Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria

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Save These Dates!

On Sunday, October 4, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., Westminster Presbyterian Church will be hosting a Dessert & Dialogue program on mental health. The guest speaker will be Dr. Thomas Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health. All Alexandria community members are welcome, and parents of school-age children are especially invited to attend. Dr. Insel’s presentation in the church’s Fellowship Hall will focus on “The State of […]

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What Can We Glean from the SOL Scores?

There’s good news to report about the 2014-2015 Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores. Pass rates were up significantly and fairly consistently across core subjects, both in Alexandria and statewide. Changes to the SOLs over the preceding several years to make them more difficult had resulted in lower scores across the state, including Alexandria. But scores are improving now that the tests are no longer being revised, and teachers have […]

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Promising Progress on Pools

Some exciting new developments this summer are noteworthy harbingers of future improvements in our city’s aquatics facilities: Thanks to Mayor Euille’s bright idea, and through the combined efforts of Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics (AAA), the city of Alexandria and the DASH bus system, families in the neighborhoods affected by this summer’s closure of Warwick Pool can ride DASH buses on the AT10 route for free to the Old Town Pool […]

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2016 Budget Wrap-Up: A Mixed Bag

Last month, the School Board finalized the budget for the 2015-2016 school year. Compared with the Board’s proposed plan, the operating budget was cut by $2.2 million and the capital improvement budget was cut by $3.3 million to reflect the smaller-than-requested contribution from the city. Even though the City Council voted to increase funding to ACPS by $1.0 million over the City Manager’s proposed budget, that still left sizable shortfalls […]

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A Parent Responds to Alexandria Gazette Article Concerning the New T.C. Principal

Regular readers of the Port City Notebook know that I have been frustrated for many years by the coverage of our public schools in the local news media and the extent to which it often falls short of the standards of responsible journalism. A recent article in the Alexandria Gazette, Getting To Know T.C. Williams High School’s New Principal, is a perfect example. Before Dr. Jesse Dingle has even landed […]

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What I’m Reading: The Smartest Kids in the World (and How They Got That Way)

In The Smartest Kids in the World (Simon & Schuster, 2013), Time magazine writer Amanda Ripley sets out to answer a puzzling question: How are a few countries able to educate all of their kids to succeed at high levels, while the U.S., which spends more per student than most countries, cannot? Ripley uses the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and […]

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Important SOL News for Elementary and Middle-School Parents

A new Virginia Board of Education policy requires schools to obtain parental permission in advance in order to allow students to retake an SOL before the end of the school year. In the past, students in courses required for graduation (other than writing) whose SOL scores were just shy of the 400 needed to pass were offered expedited retakes about three weeks after the initial exam. To qualify for the […]

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Budget Update and Other News You Can Use

The Alexandria city manager’s budget recommends spending roughly $3 million less for both the operating and capital improvement program budgets than ACPS requested. And the option of raising property taxes next year has been taken off of the table irrevocably. That means the city council is faced with an unenviable task: cut from other areas of the city budget to close the schools gap, or leave the schools with less […]

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An ACPS Parent’s Guide to the 2016 City Budget

In a nutshell, the city’s budget outlook is grim. While residential property values have been rising and will contribute additional revenue to the city, commercial tax revenue has been anemic. The economic recovery that much of the rest of the country is enjoying has not yet benefited Alexandria. The city council has raised property taxes for two years in a row to fund important and much-needed spending and capital improvements, […]

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News You Can Use

T.C. Principal Survey Still Open The deadline for participating in an online survey about the characteristics that you believe are most important for the next principal of T.C. Williams High School has been extended to March 6. Ironically, the survey appears to be blocked on the students’ Amplify tablets so they may have to participate on a different device.   Coming Up There are two programs offered this month by […]

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