To the editor:
No doubt, City Councilor Canek Aguirre has done noble things in his life to help vulnerable people, mostly Hispanic immigrants. But his performance at the recent City Council meeting dominated by the school resource officer issue was anything but noble. Ironically during National Bullying Prevention Month, recognized by schools everywhere, Aguirre proceeded to bully ACPS’ three key leaders: School Board Chair Meagan Alderton, Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D. and Alexandria City High School Principal Peter Balas.
In doing so, Aguirre showed that he does not understand that City Council’s only role with regard to ACPS is to set the top line budget number annually in May. Rather, he treated the leaders of a peer organization led by independently elected officials as if they personally report to him, demonstrating his lack of understanding of local government and his seemingly boundless hubris.
After the three ACPS officials made highly reasoned cases for restoring SROs in the wake of a series of violent student-related incidents and weapons violations, including the shooting of a student at Bradlee Shopping Center, Aguirre proceeded to debate, castigate and otherwise condescend to the ACPS officials. On top of that, his arguments fell flat.
Once the “interrogation,” as Mayor Justin Wilson called it, mercifully ended, Aguirre admitted to his attempted overreach of power: “I’m frustrated because we’re sitting here and the four of us [he and fellow anti-SRO Councilors John Chapman, Mo Seifeldein and Elizabeth Bennett-Parker] were trying to craft ideas for the school system to think about other ways of how we could address some of this, when honestly, it should have been the School Board doing this.”
But the School Board had already addressed the issue, overwhelmingly voting to retain SROs. Aguirre’s behavior reflected that of a callow activist, not a mature, professional representative of all city residents.
Aguirre was not the only one to embarrass City Council. Chapman, while operating with a smoother patina, as he is known to do, joined in the fray and later proclaimed that community preferences don’t matter: “A large majority feels comfortable with the [SRO] status quo. We know as leaders that the status quo cannot stay as it is today.”
In other words, no matter what the majority desires, Chapman and his colleagues as “leaders” know better. Council decisions over the past three years on issues including infrastructure, development and transportation have proven that notion demonstrably false. Then, to top off council’s night of shame, he retweeted someone advocating for the dissolution of elected School Boards.
Perhaps Aguirre and Chapman need to go back to “elected officials’ school” to learn that School Board policy is made by – wait for it – school boards. Mature, responsible elected officials respect the limits of their power, and in an atlarge capacity, know that their role is to take the pulse of the community and govern accordingly.
Aguirre and Chapman were not elected because they know better than the people they represent. Perhaps the electorate will know better than to vote for them again in next week’s election.
-Bill Rossello, Alexandria