A native of Chicago, David Daly has lived in Alexandria since 1975 when he got a job as an industrial arts teacher at George Washington Junior High School. From 1978 to 2005, he taught building construction, science and industrial cooperative training at T.C. Williams High School. Since retiring, he has become the training director for Astracor — a nonprofit organization that trains individuals to work in the residential construction industry.
<b>How did students change during your year?</b>
The big change, I was demographically with all the foreign born students. When I started you could count the foreign born students on one hand. Now it seems like about half the school is foreign born. Also, things were very racially polarized when I first started working. Today, there is a lot more racial harmony. I think that’s a generational thing, and kids no longer segregate themselves like they used to do.
<b>How did vocational training change over those years?</b>
We used to have six construction related trades that were taught at the school — plumbing, electrical wiring, heating and air conditioning, carpentry, masonry, cabinetmaking. They are all gone, and now they’ve been replaced by one catchall program called General Building Traits. The effect of that change is that it’s hard to train a kid for an entry-level occupation.
<b>Why did the school system get rid of the classes?</b>
Their official position was enrollment, that there was a lack of demand for the classes. In a way, they were right because the old blue-collar population has left Del Ray. The middle class basically forced out them of Alexandria. But now they are finding that the city has a new middle class population that is interested in going into the construction trade. By and large, they are Latinos. So I think we are going to go full circle and start offering those kinds of classes again.
<b>Why did you get involved training people in the residential construction industry with Astracor?</b>
I was very frustrated that the public school eliminated all those training options. Residential construction workers have no union, so there’s no post-secondary training. There’s no formal way to advance your skill training. Astracor fills that gap by meeting the needs of entry-level Latino workers. The old guild system used to work decently, but then when we got into job security people got protective of what they do. That reluctance to share knowledge creates the need for Astracor to help people better themselves.
<b>What is your favorite movie?</b>
I would say the "Magnificent Seven" because it was the story of seven people, not just one person. And it was a great cowboy shoot-em-up movie. The only thing bad about it was that it didn’t have John Wayne
<b>What is the best book you read in the last year?</b>
"The Death of the West" by Pat Buchanan. It chronicles the various reasons why the United States of America may be on the decline. The institutions that made the country great — especially the Constitution — seem to be no longer feasible. Buchanan basically says that western civilization is dying and eastern civilization is taking over.
<b>What are your interests and hobbies?</b>
I play in a senior-league softball. There’s not many of us left but it’s fun to see old jokers out there on the field. I also enjoy golf and remodeling, gardening
<b>What is your favorite restaurant?</b>
I would have to say Outback Steakhouse because my son-in-law owns one.
<b>What concerns do you have about the community?</b>
I live very close to an informal day-labor center, and people don’t want to go to the 7-11 anymore. I hope that what we are doing at Astracor will eliminate that. We don’t ask students anything about the legality of their residence, and there may be a few who are not here legally. That’s really irrelevant as long as someone is willing to better themselves and make something of their lives. We want people that are serous about the trades, which can be a very good living. The goal is to eliminate this fly-by-night, cook-the-books way of doing businesses.