Mt. Vernon Community School lives up to its name

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Mount Vernon Community School remains popular among parents despite getting a less than favorable review by the federal government earlier this year.

Not long before the start of the school year, MVCS parents learned they could transfer their children to any school in the district because of its failure to meet No Child Left Behind standards. 

While the lowest achieving students receive priority, any student can opt into another school, said Sandy Hudnall, Alexandria City Public Schools spokesman.

But unlike their neighbors at Jefferson-Houston, William Ramsay and Cora Kelly, Mount Vernon students have largely remained loyal to the Del Ray elementary school. A single student transferred to Charles Barrett after the school choice letters went out, Hudnall said. 

By comparison, 20 students left Cora Kelly, 41 transferred from Jefferson-Houston and 13 opted out of William Ramsay since learning about the school choice option.

There is very strong community and neighborhood involvement in the school. That particular neighborhood is very proud, said Hudnall. If you go into that school you will find parents who cant wait to tell how much they love that school.

Hudnall believes the schools popularity comes from a combination of community support the Del Ray neighborhood remains notably tight knit and the programs offered in the classroom. MVCS students undergo an intense dual language program and have a modified school year calendar, meaning they return to the classroom in July, rather than September. During vacations, intercession classes are available for students.

Theyve got enrichment built into their full year program, which is one of the things that makes [MVCS] different, said Sheryl Gorsuch, school board member and former Mount Vernon parent.

The community is very supportive of the school, she said. Not just parents in the school, but also the businesses. When Dr. [Lulu] Lopez was there years ago, she was instrumental in renaming the school from Mount Vernon to Mount Vernon Community School and that really was a game changer for the school.

School administrators have kept up ties with the larger community, said current Principal Tina Radomsky. Their partnership with the Fairfax Street-based Alexandria Tutoring Consortium is just one example of many, she said. Donations from community businesses and organizations keep the programs running while Title I dollars pay for renovations, technology and new books, Radomsky said. 

Bottom line: the PTA and teachers have joined forces to make sure the school succeeds, she said. 

Thats not to say the school with a heavy Hispanic population roughly 40 percent of the students learn English as a second language isnt struggling. While MVCS remains accredited by the state, failing to keep up with Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks raises concerns among administrators.

The Mount Vernon community has for many years justifiably supported its neighborhood school, said Superintendent Morton Sherman. We recognize MVCS for its many fine attributes even as we are working to improve the test scores.

But parents, like PTA president Jenny Curry, arent losing too much sleep over AYP results. Put Curry in the you cant read too much into a single test camp, she said.

Which may be the key to why MVCS remains popular among parents, Gorsuch said. 

One of the things that is interesting about that school community is that they value more than just Standard of Learning test scores, she said. It doesnt bother them to see some numbers They want to work to help those students get better, but its a qualitative issue.

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