Rep. Don Beyer (D) announced Wednesday he will use the coming weeks in Congress to push for safety at two roadways that run through Arlington County.
Beyer said he will introduce appropriations amendments related to repairs for Memorial Bridge and safety on the George Washington Memorial Parkway as Congress debates legislation to fund the federal government’s operations past the deadline of September 30. Beyer’s district includes Arlington and a portion of Fairfax County as well as Alexandria and Falls Church Cities.
But Beyer said he wants to require President Donald Trump’s administration to submit a report to Congress outlining a plan to fully fund repairs, as the project could cost up to a quarter-billion dollars.
And for the GW Parkway, Beyer submitted an amendment requiring the Secretaries of Interior and Transportation to carry out a study on how to improve safety in its sections south of Alexandria in Fairfax County. The parkway, which like the Memorial Bridge is controlled by the National Park Service, has been the site of several serious crashes in recent times, sending motorists to the hospital and snarling traffic.
“Arlington Memorial Bridge and the George Washington Parkway are essential hubs for my constituents in Northern Virginia,” Beyer said in a statement. “Unfortunately, like much of the country’s infrastructure, these historic roadways have not been maintained sufficiently. We need prompt action by the federal government to guarantee the continued safety and reliability of these key transportation arteries.”
Meanwhile, after Congress’ return from its summer recess, Beyer will host two town hall-style events in Arlington in the next two months, one on the future of social security and another focusing on women’s issues.
On Sunday September 10 from 3-5 p.m. at Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street S.), Beyer hosts “A Forum on Social Security in the 21st Century,” alongside Connecticut Rep. John Larson (D). A flyer for the event said the pair will discuss what they are doing to protect Social Security today and protect it in the future.
And on Saturday, October 14 from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Beyer will host his third annual Women’s Conference and Forum at George Mason University’s Arlington campus (3351 Fairfax Drive), entitled, “Moving Forward, Together – Impact & Influence.”
Ahmad El-Khatib, 31, was arrested Sunday morning at a friend’s apartment building on the 800 block of N. Randolph Street. Police say El-Khatib had been out with friends in D.C. Saturday night and came back to his friend’s building.
Around 3:40 a.m., a 13-year-old boy who was sleeping in the club room of the building was awakened to find a stranger touching him in appropriately, said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The teen immediately fled the room and reported the incident to a family member, who was working as the building’s overnight concierge.
The concierge reviewed surveillance footage and found that the incident had been caught on video, Sternbeck said. Later that morning, when El-Khatib was leaving the building, an employee identified him as the suspect in the video and called police. El-Khatib was arrested on scene, said Sternbeck.
El-Khatib, an Annandale resident, has been charged with aggravated sexual assault and is being held without bond.
El-Khatib is listed as the “founding director” of the NUR Center, an Islamic education, recreation and cultural center with locations in Loudoun County and on Carlin Springs Road in Falls Church. The center offers Montessori classes for ages 3-9, along with after school activities for ages 5-12 and youth day and summer camps.
Also on the NUR Center website, El-Khatib is listed as the coach of a martial arts team based at Abingdon Elementary School, in Arlington’s Fairlington community. On his LinkedIn profile, he’s listed as the “program director” of the NUR Center and a company called Arlington Day Camps LLC.
A website for Arlington Day Camps has the following biography for El-Khatib:
Ahmad El-Khatib has directed art, fitness, and enrichment camps in the DMV area for over 10 years. His programs have been offered at Fairfax County Rec Centers, Sport and Health Clubs, Abingdon Elementary, Drew Model School, Lyles Crouch Traditional Academy, and Randolph Elementary. In 2010, he founded the NUR Center, a Montessori School and After-School recreation center for children and adults. His working partnerships with local schools gave him the ability to establish strong relationships with some of the areas most extraordinary teachers. In September 2013, with the support of his staff and community, he established Arlington Day Camps in an effort to provide quality and affordable camps during school holidays and teacher work days.
A phone number listed for El-Khatib went straight to a full voicemail box. An employee at the NUR Center in Loudoun County did not have any information on El-Khatib’s arrest, and an email to the company has not been returned. Attempts to reach Mary El-Khatib, who’s listed as a NUR Center co-founder and a former Arlington Public Schools teacher, were also unsuccessful.
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.
Wellington Buyer Wants to Build — Washington REIT, which just purchased The Wellington apartments on Columbia Pike, has plans to build a new, 360-unit building on the property, perhaps atop the 711-unit complex’s large surface parking lot. [Bisnow]
GMU: Housing Crunch Coming — The D.C. area is not building housing fast enough to accommodate new residents and jobs, according to a report by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis. By 2023, there will be 226,380 fewer housing units in Greater Washington than needed to house those moving to area, thus forcing people to move farther away from the city. [Washington Business Journal]
Nauck Community Portraits Exhibit — A new exhibition space in the Arlington County Cultural Affairs offices at 3700 Four Mile Run Drive is hosting “three-dimensional biographies” of Nauck community leaders created by Drew Elementary students. The “Nauck Community Portraits” exhibit was inspired by a new book about the historic African-American community. [InsideNova]
AWLA Placement Rate on the Rise — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington says it’s successfully placing shelter animals with new homes at a rate of 95 percent, exceeding national standards. It’s up from 76 percent in 2010, when Neil Trent took over as director of the organization. [Patch]
Greenbrier Learning Center Gets New Home — Facing the loss of its lease at the Greenbrier Baptist Church, the Greenbrier Learning Center has found a new home. The center, which provides after school enrichment to children, will be based at the Arlington Mill Community Center, after the Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a partnership with GLC. [Arlington County]
State, County Incentives Lured Lidl — German discount grocery chain Lidl is setting up its U.S. headquarters in Arlington, near Potomac Yard, and creating 500 jobs in the county. The decision was made after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe offered $7 million in economic development grants and Arlington County offered $7.5 million in infrastructure improvements and tax breaks, including half off Lidl’s Business, Professional and Occupational License tax. [Washington Business Journal]
Australian Restaurant Eyes August Opening — Oz, a new restaurant coming to the former La Tagliatella and Restaurant 3 space in Clarendon, is expected to open by the end of August, according to a help wanted ad on Craigslist. [Patch]
Rescue on GW Parkway — Arlington County’s technical rescue team helped to rescue a person who fell down a steep embankment along the GW Parkway’s second overlook Sunday night. The victim was loaded on to a fire boat and then transported via an Arlington ambulance to a local hospital for treatment. [Twitter]
Drew Students Make Music Video — A group of 10 Drew Elementary students are getting some local media recognition for a music video they made. As part of an extracurricular project on self-image, beauty and bullying, the group made a video set to Selena Gomez song “Who Says.” [WUSA 9]
Tree Down After Storms — A large tree fell in Towers Park during yesterday’s storms. [Twitter]
Because of changes to local grocery stores’ policies in the last two years, donations that have come from shoppers signing up to donate a portion of their purchase to schools have almost disappeared. According to Drew PTA President Evan Thomas, grocery store donations accounted for $22,700 of the PTA’s $30,000 budget in the 2012-2013 school year.
This year, the PTA projects $495 in revenue from the two stores that it has received money from, Harris Teeter and Safeway.
A manager at Harris Teeter said their program hasn’t changed, but schools are no longer allowed to sign up shoppers on the way in, which has hamstrung participation, Thomas said. According to a manager at Safeway, the chain was just purchased, and in the lengthy negotiations over the past two years, the “program has changed some.” According to Safeway’s website, donations through its eScrip program aren’t taken from credit card purchases.
Thomas doesn’t begrudge the grocery stores, he said, but the fiscal reality of the PTA’s current budget is inescapable.
“We felt fortunate that we were able to work within the program as we were before those changes were made,” he told ARLnow.com today. “It’s just a reality of where we are, and we’re just trying to look for ways to move forward and fundraising without doing it on the backs of our families.”
The PTA has responded by hosting a Spring Fair next Saturday, May 16, to draw families to the school and raise a few thousand dollars.
The fair will take place on the school’s grounds (3500 23rd Street S.) from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. There will be foods from a variety of food trucks, a moon bounce, a cake walk game, and raffles. There will also be carnival style games, with the price of participation going to the Drew PTA.
“We’re really hoping the Spring Fair can serve as a signature event so we can have a little more certainty going into each year to allocate comfortably,” Thomas said.
The PTA has received help from its counterpart at Nottingham Elementary School in North Arlington. The Nottingham PTA has chipped in $1,500 to offset costs and provided mentorship and support — Drew is hoping to model the Spring Fair after Nottingham’s annual MayFest.
As for the drastic downturn in PTA revenue, Thomas said purchases the group has made in the past, like smartboards for classrooms and a climbing wall, will no longer be feasible. Thomas said 65 percent of Drew students are on a free or reduced lunch program. APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said it’s one of nine schools in the county that have at least 40 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunches.
Image, top, courtesy Drew Model School PTA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps
(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) The standardized test scores for elementary school students in the Nauck neighborhood are slipping well below the county-wide average, and some parents are fed up with the disparity.
Over the past 10 years, the graded program at Drew Model Elementary School has performed at an average of 23 percent below the county’s average in the 3rd-through-5th grade Standards of Learning exams, according to data from Arlington Public Schools’ Department of Planning and Education.
The numbers get worse the older the students get. Third-graders in the graded program — as opposed to Drew’s Montessori program, which takes children from around the county and performs on par with other elementary programs — pass the reading SOL 23.9 percent less frequently than APS average and the math 17.9 percent less frequently. For fifth-graders, that drops to 30.4 percent worse in reading and 23.2 percent worse in math.
The numbers were highlighted during last Thursday’s meeting of the Arlington School Board when Terron Sims, former County Board candidate and co-chair of APS’ Superintendent’s Committee on Eliminating the Achievement Gap, spoke out decrying Drew’s struggles.
“Since the children of the Nauck community have been allowed to attend their neighborhood school, the school has failed them,” Sims said. “For years, Drew parents and administrators bickered over whose program was better, who should occupy Drew. But now, after 10 years of failing our kids, the fighting has stopped, for all those concerned now understand that a drastic change must occur at Drew if we are to save the children from a mediocre education, and thus save them from a mediocre life.”
A group of parents and community members, led by Sims, have formed the Coalition for a New Drew to try to reverse the school’s fortunes. In a press release, the coalition alleges that APS had been releasing Drew’s Montessori SOL statistics over the past few years, but not the results for the students from the graded program as some members have requested.
The statistics cited above were compiled by the Coalition. APS officials confirm the data is pulled from its report from Planning and Education’s presentation to the Arlington Montessori Action Committee.
“The data compiled by the coalition shows there is a stark difference between the educational readiness for most Arlington students and a disproportionate number of SOL-tested Drew Graded students,” Nauck Civic Association Community Affairs Committee chair Portia Clark said in the release. “We know the students at Drew have the desire to learn and we just want them all to succeed.”
Another chart released by the Coalition shows that less than 50 percent of fourth and fifth graders in the Drew graded program are passing any SOL test. The combination of the Montessori and graded programs still makes Drew the worst-performing school in the tests.
The push for change comes at a time when the school is already in administrative flux. Drew’s principal, Jacqueline Smith, resigned earlier this month after being arrested for driving under the influence. Smith has been replaced by interim Theresa Bratt, who had retired from APS last year.
“A new Drew is overdue, and the time is right to fix this instructional problem,” Cathleen Drew, a former Drew PTA president, said in the press release. “As APS looks for ways to solve its capacity problems, it should put instruction first and prioritize solutions that promote both academic and space solutions.”
Photo (top) via Google Maps. Chart (bottom) via Coalition for a New Drew.
Smith, a 53-year-old Arlington resident, was arrested on the 1100 block of S. Rolfe Street, in the Arlington View neighborhood, around 3:30 a.m. on Friday, March 7. Smith was observed by an officer stopping at a green light, weaving in and out of lanes and almost striking a parked car, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The officer pulled Smith over and she subsequently failed a field sobriety test, Sternbeck said. Smith was arrested and taken to the Arlington County Detention Center. Four days after the arrest, Drew Elementary parents were notified that Smith was “retiring.”
“We wanted to let you know that Jackie Smith, Principal of Drew, has informed us that she plans to retire from her position with the Arlington Public Schools for personal reasons,” wrote Arlington Public Schools superintendent Patrick Murphy. “She will be on leave the remainder of this week, and will retire effective March 17. We wish her the best in the future.”
“I have been grateful for my 21 years in Arlington as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal,” Smith said in the letter. “The support I have received through the years from Dr. Murphy, APS administrators, the School Board, and the many dedicated teachers and educational leaders throughout the county has been greatly appreciated. I want to express my best wishes to the Drew Model School staff, students, and community, and I hope for their continued success as they work to provide excellent learning opportunities for our children.”
Asked by ARLnow.com if Smith had been fired, APS spokeswoman Linda Erdos said “that statement is not accurate.” Theresa Bratt, who retired from APS last year, is now serving as interim principal at the school.
Smith’s next court appearance is scheduled for May 19. Court documents indicate that, if convicted, this would be her first DUI.
Photo via APS
The Arlington County Fire Marshal’s office is investigating a grass fire that ignited in front of an elementary school Monday afternoon.
The fire was reported around 1:30 p.m. and scorched a 20 by 40 foot area in front of Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street S.) in the Nauck neighborhood, according to fire department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. Witnesses told authorities that the fire was sparked by individuals who were setting off fireworks, though no fireworks were found by investigators.
“The fire is still under investigation,” Marchegiani said. The blaze caused “minimal damage.”