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Votes

At the School Board

<b>In Your Eye</b>

The School Board is considering a resolution expressing its dismay with new federal rules that will force first-year residents of the United States to take a standardized test in English and second-year residents to take a content-specific test. As presented by School Board member Eileen Cassidy Rivera, the draft language decries the new federal rules yet stops short of doing anything that would jeopardize $3.1 million tied to implementation of the new rules.

"I’ve spoken to most of the board members, and everyone seems to be pretty much on board," said Rivera. "I think there has been some ideas of potentially some ideas of potentially some additions to make this even a better resolution."

But not everybody was completely on board, and at least one board member was more interested in subtraction than addition. School Board member Claire Eberwein said that she was uncomfortable with some of the harsher language in the draft language of the resolution and said that she would only support the resolution if the language was stricken or redrafted. Mentioning the fifth "whereas statement" on the second page of the document, Eberwein said she objected to the description of the new federal rules as "unfair, unrealistic, unethical, inappropriate and unsupported by research in second language acquisition."

"I have looked at the other resolutions that the other school districts wrote, and not one of them takes quite the aggressive tact that the fifth whereas does," said Eberwein during last week’s board meeting. "I would say that I think it’s a little bit funny for our jurisdiction, which is going to accept the money to say ‘stick it in your eye’ when the other jurisdictions wrote much more unemotional, unbiased — if you want to put it that way — resolutions that actually indicated that they are willing to not take the money."

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<b>More Money for Taxis</b>

The School Board approved an emergency supplemental appropriation last week to pay for the cost of hiring four different taxicab companies to transport nine homeless students and 68 special-education students. The additional funding, known in school administration circles as a "budget transfer," added $263,233 to the Administrative Services budget for the taxi service. It was the second supplemental appropriation of the school year, with School Board members approving a similar budget transfer amount in December.

"It’s difficult to plan for how many homeless students the city will need to transport ahead of time," said Assistant Superintendent John Porter, who manages transportation for the division. "We might start out with five homeless students at the beginning of the year and end up with 20."

When the topic of the budget transfer come up on Thursday night, School Board Chairman Arthur Peabody said that the administration should look at other transportation options.

"It’s not good for them to be taxicabbing it to school every day," said Peabody. "It has to be stigmatizing to some degree."

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<b>Risky Behavior</b>

A recent study of Alexandria public school students in grades seven to 12 shows that violence is the most popular high-risk behavior. According to a survey of 3,041 students in December conducted by the Minnesota-based Search Institute, 39 percent of respondents admitted engaging in violent behavior. When the survey results were presented to School Board members last week, Vice Chairwoman Blanche Maness told the other board members that she was particularly concerned about rising levels of violence among America’s youth.

"Children today come to school with a lot of baggage," said Maness. "And nationwide we’re seeing more violence."

Other common high-risk behaviors included depression at 28 percent, sexual intercourse at 25 percent, alcohol at 19 percent and drugs at 13 percent. Most students listed engaging in five out of 24 high-risk behaviors, which ranged from skipping school to shoplifting. The survey also showed that those students with strong ties to their families and communities reported reduced levels of high-risk behaviors.

"The good news is that everyone — parents, grandparents, educators, neighborhoods, children, teenagers, youth workers, employers, health-care providers, coaches and others — can build assets," the Search Institute study concluded. "Ideally, the whole community is involved to ensure that young people have the solid foundation they need to become tomorrow’s competent, caring adults."