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Parents Rally to Save FACE as Alexandria School Board Considers Budget Cuts

Board members must close a $3 million gap before sending budget to City Hall.

The Alexandria Public Schools central office on Beauregard Street.

The Alexandria Public Schools central office on Beauregard Street. Photo by Michael Lee Pope.

Potential Cuts

  • $543,000: eliminate the Family and Community Engagement programs
  • $425,000: reduce 3 FTE from central office staff
  • $195,000: reduce STEM coordinator FTE and associated secondary STEM costs
  • $200,000: reduce the amount allocated for Stonewall lease
  • $200,000: reduce teachers reserve from 12 FTE to 10 FTE
  • $200,000: reduce teacher substitutes costs across all schools
  • $160,000: reduce two teachers or facilitators from the satellite campus
  • $150,000: reduce funding for elementary authentic texts
  • $130,000: reduce legal fees
  • $120,000: reduce travel and conference fees
  • $100,000: reduce purchased services division-wide
  • $100,000: reduce software and online charges at T.C. Williams High School
  • $100,000: reduce 1 FTE online facilitator
  • $100,000 reduce Office of Educational Facilities budget growth
  • $78,000: eliminate Rosetta Stone language program
  • $75,000: move 1 FTE literary specialist from operating
  • $50,000: reduce translation services division-wide
  • $40,000: reduce support specialist at Tucker Elementary School

Dozens of parents appeared before members of the Alexandria School Board last week with a simple plea — save FACE. That’s a series of six facilities known as the Families and Community Engagement centers. Board members are considering eliminating the program, which provides opportunities and resources for students, families and community members related to academic achievement of Alexandria students. Vaporizing the program would save about $543,000, although a groundswell of parents are urging members to keep the funding.

“FACE is grounded in the idea that parents need to feel welcome in the schools if they are going to get involved in their child’s education,” said Margaret Lorber, division-wide bi-lingual parent liaison. “Once involved, the families continue to participate.”

Superintendent Morton Sherman’s proposed budget includes full funding for the program. In fact, last year he suggested adding $103,500 for a new full-time employee. But one of the items on the add/delete list under consideration by board members is a $543,000 reduction that would eliminate the program. Scores of parents spoke out against the cut last week, and they’ll have another chance when board members hold the next budget public hearing on April 4.

“I have a child with behavioral issues, and I can’t really give him the support and help that the FACE center has offered him,” said Myrna Delgado who has three children who attend FACE center at Brent Place. “If the FACE centers were taken away, it would be devastating to these children.”

BACK IN JANUARY, the superintendent proposed a $228.5 million operating budget to School Board members, which included a $188.7 million appropriation from City Hall. The next month, City Manager Rashad Young proposed a budget that had a $185.5 million appropriation to the schools. That means School Board members must find a way to cut $3 million out of the superintendent’s budget unless they want to lobby City Council members for more money.

“It’s always such an inspiration to see the public come forward about the things they care about,” School Board chairman Karen Graf told parents during the board meeting last week.

The proposed elimination of the FACE centers is the largest possible cut, eliminating more than half a million dollars and helping to close the $3 million gap board members are struggling to fill. Seven of the nine board members had some kind of elimination to the program on their list of budget cuts to consider. Other cuts include reducing central office staff and eliminating the use of the popular language software Rosetta Stone. One of the cuts would cut the T.C. Williams satellite campus at Landmark Mall from six teachers to four teachers.

“That would probably curtail the program a little bit,” Sherman said of the possible reduction to the satellite campus. “But this would allow it to still go ahead.”

THE FACE CENTER program falls under the school system’s Office of Volunteerism and Community Partnerships. The six centers are at Cora Kelly School, John Adams Elementary School, Brent Place, the ARHA Parent Resource Center and the Community Lodgings apartment on Notabene Drive. Now that the parents have spoken out on the issue, board members have to figure out what other cuts they might want to make to save FACE.

“The speakers certainly had an impact,” said School Board member Bill Campbell. “It forced some of the younger folks on the board, who may not have been familiar with the program, to find out more about it.”