Sometimes it's hard to find items in the school budget.Take the laptop initiative: The program cost $1.7 million. But don’t look for that number in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2006-2007. It’s not there.
“This budget document was designed to be as obscure as possible,” said Ken Foran, a School Board member who is currently campaigning for a seat on the City Council. “It’s very frustrating to try to get good information from this administration.”
Last year’s budget document included a brief paragraph in the executive summary that gave the cost for the lease at Minnie Howard Ninth Grade Center ($376,374) and the cost of the lease for T.C. Williams ($1,696,947). But the numbers were removed from this year’s executive summary. The “budget detail” section of the document includes two pages on “Integrated Technology Services,” which does not mention the cost of the leases.
“I don’t know why it’s not there,” said Leslie Peterson, executive director of the division’s Department of Financial Services and Technology.
Peterson said that she had not noticed that the dollar amounts had been removed from the executive summary until a reporter pointed out the absence to her. She said that space is tight in the annual budget document, and the division isn’t able to include every piece of information about each program.
“If we broke out each piece of the program, we’d have a 15-page section for Integrated Technology Services,” she said.
The Magic of Intersessions
One of the advantages of Tucker Elementary School’s year-round school calendar is the ability to offer classes during the breaks between sessions. The classes — known as “intersessions” — are an opportunity for students to catch up or learn something new. Intersession classes started on Monday and will continue to April 7.
“We’ve got a wide variety of remediation and enrichment classes,” said Susan Stickles, intercessions coordinator for Tucker.
Remedial classes include language arts and math. But it’s the enrichment classes that offer excitement to young minds. Classes include topics such as magic, knitting, soccer, crafts, martial arts, mural-making, dancing and newspaper publishing.
“We even have a class called ‘In the Jungle,’” Stickles said. “The kids learn about the rainforest by doing art activities, cooking and dancing.”
After reading “Alexandria Students to Attend Thomas Jefferson,” last week’s report on the School Board’s decision to allow two students to attend a magnet school in Fairfax County, board member Mark Wilkoff wanted to clarify his position. He says that he did not oppose participation in the program because he was concerned “about the academic and financial consequences,” as the story indicated.
“My decision to vote against participation in T.J. was a matter of values,” Wilkoff wrote in response to the story. “I place a far greater value on a diverse education than I do on providing a handful of students an opportunity to attend a school where everyone is alike.”