A proposed policy change that was presented at the Sept. 9 Alexandria School Board meeting raised concern that the Board’s substance abuse and violence prevention committee was being eliminated.
The proposed new language was presented to the board by its chair, Mark O. Wilkoff. A copy of the policy with “track change on” showed both original language and proposed changes. The original policy began “It is the duty of the School Board to appoint advisory councils or committees of citizens ….” New language said “The School Board may appoint advisory councils or committees of citizens .…”
The change which drew the most attention was from the original “In addition pursuant to the Code of Virginia, Board of Education Regulations, and federal law, the School Board shall establish advisory committees for the following programs: school health, safe and drug-free schools and communities, talented and gifted education, special education, family life education, and career and technical education …” to the new proposed language “In addition pursuant to the Code of Virginia, Board of Education Regulations, and federal law, the School Board will establish advisory committees for the following programs: school health, talented and gifted education, family life education and career and technical education…”
Board member Kenneth Foran raised the issue at the board meeting. “I am not prepared to vote on this change tonight without comment from the committees,” he said.
Wilkoff responded. “I agreed to draft proposed new language and get it to the board,” he said. “The change here is to reflect that the substance abuse committee is no longer required by law. This is in no way an indication that we intend to get rid of this committee, on the contrary. This committee has provided very valuable support to the board and, I am certain, will continue to do so,” he said.
The chairman of this committee saw the proposed new language on Friday morning after the board meeting as a result of the board deciding to forward it to all committees. “Looking at the proposed changes, it was easy to believe that we had been eliminated,” said Adam Pearlman. “I was very concerned”— concerned because of a letter that Pearlman wrote condemning the board’s decision to retain School Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry after her arrest for drunk driving in April.
“I certainly hope that this was not in any way in retaliation for anything,” Foran said. “However, I can understand why that might be the perception.”
For now, the committee remains intact and moving forward with its work for the upcoming school year. “The chairman has expressed his support for the committee and we are already working on our agenda for the year,” Pearlman said. “We hope to conduct some student surveys on substance abuse issues and strengthen the substance abuse curriculum. We have a lot of work to do,” he said.