Opinion Your Views — 17 January 2013
Previous school board should look back with pride

To the editor:

Last week, newly elected city leaders were sworn into office, and seven members of the Alexandria School Board — Mimi Carter, Yvonne Folkerts, Sheryl Gorsuch, Blanche Maness, Helen Morris, Arthur 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 a few of the significant accomplishments that they achieved during their tenures:

1) A comprehensive, award-winning strategic plan to prepare every student for college, work and life — with core principles of educational excellence, higher achievement, a culture of collaboration, continuous improvement and accountability, and environmental stewardship.

2) A 21st-century curriculum for all subjects from kindergarten to 12th grade that was custom-designed for Alexandria City Public Schools 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.

3) 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 last year and scores increased from the previous year. For the first time, T.C. has been accredited under No Child Left Behind.

4) A consistent record of delivering responsible budgets to city council. These budgets included capping elementary class sizes and reducing per-pupil costs by 2.2 percent over the past four years, even while enrollment increased 20 percent 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 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 larger percentage of ACPS students graduate on time, attend college, enroll in and earn passing scores on AP exams, and take 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 school board members haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on the best way forward for our schools. But they were a model of collaboration and compromise. The accomplishments listed above, along with many others, resulted from those collaborative efforts.

We look forward to working with new and returning school board members, and we hope that they will continue to build upon the noteworthy progress that our school district 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

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