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Letter: Schools Should Re-Do Budget

To the Editor:

Time is running out or Alexandria’s Adult Education program. In three months, our successful Alexandria Adult Learning Center will cease to exist.

For more than 40 years, the center has successfully served literally thousands of students — teaching them English and providing classroom instruction to attain a GED.

I know how important getting basic skills is. After I learned to type, I got a promotion with Capitol Police Department and went on to serve as a member of Alexandria’s City Council and vice mayor.

Recent action by Superintendent Sherman and the ACPS School Board to dismantle the center will deprive all current and future adult students of a real education. After June 30, the dedicated full-time teachers will be replaced by computers and “hourly workers” (ACPS’s words, not mine).

The center’s teaching staff — with a combined 150 years of experience in adult education — has been told they will have to compete for the “hourly worker” jobs with no guarantee of real teaching or staff positions in ACPS schools. The students have received no information about what educational services will be available to them at the end of this semester.

The dedicated teachers and staff — the heart of the center — and the diligent students, many of whom work two jobs, have children in ACPS schools, and make time to improve their lot in life by getting a GED and learning English, deserve better. These students deserve real teachers and classroom instruction and these hard-working, experienced teachers deserve to be treated as the professionals they are.

Dr. Sherman has indicated that savings of $370,000 a year is at the root of his Adult education changes. It is incredible that Dr. Sherman expects the public to accept the mismanagement of millions of dollars while refusing to spend the minimal funds required to continue successful and real adult education at the center.

Recent audit scrutiny of ACPS’s mismanagement of the Capital Improvement budget has raised serious fiscal integrity issues that, quite frankly, call the management of the Operating Budget into question as well. The breadth and depth of the fiscal integrity issues raised are so serious that our Vice Mayor Kerry Donley has called for Superintendent Sherman’s resignation.

Last month, trusting Sherman’s budget figures, the School Board — with the one notable exception of Ronnie Campbell who abstained due to her concerns about the obliteration of adult education — voted to approve the budget that included adult education changes.

In view of these critical fiscal integrity and educational efficacy issues, the School Board and City Council should require a “budget re-do” and insist that all decisions made prior to the audit findings be reconsidered. In so doing, the Board would have the opportunity to reject Sherman’s devastating adult education changes and continue current operations providing real teachers and a real education for Alexandria’s adult students.

It’s still not too late. But the clock is ticking.

Bill Cleveland

Former Vice Mayor City of Alexandria