27°Clear

Morning Notes

County Board Approves Bike Boulevard Contract — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a half-million dollar contract for safety improvements to the intersection of S. Walter Reed Drive and 12th Street S. Per a county press release: “The project, one of several designed to make the Columbia Pike bike boulevards safer and more comfortable, will provide traffic calming and pedestrian improvements at the intersection.” [Arlington County]

Wakefield Boys Win Basketball Tourney — “The Wakefield Warriors won the 2018 boys Northern Region 5C Tournament basketball championship on their home court Feb. 23. The region crown was the 10th in program history for the high school team and second since 2014.” [InsideNova]

Hearing on Historic District Fee — The County Board will hold a public hearing in April to discuss an application fee for those seeking a local historic district. The fee, between $250-1,000 per request, would only partially reimburse the county for staff time spent researching each request, but could serve as a deterrent against frivolous requests. [InsideNova]

ICYMI: Weekend Articles — ARLnow published two articles of note over the weekend: first, a recap of the County Board’s decision to not raise the property tax rate this budget season, and second, a developing story about state legislation that could cost the county’s coffers around $2 million while slashing the tax bills of Arlington’s two country clubs.

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

0 Comments

Students Stage Walkouts At Arlington High Schools

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Arlington high school students walked out of class Wednesday at about noon, joining nationwide protesters responding to a recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Wakefield High School students made their way to the athletic stadium for a rally in favor of stricter gun control laws during a 30 minute class walkout. Administrators agreed to consider the walkout an excused absence, according to several Wakefield students.

Students spoke to the crowd with a public address system, calling themselves “moving targets” and shouting that gun violence won’t be resolved until everyone helps them “rise together and create that change.”

(Other Arlington students, including those at H-B Woodlawn and Yorktown High School, also staged walkouts today, as did students in Montgomery County and elsewhere in the region.)

Hannah Jones, a 17-year-old junior at Wakefield and an Arlington Young Democrats member, referenced tweets from an account called National School Walkout as her and her peers’ inspiration for the walkout.

Another student, 16-year-old sophomore Natasa Volk, only recently has become involved in politics.

“I think my mom wanted me to swivel in my own ideas and figure out what my values are,” said Volk. “But definitely this year I have engaged a lot more in political conversations, whether its with teachers or with my mother and other students.”

“I guess I started to care, which is kind of disappointing that I didn’t care as much.”

Volk and other students drew protest posters in their morning classes, with slogans like “317 Last Year — How Many This Year?” The walkout crowd was a few hundred teenagers and adults, a portion of the school’s 2016 enrollment rate of around 2,000 students.

Student protests are being staged as widespread as Chicago and Florida in response to the Parkland shooting, but Volk says that it wasn’t just the most recent shooting that inspired action, but that she learned last year that mass shootings happen much more frequently than one might see reported in the national media.

Some students were pessimistic about the protest, reportedly believing that it would just be an excuse for the apathetic to skip class. But, Jones believes, even those students will benefit from the walkout.

“Even if that’s their motive, being around this many people and to see this many people caring” about gun control legislation, said Jones. “I feel that if the news that they’re hearing hasn’t affected them, then this will get them to change their minds and get them to be a bit more directly involved.”

Reporters from ARLnow and WJLA (ABC 7) were not permitted to follow students to the rally at Wakefield High School.

Students, parents, and administrators alike took to Twitter in support of the march — including Virginia’s 2018 teacher of the year, Michelle Cottrell-Williams.

Further protests have been called for by student and adult activists nationwide, and a nationwide “March For Our Lives” protest has been scheduled for March 24.

Tweets from the Wakefield walkout, along with emails sent to H-B Woodlawn and Yorktown parents, after the jump.

From H-B Woodlawn Principal Casey Robinson:

Dear H-B Woodlawn Parent or Guardian:

Today at noon many H-B Woodlawn students participated in a student walkout to protest gun violence following the recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  This walkout occurred during lunch; students congregated in the front circle for about 20 minutes. These students were supervised by school staff and the School Resource Officer. It was a peaceful and safe gathering. During this student initiated protest some students suggested that the group should walk to the White House. We told students that they must have parent permission and sign out in the office since this was not a school-sponsored activity, and school staff would not be with them.

Most students walked a short distance and then returned to school. Other students participated in the longer protest. We were not aware of plans for this protest, but we know that other walkouts and protests are being planned for March and April.  We will continue to support students by providing them a safe space to exercise their constitutional rights, while also respecting the right of all students to continue with their education during these activities.

From Yorktown Principal Bridget Loft.

Dear Yorktown Parent or Guardian,

Today at noon many Yorktown students engaged in a student walkout to raise awareness of gun violence following the recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.   During this walkout, many students left their fifth period classes or lunch to congregate primarily in the amphitheater at the front the building for approximately 20 minutes.   These students were supervised by school staff and all gathered peacefully, respectfully, and safely before returning to class.  Students who were out of class during this time and returned to class with their classmates will be marked as ‘excused absent’.

Like all of us, many students at Yorktown have been trying to make sense of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas last week and have been concerned about their safety in our school.  As a school staff, we are committed to ensuring that our students know that their safety is our top priority and to giving them a space to talk about and process the events of last week.

Today’s walkout at Yorktown was planned and organized by several students here.  When we learned that it was being planned, school staff made arrangements for the students to congregate in the amphitheater as they had direct access to it as they left through the front doors and it made it easier for Yorktown staff to provide supervision and to monitor who was entering and exiting the building.

I was exceptionally proud of our students today.  Those who participated did so respectfully and peacefully.  Those who chose to participate respected the feelings of those who opted not to, and those who opted to not participate supported their classmates who did.  With the walkouts and protests that are being planned for March and April, we will continue to support students by providing them a safe space to exercise their constitutional rights.

Via Twitter:

0 Comments

Morning Notes

W-L Name Decision May Be Delayed — “A new staff proposal detailed on Feb. 1 would delay until December or January any School Board decision on the [Washington-Lee High School] name, which has divided the school community, alumni and some activists.” [InsideNova]

Wakefield HS in Super Bowl Ad — The Wakefield High School girls basketball team was featured in a promo for NBC 4 that aired locally during the Super Bowl. [Facebook, Twitter]

Crews Treat Slick Roads — There were some icy patches on local roads this morning, but Arlington County crews were out treating potential slick spots. Unlike other school systems that delayed the opening of school, however, Arlington Public Schools started on time. [Twitter, Washington Post]

0 Comments

Blind Triplets Make History With Eagle Scout Recognitions

(Updated 12 p.m.) As elementary school students, blind triplets Leo, Nick and Steven Cantos were bullied, had few friends and no role models.

But that changed when, at the age of 10, blind attorney and Crystal City resident Ollie Cantos became their mentor after learning about them through a friend at church. He legally adopted them two years ago, and turned their lives around.

“I didn’t have friends, my brothers were the only people, that was it,” Nick Cantos said. “I was essentially shut in for seven years, and I was a violent kid. I got into fights with people, because I was being bullied in school. It ended up getting so bad that I wanted to end [my life]. Dad really saved my life.”

A ceremony on Wednesday night marked how far they have come, having also graduated from Wakefield High School earlier this year. At The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Alexandria, the brothers became the first ever blind triplets to be honored as Eagle Scouts in the history of Boy Scouts of America.

To become Eagle Scouts, the highest honor in scouting, candidates must complete a slew of assignments, including tasks like first aid, knot-tying, leadership and orientation. It also requires community service, and six months or more spent in leadership positions at their troop.

Each also had to lead a community service project. Steven Cantos collected school supplies for low-income schoolchildren for nonprofit Aspire! Afterschool. He already volunteered with the organization, which helps children improve their reading, and had intended to collect enough supplies for 90 students.

When the supply drive was over, he had collected enough for 130 students.

“They go in and help kids read in a more advanced way, since they feel that reading is the first thing that kids need to learn, and then they learn other things if they can read better,” Steven Cantos said. “The project stemmed from the fact that I’d already volunteered a bit of time to them, so I wanted to give some more time… I decided that education is important, so let’s give them school supplies.”

Leo Cantos collected blood and blankets for INOVA Fairfax Hospital, a children’s hospital where he spent a month re-learning how to walk. He finished with 88 units of blood and 77 blankets, all donated by local people he had recruited.

“I wanted to give back to the kids, because I saw the kids there and I saw how they were not doing too well,” Leo Cantos said. “I wanted to give them a better experience, kind of like the one I had in the hospital but extended to them as well.”

And Nick Cantos collected donations of hygiene supplies for nonprofit Doorways for Women and Families, which helps people out of homelessness and away from domestic violence and sexual assault. He collected about $2,000 worth of supplies to donate to the organization.

“It took a lot of planning, it took a lot of work and papers,” Nick Cantos said. “The craziest part was seeing all my scout friends and leaders and brothers helping me to do this, and me managing this thing.”

And while they could have gotten extended time to complete their requirements to be Eagle Scouts due to their blindness, they chose not to. Ollie Cantos said that decision was made to show that being blind does not need to be a hindrance.

“We were absolutely intent on not asking for any extensions,” he said. “It wasn’t what we wanted to do. I wanted the boys to learn a lesson, a positive lesson, that we keep saying blindness is just a disability and it’s not really a big deal, so if it’s not a big deal, why do we need to make an exception? That’s just us.”

One of the biggest challenges for the brothers was the swimming requirement, as none of them had spent much time in the water before.

But in the summer of 2014, they were all able to dive in, swim to a target with the aid of voice assistance and then swim back. All the while, they were cheered on by their fellow scouts and leaders at poolside.

“As I observed this moment, I thought to myself, ‘There’s no stopping them,'” said Scott Blakeslee, a former leader at the church and scout troop, in a speech. “More than that, I knew that you were going to continue to grow into wonderful, capable men of God. I hope you can take that experience as you go forward.”

With the brothers now graduated from high school, they will go to Boston in about six months to learn further life skills so they can become more independent.

All three have ambitions to go to college. Steven wants to study political science, go to law school and study copyright law and intellectual property rights; Nick wants to study marketing and go into the real estate industry; and Leo wants to study political science also before specializing in cyber law and working to make technology accessible to all.

With all they have achieved already, U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who worked with Ollie Cantos at the U.S. Department of Justice, said their futures look bright.

“There is no stopping you, and a large part of that is you, but a greater part of that is your family,” said Acosta, who was among the crowd of around 100 family members, Scouts and well-wishers at the ceremony.

“It’s you and your brothers and your dad together that show each other what courage is and what hard work is, and I have to say there is no stopping you, because you have done everything and you continue to do everything.”

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Wakefield Student Sang National Anthem — Wakefield High School junior Samantha Rios sang the national anthem before Sunday night’s Redskins-Raiders game. Rios, who previously competed on a Spanish language version of The Voice, was seen by a national TV audience as controversy swirled over players kneeling in protest during the anthem. [WUSA 9]

Officials to Compete in Trivia Battle — County Board Chair Jay Fisette, state Sen. Barbara Favola, Del. Patrick Hope and former County Board members Mary Hynes and Joe Wholey will compete in a “housing trivia battle” next month, testing their knowledge of Arlington history, particularly as it relates to housing issues. [Arlington County]

Clement Blasts Daycare Approval — Independent Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement said in a new email to supporters that the current Board places the interests of developers ahead of that of residents. As an example, she cited the recent approval of a new daycare center on Lee Highway, despite concerns about traffic among some local residents. The approval “will likely engender cut through traffic on an adjacent one lane street off Lee Highway that has already experienced major traffic accidents,” Clement wrote. The daycare had the general support of the local civic association. [Audrey Clement]

Gun Control Group to Host Fmr. ATF Agent — The local chapter of the pro-gun-control group Moms Demand Action is hosting a special event on Wednesday, featuring a former ATF special agent. The event will include discussion of the “the challenges facing gun violence prevention.” It is scheduled from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Shirlington Branch Library. Moms Demand Action had a booth at Clarendon Day this past weekend and signed up nearly 100 new volunteers. [Facebook, Medium]

Nearby: One Guy is Holding Up Development in D.C. — One persistent activist is holding up hundreds of millions of dollars worth of development in the District. Chris Otten has succeeded in delaying numerous developments by rallying a group of neighbors and filing court challenges. [Bisnow]

0 Comments

Wakefield High School Teacher Named Virginia Teacher of the Year

A social studies teacher from Wakefield High School will be Virginia’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year after winning the state’s Teacher of the Year award Monday night.

Michelle Cottrell-Williams was named Virginia Teacher of the Year on September 18 at a ceremony in Richmond. She was one of eight regional winners in the Commonwealth, and was selected for the state prize after being interviewed by a committee.

She was joined at the ceremony at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts by Superintendent Patrick Murphy, Arlington County School Board chair Barbara Kanninen and Wakefield principal Chris Willmore. Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent and Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven Staples announced her as the winner.

Cottrell-Williams will join her counterparts at the National Teacher of the Year award ceremony at the White House this spring, when the national winner will be announced.

More from a Virginia Department of Education press release:

Michelle Cottrell-Williams, a social studies teacher at Wakefield High in Arlington County, was named 2018 Virginia Teacher of the Year Monday evening during a recognition ceremony at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond. Cottrell-Williams was selected from eight regional winners announced last week and will be the commonwealth’s nominee for 2018 National Teacher of the Year.

Cottrell-Williams, the Region 4 Teacher of the Year, was selected as the state’s top teacher after being interviewed by a committee that included representatives of professional and educational associations, the business community, and 2017 Virginia Teacher of the Year Toney Lee McNair Jr. of Chesapeake. The selection of Cottrell-Williams was announced by Secretary of Education Dietra Y. Trent and Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples.

Cottrell-Williams is a 11-year veteran of the classroom as a social studies teacher for grades 9-12. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Utah State University and a master’s degree from George Washington University.

The other seven 2018 Virginia Regional Teachers of the Year, who were also honored during the ceremony, are as follows:

  • Greenlee B. Naughton, an English teacher at Highland Springs High in Henrico County (Region 1)
  • Theresa A. Guthrie Goltermann, a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) electives teacher at Tabb Middle in York County (Region 2)
  • Sarah M. Adamson-Mair, a kindergarten teacher at Lewis and Clark Elementary in Caroline County (Region 3)
  • Russell T. Jennings, an agriculture teacher at Fluvanna County High in Fluvanna County (Region 5)
  • Karey A. Henzey, a special education teacher at West Salem Elementary in Salem (Region 6)
  • Chrystle M. Gates, a music teacher at Chilhowie Elementary in Smyth County (Region 7)
  • Tiffany W. Lynch, an English teacher at Park View High in Mecklenburg County (Region 8)

As the 2018 Virginia Teacher of the Year, Cottrell-Williams received a $5,000 award and a commemorative ring from the Apple Federal Credit Union Education Foundation; a $2,500 award from Richmond law firm Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen; a $1,000 award from Dominion Resources Services Inc.; a teacher membership from VMFA; educational opportunities from several public and private colleges and universities; a three-year SMART Learning Suite subscription from SMART Technologies UCL; flowers from Coleman Brothers Flowers Inc.; an engraved plaque from Bunkie Trinite Trophies Inc.; a gift basket from C.F. Sauer Co.; overnight accommodations at the Crowne Plaza Richmond Downtown; and an engraved crystal apple.

The 2018 National Teacher of the Year will be announced next spring at a White House ceremony. Two previous Virginia teachers — B. Philip Bigler, the 1998 Virginia Teacher of the Year, and Mary V. Bicouvaris, the 1989 Virginia Teacher of the Year — went on to be named as a National Teacher of the Year.

Courtesy photos.

0 Comments

Wakefield Teacher Named State Teacher of the Year Finalist

A teacher at Wakefield High School is a finalist for the Virginia Teacher of the Year award after a surprise announcement this morning (Monday).

Michelle Cottrell-Williams, a social studies teacher at Wakefield, learned of the recognition from Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, who presented her with a certificate and flowers during a sociology class. McAuliffe was joined by Superintendent Patrick Murphy, Arlington County School Board members and Wakefield principal Chris Willmore.

Cottrell-Williams is one of eight teachers in the running for Virginia Teacher of the Year. She represents educational Region 4, which comprises various cities and counties in Northern Virginia.

She is the first regional finalist from Arlington since Colette Fraley, another Wakefield social studies teacher, in 2010. Cottrell-Williams is already Arlington Teacher of the Year, having been nominated by Lisa Labella, Wakefield’s senior project coordinator.

“I’m speechless,” Cottrell-Williams said after the announcement. “Dr. Willmore walked in, said he had to interrupt for a minute, OK. People just kept coming and coming and coming, and I have no words. This is incredible. I feel like I’ve just been me, and to be recognized, that other people recognize that what I’m doing matters, is pretty amazing.”

Cottrell-Williams has taught at Wakefield for 10 years, and is the lead classroom teacher of World History II, U.S. and Virginia Government, AP European History, Sociology and senior project classes.

She has been recognized for her dynamic lesson plans that use various strategies and methods to help students learn as well as her commitment to professional development for her fellow teachers.

“In my other classes I’ve been asked to come up with projects and ways to rethink education,” senior Alex Pearson said. “I feel like Ms. Cottrell does that. She’s a teacher that makes class fun, and I feel like we’re going to learn a lot of things.”

“I think it says a lot about Ms. Cottrell,” senior Ana Sofia Uro-DeLeon said. “We haven’t even started our classes yet, and she’s already getting an award and everything. It shows that she really does care about the students and the individual, not just the statistics and our grades.”

McAuliffe said with budgetary pressures weighing on public school districts across Virginia, recognizing teachers when they are so dedicated is important.

“She’s so dedicated to her students, but also dedicated to her peers and to her colleagues, her fellow teachers and making sure that professional development opportunities are there so they can further their craft of teaching,” McAuliffe said. “That’s really so important, to make sure that teachers have the support they need in everything to do.”

Cottrell-Williams will join her fellow finalists in Richmond on Monday, September 18, where they will go through a series of interviews before the awards banquet that evening. Cottrell-Williams said that whether she wins or not will not change the fact that her most important interactions are with her students each day.

“It’s about the students, it’s not about whatever accolades I get,” she said. “It would be nice to have a broader platform to share with other teachers how I have found success with my students, how I interact with them, how I’ve really grown to like what I do because of the relationships I get to build with these students. But at the end of the day, I’m still here in the classroom with them whether or not I have an award.”

0 Comments

New Fresh Lunch Options Launch in County’s Public High Schools

Students at Arlington County’s public high schools now have the chance to build their own lunch with fresh ingredients.

Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown all added food service company Cuisine Solutions‘ Café + Teria concept, the first of its kind for a school system in Virginia.

Each school’s serving area will have a similar, modern look, according to a press release. Cuisine Solutions describes itself as “the authority on sous-vide,” a slow-cooking method where food is vacuum-sealed and then slow-cooked in hot water to preserve flavors and nutrients.

Each day, students can select ingredients in four steps by picking a base of grain, salad or a wrap; a protein of antibiotic-free chicken, ground beef, or Paneer cheese; a topping of vegetables, cheese and sauces; and a dressing.

“This program introduces the healthy, fast-casual dining experience that teenagers love,” Bill Stablein, Cuisine Solutions’ manager of K-12 programs, said in a statement. “Arlington is an innovative district and a good choice to begin the program based on size, number of schools, diversity and exposure to quick-service restaurants.”

Cuisine Solutions hosted a forum last February for 10 public school districts in Virginia to discuss ways to improve dining options for students. After the forum, company chefs put together menus for Café + Teria based on local ingredients that are healthy and of good quality.

Cuisine Solutions will provide the three schools with the recipes, standard operating procedures, name brand and marketing materials for the new program, which may eventually be replicated nationwide.

Courtesy photos

0 Comments

Why Immersion Learning Matters: A Perspective

Applying to college is a scary but exciting process. Picking out schools, writing a personal statement and stacking up all of your best accomplishments.

But there was only one experience that I was never able to put into simple words, and that was the 11 years that I spent in immersion classes.

Arlington County is home to four Spanish immersion programs, at Claremont and Francis Scott Key elementary schools, Gunston Middle School and Wakefield High School.

Arlington Public Schools says the goal of the programs is to develop “high levels” of proficiency and literacy in two languages, promote high academic achievement and cross cultural competence.

I started second grade at Claremont Immersion School in 2003. It was the first year the school opened and students came from the immersion programs at Abingdon Elementary and my former school, Oakridge. I spent half my first day reciting the multiplication tables in Spanish, the other half in English.

It was not always easy, I struggled with both science and math as I got older and the content got more complicated. I stuck with it, although it was common for classmates to leave the school so they could thrive in a traditional setting.

Language skills improve even more in middle school, when there are 11 hours of Spanish instruction a week. Because subjects switch throughout the day, there’s a possibility to go back and forth from English to Spanish. It’s a brain workout to go back and forth between the two every 45 minutes. Unlike the elective Spanish classes offered in middle school, the Spanish Language Arts class that immersion students take is structured much like an English class.

High school is the true test. Some students struggle with AP level Spanish, as you don’t practice the language the way you do in middle school. With block scheduling, you may only get one day of Spanish instruction.

Continuing to practice Spanish every day is a valuable commitment. Many of my friends are double majoring or minoring in the language. They have traveled to Spain, Cuba and Costa Rica to practice the language.

“I’ve gotten to travel the world with confidence in my ability to speak the language,” said Peyton Johnson, a senior at James Madison University double majoring in Communications and Spanish.

Aside from learning another language, the other perk of immersion is that I was able to forge lifelong friendships. Because there are designated schools to continue the program means I went to school with the same people from that first day at Claremont until my last day at Wakefield.

“A good portion of my closest friends are from immersion,” said Cathleen Madlansacay, a senior International Affairs Pre-Law major who minors in Spanish. Madlansacay and Johnson are roommates at JMU and met at Claremont in third grade.

Speaking Spanish has helped students forge relationships and have seen how immersion matters in a workforce that values employees who are bilingual.

“I have had unexpected conversations with strangers and have gotten job opportunities,” said Johnson.

Most the students I spoke to were grateful that their parents enrolled them in the program.

“They gave me an opportunity to not only become fluent in another language but also immerse myself in another culture,” said Allie Names, a Geography and Spanish double major at Mary Washington University.

Carolyn Harvey, who graduated from Wakefield in 2016, echoed the sentiment.

“I used to always be mad that my parents put me in Immersion but now I’m thankful,” said Harvey. “I always surprise people when they meet me and hear me speak Spanish.”

The Immersion program has progressed since I started all those years ago. The shiny new Claremont that started with 350 students is expanding its capacity to hold 767 students. Now, Wakefield offers Biology, Economics, and Personal Finance in Spanish.

As I approach my senior year at the University of Maryland, I realize how lucky I was to have such an amazing experience that has made an indelible impact on so many lives.

Brooke Giles is an ARLnow.com summer intern.

0 Comments

Wakefield Students Win National Friendship Award

(Updated 11 a.m.) Wakefield High School students Anna Tiernan and Kate Williams won the Alex and Ani Friendship of the Year Award at the 28th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference in Indiana earlier this month.

Tiernan and Williams were nominated by the program’s Capitol Region director and campaigned heavily for the competition. The duo earned votes from across the country for their efforts and were announced as winners live at the conference, which took place July 21-24 at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization that aims to create opportunities that for “one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The pair’s nomination explained why they were well-suited for the award:

Anna’s and Kate’s friendship is truly genuine and exemplary of the Best Buddies mission; they are true equals and friends. They support each other’s interests – from Anna’s love of music to Kate’s involvement in school plays. They were highlighted on the local news as they prepared for their Prom together. They are always the first to start a party and the last to leave; from sporting events, karaoke outings, dance parties, and more, it is clear these two friends love to have fun and love each other!

Tiernan and Williams live a few houses away from each other, and have been able to develop a friendship with movie nights while also helping build the Best Buddies organization in their community. The pair were featured on Fox 5 last month when they were promoting the annual Best Buddies Prom.

Williams, who is the president of the Wakefield chapter, said she can see the impact of the Best Buddies program in the school.

“I think there are a lot more kids that recognize the students in the special needs classes,” said Williams.

Tiernan, who graduated from Wakefield this past June, says she enjoys her unique friendship with Williams. She said she is also looking forward to the organization’s Friendship Walk on October 21, hosted by local radio host Tommy McFly.

“I just want to be in a video with him,” said Tiernan, who said the walk is one of her favorite Best Buddies events.

Best Buddies partnered with jewelry company Alex and Ani, the sponsor of the awards, in 2015. Last year, Best Buddies was one of two charities that benefited from the sales of the Liberty Copper Carry Light line, and currently benefits a portion of the proceeds from the Arrows of Friendship Charm Bangle.

0 Comments

Schools Plan to Expand Using Temporary Classrooms, Interior Modifications

Arlington Public Schools will look to temporarily add more space to try to cope with its rising enrollment by adding temporary classrooms and making interior adjustments at several schools.

The Arlington County Board is expected to vote on a slew of proposals across eight schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels at its meeting Saturday (July 15). The temporary solutions are all recommended for approval by county staff, as “student enrollment is growing at a faster rate than APS can provide new schools and classrooms.”

Some are looking to add more temporary, trailer classrooms — known in APS parlance as “relocatables” — while others will make interior adjustments to add more space.

The following schools are applying to add relocatables:

The following schools will look to make interior adjustments and modifications:

Photos Nos. 6, 7 and 8 via Google Maps

0 Comments

Morning Notes

‘Meeting Bowls’ Coming to Courthouse — A new, temporary public art installation is coming to Courthouse. Workers will be building 5-foot high “meeting bowls,” designed by the Spanish art collective “mmmm….,” and featuring an 8-foot long circular bench inside. The bowls, which are meant to be used by passersby, are expected to be completed by Monday, July 17 and will remain in place until November. [Washingtonian]

Roosevelt Island Back Open — Roosevelt Island is open again after being temporarily closed by the National Park Service for the removal of diseased trees. [DCist]

Pentagon City Residents Peeved by Shopping Carts — Legions of stray shopping carts are getting on the nerves of Pentagon City residents, NBC 4’s Julie Carey reported during a news broadcast last night. [NBC Washington, Twitter]

Scholarships Awarded to Wakefield Students — “The Wakefield High School Education Foundation recently awarded 27 scholarships totaling $201,000, bringing the total number of scholarships presented over the history of the foundation to 400 and the total dollar amount of scholarships and teacher grants to more than $2.25 million.” [InsideNova]

Local Author Pens New Thriller — Arlington resident Bill Schweigart, author of the Beast of Barcroft, a supernatural thriller set in Arlington, has penned another book of local interest: The Devil’s Colony, which features a fictional Arlington resident as its main character. [Penguin Random House]

Nearby: Montgomery Co. Consider Plane Noise Suit — Montgomery County, Maryland has hired a law firm to explore legal action against the Federal Aviation Administration in response to new flight paths that have produced a dramatic increase in aircraft noise complaints. The flight paths were implemented in 2015 as part of the FAA’s NextGen system and have prompted some complaints in Arlington and D.C. as well. [Bethesda Beat]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

0 Comments

Wakefield High Students Re-Take SOL Exam After ‘Irregularity’

(Updated 11:30 a.m.) Almost 300 Wakefield High School students had to re-take a Standards of Learning test after staff discovered what they described as an “irregularity” during testing.

A letter to parents from Wakefield principal Chris Willmore said that on May 30 and 31, students had to move examination rooms after two-and-a-half hours of taking a test that does not have a time limit.

But, Willmore said, some students began talking while moving to the new testing area. Willmore said staff immediately reported what happened to the Virginia Department of Education, but a VDOE spokesman challenged that assertion and said it was reported after regular business hours on June 8. VDOE decided earlier this week that students had to re-sit.

Those re-sits took place yesterday and today. An Arlington Public Schools spokeswoman said around 280 students were affected.

Willmore’s full letter is below.

Dear Wakefield Families:

I am writing to let you know about an irregularity that we experienced during Standards of Learning (SOL) testing a week ago that affects your student. As you may know, some SOL tests have no time limits which means students may take as long as they need to complete the test. During SOL testing on May 30 and 31, some students needed more than the two and a half hours that had been scheduled in the rooms where they were taking tests. Although the state allows schools to move students to another location when this occurs, we experienced some talking among students while they were moving. Because talking is not allowed when students are regrouped, the APS staff who were serving as the Wakefield testing monitors immediately reported this “testing irregularity” to the APS Office of Planning and Evaluation staff who alerted the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) as required.

Although this was reported to VDOE a week ago, we did not learn until yesterday afternoon that the state has decided to void all of the student scores for these tests because of the irregularity. This means that your student is among the group of students who will need to retake an SOL test.

The SOL retakes will be given on Thursday and Friday this week. Students will be informed by their classroom teacher today about the retake. For those students who have a final exam during the time when they need to retake the SOL test, they will be excused from their final exam and their final grade will be calculated using the fourth marking period grades. Also, because Friday is an early release day, for those students who need more time, regular transportation will be available in the afternoon at our normal dismissal time.

Finally and most importantly, I want to sincerely apologize to all of our Wakefield students and families for this error. We have had an amazing year with great progress and achievement and I regret that we have experienced this mistake during our administration of some tests this year. Please know that we will do everything possible to support our students and help them finish the year successfully.

Sincerely,

Chris Willmore, Principal

In a second letter sent Thursday, Willmore took full responsibility, and urged parents not to contact VDOE with their concerns, but him.

Willmore wrote:

Yesterday, we learned that Wakefield parents and staff have been contacting VDOE about the need to retest some students.  I need to urge you again to instead direct your concerns to me.  For those I have already spoken with, I appreciate the time you have taken to share your thoughts and feelings about what has happened.

In the end, Wakefield is required to follow the procedures set in place for all schools by the state and, unfortunately, that did not happen this year. I want to assure everyone that we will implement a corrective action plan so we learn from this year’s testing difficulties and can ensure that this type of irregularity does not occur again.

An anonymous tipster said students that needed to re-take the tests had been put at a significant disadvantage, and they called on the Virginia Department of Education to let their scores stand.

“They’ve been away from the subject for two-three weeks, putting them at a distinct disadvantage,” the tipster wrote. “Someone should put pressure on the state to let the scores stand.”

The APS spokeswoman said an irregularity during a test can be defined in any number of ways, and that staff are trained to report anything that happens.

“[A] ‘testing irregularity’ is anything that happens outside the norm,” the spokeswoman said. “A student getting sick and throwing up during the test is an ‘irregularity’ and test scores are thrown out by the state for the class. Same thing if there’s a fire alarm or power outage. We have monitors in all schools during testing who must share anything that occurs with our head of testing and, then our head of testing reports that to the state.”

0 Comments

JUST IN: Police Dogs to Search Schools As APS Addresses Drug Problem

Arlington County Police K-9 units will be deployed to Arlington’s public high schools as the school system addresses what some see as a worsening drug problem.

During the last few weeks of the school year and throughout the summer, the dogs will patrol secondary schools after hours to try to sniff out illegal drugs.

Described as a “proactive measure” in a letter to parents, sent today (Thursday), the searches come at a time when parents are becoming increasingly alarmed about the presence of drugs in middle and high schools.

“I have two children in middle school and have heard of numerous times this year alone of students overdosing on prescription drugs on school grounds or having drugs on school grounds,” one Arlington Public Schools parent said in an email to ARLnow.com.

“Drugs in APS middle and high schools are a real problem,” said an APS employee, who wished to remain anonymous. “Administrators are quick to sweep the drug problems under the rug so it won’t make the school look bad. Do the police warn drug dealers of a raid before the raid? I’m a concerned parent, tax paying citizen and an employee of APS.”

In an email to staff yesterday afternoon, obtained by ARLnow.com, Washington-Lee High School Principal Dr. Gregg Robertson acknowledged that Arlington “has seen an increase in the use of controlled substances.”

As many of you may be aware, Arlington, like many areas of the country, has seen an increase in the use of controlled substances. Over the course of the past year, APS staff worked closely with a number of county agencies to respond to this uptick and to ensure that our schools continue to be safe spaces for students and staff. One of the new measures that will be implemented to help minimize the presence of illegal substances in the schools is the use of the Arlington Police Department K-9 unit. Beginning later this month, the police will come to each of the high schools with the K-9 units to search for drugs. The searches will take place in the evening after students and staff have left.

APS has been communicating this information to families, and all high schools will make an announcement tomorrow (Thursday) morning. I wanted you to be aware of this initiative as I am sure students may have questions.

The drug dogs will only patrol high schools, not middle schools, according to APS.

At least one middle school principal downplayed the extent of the “drug problem” at her school. In an email sent to parents on Monday, Williamsburg Middle School principal Connie Skelton said the problem was limited to “a small cohort of students.”

I’ve had some questions about the “drug problem” at Williamsburg. I want to assure you that this is not a widespread problem, however, we do share your concern. In our school, there is a small cohort of students we are carefully following for drug related issues. If you have any information you would like to share with me, please give me a call.

Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia said the school system is taking measures to keep students safe in the face of a nationwide upswing in drug use.

“Substance abuse and opioid use is a growing problem both in our region and across the U.S.,” said Bellavia. “In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, we are taking steps to make sure that our students are safe and that our schools remain drug free. We also want to make sure that parents are aware and having conversations with their children at home.”

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Construction Accident in Rosslyn — An accident on the parking garage level of the construction site at the corner of Key Blvd and N. Nash Street in Rosslyn prompted a large fire department and police response this morning. A worker suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the accident, which occurred around 8 a.m., and needed to be carried via rescue basket to a waiting ambulance. The response closed lanes of Key Blvd and exacerbated traffic delays caused by construction nearby on Lee Highway.

Sex Assault Suspect May Have Tried Other Buildings — The suspect in a violent sexual assault in Rosslyn may have unsuccessfully tried to get into other Arlington apartment buildings before somehow entering The Atrium building, where the assault occurred, through the front entrance, NBC 4’s Jackie Bensen reports. The suspect then knocked on doors, claiming to be a maintenance worker, before the victim opened her door and a struggle and the sexual assault ensued. [NBC Washington]

Wakefield Senior Named Top Entrepreneur — “Wakefield High School senior Tasnim Alam was named one of the top six entrepreneurs in the country at the the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Saunders Scholarship Competition in Rochester, N.Y. Tasnim is the founder and CEO of Heatless Hotness, a business that sells heat-free hair curlers that are convenient to use and create salon-like results, which she launched while participating in the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s YEA! program.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

When Do Pools Open in Arlington? — Patch has an answer to the question, “When Do Arlington Swimming Pools Open in 2017?” — and that answer is: Memorial Day weekend. More specifically: Saturday, May 27. Unless it’s an indoor pool, in which case it’s open year-round. [Patch]

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list