Arlington, VA

Isabel Samaras, who grew up in Arlington, has illustrated the cover of MAD Magazine’s October issue.

The cover is for MAD’s “Super Spooferheroes” issue and depicts Wonder Woman’s “Lasso of Tooth” extracting a tooth from the magazine’s iconic cover boy. Samaras is only the second woman to illustrate a MAD cover in the magazine’s 68 year history.

In addition to creating art for publication and for sale, Samaras is a professor at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Samaras spent most of her youth in Arlington, attending Glebe Elementary, Swanson Middle School and Washington-Lee (now Washington-Liberty) High School. She describes her younger self as being a bit of an outsider navigating through Arlington Public Schools.

“I was kind of an oddball, out there flapping away on the fringes, a nerd and an art nerd, some kinda double whammy that probably made me socially radioactive,” Samaras said.

Samaras credits her mom for first sparking her interest in art. When Samaras was young, her mother would construct paper dolls for her to play with. Samaras said seeing the possibilities for what an ordinary object could become fascinated her.

“It seemed like an incredible magic trick to me — this ability to make something, to make toys out of humble office supplies,” Samaras said. “I wanted to be able to do that, too.”

In high school, Samaras painted murals around W-L’s building, including seahorses in the cafeteria. She also painted backdrops for the drama department and was the art director for Penman, the school’s literary magazine.

At W-L, Samaras said her art teacher, Roy Anderson, played a huge role in her artistic growth. He encouraged her to try printmaking at a class in George Washington University’s Corcoran School, and motivated her to apply to Parsons School of Design in New York City, where Samaras attended college.

“He really pushed me to try things that were outside my comfort zone,” Samaras said. “I think about Mr. Anderson a lot these days, about the power of a teacher to light candles, to ignite excitement.”

Growing up, Samaras said MAD Magazine was a coveted treat to read. She remains an avid reader of the satirical magazine today, even as its national popularity wanes. To have her work on the cover, and to be the second woman to ever do so, “is a pretty big, tingle down to the toes, thrill,” Samaras said.

“When I was a kid, and for most of my life, I never saw any women artists in MAD, so it didn’t even occur to me as a possibility that someday I’d see my own work there,” Samaras said. “I’m a subscriber — still — so having the issue with my art on the cover show up in the mail was a completely surreal experience.”

The Wonder Woman parody on Samaras’ cover, which keeps with the MAD cover tradition of spoofing pop culture, is also in line with Samaras’ earlier work.

Samaras said her most popular work blends fictional characters with classic historical paintings. She’s painted Frankenstein and his bride as Mary and Joseph in a nativity scene, Batman dressed as a classical lord and a non-frightening Morticia Addams of The Addams Family holding a child.

Lately, Samaras has been doing more personal work, like painting hands to express different emotions. In these pieces, Samaras said she aims to give her audience a glimpse into how she sees the world.

“Ultimately I’m trying to create beauty, but there’s a lot of energy embedded in a painting,” Samaras said. “You spend an enormous amount of time dreaming them up and creating them — it’s not just a metaphor that you pour yourself into them, you really do… But mostly I’m just hoping that there’s a feeling of connection. A painting in a frame is like a tunnel or a window, from my world to you.”

Photos courtesy Isabel Samaras

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Morning Notes

VHC Has Supplies, Extra Beds — “Virginia Hospital Center officials said not all of their 394 beds are full at the moment and that the hospital could expand above 400 in the case of a surge… Melody Dickerson, chief nursing officer at VHC, said thanks to changes such as extending the life of personal protective equipment (PPE), under new CDC guidelines, they expect to have enough for at least next month, assuming shipments continue as expected.” [Washington Post]

Bayou Bakery Owner on CNBC — While working to give away food to those in need, Bayou Bakery is facing its own challenges. Chef and owner David Guas appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box Tuesday morning and discussed his decision to close and lay off all of his staff, while also working to apply for loans and eventually reopen. [CNBC]

Pile Driving Starting Soon at HQ2 Site — “Clark Construction Group, the lead HQ2 contractor, is planning to start a particularly noisy bit of work this week… It does have a solution, of sorts, for those nonessential workers who are sheltering in place. ‘They have provided us with ear plugs to help us deal with the noise, knowing that many of you are working from home,’ Aura management wrote.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Grocery Store Changes — Harris Teeter and Giant stores will be limiting the number of shoppers in their stores, in the interest of social distancing. Giant is also implementing one-way aisles. [Washington Business Journal, WTOP]

Beyer Wants Temperature Checks at Airports — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) today wrote to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf urging the adoption of stricter measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at American airports… such as enforcing social distancing, implementing temperature checks for travelers, providing guidance on how to self-quarantine for exiting travelers, and protective equipment for staff.” [Press Release]

‘Virus Vigilantes’ on the Lookout — ARLnow has been getting a deluge of emails, tips and tweets from locals concerned about other people not maintaining social distancing. Surreptitious photos of teens on sidewalks, construction workers at jobs sites, and even unsuspecting people in parks have been sent our way. It’s apparently part of a national trend of “virus vigilantism,” as people take it upon themselves to enforce health guidelines.

Glebe Elementary Choir Performs Online — Barrett Elementary got a shout out from Sir Elton himself for its staff dance video, but Barrett is not the only Arlington school creating music videos. Glebe Elementary made its own video recently, featuring the school’s fifth grade choir together performing “We Want to Sing” from their homes. [YouTube]

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There’s precious little open, developable land left in Arlington, but one of the bigger privately-owned properties is now for sale.

A 1.72 acre property at 1722 N. Glebe Road, adjacent to Glebe Elementary School and Capital Life Church, is listed for sale at $8,820,117. Previously home to Hill’s Nursery and Camellia Garden, the property includes a boarded-up house built in 1941 but is otherwise mostly trees and empty land across three connected lots.

“It’s the largest property on the market in Arlington right now, even though it’s listed online as 1.32 acres, across all three lots it’s actually 1.72,” said the listing agent, Jeena Ingraham of Samson Properties.

The asking price has been marked down from $9.9 million when it was first listed on July 23.

“Rarely available, tear-down and build in North Arlington, very close to D.C. Previously the Hill Nursery, the property is being sold as is,” the listing says, adding that it’s “7 miles from Amazon’s HQ2.”

Though the property is adjacent to Glebe Elementary, an Arlington Public Schools spokesman said the school system has no plans to purchase it.

There are also no plans for Arlington County to acquire the lots, a spokeswoman for the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services said, even though the county has been actively trying to acquire properties for public use.

The minimum lot requirement for a single-family home in Arlington’s R-6 zoning district is 6,000 square feet, so 12 homes could potentially fit in 1.72 acres. However, it would require a lengthy subdivision process with the County, which Ingraham said she has not begun.

“We’ve had plenty of interest from investors and developers looking to build their family-home portfolio, but nothing confirmed yet,” she said.

Nearby homes listed on real estate website Redfin average in the $1 million range, suggesting that whoever purchases it will likely need to build several properties to turn a profit.

As for the owner and the nearly $9 million listing price?

“He’s a native to Arlington, and it’s his vision,” Ingraham said.

Image 1, 3 via Google Maps, Image 2 via Samson Properties

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The Glebe Elementary Parent-Teacher Association says it’s managed to recover more than $88,000 raised in its spring auction, after initially fearing that a Crystal City company that collected the funds wouldn’t hand them over.

PTA President Kristen Johnson warned members in late August that the group’s vendor to collect payments for the auction — Student Info Hub, a subsidiary of ConnectUs, LLC — had only transferred over about $11,200 of the more than $98,000 the PTA raised at the April event. Johnson and PTA leadership consulted with law enforcement about the discrepancy, and even considered legal action over the incident.

But it seems the two sides have managed to come to a resolution. In an email to PTA members today (Tuesday) obtained by ARLnow, Johnson wrote that “the contract dispute between Glebe PTA and ConnectUS has been resolved to the satisfaction of Glebe PTA.” She subsequently confirmed the email’s contents to ARLnow, but wouldn’t discuss the issue in more detail.

“We have cashier’s checks in the amounts of $80,000 and the remaining funds in escrow pending any remaining chargebacks which will be accounted for in November,” Johnson wrote her email to the PTA.

The PTA previously feared that losing out on the money would mean the group would have to severely curtail the programs and events it offered this year, but this resolution should alleviate those concerns.

Johnson also would not say whether the PTA was considering additional legal action against ConnectUS in the wake of this outcome. This was the first year the PTA had worked with the company to collect payments for its annual spring auction.

Representatives with the company have not responded to requests for comment on the dispute.

Photo via Glebe ES PTA

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The Glebe Elementary Parent-Teacher Association is now in dire financial straits, alleging a local company that collected payments for a PTA fundraiser won’t hand over tens of thousands of dollars to the group.

In an email to members Friday (Aug. 17), obtained by ARLnow, PTA President Kristen Johnson said that as a result of the dispute, the group is out more than $88,350 raised in the PTA’s annual spring auction.

Consequently, she says the PTA is “beginning the school year with significantly less funds than we have had over the last several years” and “will not be able to fund all of the initiatives, programs and activities that the community has come to enjoy.”

“Needless to say, this is an enormous blow to our community,” Johnson wrote.

Reached via email yesterday (Monday), Johnson declined to offer more specifics on the incident, only saying that the “PTA is consulting with legal counsel about taking legal recourse at this time.” Representatives with the group’s vendor — Student Info Hub, a subsidiary of Crystal City-based ConnectUs, LLC — did not respond to a request for comment.

Johnson wrote in the email to parents that this was the PTA’s first year using the new vendor, after opting to switch to the local business last year.

“Last year, on a recommendation, we considered a local small business as a new vendor,” Johnson’s email said. “The Auction Committee vetted the vendor and proposed it to the Executive Board. After thoughtful review, the Executive Board voted to use the new vendor for the April 2018 Glebe PTA Auction.”

While the company did hand over more than $11,200 collected in the April auction, Johnson claims that’s the only money the PTA has received, despite months of back and forth.

“In subsequent exchanges with the vendor, we continued to demand that the money be transferred,” Johnson wrote. “The vendor did affirm that the funds were Glebe PTA’s, as well as the amount, and represented that all funds would be transferred by the end of June. However, the funds were not transferred. Throughout the summer we have continuously pursued the payments directly from the vendor.”

Johnson added that the PTA has contacted a variety of law enforcement entities about the dispute, including the state attorney general’s office and Arlington County Police.

Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that her department did receive a report on the dispute, and “did attempt to assist by facilitating conversations with each party to help mitigate the issue.”

“Ultimately, this was determined to be a civil issue and police are no longer involved,” Savage wrote in an email. Charlotte Gomer, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark Herring, added that her office similarly judged that “the situation did not appear to be one that would be subject” to state law, also recommending that the PTA pursue a civil suit instead.

In a second email to parents Monday, also shared with ARLnow.com by a concerned parent, Johnson said the PTA recently hired a lawyer and is contemplating legal action, with next steps yet to be revealed.

“We are doing everything we can to secure our funds,” she wrote.

Johnson also urged parents to try to keep the situation out of the public eye.

“We have had a lot of media requests as I am sure the community as a whole wants to help us,” she wrote. “For now, please refrain from posting on social media and speaking to the media… We don’t want to inadvertently harm our legal position with misinformation.”

Photo via Glebe ES PTA

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Maybe girls really do run the world — or at least, perhaps, world finals.

An all-girls group of problems solvers from Glebe Elementary School is heading to the 2018 Odyssey of the Mind world finals next month after becoming state champions on April 14 in Newport News, Va.

The competition pushes students to work creatively as a team to “create original solutions to… divergent problems,” according to the competition’s website. This year’s theme is “emoji, speak for yourself.”

Seven girls — Buse Arici, Maddie Brown, Audrey Ferguson, Nora Johnson, Zella Mantler, Katie Martin, and Kaitlyn Nowinski — comprise the state championship-winning team.

Getting seven children to work together as a team takes a lot of effort, and the school estimates that the girls have dedicated more than 100 hours toward their competition submission.

The pursuit of problem solving — in their case, finding a way to communicate the story of a forgotten emoji without speaking, by just using emojis — led the seven girls to build “a texting machine that prints a message” and two emoji machines. In the process, they learned to use 3D printers, Adobe Illustrator and power tools to design their prototypes and their own costumes.

The silence stipulation alone will be quite the challenge for the group, a lively and talkative bunch whose excitement bubbled over into constant eruptions of euphoria while meeting with ARLnow at their elementary school on Wednesday (April 25).

The program was first brought to the school in 2015, and the team is the first from Glebe to win at Odyssey’s regional and state competition, according to Arlington Public Schools.

The world finals, hosted at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, will pit the nine- and 10-year-old girls against about 850 teams from 25 countries. According to the competition’s website, tens of thousands of students are anticipated to descend on little Ames, population just over 66,000, from May 23-26.

Getting the team to the competition will also prove challenging, and the girls have set up a fundraising campaign to raise money for their transportation and other expenses. The overall goal is $17,000, the girls said, but the fundraising webpage’s goal is much lower, at $6,000.

The team will be hosting other fundraising efforts, like a bake sale, to raise the remaining funds.

Photo courtesy of Arlington Public Schools

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Morning Notes

Petition in Support of Affordable Housing Project — The website Greater Greater Washington is helping to promote a petition that intends to counter resident complaints about a proposed affordable housing project on the former Red Cross site along Route 50. Neighbors are concerned that the project might “defile” the Buckingham neighborhood, with increased traffic and school overcrowding and a loss of green space. [GGW, GGW]

‘A Friend’ Writes Thank You Note to ACPD — From the Arlington County Police Department Twitter account: “To the citizen who left this unexpected note on one of our cruisers, thank you. ACPD is grateful for the support we receive from the community and small gestures like this mean a lot to our officers.” [Twitter]

Arlingtonian Places 23rd at Boston — Among other impressive finishes by Arlington residents at the Boston Marathon on Monday, Graham Tribble finished 23rd with a time of 2:30:06, the fastest among the D.C. area contingent at the prestigious race. [RunWashington, Patch]

High Schools Students Learning How to Spot Fake News — “At Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, outside Washington, some high school seniors are bent over their laptops, engaged in a digital course called Checkology that helps them figure out what makes news and information real, misleading or just plain false.” [Voice of America]

Elementary Girls Heading to Int’l Problem Solving Competition — “An all-girls engineering team from Glebe Elementary School is heading to the 2018 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals where they will compete with students from nearly 25 countries… The team of fourth graders from Glebe, who are all ages 9 or 10, became state champions last weekend at the Virginia Odyssey of the Mind competition, which was held April 14 in Newport News.” [Arlington Public Schools]

ACPD Forms ‘Restaurant Liaison Unit’ — The Arlington County Police Department has formed a “Restaurant Liaison Unit” to work with local bars to tamp down on drunken and sometimes violent incidents. One Clarendon bar in particular had police responding to it for a call almost every other day in 2017. [Washington City Paper, Twitter]

Glebe Lane Closure Causes Backups — Commuters heading northbound on Glebe Road today faced major backups due to a lane closure near Ballston. Washington Gas has been performing emergency repairs in the roadway since Wednesday. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Rex Block

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Morning Notes

Texas Murder Suspect Arrested in Arlington — A suspected MS-13 gang member, wanted for two Houston-area homicides, was arrested in Arlington on Saturday. Twenty-year-old Douglas Alexander Herrera-Hernandez, also known as “Terror,” was taken into custody while walking near the intersection of Columbia Pike and Four Mile Run Drive. [Fox 5, WTOP]

Family of Murder Victim Donates Reward Funds — The family of an Iraq war vet shot to death in front of the Pentagon Row shopping center in 2006 has donated $5,000 in unclaimed reward money to Arlington Crime Solvers. “Despite an intensive investigation, a suspect and motive have not been identified,” said Arlington County Police. “This case remains an active cold case investigation.” [NBC Washington, WJLA, Twitter]

Some Arlingtonians Pay to Attend D.C. Public Schools — A handful of Arlington residents pay tuition for their children to attend D.C. public schools. Most are paying for enrollment in the renowned Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest Washington. Arlington, which is still facing a school capacity crunch, does not allow nonresident students as does D.C., Fairfax County and Montgomery County. [Washington Post]

APS May Buy Home Next to Glebe Elementary — The Arlington School Board is considering buying a home next to Glebe Elementary School for $525,000 to provide emergency vehicles another point of access to the school. The home was recently sold to an investment firm for just over $400,000 this past January. [InsideNova]

Explanation for Low-Flying Helicopter — If you spotted a helicopter making low passes over Arlington this past weekend, it might have for a survey by the National Nuclear Security Administration “to measure naturally occurring background radiation.” [Twitter, National Nuclear Security Administration]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Glebe Elementary School (photo via Facebook)

Glebe Elementary students were bused to Washington-Lee High School this morning after a power outage closed the school.

The school sent the following letter to families.

Dear Glebe Families:

Power went out at Glebe Elementary School this morning due to high winds. There is no estimate as to when power will be restored, so students are being bused to Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford St.) for the remainder of the day. Students will continue instruction at W-L and lunch will be provided.

Students in Extended Day will remain at Washington-Lee until they can be picked up. If possible, families of students in Extended Day are encouraged to pick up their students early. To pick up your child, please go to the main office (Door 1) at Washington-Lee. A staff member will be there to assist you. Students who ride the bus will be transported from Washington-Lee to their normal bus stop.

We apologize for the inconvenience.
Sincerely,

Jaime Borg
Principal

Forecasters say strong wind gusts will continue through the afternoon, though the worst of the wind is over.

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Arlington Public Schools has released preferred and alternative plans for its revision of the North Arlington elementary school boundaries.

Under the preferred plan, five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Ashlawn, McKinley and Tuckahoe — would still be between 103.95 and 109.22 percent capacity, while Jamestown would be at 86.1 percent capacity and Nottingham and the new Discovery Elementary would each be around 90 percent.

The changes to the boundary plan the Arlington School Board approved less than two years ago are necessary, APS says, after a greater-than-expected influx of students to the county’s schools this fall. The approved plan, which was set to go into effect in fall 2015 with the opening of Discovery Elementary, is now expected to be revised at the School Board’s Jan. 22 meeting.

The revisions primarily affect McKinley Elementary School. If the Board approves staff’s preferred changes, 252 of the projected 304 students in the planning areas affected in 2016 would move or stay at McKinley by 2016. The remaining 52 students — in planning zone 1609 near Westover — would remain at Glebe Elementary. In the alternative plan, area 1607 would remain assigned to Nottingham, putting the school at 101.36 percent capacity.

Many of the students that will likely move to McKinley will stay in their originally intended schools in 2015 before moving to McKinley in 2016, when the school’s 241-seat expansion opens.

APS is also “considering moving some countywide programs” to accommodate more students in overcrowded schools. APS has kept the online survey open on its More Seats website, extending the time for resident submissions from last week until Friday at 4:00 p.m.

The decision to put McKinley at nearly 9 percent above capacity while leaving Arlington’s three northernmost elementary schools at least 9 percent under capacity has drawn some criticism.

“Instead of filling McKinley to capacity, APS is considering filling it and then adding an additional 60 students above capacity,” one anonymous tipster said. “Why aren’t they equally distributing the seats? Something looks wrong with this map!”

Amy Borek, a Nottingham Elementary School parent, also questioned APS’ decision, wondering why the scope of the changes was so limited.

“By concentrating on only these planning units, APS is choosing neither to consider how to fill the empty seats at Jamestown nor convert Tuckahoe’s bused students to walking students at nearby McKinley’s new addition,” Borek told ARLnow.com in an email. “This approach to solving the overcrowding problem in North Arlington elementary schools does not appear to be working.”

Before the School Board votes on Jan. 22, it will hold a work session on Jan. 5, then an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation to the Board. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before its vote. All meetings are at 1426 N. Quincy Street at 7:30 p.m.

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APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy's proposed boundary changes(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Just 18 months after Arlington’s School Board approved a new elementary school boundary plan for North Arlington, an influx of more new students is prompting the Board to reconsider those plans.

Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia says 652 additional Pre-K and elementary students came to the district this year, outpacing APS’s growth projections by 52. That, along with variances on a school-by-school basis, has caused APS to explore “possible refinements to the boundaries.”

Following a series of three community meetings, the School Board is scheduled to fast-track a vote on a new boundary map for the 2015-2016 school year in January.

The process for determining the new school boundaries will begin with a community meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 17, at Williamsburg Middle School. There, APS staff will present data showing the need for the boundary change, demonstrate the online tool that parents can use to recommend their boundary maps and “begin work with the community to refine boundary options,” according to an APS press release.

The schools whose boundaries will come under review are the under-construction elementary school next to Williamsburg Middle School, Glebe Elementary, Tuckahoe, Ashlawn, Nottingham, Taylor, Jamestown and McKinley.

The approved boundary change from May of last year reassigned 900 students and resulted in five schools — Taylor, Glebe, Tuckahoe, McKinley and Nottingham — sitting at more than 100 percent capacity, but no school above 105.1 percent capacity. The decision was reached after an eight-month community process, and previous boundary realignments have resulted in tension among parents.

The boundary revision process, from the first School Board information session to its scheduled adoption, will take two and a half months.

“After we received updated enrollment projections based on Sept. 30 enrollment numbers, the Superintendent directed staff to begin looking at refinement of the 2015-16 boundaries,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow.com in an email. “The projections confirmed that we will have enrollment imbalances within the those schools and there is a need to do boundary refinements for a relatively small number of families.”

At tomorrow night’s School Board meeting, APS staff will present their newest school population projections and outline the need to revising the boundaries. From Nov. 18 to Dec. 5, parents and community members will be able to go online and submit their boundary recommendations for staff to consider. Staff will review those recommendations at another community meeting Tuesday, Dec. 9, in the Williamsburg auditorium.

The community meetings will provide an opportunity for the families that may potentially be impacted to work with staff to develop recommended adjustments using the Online Boundary Tool originally introduced in the boundary process two years ago,” APS said in a press release. “Individuals will be able to see the possible moves that can help to further balance enrollment for these schools. Information shared at all community meetings will help shape the discussion and prepare individuals to use the Online Boundary Tool.”

In January, the School Board will take up the issue. First, with a work session on Jan. 5, then with an information item on Jan. 8, when Superintendent Patrick Murphy presents his recommendation. On Jan. 15, the Board will hold a public meeting on the issue before voting on a new boundary alignment on Jan. 22. All of the School Board meetings will be at 7:30 p.m. at 1426 N. Quincy Street.

File photo via APS

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