Photo: Steve Thurston
Trailers will be a part of the public school experience for years to come; minority students and those with special needs should have more rigorous schedules; and the newly-enforced busing plan was launched poorly. This according to Emma Violand-Sanchez, the current chair of the Arlington Public Schools board who is running this fall to retain her seat. She offered a few insights to her job at a candidate forum Tuesday Oct. 9 at the Lyon Village Community House.
Noah Simon is running for the second of two available seats. Both are Democrats.
Simon was represented at the event by his campaign manager Joanne Petty who read a statement from the candidate. In it, he said he was at a Baltimore hospital tending to his wife who is fighting cancer.
On the minority achievement gap
Violand-Sanchez said in some areas there is still a lot of work to be done. Graduation rates for Latino students have risen from 64 to 73 percent in recent years, "but that's not high enough." She lay part of the blame on the idea that many minority and special needs students do not take the more rigorous coursework. This ripples beyond high school, she said. Grade point averages are higher for students who take Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate program classes because those courses are weighted higher in the GPA calculations. It's more difficult for students who do not take them to reach the 3.7 GPA needed for admission at George Mason University, she said.
On Relocatable Classrooms
I once heard former APS Superintendent Robert Smith say that “Relocatables” is the term people use if they like the portable classrooms, “Trailers” is the term to use if they don’t. Whatever you call them, they will be on campuses for the foreseeable future. Trailers make up the equivalent of about two elementary schools in the community, Violand-Sanchez said. APS expects about 7,000 more students in coming years. Even with APS building two schools and three additions, space will be tight and trailers will be needed.
On the Busing Plan
She reiterated her apology for the way the current busing policy was rolled out just a couple weeks before the start of the semester. However, "I am an advocate [of], and I told the superintendent publicly, we have to have a transportation committee," she said, adding, "Currently, there are still some major issues that have to be addressed in a short term level."
School Board Pay
She makes about $24,000 annually as the chair. Members make $20,000, she said. Like many who take positions in Arlington at this level, the job creeps into a full-time position, she said.