Times’ ACPS coverage is much ado about nothing

Times’ ACPS coverage is much ado about nothing
(File Photo)

To the editor:

For the past several weeks, the Alexandria Times has published articles and editorials raising the specter of intrigue and malfeasance by the former Alexandria City School Board. The alleged crime this time: establishing an educational foundation to benefit the children in our public schools. The foundation would have a mandate to support the implementation of the goals of the division’s strategic plan in areas that have not been funded or been underfunded.

What does the documented, written record tell us about the decision by the previous school board to establish an educational foundation? All of these facts are found on the Alexandria City Public Schools website and readily available to anyone with a few moments of effort.

First, the minutes of the school board’s budget and audit committee — dated November 2, 2009 — memorialize the idea of establishing an educational foundation that was discussed as early as October 29, 2009, and at subsequent meetings by the committee, of which I served as chair.

Second, the school board also discussed the issue on at least two occasions: first at the school board’s 2010 annual retreat and thereafter at the board’s 2011 retreat. On September 18, 2011, the board, without dissent, approved and authorized the establishment of an educational foundation.

The Times suggests — without any facts to support this ill-founded notion — that the foundation was approved (if at all) in secret to hide it from public scrutiny. Yet the retreat was properly noticed and placed on the board’s calendar, open to the public and attended by many members of our community.

And if no one from the Times attended any portion of the two-day retreat to observe the proceedings and learn that a foundation would be established, a press release reporting the accomplishments of the retreat noted the topic of establishing an educational foundation. The press release was issued September 20, 2011, and sent to all local media, including the Times.

In sum, the objective, written, documented facts belie any notion that either the board did not approve a foundation or — for some unknown reason that the Times cannot identify — its approval was intentionally given in secret. The facts establish that the board’s customary procedures were utilized. The issue was vetted in committee, discussed by the full board and approved — all in duly called public meetings.

For its coverage of our public schools for the last several weeks, the Times has earned a grade of “F.” Many of us hope its editor will find a truer compass and address some of the real issues facing our schools and our community: increased capacity and the need for new schools and how to fund them; the continuing, vexing problem of the achievement gap; the threat of a state takeover of our schools; and how city council plans to address the $15 million shortfall between anticipated expenditures and revenues it faces in the coming budget year.

As for the school board, I wish them well. After all, much of the success we seek for all students depends on them.

-Arthur E. Peabody Jr.
Former school board member