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Letter to the Editor: More Than Just Money

To the Editor:

Governor McDonnell is considering legislation that would seize control of the unaccredited Jefferson Houston Elementary School from the Alexandria City Public School Board and Superintendent Sherman can only say, “We believe we are going to make accreditation. We’ll have a conversation in June or July, and I hope I’m not here saying ‘Oops.’”

Jefferson Houston is being torn down and a new school constructed at a cost of nearly $45 million and all we can hope for is not having to say, “Oops”? As a taxpayer who lives in the Jefferson Houston district and pays $7,000 per year in property taxes, part of which pays for this school and Dr. Sherman’s $264,400 annual salary, “Oops” does not invoke confidence in Dr. Sherman’s vision for Jefferson Houston’s redevelopment. Why isn’t Dr. Sherman vociferously defending his plan for Jefferson Houston to those at the state-level considering taking over its control?

In 1999 the Alexandria School Board’s redistricting plan ensured that the school went from having 50 percent of its students eligible for free and reduced lunch to 77 percent. Test scores at the school have fallen for years. Jefferson Houston has not met accreditation standards for 10 out of 11 years and recently, there have been an increased decline.

Recent test scores indicate only 29 percent of black students show basic proficiency in Math, and only 46 percent of students with disabilities can demonstrate basic English skills.

Dr. Sherman’s response has been to replace the principal and one-half of its teachers. Is the problem the building, the teachers, the School Board, or the elephant in the room no one is mentioning — are the kids attending Jefferson Houston prepared to learn when they arrive each morning? That is, are parents ensuring the kids have breakfast before school, went to bed at a reasonable hour the night before, did their homework, and are parents involved in their children’s learning? Or are Jefferson Houston’s teachers being expected to be parents to these kids as well?

Regardless, it’s clear that a new building, no matter how expensive, will not ensure that everyone is doing their part, and throwing money at the problem isn’t always the answer.

Stephanie Hiller

Alexandria