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School Board member David Priddy holds a copy of the proposed 2023-24 budget for Arlington Public Schools (via APS)

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Francisco Durán has proposed an $803.3 million budget — an increase of more than 7% over the current budget.

And the messaging around the budget picks up on some themes, including the mental and physical health of students and more support for teachers, which arose from major events this school year, including a series of student deaths and drug overdoses.

“This budget reflects our commitment to supporting continued success for every APS student through investments in both academic and mental health support,” Durán said in a statement.

“We are also continuing our focus on compensation for our teachers and staff to ensure we remain a highly competitive employer at a vital time for public schools, while further strengthening division-wide safety and security measures,” he added.

Durán writes that the budget process for the 2023-2024 school year began with “a large deficit” after APS used some $41 million — partially from reserves — last year to avoid significant reductions.

“This deficit was also driven by the need to provide staff with a step increase as well as a cost of living adjustment next year in order to partially mitigate rising inflation,” he said.

Like last year, APS is once more drawing from its well of reserves, spending $41.2 million in addition to the county transfer of $607.6 million. This transfer, $23 million larger than last year, comprises three-quarters of the school system’s revenue.

Both enrollment and cost-per-pupil are on the rise, per the budget. Next year, APS projects enrollment to increase by 710 students, according to a six-page budget explainer, while per-pupil expenditures to reach $24,560.

APS enrollment projections compared to cost-per-pupil (via APS)

It also projects a rising number of students receiving special education services and learning English.

Population projections for students with disabilities and English language learners (via APS)

When it comes to school staff, the budget includes $25.6 million for step increases for eligible employees and a 3% cost of living adjustment for all employees. The average pay increase will be a little over 5% for teachers, administrators and professionals and more than 6% for support staff.

“Anything less than a step plus 6% doesn’t beat the current cost of inflation,” said June Prakash, the president of the Arlington Education Association, the local teachers union, in a statement. “How can you expect us to give 100% of ourselves to APS when many employees must have second (or even third) jobs to make ends meet? Our staff will continue to struggle with housing, food, and furthering the education of their own children.”

She said employees are still paid less than colleagues in surrounding districts.

Teacher salaries in Arlington and neighboring Virginia jurisdictions, per Virginia Education Association data (created by ARLnow)

In response to staffing shortages, Durán proposes $2 million for a Summer School bonus for teachers and assistants and increased substitute teacher pay rates and substitute coverage pay for teachers. APS has taken this approach before.

The substitute teacher shortage is not new nor unique to Arlington. About 77% of school systems nationwide report substitute shortages, as teachers retire or quit in higher numbers, a trend some media outlets and research have linked to the pandemic.

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(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) Three Arlington School Board candidates are officially vying for the endorsement of the local Democratic party.

The candidates are Erin Freas-Smith, Miranda Turner and Angelo Cocchiaro, the Arlington County Democratic Committee announced today (Friday). They are running in a party caucus to determine who will advance to the general election and represent the party, though party affiliation is not shown on the ballot for School Board races.

Their filing deadline was earlier this week.

Freas-Smith and Turner, who has run for this office before, are mothers to school-aged children in Arlington Public Schools and are active in Parent-Teacher Associations. Cocchiaro is active in local and state politics.

Cherrydale resident Freas-Smith is a mother of three children, who attend Key Elementary School and Dorothy Hamm Middle School. She has spent many years working in the PTAs, serving as the Escuela Key PTA president during the pandemic and currently as a substitute teacher.

“As a substitute teacher and volunteer within APS schools I have seen first hand the crisis of this moment,” she says on her website, listing her policy positions and campaign promises.

“Students are acting out, falling behind educationally, and teachers/in-school staff are at their breaking point,” she continues. “We must commit to our students by supporting teachers, providing avenues for advancement, and listening to the needs of families.”

An acquisitions librarian for the Library of Congress, and thus a federal employee in the legislative branch, she says she can pursue public office as a Democrat without violating the Hatch Act. This conflict led former candidate Symone Walker to drop out and run as an independent.

Since her first bid for School Board, Turner has been focused on reversing learning loss she says stems from virtual instruction during Covid. Other top priorities include improving communication between the School Board and the community as well as mental health for students and teachers.

“We have students in our schools now who need more from APS. High expectations and equitable support are a must,” she said. “Mental health and safety in schools for our students and teachers is an urgent priority. We need a community-wide response with better coordination with the county.”

Turner is a lawyer who lives in Green Valley with her husband and three kids. She was a founding member of the Drew PTA and is involved with the Montessori Public School of Arlington PTA as well as the Early Childhood Education Committee for the Advisory Council on Teaching & Learning.

Cocchiaro describes himself as a Gen Z “former student organizer and free school lunch kid,” as well as a youth advocate. His résumé includes working for U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and was a convention delegate for the 2020 Democratic National Convention to elect President Joe Biden.

He tells ARLnow he plans to announce next Wednesday, March 1, the day of the next Arlington Dems meeting at the Lubber Run Community Center (300 N. Park Drive).

“As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, our students and our schools are at the epicenter of multiple swirling crises,” he said in a statement to ARLnow. “We need a plan. The place is here and the time is now for a generational change in perspective in school policymaking. I’ve spent the last six years as a student organizer, mobilizing peers on issues affecting us and fighting for progressive education values. I am prepared to advocate in just the same spirit for students now, to meet this moment and deliver the change that’s overdue.”

The three candidates will have opportunities to debate each other over the coming months, before the endorsement caucus, comprised of three days of voting in early May.

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Arlington School Board chair Reid Goldstein at Wakefield High School for the opening of Amazon’s new STEM-focused tech space (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 12:55 p.m.) The Chair of the Arlington School Board just announced that he will not be running for reelection.

Reid Goldstein was first elected in 2015, after winning a two-way Democratic endorsement caucus. An Arlington resident for nearly 40 years, Goldstein participated in various local committees and civic groups prior to his election and is the father of two Arlington public school grads.

He said today in a statement that he is “excited to explore new ways of serving the community.”

After serving nearly eight years on the Arlington School Board, I have made the decision not to seek another term. I have always believed that building a healthy and desirable community is not a spectator sport and have been committed to public service in Arlington for almost 25 years. However, as this chapter of my life comes to a close, I am excited to explore new ways of serving the community.

I am deeply grateful to the Arlington community, students, teachers, support staff, administrators, parents, and colleagues who have made my time on the School Board so fulfilling. Together, we have made great progress and I am proud of what we have accomplished.

I will make a formal announcement about my decision not to run at the next meeting of the Arlington Democrats on March 1.

He was lauded on social media this morning by the 2022 School Board chair, Barbara Kanninen, who also chose not to seek reelection last year.

This afternoon (Tuesday), Arlington parent Miranda Turner announced the launch of her second bid for a seat on the School Board.

Turner made a name for herself during her first campaign in 2021, calling for a quicker return to in-person learning when APS was still virtual due to Covid. She dropped out after her opponent, Mary Kadera, won the endorsement of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

“I’m running because we have students in our schools now who need more from APS,” Turner said in a statement. “From quality instruction, resources to recruit, support and retain teachers, equitable support, high expectations for all, and oversight that asks tough questions — these are the cornerstones to a quality school system.”

Others may also make announcements at the upcoming Wednesday, March 1 meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

Arlington Education Association president June Prakash (via Arlington Public Schools)

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) After lockdowns, a fatal, apparent drug overdose, a racist threat of gun violence, and additional threats and gun-related incidents — all within the past few weeks — parents and teachers say they want more information from Arlington Public Schools.

But there’s a document floating around — outlining how School Board members should talk to the public, school staff, other board members and members of the media — that they say encourages the Board to be less transparent.

June Prakash, the president of Arlington’s teachers union, the Arlington Education Association, bashed the document as part of her remarks outlining steps APS can take to improve school safety.

“We need to tear up this ‘How We Work’ document from Board Docs,” she said in a School Board meeting on Thursday, garnering applause from people who attended the meeting.

The document, prepared by School Board Chair Reid Goldstein, was meant to serve as a discussion guide for a retreat a few weeks ago to onboard the newest member, Bethany Sutton.

It tells members to:

  • Avoid conversations about workplace conditions with staff members without appropriate union representatives present.
  • “Err on the side of vague” when talking to the community. Officials should refer them to previous public discussions where possible and if none exists, say they’ll bring the issue to the rest of the Board.
  • Tell the Chair if they “are contemplating” responding to press inquiries and instead let the School & Community Relations staff advise them.

“The document was a discussion guide prepared by the Board Chair to advise Board members about responding to questions about topics that they don’t have full information on,” APS spokesperson Frank Bellavia told ARLnow. “The Board receives many questions about pending decisions or other operational topics that they have yet to be fully briefed on. The guidance meant that it is okay to say, ‘I don’t know and I will get back to you,’ versus a specific response each time.”

He added that the memo “is not and will not become policy,” and that community members have several ways to engage directly with School Board members, including member office hours.

Media inquiries are handled through dedicated APS staffers for efficiency’s sake, but this approach is reviewed annually, Bellavia noted.

Prakash, however, tells ARLnow that the AEA is disappointed in the document, while the APS watchdog group Arlington Parents for Education says these instructions will erode the trust parents have in their elected officials.

“How can you ethically say, ‘Don’t talk — or even listen — to staff members about working conditions? You need to visit the schools, you need to listen to talk to the students and the staff. When you start listening, they’ll start talking,” Prakash said Thursday.

Last year neighboring Alexandria’s public school system was roiled by a series of events that included a School Board policy — since revised — that discouraged members from talking to the media, and the superintendent advising members not to talk to the media about a fatal stabbing. Superintendent Gregory Hutchings abruptly resigned shortly thereafter.

During the Arlington School Board meeting, members discussed how the guidance in the document applied to collective bargaining discussions but not regular engagement with staff, according to Bellavia.

“There is no direction for the Board not to listen to staff, or any other members of the community,” he said. “In fact, the Board has affirmatively stated that they want to hear from staff. The Board Chair acknowledges that it was poorly worded in the handout.”

Arlington Parents for Education said in a statement that the memo “reflects a keen reluctance to engage in clear, honest and frank discussion with the APS community, including parents, teachers and administrators.”

“We urge the Board to commit itself to a greater level of candor in its dealings with all stakeholders, and to publicly disavow the guidance and the sentiment behind it, which implies that community members are problems to be managed and not stakeholders who the Board is elected to represent,” APE said.

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) A march against drugs drew a large crowd of parents and community members to Wakefield High School, where a student died this week.

Sergio Flores was found unconscious in the bathroom Tuesday morning and rushed to the hospital in critical condition. He died Thursday and his death is being investigated as a possible overdose.

Latino parents, mostly mothers, planned the march as a way to show love and support for their children.

Classes were canceled for Wakefield students today (Friday) after the overdose this week and a lockdown Thursday prompted by a possibly armed trespasser. Arlington County police have since arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with the trespassing incident.

Still, parents marched, carrying signs saying “Your community is here for you!” and “Queremos lo mejor para nuestros hijos,” Spanish for “We want the best for our children.”

The idea came from a community meeting held by community activists Elder Julio Basurto and Janeth Valenzuela — who wear many hats, but this time, were organizing under their organization, Juntos en Justicia. They have been advocating for more attention to opioids in Arlington Public Schools for more than a year through the organization.

Attendance swelled and other community members, as well as some School Board and County Board members, joined the march.

“It was very scary for me to read the student involved in the drug incident has died,” said Green Valley resident Frederick Craddock. “That just gives you an example: It’s in our neighborhood schools. It’s in the home somewhere, so then parents have a big role. It’s all got to come together. Maybe this will raise more awareness of the issue.”

Rebecca Brunner said three generations of her family have attended Wakefield. The high school needs police officers returned and the school system needs to be more transparent, she said.

“Don’t tell us there’s a medical emergency when a child ODed. Tell us the truth so we know what to tell our children, we know how to talk to them, we know to tell them, ‘don’t take anything,'” she said. “Fentanyl is out there.”

“Yesterday, I’m getting a video from inside the school of the SWAT team coming through the doors with assault rifles and they’re telling us, ‘Oh, we might have a possible trespasser,'” Brunner continued. “Yeah, something way more than that is going on.”

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Police and firefighters on scene of a reported overdose at Wakefield High School (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) The teen found unconscious in a Wakefield High School boys bathroom Tuesday after an apparent overdose has died.

“The Arlington County Police Department is conducting a death investigation following the teen’s passing yesterday at the hospital,” ACPD said in a statement this morning. “The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause and manner of death.”

The name of the student was not given but he was identified in an online fundraising campaign and by a speaker at last night’s Arlington School Board meeting as Sergio Flores. He was reported to be 14 years old in the initial fire department dispatch on Tuesday.

A GoFundMe campaign to help pay for his funeral has raised more than $22,000 as of publication time.

“We want to give Sergio Flores the memorial he deserves, to honor his memory and say our last goodbyes,” said the page. “Sergio was a sweet caring person, he was someone who showed what real love was either family or friend wise.”

“He was someone that made everyone laugh he always had jokes he always wanted to put a smile on his friends and families face,” the page continued. “He would always be dancing with music or no music. Even if he wasn’t having a good day he always tried his best to make people happy and smile and you will be watching over all your friends and family… we love you fly high little one️.”

In recent months numerous parents and advocates have sounded the alarm to ARLnow about opioid use and overdoses in Arlington’s public schools, including middle schools and high schools.

Arlington police responded to Arlington Public Schools buildings seven times for reported overdoses between January and October 2022, according to ACPD stats. APS has been trying to combat a twin epidemic of opioid use and mental health crises among students, leading to what is now at least three student deaths since Christmas.

Still, some parents say there is more the school system should be doing. A parent march is planned in front of Wakefield High School at noon today, though classes were cancelled after yesterday’s lockdown for a potential armed trespasser.

“Say his name. Sergio Flores,” Judith Davis, Wakefield High School PTSA president, said during blistering remarks at last night’s School Board meeting. She accused APS of a “lack of leadership and inaction.”

Every single one of you in this room has been told by parents, teachers, students, PTSAs, and community leaders that we will have someone die at Wakefield. Since we came back from Covid, that has been the constant conversation and you all failed to address it. After what happened Tuesday, the only two people who contacted parents, students or PTSA were (Chief of Staff) Stephen Linkous and (School Board member) Mary Kadera, while her mother was dying. Entirely unacceptable. Stop celebrating your collective lack of performance and lack of leadership. It resulted in a loss of life. Every one of you knew this day would come. Say his name. Sergio Flores. He died. This kid is not going back to his family. The action items you claim were already happening are not in place at Wakefield. Lack of leadership and inaction is what resulted in what happened on Tuesday and what happened today. Where is the accountability for what happened? Do better. Stop celebrating yourself and talk to the community. Talk to parents. Talk to students.

Four other teens were treated by medics at Wakefield on Tuesday, at least some of whom were believed to have drug-related symptoms. Medics were also dispatched to the school yesterday, during dismissal, for a possible student overdose, according to dispatch recordings.

Police are asking the public for any additional information about Tuesday’s fatal overdose.

“This remains an active investigation and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Tip Line at 703-228-4180 or [email protected],” said ACPD. “Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

4420 Fairfax Drive in Ballston as of June 2021 (via Google Maps)

(Updated 12:40 p.m.) Arlington Community High School is set to take over part of an office building in Ballston next year.

The semi-nomadic school has had many temporary homes over the years, and is currently located in the former Fenwick building (800 S. Walter Reed Drive).

Now, it will move into the fourth and fifth floors, a space totaling 24,288 square feet, of the office building at 4420 Fairfax Drive. The building is also the headquarters of growing catering marketplace Hungry.

The Arlington School Board signed the lease, from January 2023 to Sept. 30, 2026, earlier this month, says spokesman Frank Bellavia.

The School Board heard and took action on approving the lease in its meeting on Oct. 27. Normally, it hears an item in one meeting and acts on it in a subsequent meeting.

The reason for combining these steps, per a presentation, is that “lease negotiations took longer than expected and staff wishes to begin design work immediately to help mitigate project delays.”

APS will move the school over the summer and students will start in this temporary location in September, Bellavia said.

The school system must seek a Special Use Permit from Arlington County to allow educational use in the office building. That use permit request will go before the Arlington County Board in January.

APS will spend an estimated $1.5 million on building modifications and approximately $80,000 a month on the lease. It estimates the rent will be around $90,000 a month in the final year of the lease.

This will be the last temporary home before moving to a building at Amazon’s second headquarters campus in Pentagon City.

Amazon has pledged to house the school in one of the office buildings it will build at the corner of S. Eads Street and 12th Street S. as part of the approved second phase of its HQ2 project.

The Arlington Public Schools Syphax Education Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Francisco Durán is proposing an earlier start to school next fall and more instructional days than the current academic year.

If approved, the 2023-24 calendar would have 180 instructional days for all students and would start on Aug. 21, 2023. This year, elementary and high school students have 175 instructional days and middle schoolers have 174, falling under the state standard of 180 days and APS calendars pre-pandemic.

The proposal comes after APS received more than 7,100 responses from families and staff earlier this fall in a survey gauging approval of the current calendar and asking for input on three possible calendars for next year. Some respondents urged APS to align its calendar with neighboring jurisdictions, such as Fairfax County Public Schools, and others suggested reducing the number of cultural and religious holidays, per presentation materials for the upcoming School Board meeting this Thursday.

“It is important to align with neighboring districts for holidays and start day… so that our schools can be fully staffed with your teachers,” one respondent said, per a presentation.

Another said they “support the spirit of inclusiveness, but do not support APS adopting so many religious holidays.”

Durán’s proposal has the same start date for students as the proposed or approved calendars for many neighboring jurisdictions, except FCPS, which appears not to have a proposal yet.

Calendars for Arlington Public Schools and nearby jurisdictions (via APS)

Durán’s calendar starts a full week before the preference of many survey respondents and a calendar committee comprised of a group of principals, PTA members, teachers union representatives and central office staff. It has a longer winter break than these two calendars as well.

APS 2023-24 calendar options (via APS)

The School Board will receive more information on the preferred calendar and alternatives on Thursday. It is then slated to vote on Durán’s proposed 2023-24 calendar on Thursday, Dec. 15.

The proposed increase would mark a return to aspects of pre-pandemic calendars, something for which watchdog group Arlington Parents for Education has advocated over the last year. It says this is one way to address its focal point of learning loss.

“Abandoning our longstanding commitment to providing at least 180 days of school, especially given the historic learning loss currently facing APS students, is the wrong approach,” the group said in a recent calendar analysis. “Our students deserve for their school system to return to its historical practice of meeting both the 180-day and 990-hour Virginia state standards.”

Over the last 10 years, the APE says, 181 days has been the norm for student attendance days. APS dipped under 180 days during the 2020-21 school year, at the onset of the pandemic, and has not returned to 180 days since, it said.

APS calendars over the last 10 years (via Arlington Parents for Education)

A few years ago, APS began starting the school year before Labor Day after former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam authorized schools to start up to two weeks before the September holiday.

“Despite that change, APS has tended to start later than neighboring divisions,” the group said. “The result is fewer days of school for Arlington children.”

Comparative calendars for D.C. area public school systems for the 2022-23 school year (via Arlington Parents for Education)

Starting with the 2021-22 school year, APS also added four non-Christian religious holidays, a move to which some survey respondents objected.

The proposed 2023-24 calendar would observe Yom Kippur (Sept. 25) and Eid al-Fitr (April 10). This fall, APS took days off for Rosh Hashanah and Diwali, but those are not included in next year’s calendar, possibly because they are set to occur on weekends next fall.

“This look-back at 10 years of calendar history and the comparison of the current APS calendar with that of our neighbors indicates that whether it is an earlier start, later finish, use of federal holidays, or different patterns around winter break, APS has options for how it can meet 180 days,” APE said.

Durán proposes 31 days off for federal holidays, winter break, and religious holidays, as well as grade and reporting days.

Proposed days off for students in Arlington Public Schools (via APS)

(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) What many believed would be the most competitive Arlington County Board race in four years has turned out to be another convincing Democratic victory.

The three-way race between incumbent Democrat Matt de Ferranti and independents Audrey Clement and Adam Theo is, at least to some degree, a referendum on Missing Middle housing.

Clement strongly opposes the proposal to allow smaller-scale multifamily housing in neighborhoods currently zoned only for single-family homes, while Theo supports it. De Ferranti, meanwhile, staked out a middle ground, expressing opposition to the higher 8-unit end of the potential range of allowed housing types.

With 55 out of 57 precincts reporting, de Ferranti has 60% of the vote to 28% for Clement and 10% for Theo.

Both Clement and Theo ran for County Board last year, before Missing Middle came to the fore as a hot-button local issue. In the 2021 race, Democrat Takis Karantonis carried about 60% of the vote to 18% for Clement, 6% for Theo and 14% for Mike Cantwell, another independent candidate..

The Missing Middle proposal has attracted the ire of many homeowners, while a coalition of groups — from affordable housing boosters to the local chapter of the NAACP — support it.

An early look at precinct-by-precinct results shows support for Clement in Arlington’s northern, single-family home neighborhoods. The Madison district in far northern Arlington, for instance, has voted 58% for Clement to 36% for de Ferranti and 4% for Theo. She also claimed the Thrifton (Woodmont), Rock Spring, and Yorktown districts — all also in far northern Arlington.

That compares to the more renter-heavy Met Park district, in the Pentagon City neighborhood, which voted 64% for de Ferranti and 20% for Clement and 15% for Theo.  A more “in between” district — Fairlington, with its mix of townhouses and smaller condo buildings — voted 66% for de Ferranti, 23% for Clement and 9% for Theo.

Also on the ballot today were School Board and congressional races, which were even more lopsided for the Democratic candidates.

For the open Arlington School Board seat vacated by Barbara Kanninen, Arlington County Democratic Committee-endorsed candidate Bethany Sutton has 68% of the vote to 30% for independent James ‘Vell’ Rives IV.

Meanwhile, incumbent Rep. Don Beyer has 77% of the vote in the Virginia 8th District congressional race, to 21% for Republican Karina Lipsman and 1.5% for independent Teddy Fikre.

Arlington Democrats claimed victory on Twitter just after 9 p.m.

De Ferranti tells ARLnow he was impressed by the 85,000 people who voted this election, in which there was no senatorial, gubernatorial or presidential race.

“In Virginia, that doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “There are other elections where there is an even lower turnout. This is a pretty rare election, and to have 85,000 vote in this election is a pretty solid turnout.”

He said addressing climate change, investing in schools and tackling affordable housing and housing affordability — “related but distinct” issues — will be key priorities this term.

“I’m grateful to Arlington residents for the chance to serve them,” he said. “I love doing this job and I’m humbled, grateful, and looking forward to serving over the next four years. I’m going to try and live up to Arlingtonians: that means being smart, thoughtful and compassionate, caring about our community and being forward-looking.”

Clement told ARLnow she was dismayed with the results, though she won four out of 54 districts — including Madison, with her 22-point margin — and came within just over 1% of the vote in another.

“I didn’t perform as well as I thought I would,” she said. “I thought I would push 40% — the sentiment I got on the street indicated a better showing.”

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Election Day is here, and thousands of residents are hitting the polls — manned by 426 volunteers — to cast their ballots in the 2022 mid-term election.

By 9 a.m., about 10% of Arlington voted in-person, according to the county elections office, in addition to the 13% of people who voted early and in-person and 7% who voted by mail.

“The polls have been steady so far this morning,” said Tania Griffin, spokeswoman for the Arlington Office of Voter Registration and Elections.

Turnout in a midterm is typically about half the turnout of a presidential election, Arlington Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer previously told ARLnow.

Just over 20,000 people voted early in this year’s general election, Griffin said. Combined with the more than 11,000 absentee ballots sent in, Virginia Public Access Project says Arlington’s early voting rate surpasses those for Northern Virginia and the state. (Nearly 5,000 have not returned the mail ballots they requested.)

Early voting rates in Arlington, the region and the state (via Virginia Public Access Project)

In 2018, the last midterm election, 21,147 ballots were cast early, per VPAP.

While early voting got off to a muted start to in September, and was “slightly slower” than last year’s election, local and statewide Democrats celebrated early voting numbers yesterday during a rally at the home of Matt de Ferranti, the Democrat Arlington County Board incumbent running for re-election.

“The trends are positive, particularly in the three parts of the state that have really competitive congressional districts. We see high numbers, and we really see good Democratic advantage in the early vote,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who came out for the rally. “We really like what we’re seeing.”

In the local U.S. House race, Arlington voters can choose among Democrat incumbent Rep. Don Beyer and his two challengers for the 8th District, Republican Karina Lipsman and independent Teddy Fikre.

Kaine said one top driver for races this year is the economy, which he characterized as a mixed bag.

“You have inflation but you have historic job growth. Inflation might make you worry if there’s a downturn coming, but then you see how strong job growth is — during Biden’s term, 10 million-plus jobs, manufacturing coming back, big job announcements with Amazon,” he said. “I think the evidence will be mixed.”

Among the countywide races, voters can choose between two School Board candidates — independent, Sun Gazette-endorsed James “Vell” Rives IV and Arlington County Democratic Committee-endorsed Bethany Sutton.

In Arlington, the most watched race this year is likely that for County Board, which has become a showdown on the topic of Missing Middle housing — the proposal to open up single-family zoning to smaller-scale multifamily housing.

De Ferranti said that could have driven the relatively higher early voting showing.

“The early vote we’re seeing is so stepped up that we’ll have to see what the total turnout is,” de Ferranti said. “This is greater turnout than 2018 so far, and I think some of that is the discussion we’re having on housing.”

His challengers for County Board — frequent independent candidate Audrey Clement and second-time candidate Adam Theo — say Missing Middle is a litmus test this election.

“After squeezing in last minute doorknocking yesterday, and all the responses I’m receiving this morning at precincts, I’m feeling very optimistic for the campaign and the success of the Missing Middle housing proposal,” Theo told ARLnow.

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School Board candidate Bethany Sutton (via Arlington Democrats)

Earlier this week, we invited the candidates running in Tuesday’s general election to write a post about why our readers should vote for them. Find information here on how and where to vote in Arlington on Nov. 8.

Below is the unedited response from Democrat-endorsed School Board candidate Bethany Sutton.

I am Bethany Sutton and as a 21-year Arlingtonian and engaged community leader, I have the depth and breadth of experience in our schools and community to serve effectively as a member of the School Board.

My children currently attend Jefferson Middle School and the HB Woodlawn secondary program. I began my journey with APS in 2011 when my older child started kindergarten at Randolph Elementary School. I served on the Randolph PTA board for seven years, including three years as president. As PTA president, I held listening sessions with teachers to learn about their needs and priorities, advocated for facilities improvements for an aging school building, and supported getting books into the hands of students in a Title I school where nearly 65 percent of the children are English language learners and nearly 75 percent come from socioeconomically disadvantaged families.

For the past two and a half years, I have served as the coordinator for the Randolph Food Pantry. Our all-volunteer effort centered on providing a one-stop-shop model in which families could access not only groceries to feed their children, but also talk with school leaders, check out library books, access pandemic relief resources, and even get vaccines.

Since 2021, I have served on the Arlington County Food Security Task Force, working on how to address hunger in our community in systemic ways. I also serve on the Columbia Pike Partnership’s Community Advisory Council and I was a member of a large APS task force in 2015 to explore options for locating a new elementary school in the county.

I am Chair of the Advisory Council on Teaching & Learning (ACTL), which I joined in 2018. We work to engage parents and community members across Arlington in conversations about our academic priorities and what students need to support their learning. ACTL includes 14 subcommittees focused on particular content areas-such as Math, Science, and English Language Arts-and on particular student groups such as English language learners and students with disabilities.

My professional background is in higher education and leadership development. The perspective I have gained from working with college and university leaders is a unique lens that I bring to my thinking about K-12 education.

In terms of my priorities for our schools, I would like to highlight three:

I seek to elevate student learning as the fundamental purpose and focus of our school system. Advancing student achievement and digging into the inequities in academic outcomes in our system are high priorities for me. This is a moment for our school system to renew our expectations for student learning and recognize that teachers are critical to our success in helping students achieve measurable progress.

I also care deeply about addressing the health and well-being of our school community. We need to provide a supportive environment in our schools that focuses on helping everyone feel a strong sense of belonging — especially those who often are marginalized, including students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are LGBTQ+. If we want to make meaningful progress on student learning, we must support students’ social and emotional development. It’s also important to balance academics with the other activities that students love and that contribute to their engagement in school, such as sports, theater, music, internships, and community service.

In the next four years, we have an opportunity to rebuild a sense of community around education in Arlington. I believe that the School Board has a responsibility to foster an environment of trust, transparency, and clear communication. I’m not running for School Board because I’m mad about something or because I think something is broken that needs to be fixed. I’m running because I genuinely believe in attentive leadership and good governance. Trust, transparency, and communication are essential components of effective leadership.

I think Arlingtonians will find me to be a thoughtful leader who is focused on listening, learning, and making meaningful contributions to our community.

Editor’s note: Candidates for local races are invited in advance to submit candidate essays, via contact information ARLnow has on file or publicly-listed contact information on the candidate’s website. Reminders are sent to those who do not submit an essay by the evening before the deadline.


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