Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Emma Violand-Sanchez

The following are the responses school board candidate Emma Violand-Sanchez (http://www.emmaforschoolboard.org/) gave to the HeraldTrib's survey. --ST

Question 1. Little was changed after last year’s process to alleviate overcrowding in a few north Arlington elementary schools. Many parents were angry that county-wide programs at Arlington Traditional School and Drew Model School were removed from the charge that the Elementary Crowding and Capacity Committee considered when looking for solutions to overcrowding. The school board has pledged to continue the process of looking at capacity issues. Will the school board have to consider admissions priorities or moving/relocating ATS and Drew while looking at overcrowding issues in the coming year or two, why or why not?

I believe that Arlington benefits from having a mixture of neighborhood schools and choice schools. Our choice schools originally were Arlington Traditional and Drew. Later, we added Spanish immersion, Science Focus, Campbell, H. B. Woodlawn and schools such as Barrett which have recently opened limited space for students from other attendance areas. I believe we should continue to give our families these choices.

At present the Board has adopted a short term plan for dealing with overcrowding. We need long term planning that involves the Arlington community in a meaningful way. Recognizing the value of providing both neighborhood schools and choice schools, we need to consider creative solutions, rather than to diminish the rich array of strong educational options we have in Arlington. One size does not fit all.

In the last redistricting process, there seemed to be a disconnect between School Board members, the Superintendent and parents. Such divisions are not good for the school system. In addition, we must make sure that the African American, Latino and Asian communities are involved in decision making.

Question 2. What specific initiatives would you develop or enhance to ensure capital projects stay on time and at – or under – budget?

Regarding capital improvement: at present, the work begun at Yorktown must be completed. Students at Wakefield must be given the same state-of-the-art facilities as those at the other high schools. We must also design and renovate the facilities needed for the students at Thomas Jefferson and the Career Center. Additionally, there are students in the High School continuation program for whom we must provide urgently needed classrooms.

Funding these initiatives, and at the same time keeping our AAA Bond rating, will require the School Board to work closely with the County Board, and also to consider some possibilities for cooperation with other entities. At present, our swimming pools are being constructed with joint funding because we have made those facilities available to the public during non school hours. Similarly, we should make available opportunities for the community to make use of our schools during non school hours. Another possibility of joint funding is presented by the proposed joint use of the Career Center with Northern Virginia Community College. We need to seek additional innovative paths to providing all our students, throughout Arlington, with topflight facilities.

Question 3. Most of you have on your web site, in one form or another, concerns with the “achievement gap” between whites and minorities in the schools. Please consider the achievement gap in terms of a budgeting priority. Of the money that the school board controls (i.e., not “entitlement” monies from the state or federal government that must go toward specific programs), which program would you defend as having the highest priority in a shrinking budget and why?

Elimination of the Achievement Gap has been addressed by our school system through focus on the S.O.L.s. We need to continue to provide the highest quality education for all our students, and to be sure that our expectations are high for each student enrolled in our schools, which means funding the Superintendent’s operating budget as fully as possible. However, when we address the Achievement Gap, I would like to give particular emphasis now to the “Graduation Gap.” While 95% of white students who are enrolled in 9th grade become high school graduates, about 30% of non-white students drop out. It is not just providing the funding needed for counselors and mentoring programs which must be given attention; we also need to seek partnerships with community organizations and others outside the school system so that these students receive the individual support they need to stay in school and prepare for the future in our global, technologically driven society.

Question 4. Democrats will endorse only two of you on May 1 and 3. If you are one of the four not endorsed, will you stay in the race? If so, what is your strategy beyond that date, given the strength conferred with the endorsement to the two winners?

I am running as a Democrat. I will not remain in the race if I do not receive the Democratic endorsement.

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