PRESS RELEASE: The Cost of a More Car Diet

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board, and I want to clarify my position on new school construction in the County.

At the July, 2018 School Board meeting I criticized the design of the $55 million Reed School, because it requires demolishing the existing $20 million school constructed in 2009. It will also force 9 and 10 year olds to march up three flights of stairs several times a day.

When ARLnow published some of my remarks, readers accused me of flip flopping, since I had advocated “Build Up Not Out to Preserve Green Space” as a School Board candidate in 2014.

True. Westover residents were told that the Reed School had to be built up rather than out to preserve green space. But inspection of the design reveals the real reason for building up–namely to expand parking space on an existing lot. While this scheme furthers APS’ commitment to a “more car diet”, it will impose a physical hardship on the students and drive up costs.

The same focus on parking governed the design of Alice Fleet Elementary School off Route 50 and Glebe Road in South Arlington. There a 4 story structure is under construction on an existing parking lot with a two story underground parking garage that has driven up the project cost to an eye popping $59 million. That’s a cost per pupil of $78,457 as compared with the new Patrick Henry Elementary in Alexandria with a cost per pupil of $48,848.

Virtually every recent school construction project in the county has resulted in expanded run off inducing surface parking and massive loss of tree canopy. According to longtime civic activist Suzanne Sundburg:

“Likewise most APS school construction projects result in mature tree loss: at least 94 at Ashlawn Elementary School, almost 80 at McKinley Elementary School, more than 160 at Stratford Middle School, etc.”

APS will tell you that additional costs and degraded surroundings are a necessary sacrifice to provide ample parking for teachers and staff. I disagree.

Parking and drop off facilities could be scaled back if:

  • more teachers took transit, and
  • more kids were bused instead of driven to school.

This would also reduce congestion around schools.

These options aren’t feasible now, because the County is not providing the incentives. If the County had a policy in place like Fairfax County to provide workforce housing to Arlington teachers, and APS changed its school bus policy to pick up kids within a half mile of the school, more people would leave their cars at home.

Other incentives include:

  • replacing school bus routes with ART service, and
  • subsidizing transit use by teachers and staff.

If you like these ideas or are concerned about the steady erosion of green space throughout the county and loss of tree canopy on school campuses–then support my run for Arlington School Board.

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:

  • Promote a school construction program that increases classroom capacity on time and on budget
  • Reduce the need for trailers with an accelerated building program that brings the cost of new classroom capacity in line with the rest of the Commonwealth
  • Cut the fat out of the School Board’s top heavy administration and use the savings to fund needed services
  • Close the achievement gap
  • Mainstream special education programs
  • Implement more efficient school transit alternatives
  • Install renewable energy in all public schools
  • Provide a voice–minus the doublespeak–on Arlington School Board for all taxpayers

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.

Reed School: Builds Up Not Out To Provide More Parking

Comments at Arlington School Board Meeting on July 17, 2018.

While I support a new neighborhood elementary school at the Reed site, I am concerned about both the design and the cost. The four story structure outlined in the final schematic design appears to blend in well with its surroundings and preserves open space.

However it requires demolishing the existing school, which is less than ten years old. It will also force 9 and 10 year olds to march up three flights of stairs several times a day.

Westover residents were told that the school had to be built up rather than out to preserve green space. But inspection of the design reveals the real reason for building up—namely to expand parking space. Continue reading

School Renaming Diverts Attention From Minority Achievement Gap

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on July 14, 2018.

On June 7 Arlington School Board (APS) voted unanimously to rename Washington-Lee (W-L) High School without prior public notice. The School Board’s rationale for the unscheduled vote was that as leader of the Confederate Army Robert E. Lee was a traitor to the nation.

Overlooked was:

  • the pardon Lee received posthumously from Congress in 1975;
  • the credit given to him for reconciling North and South after the war; as well as
  • the hypocrisy of honoring George Washington and other Founding Fathers, who profited from slavery, while vilifying Lee.

Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: What’s Good For Washington Is Good For Lee

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board, and I want to set the record straight about a matter that is important to all Virginia residents.

Several weeks a go my campaign issued a press release deploring the June 7, 2018 decision by the Board to strike Robert E. Lee’s name from Washington-Lee (W-L) High School.

To his credit Scott McCaffrey, editor of the Arlington Sun Gazette, accurately reported that I was angered at the hypocrisy of striking the name of Robert E. Lee, who defended slavery, but not that of George Washington, who profited by it.

From this and my acknowledgement that Lee’s position on slavery was wrong, McCaffrey erroneously concluded that I was good with striking Lee’s name from W-L High School, as long as Washington’s name were stricken also.

In fact I don’t want to strike either “Washington” or “Lee” from the name of W-L High School. I want to strike a blow at the institutional hypocrisy embodied in the School Board’s decision to rename the school. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Hypocrisy Is No Remedy For Racism

At its June 7, 2018 monthly meeting, Arlington Public Schools (APS) revised its policy on the naming of schools, ostensibly to tighten the rules.

The actual purpose was to justify removal of Robert E. Lee’s name from Washington-Lee (W-L) High School on the grounds that as leader of the Confederate Army, Lee was a traitor to the United States.

While I agree that in defending the Confederacy Lee defended slavery, which was clearly wrong, Lee was no ordinary traitor. At the time he took up arms against the Union, the views that Lee espoused on slavery were precisely those of the Founding Fathers.

Had not George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson-all Virginia native sons and all slave holders-greased the skids of institutionalized slavery by agreeing to write it into the U.S. Constitution, Lee would not have taken up arms against his own nation. Continue reading

Arlington School Board’s Priorities in Question

Comments at Arlington School Board Meeting on April 19, 2018.

Earlier this year Superintendent Patrick Murphy was confronted with a tough directive from the County Manager. Cut costs in the face of declining County revenue despite burgeoning enrollment. In response the Superintendent proposed a combination of spending cuts and draw downs from reserve accounts. The spending cuts will be achieved through reductions in staff and employee benefits and increasing class size to eliminate 57 teaching positions.

At its April 5 meeting, the School Board resolved to restore some of the cuts primarily through reductions in IT spending and staffing reductions at Arlington Tech. Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.