January 24, 2015

Beefed Recycling Ordinance No Good If Not Enforced

Environment — @ 4:03 pm

The Department of Environmental Services should be commended for strengthening the Arlington Recycling Ordinance by adding a new Section 10-32 requiring owners of apartment dwellings and commercial establishments to co-locate recycling bins wherever trash receptacles are located on the property.
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Planning Process for School on TJ Park Not Transparent

Parks,Schools — @ 3:48 pm

I commend the TJ Working Group (TJWG) for its excellent report detailing the options and the risks associated with constructing a 725 seat elementary school adjacent to TJ Middle School and park. The group asked two questions: whether APS could build a school there and whether ACB should approve the plan.

Of the four designs presented, the group recommended Scheme 2, placing the school at the northwest corner of the site as having the least detrimental impact. I agree with this assessment of the options presented. However, I’m concerned about the options that aren’t on the table, such as reserving the site for needed middle school expansion in the form of an addition to the existing structure. (more…)

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The WRAPS Process Isn’t Democratic

Development,Schools — @ 3:43 pm

At the December 18 County Board meeting, Katie Elmore, spokesperson for the North Rosslyn Civic Association, complained about WRAPS, the planning group that advised County Board on what to do with the site of the current Wilson School. She was unhappy that WRAPS did not consider preservation of historic Wilson School.
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December 6, 2014

Advice from a Maverick

Schools — @ 9:09 am

Congratulations to Nancy Van Doren and Barbara Kanninen on their election to Arlington School Board. I also want to thank those who supported my recent campaign for School Board. I got 33 percent of the vote or more than 18,000 votes, which is respectable, considering that my opponent was endorsed by both the Democratic Party and the Washington Post. By contrast I ran as a maverick on a fraction of my opponent’s budget, garnering no party or newspaper endorsements at all. Yet it is clear that my ideas about good government are gaining traction in this county.
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October 23, 2014

New School Options–Where Are the Numbers?

Schools — @ 5:28 pm

School Board’s search for an appropriate site for a new middle school has become a moving target, with neighborhoods pitted against one another as the host location. Good reasons have been advanced to rule out the current site of HB Woodlawn, the Reed School in Westover and the Wilson School in Rosslyn.

In view of these well considered objections, it appears that the only viable option consists in additions to three existing middle schools. Yet APS has all but ruled out additions due to cost.
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October 17, 2014

Hard Questions for Arlington Public Schools

Environment,Schools — @ 5:33 pm

Democratic candidates for local office issued a press release the other day promising to deal with Arlington’s enrollment crisis.

Unfortunately they will not be able to meet the challenge under Arlington Public School’s (APS) recently adopted capital budget, as it projects a 2,500 seat deficit even AFTER spending $383 million to produce 4,000 additional seats.
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September 20, 2014

Asking the Fox to Guard the Hen House

Uncategorized — @ 5:31 pm

The McKinley Elemenatary School expansion project is supposed to be the poster child for what’s right about the Arlington Public Schools (APS) More Seats for More Students program, in contrast to the Ashlawn project, which is a tree hugger’s nightmare.

Yet when you look at the details, there’s not much difference. The Ashlawn project demolished a tree lined hill overlooking Bluemont Park and removed 100 mature trees to put in a parking loop. The McKinley project will take out 77 mature trees, including a “significant” red oak to put 20 additional parking spaces.
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September 7, 2014

More Ways To Provide More Classroom Seats

Budget,Schools — @ 12:17 pm

At a projected cost of more than $2 million per additional class room and nearly $19,000 per student per year, APS must reduce its capital and operating outlays to cope with increasing enrollments. At previous School Board meetings, I’ve recommended the use of modular classroom design, historic preservation tax credits, energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy. All of these techniques have been demonstrated to cut capital and/or operating costs, sometimes by a lot.

Another possible opportunity to explore is the recent closure of St. Charles Elementary School on Washington Boulevard near Clarendon due to declining enrollment. (more…)

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July 17, 2014

Vote NO On the School Bond Referendum

Schools — @ 6:11 pm

On June 16, APS adopted a $453 million ten year capital budget that allocates $50.25 million for new elementary school classroom space at an unspecified location[s] in South Arlington. The original plan was to build an elementary school on the site of TJ Park near TJ Middle School off Glebe Road near Route 50. But community opposition was so strong that the School Board deferred a final decision about whether to build the school or extensions to other South Arlington schools for another six months.
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June 18, 2014

More Ways APS Can Save Money

Budget,Schools — @ 8:28 am

I was very pleased with the Budget Advisory Council (BAC) end of year report, particularly its acknowledgment that it represents all Arlington taxpayers, not just the subset with children in school. I also welcome the fact that BAC has embraced the recommendations of the 2012 Gibson Report, which evaluated APS on behalf of the Virginia Department of Education. Among the principal findings of that report, BAC cited the recommendation to explore increasing pupil-teacher ratios to address soaring costs:

“The cost of a lower pupil-teacher ratio is significant in terms of staffing. If the APS determined overall teacher positions based on a ratio of 12:1 – a 15 percent increase from the current level of 10.4:1, but still below all but one of its peers – it would need 277 fewer teachers (p. 2-7)”.

The Gibson Report advises that if facility related expenditures are added to instructional expenditures, APS could realize more than $30 million in savings annually by bringing its pupil-teacher ratio in line with neighboring school districts. (more…)

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