Last week we asked the three Arlington School Board candidates who are seeking the Democratic endorsement to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the May 9, 11 and 13 caucus.
Here is the unedited response from incumbent James Lander:
I’ve been honored to serve as your Arlington School Board member for the past seven years. I am seeking reelection to ensure that Arlington Public Schools will continue to provide a world-class education that empowers every child to succeed, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, language, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Arlington Public Schools needs an experienced, seasoned leader. I am that leader. It’s no secret that our schools are growing. We have averaged 1000 new students a year during my seven years on the School Board. The challenges in meeting the needs of this rapidly expanding school system are many, including: changing the landscape of instruction to meet the needs of all students; implementing plans to address our enrollment growth; and continued successful collaboration with the County Board on a long-term strategy to ensure every student has a seat to learn while maximizing our limited resources in ways that benefit the whole community.
I am passionate about educating our children; it is the key to everything. My work on the school board has prioritized quality instruction, high expectations for all students, and educating the whole child. Working with you to provide our children with the resources and tools they need to be successful in life will continue to be my sole focus.
As your School Board member, I have successfully completed eight budget cycles to fully fund the school system, implemented the 2011-2017 APS Strategic Plan, and oversaw more than $600M in Capital Improvement Projects, including award winning designs for sustainability. While serving as Chair, I lowered the cost per pupil spending by hundreds of dollars, redesigned the School/County revenue sharing agreement, and provided salary increases for teachers and staff in each of the past seven years. I am honored to have earned the endorsement of the AEA-PAC representing Arlington’s educators, for my work on the school board.
I offer to you my School Board service as evidence that I am best situated to lead continued Arlington Public School progress. Finally, I have been a responsive, engaged, thoughtful voice on the school board. This is the type of leadership that has made Arlington Public Schools an outstanding school system that attracts diverse families and remains a foundational driver of our local economy.
You have honored me with your trust on two previous occasions and I thank you for your support and encouragement along this journey. I ask you now for your support and your vote to continue my elected service to our wonderful community.
Voting begins, Tuesday, May 9th from 7p-9p at Key Elementary School, Thursday, May 11th from 7p-9p at Drew Elementary School, and Saturday, May 13th from 11a-7p at Washington-Lee High School.
Just days after local parents launched a petition favoring building a high school next to Kenmore Middle School, others have begun a petition of their own against the plan.
The petition against the Kenmore plan raises concerns about the impact on traffic on S. Carlin Springs Road, which it says would increase the number of students that attend nearby schools from 2,200 to approximately 3,500.
“Carlin Springs Road is one of the County’s few north/south arterials and a major commuter thoroughfare,” the petition reads. “There is no reasonable alternative to Carlin Springs Road for many people using this route. Adding students would add vehicular traffic in the form of school buses, and cars for students and staff. The increase in traffic and the increase in the number of students crossing Carlin Springs Road will increase the threat of accidents involving students.”
The School Board recently whittled down a list of nine possible sites for the county’s new public high school to three. Under the Kenmore plan the current middle school would remain on the 33-acre campus, and adjacent property would be used to build a new 1,300-seat high school.
The other two options remaining are to develop a ninth-grade academy on the site of the Education Center next to Washington-Lee High School, with the International Baccalaureate program expanded and a World Languages site created, or build at the Arlington Career Center site to co-locate with Arlington Tech.
The petition was also critical of the process to determine the site of the new high school.
“The planning process by the County and the School Board to engage in more proactive planning is appreciated,” it reads, “but it appears that the effort to site the 1,300 [seat] high school seats is short circuiting the process.”
Another School Board work session is scheduled for May 15 at the Education Center, with the Board set to discuss the options and adopt one in June.
A proposal to build a high school next to Kenmore Middle School appears to have garnered some support among local parents.
The School Board recently whittled down a list of nine possible sites for the county’s new public high school to three. Under the Kenmore plan the current middle school would remain on the 33 acre campus, and adjacent property would be used to build a new high school.
A petition in support of the Kenmore plan — and against expanding Washington-Lee High School — has garnered more than 100 signatures.
“This would be a smaller high school initially but would have the potential to become a 4th comprehensive high school if a new middle school building can be built elsewhere in the near future,” the petition says. “School start times could be staggered, and officials have recognized the need to improve access to the campus to relieve traffic.”
(Currently, the county has three comprehensive high schools: Washington-Lee, Yorktown and Wakefield.)
Of the other two options remaining, Superintendent Patrick Murphy said a ninth-grade academy would be developed on the site of the Education Center next to Washington-Lee, with the International Baccalaureate program expanded and a World Languages site created.
That, says petition supporters, would make W-L far too large of a school.
“Students would share common spaces and fields with students already at W-L,” says the petition. “This would place 3,500 to 4,000 high school students in one location.”
The third option is to build at the Arlington Career Center, expanding Arlington Tech and allowing for the repurposing of the Education Center. Supporters of the Kenmore option say the plan to build at the Career Center would force that to be a choice program, something that has come in for criticism online given Arlington Public Schools’ enrollment growth.
“Choice schools were great when the schools were under-enrolled and kids had a decent chance of getting into them,” wrote one commenter on a message board for local moms. “Now getting into a choice school is like a Golden Ticket while everyone else is crammed into high schools that are getting too big and you don’t know the people in your class. We can’t afford to spend $100 million on choice schools like HB [Woodlawn] while the rest of the peasants make do in trailers smuched [sic] together at other high schools.”
“[The] Kenmore option is the only option that establishes a solid pathway to a 4th comprehensive high school, which the APS system desperately needs,” the petition says.
Earlier this week, the Yorktown PTA hosted a town hall with Board members Barbara Kanninen and Reid Goldstein. Another School Board work session is scheduled for May 15 at the Career Center, with the Board set to discuss the options and adopt one in June.
Photo via Google Maps
New Elementary School Approved — After a years-long process that included neighborhood opposition and lots of community discussion, the Arlington County Board has approved a use permit and ground lease for a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson middle school and community center site. [Arlington County]
Rosslyn Farmers Market Approved — Also at its Saturday meeting, the County Board gave the go-ahead to a new FreshFarm Markets-operated farmers market that will be held at the new Central Place public plaza in Rosslyn. The market will be open on Wednesday evenings from April to November. [Arlington County]
Bebe Closing at Pentagon City Mall — The Bebe store at the Pentagon City mall will close by the end of May. It’s part of a larger restructuring for the struggling young women’s clothing retailer. [Patch]
County Board to Honor Trees — “Arlington has about 755,400 trees of at least 122 species that provide $6.89 million in environmental benefits to the County annually in pollution removal, carbon storage, energy savings and avoided stormwater runoff. The Arlington County Board will honor 10 of these trees as Notable Trees at the April 25 County Board Meeting.” [Arlington County]
Blue Virginia’s School Board Endorsement — Local Democratic blog Blue Virginia has endorsed Monique O’Grady in the race for the Democratic endorsement for Arlington School Board. The endorsement cites incumbent James Lander’s recent controversial remarks about a murder victim as a reason for not endorsing him. [Blue Virginia]
Flickr pool photo by Ameschen
Lander Apologizes for Insensitive Comments — School Board member James Lander has apologized for making insensitive comments about domestic violence yesterday on the “Arlington in the Morning” radio show. Lander has taken flak for appearing to engage in victim blaming when discussing the 2010 murder of UVA student Yeardly Love. In a statement, Lander said he made a “terrible communication mistake.” [Facebook]
Airport Contract Workers Win Pay Increase — Contract workers at Reagan National and Dulles International airports won their two-year fight for higher wages. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s board voted yesterday to require companies doing business with area airports to pay their workers a base hourly wage of $11.55 starting in January. Some of the workers currently make $7.25 an hour. [Washington Post]
More Passengers at DCA — More than 1.6 million passengers traveled through Reagan National Airport in February, which is a 2.6 percent increase over last year. [InsideNova]
Failing Air Grade — Arlington County earned an F grade in the American Lung Association’s 2017 “State of the Air” report. The region’s traffic created a lot of air pollution that contributed to a high level of smog in both Arlington and the District. Arlington did, however, receive an A grade in one category: particle pollution, also known as soot. [WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
And then there were three. The list of nine possible sites for Arlington County’s new public high school has been whittled down to three finalists.
At a work session last night, the School Board weighed constructing a 1,300-seat high school at the sites of Kenmore Middle School, the Arlington Career Center and the APS Education Center. The new school is expected to open at one of these locations in September 2022.
The options have been narrowed based on staff analyses of the pros and cons each site presents, along with feedback from the Facilities Advisory Council and the community.
The Board still must determine whether the school would be a specialized choice school, like Arlington Tech or H-B Woodlawn, or a community high school like Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown. The information gathered thus far from surveyed community members indicates that 44 percent favor a neighborhood school and 56 percent favor a specialized school.
Board member Tannia Talento brought up the importance of further examining the impact of traffic, parking and walkability at each site. She said that parking needs and traffic for extracurricular activities and special events come into play in addition to the daily school needs.
“How is it impacting the neighborhood? These things will come into play when we’re adding 1,300 seats at a site like the Ed Center or Kenmore,” she said.
School Board vice chair Barbara Kanninen questioned the feasibility of renovating or expanding any of the proposed sites rather than starting from scratch with building. That potentially could accelerate the project for completion before 2022. Regarding school overcrowding, “We really know we hit trouble in 2021,” she said.
Board chairwoman Nancy Van Doren echoed Kanninen’s sentiment about site renovation or expansion, adding that such an option could provide cost savings, perhaps even through a phased plan for adding seats over time.
“I would like to perhaps consider a hybrid option,” Van Doren said. “One of my personal criteria is cost and making sure we have enough money to build all the seats we need going forward. So if there are ways that we can provide additions or renovations at a lower cost than the total amount of money that we have currently allocated, then I’d be very interested in that.”
Site analyses will continue through mid-May, and final recommendations are expected at the Board’s May 15 work session. Final site approval is anticipated for June. Until that time, staff will continue to engage the community about the three high school site options, including through feedback received via the “Engage with APS” website.
“This is about our kids and about our families and it is emotional,” Van Doren said.
A record number of people turned out for last night’s Democratic Party straw poll, where County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and School Board candidate Monique O’Grady were some of the victors.
Hosted at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), more than 120 people cast ballots for Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board, Arlington School Board, lieutenant governor and governor. The attendance set a record for the event, now in its third year.
Lopez said the event raised around $12,500 from ticket sales, which he said will be funneled to Democratic candidates in other House of Delegates races across the commonwealth. Lopez added that getting people excited about the upcoming races was a big point of emphasis, as opposed to focusing purely on the straw poll results from a limited voter pool.
“I think what’s wonderful about it is people are so fired up,” he said in an interview. “They’re coming into the room fired up, excited about the campaigns, they’re excited about the candidacies, they’re excited about their friends running for office.”
Gutshall won the County Board poll with 38 percent of the vote, ahead of Vivek Patil with 30 percent, Peter Fallon with 22 percent and Kim Klingler with 10 percent.
Gutshall, who won the straw poll last year in his unsuccessful bid for a County Board seat, said creative thinking is required to solve problems like school overcrowding and housing affordability.
“We’ve got a wonderful county here that I’m proud to be a part of,” he said. “But we can’t stay the same.”
In her remarks, O’Grady cited her “experience keeping our school system strong,” as well as being co-chair of last year’s successful $138.83 million school bond campaign.
O’Grady won the School Board straw poll with 46 percent of the vote, ahead of incumbent James Lander with 36 percent and Maura McMahon with 18 percent.
In the statewide races, current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the straw poll for the governor’s race against former Rep. Tom Perriello with 67.5 percent of the vote. Speaking on Northam’s behalf, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) said Northam is a “fighter for our progressive values” and has advocated tirelessly for women, children and ethnic minorities.
“We can count on Ralph to be with us as the 73rd governor of Virginia,” Ebbin said.
Justin Fairfax took victory in the straw poll for lieutenant governor with 64 percent of the vote, ahead of Susan Platt with 20 percent and Gene Rossi with 16 percent. County Board member Christian Dorsey, who spoke on Fairfax’s behalf, praised his grueling campaign schedule and his long-term view on solving problems.
“The question is, who has the skill and the will and will fight for you?” Dorsey said. “In this regard, I am so impressed with Justin Fairfax.”
The Arlington County Democratic Committee holds its caucus for County Board nominee and School Board endorsement on May 9, 11 and 13. Statewide primary elections will be held on June 13.
Arlington Public Schools’ preliminary FY 2018 budget has an $11 million gap in funding after the School Board approved its proposal last night.
The budget now stands at just over $614 million, down from Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s initial plan of $617 million.
County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed additional real estate tax hike, in part to help fund schools, would likely make up the shortfall in county funding. The state has also kicked in an additional $78,000 to help with construction projects.
“What we’ve done with our budget is taken it to the point where it fits with what the county manager has proposed to the County Board,” said School Board vice chair Barbara Kanninen. “We’re looking at the county manager’s proposal as his sincerest effort to do what’s needed at the county level. We hope the County Board sees it that way.”
During Thursday’s meeting, members found savings by again tweaking the budget plan. Savings include $1.8 million on technology, adding a transportation planner and removing a School Board staff member. Various other job cuts would only take effect if the County Board does not provide the extra money.
Board members emphasized that the savings on technology do not relate to the controversial one-to-one policy of giving each elementary student an iPad. Leslie Peterson, assistant superintendent for finance and management services, said that instead the savings have come through looking at the school system’s procurement of contracts.
School Board member Reid Goldstein said staff and elected officials have worked tirelessly to bring the funding deficit down from more than $20 million. He said that even with the efficiencies found, the budget plan balances educating students with fiscal responsibility.
School Board members presented the budget plan to the County Board earlier today. The County Board is set to adopt its budget and tax rates on April 22.
Three candidates for Arlington School Board looked to stake their claim for the Democratic endorsement in a forum dominated by talk of capacity, boundaries and diversity.
Incumbent James Lander faced challengers Maura McMahon and Monique O’Grady on Wednesday night at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s monthly meeting. All three are vying for ACDC’s endorsement at next month’s caucuses.
And while there was broad consensus among all three on several issues facing Arlington Public Schools, there was some disagreement over respecting the system’s diversity and solving its capacity needs.
Lander said the School Board’s decision to issue a statement in support of its immigrant families earlier this year showed that APS stood with them.
But O’Grady said the statement did not go far enough to help support families in light of some of the anti-immigrant rhetoric stemming from President Donald Trump’s administration.
“We do have to do a better job of making those families feel safe in our community,” she said. “Putting a statement out is just a start.”
And in her closing statement, McMahon said respecting diversity includes ensuring a quality education for all students, regardless of economic or social background.
“We may all be at the same Arlington party that Mr. Lander refers to,” she said, “but we are not all eating the same meal.”
The candidates also differed on their approaches to solving APS’ capacity needs, as each year the system adds approximately 800 students. Lander said the provision of a short-term plan to add 5,000 seats at all levels in 10 years as well as a long-term plan would help ensure every student has a seat, but his challengers advocated for thinking differently.
O’Grady said more collaboration with the County Board is needed, as well as ensuring a school’s instructional program — whether a choice program or comprehensive — fits with the location’s needs. McMahon said APS must look at its current sites and examine if they are being used as efficiently as possible, and shake things up if needed.
“It might mean more complicated shifting around if necessary, but it will help in the long-term,” she said.
All three appeared broadly supportive of the additional 1 cent real estate tax hike proposed by County Manager Mark Schwartz to pay for APS’ budget needs.
They also agreed that the current practice of providing each elementary school student an iPad should be discontinued, if it means being able to pay for other budget needs like psychologists or social workers.
“We want to make sure our students have a love for reading, and some of that is done with a book,” said Lander.
CarPool Now Closed — A line out the door marked CarPool’s last day in business on Monday. The Ballston bar hosted a large crowd of patrons there to watch the Nationals opening day and the NCAA men’s basketball championship, and to say goodbye to the long-time watering hole. [Twitter]
Clement Opposes Tax Rate Hike — Independent Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement says she does not support the proposed property tax hike, which Arlington’s county manager says is necessary to fund Metro and Arlington Public Schools. [InsideNova]
Developments in School Board Race — Former congressional candidate Mike Webb has gathered the petition signatures necessary to get on this year’s Arlington School Board ballot, although he still has a couple of paperwork hurdles before he officially qualifies. Meanwhile, incumbent James Lander has received the endorsement of the Arlington Education Association as he faces two challengers in the Democratic endorsement caucus. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Arlington’s Trees By The Numbers — “The County is proud home to some 755,400 trees of at least 122 species. If you had to put a price on all that priceless foliage, it’d be worth more than $1.4 billion.” [Arlington County]
Tour of the Trades Center — The latest “Around Arlington” video from the county gives viewers a tour of the Arlington Trandes Center near Shirlington, where school buses are housed, police cars get repaired and salt trucks get refilled. [YouTube]
Police Chief: See Something, Say Something — Although the vast majority of calls about suspicious people or circumstances turn out to be nothing, Arlington’s police chief is still encouraging residents to call the police non-emergency line at 703-558-2222 if they see something out of the ordinary. Said Chief Jay Farr: “Do not hesitate to call us about something suspicious. Some say, ‘I didn’t want to bother you,’ but I say, `Bother us.'” [Falls Church News-Press]
Three Arlington School Board candidates looked to ease neighborhood fears about the future Reed Elementary School at a forum Monday night.
But neighbors have raised concerns about the traffic impact of students being bussed in, and neighborhood children having to be educated elsewhere.
And at a candidate forum hosted by the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls Civic Association, incumbent James Lander and challengers Maura McMahon and Monique O’Grady all agreed the IB designation was just a suggestion and not set in stone. A fourth candidate, Mike Webb, was absent.
“There is no decision, there is no proposal, it’s a concept,” said Lander. “It’s a concept I don’t support, but it was a way to get the conversation started with the community.”
The school currently hosts The Children’s School, a nonprofit that provides education and child care for the children of APS parents, and the Integration Station, which helps students with disabilities integrate with those without disabilities.
The Reed School site would then be revamped as an elementary school, with construction likely to begin that year once Wilson is open, Lander said.
And rather than be an IB choice program, the majority of those present appeared more supportive of Reed being a neighborhood school. O’Grady encouraged neighbors to make their voices heard on that point.
“I keep hearing from the community that a neighborhood school is important,” she said. “If that’s what you want, I suggest you come together and advocate for that.”
McMahon, meanwhile, said APS must be strategic to combat its growing enrollment and ensure the programs it already has are of a high standard. She cited previous conversations with parents about adding schools with immersion programs in world languages like French and Mandarin.
“My opinion is they would be great, but we have a lot of other things we need to focus on first, like do we have enough schools?” she said.
Transportation and traffic also weighed heavily on the discussions around Reed. Lander said he wanted to revisit adding an exit on the back of the site, a plan that has not been supported in the past. McMahon said discussions on bussing must also involve catering to low-income families who use public transportation to get to and from school.
And while several attendees said the community is often consulted too late in the planning process for such projects, O’Grady said getting involved early would be a good way to shape the future.
“I think it’s an exciting time for your community, and it’s the perfect time to step up and say, ‘This is what we want,'” she said.
Florida Men Arrested for Credit Card Skimming — Three men from Miami, Florida were arrested earlier this month on the 5600 block of Columbia Pike, in Fairfax County. They’re suspected of using Bluetooth-enabled credit card skimming devices to steal credit card numbers from gas station customers. [Falls Church News-Press]
School Board to Consider Wakefield Modifications — The Arlington School Board is expected to approve a $4 million internal modification project at Wakefield High School that will increase its student capacity to 2,300 from 1,900. [InsideNova]
School Board Members Can Now Get Raises — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed a state bill that removes a cap of $25,000 on the salaries of Arlington School Board members. Arlington was the only jurisdiction in the state the salary cap applied to; school board members will now have the ability to approve a salary increase in 2021. [InsideNova]
Northern Virginia Restaurant Week Kicks Off — Nineteen Arlington restaurants are participating in Northern Virginia Restaurant Week, which starts today and runs through Monday, March 27. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Top 10 Shirlington Area Restaurants — Eater has compiled a list of the top 10 restaurants to try in and around Shirlington. And yes, the Weenie Beenie is on the list. [Eater]
It’s the First Day of Spring — “While warm spring days will be tough to come by in the short term, the equinox is a reminder that the sounds of chirping birds and humming lawn mowers aren’t too far off.” [Capital Weather Gang]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Woman Arrested in Williamsburg Murder Case — A 27-year-old Maryland woman has been arrested and charged with being an accessory to last month’s homicide at a house party in the Williamsburg neighborhood. A press release does not specify how Monique Williams allegedly helped the suspect, Jason Allen Johnson, who remains at large. [Arlington County]
Police Looking for Missing Teen — Fairfax County Police are leading the search for Alex Daniel Terceros, a developmentally disabled 17-year-old who was reportedly last seen at the under-renovation Ballston Common Mall, after his mom dropped him off at the mall. [Fox 5]
Georgetown Still Interested in Gondola — Georgetown is pushing forward with studies that would be the precursor for a Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola system, despite Arlington County pledging not to fund any such project. [Bisnow]
Three Running for School Board — Three people are now running in the Democratic school board endorsement caucus. Montessori advocate Monique O’Grady, the mother of Fox TV star Brittany O’Grady, has joined the race, facing off against incumbent James Lander and fellow challenger Maura McMahon. [InsideNova]
VOICE Condemns VOICE — The local social justice group Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement has issued a statement condemning President Donald Trump’s proposed Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE). The Virginia VOICE says Trump’s VOICE is “a regrettable attempt to criminalize a whole category of U.S. residents, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding, tax-paying contributors to the country’s economy.” [VOICE]
Parents of Autistic Students File Complaint Against APS — “In Arlington, Va., the Autistic Self Advocacy Network filed a discrimination complaint last spring with the Justice Department on behalf of five nonspeaking students — dubbed the “Arlington Five” — whose requests to use letter boards and trained communication supporters to access general education were denied by the school district.” [Washington Post]
Photo courtesy John Sonderman
Dozens of students, teachers and community members spoke at the Feb. 16 Arlington School Board meeting, many voicing concern about incidents of intolerance at Yorktown High School.
The 41-person turnout for public comments “might be a record,” according to School Board Vice Chair Dr. Barbara Kanninen. Many of the speakers addressed the ongoing controversy over signs in classrooms, which some say are politically motivated, and allegations of discrimination at the school.
One by one, students clad in shirts emblazoned with some of the signs’ slogans — such as “We Are Yorktown” and “Facts Are Not Political” — weighed in on reports of bullying and harassment.
“Yorktown has a problem. There is no denying it,” said one student. “Since November, we have seen a dramatic rise in incidents of racism, homophobia and hate.”
Yorktown administrators have done little to combat that rise, instead choosing to “run and hide” instead of facing controversies, he alleged.
“The reason that we’re all here tonight is in many ways the the fault of the Yorktown administration,” he continued. “The first wave of hate was in November, and after those incidents, nothing happened.”
Another student told the room about how school officials made her take down a “Black Lives Matter” sign after parents complained earlier this month. The student alleged that, after taking down the sign, she and some of her friends were subjected to racist remarks from their peers.
“Why are there so many incidents at Yorktown at which kids feel empowered to carry out such actions?” she asked. “How do you think minority children feel every day going to a school in which their culture is disrespected and deemed insignificant?”
One student, a sophomore, complained that students “are not allowed to use gay in posters… which makes it seem that it’s not okay to be gay.”
“Some people still eat lunch in the bathroom and they cry,” the student continued. “You might not agree with them, but you should accept them for who they are.”
The speakers also included some teachers, who voiced concern over recent incidents.
“In the past month, a Sudanese student asked me if he could keep coming to school. A Muslim student told me that her family has decided that they will move to Canada. A Honduran student reported that he’d been asked by another student if his bags were packed because he was going to be deported,” one teacher said. “I posted signs on my walls and in my hallway windows to let my students know I stand by them and for them.”
The public comment period lasted more than an hour and fifteen minutes. After it concluded, APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said that the alleged bullying and discrimination “will not be tolerated” and vowed to put an end to it.
“I’m stepping up. This is not acceptable,” he said, to applause from the crowd. “Our goal continues to be to provide the best learning environment for every child, regardless of their personal belief, race, religion, ethnicity or gender.”
Murphy turned the floor over to Cintia Johnson, an assistant superintendent, to share some of the steps that APS has already taken.
“We have had the opportunity to meet with the administrative team at Yorktown and begin the steps to designing an action plan that is intended to continue to show a commitment to the positive community as well as the climate of both dignity and respect for each and every student,” she said.
Dr. Brenda Wilks, another assistant superintendent at APS, said the school plans to host student-led forums where students’ voices will be heard. The first such meeting was held earlier that day, she said, and had approximately 130 in attendance.
School Board member Reid Goldstein, who attended the forum, said it was “articulate and honest.”
“I’m delighted that students… felt deeply, thought maturely, stood up for their convictions and spoke eloquently,” he said.
James Lander, another School Board member who attended the forum, said the school’s priority to create a safe environment for students was paramount.
“I will reiterate the sense of commitment that this board has to the safety of all students,” he said. “If any student comes to school and doesn’t feel safe, that is our issue to deal with, and we will deal with it accordingly.”
School Board member Tannia Talento applauded the many students who had “the courage to come up here and speak to us today about such challenging conversations.”
“It is so hard to tell your story, to tell your pain, to tell your fears, to tell your stance, especially if it’s an unpopular one,” she said. “I’m proud of you guys having these conversations, and of our teachers. This is what America is.”
Talento continued: “I am a daughter of immigrant parents. I am fearful for our immigrant community here in our country. The one thing I remind myself every day is you guys showed me tonight, that in this country, we have freedom of speech.”
Busy Weekend for ACFD — The Arlington County Fire Department responded to a couple of big fires over the weekend. Two firefighters were injured while battling an apartment fire on the 5500 block of Columbia Pike; a resident tells ARLnow.com that the fire started when a resident fell asleep while cooking. Also on Saturday, Arlington firefighters assisted on a mutual aid call to battle a raging inferno at a McLean mansion owned by the United Arab Emirates. [WUSA 9, Connection Newspapers]
Carpool Bartender Profiled — “In an era where craft cocktails, celebrity chefs and ‘artisanal’ everything dominate the D.C. dining scene, it’s hard to find a watering hole where comfort comes in the form of a bottle of Bud, a basket of onion rings and a bartender who knows your name. But at Carpool in Arlington, Virginia, that is exactly what’s on the menu — at least for a few more weeks.” [WTOP]
County Board Pay Raise Proposed — The Arlington County Board this weekend will consider a proposal to raise its own pay by 3.5 percent. That would bring the salary for the County Board chairman to $56,628 and the salary for County Board members to $51,480. [Arlington County]
School Board Pay Raise Bill — The Virginia General Assembly has approved a bill that would lift the state-imposed $25,000 salary cap on Arlington School Board members. If Gov. Terry McAuliffe signs the legislation, School Board members will be able to raise their pay in 2021. [InsideNova]
Police Impound Lot Changes — The Arlington County Police Department has updated its procedures for people retrieving vehicles from the impound lot in Shirlington. [Arlington County]
Remembering Steve Buttry — Journalist Steve Buttry has lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 62. As Director of Community Engagement for TBD.com in 2010, Buttry had an outsized influence on ARLnow.com in its early days. He was a champion of local news and a tireless “advocate for and teacher of digital journalism and media innovation.” [The Buttry Diary]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf