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by Chris Teale August 8, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

(Updated 3:45 p.m.) Three of Arlington’s four members of the Virginia House of Delegates are without an opponent this fall.

Given the lack of locally competitive races in November, when the House’s entire 100 seats are up for grabs, the lawmakers are looking at opportunities to help fellow Democrats to pick up seats elsewhere.

Democratic Dels. Mark Levine and Rip Sullivan — who are unopposed, as is Del. Patrick Hope — say they have their eyes on the statewide races, and have thrown their support behind Democratic nominees Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring, who are running for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General, respectively. Additionally, in the House, local elected officials see real opportunities to make gains.

Republicans currently hold a 66-34 advantage in the House, but multiple Democrats point to the 17 districts won by Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election as pick-up opportunities.

So instead of having to purely campaign to defend their own seats, they have looked further afield to try and cut into Republicans’ advantage, particularly through fundraising for candidates.

Democrats now have 88 candidates for the House, including incumbents running for re-election. That list includes more women running than men, four LGBT candidates as well as African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

Sullivan, who is the House Democratic Caucus’ campaign chair, launched Project Blue Dominion, a Political Action Committee to help recruit, train and fund candidates across Virginia.

He has sent out regular emails entitled “Flip-a-District Fridays” profiling the new candidates, and the PAC reported to the Virginia Department of Elections that it received $4,296 in contributions through the end of the last filing period on June 30.

“We are very excited about our current position,” Sullivan said. “We have a remarkably diverse group of candidates, some very accomplished candidates. It is the largest group of candidates we’ve had in a long, long time… We are running in parts of the state we haven’t run in in a long time.”

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by Chris Teale July 25, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

Political newcomer Adam Roosevelt said he knew at the age of 13 years old that he wanted to run for the Virginia House of Delegates.

He grew up in Norfolk, Va., in what he described as a “ghetto” neighborhood that struggled with gangs and poverty.

But at 13, he was inspired after meeting a local woman named Mrs. Bell, who spent her life donating money to the needy and taking trips to Africa to feed the hungry.

The 25-year-old began by serving in the U.S. Army, which included two tours in Afghanistan and a stint at NATO. He filed to run for the 49th District of the House of Delegates earlier this year on a platform he calls “Let’s Secure Virginia,” focusing on education, transportation, small business and veterans’ affairs.

The Pentagon City resident faces the task of trying to unseat Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), a three-term incumbent who also serves as Minority Whip for the Democratic caucus. The district includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike and near the Pentagon, as well as parts of Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County.

If elected, Roosevelt said one of his major priorities would be improving education in the district. With a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as well as encouraging more students to study medicine, he said he wants to help young people be competitive in the job market.

And to help do that, Roosevelt said he would be open to adding more charter schools and vouchers, which would provide government money redeemable for tuition fees at a non-public school. He said the growth of such schools helps encourage competition.

“It forces our teachers to have to get more certifications and get more education, and we’re going to start providing a system there that by competitive nature allows for higher quality and it allows our parents to have the opportunity to say, ‘I want my son to go to that school, I like the curriculum, that school’s doing very well,'” Roosevelt said. “It forces the other schools to compete now, and I think that’s healthy.”

Roosevelt now works as a contractor in cybersecurity and intelligence for the Department of Homeland Security. He said that helping small businesses grow is another priority, by reducing the corporate tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent for small businesses and working with Arlington County to make the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax less burdensome.

Also on Roosevelt’s agenda is improving transportation, which he said should be invested in wisely, and be made as reliable as possible.

“I’m big on cutting down on waste, fraud and abuse,” Roosevelt said. “Our contracting processes are causing us to purchase things that are too much money, like $1 million for a bus stop. We could have bought a few bus stops, we could have had three full-time employees under a small business and we could have had some more labor there.”

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by Chris Teale July 11, 2017 at 4:45 pm 0

A plan to host a polling place at a condo building in Crystal City has been nixed, but elections officials said they are confident of finding a new location before November.

County staff had planned to move the polling station for the Crystal City 006 Precinct to the Crystal Gateway condo building at 1300 Crystal Drive from Crystal Place (1801 Crystal Drive) in time for November’s elections.

But a staff report on various changes to voting locations ahead of the elections said the Crystal Gateway “no longer wishes” to host a polling place. Likewise, the report notes that Crystal Place “no longer wished” to do the same.

Arlingtonians will go to the polls to elect a Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and local members of the Virginia House of Delegates, as well as representatives on the Arlington County Board and School Board.

Gretchen Reinemeyer, the county’s deputy director of elections, said the building “did not provide any information on why they would not like to be a polling place.” Crystal Gateway’s property manager and a spokesman for Equity Apartments, which owns both the Crystal Gateway and Crystal Place, did not return calls requesting comment.

Reinemeyer said staff is “in the process” of finding a new polling place for the precinct, and they are “optimistic that we will have a new location soon.” She said that when looking for new polling places, staff try and find county-owned buildings in the precinct first before assessing other options.

“If there is not a suitable county facility available, we look at other buildings used by the community that have a ground level meeting room such as churches or community rooms in apartment or condo buildings,” she said. “Once we find a location that we think will work, we begin negotiating with the management of the space.”

The County Board will vote on the proposed voting changes at its meeting Saturday (July 15). Also on the table is a change for the Rosslyn Precinct to move its voting place to the 1800 Oak Apartments from the soon-to-be-redeveloped Fire Station 10, and a technical change for the Virginia Highlands Precinct to reflect that votes are cast at the recently reopened Aurora Hills Community Center.

Photo via Google Maps.

by Chris Teale June 29, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

A new name will appear on the ballot for November’s Arlington County Board election, as independent Charles McCullough II has thrown his hat in the ring.

The 10-year resident of Arlington Ridge and self-described progressive will join Democratic nominee Erik Gutshall and independent Audrey Clement on the ballot.

McCullough currently works as a consultant, having previously represented the Australian Embassy in D.C. on education policy in the United States and Canada, worked as an attorney for D.C. Public Schools and been part of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

He said one of his main priorities is to ensure residents’ voices are heard. He said the so-called Arlington Way should be restored in their favor, rather than what he said he perceives as a bias towards developers and planning decisions that have already been made.

“What is this Arlington Way that drives these bargains that favor developers, that only call upon certain communities when it comes to decisions being made?” he said. “I hear people say, ‘We’re not actively consulted, we’re not meaningfully consulted.’ I hear from other folks in North Arlington, who say, ‘When I am consulted, the decision’s already been made. What Arlington Way is this?'”

McCullough was especially critical of the county’s decision to woo Nestle to Arlington with a package of incentive-based grants, and suggested instead that money could be invested to help grow and retain small businesses.

McCullough said one of his other major priorities is adding to the county’s stock of affordable housing, and ensuring more seniors can keep living in Arlington and are not priced out. He suggested following other communities’ lead by expanding the housing voucher program, and requiring that new developments have more affordable units than currently called for by county code.

He added that older citizens must be able to stay in the county, and added that maybe Arlington should look at providing more communities for seniors.

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by Kalina Newman June 14, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Audrey Clement isn’t going anywhere. This year, Clement is running for Arlington County Board for the sixth time.

Since 2011, Clement has aimed to break through the County Board’s Democratic majority to win a seat as either an independent or Green Party candidate. Since 2011, Clement has always lost. In 2014, she also ran for a position on the Arlington County School Board but lost by 18,327 votes to Barbara Kanninen.

So why does Clement keep coming back?

Clement said she is returning again because she cares. She’s been in the D.C. area since 1989 and has a Ph.D from Temple University in Political Science. Since 2005, Clement has been an environmental activist in Arlington County. She runs under a platform that calls for immediate environmental, housing and tax reforms.

Clement also refuses to give up on her goal of undoing the local Democratic Party’s traditional dominance of the County Board, with challenges from local Republicans fleeting at best. Current Board member John Vihstadt (I) was the most recent to break local Democrats’ dominance when he won in 2014, the first non-Democrat to win a County Board seat in a general election since 1983.

“I think that the two-party system is not serving the vast majority of the Arlington people. I have to make the case that there is the alternative and I have to make this case to the public,” Clement said in an interview this week. She said breaking through the system was what motivated her to run in 2011, and continues to motivate her each year.

If elected, Clement said she wants to redirect the Affordable Housing Investment Fund from its current system of apartment subsidies to a system that provides rental assistance for those who need it.

“I’m concerned with the affordable housing investment fund because the county has been putting its year-end surpluses into that fund,” she said. “I do not believe that the current affordable housing program is economical and sustainable, I would start cutting there. They’re spending way too much on each new unit of so-called affordable housing that they construct. They need to evaluate that program.”

In addition, Clement is determined to resolve what she sees as an impending budget crisis in Arlington.

“The biggest crisis is the anticipated budget cuts coming down from the Trump administration that will impact county residents,” Clement said. “It could be as many as 15,000 people get laid off and this will impact the county tax revenue. If I’m elected I will take a proactive position with regards to retaining businesses and trying to counteract the impact of the anticipated Trump administration budget cuts.”

As to why she hasn’t won a seat after six years of running, Clement blames the limits that come with a small campaign budget.

“Some of my opponents have spent in the range of $100,000 apiece in their elections,” she said. “They weren’t incumbents, so they came into the election with that as their handicap. In that regard, they overcame their handicap by spending a ton of money. I have rarely been able to muster more than $10,000 a race.”

To combat her lack of funding, Clement uses social media. She currently runs a Facebook page with 393 likes and 373 followers. She also runs Facebook advertisements for anyone who does not follow her page to see.

For anyone unfamiliar with Clement, she wants the one thing people to know most about her to be her credentials.

“I have a lot of untraditional political experience,” said Clement. She spent a year as a Congressional Fellow and is currently a government contractor. She also hopes that her time spent as an environmental activist will set her apart from her opponents as she approaches her seventh campaign for a seat on the County Board.

After all of these years, she still remains determined.

“Most political commentators would say, if you haven’t made it the first or second time then quit,” said Clement. “I’m not going to quit.”

by ARLnow.com June 14, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

A record number of votes were cast Tuesday in Arlington in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, according to the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam defeated Tom Perriello 56-44 statewide and 62-38 in Arlington. According to the committee, a record 28,167 votes were cast in Arlington.

Northam will face Republican Ed Gillespie in November’s general election.

In a press release, excerpted below, ACDC said the turnout record “is proof that Democrats across Virginia — and especially in Arlington — will vote for progressive, Democratic candidates in November.”

The Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) congratulates the winners of the Democratic Primaries across the Commonwealth of Virginia, and in particular Ralph Northam, who has secured the nomination for Governor and Justin Fairfax, who has secured the nomination for Lieutenant Governor.

Arlingtonians came out again in record numbers to participate in the Democratic primary this year: 28,167 votes strong is the highest gubernatorial primary turnout in Arlington’s history, and 25,717 votes strong is historically high turnout for the lieutenant gubernatorial primary. The surge of enthusiasm in our party is proof that Democrats across Virginia — and especially in Arlington — will vote for progressive, Democratic candidates in November.

Four years ago in the Commonwealth, women’s reproductive rights, the right to marriage equality, and progress on renewable energy were all at risk. But in the four years since we regained the Governor’s mansion, our Governor has stood up for Planned Parenthood, supported marriage equality, expanded access to voter registration and absentee voting, and strengthened protection for victims of domestic violence. The ACDC is committed to building upon these achievements by electing a Democratic ticket and helping elect more Democrats to the House of Delegates.

by ARLnow.com June 14, 2017 at 9:15 am 0

Northam, Gillespie Win Va. Primary — Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie, establishment figures in the state Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, beat back party insurgents to win the nomination for Virginia governor on Tuesday. The primary was a test of the “Trump effect,” according to political analysts. [Washington Post, Washington Post, Politico]

Python Found in Apartment Hallway — An Arlington animal control officer recovered a python from an apartment hallway Tuesday morning, prompting an article in by the Washington Post’s Martin Weil. In his signature style, Weil notes that “matters appeared to end satisfactorily.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Developer, 91, Wants to Move Into New Building — Longtime local developer Marvin Weissberg is enthusiastic about the 24-story, 407-unit residential tower he’s proposing to replace the RCA building in Rosslyn. So enthusiastic is Weissberg, 91, that he says he wants to move in when it’s completed. [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Shooting at Congressional Baseball Practice — A gunman opened fire at a Republican congressional baseball practice in Alexandria this morning, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a number of congressional aides and two police officers. The gunman was reportedly shot by U.S. Capitol Police. [Fox News, Twitter]

by Chris Teale June 12, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

(Updated 5:55 p.m.) With statewide primary elections just days away, late last week numerous local residents reported receiving text messages encouraging them to vote, but with incorrect information including their name and polling place.

Multiple readers reported receiving texts this weekend from a group identifying itself as “NextGen Virginia.” The texts use what they say is publicly available information on voters’ names, addresses and polling place, and reminds them to vote on Tuesday in the primary elections for Governor and Lt. Governor.

But for many, the information was incorrect.

Some, who live in the Fairlington area, were to vote at Abingdon Elementary School, which is under construction and so not a designated polling place this year. More received texts intended for someone else, sometimes containing that individual’s address; one, for instance, was sent to the mobile phone number of the intended recipient’s sister.

Linda Lindberg, the county’s director of elections, said she had no details on the group involved but said voters should check all their information before going to the polls. The county has been tweaking its precincts and voting locations since last year, when two new voting districts were added.

“We encourage all voters to check their voting locations at vote.virginia.gov before they go to the polls,” Lindberg said. “This is especially important because we’re had some changes since the last election. All affected voters were sent notices in April, but some may have overlooked the notices.”

A representative of the state chapter of NextGen Climate, which advocates for political action to prevent what it calls “climate disaster,” said it has been sending text messages to potential voters, and may have received incorrect data to help it do so.

“NextGen volunteers are sending text messages to a list of young people from numbers we get from a reputable political data firm,” a NextGen spokeswoman said. “No list is perfect, which may occasionally lead to people getting text messages intended for other people. Our text messages inform people that if they live at the address that we assume they live at based on publicly available data, then they vote at a particular voting location. Again, this is based on the best publicly available election data.

“Our goal is to increase turnout in the gubernatorial primaries, and we believe text messages will help us do that. Texting can provide the electorate with critical information on how to participate in the voting process.”

by ARLnow.com May 27, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Monique O’Grady describes herself as just a “regular Arlington resident.”

But this regular resident just convincingly defeated several candidates, including incumbent James Lander, in the Democratic school board endorsement caucus.

O’Grady, a mother of one current Arlington Public Schools student and two APS graduates (one of whom happens to be a well-known actress), says she wants to make a difference on the school board and help APS navigate its current period of rapid student enrollment growth.

We asked O’Grady about herself, her family and the various issues facing APS in this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast. Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher or TuneIn.p

by Chris Teale May 13, 2017 at 9:50 pm 0

(Updated 10:25 p.m.) Erik Gutshall and Monique O’Grady were victorious at the Arlington County Democratic Committee caucus, winning the County Board nominee and School Board endorsement, respectively.

The final turnout of 5,972 votes is a record for a Democratic caucus held in the county, beating the previous high of 4,951 in the 1993 caucus for County Board. Voters cast ballots across three days at Francis Scott Key Elementary School on Tuesday, Drew Model School on Thursday and Washington-Lee High School Saturday.

Gutshall earned 3,209 votes to finish ahead of Kim Klingler with 1,416, Vivek Patil with 1,189 and Peter Fallon with 945. O’Grady got 3,441 votes, ahead of seven-year incumbent School Board member James Lander’s 2,336 votes and Maura McMahon’s 965.

“I think Arlington is definitely ready to move forward and make sure that we’re focused on the future,” Gutshall said. “That’s what I ran on, and I look forward to fulfilling everything that we’ve talked about in this campaign.”

O’Grady said she wants to repay her supporters’ faith in the November general election and beyond, if she wins a seat on the School Board.

“I want them to know I’m going to work very hard to follow everything that I’ve laid out in this campaign,” she said. “I’ve heard them, I will continue to listen to them and will continue to work so hard for our students. I will listen to them, I will listen to our students, I will listen to our parents as we continue to try to figure out how to handle some of the issues we’re dealing with in Arlington.”

For Gutshall, who came into the three-day caucus with a slew of endorsements from current and former elected officials, it represents a redemption of sorts after he lost the 2016 primary to Libby Garvey.

Gutshall said despite the defeat, he was determined for his vision to be heard at the highest levels of county government.

“It’s knowing that the future of Arlington matters, and that we are this great progressive success story that I want to see continue,” he said. “I have roots here. I’ve got my business here, I’ve got my family here, this is where I’m meant to be and it’s a great place to be and a great community and I want to make sure we keep moving forward into the future.”

Defeated County Board candidates Klingler and Patil congratulated Gutshall on a positive campaign, and said they were positive about the county’s future direction.

“Hopefully some of my messaging and priorities resonated throughout the campaign, because that’s what’s important to me,” Klingler said. “I hope we will carry those messages forward.”

“What I’m really happy about is the amazing campaign we ran,” Patil said. “I’m very proud of the ideas we brought to the race, the stories we told. I’m going to do this. I said on my first day, if I’m going to lose, it doesn’t matter, because I have actually won a lot of faith and support in the community for our ideas and our vision.”

The high turnout, albeit lower than for primary elections in the past, gave Democratic leaders cause for optimism ahead of June’s primary elections and November’s votes for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General and the House of Delegates.

“Turnout is high and people are excited, so it’s a win for the Democrats,” said School Board vice chair Barbara Kanninen.

by ARLnow.com May 10, 2017 at 8:55 am 0

It’s Bike and Walk to School Day — Expect additional pedestrians on local roads this morning as parents, students and teachers participate in Bike and Walk to School Day. [Twitter, Twitter]

Sun Gazette’s County Board Endorsement — The Arlington Sun Gazette newspaper has endorsed Erik Gutshall in the Democratic County Board caucuses, which are happening this week. At the same time, the paper urged readers to also consider Kim Klingler, thanks in part to her background on public safety issues. [InsideNova]

SoberRide Triples Cinco de Mayo Usage — Having switched from offering free taxi rides to free Lyft rides, the regional SoberRide anti-DUI program reported that its ridership on Cinco de Mayo tripled this year: 676 riders compared to 225 last year. [Washington Regional Alcohol Program]

Hurricane Hunters at DCA — Government officials and members of the public were on hand at Reagan National Airport yesterday to tour the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s hurricane hunter aircraft. Among those on hand were acting FEMA director Bob Fenton and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The director of the National Hurricane Center called it “the biggest, baddest hurricane awareness tour stop we have ever had.” [Roll Call, Capital Weather Gang]

TV Station Visits Local School — WJLA (ABC 7) and meteorologist Brian van de Graaff broadcast live from Hoffman-Boston Elementary School, near Columbia Pike and I-395, yesterday as part of the station’s “lunchbox weather” program. [WJLA]

Activists Target FCC Chair’s Arlington Neighbors — In their fight to retain net neutrality policies, activists have been leaving advocacy materials for and knocking on the doors of FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s neighbors in Arlington. Pai has suggested such policies should be rolled back. [Silicon Beat, DSL Reports, Popular Resistance]

Arlington Water Quality Report Posted — The results of Arlington County’s annual water quality testing have been published online. Per a press release: “Based on sampling data taken throughout the year at our treatment plant and distribution system, the report confirms that Arlington’s high-quality drinking water meets and exceeds all federal and state requirements.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by ARLnow.com May 9, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

More on Proposed Rosslyn Residential Tower — As first reported by ARLnow.com, a residential tower is being proposed to replace the RCA office building in Rosslyn. A new preliminary site plan filing provides some additional details: it will be 24-story residential building with 407 units of both apartments and condos, plus some ground floor retail and three floors of underground parking. [Washington Business Journal]

Caucus Voting Starts Today — Voting in the Democratic caucus for County Board and School Board starts today. The first day of caucus voting will take place between 7-9 p.m. at Key Elementary School, followed by additional caucuses on May 11 and 13. ARLnow recently published “why you should vote for me” essays from each candidate. [Arlington Democrats]

Arlington Couple’s Soccer Devotion Recognized — A local couple “is among three finalists in the international family category for Bayern [Munich]’s Fan Awards, recognizing dedication to the fabled club.” Their devotion includes regular attendance Saturdays at Summers Restaurant in Courthouse for games, and holding up matching husband and wife jerseys following their 2015 nuptials. [Washington Post]

Scalia Son Is an Arlington Priest — Paul Scalia, the sixth child of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is a Catholic priest who serves as Episcopal Vicar for Clergy — an assistant to the Bishop — in the Diocese of Arlington headquarters (200 N. Glebe Road). Scalia just released his first book and NBC 4 used the occasion to ask him about growing up in the Scalia household. [NBC Washington]

Nearby: Amazon Opening Store in Georgetown — Amazon.com will be opening one of its first brick-and-mortar retail stores in Georgetown, at 3040 M Street NW. It has existing physical bookstores in Seattle, Portland and San Diego. [Washington Post]

by ARLnow.com May 5, 2017 at 10:45 am 0

Arlington Taking Roadwork Suggestions — “Arlington’s Neighborhood Complete Streets Program is asking residents to nominate neighborhood streets they believe could be made safer and more comfortable for all users for potential improvement projects. If you know a neighborhood street that is missing a section of sidewalk, needs an accessible curb ramp or better street lighting, consider nominating it. The County is accepting submissions through Friday, June 16.” [Arlington County]

Commuting Habits in Arlington — Arlington County’s new “Profile 2017” data packet has a surprising statistic on community habits: more Fairfax County residents commute into Arlington each day than Arlington residents commute into D.C. [Twitter]

Candidates Dither on Exotic Pet Ban — Three out of four of the Democratic candidates for County Board would not give a straight answer to the question of whether they support a proposed ban on wild and exotic pets. [InsideNova]

Metro 29 Named Best Diner in Va. — A new list of the best diner in all 50 states lists Metro 29 diner on Lee Highway as the best in Virginia. [Mental Floss]

Beyer on House Healthcare Bill — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) says yesterday’s narrow passage of the GOP healthcare bill is “a dark stain on the history of the House of Representatives.” [Rep. Don Beyer]

Comment Ads Turned Off — To improve the user experience, we’ve turned off those semi-trashy tile ads below the comments. They’re prevalent on lots of websites, especially news websites, and they generate decent revenue, but we could not longer stand having them associated with our site. Replacing the ads are links to previous ARLnow.com articles.

by ARLnow.com May 4, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

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:

Academics

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.

Boundaries

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.

by ARLnow.com May 4, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

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 Maura McMahon:

My husband, Michael, and I chose to live in Arlington largely due to the reputation and quality of Arlington schools. We have a daughter in the 4th grade at Barcroft Elementary and a son in the 6th grade at Jefferson Middle School.

My school and community involvement has grown over the past seven years and has fueled my passion for education in Arlington – particularly for the future of Arlington Public Schools.  We have much to be proud of, from our awarding-winning schools to our innovative instructional programs. But we are also facing considerable challenges.

I have served as PTA Vice President, as Odyssey of the Mind Coordinator and in other volunteer roles, and as representative to the County Council of PTAs – for which I currently serve on the executive board.  I also have had the privilege to be part of both the Thomas Jefferson and South Arlington Working Groups.  These experiences have given me a deep appreciation for the diverse needs of our community, the strength of collaboration, and the need for fresh, innovative solutions and long-range planning.

I am the only candidate or board member with the point of view of a current elementary school parent – a valuable perspective absent from the Board and missing in its decision-making.  I know our problems first-hand. I am focused on the future and how we can maintain the quality of all of our schools as we continue to grow.

I will bring focus to the broader issues challenging our schools today: educational equality and opportunity, ways to foster diversity beyond “choice” and boundaries, and County policies as they impact APS’ needs and ability to serve its students–housing, transportation, development.  My advocacy efforts in our community are evident in the County’s Affordable Housing Master Plan and in a number of policy recommendations currently being considered as the School Board revises APS’ admissions and transfer policies.

I will provide the leadership APS needs to:

  • implement a vision for instruction, but focus on managing the infrastructure, resources, and tools our teachers need to engage students in the joys of learning;
  • solve our capacity crisis cost-effectively through long-range planning, including a 4th comprehensive high school, and thoughtful growth of option programs to maintain students’ access to opportunities;
  • develop a network with County departments, community groups, and businesses to increase available resources and streamline services in ways that mutually benefit APS and the broader community;
  • establish an Academic Partner School program that brings students of different backgrounds and abilities together to understand the benefits of diversity firsthand rather than learn about diversity from books and special presentations;
  • foster PTA collaborations for joint-programming, fundraising, and advocacy efforts.

I will be a strong advocate for our school system by:

  • making sure our County leaders understand how their decisions impact APS;
  • ensuring schools are an integral component of the community’s overall planning;
  • pushing the County to resolve existing traffic and student safety problems along Carlin Springs Road and in other places to enable the most efficient use of APS properties;
  • working with the County now to plan for the additional facilities we expect to need and how we are going to pay for them.

As our school system continues to grow and evolve, our leadership needs to adapt to our changing needs.  Our past ways of thinking and problem-solving no longer fit APS today.  We need a new voice, a fresh perspective, and a different approach.

I have stepped outside my comfort zone as a parent and advocate to run for school board because I feel so passionately about the critical issues our schools face today.

I appreciate the contributions each of my fellow candidates has made to our community over the years.  But I will bring the fresh perspective, proactive thinking, and the voice our schools need today.

Please join me by making me your first-choice candidate in next week’s caucus.  For more information, visit mauramcmahon.org and follow me at facebook.com/mcmahonforarlington.

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