(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) The Arlington School Board has agreed to sign a settlement with the federal government promising to provide more services for English-learning students in county schools.
Board members voted to allow Board Chair Reid Goldstein to sign the document during a meeting last night (Thursday), two weeks after first announcing the Department of Justice (DOJ) sought a settlement with the school district.
Goldstein, who is currently running for re-election, asked Dr. Tara Nattrass, Arlington Public Schools’ assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, how many of the DOJ’s 33 requirements APS will implement “systemwide.” Nattrass said she didn’t have the number “off hand” but stressed the intention is to apply improvements to all schools.
“This is a resolution with the Department of Justice,” Nattrass said, when asked if she had comments to add earlier that evening.
“It’s an issuance that doesn’t have any adverse findings attached to it,” she said, but acknowledged that “there are some things that we need to be doing differently.”
The settlement identified several problems at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. As part of the agreement, the DOJ mandates that the county not use Google Translate in place of interpretation services, begin translating special education and disability plans, and submit annual reports to the federal agency on its progress, among other requirements.
“Many of the solutions outlined in the agreement are in practice in Jefferson” Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said of the middle school.
He added that APS was “committed” to serving students learning English as a second language, and his administration will report to the Board quarterly about APS’ progress on meeting the DOJ’s requirements.
Both Murphy and Nattrass stressed that APS has already adopted some of the recommendations, such as surveying families for the home language.
Board members Monique O’Grady and Vice Chair Tannia Talento were not present for the Thursday night vote.
The vote was part of the evening’s consent agenda, a placement usually reserved for items expected to pass without debate.
Two parents shared their concerns over APS’ English-language learning resources Thursday night, one saying her adopted daughter had to request any accommodations she needed, like a bilingual dictionary.
“One teacher even told me she was doing her a favor by granting her accommodations,” said the parent, adding that she believed “there are systemic issues across the county” when it comes to services for students learning English.
“I’m sorry about all of this,” said Board Member Nancy Van Doren, who noted that she’d long heard from advisory committees about problems with APS’ English Language Learner programs.
“I wish that we would more assiduously listen to those committees when they tell us there’s a problem, so we can get out ahead of these things,” Van Doren said.
Crystal City Apartment Building Sold — “A Crystal City residential property within blocks of Amazon’s planned HQ2 campus has sold for $228 million, more than double what it last sold for a decade prior, according to Arlington County property records.” [Washington Business Journal]
It’s National Police Week — Law enforcement officers from around the country and the world are in the D.C. area for National Police Week. The annual series of events is held to honor officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. As in years past, Arlington County Police motorcycle officers are assisting with the numerous motorcades associated with Police Week. [Twitter]
Free Cone Day Today — Häagen-Dazs is holding its annual Free Cone Day today (Tuesday) from 4-8 p.m. Among other nearby locations, a locally-owned Häagen-Dazs franchise store is located in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. [Häagen-Dazs]
Crashes During Monday’s Rain — A number of crashes were reported Monday morning, amid persistant rain. Among them were a crash with entrapment at Military Road and Lorcom Lane, and a reported car vs. tree collision at Route 50 and S. Columbus Street. [Twitter]
School Board Member Donating Kidney — “Arlington School Board Vice Chairman Tannia Talento will be out of commission for several weeks, as she is donating a kidney to a sister. Speaking at the May 9 School Board meeting, Talento said preparing for, undergoing and recuperating from surgery will cause her to miss some end-of-school-year events, but ‘I hope it is amazing and wonderful,’ she said of the last weeks of the 2018-19 year.” [InsideNova]
The students suing to block the renaming of Washington-Lee High School believe they have a powerful new piece of evidence to offer in support of their case.
The three W-L students behind the legal action claim that one School Board member, Vice Chair Tannia Talento, admitted in a recent conversation to a key contention of their lawsuit: that school officials failed to solicit enough community feedback on the name change before the Board’s June 7 vote on the matter.
An attorney for the students submitted a transcript of a recording of that conversation as evidence in Arlington County Circuit Court earlier this month, arguing that it helps prove that the Board didn’t follow its own public engagement process ahead of the W-L decision.
Arlington Public Schools officials have been adamant that the renaming process was conducted properly, even as some W-L alumni have expressed increasing frustration about the removal of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the building. The transcript also shows that Talento noted in the conversation that the Board circulated several different timelines for how the renaming might proceed, meaning that there may not be an easy answer to the question of whether the Board followed its own guidelines for the process.
But name change opponents are confident that her admissions amount to yet more proof that a judge will someday halt the Board’s plans to have a new name for W-L ready for the 2019-2020 school year.
“They skipped over the community involvement that they’d planned on, and Talento discussed that with them,” Jonathon Moseley, an attorney for the students, told ARLnow. “It adds to the same allegations that were there before, but we think it’s important.”
Through a Board spokeswoman, Talento said that the transcript “reflects my initial overall recollection of the discussion” with the students, which she believes occurred during one of her regularly scheduled “open office hour” sessions. She says the students didn’t inform her in advance that they’d be attending, or that they wanted to discuss the name change.
“It is important to share that the students did not ask or let me know that I was being recorded during the meeting,” Talento said. “I do not have anything to add to the discussion I had with the students.”
Moseley said he was unsure of the exact circumstances of the conversation in question, but he believes it happened immediately before the students decided to file the lawsuit and that they informed Talento that they wanted to discuss the name change in advance of the meeting. The students have asked the court not to reveal their identities, though two gave on-camera interviews to WUSA 9 about the suit.
Moseley believes the key section of the transcript comes when Talento tells the students “there was never any intentional engagement to the community about specifically changing [the name of] Washington-Lee.”
The students and other W-L alumni argue that the Board moved too quickly by voting to change its policy guiding how all schools should be named, then kicking off a process to change W-L’s name specifically that same night.
In legal filings, and the conversation with Talento, the students point to a Jan. 30 document released by APS that calls for a separate community engagement process on W-L, culminating in a final decision on the name by sometime this winter. To the students, Talento’s statement is a clear admission that the Board ignored its stated processes by agreeing to change the name in June.
However, Talento also notes in the conversation that the January document was a “back-up” plan, in case APS couldn’t meet its original timeline for the process.
She pointed out that Superintendent Patrick Murphy penned a Sept. 19, 2017 memo back when the Board first contemplated a name change, stating that the Board could direct APS staff “to begin a renaming process for any school(s) that may need to be renamed to conform with the new School/Facility Naming Policy.” That more closely mirrors the procedure the Board ultimately followed.
According to the transcript, the students told Talento that those dueling timelines confused them, and they were taken aback when the Board voted to concurrently change the name policy and W-L’s name. Talento expressed some sympathy for the students, and suggested that they could still advocate for the Board to “send [the name change] to committee for consideration.”
She also discussed the possibility of that APS could “find another Lee” to take Robert E. Lee’s place in the school’s moniker. One option the group discussed was Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, Robert’s father and a famous officer in the Revolutionary War.
“That would have to be determined by the [naming] committee and the school, but it minimizes costs,” Talento told the students.
As it stands now, the committee Talento alluded to will indeed have the final say on advancing new names for the Board to consider later this year. Unless a judge intervenes on the side of the students, that committee will start meeting sometime this fall.
Another Heat Advisory Today — “Heat Advisory again for… Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. due to the continuous heat. Remember to stay hydrated, limit strenuous outdoor activities, and wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.” [Twitter]
New School Board Chair — At its meeting last night, the Arlington School Board elected Reid Goldstein as chair and Tannia Talento as vice chair for the 2018-2019. [Twitter]
State Department Employee Guilty of Child Porn Production — An Alexandria man who worked for the U.S. State Department in Arlington has pleaded guilty to “producing child pornography, in part by using his work-issued cellphone.” Skydance MacMahon “worked with a woman in Canada to shoot explicit photos and videos of five children inside her home, federal prosecutors say.” [NBC Washington]
Vets Hiking to Arlington National Cemetery — Despite blistering heat, two veterans are hiking 150 miles from the gravesite of legendary Marine Chesty Puller, in Middlesex County, Virginia, to the gravesite of decorated World War II soldier Audie Murphy at Arlington National Cemetery. [WUSA 9]
Arlington Remembers World War I — “Veterans of six U.S. military conflicts were on hand June 28 as the Arlington Historical Society paid homage to county residents who fought, and died, in what was termed – ultimately incorrectly – the war to end all wars.” [InsideNova]
(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Local candidates celebrated victories Tuesday night while shocked Democrats watched the presidential election slip out of their grasp.
County Board Chair Libby Garvey will serve another term after defeating independent Audrey Clement. With all absentee ballots counted, Garvey and Clement have 71 and 27 percent of the vote, respectively.
“I’d like to give a shout-out to my opponent, Audrey Clement,” said Garvey in a speech at the Democratic victory party at Sehkraft Brewing in Clarendon. It’s important for all voices to be heard in a democracy, Garvey said.
Tannia Talento and Nancy Van Doren, who both ran unopposed, have won seats on the Arlington County School Board.
Arlingtonians have overwhelmingly voted in favor of all four bond referenda. Metro and transportation has 78 percent approval, parks and recreation has 75 percent, community infrastructure has 75 percent and the Arlington Public Schools bond has 80 percent.
Like Virginia voters statewide, Arlington County voters rejected a “right-to-work” state constitutional amendment while approving an amendment providing property tax relief to the spouses of fallen first responders.
Arlington County voters chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. In that race, Clinton has 76 percent, Trump has 17 percent, Gary Johnson has 3 percent, Jill Stein has 1 percent and Evan McMullin has 2 percent.
Clinton’s net 71,724 vote victory over Trump in Arlington contributed significantly to her 182,954 vote margin over Trump statewide.
An initially optimistic mood at the Democratic event at Sehkraft gave way to anxiety over the results of the presidential race. At 10:40 p.m., CNN called Virginia for Hillary Clinton, lightening the mood a bit. Early Wednesday morning, however, the race was called for Donald Trump, raising questions about how Arlington might fare under a Trump administration.
In the 8th congressional district race, Arlington County voters gave a large margin of victory to incumbent Democrat Rep. Don Beyer, with 71 percent of the vote over Republican opponent Charles Hernick with 25 percent. That margin, however, was narrower than Clinton’s 76-17 margin over Trump in Arlington.
Beyer won the district as a whole 68 percent to 27 percent for Hernick.
County election officials did not receive reports of any major local voting issues. They say there were no lines at any of the county polling places within the last half hour of voting, indicating most residents who intended to vote already had. There were long lines at many polling places this morning, but they largely died down after 9 a.m.
Before the evening rush, Arlington County Registrar Linda Lindberg had said most precincts reported about 50 percent voter turnout, while another 25 percent or so voted absentee.
Lindberg expects final numbers to be close to those from 2012, when Arlington experienced 83 percent voter turnout. About 118,000 ballots were cast at that time, which was a county record.
ARLnow conducted a live video broadcast tonight from Sehkraft from 7:30-9:30 p.m., in which editor Scott Brodbeck spoke with elected officials including County Board Chair Libby Garvey, County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette and Virginia state senator Adam Ebbin. The video from the broadcast is available above.
Here is the unedited response from Tannia Talento (D), who along with Nancy Van Doren is running unopposed:
Thank you to ARLnow.com for the chance to engage Arlington voters before the election on Tuesday.
I decided to run for Arlington County School Board because I believe that every student, regardless of their circumstances, should have equitable access to a quality education and I have been advocating for this throughout my life. My focus as a member of our school board will be to expand mental health education and resources for all of our students, eliminate the achievement/opportunity gap, and address our capacity needs with transparent and robust community engagement.
We have strong community involvement in our schools. Many of our stakeholders work very hard to make our school system the best it can be, but there are stakeholders in our community who are underrepresented, who should be involved in the process. I will advocate for these communities and bring everyone to the table. As a first-generation American to immigrant parents, I know how hard it can be to get involved in the school system and have a voice if you are an immigrant, a working parent, a minority, or face a language barrier. I will make sure to bring these perspectives to our Board.
Arlington Public Schools is making slow progress to improve our mental health support systems and as a board member, I will ensure that we make mental health a priority in APS’ Whole Child Initiative. According to a recent NPR Ed Series on mental health, 1 in 5 students has symptoms of a mental health disorder in any given year. We need to work harder to address the mental health needs of our students. I will make sure we continue to focus on this issue and to bring awareness and education to our students, parents, and community on how this silent epidemic is affecting Arlington students.
Arlington’s school challenges are community-wide challenges that can only be faced with the support and input of every stakeholder in the county. Our achievement/opportunity gap can be eliminated, but only if we have every stakeholder at the table working towards the common goal of creating an education system that works for every student, not just most students. One of the ways I will address this is to review our data at a granular level to truly understand the reasons for the gap so that we work together to serve our students as individuals and not as statistical blocks. We have the passion, commitment, and resources in our schools and community to make this happen but we cannot serve our students if we do not understand their needs as an individual.
Finally, I plan to address our capacity needs with transparent and robust community engagement. Again, we will have to work together to come up with creative solutions that support the new Virginia Board of Education’s Profile of a Graduate initiative and the new Every Student Succeeds Act. Both of these new measures will affect how we prepare our students to be 21st-century learners and ensure they are college and career ready students that can enter our colleges and workforce prepared and with choices for life-long success.
Since the Democratic Caucus in May, I have continued the work on advancing these goals and advocating for every student. This summer and fall, my focus has been on meeting with numerous parent and community groups on how to share my goals and vision and to learn about their priorities and concerns. I have also been meeting with our existing School Board members and County Board members to ensure that I am informed, prepared and ready to start working on day one if elected.
I look forward to serving this community and working hard to make Arlington, not one of the best school systems in the country, but rather, the best school system in the country. I humbly ask for your vote on November 8th. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about my candidacy and my vision for our schools. For more information about me and my campaign, please visit my website at www.tanniatalento.org.
County Manager on Buck Property — County staff have “made no recommendations for any specific function” at the to-be-acquired Buck property near Washington-Lee High School, the county said in a press release this morning. Nearby residents have launched a petition against a proposal to use the property for school bus operations. Said Arlington County Manager Mark Schwarz: “Our ability to provide essential services is only as good as the facilities we have to support them. As our population continues to grow, our services will either deteriorate or cost the taxpayer more without adequate support facilities.” [Arlington County]
Fundraiser for Employee Struck By SUV — A fundraiser for a Mad Rose Tavern employee run over by an SUV raised more than $5,000 last night, the restaurant’s manager said on Facebook. Victoria Gonzalez, 34, is still in the hospital, preparing to begin rehabilitation. The next court appearance for the DUI suspect in the case is scheduled for Nov. 17. [WJLA]
Bowl’d to Introduce Breakfast — Healthy fast casual eatery Bowl’d (1028 N. Garfield Street) in Clarendon is introducing weekend breakfast service from 9 a.m. to noon, starting this Saturday. Bowl’d founder Allen Reed says the restaurant will be “giving away breakfast tacos, greek yogurt bowls and hot breakfast bowls to the first 150 people who come through our doors this weekend.”
Talento to Bring New Perspective to School Board — Democrat Tannia Talento, who’s running unopposed for Arlington School Board, says she wants to bring “the perspective of the working parent” to the Board. Another unique perspective: Talento said economic and family issues prevented her from getting a college degree. Talento says her priorities on the Board will be dealing with the growing student population, improving access to mental health services and narrowing the achievement gap. [InsideNova]
Arlington Lauded for LGBTQ Protections — “Arlington has been named one of 37 American ‘All-Star Cities‘ acclaimed for their high standard of inclusiveness toward their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer communities.” [Arlington County]
Innovative Companies in Crystal City — Business publication Bisnow says the following are “five disruptive companies establishing Crystal City as [a] nexus of innovation:” Lyft, TMSOFT, OrcaVue, Polynox Solutions and FourStay. [Bisnow]
Van Doren, Talento Win Dem Endorsement — Tannia Talento and incumbent Nancy Van Doren convincingly won the Democratic endorsement caucus for School Board last week. Talento and Van Doren were the most-endorsed candidates in the race. They will now move on to the November general election. [InsideNova]
Female WW2 Pilots Gain Burial Rights at ANC — Bipartisan legislation signed by President Obama has granted Women Airforce Service Pilots, who served during World War II, formal burial rights at Arlington National Cemetery. Those rights were revoked due to a Dept. of Defense legal finding and policy change last year. [Voice of America]
Residents Supportive of Cemetery Expansion Plan — The military held a meeting yesterday to reveal preliminary plans to expand Arlington National Cemetery and realign Columbia Pike. Local residents were generally supportive of the plan and the need to expand the cemetery. [Washington Post]
Arlington Woman Turns 100 — The Sunrise senior living community in Arlington has celebrated the 100th birthday of a resident, Kathleen Hanawalt. Hanawalt celebrated the event with her daughter-in-law and two grandsons. Hanawalt’s husband died in 1969. [InsideNova]
Endorsements for Gutshall, Talento — Arlington County Board challenger Erik Gutshall has picked up a trio of endorsements from state lawmakers. State Sen. Adam Ebbin, Del. Alfonso Lopez and Del. Rip Sullivan have endorsed Gutshall in his primary challenge against County Board Chair Libby Garvey. Meanwhile, School Board candidate Tannia Talento has received the endorsement of School Board member Reid Goldstein. [Blue Virginia, InsideNova]
Sexual Assault Awareness Event at the Pentagon — All branches of the military were represented at a recent event to raise awareness of and combat sexual assault in the military. “Walk-a-Lap for a Survivor” was held in the Pentagon courtyard on April 20. Also participating in the event were members of Arlington-based Doorways for Women and Families. [Pentagram]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf