Editorial: Knowing when to step away

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We are taught at a young age — and encouraged throughout our lives — to persevere in the face of adversity, never give up and then good things will ultimately come our way. But occasionally, it’s important to know when to quit.

There is no shame in trying something new, giving it your all and walking away richer for the experience. Progress requires experimentation, but there is never any guarantee of success. There are times when it’s appropriate to cut your losses.

Thankfully, the Alexandria City School Board recognizes this truth.

Beginning with the 2009-10 school year, then Superintendent Morton Sherman overhauled the city’s middle schools, taking the two campuses and dividing them into five distinct entities. The hope was smaller learning environments would boost academic performances and expectations by offering a more personalized experience and greater opportunities.

A few years later, though, just one of the five middle schools has kept pace with the state’s standards. George Washington I is the sole fully accredited middle school in Alexandria.

Obviously, Sherman’s grand experiment failed.

Earlier this month, education officials voted to reunite the middle school campuses. The belief is that bringing the schools back together will streamline administration and pool resources.

In a memo explaining the proposal in May — when officials returned to the decision to split the schools up — Sherman argued that the goal of continual improvement required building on successes as well as tackling areas of need. Progress meant constantly testing what works — and doesn’t work — for Alexandria students.

This laudable approach recently was applied to Mount Vernon Community School as well. Like Samuel Tucker Elementary School, Mount Vernon had adopted a modified calendar, replacing the American tradition of a lengthy summer vacation with short breaks throughout the year.

But in the end, administrators began believing the innovative schedule was more likely hindering student achievement than bolstering it. When the city’s middle school students walk into unified campuses next year, children at Mount Vernon will be following a traditional calendar.

It’s too bad these initiatives didn’t pan out. We, like everyone else in the community, root endlessly for the success of our children.

While forever questioning the viability of new ideas, however radical or modest, we appreciate that school administrators are constantly thinking outside the box to improve academic achievement.

Here’s to hoping the next grand idea works.

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. This is one of the many Sherman decisions which the school board and the new superintendent must undo. A google search by the previous school board would have turned up this troubling trend in other districts where Sherman was in charge. It is shameful that members of the previous board did not exercise due diligence and ensure tighter control over the decisions made under Sherman. These haphazard, wasteful decisions are proving to be costly to our district, students, and tax payers. We hope the new superintendent conducts a thorough review of programs and personnel and makes significant changes such as the change for the middle schools. The new superintendent can start with one cosmetic change, remove the ridiculous faux Disney phrase “Imagine the Titans” from the entrance of the high school. TC is more than a Disney creation and a rip off slogan created by Sherman.

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