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Arlington County Board Acknowledges Receipt of CARD Letter Advocating for Affordable Housing Along Lee Highway

January 19, 2016.  CARD's Housing Subcommittee Chair sent the following letter to the Arlington County Board. 

          The Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development (“CARD”) has eagerly followed reports of the County’s progress in evaluating properties currently owned by the Virginia Hospital Center (“VHC”) that would be a part of a “land swap” for the County-owned “Edison” site adjacent to the main campus of VHC on North George Mason Drive. The County website identifies the following land sites as possible parts of the transaction:

● 5275 Lee Highway;
● 5267 Lee Highway;
● 5232 Lee Highway;
● 5226 Lee Highway;
● 5130 16th Street North;
● 5138 16th Street North; and
● 601 South Carlin Springs Road.

          It is our understanding that the County must decide, no later than this upcoming June, whether to acquire the South Carlin Springs Road site as consideration for the land-swap agreement.
We strongly urge that the County not foreclose any possibility to include all four of the Lee Highway properties in the agreement. The Lee Highway properties present a rare opportunity for the County to directly shape an important intersection in one of our community's busiest transit corridors. As an advocate for affordable housing, CARD believes that acquiring the four properties along Lee Highway would create an opportunity to provide affordable housing in an area where it is greatly needed. Lee Highway is a major non-Metro transit corridor where approximately 13% of Arlington residents live. Only 5% (554 units) of Arlington’s affordable housing stock currently exists on Lee Highway, opposed to 35% (3,577 units) on Columbia Pike and 21% (2,157 units) in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The inclusion of committed affordable housing here aligns with the County’s Affordable Housing Master Plan goal of 11% (2,500) of the County’s affordable units to exist along Lee Highway by 2040.
          Some have described challenges that might arise with the acquisition of these properties. We ask that you look at these acquisitions as an opportunity for the County to help the Lee Highway neighborhoods directly shape their corridor and bring some much needed affordable housing opportunities to the area. Using this acquired land as a means to revitalize the Lee Highway corridor and develop affordable housing would enable Arlington to provide greater socioeconomic diversity to its neighborhoods and provide housing opportunities for Arlingtonians earning 60% or less of area median income.  
          Undoubtedly, there will be legal and logistical challenges with any acquisition, and these can ultimately be managed and resolved; what cannot be easily resolved is a lost opportunity to provide much-needed housing solutions to the corridor. Acquisition of these properties is an opportunity to reasonably shape the development Lee Highway and to support additional affordable housing that would strengthen Arlington’s status as a leader in collaborative community development. 
         We are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this conversation and look forward to working together in the future.

Sincerely yours,
Kay Langenbeck, Chairperson
Housing Committee
Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development

cc: David Cristeal


CARD, with 361 Signatories, Urges School Board to Use High School Boundary Process to Reduce School Segregation

On October 25, 2016, CARD sent the following letter to the Arlington County, Virginia, School Board.  We copied our County Board members as well.

Chairwoman Van Doren and Members of the Board:

The current high school boundary refinement is the most substantial high school boundary adjustment since the 1990’s. Though easily dismissed by many as minor, it is of great consequence to the hundreds of real students who will be redistricted over the next four years, and to their siblings and peers to follow. It can have considerable long-term effects on our schools, and on our community; and it will establish a foundation for the next boundary revision, which may occur within just five years.

This process will either re-establish or summarily dismiss APS’ commitment to its core value of diversity which has been clearly exercised in previous boundary efforts at Yorktown and Washington-Lee, as well as in past efforts at schools such as HB Woodlawn, Key and Claremont Immersion, and the Montessori program.
Geographical expedience must not be the driving force behind decisions at the expense of core values and student achievement. Yet five of the six guiding principles are rooted in a geography which is itself rooted in historic patterns of socioeconomic segregation--far outweighing the principle of demographic diversity from the outset by default.

Because of their location on the map, a simple and expedient “solution” would be to send students who are living in an area of concentrated poverty to Wakefield High School. Doing so, however, would unconscionably exacerbate the existing socioeconomic disparities between our schools. Many of our most disadvantaged students will endure the loss of educational choice and opportunities that facilitate their success; and Washington-Lee High School would lose a key segment of the diversity that has made it the highly-regarded and highly-sought school it has become.

Ideally, changes will not significantly disrupt the current socioeconomic balance at Washington-Lee and would bring the socioeconomic demographics at Yorktown and Wakefield into better balance, so that they more closely resemble Washington-Lee, which is the highest-ranked of our three comprehensive high schools and the school that currently reflects the overall economic demographics of the APS student body.
Understanding that this is an insurmountable task within the confines of this boundary adjustment, the School Board must keep foremost in its consideration the importance of not increasing the disparities among the three comprehensive high schools.

Therefore, we, the undersigned, call upon the School Board, our elected leaders, to:
1. Make economic diversity a primary guiding principle in the current high school boundary adjustment decision and in all future boundary and admissions policy decisions;

2. Enact boundary changes that do not exacerbate the economic disparity between Wakefield and the two other comprehensive high schools, while minimizing disruption of the existing socioeconomic balance at W-L;

3. Strive, in every boundary determination large or small, and in every admissions policy, to move schools toward an economic demographic reflective of the overall economic demographics of APS;

4. Carefully consider how decisions regarding one school will affect other schools and the students attending them;

5. Ensure that our most economically disadvantaged students do not bear a disproportionate burden with the loss of educational choice and opportunities;

6. Make certain that your decision is driven by APS core values and its obligation to provide all students with the best education and opportunities it can provide.


2016 School Board Candidate Survey Responses 

CARD offered each school board candidate an opportunity to complete a questionnaire focusing on issues of educational equality, socioeconomic diversity, and collaborating with the County on responsible development.  Three of the candidates responded, and their un-edited responses are posted below, in alphabetical order by candidates' last names.  

We thank the candidates for taking the time to thoughtfully respond to our questions and hope their answers help you make a more informed decision when you head to the polls for the May 19th primary.

Candidate questionnaire:

1.  What can APS take away from the research and other districts’ efforts as it works to reduce achievement gaps, address the needs of every ‘whole child,’ and adequately prepare all of our children for living and working successfully in a global economy?

Chaz Chrismon:  
Let me highlight first that I am the only candidate (or future 2017 school board member) that is a licensed and trained teacher eligible to teach in our schools. I have trained at Stanford, UVA, George Mason and Educate VA (a program run by top retired and current Virginia administrators). Achievement gaps result from discrimination, cultural insensitivity, low expectations for those who have underperformed in the past, socioeconomic disparities, unaddressed personal crises and poor teacher talent acquisition/retention practices. School systems that invest in good teachers, social workers and psychologists reduce achievement gaps. Mentoring programs and involvement in extracurricular activities, like sports, build up a child’s esteem and make schools comfortable places to learn. If students are not happy or respected at school, they do not achieve at school. If their basic needs are not met at home, they cannot function at school. Schools must be nurturing and address the needs of the whole child.

Michael Shea:
The first place APS should look for solutions is within its own schools.  For example, Carlin Springs ES has had success with improving test scores for all students.  We should learn from its specific test prep strategies and from the fact that it has a Communities School Coordinator position. (Given that a Community School Coordinator is well placed to bring in grants for instructional support, as the person at Carlin Springs has done, these are a good way for APS to leverage funding.)  But APS also needs to learn from the research and other district efforts, as well.  Steps to be taken include: (1) adjust school boundaries to both ease overcrowding and increase socioeconomic diversity in the schools at all levels; (2) increase tutorial support to students who are below grade level in reading or math, by increasing the number of periods of the day when teachers can tutor students in small groups (e.g.,Patriot Period at Yorktown) and establishing a tutorial corps (paid and trained); (3) review policies that contribute to student anxiety and lower test scores, including school start times and cafeteria policies (e.g., Fairfax County is getting good results just from making breakfast more accessible to elementary school students); (4) ensure that all teachers are challenging all students to perform to their best by bringing consistency to the advising process; and, (5) identifying classroom exercises (often of short duration) that build a sense of belonging in every student.  We don’t just need to ensure that every student is taught the skills they need to succeed.  We also need to ensure that every student feels motivated to learn because they can see their role in the school.

Tannia Talento:  declined to respond.

Nancy Van Doren:
Growing up in a diverse community and attending a school that has a diverse student body and faculty is of benefit to Arlington children. The world is increasingly global, with people from various cultures, ethnic groups, and social and economic classes working and living together.  Training for parents and staff is critical to promote understanding among people from diverse backgrounds.  Arlington Public School’s recent focus on Parent and Community Engagement supports this collaboration and understanding between schools and parents.  We have added staff in the Department of Instruction to strengthen these efforts.   Providing this understanding and supporting our children and families as they celebrate their backgrounds and cultures is important to build community and a strong sense of self-worth in our students.  This strong sense of self-worth provides a solid base for academic success.  Students who are successful with a diverse student population will thrive in our multi-cultural global world.  Research supports this premise and the steps APS has taken to ensure students thrive in a diverse school environment.

Last year, I recommended that the School Board and Superintendent read and discuss the book, Whistling Vivaldi, by psychologist Dr. Claude Steele.  The book was then shared extensively among APS staff members.  I commend the book to all parents and Arlington residents who are concerned that we adequately support the “Whole Child” and the success of our community’s diverse student population.  

2.  What can APS do to promote socio-economic diversity in all of its schools?

Chaz Chrismon:
I am advocating that we start by promoting a revamped lottery system for choice/county-wide schools that does not place the uninformed at a disadvantage (generally poorer families). Poorer families will be on equal footing if they are given the same random chance as an in-the-know rich family to get on the list for any lottery school (ATS, Key, Drew Montessori, Claremont, Campbell, etc). Parents at these schools generally support this policy (especially after their child is in). All entering kindergartners should be given a county-wide/choice school lottery number that will work for any school they are eligible to attend. Parents who draw an unlucky number won’t waste their time fruitlessly going to open houses.

Of course for the neighborhood schools, the County Board should work with civic associations to promote affordable housing or luxury market-rate housing in neighborhoods that lack socioeconomic diversity. I advocate for respecting and retaining current residents while diversifying neighborhoods and adding housing units. This can be done at a Goldilocks “just right” pace.

Michael Shea:
Adjust boundaries more frequently to both ease overcrowding and with the specific goal of increasing socioeconomic diversity.  Advocate with the County Board for more effective affordable housing policies to reduce socioeconomic segregation in Arlington.  Increase the opportunities for students to take classes with students from other schools.  One method to achieve that is to create art/music instruction centers in facilities such as community centers and have five elementary schools send their students there for a half day each week for art/music instruction.  When five elementary schools form the pool of students, it is easier to achieve socioeconomic diversity in the classroom.  APS should also build more choice programs and more County-wide, small-scale high school programs.  Enrollment policies should be set to ensure equitable access from all parts of the County and that will overcome residential socioeconomic segregation.

Tannia Talento:  Candidate has not provided a response.

Nancy Van Doren:
Arlington Public Schools must educate every student who crosses through the doorways of its schools.  Neighborhoods across Arlington County are home to families from a multitude of differing ethnic, religious, racial, social, economic, linguistic, and national backgrounds.  Training our staff to understand the variety of cultures in our schools is critical.  Celebrating those differences provides a strong foundation from which students can learn.  Additionally, understanding and building the skills of our staff in providing the language training for second language learners is critical.   We need to ensure all students have the opportunity to acquire strong language skills before third grade so they can succeed in upper grades as they strive to acquire content knowledge.

Arlington’s choice programs are an excellent opportunity for students from a variety of backgrounds to come together to learn.  The immersion programs focus on learning foreign languages and cultures.  The STEM programs focus on the sciences.  The International Baccalaureate programs focus on international and global understanding and interdisciplinary education.  These choices, available to students across Arlington, provide an excellent opportunity for students throughout the community to come together and learn.  APS should expand opportunities for interested students to be enrolled in choice schools and programs.  We need to build capacity, review boundaries, and update our admissions policies related to choice programs to support this expansion.

3.  Individual school offerings, parental resources, demographics, and zip codes result in different types of experiences and varying ranges of opportunity from school to school.  If elected, what would you do to ensure educational equality for all children within APS?

Chaz Chrismon:
I want to empower parents to make the best choices for their children. Having different types of experiences available is a good thing. Some people advocate for administrators assigning every child to a school. I do not. I think Arlington’s drive to be creative would be lost in such a system. We do need to place incentives in the system that invite parents to participate in the diversity of Arlington. We need fair funding for all our schools. I believe diversity is our community’s greatest strength. The diversity at my son’s school is encouraging. It benefits from special funding as a Title 1 school. That funding promotes educational equality. The real benefits to increasing diversity—what I care about most—is that students learn to befriend and work with people different from themselves.

If elected, I would address our preschool program. The demand for APS preschool way outstrips supply for slots at many schools. The vast majority of those program slots are highly subsidized and do not contribute to correcting the demographic imbalance of our schools, but magnify them. I think we should look at where we have those programs and why we aren’t using them to effectively strengthen diversity and equality at APS schools. Let’s build more preschool classrooms at targeted schools. Allow rich families to pay that high preschool tuition they’re happy to pay. Invite them to stay for kindergarten.

Michael Shea:
We need to review all school budgets and policies to ensure that resources and opportunities are provided equitably.  As co-chair of the Arts Advisory Committee, I worked to change the arts budget process by ensuring that all schools provide a per capita minimum for supplies in art classes.  As co-chair of the Career, Technical, and Adult Education Advisory Committee, I worked to change the policy on dual enrollment and quality points to ensure that students who take challenging courses – whether AP or Dual Enrollment – are equally rewarded with a full quality point.  I would continue to do that as a member of the School Board.

We need to avoid relying too much on summary measures and highlights graphs to gauge our success as a school system.  Aggregate data can often hide the areas where we are falling short.  We don’t need to ensure that the typical student experience is successful, but that all student experiences are successful.

Tannia Talento:  declined to respond.

Nancy Van Doren:
Planning factors ensure that students have consistent staff and material resources school to school.   I will continue to support policies that ensure the equitable distribution of resources at all Arlington Public Schools.  Based on the needs of individual students, additional resources will continue to be allocated for students who are second language learners, students with disabilities, and low-income students. The differences among our students, including socio-economically, enrich the diversity of the schools in Arlington.   Certainly parent resources vary depending on backgrounds. Targeting specific resources to students identified as needing additional support ensures the success of each and every child, regardless of students’ family situations. 
In our 2017 budget, the School Board has included expanding the number of social workers, psychologists, gifted service teachers, and minority achievement staff.  The Whole Child Working Group, which will bring forth its recommendations in June, is squarely focused on providing advice on how best to meet the comprehensive needs of our students.  I look forward to receiving those recommendations and incorporating them in our plan of work for next year. I also note that APS’ expanding Aspire to Excellence counselling program ensures all our students have a path to graduation and success in the world beyond high school.  This continues to be a top priority for the Superintendent. 

Additionally, I strongly support the CCPTA’s volunteer efforts to provide opportunities for PTAs across Arlington County to share resources through a variety of cooperative efforts and grant-making.

4.  Individual School Improvement Plans reflect dramatic differences in levels of achievement.  The Gifted Services Advisory Committee’s recent report to APS Advisory Council on Instruction (March 7, 2016) indicates variance in services among middle schools and would suggest not all students are being appropriately challenged.  There are significant differences in extracurricular and class offerings at each of our high schools. The number, type, and quality of field trips and special programs and presentations vary widely from one school to another.

What specifically would you do to address instructional disparities and to ensure an academic experience of comparable breadth and quality for all students across Arlington schools?

Chaz Crismon:
The instructional disparities can only be solved by hiring the right people to teach. I will fight to make sure hiring decisions are made to fill needed positions with qualified teachers highly trained in their specialty. For gifted services, that means a lot of gifted instruction training. We need more teachers and qualified assistants in many specialties. I’ll fight for more funding to get them on board. Taxpayers have to know we will spend money wisely. Some are angry at money misspent on technology programs. I will help restore confidence in our school board by making wise investment in human and physical capital. We also need to enlist more community volunteers. I have advocated for paid volunteer coordinators in schools that need the extra help. Teachers are stretched really thin at our schools and their capacity to stretch and support more extracurricular activities is limited. Some schools have stronger PTA’s than others. We need to even the playing field by investing where the schools need shoring up.

Michael Shea:
The APS Strategic Plan will be revised and renewed over the next school year.  We should adopt two additional strategic goals, complementing the five we already have in place.  First, our strategic goal should be to provide socioeconomic diversity in all our schools.  Second, our strategic goal should be to ensure that all schools provide a comparable educational experience.

Both of these goals are implied to some extent by the other five goals.  My experience with ACI committees persuades me that having an explicit strategic goal for socioeconomic diversity and consistency across schools would advance those goals.

The key to overcoming instructional disparities is to improve APS ability to evaluate programs and policies in a timely manner.  We need to know whether new initiatives are working and adjust them as needed.  That ability to evaluate would be greatly enhanced if we established open data policies and what is often referred to as an open data ecosystem.

We do want to allow for variation among schools.  We do not want a system where all course offerings and field trips are identical and decided upon by one office at the Education Center on Quincy.  We need to know, however, if that variation is leading to educational disparities.  Open data and evaluation empower us with that knowledge. 

Tannia Talento:  declined to respond.

Nancy Van Doren:
High-quality curriculum and educational opportunities are available consistently to all students in all schools across Arlington county. APS’ Program of Studies (  shows our strong offerings at all   secondary programs.  Different students achieve at different rates, depending on backgrounds and abilities. Arlington secondary schools regularly offer extra-curricular activities of interest to students as requested.  Those students who are identified as gifted, with disabilities, or second language learners require distinct instructional approaches and receive them in APS.   Ultimately, well over 98% of our students graduate on time and over 85% go on to higher education, with a standard or advanced high school diploma.  

APS continuously evaluates its curriculum and programs through professional research projects.  I participated closely in the Evaluation of Services for Students with Special Needs and monitor the implementation of those recommendations throughout the system.  In addition, APS continues to implement the recommendations in the Gifted Services, ESOL/HILT (second language learners), and Minority Achievement evaluations, as well as evaluations of curriculum content areas.  This focus on continuous improvement enables APS to meet the evolving needs of its diverse student population.

5.  If elected, how will you collaborate with the County and County Board to promote responsible development practices and policies as APS and the County continue to grow?  How will you ensure APS responsibly provides, manages, and maintains sufficient, quality facilities while improving educational outcomes and balancing the needs for other services and facilities within the broader Arlington community?

Chaz Chrismon:
I own rental property on west Columbia Pike. I live across from a new bus yard that the county put on our neighborhood park without notifying us neighbors. I know how the County has dropped the ball on communication and collaboration with residents and disappointed voters. Regarding school construction, it can be harder to ensure good educational outcomes with larger and larger schools. Kids need a reasonable chance of participating in student sporting and academic organizations. They need a sense of belonging. The larger a school population gets, the more a student becomes a forgotten number than a child with unique needs. That said, we still need more space for our teachers to teach and students to learn. With construction, the School Board has been implementing easy solutions the hard way (ie. How and where they chose to build the elementary school in South Arlington). Instead, I will make sure we focus on more responsible solutions to hard problems: We must acquire new airspace, new land, for our school system to build facilities. Most of this new land is in private hands (maybe some of the land is roadway, but no, none of it is parkland). I will make sure we on the School Board and the County work with private landowners to amicably get to an expedited win-win solution. APS will have more real estate when I am done. I was the owner of a real estate company for nearly a decade. The county has to ensure we have the right talent on board to deal with negotiations that will take place with landowners. Governmental entities have acquired property from my family four times: a farm, two small business locations and a warehouse. I think I can help embolden and advise the County to get the right deals done! (Real estate disclosure: in addition to our townhouse in Nauck, we own two condo units, one in Rosslyn, one near Barcroft,)

Michael Shea:
Many of the specific ideas I have to promote academic achievement and to get more seats for students  are aimed directly at collaboration with the County.  We should be using community centers for art/music instruction.  We should be revising our zoning requirements to facilitate school programs in former office space and our more urban areas such as Rosslyn and Crystal City.

To get responsible development, we need responsive development.  Both County and School Boards need to do better at leading facilities planning based upon community input and vision.

We don’t need to appoint a blue ribbon panel to change and adjust our priorities.  We are a good community with good priorities.  We need a County Board and a School Board that can balance the priorities, mainly by deciding on timing.   For example, we don’t have to eliminate park development to get more school capacity.  But there are years when one priority needs to move more quickly than another.  In the context of a ten-year CIP, we should be able to see progress in all our priorities.  

The School Board and APS need to do a better job of multi-tasking in our facility management and planning.  Our rising enrollment  has made us focus exclusively on the need for the new building or the expanded building.  This has caused us to not ensure minimum standards of infrastructure across all schools.  I yield to no one in celebrating the quality of Discovery Elementary School.  But we have failed to adequately maintain other schools like Randolph.

In my first year as a School Board member, I would tour all our elementary and middle schools and have teachers and building maintenance staff accompany me.  The purpose would be to assess the comparable quality at each school.  I commend APS highly for making great progress in managing facilities with new data.  But the data can sometimes not tell the whole story.

I would also review the APS media effort to ensure that all our schools are reflected equally in the stories, videos, and highlights we present from APS.  If our community gets a well-rounded view of our facilities, it will advocate to remedy the sites where are falling short.

APS has also done a commendable job of preventive maintenance in all our facilities.  We have made measurable progress over the past ten years.  Just as with any school system, we still have calls to fix systems, despite the preventive maintenance.  I would try to do a “ride along” with the maintenance team.  For the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission, our members do that for public safety departments in Arlington County.  We should be doing something comparable on the Schools side.

The School Board needs to ensure that it gets information from more than just the leadership team in Facilities Management.  School Board members need to hear firsthand from building maintenance staff, support staff, and teachers.

As an APS parent, I have benefited greatly from the efforts and knowledge of custodians and bus drivers.  As a School Board member,  I would ensure that I continued to learn from the people at the school level who are delivering the facility and services for our students’ educational experience.

Tannia Talento:  declined to respond.

Nancy Van Doren:
Arlington Public Schools’ job is to educate all students who are enrolled in our schools.  Arlington Public Schools should continue to provide information to the County regarding the make-up of its student body and the achievement of our students.   We will continue to collaborate with the County to support our students and their families, including the health, recreational, housing, and economic needs of students.

Last summer, I worked with School Board colleagues and APS staff to respond to the County Board’s July 27, 2015 data request about student performance, based on questions posed by CARD.  These questions related to student achievement in our individual schools.  The information provided can be found on the APS website  I then ensured that academic performance data and school improvement plans were posted under the “About Us” tab on all individual school sites.  This information allows all of us to work together to monitor and improve outcomes for all APS students.

APS will continue to monitor Arlington’s population growth, along with the County. I participated actively last year in the Community Facilities Study as School Board liaison.  I will continue to work to ensure the recommendations made by that broad-based group are implemented.  We will continue to conduct Capital Improvement Plan efforts, focusing on ten year projections and plans that will provide adequate facilities to meet the needs of our growing student population.  Additionally, it is important to share APS resources with the entire community, as over 80% of Arlington residents do not have children who are students in our schools.  Therefore, our buildings, fields, and all facilities should be shared extensively with the entire community.


June 10, 2015 Letter to the Arlington County Board

July 16, 2015 Letter to the Arlington County Board

July 22, 2015 Letter to the Sun Gazette

CARD Issue Paper: Affordable Housing, Pockets of Poverty, and Education

CARD Issue Paper: Poverty and Our Schools

CARD Amendment Checklist for the Affordable Housing Master Plan

Recap: CARD Candidate Coffee with Christian Dorsey

Recap: CARD Candidate Coffee with Katie Cristol

Recap: CARD Meeting with County Board Member Libby Garvey

Recap: CARD Candidate Coffee with Mike McMenamin

Recap: CARD Meeting with County Board Chair Mary Hynes

August 27, 2015 Response to Affordable Housing Master Plan Revisions

August 27, 2015 Data Request to Arlington Public Schools


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