I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board, and I’m concerned about the School Board’s motivation in renaming Washington Lee (W-L) High School.
I think that decision, which was made without notice at a June 7 School Board meeting chaired by my opponent Barbara Kanninen, is an attempt to deflect attention from the real crisis in Arlington Public Schools (APS)–namely, the minority student achievement gap.
Right now the gap between Black and White student countywide pass rates is 22.4 percentage points and growing. Likewise the gap between Hispanic and White student pass rates is 24.8 points.
Under performance of minority students is widespread in Northern Virginia, as is the attempt to hide it. For example, a recent article in the Fairfax County Times gushed over the rededication of Justice High in Falls Church, which was renamed last year to eradicate the memory of its former namesake, Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart. To hear the Times tell it, the renaming process was democratic, and everyone is happy with result. This is news to name change opponents who were bullied and outed as racists by their class mates.
As to whether changing the name of a school can bring about racial justice, even the Times agreed that the act was symbolic.
"A new name may not eliminate the achievement gap or solve other systemic issues in the U.S. education system, but the symbolic importance of honoring civil rights and education advocates like Marshall, Johns, and Mendez over a man whose legacy is rooted in the Confederacy and its defense of slavery should not be underestimated either, particularly for a school where more than 60 percent of its students are black or Hispanic."
The reference to former Black Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, civil rights leader Barbara Rose Johns, and World War II veteran Col. Louis G. Mendez Jr. stems from the tribute given to them at Justice High’s rededication ceremony. But their monikers appear nowhere in the name of the school. When all is said and done, Blacks and Hispanics have been denied even symbolic justice at Justice High.
According to Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) statistics, the Justice High achievement gap is 12.6 points for Blacks and 27.6 for Hispanics. In Fairfax County as a whole the achievement gap is 18.6 for Blacks and 23.6 for Hispanics. So much for real social justice as measured by differences in scholastic achievement.
If you’re concerned that APS like Fairfax County Public Schools is throwing a smoke screen over the problem, and you are looking for someone who will actually address the minority achievement gap, then look no further. I’m a 14-year Westover resident and civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow. I also serve on the Arlington Transportation Commission.
If elected, I pledge to:
- Preserve the name: Washington-Lee High School.
- Reverse declining high school test scores.
- Close the minority student achievement gap.
- Constrain School Board spending.
- Listen to the concerns of all taxpayers.
- Build schools not trailers on time and on budget.
- Mainstream special needs students.
- End "teaching to the test".
- Install efficient renewable energy in all public schools.
- Promote school safety with a focus on violence prevention.
If you share my agenda, then:
- Spread the word about my candidacy.
- Volunteer to help.
- Donate to my campaign.
If you’re interested in helping out, just shoot me an email or call or text. If you want to find out more about my campaign, visit my website.
Together we can make Arlington Public Schools provide all students with an honest education.