On the Issues
Kelly will advocate for students, ACPS staff, and families using her experience in education and her previous service on the school board.
Kelly will collaborate with stakeholders to find consensus on policies and budget that focus on academic recovery, social-emotional recovery, safety and security, capacity, and communication and transparency.
Our policies and budget must focus on learning recovery. Alexandria Public School students spent most of the 2020/2021 school year out of school with virtual learning. Learning in the spring of the previous year was left mostly up to parents and caregivers.
No matter how diligently students, teachers, parents and caregivers worked, the reality is we have learning and knowledge gaps to overcome. Our budget and priorities must close this learning gap with a focus on reading and math specialists, after-school tutoring, and in-person summer learning.
Returning students to in-person school, five-days a week, is the next critical step in addressing the social-emotional needs of students. However, re-entry is not simply a matter of reopening the school door. We must support students as they reengage with their friends, teachers, and peers and seek opportunities to collaborate with families and collectively support the social emotional needs of students after this year. Our budget and policy priorities must invest in more school counselors, our professional development must include social emotional learning and trauma-informed practices, and our school day and after-school programs must incorporate these practices.
Safety and Security
Years of deferred maintenance of our school buildings contributed to the slow reopening of our schools. We must ensure our school buildings are safe and secure for students. Over the last few weeks, ACPS has made great strides in improving air quality with new air filters in classrooms and tackling a number of deferred maintenance projects. We must continue this momentum and work with the City Council to review all remaining deferred maintenance costs and prioritize our school buildings so that all students and ACPS staff members are safe and secure in their building.
The sudden decision to remove SROs overruled security recommendations of our school-level principals and lacked sufficient community engagement. A substantive and thoughtful conversation about the role of policing in our society is essential; and the events since last summer have reminded us of that again and again. I want every student and staff member in ACPS to feel safe - physically and emotionally. I recommend Council and School Board re-engage this debate and form an SRO working group to address both security and systemic racism in disciplinary actions with a solution that supports our schools in the 2023 fiscal year.
It’s time to have constructive conversations between elected bodies that result in real policy change and greater safety and security on ACPS campuses. Our neighbors in Arlington can serve as a model for collaboration between the community, board of supervisors and school board. It is clear that previous discussions have missed a crucial step: community engagement.
Our schools were already over capacity before COVID-19 forced school doors to close. Our capacity challenges are even more glaring now as we see how limited our schools are at accommodating students as ACPS follows the 3-feet CDC social distancing guidance. ACPS and City Council have made great improvements with their focus on capacity the last couple years and this focus must remain.
Communication and Transparency
Communication and transparency with families, caregivers, and the community are chronic challenges we must solve. Mixed messages, unclear guidance, and a lack of transparency erode community trust. For example, in December, ACPS told families to complete an intent to return to school form and families were told that their decision was a non-binding decision. Two months later, ACPS told families that their decision made in December was now binding. Families were justifiably upset. Examples like this erode public trust. As a board member, I will work with my fellow board members on greater oversight on policy, messaging, and operations.
We can do so much more to communicate the impact on our community from the work of the board. For example, as a board member, I will work with ACPS to email the public board agenda in advance of each meeting with a summary of topics that will appear in future meetings. Finally, I will commit to hosting regular in-person and virtual office hours and sending a quarterly newsletter summarizing the work on the Board.