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Letter: Accountability Via Elections

To the Editor:

The pundits and the press talk about how important the issue of education is in this election, but it is not just at the national level.

People throughout Alexandria are concerned about the quality of Alexandria's educational system. They are concerned about capacity for students. They are concerned about the quality of the staff. They are concerned about the fiscal responsibility and accountability of Alexandria's educational system.

Elections are about accountability. Each election we hold our representatives accountable for their statements and their actions.

Just last week, this newspaper reported on another important issue — how to best educate students with disabilities in Alexandria. That article reported how Alexandria has always had difficulty doing this, how progress has been slow and how the Virginia Department of Education found several areas were Alexandria City Public Schools was not meeting the needs of its special education population. One of the candidates running for School Board stated that the Administration had been able to get away with many things because there has not been "enough focus on it."

Focus and accountability: Just as the school system expects it from their students, parents expect it from the school leadership. That's why the public debates for Alexandria City Council and for Alexandria School Board are very important. News reports flood our eyes with ideas about education issues — from the importance of parents, to the role of charter schools, to new parent trigger laws cropping up in other states, to the use of technology in the classroom — there is so much out there and it needs to be discussed and debated.

School Board members have many responsibilities — from budget preparation to curriculum development to salary structure benefits — and one of the reasons why Alexandrians scrapped their appointed school board years ago and chose an elected school board was the belief that an elected school board would provide for a more accountable school system.

In a recent OpEd in this paper, Dr. Mort Sherman, the superintendent of schools in Alexandria stated the "commitment to educating the children of our democracy remains our priority."

Everyone's vote this election on Nov. 6 is important, not because educating the children of Alexandria is important, but because it's about holding Dr. Sherman accountable to those words.

Michael J. Carrasco