I ran to serve on the Alexandria City School Board – District A because I strongly believe every child in Alexandria deserves a high-quality education regardless of where they live, their family’s economic status, their race, ethnicity, gender or their unique learning traits. Education plays a critical part in a child’s life and we have an incredibly important opportunity to impart upon these children not only knowledge, but values that will stick with them the rest of their lives.
Closing the Achievement Gap
I am running for a second term for Alexandria School Board because we have a lot more work to do to close the achievement gap to ensure all students have an equal opportunity for success. All of Alexandria’s children deserve the best and as your school board member it will be my mission to bring us closer to that end.
As we begin to recover from the pandemic, we need to continue to address the achievement gap that exists in ACPS, which has only been exacerbated due to COVID-19. I am committed to addressing the decline in academic performance by Latino and Black students and by students with disabilities, which are the three demographics where we have seen the achievement gap widen.
In addition, there are huge racial disparities within ACPS’ Talented and Gifted (TAG) program, where in 2019, white students accounted for 28% of the school population, however they comprised 62% of the TAG program. We saw the biggest disparities amongst Black and Latino students.
As your school board member, I was proud to serve as a Liaison and work on the “Equity for All 2020-2025 ACPS Strategic Plan,” which works to eliminate opportunity and achievement gaps by more closely monitoring students in advanced courses both in the elementary and secondary level. If reelected, one of my main priorities will be to see that this plan is implemented and that we get closer to closing the achievement gap that persists within ACPS.
I will continue to push for community centered/powered schools, where the voice of students, parents and community are included in the decisions we, as school board members, make on behalf of ACPS. As we make decisions that impact students, parents, and educators, it is critical that their opinion, feedback, and recommendations are taken seriously. I committed from day one to ensure that community engagement is at the forefront and I have done that throughout my tenure.
I have met and heard from numerous parents, teachers, community members and students in Alexandria and will ensure that they feel respected, welcomed and valued. I will do this by providing opportunities for them to engage in their home language, providing them with opportunities for engagement during non-work hours and effectively communicating expectations for their child’s learning. It is also critical that we are as inclusive as possible to ensure that immigrant families understand where to go for assistance and feel welcomed in our community.
As your school board member, I was proud to serve as a Liaison and work on the “Equity for All 2020-2025 ACPS Strategic Plan,” which incorporates community and family engagement as a core pillar in our plan. One way to accomplish this is by providing a streamlined set of digital tools to support real-time communication with students, staff, families and the community, which is included in the strategic plan. In addition, it is critical that we continue to hire multilingual staff in our schools and build strong ties to the Alexandria community. If reelected, one of my main priorities will be to see that this plan is implemented and that we are as inclusive as possible by breaking down the many barriers that exist.
Achieving Educational Equity
This past year and a half, COVID-19 has demonstrated the strength and resilience of our community, schools, teachers, students and parents. However, this pandemic has also highlighted and exacerbated the inequities that exist in our schools. Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) are made up of more than 15,000 students who represent more than 145 countries and speak 132 languages. While I am very proud of the strong diversity in our schools, 63.7% of our student population are eligible for free or reduced meals, many of them coming from low-income households.
During the pandemic, as our schools closed for in-person learning and went to all-virtual learning, this highlighted the inequities that exist among our most vulnerable students and families. Many students and families in Alexandria either don’t have internet or don’t have strong internet connection to participate in online learning. I was proud that ACPS was able to quickly provide internet access to those families without internet connection and provide laptop computers to students to ensure that their learning went uninterrupted.
In addition, COVID-19 highlighted the fact that many children go to school hungry. One of the most effective ways to help families and children is through the various nutrition programs. I am proud that ACPS quickly adapted and continued to distribute breakfast, lunches and snacks at locations where parents could pick up “grab-and-go” meals to ensure that students were not going hungry, while at home.
Lastly, as your school board member, I was proud to serve as a Liaison and work on the “Equity for All 2020-2025 ACPS Strategic Plan,” which works to remove barriers that are deeply rooted in our school system. One key strategy included in the plan is working with city and nonprofit partners to conduct an analysis of community needs at each school and the resources available to address the needs of students and families. It is critical to ensure that our children and families are getting access to the wrap around supports in our highest-need schools. If reelected, one of my main priorities will be to see that this plan is implemented and bring us closer to addressing the inequities that exist in our school system.
COMMITMENT TO OUR TEACHERS
As the product of the Virginia public school system and a mother who is an educator, I have seen firsthand the dedication that educators impart on their students each day. I also understand that teachers have a much bigger role that does not stop when the bell rings. Throughout this past year and a half, teachers have been put to the test again by having to be flexible and adjust to the “new normal” and again as our communities and economies begin to re-open.
We have also seen the dedication of our ACPS staff and the essential roles they play to ensure that our students are safe and are getting the best possible education in the midst of a pandemic. It is critical that salaries are competitive to ensure that the City of Alexandria attracts the best educators and support staff for our children.
Last year, the School Board adopted its revised fiscal year 2021 budget, which required significant reductions due to the impact that COVID-19 has had on our City. However, we were able to provide pay scale increases for principals and senior leadership.
I, along with my other colleagues on the school board, pushed for ACPS to provide teachers with a one-time $158 payment to all employees not receiving a market rate adjustment in 2021.
This has been a difficult time for all and if re-elected I will continue to fight to ensure that teachers are fairly compensated for the hard work that they do and help ensure that the City of Alexandria is competitive when it comes to recruiting and retaining a pool of diverse and highly-qualified teachers.