It was startling to learn at the Sept. 8 School Board meeting that Alexandria City Public Schools had not yet decided on its areas of focus for the 2022-23 school year almost three weeks into that year.
This news was almost as shocking as a proposal at its prior meeting in August to change the way teachers approach homework – four days after the start of the school year.
Successful organizations plan well ahead to approve changes and establish priorities. That our educational leaders – the recommendations in both cases came from ACPS staff or consultants – would propose major changes and the School Board only be approving priorities after classes began speaks to the dysfunction of the system.
Several significant concerns were raised at the Sept. 8 meeting, including:
• Low teacher morale and struggles with mental health;
• Rising absenteeism of both students and teachers; and
• How to design and enforce lunch policies at Alexandria City
High School that enable students to utilize extended time while also avoiding safety issues that happened during the prior Lunch & Learn program.
These are all serious topics. They are all concerns in need of good solutions that work. But how can they possibly be priorities for the school year already underway if they haven’t been examined and solutions proposed prior to the start of this year?
Teachers spend weeks during the summer preparing for the upcoming school year. The time for the School Board to approve priorities for the coming school year would be right after the prior year ends, not after the new one has begun, so new solutions can be planned for and implemented.
We are a data-driven city, and recent data clearly shows that Alexandria is having a difficult time retaining teachers and hiring new ones. ACPS scores on Standards of Learning tests are also disturbingly lower than statewide averages.
Setting priorities for a school year after that year has already begun is one clue as to how we got to this point.
A shoutout to centenarians
Alexandria’s new annual event celebrating centenarians in the city is a terrific addition to the excellent senior services in our city. Kudos to Mayor Justin Wilson for suggesting the idea, and for the city’s senior services leaders for acting on it. Those of us who are younger get so busy living our lives – working our jobs and dealing with kids and hectic schedules – that it’s easy to forget about the city’s older residents, many of whom have lived fascinating lives but are no longer particularly visible.
This annual celebration is a wonderful way to recognize them and their many contributions to life in our city and in other places they may have lived.
Alexandria is becoming a hub for excellent senior living facilities, as new, first-rate living communities have sprung up throughout the city in recent years, joining others that have been here for years.
Our city has made its seniors a priority, as is apparent from our many senior programs, which include free rides for seniors to delivery of Meals on Wheels to senior day programs.
Recognizing those seniors who make it to the 100-year milestone with an annual celebration is a terrific way to honor their lives.