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Letter: Pay More Attention To City Schools

To the Editor:

Where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. Unfortunately, for Alexandria City Public Schools, too few people have pulled the alarm.

During the last three months, I’ve gone out knocking doors in nearly every neighborhood in our city. Whether it’s Del Ray, Park Fairfax or Cameron Station, people are talking about schools. Almost every conversation I’ve had with voters at their doors has centered on their worry with the direction of our school system. This isn’t a coincidence.

People are concerned. They’re concerned because they’re afraid their kids aren’t getting the education they deserve. They’re concerned because teachers are fleeing Alexandria Public Schools at an alarming rate. They’re concerned because every time they read the local news there is another problem coming from the superintendent’s office.

Alexandria’s schools are blessed with smart and devoted teachers who, while being paid less than our regional neighbors, have not been treated fairly.

When Superintendent Morton Sherman was brought on, our schools needed a shakeup, but it has been done hastily and carelessly. We can’t implement new program after new program without teacher input and expect them to be up to speed within hours.

Many of our students come from families where English isn't the first spoken language. They start off with a disadvantage because they aren’t able to receive homework help from parents. This is why our adult education GED and ESL classes are so important to the long-term success of our city. Yet, we’ve seen threats to eliminate these programs and even worse, administrative errors large enough to draw an investigation from the state.

This all comes along on the heels of an external audit revealing that management of the school system’s capital improvements budget was “dysfunctional.” It’s time for change. Alexandria Public Schools must be a great place to teach and to learn. We need closer oversight. Superintendent Sherman needs to start acting like a responsible administrator.

Vice-Mayor Donley pulled the alarm weeks ago. It’s time the rest of us paid attention.

Sean Holihan

Candidate for Alexandria City Council