Schools

Education is very important to me.  I am a former professor and have two children of my own, one at GW and one starting at Douglas MacArthur next year.  We highly value reading in our house.  With no TV and a bedtime routine that includes 10-20 minutes of reading every night, my daughter requested  that I teach her to read before her fourth birthday.  We’re currently working our way through the Dick and Jane series.

The issues:

  • Schools are over capacity (particularly our highschool) and our 10 year Capital Improvement Plan does not address expected enrollment in any of the next 10 years.
  • Because of poor management and age, many of our schools are literally falling apart and badly in need of rehab.
  • Previously four, and now down to two of Alexandria’s public schools are unaccredited.

One part of the facility problem is past mismanagement.  We have a new superintendent and a new COO at ACPS who both look poised to make a big difference.  Unfortunately this will require large capital expenditures which I am committed to funding.  I’ll also be paying attention to make sure that problems are actually addressed with a workable plan.

A second part of the problem is caused by unsustainable development.  Too often the city approves development without appropriate concessions from developers and without considering the impact on city services such as the schools.  How many big developments have you seen go in that include schools for the children they will bring to the city?  (hint: The answer is none.)  Too many residents have heard from the city “The development targets young professionals, they won’t have kids”.  We know where kids come from.  These poor excuses and answers got us where we are now.

For accreditation, I don’t believe there’s an issue with the teaching in our schools.  I believe the problem  is mainly one of demographics, measuring success improperly, and readiness for school.  As you may know, many of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch and we have many English language learners.  Some of our kids are getting a stellar education.  Other clearly are not.

One way to address issues stemming from their different starting conditions is Universal Pre-K.  There are already programs in the city that serve the working poor such as The Child & Family Network Centers.  These centers provide pre-K to at risk children with a rate of producing Kindergarten ready children of 93%.  If we could do this for all of Alexandria’s children, it would have a great impact.  Something else we need to look at are changes to our school system to meet the children where they are and give them the attention and environment so that they can grow into the exceptional students they could be, rather than put them on a track that doesn’t help them excel.

One last thought, some residents aren’t aware that the school board and ACPS are separate from the city council.  The only official role of council is to fund the schools (although they used to appoint the board that is now elected).  I’ve pledged to collaborate with the school board, ACPS, and the community to help find, fund, and implement solutions to address all of the issues our schools face.  To make sure that there is ample time for me to do so, I’ve pledged to make city council my full time job.  This is but one example of why city council isn’t a hobby anymore.