Our View: Where’s the beef?

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Our View: Where’s the beef?
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What could Alexandria City Public Schools do with $12,000 a month for four months? Probably pay almost a full years salary for a new teacher.
    
Beyond that, maybe buy enough state-of-the-art computers to stock one or two classrooms, school supplies to last a class an entire year and roughly 16,000 boxes of tissues for those ever present schoolroom sniffles, especially during these colder months.
    
ACPS took roughly $38,000 and paid public relations and crisis mitigation wiz Alan Hilburg, charging him with rebranding the district, forging tighter bonds with the community, allying with local groups, mentoring a new communications person and putting the ACPS experience in a new context, among many, many other ambitious tasks.
    
A tall order with just four months to work, even for the man behind Wendys Wheres the beef campaign.
    
Nearly three months have passed since Hilburgs contract ended with the district. Superintendent Morton Sherman assures us Hilburg got the ball rolling in several areas, including meeting with local groups, strengthening community ties and even hiring Kelly Alexander, ACPS new communications point person.
    
But getting the ball rolling doesnt count as quantifiable results. One area where Hilburgs ideas have produced hard data is the DiscoveryBridge survey results. Designed to gauge teacher and parent opinions of the district, including that of the superintendent, DiscoveryBridge would show the way forward for school officials.
    
What did we learn?
    
Teachers and parents reported a deep affection for their students (and children), co-workers (and teachers), principals and neighborhood schools. They recognized their neighbors especially those without children dont hold ACPS in high regard. They asked for more resources, more outreach and better communication between parents and schools and between the district and the community as a whole.
    
They pointed out the challenges of having so many students who are studying English as a second language, the need for new technology and the lack of outreach to minority populations. And thats the Readers Digest version.
    
None of this information is new. Just watch a couple of videos of archived public hearings on the ACPS website and its easy enough to come to the same conclusion.
    
As the school district lobbies City Hall for $372 million over 10 years for improvements, its important taxpayers know their money is spent wisely.  
    
Theres nothing wrong with consulting outsiders for a fresh pair of eyes. Hilburg even approached the district first, offering a heavily discounted fee for his highly sought and respected suggestions. But ACPS should have meatier results to show for the money spent.

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