Lubber Run Project Budget Boosted — “Arlington County Board members on Sept. 22 agreed to add about $1.4 million to the budget for rebuilding Lubber Run Community Center, which will push the construction cost to $41.14 million and the management fees to $4.11 million.” [InsideNova]
Clarendon Circle Construction Begins — “Things will start looking different in Clarendon and not because of too many cosmos at Don Tito’s. The long-awaited Circle intersection improvements project kicks off today.” [Twitter]
Neighborhoods Want in on W-L Name Discussion — “The president of the Buckingham Community Civic Association thinks Arlington school leaders may need some remedial work in geography. Bernie Berne used the Sept. 20 School Board meeting to complain that his community had been shut out of the committee set up to suggest new names for Washington-Lee High School, even though it is closer to the school than another civic association that has been included on the panel.” [InsideNova]
Fire at Columbia Pike Building — On the 5100 block of Columbia Pike: “First arriving units found a fire contained to an appliance. The fire was extinguished. All occupants are safe & accounted for.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Tree Advocates Increase Pressure — “Another month has brought another round in the ongoing dispute between tree activists and the Arlington County Board – and much of the give and take on both sides is beginning to sound familiar to the point of repetitious. Activists in support of expanding the county’s tree canopy were among a number of advocacy groups that descended on the Sept. 22 County Board meeting. Among their chief complaints: The county government hasn’t done anything to prevent the removal of trees during an upcoming expansion project at Upton Hill Regional Park.” [InsideNova, Twitter]
Fox News Highlights Lucky Dog — Arlington’s Lucky Dog Rescue continues to get national attention for its work rescuing dogs from areas flooded by Hurricane Florence. Over the weekend Fox News broadcast from Shirlington to bring attention to the dogs that are now available for adoption. [Yahoo]
Arlington’s School Board has signed off on members of a committee to guide the renaming of Washington-Lee High School, tasking 23 people to suggest new names for the school over the next three months.
The Board quickly agreed to form the new committee at its meeting last night (Thursday), and the group will soon begin meeting to offer up options ahead of a planned December vote on a new name for the school. The Board decided in June to strip Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the building as part of a broad review of the school system’s naming policies, though a trio of Washington-Lee students are challenging that move in court.
The new committee will be led by a professional facilitator and the school system’s assistant superintendent for school and community relations, Linda Erdos — neither will have a voting role on the committee. The remaining members, selected following an open application process, include the following:
- John Holt — Current Student (Grade 12)
- Chloe Slater — Current Student (Grade 11)
- Ana Regina Santos-Caballero — Current Student (Grade 10)
- Thornton Thomas — Current Student (Grade 9)
- Patrice Kelly — Current Parent
- Allison Chen — Current Parent
- Duane Butcher — Current IB Transfer Parent
- Hiromi Isobe — WLHS Staff
- Jackie Stallworth — WLHS Staff
- Dave Peters — WLHS Staff
- William Moser — WL Alumni Representative (Class of 1952 – 1970)
- Julia Crull — WL Alumni Representative (Class of 1971 – 1985)
- Peter Strack — WL Alumni Representative (Class of 1986 – 2005)
- Dana Raphael — WL Alumni Representative (Class of 2006 – 2018)
- James Rosen — Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association
- Allan Gadjadhar — Cherrydale Civic Association
- Nikki Roy — Lyon Park Civic Association
- George Keating — Waverly Hills Civic Association
- Melissa Perry — Arlington Civic Coalition for Minority Affairs
- George Wysor — Arlington Historical Society
- Gregg Robertson — WLHS Principal
Erdos told the Board during an Aug. 28 work session that applicants looking to serve as student or parent representatives to the committee were selected via “random, double-blind lotteries” conducted by the leaders of the school’s student government association.
She added that the committee will now meet once every two weeks, leading up to the planned December vote on the matter.
However, Board Chair Reid Goldstein questioned Erdos on whether there’s a true “drop-dead date” for the renaming process to wrap up. He’s frequently questioned the timing of the school’s renaming, arguing in the work session that “whether the committee is done in this month or that month, it doesn’t impact anything.”
Erdos did stress, though, that the school system is hoping to have the new name in place in time for the 2019-2020 school year and the school will need to know the new name soon to start purchasing new athletic uniforms.
“They need to have that in place so they can begin planning,” Erdos said.
While Washington-Lee is the only school in the county being renamed, the Board also appointed naming committees for several new schools Thursday: the building on the former Wilson school site in Rosslyn that will one day house the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, the new middle school on the Stratford site and the school system’s new Montessori program.
Photo via Google Maps
Arlington’s School Board is asking a judge to toss the lawsuit challenging the renaming of Washington-Lee High School out of court.
Attorneys for the Board and the school system filed a motion Friday (Aug. 31) pressing for the dismissal of a case brought by three current students at the school, who are looking to stop the Board from following through on its plans to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from the school later this year.
The Board argues that the attorney for the students made a series of legal missteps in crafting the suit, and that the students don’t have standing to sue in the first place. Accordingly, they want to see an Arlington Circuit Court judge dismiss the case with prejudice — Jonathon Moseley, the attorney representing the students, didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the Board’s latest motion.
Chiefly, the students argue that the Board didn’t follow its own stated procedure for renaming the school, when it voted this June to change its policy governing all school names and immediately initiated the process for renaming Washington-Lee. They even introduced a recording of Board member Tannia Talento as evidence earlier this month, claiming that her admission that “there was never any intentional engagement to the community about specifically changing [the name of] Washington-Lee” helps support their claims.
But attorneys for the Board and Arlington Public Schools countered in their motion that the “internal guidelines adopted by the School Board do not establish any legal mandate on the part of the School Board,” making claims about how the renaming process proceeded irrelevant.
Even still, they add that the students failed to prove that the Board even “failed materially” in following its own procedures — name change opponents claim the Board promised an additional round of community engagement before deciding to change the name, which is now set to be ready in time for the 2019-2020 school year. The Board circulated a variety of potential timetables for such a change, including one calling for a lengthier debate on the change, but did ultimately follow the stipulations of a September 2017 memorandum from Superintendent Patrick Murphy on the process.
Additionally, the Board points out that the three students involved in the case are all seniors at Washington-Lee, meaning the name change won’t take effect until after they’ve graduated. The attorneys argue that means they don’t have standing to sue in the first place, as they won’t be impacted by change.
“Any alleged damage after graduate is entirely speculative,” the lawyers wrote. The students have claimed that any name change would hurt their prospects for college admission, as schools might not associate Washington-Lee’s strong academic reputation with its new name, and that “developing students psychologically identify their school as a source of personal identity and security and are harmed by feeling that their school is bad.”
The Board’s lawyers even point out that Virginia law only allows for “parents, custodians or legal guardians” to ask a court to overturn a school board’s decisions as further evidence showing that the students don’t have any legal standing on the matter.
A judge has yet to schedule a hearing on the Board’s motion, but the renaming process is moving ahead, in the meantime.
The Board is set to appoint members of a renaming committee on Thursday (Sept. 6), which will meet several times over the coming months to determine possibilities for new names for Washington-Lee. The Board is aiming to vote on a new name in December.
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.
The School Board is hoping to have a new name ready for the school in time for the opening of the 2019-2020 school year next September, ARLnow has previously reported.
But it will be an uphill battle for school officials, judging by emails we continue to receive from upset alums and other anecdotal reports; Sun Gazette Editor Scott McCaffrey wrote today that he and other staffers at the paper frequently run into W-L alumni, all of whom thus far have expressed opposition to the change.
Last time we did a poll on the subject was five years ago this month, when a name change was still just an idea batted about by letter to the editor writers. At that time, 87.5 percent of respondents said they were against changing the name, agreeing that Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy are “part of our history and… not worth changing the name over.”
Since then, the emergence of an emboldened white nationalist movement and last summer’s deadly rally in Charlottesville have changed the conversation. But is it enough to change opinions on removing Lee’s name from W-L? Let’s find out.
The school system opened up applications last night (Thursday) for anyone looking to serve on the committee charged with finding a new name for the high school. The School Board voted two months ago to effectively strip Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the building, after calls for a change intensified in the wake of last summer’s violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
The Board will ultimately have the final say on a new name, with a vote planned for sometime in December, but the committee will be tasked with developing recommendations on a new moniker. In addition to Principal Gregg Robertson, APS wants the committee to include:
- Three parent/family representatives
- Three teacher/staff representative
- One student for each grade level
- One representative from each of the four civic associations closest to the school
- Four alumni, each representing a different decade for the school’s graduating classes, and who are current residents of Arlington County
- One representative from the Arlington Historical Society who is not an alumni or parent of a current student
- A staff liaison and facilitator (both non-voting)
APS noted in the announcement of the new committee that “all applications will be considered and applicants will be selected to provide a balance of diverse members on the committee.”
But even the most well-constructed renaming committee is unlikely to satisfy opponents of the change. Some school alumni have fiercely opposed the renaming proposal ever since it was first introduced, culminating in a lawsuit filed in Arlington County Circuit Court on July 9 asking a judge to reverse the Board’s decision.
The students argue in the suit that the Board “violated its own procedures” during the June 7 meeting when it voted on the change — the Board first voted to change its naming policies for all schools, then immediately proceeded to a vote on the W-L renaming.
The suit singles out then-Chair Barbara Kanninen as the Board member who “led the process of changing the name” of the school, and for tinkering with the agenda to allow for the immediate vote, a move they argue constitutes a “denial of the procedural opportunity to participate in the promised, and required, community involvement.”
The students also claim that the name change will damage their future prospects for college admission or future employment, as “Washington-Lee has an excellent reputation for academic quality, but… some will not recognize the new name.”
Linda Erdos, an APS spokeswoman, declined to comment on the suit, other than to say that the Board and school system believe the renaming decision was “appropriate.”
“Arlington Public Schools will respond in greater detail in the future and in accordance with the court processes,” Erdos told ARLnow.
The Board is hoping to have a new name ready for the school in time for the opening of the 2019-2020 school year next September.
Arlington has the top public school system in the state and ranks within the top 100 in the entire country, according to a new study.
The education research firm Niche awarded Arlington Public Schools an “A+” in its new ranking of school systems released today (Thursday), and named the county the 86th best public school system in the country.
Niche ranks schools based not only data like test scores, but also takes parent, teacher and student reviews into consideration in calculating its grades. The firm gave APS “A+” marks in all of its categories but one, from “academics” to “health and safety.” The lone category where Arlington merely received an “A” was “diversity.”
The school system also ranked tops in the state for the firm’s “best places to teach” ranking, owing to the county’s 12:1 student to teacher ratio and its average staffer salary of just over $89,000.
Loudoun County schools placed second overall in Niche’s rankings, followed by Albemarle County, just outside Charlottesville in third. Falls Church City and Fairfax County rounded out the top five.
Arlington’s high schools also did well in Niche’s ranking of the top public schools in the D.C. region. Washington-Lee High School came in at 13th overall, Yorktown at 21st and Wakefield at 44th.
Planning work to guide the transformation of the old Arlington Education Center into space for hundreds of high schoolers now seems set to kick off this fall.
The School Board will get its first look tomorrow night (Thursday) at a proposed “building-level planning committee” for the project, a group of parents, school staffers and civic association members who will help chart out designs for the effort over the next few months.
Arlington Public Schools is set to add at least 600 high school seats at the space, located at 1426 N. Quincy Street, as part of a plan sketched out by the Board last fall to ramp up the capacity of nearby Washington-Lee High School in the coming years. The Education Center was once the school system’s headquarters, but APS staff wrapped up a full move to new office space in Penrose earlier this year.
The school system expects to fully renovate the site, with a projected price tag of about $37 million, which is set to be drawn from a combination of school reserves and a future school bond.
The exact design of the building, however, is still up in the air and will largely be determined by the BLPC and the county’s Public Facilities Review Committee.
The Board will have the final say on the make-up of the BLPC, which is set to include 28 members in all. Board member Nancy Van Doren will serve as the Board’s liaison to the committee.
The planning process for the Education Center is set to wrap up in time for a Board vote on a school design this winter, with approval from the County Board expected sometime in spring 2019. If all goes as planned, construction will start in the summer of 2020 and the building will be ready for students in time for the 2021-2022 school year.
The Board is set to review the BLPC’s membership Thursday, then take a final vote on the matter on Aug. 30.
What Arlington Residents Think About Arlington — “Arlington residents of all ages are concerned about housing costs. Many like new urban amenities and denser development but are worried about displacing lower-income neighbors. Others point to the county’s affluence and pockets of racially homogenous communities and wonder what that says about their progressive values.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Salt Storage Facility to Be Torn Down — Arlington County is planning to dismantle the rusted-out road salt storage tank on Old Dominion Drive near 25th Road N. later this year, deeming it unsafe for use during the upcoming winter season. In its place, the county hopes to build a temporary facility that could remain functional for several years. [InsideNova]
New Restaurant Kiosks Planned in Crystal City — “Two new funky restaurant spaces could be coming to Crystal City in 2019… JBG Smith wants to build two unusual standalone restaurant buildings, one that resembles a green house and one that calls to mind a tree house, in green space that sits in front of 2121 Crystal Drive. The green is currently a mix of walking paths, open seating, trees and lawn.” [Washington Business Journal]
How Critics Could Fight W-L Name Change — Those opposed to changing the name of Washington-Lee High School have floated the idea of a community-wide referendum, though state law does not currently allow Arlington to hold an advisory referendum. One more fruitful path may be convincing the Republican-controlled state legislature to block the name change, though any such action would likely not survive Gov. Ralph Northam (D)’s veto pen. [InsideNova]
Employer Moving Out of Rosslyn — Amid a series of economic wins for Rosslyn and Arlington, there are also some losses. Among them, The Carlyle Group is planning to consolidate its Rosslyn office — with some 300 employees — into its larger D.C. office on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, after striking a deal to expand its lease and modernize its space. [Washington Business Journal]
Photo courtesy StardogCZ
Primary Voting Underway — It’s an election day in Virginia. On the ballot in Arlington is the Democratic race for County Board, between Chanda Choun and Matt de Ferranti, and the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, with candidates Corey Stewart, Nick Freitas and E. W. Jackson. Voting will continue through 7 p.m. [Twitter]
Post-Parade Party in Courthouse — Those heading to the Capitals Stanley Cup victory parade downtown today can head on back to Arlington for an afterparty at Arlington Rooftop Bar & Grill, hosted by the Caps blog Russian Machine Never Breaks. The event starts at 3 p.m. [RMNB]
Final Issue of ‘The Citizen’ — Arlington County’s “The Citizen” newsletter is publishing its last issue this week. The county-run publication is ceasing its print issues due to budget cuts. The move was lamented by the Sun Gazette, which wrote that The Citizen provided “information that, most likely, many local residents will now not get, despite the government’s plethora of online-centric public-relations efforts.” [InsideNova]
Clement: Strip Washington from W-L Too — Independent Arlington School Board candidate Audrey Clement says it is “hypocrisy in the extreme” for the “Lee” in “Washington-Lee High School” to be removed without also removing “Washington.” Wrote Clement: “Had not George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson — all Virginia native sons and all slave holders — greased the skids of institutionalized slavery by agreeing to write it into the U.S. Constitution, Lee would not have taken up arms against his own nation.” [Audrey Clement]
Apartment Building to Get Free Broadband — “Arlington’s Digital Inclusion Initiative, announced in December 2017, will leverage the County’s fiber-optic network, ConnectArlington, to bring free broadband Internet access to low- and moderate-income households in Arlington, including those with school-age children. Arlington Mill Residences, a low- and moderate-income residential development, will serve as the demonstration project for the initiative.” [Arlington County]
Paving on Lorcom Lane — Crews are paving Lorcom Lane between N. Fillmore and Daniel streets today. [Twitter]
Nearby: Second Northside Social Opens — The new Falls Church outpost of Clarendon cafe Northside Social has opened in the Little City. “The business itself will offer a menu similar to its Clarendon location, but a basement that allows for a commercial-sized bakery and chef Matt Hill’s creative inklings will provide new lunch and dinner options.” [Falls Church News-Press]
The School Board voted unanimously at its meeting last night (June 7) to approve a change to the school system’s approach to naming school buildings. Though the policy will apply to all current and future county schools, it specifically stipulates that the Board should select a new name for Washington-Lee, given Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s legacy fighting for the cause of slavery.
The Board has been considering a name change at the school since last summer, when a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville sparked a national conversation about Confederate symbols and prompted calls in the community to change the name. Yet the Board opted to revise its whole policy around school names, rather than just change Washington-Lee’s moniker specifically.
But with the new policy passed, the Board will now move forward with a three-month long process of finding a new name for W-L, which has borne the same name since it opened in 1925. Board members are set to pick a committee to deliberate on the name in September, and could vote on a change by December.
“Celebrating your school pride should not mean having to wear a shirt like this one that honors a person who may not share your values,” said Board member Monique O’Grady, while holding up a W-L t-shirt. “As we become a more diverse community, we must become more open to the perspectives of many, and how holding onto some elements of our past can have an impact on our future.”
The decision will undoubtedly come as bad news for some W-L alums. A number of graduates from the school have publicly objected to the move, both at Board meetings and in community demonstrations. Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, has even spoken out on the issue, in keeping with his defense of other Confederate symbols around the state over the last year or so.
“This implicitly would vilify virtually every southern family from the Civil War, in perpetuity,” said George Dodge, a W-L alum who spoke at the meeting.
But Board members stressed that they also heard frequently from parents interested in seeing the name change, fearing that Arlington Public Schools is sending the wrong message by so prominently honoring a man like Lee.
“If we continue to honor Lee the symbol, we continue to honor a set of values that has nothing to do with what Arlington is today,” Natalie Roy, a parent of APS students, told the Board.
The lone bit of resistance to the policy change came from Vice Chair Reid Goldstein. While he acknowledged that the naming policy needed to be set in stone as APS prepares to open a bevy of new schools across the county, he saw no reason for rushing forward with a process for renaming W-L specifically that he believed wasn’t as precise as it needed to be.
“There is no required timeline for renaming an existing school, and no rationale for why it must be done by the December of ,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein made a motion to create a committee to study potential renaming requests and make recommendations to the Board, but he was the only Board member to support it. Even still, he ultimately agreed to let the renaming process move ahead, noting that Lee “had good run in Arlington Public Schools, 93 years, but other heroes will arise.”
Under this new plan, W-L is set to have its new name displayed on all of the school’s facilities and logos by September 2019.
“Our kids need us to show them the path forward in a respectful, thoughtful kind ways that unifies us,” said Board member Nancy Van Doren. “I think we can do that. I think that’s the legacy of both of the gentlemen on that building right now.”
Photo via Google Maps
The fifth annual Arlington Youth Triathlon will kick off next Sunday, June 10, at the Washington-Lee High School pool.
The public event hosted by the Arlington Triathlon Club will feature swimming, running and biking among children ages 7-15 and will start at 7:30 a.m. The Arlington Youth Triathlon is a part of the USA Triathlon Mideast Region Youth Triathlon Series, where young triathletes from Ohio to Tennessee will come to Arlington to participate.
The triathlon will include a pool swim, a bike ride on closed streets around the school and a track finish. Each event features short distances to include kids of all abilities.
This year’s triathlon will be held in honor of Anne Viviani, an Arlington resident who died April 9 in a car crash striking a deer on I-85 in South Carolina. Viviani, 68, was a world champion triathlete and coach.
Registration for the Arlington Youth Triathlon is open until June 9. It costs $75 to register before May 15, and $85 afterward.
Photo Courtesy Arlington Triathlon Club
The Board has been mulling the possibility of stripping Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s name from the school ever since last summer’s violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville sparked a national conversation about Confederate symbols, but members asked school system staff to develop a more detailed policy framework to guide the naming of all buildings first.
Arlington Public Schools officials delivered that proposed change to the Board last night, and members are now set to take action on it by this coming Thursday (June 7).
“We said we’d seek to adopt naming criteria that reflect our values and allow us to judge every potential school name with objectivity,” said School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen. “We have kept these promises… and we’re in a good place. I really like what you’ve brought us. I think it’s going to be a model as other school communities grapple with this issue.”
The new policy, drafted over the course of the last nine months or so, is principally designed to guide Board members as they select new names for the bevy of new school facilities set to open in the coming the years.
It would recommend putting an emphasis on selecting geographical names with “historic or geographic significance to the Arlington community’s history. But if the Board is to name a school after an individual, that person’s “‘principal legacy’ (i.e. the key activity, advocacy or accomplishment for which the individual is most known)” needs to align with “the APS mission, vision, and core values and beliefs,” according to the proposal.
Yet, under those criteria, APS staff also suggested that the Board would need to rename Washington-Lee, given Lee’s legacy fighting for the Confederacy, which championed slavery.
“A lot of people don’t like change and we know that it’s difficult in all aspects,” said Linda Erdos, APS assistant superintendent for school and community relations and the facilitator of discussions around the naming policy. “But everybody kept saying, ‘Diversity should be on the minds of people, the diversity of the people served.'”
Such a change would certainly not be without controversy — some Washington-Lee alumni have been vocally protesting any change to the school’s name, over concerns that such move would tarnish a fixture of Arlington County. Washington-Lee has used that moniker since it opened in 1925, and some alums urged the Board to put the matter to a public referendum.
“The Arlington voters should make the decision, not five persons,” said Betsy Lockman, a W-L alum.
Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, echoed that call in a press conference ahead of the meeting. Stewart made his opposition to the removal of statues of Confederate generals in Charlottesville a hallmark of his failed bid for governor last year, and he dubbed any consideration of renaming Washington-Lee as an example of “political correctness gone rampant.”
“I guarantee you, the citizens of Arlington County and the alumni think, ‘Leave it alone,'” Stewart said. “The average citizen, including here in Arlington and throughout the country, realizes it’s absolutely ridiculous and a tremendous waste of Arlington County’s resources and the school system’s resources.”
Vice Chair Reid Goldstein wasn’t willing to call for something as unorthodox as a referendum on the issue, but he did, at least, want to see the Board slow down a bit.
“I don’t think one week is enough time to consider this,” Goldstein said. “I would like to hear from the community in a way that is a little bit more balanced than the way that we’ve heard in the past, because, to me, this is a significant issue.”
Yet Board member Tannia Talento pointed out that the proposed policy has already been in the works for months, and would lay out a lengthy process that would focus on Washington-Lee’s name specifically. If adopted, the proposal calls for the Board to convene a committee on the issue, which would issue a recommendation on the school’s name by November. The Board would then vote on the issue in December, with any new name to fully take effect by September 2019.
Accordingly, Kanninen recommended that the Board push ahead and take up the new policy sooner, rather than later.
“We have a clear and rational policy proposal that we’re looking at, and it will chart our path as we proceed to the next steps,” Kanninen said.
Photo via Google Maps
The possibility of Washington-Lee High School being renamed has prompted a Republican U.S. Senate candidate to schedule a press conference outside of tonight’s Arlington School Board meeting.
The School Board is set to discuss proposed revisions to its school naming policy Thursday night. In a presentation, school staff will recommend a series of changes that will help guide Arlington Public Schools as it selects names for a number of new facilities, including the new building in Rosslyn that will house the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs.
But much of the public attention will be focused on a recommendation to start a process that could remove Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s name from Washington-Lee. APS staff says the inclusion of Lee’s name would not meet the revised naming policy, which calls for APS to consider the namesake’s legacy.
“Robert E. Lee’s ‘principal legacy’ (i.e. the key activity, advocacy or accomplishment for which the individual is most known) was as General of the Confederate Army leading forces against the U.S. forces,” the staff presentation says. “This action does not reflect the APS mission, vision, and core values/beliefs.”
Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart, who’s running for U.S. Senate in Virginia and seeking the GOP nomination, is planning a press conference outside the meeting.
In a media advisory, Stewart’s campaign says the press conference will be held at 5:30 p.m., outside the meeting at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd).
Stewart, who has been outspoken in defense of Confederate monuments and names, says he will be joined at the press conference “by concerned Washington-Lee High School alumni.”
The staff presentation notes that APS “received numerous renaming requests [for Washington-Lee] after August 11-12, 2017 events in Charlottesville, Va.” Following the “alt-right” rally and the death of counter-demonstrator Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Stewart issued a statement decrying “Democrats and the media” and the “drive to squelch free speech.”
Photo via Google Maps
Arlington Public Schools is set to add seats for 850 high schoolers by 2021, but the key question for school leaders now is how, exactly, that construction might proceed.
The School Board is gearing up to award a $2.4 million contract for design work at the “Education Center” site adjacent to Washington-Lee High School (1426 N. Quincy Street), where the school system has planned to add space for up to 600 high school students three years from now. Rather than building a fourth comprehensive high school, the Board agreed last summer on a plan to split new seats between the Education Center and the Arlington Career Center just off Columbia Pike (816 S. Walter Reed Drive).
But the Board is also weighing a plan to use the Education Center site for elementary school use instead, while accelerating the construction of new high school seats at the Career Center. Another option would leave high schoolers at the Education Center, but still accelerate the Career Center seats.
Both plans would let APS build additional amenities at the Career Center site, a notable change as parents in the area raise concerns that students there wouldn’t have the same opportunities — a full complement of athletic fields, for instance — as other high schoolers under APS’s current plans.
“We feel like we’re being told we’re asking for too much by simply asking for equality,” Kristi Sawert, president of the Arlington Heights Civic Association, told ARLnow.
Superintendent Patrick Murphy is proposing a 10-year construction plan that broadly follows the outline of the deal the Board hammered out last summer — he’s suggesting that APS add space for 600 high school students at the Education Center site and 250 at the Career Center by 2021, then tack on 800 more seats at the Career Center in 2026.
That construction would also involve the addition of a multi-use gym and “black box” performing arts theater at the Career Center, with plans to build a new elementary school all the way out in 2029.
Yet, at a May 15 work session, county staff presented the Board with two alternatives.
One calls for moving the 800-seat expansion at the Career Center up to 2024, while simultaneously constructing an addition for performing arts programs. Then, a few years later, APS would add a synthetic athletic field on top of an underground parking garage at the site.
That option would reduce the school system’s reliance on trailers at the high school level a bit sooner, but force APS to delay plans to add more middle and elementary school seats, APS planner Robert Ruiz told the Board.
The other option APS staff developed calls for moving the Montessori program at Patrick Henry Elementary School to the Education Center instead, then sending 500 high schoolers to Henry by 2021.
By 2024, APS would add 800 seats at the Career Center, which would help replace the Henry seats. That option would also guarantee a full range of amenities at the Career Center by 2026, including two synthetic fields, an underground parking garage, a performing arts addition, a gym and a black box theater. Murphy’s current plan only calls for the gym and theater to be built.
However, it would also be about $10 million more expensive than Murphy’s plan, an unpleasant prospect for Board members after APS narrowly avoided class size increases in its last budget.
In all, Leslie Peterson, assistant superintendent of finance and management services, estimates the plan would involve APS spending at least 10 percent of its budget on construction debt from 2023 to 2027, when the school system has long sought to avoid exceeding that 10 percent figure.
“Taking on more debt has a higher impact on operating budgets, and that means that’s less we can put into enrollment increases or compensation,” Peterson said.
The first alternative, involving accelerating the second phase of Career Center construction, is even more expensive, and could cost $64 million more than Murphy’s proposal. The debt would be a bit more spread out, however, with APS set to exceed that 10 percent figure in just two years.
However, Board members did suggest that the County Board could step in to help fund the Career Center construction, though those negotiations are ongoing.
The two boards are set for a joint meeting on May 29, as each moves closer to approving their new capital improvement plans. The School Board is set to kick off design work at the Education Center with a vote on May 31, though county staff assured Board members that work will take into account whichever alternative officials choose.