School Board–Alexandria District C: Christopher J. Lewis
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School Board–Alexandria District C: Christopher J. Lewis

Question & Answer

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Christopher J. Lewis



Town of residence: Alexandria

Age: 36

Family: Single

Education: Bachelors Degree, Harvard University

Offices held, dates:

  • Alexandria City School Board - District C, January 2013 - Present
  • Vice Chair, Alexandria City School Board, January 2014 - Present
  • Occupation and relevant experience:
  • Vice President for Government Affairs at public interest nonprofit, Public Knowledge

Community involvement:

Board Member, ACT for Alexandria

  • Member, Alexandria Commission on Information Technology
  • Veteran Community & Political Organizer
  • Former Board Member, George Mason University Center for Social Entrepreneurship
  • Former Virginia State Director, Generation Engage, a youth civic engagement initiative

Website: www.Lewis4ACPS.org

Email address: chris@lewis4acps.org

Twitter handle: @Lewis4ACPS

Name three favorite endorsements:

  • APACE, Political arm of the Education Association of Alexandria
  • Congressman Don Beyer
  • State Senator Adam Ebbin

QUESTIONS:

What is one issue that defines your call to serve, why does it matter, and how will you tackle it?

Our top issue is academic achievement for all students. Serving all students is the charge of a public school division. This begins with closing gaps for our priority gap groups: students in poverty, students with disabilities, minority students, and English language learners. However, to support achievement for all students we must provide a broad and rigorous curriculum with targeted supports to the individual needs of all students. While ACPS is committed to this in theory and policy, the Board must continue holding administrators accountable to this task while giving teachers the support to meet these goals, including addressing overcrowding to keep class sizes small.

What distinguishes you from your opponent(s) and why should voters choose you?

My voice as an independent advocate. As the only childless board member or candidate, I represent the majority of Alexandrians who don’t have kids in the system but still demand a high quality school system. In 2012, I stepped up to run when we needed new leadership and few were willing. I have developed a reputation for open dialogue, accountability, and consensus building resulting in my colleagues electing me Vice Chair. I believe that to become a great school division, we must continue to rally support of the greater community which I represent.

How can Alexandria address overcrowding within the current budgetary confines? What ideas and skills do you bring to solving this?

To address overcrowding in the short and long term we must both redistrict to rebalance attendance zones across the city, and build new space to meet the agreed projections for enrollment by the city and school staff. Since my first month on the Board I led fights to preserve capacity building projects targeted in budget cuts. I’ve led the push to begin the difficult process of redistricting as soon as possible and to meet the capacity needs accurately projected in our CIP budget. Council must either work with the School Board to find new dedicated funds to pay for these needs, or agree to fall short of housing our students properly. All citizens, with or without children, must rally behind this goal and I will continue to work with City Council to build community support to meet these needs, with all funding options on the table. Our ability to meet this challenge will impact the City’s reputation for years to come.

While the majority of Alexandria schools remain accredited, what can be done about continuing problems facing Jefferson-Houston? For incumbents, what lessons have been learned from the problem? For non-incumbent candidates, what would you have done differently?

I’m proud our Board defended the rights of localities to control its own tax dollars in preventing the takeover of Jefferson Houston. Alexandrians must fix it, with support from the State Board of Education, and for 18 months this has been a model for success. As we learned in the successes at Patrick Henry and TC Williams, turnaround begins with leadership from the principal and a unified vision with staff and community over multiple years. Jefferson Houston has already begun these steps, hitting the two year benchmarks of a three year state-approved plan in one year. The school is on a path to full accreditation in the third year of the plan just as Patrick Henry did. We must see this turnaround to the end with full budgetary and community support.