenge of growing enrollment as families are drawn to Arlington by our tradition of excellent education,” Goldstein said in a statement after he was declared the winner. “We must maintain that excellence going forward as we work to close the achievement gap, provide for growing enrollment, and ensure openness and respect for diversity.”
“I thank Sharon Dorsey for a positive, thoughtful and energetic campaign, and Abby Raphael for her years of service to Arlington families,” Goldstein added.
School Resource Officers will conduct “saturation patrols” and educate students about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Until school lets out June 18, ACPD plans to put more officers at malls, parks and community centers around Arlington. Police will also have a heightened presence at school and community events.
“This initiative encourages positive interaction between officers and the students of Arlington County,” School Resource Officer Supervisor Lt. Ron Files said in a press release. “Our goal is to provide a safe environment in the school communities by using crime prevention strategies and utilizing enforcement measures.”
The initiative coincides with the department’s efforts to curb underage drinking and drinking and driving during prom season.
(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) The president of the Arlington Girls Softball Association says a lack of field space and a newly enforced school policy against signs has him very concerned for the future of the youth league.
The AGSA has been in operation for more than 30 years, President Steve Severn said, and currently serves about 500 girls, 92 percent of whom are Arlington residents. Those girls make up 38 local teams and six all-star and travel teams, who play games on just five fields in the county: Greenbrier Park next to Yorktown High School, Barcroft Park, Wakefield High School, Quincy Park and Arlington Traditional Elementary School.
This year, delayed construction at Wakefield has taken away that field, and Wakefield’s softball teams have taken the AGSA’s field at Barcroft Park. At the same time, the field at Arlington Traditional School is becoming increasingly problematic after Principal Holly Hawthorne banned sponsorship signs, a move the Arlington School Board supports.
“Having so few fields available creates havoc,” Severn told ARLnow.com today, after he sent an email to AGSA’s parents informing them of the issues the league faces. “High schools have the first choice to have fields, and that’s the way it should be… But there aren’t enough fields to go around. Youth sports are screaming for outside field space.”
Severn said the Wakefield field opened for one day this spring, but Arlington Public Schools closed it after it determined the fences were too short to protect the surrounding neighborhood. APS facilities staff said it will reopen in June, but high school teams historically have asked to be the first team to use a new field. Hence, Severn said, he doubts AGSA will be able to use that field until spring 2016.
While field space is a serious issue for every league, sport and age group in Arlington, the sign ban is one that could jeopardize AGSA’s future.
“If sponsors cannot see their banners or recognition for the money they contribute to our organization, they’re not going to contribute,” Severn said. “These are by and large community businesses. Their kids play on the team. That is going to hurt us. We depend on sponsorship money, we do not take in enough money from registration. I don’t know what the end result is going to be. Our sponsorship base is going to dry up eventually.”
Severn said the league has been hanging banners recognizing sponsors for decades. This year, they tried to hang small, individual signs for each sponsor, which Severn said Hawthorne put a stop to. He asked the School Board to step in, and they did — to affirm Hawthorne’s decision.
“Ms. Hawthorne contacted APS senior staff to review APS policies on the display of sponsor banners, and we agreed that display of such banners on school property is not permissible,” School Board Chair James Lander said in an email to Severn. “The School Board wishes the AGSA success with the remainder of their season and we appreciate the patience the teams have shown.”
Hawthorne did not respond to an interview request this morning. When asked for comment, APS forwarded to ARLnow.com Lander’s message to Severn.
Severn said he’s met with APS Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operation John Chadwick, which “opened up a line of communication, but didn’t resolve anything.” The School Board’s ruling could mean no more banners at Wakefield when the new field opens, either. Severn told parents that an anticipated decline in sponsorship revenue could mean a significant increase in league fees.
“I’m not trying to fan any flames here, but I’m upset because the decisions are made in a vacuum,” he said. “When we got the note back from James Lander, it’s the end of the story. There is no other avenue for us. We have no real recourse there. That’s just the disturbing part.”
Photo, top, via AGSA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps.