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by Chris Teale October 12, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

With Election Day less than a month away, candidates for the Arlington County Board and School Board are honing in on their final pitches to voters.

And at a forum Wednesday night at Marymount University hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, the six candidates clashed on a range of issues, from how to engage more millennials in county government to closing the achievement gap in Arlington Public Schools.

The format varied from previous forums, as each candidate was able to ask a question of their opponents before taking further questions from the audience.

Erik Gutshall and Monique O’Grady, who were victorious in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s caucus earlier this year for County Board and School Board, respectively, both touted their experience in county issues.

Both agreed that while Arlington is largely on the right course, it can do better. Gutshall, who is the current chair of the Planning Commission, said the county must not make too many concessions to developers on proposed site plans.

“If we don’t stick to our plans and our negotiations… and we don’t stick to our values, then we’ve lost,” he said.

Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement pointed to her regular attendance at the body’s monthly meetings as relevant experience.

And fellow independent Charles McCullough II said that beyond his involvement in the South Arlington Working Group among others, he would represent a fresh face with new ideas if elected to the County Board.

“We need to have other ideas, other experiences,” he said.

On the budget, Clement criticized the Board’s practice of spending closeout funds from higher tax revenue than anticipated. She said that the money should be paid forward to the following year to relieve the tax burden, rather than directed to “pet projects to satisfy its particularized constituencies.”

McCullough argued that developers in Arlington must pay their “fair share” to help make up budget shortfalls, while Gutshall said that rising property values must not be treated as a “blank check” for increased spending.

Among the School Board candidates, there were some sharp differences. O’Grady and fellow candidate Alison Dough agreed that the Arlington Career Center represents a “good opportunity” for a fourth comprehensive high school. But Mike Webb, running for School Board after an unsuccessful tilt at Rep. Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) seat in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, disagreed.

Instead, he said, School Board members should focus on ensuring instruction is as good as possible, and that no students are left behind.

“Before we build another high school, we have to think about the achievement gap that affects all our students,” Webb said.

And on the subject of the upcoming boundary changes in Arlington Public Schools, Dough said that more immersion schools where classes are taught in more than one language could help relieve the capacity pressures on other buildings.

Dough, who said her special needs child inspired her to run for School Board, suggested more language programs, like immersion in Chinese, French or Russian to help APS students embrace new cultures.

“Let’s look at the boundary issue differently and give our parents a reason to switch schools,” she said.

And with the nationwide opioid epidemic also touching Arlington, O’Grady said parents and students alike must be educated on the risks and solutions.

“It’s in our neighborhoods, it’s in our communities,” she said. “Let’s come together to learn how to deal with this.”

All six agreed on the need for elected officials to encourage more county residents to get involved, and help uphold the so-called “Arlington Way.”

“We need to be opening that door,” Webb said. “We have to build that pathway to leadership.”

The candidates will face off in another forum Sunday (October 15) hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).

by Chris Teale October 10, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

A working group will soon begin evaluating the Arlington Career Center and planning for more high school seats there — and even looking into the possibly of a new comprehensive high school on the site.

The Career Center (816 S. Walter Reed Drive) is set for a renovation and an addition of 700-800 high school seats in time for 2022. The Arlington School Board voted in June to use it alongside the Education Center to add 1,300 high school seats, in a so-called “hybrid” option.

And according to a draft charge for the Career Center Working Group, it will assess the following as it helps prepare the site for the additional seats:

  1. Estimate total project cost with low, middle and high cost alternatives within the funding limits approved by the School Board
  2. A vision and plan for the site that could include further additions and renovations that might develop in phases into a H.S., and that includes Arlington Tech and existing programs. This will be developed through a community engagement process in concert with the County.
  3. Options for common spaces, including recreational and performance spaces, that might also be shared with the community Draft Charge for CCWG
  4. Parking requirements including structured parking
  5. Physical education programs and field space
  6. Timelines and funding requirements
  7. Assume current programs continue to exist; provides funds for instructional spaces
  8. [Patrick Henry Elementary School] must remain an elementary school for the foreseeable future
  9. APS’s FY2017-26 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) – provides funds for instructional spaces – does not include funds for public spaces available at other high schools

At a meeting tomorrow night (Wednesday) at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street), the county’s Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC) and the Advisory Council on School Facilities and Capital Programs (FAC) will meet to discuss the plan for the renovated Career Center.

And at that meeting, commission members will look to identify any additional factors that must be weighed, and also ask whether the site should be considered for the proposed fourth comprehensive high school in the county.

When School Board members approved the “hybrid” option, they also directed Superintendent Patrick Murphy to explore “options describing cost, timeline, capacity, location and program for a [fourth] comprehensive high school in the FY 2019-2028 [Capital Improvement Program] process.”

Under a timeline proposed by APS staff, community engagement will begin next month and last through May, after the two commissions review the proposal. In parallel, the working group will do its work, before making a presentation to the School Board in May.

Photos Nos. 1 and 2 via Google Maps.

by ARLnow.com September 25, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Middle School Redistricting on Tap — Following a number of meetings and other processes designed to solicit public feedback, the Arlington School Board is expected to approve new middle school boundaries in December, to take effect for the 2019-2020 school year when a sixth county middle school is set to open. Past school boundary change processes have often proved controversial. [InsideNova]

Four Mile Run Restoration Project Complete — Local elected officials and community activists celebrated the completion of the Four Mile Run Restoration Project on Saturday. The project, which was years in the making, revitalized the shoreline of Four Mile Run from just south of I-395 to the Potomac and included trail improvements and public art. [Arlington County, WTOP]

New Beneficiaries for Turkey Trot — The annual Arlington Turkey Trot 5K has some new nonprofit beneficiaries. Organized by Christ Church of Arlington, the race will no longer benefit Doorways for Women and Families — “in light of Doorways’ projected success to meet its current goal to raise $10 million to strengthen and expand its services” — and will this year benefit Offender Aid and Restoration and Christian group Young Life of South Arlington. That’s in addition to repeat beneficiaries AFAC, A-SPAN, Arlington Thrive and Bridges to Independence. [Arlington Turkey Trot]

by Chris Teale September 22, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Arlingtonians will have several opportunities to weigh in on the names of new schools and the renaming of existing ones under a plan put forward by Arlington Public Schools staff.

APS is set to undertake a four-step process to discuss its school naming policies, a conversation that will likely include discussion of the name of Washington-Lee High School.

Members of the Arlington School Board announced last month they will reconsider existing school names. That announcement came after the violence in Charlottesville at a white supremacist rally, and a petition for APS to change the name of Washington-Lee High School, named in part for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Board members will also be looking for names for the building on the former Wilson School site — the future home of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program — and the new 1,000-seat middle school on Vacation Lane.

According to a draft plan discussed Thursday night by the Board, the first phase will begin with a committee made up of APS staff.

APS spokeswoman Linda Erdos said that committee will include a “diverse” group of APS staff, including school administrators, central office staff and teachers as well as custodians and bus drivers.

That committee will study the origins of existing school names, put together draft criteria for APS school names and take feedback from the public, including staff, families, students, alumni and community members. Its work is scheduled to be completed “later in the school year,” according to the draft.

The current APS naming criteria offer only two pieces of guidance: (1) that schools can be named “according to geographical or historical relationships in which the site is located,” meaning schools are named for the neighborhood they are located in or the street they are on; and (2) that naming a school for an individual can only be considered after they have been dead for five years.

After that first phase, staff will present a draft recommendation to update APS’ naming criteria to the School Board. The committee will also “be prepared to identify names of APS schools, if any, that may need to be considered for renaming by their respective school communities,” reads the memo outlining the process.

The Board then will take public comment on the updated naming policy and any proposed changes to school names, adopt the policy and if necessary, direct Superintendent Patrick Murphy to begin a renaming process. Finding names for the two new schools could then begin, using the updated criteria.

Board members said the plan, set to be formally approved at a future meeting, is exactly what they were looking for.

“I like the fact that we’re taking baby steps towards this and being very, very thoughtful,” said Nancy Van Doren.

“[Staff has] laid out what we promised, which is a deliberate process,” said Board chair Barbara Kanninen.

by Chris Teale September 6, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

The three candidates for Arlington County Board agreed on the need for more affordable housing at a forum Tuesday night, but offered differing methods on how to achieve it.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation at Virginia Hospital Center, the traditional kick-off for the fall campaign season, Audrey Clement, Erik Gutshall and Charles McCullough all argued more can be done.

McCullough, an independent endorsed by the Arlington Green Party, said the county must expand its use of rental assistance programs, especially for the likes of teachers and public safety workers like firefighters and police officers.

Democratic nominee Gutshall argued that the county should use its existing Affordable Housing Master Plan to create what he described as “missing middle housing” like apartments and townhouses for middle-income residents near Metro stations and along major thoroughfares.

“It’s a great formula to redefine our development paradigm and creates housing for the middle class,” he said.

Clement, another independent, argued against the “incredible boondoggle” of redeveloping garden-style apartments — in neighborhoods like Westover, where she lives — into luxury townhomes.

To help prevent continued losses of such housing, Clement said the county should designate more areas as Local Historic Districts to capture architectural heritage and be tougher on developers.

McCullough agreed that developers should be held to a higher standard and compelled to provide more affordable housing and other amenities.

“For too long, development has meant displacement,” McCullough said. “That should not be the way, but unfortunately that has become the Arlington Way.”

Talk of the so-called “Arlington Way” of engaging with residents and gathering extensive community feedback came up when the candidates discussed how to get more people involved in local issues.

Clement argued that the Democrat-dominated County Board deters participation, as does a sense that controversial agenda items are left to the end of monthly meetings.

“It is really an endurance contest and that is really what discourages public participation,” Clement said.

Another emphasis of Gutshall: helping more small businesses open and operate more easily in Arlington. That follows reports of businesses having difficulty navigating the county’s permitting and inspection bureaucracy.

Earlier in the forum, Gutshall argued that he would go beyond party politics, and that the county’s progress has been not down to Democratic values, but “Arlington values.”

Gutshall emphasized that he was not a “hand-picked choice” of his party, after Democrats’ use of a caucus to pick their nominee was criticized as undemocratic by Clement. Both independents argued they would be unencumbered by any need to play “party politics” if elected to the Board.

“I tend to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and that’s where the voters are,” Clement said, noting that she previously was a member of the Greens but became “disillusioned” after it veered too far left.

“We need to be able to have an unencumbered voice for the issues we have right now,” McCullough added.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com September 5, 2017 at 8:35 am 0

Today Is ‘Terrible Traffic Tuesday’ — Today is the Tuesday after Labor Day, when students in Arlington and around the region go back to school. As a result of the extra school buses, parents and students on the roads, and the end of summer vacations, it is also dubbed “Terrible Traffic Tuesday” by AAA Mid-Atlantic. In reality, however, the day after — which now has a name: “Woeful Wednesday” — is worse in terms of commuting times, and next week should be even more woeful. [Washington Post, WTOP]

Chili’s Dying Out in D.C. Area — The Chili’s in Bailey’s Crossroads has closed. The restaurant chain closed its Crystal City location last year and its Reston location the year before that. The nearest Chili’s to Arlington is now along Route 1, outside the Beltway, in Fairfax County. [Twitter]

Roosevelt Profiled by Conservative Media — GOP candidate Adam Roosevelt is getting some attention from conservative media outlets. Roosevelt “is a moderate Republican running for the Virginia House of Delegates against current Democratic Delegate Alfonso Lopez, who has never before faced a GOP opponent during his six years in office,” writes the Daily Caller, calling the district he’s running in, which includes part of Arlington, “far left.” The lead sentence in Newsmax’s article about Roosevelt has a different focus: “A conservative Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, who happens to be black, has recently emerged as one of the most spirited advocates of keeping Confederate statues up in the Old Dominion State.” [Daily Caller, Newsmax]

Webb Removed from Civ Fed Debate — School Board candidate Mike Webb has had his invitation to tonight’s Arlington County Civic Federation debate — the unofficial kickoff to campaign season in Arlington — rescinded because he reportedly “failed to return required paperwork in time to allow participation.” Allison Dough, the other candidate to challenge Democratic endorsee Monique O’Grady, has said she has other commitments and will be unable to attend the debate. [InsideNova]

Arlington Man Evicted From ‘Big Brother’ House — Arlington resident Matt Clines, 33, has been evicted from the Big Brother house. Clines had advanced about half-way through the CBS reality show before being voted off. [Reality TV World, Parade, Hollywood Reporter]

DeVos to Make Big Announcement in Arlington — Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is reportedly planning to make a “major announcement on Title IX, the campus gender equality law,” from George Mason’s Antonin Scalia Law School in Arlington on Thursday. [BuzzFeed]

Flickr pool photo by Jim Webster

by ARLnow.com August 23, 2017 at 10:10 am 0

School Board Approves House Purchase — Despite the objections of some nearby residents, the Arlington School Board last week approved the $525,000 purchase of a home next to Glebe Elementary to provide better emergency vehicle access. “This was not a cohesive, inclusive process – it was done while people were on vacation,” said the head of a local civic association. [InsideNova]

Bat Invades WJLA in Rosslyn — An errant bat caused a commotion at the WJLA (ABC 7) newsroom in Rosslyn Tuesday morning. Eventually the flying mammal was caught by an employee and released outside. [Patch]

Priest Reveals KKK Past — A priest in the Diocese of Arlington revealed in the Arlington Catholic Herald that he was a former KKK member who burned crosses and did other hateful acts, before having a change of heart. Fr. William Aitcheson said he felt compelled to write about his conversion following the events in Charlottesville. [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

by Chris Teale August 21, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

A longtime Arlington educator and resident, who helped secure the county’s ability to elect its School Board and self-published her memoirs at the age of 101, died last week.

Martha Ann Miller died at the Sunrise at Bluemont Park senior living facility on Wednesday, August 16. She was 106.

Along with her husband, Malcolm D. Miller, she helped lead a group in Arlington called the Citizens Committee for School Improvement, who wanted to improve the standard of Arlington Public Schools just after World War II by letting the county elect its own School Board.

Before, a county electoral board appointed School Board members, but the group lobbied hard in Richmond. State law changed in 1947 to allow Arlington to elect its School Board.

Meg Filiatrault, one of the Millers’ two surviving children, said it was inspiring as a child to see the group in action. From the basement of their home in Arlington, volunteers worked to send out campaign literature and prepared to testify before state bodies.

“It was a real community effort, just normal people doing what they felt they had to do to get what they wanted for their children,” Filiatrault said. “My parents were extremely well-invested in good schools and in public schools, and so were a lot of the committee.”

Miller taught math at what was then known as Stratford Junior High School, now the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program. And in 1959, just four years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation in schools unconstitutional in “Brown vs. Board of Education,” she was one of the first teachers in the county to volunteer to teach black students.

Four students began a math class with her on February 2, 1959, and Filiatrault said she remembered no instances of violence, even amid tension and a large police presence.

Miller had her first taste of the Washington, D.C. area as a child. As a 14-year-old living in Evansville, Ind. in a family of farmers, she won a bread baking competition at the Indiana State Fair, with the prize of a scholarship to Purdue University and a trip to D.C.

On that trip in 1925, she met then-President Calvin Coolidge, then returned to D.C. after graduating from Purdue with a major in Home Economics and a minor in Math. She met her husband at Foundry United Methodist Church in D.C., then the pair settled in Arlington.

Despite losing most of her sight to macular degeneration in her 90s, Miller wrote her autobiography, “The First Century and Not Ready for the Rocking Chair Yet,” and independently published it at the age of 101.

She wrote with the help of cousin and editor Jo Allen. Miller typed some of the work herself then dictated the rest, all because of her desire to tell her descendants about her life. The book has sold more than 800 copies.

“She was a very tenacious person, and she really wanted to leave this as a legacy for her great-grandchildren,” Allen said. “Her grandchildren pretty much knew the stories, but the great-grandchildren were too young to know that much about her life. She thought it was important to leave them a legacy.”

Beyond education, Allen remembered Miller for her love of the board game bridge, as well as her support of public television, including WETA, founded in 1961 and now based in Shirlington. She was also active in the American Association of University Women, the local Teachers’ Association and Clarendon United Methodist Church, where until recently she was head of the music committee.

Miller was born in 1911 in Indiana, and had three brothers. She put her long life down to super B complex vitamins, which she initially took for knee pain in the 1960s.

Miller is survived by two children, Malcolm R. Miller and Meg Filiatrault, and predeceased by two children and her husband Malcolm D. Miller. She is also survived by four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Visitation is scheduled for Thursday, August 24 at 2-4 p.m. and again at 6-8 p.m. The funeral will be on Friday, August 25 at 11 a.m. at Clarendon United Methodist Church (606 N. Irving Street).

by ARLnow.com August 18, 2017 at 4:45 pm 0

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Washington-Lee High School 2015 graduate Alexander Wallace, who is now a student at the College of William & Mary.

Activists called for Lee’s name to be removed from W-L at the Arlington School Board meeting on August 17, in the wake of this past weekend’s events in Charlottesville.

Board members announced they would study the names of all current and future schools in the county and decide if any should be changed.

Since the violence in Charlottesville over the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee, there have been calls to rename Washington-Lee High School, Arlington’s oldest. Others want to keep the old name.

As a 2015 graduate, I have thought about this subject often, especially after the Charleston massacre, which was on the day of my graduation.

I understand the argument for renaming the school. Robert E. Lee fought for a government whose raison d’etre since its inception was the preservation of chattel slavery; the Cornerstone Speech by their Vice President, Alexander Stephens, makes this clear as day.

In fighting for said government, Lee therefore fought to preserve that vile institution even if it was not his premier motive, and that in and of itself leads to just condemnation. That fact certainly makes the banner in the halls “Washington-Lee Celebrates Diversity” more than a little ironic.

That being said, I also understand the opposition to the name change. Washington-Lee, as a name divorced from its namesakes, has become an honored name, with famous graduates like Sandra Bullock and Warren Beatty, and academic and athletic success. Thousands of people by now have formed memories and friendships under that name.

Additionally, changing the name to proposals such as “Washington-Lincoln” or “Washington-Lafayette” (which I have both seen) would cause a significant degree of financial trouble to the school administration as they would have to replace signs, songs and logos on just about everything.

In full understanding of both perspectives I propose a compromise as a plan of action. We need not change the name “Washington-Lee,” but the name “Lee” could be rededicated to Robert’s father, Henry Lee. The elder Lee fought for the early Republic during our war for Independence in both Northern and Southern campaigns, and died long before the Confederacy was ever even an idea.

In doing so, we could keep the name “Washington-Lee,” the mascot “Generals” (for they were both generals in the Continental Army, and both from Virginia), the alma mater (which refers only to ‘Washington-Lee’ as a collective), and most everything else. All that would need to be changed are some portraits, like the ones in the main office and little theater, and one of the logos.

This compromise would allow the complete removal of the stain of the Confederacy from the school whilst maintaining its long-standing traditions. It is a compromise that I find ideal and hopefully would spare the school from the worst of the ongoing culture wars and bring the dispute to a quiet conclusion, one that would not attract undue attention.

In these trying times, I share the sentiment of our alma mater: “Washington-Lee, Washington-Lee, humbly for thee do we pray.” Our alma mater will need it.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

by Chris Teale August 18, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

A $13.8 million plan to move Arlington Public Schools’ offices from the Education Center to prepare for its use as a high school is set to begin later this year.

The Education Center, which houses various APS offices as well as the Arlington School Board’s meeting rooms, will be used as part of a “hybrid option” alongside the Career Center to add 1,300 high school seats for APS. The Education Center is adjacent to Washington-Lee High School.

APS’ offices are set to relocate to Sequoia Plaza Two at 2100 Washington Blvd, which already houses the School Health Bureau that provides health programs and services, as well as the Parent-Infant Education and Environmental Health programs.

Separately, the county’s Department of Human Services consolidated more than 80,000 square feet of facilities into three buildings at its headquarters at Sequoia Plaza in 2014.

As part of a plan approved last December, the School Board agreed to amend its lease at the property and add just under 80,000 square feet of new office space. In May, the Board approved a design for the office space, which will be spread across four floors.

At its meeting Thursday, August 17, the School Board advanced a construction contract for Sequoia Plaza Two, and will vote to approve the contract as an action item at its September meeting.

Under a timeline presented by APS staff, construction would begin in September and take until April 2018. The first phase of moving would begin in December, with the second phase to begin in April once construction is complete.

Jeff Chambers, APS’s director of design and construction, said that first moving phase would be to move APS staff already based at the building elsewhere to accommodate construction. Chambers said the project will not require any more funding than the $13.8 million already budgeted.

by Chris Teale August 17, 2017 at 8:00 pm 0

(Updated at 10:45 p.m.) Arlington School Board chair Barbara Kanninen announced Thursday (August 17) it will revisit all school names in the county with a view to possibly changing some, including Washington-Lee High School.

Kanninen’s announcement came after the violence in Charlottesville over the weekend, and a new petition for Arlington Public Schools to change the name of Washington-Lee High School, named in part for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The petition already has more than 200 signatures.

Though there has been talk of removing Lee’s name previously, the current backlash against Confederate symbolism has put the idea on center stage. Speakers at Thursday’s meeting and a letter to the editor published earlier in the day called for changing the school’s name, which has been its moniker since it opened in 1925.

The Board is going to be naming new schools at the Wilson, Stratford, Education Center and Career Center sites, and with that in mind, Kanninen said the time is right to look again at who schools are named after.

“Given all this, it is simply clear to us as a Board that now is the time,” Kanninen said. “It’s time to talk about the names of our schools, and what they mean and why they matter. It is time to talk about the values these names reflect and the messages we are sending our children.”

Kanninen said there will be extensive community input when discussing school names, and the process will include a “wide range of voices.” She said the Board will look to establish a naming criteria for schools that “reflects our values,” which will ensure debate is “focused on facts, not opinions.”

“We are committed to this community conversation, but it will take time and resources to get it right,” Kanninen said. “As the governing body of our school system, we have to be careful and deliberate.”

During the Board’s public comment period at the same meeting, numerous speakers showed support for changing the name of Washington-Lee, given Lee’s history with the Confederacy. Of the dozen speakers to testify, the majority expressed support for a name change.

“Today, Lee remains a potent symbol of hate, as witnessed by the events in Charlottesville,” local resident Ryan Sims said. “[It] is time for Arlington Public Schools to acknowledge its history, change the name and move on.”

“We must build on the momentum of the current crisis and use this as a teaching moment in Arlington Public Schools,” said Marc Beallor of the group Indivisible Arlington.

Not everyone who testified spoke in favor of changing the high school’s name, however. Mila Albertson, president of the Washington-Lee Alumni Association, said changing the name could set a precedent that could lead to changing numerous names and flags throughout Virginia. She said that precedent could include changing the name of the capital city of Richmond, the capital of the Confederate States of America, or renaming Virginia.

Instead, Albertson said, the school has gained a reputation for producing tens of thousands of graduates who have led productive lives.

“The name Washington-Lee is exalted because of its graduates, not because of the two [people] it is named for,” Albertson said.

Local resident and “unofficial W-L historian” John Peck urged caution and urged residents to learn more about Lee’s history, especially after the Civil War.

In a rarity for School Board meetings, two members spoke after the public comment period — urging patience for those who wish to change the name quickly. James Lander, the Board’s only black member, said it is important that community members continue to focus on students who face discrimination every day.

“I just don’t want us to take our eye off the ball and the children who are looking to us for examples,” Lander said.

Board colleague Reid Goldstein promised a robust process involving a wide range of opinions and community members, and no “knee-jerk” decisions.

“It’s very, very important that we do this right, or we’re going to keep doing this over and over again,” Goldstein said.

by ARLnow.com August 17, 2017 at 12:45 pm 0

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by writer and Washington-Lee High School graduate Waleed Shahid, who has started an online petition to push for removing Robert E. Lee’s name from the school.

Activists are also expected to call for Lee’s name to be removed from W-L at tonight’s Arlington School Board meeting, in the wake of this past weekend’s events in Charlottesville, sources tell ARLnow.com.

When I was a student at Washington-Lee, I clearly remember being taught in history class that Robert E. Lee “did not fight for slavery; he fought for Virginia.” I didn’t make much of it until I left Virginia for college. Many of my classmates thought it was strange that I went to a school named after the leader of the Confederate Army and that there was a highway that ran through my hometown honoring Jefferson Davis. These were racist slave-owners who rebelled against the American government and Abraham Lincoln, they told me. I shrugged and didn’t make it much of it.

But over the past few years — and particularly over the past week — many Americans have been beginning a conversation about our nation’s living wounds. It’s clear that too many are ignorant of our country’s history. And this past week has shown that a small minority of white nationalists are increasingly comfortable with publicly stirring up the worst aspects in American society by pitting Americans against each other.

To these white nationalists, Robert E. Lee represents their deep commitment to racial hierarchy. When three of his slaves escaped, Lee whipped them and had their backs washed with stinging brine. Lee ordered his Confederate soldiers to respect white property, but declared that any black people they encountered — regardless of their previous ‘status’ — were to be seized and returned to the South to be sold into slavery. At the Battle of the Crater, Lee’s Army even killed black prisoners of war. This is the history we honor when we name our school after Robert E. Lee — and why white nationalists felt so threatened by the removal of his statue in Charlottesville.

We must understand the stakes too. Arlington Public Schools should not shy away from taking a clear stand on this issue. It’s up to our civic leaders and institutions to take steps toward reconciling and repairing our nation’s living wounds where we can make a difference. Washington-Lee High School should be renamed so that we can move toward creating a school, county and country that truly belongs to all who call it home. If the President of the United States is unwilling to provide the leadership our country needs, then we need to provide it ourselves.

America was founded upon a revolutionary promise: freedom and justice for all. But, the revolutionary promise of America has never been fulfilled. We, the people has never included all of us. The story of our nation has always been a struggle over who America belongs to: the chosen few, or all of us? This is what is at stake when we honor the leaders of the Confederacy. Which side of that struggle will we honor? Germans don’t honor Nazi soldiers; South Africans don’t honor those who held up Apartheid. But Americans still honor Robert E. Lee and countless other Confederates who raised up a new flag and started a rebellion against the United States of America. Why?

It’s time Arlington honor those who fought tirelessly to create an America for all of us. As an alum of Washington-Lee High School, I urge you to consider re-naming our school Washington-Douglass or Washington-Tubman High School. As a Muslim-American who grew up in Arlington, continuing to have my alma mater named after Robert E. Lee is like seeing a Confederate Flag being constantly waved in my face. It makes me sick to my stomach knowing that we are honoring a man who fought to shackle and chain other human beings.

In many ways, Washington-Lee is a microcosm of America. My alma mater — just like my country — is still working to perfect our experiment in constructing a vibrant multi-racial democracy. This past week has been a reminder that some still hope to thwart our collective project and take us back to darker times. But by committing to change the name of Washington-Lee High School, we can take concrete steps toward living up to our best traditions and creating a nation where we all feel like we belong and where “We, the People” includes all of us. This is our historic responsibility as Americans in this moment in our history.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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 ARLnow.com July 6, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

County Seeking Cash for EFC Upgrades — Arlington County is seeking $30 million in congestion relief funds from the future I-66 toll lanes to help fund some upgrades at the East Falls Church Metro station. Among the hoped-f0r changes: a second entrance to the station, from Washington Boulevard, and the addition of two new bus bays. [InsideNova]

New School Board Leadership — Barbara Kanninen has been elected by her colleagues as chair of the Arlington School Board for the 2017-2018 school year. Reid Goldstein was selected as vice chair. [Twitter]

Arlington Man Arrested for Murder — A 24-year-old Arlington man was arrested in Arlington last week and charged in connection with a 2016 homicide in Waldorf, Maryland. Authorities say Bryan Aquice was the second shooter in the case; he is one of four in custody for the crime. [NBC WashingtonSouthern Maryland News Net]

High School Football Schedules — Fall high school football schedules for Wakefield, Washington-Lee, Yorktown and Bishop O’Connell have been released. [InsideNova]

Straddling Bus Was a Scam — That traffic-straddling bus that some locals were fascinated by last year as a possible futuristic transit solution? It was apparently an investment scam. [BBC]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

by Chris Teale June 30, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

Arlington Public Schools will add 1,300 high school seats across the Education Center and the Career Center after the School Board approved the so-called “hybrid option” at its meeting Thursday.

The option, put forward by Superintendent Patrick Murphy last month, would add 500-600 seats to a renovated Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street) by 2022, then add another 700-800 at the Career Center (816 S. Walter Reed Drive), which would get a renovation and an addition. The County Board denied a request to designate the Education Center as a historic district last month.

Murphy’s proposal had not been among the original short list of three finalists for the new high school site, but Board members said it would balance the need for more seats with limited building space, and make use of what already exists.

“We cannot allow this Ed Center site to lie fallow,” said Board member Reid Goldstein. “We go to the County Board every year and we tell them we need more: we need more money; we need more land. I’m a taxpayer too. We cannot have a site that could hold students going unused.”

By December, Murphy must also provide a list of recommendations for the Education Center, including its cost, any boundary changes needed and educational programming. He must make similar recommendations for the Career Center no later than May 2018.

In addition to their vote in favor of the plan, Board members directed Murphy to include options for a fourth comprehensive high school, including programming, cost and location, in APS’ 2019-2028 capital budget. Arlington currently has three comprehensive high schools: Washington-Lee, Wakefield and Yorktown.

“It’s not a blank slate,” said Board chair Nancy Van Doren. “We have eight points we want answers to, we have a finite amount of money and we have a vision that says we’re going to need to potentially add onto those and make them into something even greater going forward. So we want to leave our options open, and one thing I think we’ve learned to do is not create buildings that aren’t flexible.”

The Board voted 4-1 in favor of the plan, with James Lander the lone dissenting vote. He said the plan was not the best use of the space at the Career Center, had safety concerns around traffic on S. Walter Reed Drive and worries about locating high school students close to Patrick Henry Elementary School.

“If you know someone with 40 acres in Arlington who is willing to sell to the school system, I would be happy to negotiate that,” Lander said. “Until then, we have to utilize the space effectively that we have now, and we have to think about what our needs could be potentially down the road. I think this site could be better used than just 600 seats.”

The perceived lack of consultation with nearby residents on the new option came in for some criticism during public testimony. Maria “Pete” Durgan, president of the Penrose Neighborhood Association, urged the Board to delay their vote to explore the hybrid model further.

“We feel disappointed in the way the solution came about because we don’t feel like we were presented with the various scenarios and had an opportunity on what would affect us greatly,” she said.

Goldstein raised similar concerns with the way the fourth option came forward, and challenged his colleagues to think about how they continue engaging with the community even as new ideas come forward late in the game.

“How do we do idea changes or option changes in a project like this when there isn’t enough time to extend the community engagement process?” he asked.

Board vice chair Barbara Kanninen said APS intends to get “right back out there” in the fall to begin discussing the new schools, and may look at convening something similar to the South Arlington Working Group that helped site a new elementary school.

“After tonight, we’re proceeding with two projects, and I’m excited about both of them, the Ed Center project, the Career Center site, but it’s no longer a hybrid,” Kanninen said. “These are two projects, just like we have several other projects on the books.”

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