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What is next for ACPS?
With the school year about to begin, for those students not already in classes, a new superintendent of schools, a new albeit interim principal at T.C. Williams and a full complement of members on the school board, we turn to issues that affect us all.

Whether or not we have children attending Alexandria City Public schools, we are affected as taxpayers and citizens.  How we are affected as taxpayers is obvious. The nearly $200 million annual budget accounts for a sizeable chunk of our taxes.  As citizens, we rely on the schools to produce graduates who are prepared to be productive citizens, with the skills and knowledge necessary for employment or higher education.

Yet, the recent school board election was notably lacking in issues. For the most part, candidates talked vaguely about making the board transparent and calming the strife that has been visited upon the leadership.

The school system collectively pouts if not fully funded, yet starting salaries for teachers are higher than for many other jobs requiring equivalent education and training, and their pay scale makes those of us in journalism sick with envy.

The bloated central office has grown at an alarming rate and we hear that policies are sometimes implemented by assistant superintendents and executive directors before seeking school board approval. We would like to see a justification for the proliferation of chiefs in this small school system and assurance that the executive staff has not grown out of control.

During the recent race, candidate Bernie Schulz raised a number of compelling questions that set us thinking about issues that we would like to see addressed. Specifically, we would like the school system to:

  • Define what unique responsibilities and authorities accrue to the central administration and the school board.
  • Scrutinize administrative positions, particularly at central office, to reduce costs and make administrators more accountable.
  • Establish a committee, including parents and interested citizens, to review how our education funds can best be applied and whether that is how they are being used. 
  • Examine why, with the number of special education teachers in our school system, so many special education students are sent out of the district.
  • Analyze what about our public schools has made independent schools an attractive alternative for a growing number of Alexandrians.
  • Examine the roles of parents, administrators, teachers and students in decisions affecting the citys public schools.
  • Consider establishing a student advisory committee and seating a non-voting student representative on the school board.
  • Investigate the motivation behind a movement to returning the school board to being city council appointees instead of elected representatives of the citizens of Alexandria.
  • We invite readers to send their opinions on these and other issues related to our city schools to [email protected].

Is the City Going to the Dogs?
Linda Johnson was removed from her home in handcuffs and leg-shackles , arrested, and charged with trespassing, harassment and disorderly conduct after she repeatedly allowed her miniature poodles to take care of business on her neighbors lawn.

There is more to the story, but it does indicate the depth of feelings that result from irresponsible pet owners.

Despite the odd sign warning that It shall be unlawful for the owner of a dog to knowingly or willfully to allow his dog to urinate or defecate on the private property of other persons without their consent (City Code  5-7-42), Alexandria is welcoming to dogs.

The city boasts filled water bowls on the sidewalks outside of many businesses, restaurant doggie-hours, dog parks spread throughout the city and even an annual dog- swim in the Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron Street) on Labor Day.

But the selfishness of some pet owners can make feeling undiminished affection for mans best friend difficult.

The city has two elementary rules for dogs: they must be restrained and owners must clean up after them.  An increasing number of pet owners seem to believe that those rules apply only to others.

Without sullying these pages with graphic language, we note mounting evidence that the number of dog owners who do not clean up after their pets is increasing. The practice is inconsiderate, unsanitary and unsightly.

Equally aggravating are pet owners who seem to consider having their dogs unleashed a matter of pride, arguing that the pets are well-behaved or friendly.

One city resident routinely walks several paces ahead of her unleashed pet, hands behind her back and singularly distracted when it deposits a souvenir in the grass.

Another dog owner regularly walks his dog unleashed, smiling broadly when it scampers up to greet another dog.

Recently, it was necessary to brake to allow the small dog to scamper across the street to greet a leashed dog, whose owners appeared less than thrilled. The errant dogs owner beamed at the friendliness of his pet.

Leash laws apply to all dog owners, no matter how proud they are of the obedience or friendliness of their pets. Not only can an unleashed dog cause a car crash, it can alarm persons who are fearful of dogs and spawn a catastrophe if it greets a dog that is not as friendly. And guess who gets blamed?

A city that treats its animals well establishes a tone. The laws that allow us to enjoy our furry pals without impinging on the rights of others are right and reasonable.

Those who proudly flout them are neither.

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