My View / John Leary – Lets move our schools forward together

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Few matters are of more importance to parents than the education of their children. As the father of three sons who will attend Alexandrias public schools over the next fifteen years, I have a considerable interest in the success of our schools, and how well they teach and nurture my kids, and the kids of every other parent in our city. That is the reason I am a candidate for the school board in the August 12th special election in District B.

I am a life-long resident of Alexandria. I am a proud graduate of T.C. Williams High School, and not a day goes by that I am not grateful for the education I received in this city. But I know that the task facing Alexandria parents, teachers, taxpayers, employers and others now is to move our schools from being good to being excellent, to make them the best in the region and the Commonwealth.

This year the school board will put in place a strategic plan that will set the course of our school system for the next four to five years.  During this process, I am committed to providing leadership in several important areas: increased transparency and efficiency of operations; better communications between and among teachers, administrators and parents; and, importantly, more accountable governance. 

Transparency Every parent and taxpayer should have the information they need to make informed choices for their children, their schools, and their community.  Accordingly, one of my priorities will be to ensure that all appropriate policies, procedures, and proceedings of our school board, central office and schools are readily accessible on the Internet, and in-person at the School Boards offices.

Efficiency In these uncertain economic times, we must take particular care to see that our precious taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.  To that end, there must be adequate metrics in place to enable the Board and the community to evaluate how successfully policy goals and objectives are being met.  As a public affairs professional who directs multi-million dollar client projects, I am accustomed to finding ways to achieve efficiencies and deliver results.  We should once again explore opportunities to collaborate with the City to eliminate redundant services and achieve economies of scale and efficiencies that otherwise would not be possible.

Communications As a professional who has spent the last seventeen years working in the public policy arena, Im acutely aware of the vital role that communications play in the success or failure of any endeavor.  One notable example in our city is the significant increase in the number of neighborhood families who have chosen to attend Maury in recent years.  This change resulted not only from successful programmatic changes, but also because of effective communication of those improvements to citizens.  My wife, Maureen, and I are proud to have been involved with those efforts within our community.  On a system-wide basis, we can and should do more to inform the community of our schools many notable successes.  Among other things, I believe we have an underutilized resource in ACPS cable channel that could be leveraged to engage more citizens.

Governance School Boards in Virginia are entrusted with evaluating and adopting policies to improve achievement for all students. In shouldering this responsibility, an old proverb comes to mind: Failing to plan is planning to fail. If elected, as part of the upcoming strategic planning process, I will be a tireless and effective advocate for: small class sizes across all schools; an appropriately challenging curriculum for every student; consistency of quality instruction; meaningful partnerships between our community and schools; and, an increased focus on environmentally sustainable schools.

Candidates for office should have both a cogent and compelling plan of action, as well as a proven track record of accomplishment. My vision for the future of our schools is based upon my experience within our schools as a student, parent, taxpayer, PTA officer, and School Board Advisory Committee member. I am the President-elect of the Maury PTA and a former member of the School Health Advisory Committee. 

My wife, Maureen, is a teacher and a native Alexandrian who has been involved in school and city activities for many years. We are raising our three sons, Brendan, Sean, and Colin, in a way that reinforces the concepts of community and responsibility, and which views our schools as partners in that important endeavor.

Im confident that my long-term perspective and community involvement will be helpful in providing a moderating voice on our School Board after several years of unnecessary and often damaging distractions and divisions. With a nationally respected Superintendent starting next month, we should all be focused on the future a future that promises to be bright and successful if we work together.

I am honored to have the endorsement of Alexandrias teachers in this election, an endorsement all four candidates sought. Im also honored to have the support of respected Alexandrians such as Ferdinand Day who have helped make our city the place we love to call home today. 

If youd like to learn more, please visit our campaign web site at www.JohnLeary.org.  If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts on our schools, Im interested in hearing from you. You can reach me by email at: [email protected].

Please vote on Tuesday, August 12.

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