Monday, June 21, 2010

The JH Proposal: More Questions Than Answers?

Tonight (Tuesday, June 22) at 5:30 p.m. the City Council will hold a joint work session with the Alexandria City Public School Board to discuss ACPS's proposed public/private partnership which would replace Jefferson-Houston Elementary School, the Durant Center and corner Head-Start facility with a new school and mixed-use development on-site. There’s even talk of 2.5 FAR and the relocation of ACPS administrative offices.

The Growler has been looking at every angle of this proposal – or at least the meager scraps of information available to the public – and concludes there are many red flags for our neighborhood.

The way this juggernaut is being fast-tracked — with a potential to be finished in five years – reminds the Cranky One of the Bland redevelopment and the fact that the financial imperatives of ARHA (and a City government that didn't want to be left holding the bag on Glebe Park) drove the plans to completion with only token community input. Is history repeating itself, a la ACPS?

Do neighbors want to see more buildings like The Monarch looming large from the sidewalk? (Yep, that’s the level of density some scenarios suggest. The pot is sweet!) In a neighborhood with scant open space, would residents be content with a risible rooftop substitute or keeping the large field that is much-used by organized weekend sports activities, impromptu soccer matches and offers neighbors an inspiring Memorial view?

Is ACPS abandoning rented digs to save on rent or relocating to make life easier for ACPS staff because BRAC threatens to make their (and with this proposal our) commute difficult?

The neighborhood would likely lose its outdoor pool and the Durant Center, which had an extensive buildout and renovation less than a decade ago, would be in limbo. In fact, with $14+ million recently sunk into the Charles Houston Center, why build Durant again, especially when the West End is pleading for recreational resources?

Here are just a few questions the Growler suggests Council ask regarding the Jefferson-Houston project.

A Sudden Priority?

In 2007 ACPS issued a white paper developed by ACPS in collaboration with the community outlining the long-term options for Jefferson-Houston. The school has maintenance issues but was not at the top of the list for reconstruction. (In fact, Jefferson-Houston opened in 1971 and is the second newest school in a system that includes many school buildings between 70 and 100 years old.)

As late as FY 2009, all that was contemplated for Jefferson-Houston was a roof replacement and a new sprinkler system tentatively scheduled for FY 2013. In January 2010, with new superintendent Dr. Morton Sherman on board, the total redevelopment of Jefferson-Houston suddenly became a priority, emerging as a budget item in ACPS’s FY 2011 capital budget submission. The FY2011 budget goes into effect July 1, 2010.

Question 1: Why is Jefferson-Houston, which serves half the number of students it did in the early 1970s, now a priority to be rebuilt?

In its heyday, there were between 600 and 700 students at Jefferson-Houston. That number has sunk to the low 200s (excluding special education students) in the last few years. Even with the expansion of the school to encompass grades K-8, there’s plenty of capacity already there.

ACPS admits as much on p. 9 of the capital budget Executive Summary, stating “Cora Kelly and Jefferson-Houston have substantial capacity, but they are not available to absorb addi­tional students as they are in NCLB school choice. They must meet the NCLB requirements for two years to be removed from school choice, so these sites are not available to solve capacity issues at least through the end of FY 2011.”

Questions 2 & 3: Is the enrollment crisis being driven by the City’s social policies and its 2007 immigration resolution rather than a newfound middle class enthusiasm for Alexandria public schools? What if Jefferson-Houston never meets NCLB requirements? In fact, is the idea to move the administrative offices to the site a political strategy for ensuring that this failing school never closes?

Bootstrapping

ACPS proposes building two new schools in addition to the Jefferson-Houston reconstruction. The other schools would be in the West End (probably at the site of the current Patrick Henry school) and on the eastern side of Alexandria at or on top of Cora Kelly School.

But of the three proposed new schools, Jefferson-Houston is the only one of the three expected to pay for itself. Although ACPS would retain long term ownership of the land private developers are being encouraged to participate to the tune of as much as 2.5 FAR density.

What is ACPS’s real objective? The choice of Jefferson-Houston, Cora Kelly and Patrick Henry should give readers a clue. Is it possible ACPS is fortifying rather than breaking up and restructuring troubled, predominantly low-income schools in order to maintain the segregation that has protected favored schools such as George Mason and Douglas McArthur?

Question 4: Why must this community use private developers to bootstrap its own school building when other neighborhoods are not required to do so?

Question 5: ACPS states that the combined cost of maintaining Jefferson-Houston and Cora Kelly would be $11 million. By contrast, the cost of rebuilding both as proposed (one a private-public partnership, the other via taxes) is over $40 million. Is reconstruction and hyperdevelopment really such an obvious choice?

A Real Savings … or Not?

According to ACPS's FY 2011 capital budget submission, it will cost $20 to $21.5 million per newly constructed school, Cora Kelly and Patrick Henry included. But page 3 of the same document states, "The school portion of this building [Jefferson-Houston] would cost approximately $21.5 million in FY 2013-2014." ACPS's budget for its share of the public-private partnership doesn't appear to be any different than the cost for building a new school without the partnership.

Question 6:
With no discernable difference in the price tag, why discriminate?

Potomac Yard

With land set aside for a new public school at Potomac Yard, why is Jefferson-Houston the focus of an expensive, on-site reconstruction? Prominent residents have proposed closing the school altogether and assigning pupils to a fresh location untainted by past failures.

Question 7:
Is the current plan to keep disadvantaged children isolated, away from Potomac Yard? Is there a plan afoot to peel off the children at Potomac Greens, in the Del Ray “wedge” and at Potomac Yard from Jefferson-Houston (where the first two are now assigned) and put them in a new Potomac Yard school in order to further segregate Jefferson-Houston?

Metro Madness

ACPS will, of course, argue that land located nearest Metro is the most valuable for redevelopment. But in Alexandria the Metro imperative is inconsistent at best.

Question 8: If proximity to Metro is the most important factor in any redevelopment scenario, why hasn’t the City arm-wrestled ARHA into redeveloping Adkins immediately instead of twenty years hence? Why is Hopkins-Tancil – a mile from Metro in the heart of Old Town – being touted privately by politicians as the next ARHA redevelopment project when Samuel Madden is mouldering only a few blocks from the Braddock Station? And let's not forget the City's projections (in the North Potomac Yard plan) that there would be only 900 additional riders at Braddock Road Station over the next 20 years.

Just call us skeptical about the Metro argument. If the City thought it compelling, it would be more consistent in its approach to redevelopment.

The Enrollment “Crisis”

ACPS has recently declared that school system capacity must be expanded immediately to handle a flood of new students over the next few years. That’s in stark contrast to a 2006 study which anticipated enrollments remaining flat over time although there was uncertainty about the impact of future development at Potomac Yard.

According to ACPS's capital budget document for FY 2011, “Students who are English language learners (ELL) increased from FY 2008 to FY 2010 by 189 students, an increase of 7.9%. ELL student enrollment is anticipated to increase approxi­mately 15% in FY 2010. The number of students eligible for free-and-reduced price lunches increased to 54% in FY 2010 [from 49% in FY 2007] and is projected to increase to 55% in FY 2011” (Executive Summary of ASCP Proposed FY 2011 Budget, p. I-24). Currently some 81% of Jefferson-Houston pupils are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Crying Wolf?

Remarkably, the ACPS capital budget document admits that the specter of unending enrollment increases might not happen. In discussing a new school which may be built adjacent to Patrick Henry Elementary, the capital budget request states “If the enrollment growth does not materialize, the building will replace the cur­rent Patrick Henry facility” (p. 2).

Is Oyster School Relevant?

School officials have alluded to the successful Oyster School redevelopment project in Northwest Washington, D.C. when discussing the proposed public-private redevelopment of Jefferson Houston.

But that project involved a grassroots campaign by neighbors who wanted to find alternatives to asking the strapped D.C. school system for money to rebuild an aging school. Make no mistake, the Jefferson-Houston proposal is (like most things in this neighborhood) a top-down initiative.

And speaking of community involvement …

In contrast to ACPS’s 2007 study of Jefferson-Houston facility options, at present outreach to the community about the new proposal has essentially been non-existent. There were no public meetings and the West Old Town Citizens Association had to formally invite ACPS representatives to its April 2010 meeting to find out more about the proposal; the initiative did not come from ACPS.

The Growler has also learned that the Jefferson-Houston PTA was only briefed about the proposal last night, after having had no discussion of the issue since last fall. That lends credence to some of the questions being raised in this neighborhood about whether School Board District A member Helen Morris – who lives directly across the street from the school – is representing the community and soliciting input or using the post as a resume builder.

The Jefferson Village Tease

Coy references have been made to possibly including Jefferson Village in the redevelopment of Jefferson-Houston. But ARHA has never talked about placing Jefferson Village at the top of its redevelopment list. And how many public housing units would be off-sited? Some, a few … or none? The danger is that our neighborhood is being tantalized by the prospect of public housing redevelopment and off-siting when in fact what we might gain is absolutely nothing. Let Bland be our warning cry.

Question 9: Is ARHA committed or not, and if so what is the plan to off-site 50% or more of the units? That number needs to be on the table from day one. Otherwise, it’s just a ruse.

Foundation or Fly Trap?

There is talk about structuring this deal so that it is managed through a private community-based foundation capable of issuing bonds at lower cost than the City could.

But who would be on this foundation? Typically it would be City staff and elected officials. However, there is talk about selecting community “representatives” for the board. Political wanna-bes or the elders of yore?

If you know the disgraceful story of Charles Houston Center’s “advisory board” be afraid – be very afraid. We will see narrowly considered political appointments and long-time non-resident emigrants hauled back to once again dictate how the school for the neighborhood they abandoned or never lived in should be managed.

55 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isnt the main question to ACPS:

What are you doing to increase enrollment at this school and why do you think enrollment has disintegrated at JH over the years?

It doesnt seem that ACPS wants to touch the social policies leading to this problem and as such, what will basically happen is we will get a new building that still is a school that no one wants to send their kids too.

Anonymous said...

"we will get a new building that still is a school that no one wants to send their kids too."

It reads like a whole lot more than a new school. It's another huge development project what a square block or more? the financial benefit going to the school system the social benefit to other neighborhoods as Sherman finds yet another way to isolate a lagging population segment.

Anonymous said...

Growler raises a lot of good questions and I don't really know the answers, but I suspect that the enrollment "crisis" is in part due to all of the families who bought $750K - 1.5 million homes over in Potomac Greens and now realize their children are assigned to Jefferson-Houston. There probably were not a lot of young (white) families with kids in 2005-2006 when they did the study, but since that neighborhood has grown so much in the last 5 years - and is still adding more luxury townhomes - I suspect that there are a LOT more kids expected to enroll.

Anonymous said...

"but I suspect that the enrollment "crisis" is in part due to all of the families who bought $750K - 1.5 million homes over in Potomac Greens"

Former school board member Rivera lived in Potomac Greens right? She was among those Morris replaced? Personally I think you have it wrong.

"It reads like a whole lot more than a new school."

Yeah, about the size of Sherman's ego. Ever watched the guy in action?

Anonymous said...

"What are you doing to increase enrollment at this school and why do you think enrollment has disintegrated at JH over the years?"

Given that Sherman was an Eberwein hire I'm guessing the expansion to K-8 so the slower more troublesome students no longer attend GW. It's another noncredited school is it not? Sherman thinks Alexandria is a chess board little more. Hopefully Council will checkmate the Super.

The Growler said...

For readers not in the know, Claire Eberwein was the former School Board chairman who in 1999 helped spearhead the redistricting which fundamentally resegregated Alexandria public schools and created the mess at Jefferson-Houston.

Anonymous said...

This makes me sick.

I remember hearing Mr. Sherman telling a civic association meeting that APS was committed to keeping J-H in PG, because the neighborhood told him we wanted it. We did???? At least in my neck of the woods, neighbors (both parents and nonparents alike) unanimously want J-H closed and its long suffering students integrated into other City schools, including the new Potomac Yard school. If the budget is so tight, sell the valuable J-H land outright and let the kids attend a school which is not overwhelmingly low income.

Or maybe the parents in the rest of Alexandria don't want to deal with the consequences of the City Council's racist containment policy??

Anonymous said...

"Or maybe the parents in the rest of Alexandria don't want to deal with the consequences of the City Council's racist containment policy??"

Bingo. Its like with the public housing "integration" policy. In the end they are just shams to cover up for failing policies that people can see with their own eyes.

Anonymous said...

"I remember hearing Mr. Sherman telling a civic association meeting that APS was committed to keeping J-H in PG, because the neighborhood told him we wanted it. We did????"

No, no, a thousand time no! Close that da-n school and reassign the children accordingly. Sherman lies not unlike planning staff.

Anonymous said...

"For readers not in the know, Claire Eberwein was the former School Board chairman who in 1999 helped spearhead the redistricting"

The only credit I'll give Glenn Hopkins he called Eberwein's 1999 proposal correctly. Racist! The Urban League's George Lambert sold the neighborhood out then repackaged himself as a consultant to BEAG.

Anonymous said...

"Sherman lies not unlike planning staff."

A little strong don't you think? Admittedly the Braddock Road charrettes were unbearable but Sherman is more like a flamboyant fool.

Anonymous said...

What exactly does the Parker Gray neighborhood get out of keeping JH open?

There is no way that I will ever send my child to that school and I know parents in Potomac Greens that wont either.

Regardless of what the City thinks about public housing there is a certain perception of the City's policies on poverty that just drive everyone's thinking. Its not racist or bigoted; its reality. We see mismanagement and decay of public housing projects but then are led to believe that a new building at JH will solve those problems?

Parents aren't that stupid, and no matter what wonders Mrs. Graves performs, that perception is hard to break.

Anonymous said...

"What are you doing to increase enrollment at this school and why do you think enrollment has disintegrated at JH over the years?"

JH is kept open to segregate the lower-income population of Alexandria in a school where expectations are low.

Its what most people in the know about ACPS "KNOW". ACPS will never come out and say it but its what everyone "says".

Its the same thing with public housing. Actions speak louder than words. "We" get the message when you pretend to distribute public housing and leave Adkins and Madden Uptown to decay for another 20 years without resiting any of it to Rosemont or Delray. The message is beyond obvious to most.

Anonymous said...

Wow. An awful lot of anonymous comments here.

Anyone been in JH lately? Send your kids? Or are you too busy worrying about the "poor, segregated" masses to actually try to propose a solution?

Now, Growler, do you dare to publish a dissenting voice?

Ah, yes, this anonymous thing is awfully freeing.

Anonymous said...

This whole thing just serves to prove that the City's racist containment policy is alive and well!!

The J-H proposal is EXACTLY like Bland. The J-H property, like Bland, is very valuable. But even though Council has recently approved two HUGE new developments - at eisenhower and potomac yard -- somehow they can't find one square foot of space to disperse ARHA units or the concentrated low income students.

Spare me. The City had the power to force ARHA to sell Bland outright, but they chose to contain the public housing units here. And they'll choose to keep the low income students contained at J-H, funded by some huge monstrosity of a development so the new neighborhoods at eisenhower and potomac yards can keep their kids away from J-H.

My neighbors and I voted against every council member who voted for Bland. And will continue to do so. And the same holds true for the school board member. Please don't dump on this neighborhood, too.

Anonymous said...

"Wow. An awful lot of anonymous comments here.

Anyone been in JH lately? Send your kids? Or are you too busy worrying about the "poor, segregated" masses to actually try to propose a solution?"

What rock did you crawl out from under? What do you really know about the school's history, the civil rights lawsuits, No Child Left Behind, efforts of former leaders like Luby and Krupicka, and oh yeah the throngs of new kindergarden enrollees? What's the number six? This proposal sucks! Compare the density proposed, the acres available with either the Braddock Plan or the Potomac Yard plan and you have to the city is stupid.

Anonymous said...

"Wow. An awful lot of anonymous comments here.

Anyone been in JH lately? Send your kids? Or are you too busy worrying about the "poor, segregated" masses to actually try to propose a solution?

Now, Growler, do you dare to publish a dissenting voice?

Ah, yes, this anonymous thing is awfully freeing."

Yes, as a matter of fact, we HAVE gone into JH because we were considering moving from our rented house in Arlington back to the home we own in Parker Gray. Despite the best efforts of the school administrators we met, the bottom line is that there is no way I would send my kids to JH. Yes, there are some wonderful, caring and talented staff there, but as the saying goes, "you can't fight city hall." No matter what the JH staff might try to do, the systemic sequestering of overwhelmingly poor and disadvantaged kids at JH is, and always will be, bigger and stronger than what the good hearted folks at JH might try to do.

I've found my solution. Loved living here, and there are some great people trying their best but I'm done. We're selling and staying put in Arlington.

The Growler said...

"Anyone been in JH lately? Send your kids? Or are you too busy worrying about the 'poor, segregated' masses to actually try to propose a solution?"

There is a solution that has been proposed before and it is to close the school, redistrict and send the JH kids to a new Potomac Yard school.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone been in JH lately? Send your kids? Or are you too busy worrying about the "poor, segregated" masses to actually try to propose a solution?"

What is your solution and what is your dissenting comment exactly?

Anonymous said...

"And they'll choose to keep the low income students contained at J-H, funded by some huge monstrosity of a development so the new neighborhoods at eisenhower and potomac yards can keep their kids away from J-H. "

I would be interested in understanding what the dissenters and naysayers think of the fact that Eisenhower and Potomac Yard situations.

Why wont the city allow low income kids in Parker Gray to attend the potential new schools in Eisenhower and Potomac Yard? What is the rationale of ACPS for that?

Anonymous said...

"There is a solution that has been proposed before and it is to close the school, redistrict and send the JH kids to a new Potomac Yard school."

It seems that "closing" or "shutting down" anything in Parker Gray that is remotely poor or African-American is anathema to the City. Its always "revitalize" or "rebuild" or "new and improved".

I have never understood why things like public housing or education are allowed to be more integrated within the City. What the heck is wrong with sending some of these children at JH to Potomac Yard? Are they like the boogeyman or something to Delrayites?

Anonymous said...

"the potential new schools in Eisenhower and Potomac Yard?"

I know land has been set aside in Potomac Yard to build a school but Eisenhower? Please confirm. Last night's news was disgusting. Apparently they are forecasting based on the peculiar of this financing mechanism no less than a 2.5 FAR and 1.13 million square feet. Helen Morris is out of her mind! If she and Hanbury are so desperate for a new facility go for $21.5 million option. Ms. Morris and Ms. Carter may not take the rest of us down their sink hole.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone been in JH lately? Send your kids? Or are you too busy worrying about the "poor, segregated" masses to actually try to propose a solution?"

Been there, proposed that so spare us the sanctimonious BS. That's why people are so angry here. We have, over and over and over and over, proposed real and credible solutions. Repeal 830 and end or fairly distribute public housing throughout the City. This alone could solve the problem at J-H by undoing the school segregation orchestrated by Ms. E. The City had a golden opportunity with Bland, but squandered it.

The Growler said...

The Growler would like to remind readers that 15 years ago Jefferson-Houston performed very well under an outstanding principal, Dr. Lois Berlin.

At that time, the siting of public housing was irrelevant because there was a paired busing arrangement for half the pupils in our neighborhood to go to William Ramsey area in the West End and half of the students in that neighborhood to come here.

The school was still very diverse but kids achieved. However, all that came to a halt when busing was terminated and the coup de grace was delivered with the 1999 redistricting.

Anonymous said...

"
The school was still very diverse but kids achieved. However, all that came to a halt when busing was terminated and the coup de grace was delivered with the 1999 redistricting."

Of course it was, and the Times and Gazette Packet and Carla Branch are MIA as always.

Hello JOURNALISTS! When are you going to report on why JH is the way it is instead of always sucking up to Eberwein?

Where is a journalist with guts in this town to actually do a deep investigative hard hitting story?

Anonymous said...

some questions for all of you:
Why don't you want a school in PG?
If the school is moved to Potomac Yard, the SAME student will go there.
If JH is torn down, what do you think or want in it's place.

Anonymous said...

"Why don't you want a school in PG?"

I think many people want a school in PG. We just want it to not be setup to fail from the outset. A diverse student population only works if there is diversity in income, which the City fails to allow. Just like with public housing, if you force all your poor into one area or location, you are bound to have problems.

That being said, since the City's social policies are setting JH up for failure, it would be better if it were just torn down.

"If the school is moved to Potomac Yard, the SAME student will go there."

And this is bad how exactly? Whats wrong with an African American low income student going to a school in Potomac Yard? Are people in Delray that afraid of poor black people?

"If JH is torn down, what do you think or want in it's place."

A good question but I am not sure what the point of a massive administrative building is. I would say something more residential/commercial might be a better use of taxpayer funds, since the citizen would actually get some ROI out of it. That site is right near the Metro so it could support something residential/commercial.

Anonymous said...

"Are people in Delray that afraid of poor black people?"

Judging by the number of Resolution 830 units in Rosemont and Delray, YES!

Anonymous said...

"That site is right near the Metro so it could support something residential/commercial."

In the graphic from the presentation, that is what they are proposing. A new school, ACPS offices, and residential/commercial.

Without a Jefferson Village rebuild I am not sure the concept holds though. Mimi forgot to ask specifically why the cops are always at JH.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I live right behind JH and my kids go there and I am there many times during the day. I have never heard of or seen cops at JH. I would like Mimi or someone to please set this straight.... this is how nasty rumors get started and it is not fair!

Anonymous said...

"A good question but I am not sure what the point of a massive administrative building is. I would say something more residential/commercial might be a better use of taxpayer funds, since the citizen would actually get some ROI out of it. That site is right near the Metro so it could support something residential/commercial."

The plan does include residential and commercial and a school.

Anonymous said...

I think there are a lot of perceptions and rumors floating around--on this blog and in the city in general, that are rooted too intimately with other, emotional issues related to housing and past history.
Here are some real, present day considerations: Enrollment in JH is growing, not disintegrating. That is not attributable to any one factor, but Ms. Graves and her team certainly deserve the lion's share of the credit. So, too, do those parents who believe in the promise--and the obligation--of the public school system. We keep our children in our school not because we are stupid or uncaring, but because we'd rather be part of the solution. And if you think "low expectations" are the norm at JH, I'll happily stand my children up with any other child in the city on the issues of academic achievement, empathy, and character.

The past is just that. It can inform decisions, but it should not rule them. Yes, there are poor kids at JH--white and black. Yes, there are black kids at JH--poor and middle class. Some of these kids face tremendous challenges.

It seems to me that pinning the solution to some new Potomac Yard school that might or might not happen, some day in the future, shows the same NIMBY attitude for which parents in other neighborhoods are being accused. All Alexandria schools are crowded. JH needs a new building now. Not 5 years from now. Not whenever the Potomac Yard people figure out which way is up. Now. The longer this gets bandied about in the blogosphere, instead of moving forward, the more money we taxpayers are literally washing down the drain. Regardless of which method is used to fund the school, traditional public funding or the Public/Private partnership, this issue has got to move forward.

A new school building, in a properly designed and (hopefully) beautiful setting sounds an awful lot like the "fresh start" I've been reading about here.

And as far as ROI, if you can't understand the ROI of well-educated kids who appreciate their community and grow to become industrious citizens and taxpayers, well, that's unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

"A good question but I am not sure what the point of a massive administrative building is."

I can't believe Mort Sherman is seriously considering building himself a shiny new office on one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the City. If budget is such a problem, sell that land outright to a private developer and use the proceeds to build (or move) to a less expensive part of the City. I can understand that why arrogant administrators want to be able to lunch and shop in the cafes and boutiques of Old Town, but they have an obligation to use taxpayer money and resources judiciously.

I know they claim this will save money over renting, but they could be saving even more if they really tried. Never mind the appearance of it all.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the comments and committment of the last poster. Surely, Ms. Graves and some parents deserve huge amounts of credits. But as a City, we should not have to rely on sacrifices of people like them to undo our shameful policies of containing our poor in concentrated public housing projects and segregating their children in one school.

Tear down J-H and integrate her students into the other, better performing, City schools. And, for God's sake, disperse the public housing now concentrated in PG.

The Growler said...

Since there has been discussion on this blog about where Alexandria political leaders send their children, apparently David Englin's child (who is in the Del Ray wedge zoned for JH) attends Maury School, not Cora Kelly as some have suggested.

http://www.davidenglin.org/about/

Anonymous said...

"And as far as ROI, if you can't understand the ROI of well-educated kids who appreciate their community and grow to become industrious citizens and taxpayers, well, that's unfortunate."

If you cant understand the damage that living in concentrated poverty causes, then I suggest you get in your vehicle, drive up to Adkins, Madden Uptown and Bland, and look for yourself.

I love the school. I love Mrs. Graves and the teachers. They deserve a raise, awards, accolades, and all the resources we can give them.

What they don't deserve is to have to constantly fight against a City social policy that sets them up to fail from the start, just because a few peoples ego's gets hurt.

Anonymous said...

I love all the posters accusing ACPS of racism because they won't fight to increase enrollment at JH (they do, actually) and because they changed it over to K-8 in order to keep the public housing (read: poor and black) kids segregated into one school...then they call for kicking this school full of public housing kids out of their neighborhood and shipping the kids to different schools outside the neighborhood far from the kids’ (and the posters’) homes.

I’m a parent who lives in Del Ray (which you all seem to hate only slightly less than the public housing), and my kids go to JH. When I mention this in conversation with people like the fine people that predominate on this comment board, they recoil in horror before they get a hold of themselves. But then I hear their complaints about their own school – overcrowding, non-responsive administration, inability to volunteer in the classroom – and I laugh to myself. These are non-issues at JH.

The teachers and administration are as good as or better than anywhere else in the ACPS, and they’re working their asses off to teach a group of kids that face challenges that you or I have no idea about. But instead of building them up, instead of thinking – “what can I do to improve my neighborhood school?” – all that most of the people on this blog, moderator included, can think of is how to burn it down.

You all accuse Englin and Krupicka for living in the JH zone and sending their kids somewhere else, then in practically the same breath vow never to send your kids there. How are you in a superior moral position? You’re not.

You complain about the density impact of the redevelopment. There are many reasonable arguments to be made here, and some of you make them. Some of them I agree with. But so many of the arguments I see here revert back to the kids, and the public housing.

You know, I'm pretty sure that the school and the public housing were there long, long before most such posters moved into your homes. I have a suggestion. Find a mirror in your fine home, take a good long look in it, and ask yourself what really bothers you about the school and the redevelopment.

Anonymous said...

"Find a mirror in your fine home, take a good long look in it, and ask yourself what really bothers you about the school and the redevelopment."

I just looked in the mirror in my house. It wanted me to ask you:

Why is it that Delray residents are so opposed to the resiting of even a small fraction of public housing residents to their neighborhood? What really bothers you about poor African American children?

Anonymous said...

"I love all the posters accusing ACPS of racism because they won't fight to increase enrollment at JH (they do, actually)"

Please point me to a news article, memo, or public statement in which a school board member from ACPS demands that rezoning occurs to increase enrollment of Delray and Rosemont children at Jefferson Houston.

Anonymous said...

"then they call for kicking this school full of public housing kids out of their neighborhood and shipping the kids to different schools outside the neighborhood far from the kids’ (and the posters’) homes."

And I think Delray and Rosemont residents have a very clear idea as to why these kids would be far from their homes.

Need we state it? Maybe because you and the DCA won't allow those residents to have a home in your neighborhood.

I find the irony in arguing about public housing with a Delray homeowner stunning. Has anyone at the DCA told you how many public housing units you have in your part of town?

Anonymous said...

Another Del Ray homeowner here. I would have no problem with public housing in Del Ray. Seems every poster on this blog can agree that public housing that is dispersed (but close to metro, services, etc.) tends to offer more to both residents and the neighborhoods.

Where/how would you propose to integrate more units?

Please also keep in mind that although gentrification has taken a secure hold in Del Ray, there are still many, many homeowners who have been in the neighborhood for 30+ years.

Where do you want to put it? It's pretty crowded over here.

Anonymous said...

To say that "Enrollment in JH is growing" is disingenuous. Yes, overall there are more students at J-H than in recent years. To see this one only has to go to Virginia School Report Card https://p1pe.doe.virginia.gov/reportcard/report.do?division=101&schoolName=537

Student Population:
2007-2008: 297
2008-2009: 255
2009-2010: 307

Not really great but at least they are holding their own. It's only when you look at the School - Fall Membership by grade that seems seem to start looking "off" (top of page 2) How can a school grow when almost every grade seems like it's getting smaller? How do we get a student population of 307 when grades pre-k-5 only add up to 255?

Ohhh that's right J-H isn't just Pre-K through 5 anymore.

"Enrollment in JH is growing. That is not attributable to any one factor"

Apparently it is due to exactly one factor, keep the students there longer. Another important factor is the abysmal "pass" rate of the AYP tests which you can also read up on the same report card.

Despite the hard work of Mrs. Graves, the teachers at J-H and the involved parents, this school is not excelling and if we don't know the cure for this, than we have to treat the symptoms; a student population where over 80% of the children are eligible for free or reduced meals. Over 80% of the families may not be able to FEED their children!! Do you really think they are spending 30 minutes or more a day reading to their children? Are you surprised that children enter this school and have never held a book?

Does anyone think MIT, Harvard and UVA are great schools simply because they have the best professors? J-H can't be a great school no matter how good the teachers are as long as it is overwhelmed by students who's parents are barely getting by. You can argue their parent(s) is too busy working at multiple part time jobs or buying and selling drugs, either way the result is the same.

There are plenty of "parents who believe in the promise--and the obligation--of the public school system" they just don't want their children to be part of this city's failed social experiment. They opt-out of J-H or move to Arlington or Fairfax. I can't blame them nor do I judge them or the parents who chose to send their children to P-G's neighborhood school. However I refuse to believe that J-H's "past is just that" until the school can at least pass AYP.

I don't see how building some huge development in an area already overwhelmed with issues like traffic and crime will fix or change anything at J-H. Parent's are deciding not to send their children to J-H because of the architecture. They are working hard at finding alternatives to this neighborhood school because they don't have faith in it. A fancy new building will not change that, lipstick on a pig and all that.

Anonymous said...

"Where do you want to put it? It's pretty crowded over here."

That's OK we are chock full of space over here in Parker Gray.

Anonymous said...

"Parent's are deciding not to send their children to J-H because of the architecture."

I am not sure I understand the sentence maybe it's the structure but I agree a new building is not the solution. The city has to come to grips with its segregationist past. Whether yesterday is dated 1999 or 1971. I visited Parker Gray Day and left disgusted. Parker Gray's history admittedly is complex but now the city is promoting it as synonomous with only the downtrodden. No wonder the middle class are fed up!

Anonymous said...

"Please also keep in mind that although gentrification has taken a secure hold in Del Ray, there are still many, many homeowners who have been in the neighborhood for 30+ years."

So why is Parker Gray not allowed to gentrify by City policy and City policy alone?

Anonymous said...

"I find the irony in arguing about public housing with a Delray homeowner stunning. Has anyone at the DCA told you how many public housing units you have in your part of town?"

I find it stunning that people who choose to live in an area with public housing and inside the JH school zone are then angered to find:

....that there is public housing in the area and that the kids from public housing go to JH.

...and then blame Del Ray, and Rosemont, and everyone else for that state of affairs.

But most stunning is the amount of energy spent here on running down the school and the kids in it. Other schools in ACPS have troubles (I know that Maury in particular used to have serious problems), but they at least benefit from the positive involvement of their neighborhood.

Looks like JH is going to have to succeed on its own, without the likes of you all. And if it doesn't succeed, I hope it brings you all tremendous satisfaction and a sense of a job well-done.

But I hope the school succeeds in spite of you, because it is about the kids and not your outraged sensibilities.

My family will work towards that success. I hope some of the people on this blog, even one, will do so as well.

Anonymous said...

"and then blame Del Ray, and Rosemont, and everyone else for that state of affairs."

Um, its because thats the way you and the residents of Delray and Rosemont want it.

I am not blaming anyone, facts are facts, The biggest supporters of Resolution 830 are Delray and Rosemont.

People who have moved here moved in 10-20 years ago and have been dealing with the problems of public housing concentration ever since. But anytime someone starts complaining about it, who gets all riled up.

Harris, Miller, Euille, Krupicka, who all, ironically, live in Delray

Anonymous said...

"but they at least benefit from the positive involvement of their neighborhood."

Have you even been to this neighborhood? Get a clue before you spout off like you know what you are talking about. Dropping your kid off at school is not living day to day with the problems of Parker Gray.

Anonymous said...

"Looks like JH is going to have to succeed on its own, without the likes of you all. And if it doesn't succeed, I hope it brings you all tremendous satisfaction and a sense of a job well-done. "

What will bring satisfaction to many is when decades of social policy engineered by folks from the likes of Delray are undone and poor children are given half a chance to succeed by living in a safe and thriving neighborhood.

Especially because such an outcome will finally wipe the sense of smugness off the face of many in Delray who crow about compassion but then scream when anyone dares call them out to prove it by actions and not words.

Anonymous said...

"But I hope the school succeeds in spite of you, because it is about the kids and not your outraged sensibilities. "

You must be an attorney. Exceptional job at twisting the words of all the commenters and bloggers here, many of whom I know that donate their heart and soul to this community and the city of Alexandria.

The consensus of many in Parker Gray is that the school deals not only with "architectural" and resource problems but social problems, problems that are created by City policies.

You want find a single person here who wants the school or its children to "fail" so get a grip and stop trying to twist peoples words.

What you will find are some who question how building a new school really helps the kids. and who wonder why ACPS wont revisit its disastrous 1999 rezoning that led to some of this mess.

If you can't see that clearly, then I don't know how else to get through to you. But stop trying to insult commenters here who have rightfully expressed concerns.

Anonymous said...

"But I hope the school succeeds in spite of you, because it is about the kids and not your outraged sensibilities."

Because it's about the kids! Nope, don't think so. 80% free and reduced lunch? A new building is not going the underlying social problems. Who are you? A desperate parent? How long have you lived here and what do you really know about the Oyster School model?

Anonymous said...

"Have you even been to this neighborhood? Get a clue before you spout off like you know what you are talking about. Dropping your kid off at school is not living day to day with the problems of Parker Gray."

Hi there,
I have lived in PG for 16 years and my kids go to JH, we love it and would do it no different. Those of you who love to criticize us are crazy... that is what we think of you! WE are not complaining, so why are you?????

Anonymous said...

"Because it's about the kids! Nope, don't think so. 80% free and reduced lunch? A new building is not going the underlying social problems. Who are you? A desperate parent? How long have you lived here and what do you really know about the Oyster School model?"

Stop spouting off false information.
We do not have 80%...so what if we do??? We are NOT desperate and we like where are kids go to school... why do you care, really??? Really?????

The Growler said...

"Stop spouting off false information. We do not have 80%...so what if we do???"

Get your facts straight.

According to ACPS, 81% of JH students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

http://www.acps.k12.va.us/houston/faq.php

Anonymous said...

"why do you care, really??? Really?????"

What kind of person asks a question like this? Of course I care. I don't currently have a school age child, but that doesn't mean I don't want the best for other people's children. Why is that so hard to understand?

Bottom line - the City has segregated its poor into dysfunctional living and learning environments. The past is past. But it's outrageous that the most recent council (that's YOU Mr. Krupicka, Ms. Pepper, et al) voted to continue the segregation by approving the new Bland, when they could have dispersed public housing. It's up to us as citizens of the City to pressure our elected officials to make right.