Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria

How Can My Voice Be Heard? How Can I Learn More About Our Schools?

Different questions, overlapping answers.

If you want to weigh in on the ACPS budget, a process that is just getting under way for Fiscal Year 2015, you can do that at one of three upcoming school board meetings that have been designated for budget-related public testimony: November 14, December 19, and January 23. All of the meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. at the ACPS central office building (first floor, 2000 N. Beauregard St.). Individuals can speak for three minutes, and representatives of organizations are allowed five minutes.

Email the clerk of the school board in advance at boardclerk@acps.k12.va.us to let her know that you plan to testify, and she can tell you what number you are in the line-up. If you email a copy of your remarks to her beforehand, then she can distribute that to board members.

Many PTA presidents will be testifying, so if you have concerns but prefer not to testify yourself, you can share your thoughts with them. You can also email the board members with your views. http://www.acps.k12.va.us/board/contactsb.php. Board meetings are televised in Alexandria on Channel 71 and can also be viewed online. http://acpsk12va.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2

To get involved in an area of the schools that’s of interest to you, you can apply to join one of several different advisory committees or attend their meetings. Currently, there are ongoing advisory committees for budget, special education, school health, student achievement, talented and gifted, and career and technical education, and two shorter-term work groups that are focused on middle schools and the Jefferson-Houston K-8 School. Several of the committees have vacancies and you can apply at http://www.acps.k12.va.us/board/advisory/

Two of the committees—the School Health Advisory Committee and the Talented and Gifted Advisory Committee—will be making presentations at the PTA Council meeting on Wednesday, November 13, at 7:00 p.m. in the Media Center at Minnie Howard. The public is welcome to attend.

The best way to advocate for your school—and for prospective kindergarten parents to learn more about their school—is to join the PTA. Anyone can join; you don’t have to have a child enrolled in the school. Annual membership dues are modest (usually $5 to $10). You can find email links to all of the PTA presidents at http://www.acps.k12.va.us/pta.php. Attending PTA meetings while your child is still in pre-school is a great way to get to know administrators, faculty members, and key volunteers.

Volunteering is another way to familiarize yourself with our schools. The Alexandria Tutoring Consortium (http://www.alexandriatutors.org/) relies on volunteer tutors in elementary schools to work with struggling students one-on-one during school hours and help them to read at or above grade level by the end of third grade. ATC tutors make a difference. In 2012-2013, 88% of 99 first graders in their Book Buddies program reached or exceeded their literacy benchmarks on the end-of-year PALS test, and 82 % of 79 kindergarteners reached or exceeded their PALS literacy benchmarks.

At George Mason Elementary School, tutors who volunteer with the Westminster-George Mason Tutoring program assist a student after school with homework, assignments and reading (Tuesday and/or Thursday afternoons from 2:35 to 3:35 p.m.; contact the George Mason PTA president at georgemasonpta@gmail.com).

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Reminder: Election Day Delayed Opening
There will be a two-hour delay at all schools on Tuesday, November 5. Be sure not only to vote but also to support the many PTAs that are hosting Election Day Bake Sales!

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