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Letter to the Editor: Thank You to Outgoing School Board Members

A group of PTA leaders and others thank the seven recent members of the Alexandria School Board for their service.

Dear Editor,

Newly-elected city leaders were recently sworn into office, and seven members of the Alexandria School Board—Mimi Carter, Yvonne Folkerts, Sheryl Gorsuch, Blanche Maness, Helen Morris, Art Peabody and Charles Wilson—ended their terms of service.  As current and former PTA presidents, we are writing to thank each of them for their work, and to recognize some of the significant accomplishments that they achieved during their tenures:

  • A comprehensive award-winning strategic plan that aims to prepare every student for college, work and life, and has as its core principles educational excellence, higher achievement for all, a culture of collaboration, continuous improvement and accountability, and environmental stewardship.  http://www.acps.k12.va.us/board/strategic-plan/
  • A 21st-Century Curriculum for all subjects from kindergarten to 12th grade that was custom-designed for ACPS and is the first of its kind in our schools.  While presenting a course of studies that exceeds state standards, it focuses on helping our students develop higher-order thinking skills.  Parents can view one-page summaries describing the sequence of units for every subject area at http://www.acps.k12.va.us/curriculum/design/course-glance.php
  • A transformed T. C. Williams High School.  When T.C. was designated as “persistently low-achieving,” the transformation model of change that ACPS chose included a thorough review of instructional practices with nationally-recognized experts.  A record two-thirds of the senior class took the SAT in 2012 and scores increased from the previous year. For the first time, T.C. has been accredited under No Child Left Behind. http://www.acps.k12.va.us/tcw-transformation/
  • A consistent record of delivering responsible budgets to the City Council.  These budgets included capping elementary class sizes and reducing per-pupil costs by 2.2% over the past four years, even while enrollment increased 20% during the same period. Eight preschool classrooms have been added, and the Board has made a priority of ensuring that every child in Alexandria is enrolled in Pre-K. The Board has also implemented the Baldrige Model of Excellence (Plan-Do-Study-Act), which has shown impressive results at Cora Kelly Elementary School, for example.

While many challenges remain, our school division as a whole is markedly stronger than it was five years ago, and is on an upward trajectory.  Each year, a higher percentage of ACPS students are graduating on time, attending college, enrolling in and earning passing scores on AP exams and taking more rigorous course loads, and fewer of them are dropping out.  The achievement gap is starting to narrow. ACPS students are excelling at unprecedented levels in the classroom, in the arts, and on the playing fields. Forty-one teachers have earned the coveted National Board Certification distinction.

Over the years, these members of the School Board haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on the best way forward for our schools.  But they were a model of collaboration and compromise of which our community can be proud, and the accomplishments listed above, along with many others, resulted from those collaborative efforts.  We look forward to working with the new and returning School Board members, and we hope that they will continue to build upon the noteworthy progress that our school division has made in recent years.

Cindy Anderson, Past President, Alexandria PTA Council, T.C. Williams High School PTSA, George Washington Middle School PTA and George Mason Elem. PTA

Kay Arndorfer, Past President, Charles Barrett Elem. PTA

Patty Chamberlain, President-Elect, T.C. Williams High School PTSA; Past President, Hammond Middle School PTA and James K. Polk Elem. PTA

Beth Coast, Past President, Jefferson-Houston Elem. PTA

Kelly Dresen, President, Jefferson-Houston Elem. PTA

Maggie Fitzsimmons, Past President, T.C. Williams High School PTSA and Douglas MacArthur Elem. PTA

Julie Forsht, Past President, Cora Kelly Elementary PTA

Mary Giordano, Past President, George Washington Middle School PTA

Priscilla Goodwin, Past President, T.C. Williams High School PTSA and George Mason Elem. PTA

Marianne Hetzer, President, T.C. Williams High School PTSA; Past President, Alexandria PTA Council, Hammond Middle School PTA and James K. Polk Elem. PTA

Lisa Jacobs, Past President, George Washington Middle School PTA and George Mason Elem. PTA

Linda Kelly, Past President, Alexandria PTA Council and Cora Kelly Elem. PTA

Aileen LaGanza, Past President, George Mason Elem. PTA

P. J. Lepp, President, Alexandria PTA Council and Past President, Douglas MacArthur Elem. PTA

Judy Lyons, Past President, George Mason Elem. PTA

Nicole Maaia, President, Charles Barrett Elem. PTA

Cindy Martinez, Past President, Charles Barrett Elem. PTA

Karen McManis, President, George Washington Middle School PTA; Past President, Alexandria PTA Council and Charles Barrett Elem. PTA

Ann O’Hanlon, Past President, George Mason Elem. PTA

Marsha Oshima, Past President, Cora Kelly Elementary PTA

Priscilla Plishker, Past President, Matthew Maury Elem. PTA

Marie Randall, President-Elect, George Mason Elem. PTA

Jennifer Roda, Past President, Charles Barrett Elem. PTA

Becky Sullivan, Past President, George Mason Elem. PTA

Carey Sullivan, Past President, George Mason Elem. PTA

Tom Tyler, President, Cora Kelly Elem. PTA

Annie Vroom, Past President, George Mason Elem. PTA

Katherine Walker, Past President, John Adams Elem. PTA

Rosie Wiedemer, President, George Mason Elem. PTA

Melynda Wilcox, Past President, Alexandria PTA Council, George Washington Middle School PTA and George Mason Elem. PTA

Jeff Zack, Past President, Alexandria PTA Council and James K. Polk Elem. PTA

Sherry Henderson February 05, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Alexandria, in comparison to the local surrounding jurisdictions, have the least amount of children, per capita, in its overall population base. A lot of couples who move to Alexandria, without children, obviously don't have to think about how poor the Alexandria City Public School system is being run, with gross mismanagement, failing schools, embarrassing public perception, etc. Couples that eventually do have children in Alexandria quite often have two options that they consider before even thinking about enrolling their children in Alexandria City Public Schools. They either place their children in private schools, of which there are quite a few in and around Alexandria, or, they simply leave town, maybe to Fairfax or Arlington Counties, where their school systems are vastly superior and much more highly-rated. Most of my friends, who all have children, have taken either one of those options. Very few of my friends have elected to place their children in Alexandria City Public Schools. The Alexandria City Council, along with the Alexandria School Board, should look at the inevitable option of completely shutting down the entire Alexandria City Public School system, and working with either Fairfax or Arlington Counties to have them operate the city's schools. Fairfax County would probably run schools in the City of Alexandria to higher standards of efficiency, all across the board, offering parents a chance to have their children stay in local city neighborhood schools.
NoBS February 05, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Sherry, I don't disagree with your suggestion at all, but pride and arrogance means it will never happen. Alexandrians like to control their own little fiefdoms, regardless of how that hurts other people, including children. I can't imagine the school board or any majority of citizens supporting a move to put our schools under the control of Fairfax or Arlington, but it might indeed be the best thing for everyone. I also don't know what the legalities would be. I imagine there would have to be a change to the city charter or something like that. It's worth looking into, but I doubt it would ever become a reality. My husband and I tried ACPS. We really did, for many years, but like many other families, we felt we were shortchanging our child if we kept her there, and we eventually went the private school route.
Sherry Henderson February 07, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Gail, pride and arrogance are part of many inherent problems with the City of Alexandria, especially in regard to the absolutely dreadful state of the Alexandria City Public Schools system. Think about this thought, that if things were being well managed and everything was in good standing, regarding ACPS, this thread, for instance, wouldn't have even been written. Alexandrians, for the most part, are truly pompous and full of themselves when it comes to their little fiefdoms all around the city. I'm sure that there will be those who will refute what I just said, but they all know its true. Alexandria, as 'forward thinking' as some might want to perceive that they are, is actually very 'backwater' when it comes to many issues, such as ACPS, how sports fields are not correctly maintained, throughout the city, and how much Metro is severely under utilized in the city, etc. There's a 'provincial' attitude that many Alexandrians also have in regard to how the city should be run, or not run, depending how the wind blows. The local politics of the Alexandria City Council are probably akin to what one would perceive the fictitious town of 'Hooterville' might be like. But that Alexandria City Public Schools system, really takes the cake. There are those who will read this and think there's absolutely nothing wrong with ACPS, or any of the schools in Alexandria, that things are great. The wake up call is now, but the glacial pace of change in Alexandria will kill off any progress.
NoBS February 07, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Sherry, trust me, I have seen the workins of small town Alexandria up close. The fiefdom thing is spot on. Woe to the person who upsets the apple cart. Then there are the people like me, who don't give a rat's patootie about what the PTA cliques say. My kid is long gone from ACPS so I have the luxury of fighting those types without any backlash. I know lots of families with kids in ACPS who afraid to say anything. As to your suggestion, the sad truth is that neither FFX nor Arlington would want ACPS to join them...
Sherry Henderson February 08, 2013 at 06:11 AM
Gail, what's REALLY sad in all this, is that the Alexandria City Council, with many newly elected members, and the Alexandria School Board, also with many newly elected members, as well, will all continue to play the sad game of 'see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil', and they'll sit on their hands as if the City of Alexandria has the best schools in the Commonwealth, which we all know isn't the truth. It's just so sad, that children who go to public schools in the City of Alexandria have to continually suffer under the absolutely atrocious, seemingly-endless, mismanagement, of Alexandria City Public Schools. Alexandria politicians, both past, and present, all need to be held accountable for the ongoing and continuing problems with ACPS, but, as I've already noted, they think that everything's okay, that there aren't any problems. It's just totally unreal, to me, that a population base of about 144,000 people, in an area of 15 square miles, can't figure out how to fix their horrid school system. You're right, about both Fairfax and Arlington Counties not wanting to take on the daunting position of running schools in the City of Alexandria. They'd, no doubt, have the fiefdoms raising a ruckus, that 'outsiders' have come into their 'provincial kingdom' of Alexandria. There are a lot of great things about Alexandria, but the problems with ACPS tend to make our city look like a backwater town, without the wherewithal to fix our schools. What a sad embarrassment.

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