Arlington School Board’s Brass Not Included In Budget Cuts

Comments at Arlington School Board Meeting on April 5, 2018.

Consistent with the County Manager’s direction to cut costs, the Superintendent has proposed a balanced budget for FY19. He achieves this through a combination of spending cuts and draw downs from reserve accounts. The spending cuts will be achieved through reduction in employee benefits and increasing class size to eliminate 57 teaching positions.

While I applaud the Superintendent’s general direction, I am concerned about the equity of the proposed cuts. Continue reading

Arlington School Board to Demolish an Historic Renovation

Comments at Arlington School Board Meeting on April 5,2018.

While I share the Westover community’s opposition to the Standalone Scheme, I am dismayed at its preferred option–the Integrated Scheme–because it will require demolition of a building less than ten years old.

Not only is this environmentally wasteful, it also once again throws the County’s commitment to historic preservation under the bus. The Reed School was redesigned in 2009 by the prestigious Georgetown architectural firm Cox, Graae + Spack, which preserved the original structure when it reconfigured the site to include both a library and a school. This is the same firm that has renovated or restored numerous notable DC area structures over the past twenty years, including:

• Daughters of American Revolution Constitution Hall, 1997
• GWU Law School, 2002
• Arlington Glebe House, 2004
• Arlington Arts Center, 2004
• DC’s Eastern Senior HS, 2010
• DC’s Woodrow Wilson HS, 2011
• Duke Ellington School of the Arts, 2017
Continue reading

School Board Squirreling Away Unspent Funds

Remarks at Arlington County School Board Meeting on January 18, 2018.

Welcome members of the School Board, the Superintendent and APS Staff. Thank you for the opportunity to speak. The Superintendent’s FY17 Closeout Presentation indicates the availability of $18.1 million to spend, consisting of budget savings and increased tax revenue from the County. Of these funds, the Superintendent proposes to allocate the majority–$11.8 million–to reserve accounts, including:

  • $6 million to the Compensation Reserve,
  • $3.8 million to the Capital Reserve, and
  • $2 million to the Debt Service Reserve.

These funds will be added to existing reserve accounts, which–as indicated by the sum of reserve items listed in Resolution 4 before you tonight–total $83.7 million. They will thus bring APS reserve accounts to $95.5 million or 15.5 percent of the adopted FY18 budget of $613.6 million. This is excessive.
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Stratford Middle School Driveway Promotes a “More Car Diet”

Comments at County Board Meeting on March 18, 2017.

One of the principal features of the Stratford MS site plan is the driveway that cuts through a tree lined hill between Vacation Lane and Old Dominion Drive. This feature was approved by County Board Board in 2016 on the recommendation of past Chair Libby Garvey—then running for reelection–who declared herself a leader for rejecting the advice of all relevant County commissions against the driveway and siding with parents who wanted it.

While pandering to the majority might have made political sense in 2016, it was by no means prudent either from an environmental or safety standpoint. First, destruction of trees at Stratford MS, as with all other recent County school construction sites, will aggravate runoff and generate more carbon pollution. Second, the extended driveway will induce more traffic in the neighborhood, which will jeopardize the safety of those children who do walk to school.

Third, it directly contradicts the County’s car free diet policy expressed in a resolution adopted by the Board in 2014 stipulating that “Arlington County promotes the Car-Free Diet to encourage residents to try a car-free lifestyle to save money, improve health and clean the environment.”

It’s clear that Arlington Public Schools is in violation of the car free diet policy, since every single school expansion undertaken since its adoption has resulted in the destruction of greenspace for more parking. It’s obvious that the County itself is violating this policy, since every major development it approved in recent years has been accompanied by massive parking facilities.

Since the majority of Arlington residents won’t walk, bike, bus or Metro to work, the More Car Diet that Arlington enables makes more political sense anyhow. If reelection is what you’re after, then stop equivocating. Tout the More Car Diet that you are enabling. Those who like to park on the Beltway will vote for you, and those who take Metro to work and school will appreciate your honesty more than the doublespeak to which they are constantly subjected.

Donald Trump Has More Taste Than Arlington County Government?

Comments on impending demolition of historic Wilson School at Arlington County Board Meeting on February 25, 2017.

I think it’s safe to say that President Trump is not popular in Arlington right now, given the lopsided vote the County delivered to his opponent last November—76 percent to be precise. Contributing to Trump’s lack of popularity in liberal circles is the widespread perception that he epitomizes tasteless wealth, i.e. the nouveau riche.

Yet on my way to a Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest last December, I passed the Old Post Office Pavilion, newly renovated by Trump into a luxury hotel. I observed that no pains were spared to restore the exterior of the Post Office Pavilion to its original grandeur. Continue reading

S3-A Zoning Districts: An example of County Board Overreach

Comments at December 10, 2016 Arlington County Board Meeting on lifting restrictions on S-3A zoning districts, which County Board voted unanimously to adopt.

I want to associate myself with a recommendation sent to County Board on November 1 by longtime CivFed leader Suzanne Sundburg. In asking County Board to defer action on County staff’s request to rezone S-3A zoning districts, i.e. schools and parks, Sundburg said: Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Vote Clement to Cure Election Stress Disorder

Millions of people are turned off by this year’s presidential election. In fact so unhappy is the public with the major party presidential candidates that psychologists have come up with a new diagnosis–Election Stress Disorder (ESD)–characterized by anxiety over the prospect of electing either one of them!

If you’re an Arlington resident suffering from ESD, a cure is in sight. No. I’m not running for President. But as an Independent candidate for Arlington County Board, I offer local voters a change from business as usual to real reform. Never have Arlington residents been more in need of this remedy.

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Cost of Temporary Fire Station at Wilson School Unknown

While I am relieved that County Staff has not recommended Rhodeside Green Park as the site of a temporary fire station, I’m concerned about the process by which Wilson School was selected.

First, it is evident that while the County Manager’s office solicited input, its response to community in the published temporary fire station FAQ indicates that most of the objections to the Wilson School site were dismissed.

Second, while an alternatives analysis was done, the results of that analysis, published as Attachment 3 to the staff report, show that no serious cost benefit analysis was undertaken.

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School Board’s Career Center Classroom Capacity Numbers Don’t Add Up

In recent commentary I claimed that the School Board had erased a projected 4,600 seat classroom deficit by double counting recently added capacity in its May 24, 2016 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) presentation.

Michael Beer, Co-Chair of the CivFed Schools Committee acknowledged that some numbers on page 19 of the document are misleading, but said the real problem is a chart on page 8 showing that the School Board “found” 800 additional Career Center seats by going from a 5/7 to a 6/7 model, which means occupying 6 out of every 7 classrooms throughout the school day instead of 5 out of 7. The question is whether that is actually feasible. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Enrollment Crisis for Arlington Public Schools

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington County Board, and I’m running to reform County government.

My opponent Libby Garvey touts her qualifications as a twenty year incumbent, having served on the Arlington School Board or County Board since 1996.

The Arlington Public Schools (APS) website shows that student enrollment increased over the last ten years by over 6,800 students. During that time APS constructed one new elementary school, provided additions to several others and is planning to build more schools. But the need for more classroom space has not been met, as 3,000 students are housed in trailers, euphemistically referred to as “relocatables.” Continue reading