Sunday, March 16, 2014

APSVA Allegedly Removes HB Woodlawn Parent Advisory Committee Content about Capital Improvement Plans

W&L PTA sent out the following email today suggesting that certain HB Woodlawn pages have been censored. 
The W-L PTA is unsettled by reports that we have received from our counterparts at H-B Woodlawn that Arlington Public Schools (APS) staff on Friday removed three documents from the H-B Woodlawn Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) website hosted on the APS web server.  Those documents included public letters sent by the H-B PAC to the School Board regarding the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for addressing school overcrowding.
The W-L PTA website likewise features letters sent by us to the School Board on the CIP issue (  We believe that it is vital for our membership to have access to those documents in order to be informed about this vital issue.  We would react negatively to any move by APS to censor them.
We today are sending correspondence to the School Board on this issue and believe it is important to communicate this to our parent community at W-L.
The Letter to the School Board 2/20/14 results in a page that states "This page is currently unavailable."  The 2/20/14 letter is available Love HB Woodlawn. (Here is the Love HB Woodlawn facebook page)

The HB Woodlaw PAC letter was found to be inaccessible from the APSVA website. A cached version was available.
January 31, 2014 

Dear School Board Members and Superintendent Murphy,

We read with interest this week the Board-approved APS Capital Improvement Plan framework and related feasibility studies, and we wanted to communicate with you about reactions to some of the concepts that are developing within the H-B Woodlawn community.

The two proposals that involve H-B Woodlawn have provoked alarm in the H-B community. We are disappointed to see such extreme proposals put before the community without background context or explanation about why facilities staff chose them.

It is difficult to assess, from the one-page chart, exactly what APS has in mind, but to us, a 600-seat increase in the size of H-B would almost certainly mean a fundamental change in the nature of the program. Our community recognizes and accepts our obligation to contribute to the solution of the problem of overcrowding at Arlington schools, but a 600-student increase would undermine entirely the H-B model. If that is the intention of the Board then we should have a frank and open discussion about the merits of that idea.

The second suggestion, to relocate the H-B community to a rental property feels to many like an eviction. It’s unconscionable to us that such a successful and historical program should be singled out to relocate to an unidentified rental space to make room for another school. H-B’s physical needs are essentially the same as any other secondary program. The students at H-B have as much right to a stable, permanent space as do students in Arlington’s traditional schools. We question why H-B is the only APS program being considered for a leased space.

Our community is planning a more thorough response to both proposals, and plans to take advantage of every opportunity for public discussion in this process. Our Parent Advisory Committee has formed a committee of students, staff and parents to ensure that our contribution to the decision-making is thoughtful and timely, and to protect the integrity of the H-B program. We plan to communicate with our alumni and other community stakeholders about our work and seek their input as well.

H-B Woodlawn is a desirable and nationally respected program because of its success. We therefore hope that in making its recommendations to the board, the APS staff will consider the serious risks to H-B Woodlawn students and to the integrity of the existing program that both of these proposals represent.


(signed electronically)

Melissa McCracken and Joyce Kyle

H-B Woodlawn PAC Co-Chairs

cc: Frank Haltiwanger, H-B Woodlawn

Casey Robinson, H-B Woodlawn

Lionel White, Facilities Planning
 Also not available is "PAC's Position - Talking Points - Feb. 5" which leads to the same "This page is inactive or protected" page. A cached version was available.
PAC's Position - Talking Points - Feb 5
February 5, 2014

H-B Woodlawn will work to be part of the solution to overcrowding in APS

The H-B Woodlawn community recognizes and accepts our shared obligation to contribute to solutions for overcrowding in Arlington schools. Overcrowded schools are a serious threat to the success of all Arlington students, and we want to work with the School Board to find solutions that improve the school district rather than diminish it. A hallmark of APS is its range of educational offerings, and H-B Woodlawn’s non-traditional secondary program has been a successful and essential component of this system for more than 40 years.

H-B Woodlawn has already contributed to relieving the overcrowding in APS by enlarging significantly twice in past five years.
    • H-B’s high school is the most crowded in Arlington (105% vs 102% at W-L).
    • H-B’s middle school is the second most crowded in Arlington, after Swanson.
    • There are already four trailers at H-B.

Core tenets of H-B Woodlawn

Our school community is committed to maintaining our programmatic core tenets, which include

1. A 6-12 secondary program
    • Students have the time to learn and accept the principles of self-discipline and responsibility that make the program successful.
    • Younger students learn through the modeling of high school students.

2.  Inclusion of our HILT program and co-location with the Stratford program
    • Inclusion and acceptance define H-B Woodlawn – having all three programs housed together offers everyday opportunities for kids in all the programs to learn from each other.

3.  A size that allows for our unique form of school governance based in trust and our educational philosophy that emphasizes student choice, responsibility, and responsiveness to student needs. The small size of the school allows for

A. Student choice:
    • Teacher Advisor
    • Schedule (including opportunities to take more than 7 classes/Independent Study)
    • Ability to design and implement non-traditional educational and extracurricular programs

B. Freedoms that come with responsibility and increase incrementally as students meet expectations of responsibility through the grade levels         
    • Unstructured time
    • Freedom of movement

C.  Self-governance                
    • Town Meeting (each student, teacher, and parent has an equal vote and all have an equal opportunity for participation)
    • Use of personal time and behavior

D.  Effective relationships
    • Size and time allow individuals to foster significant student/teacher relationships.
    • H-B Woodlawn is a safety valve for many students, parents, student services.

Reaction to school board framework

The two options in the Capital Improvement Design Framework (1/28/14) that directly affect
H-B Woodlawn are unacceptable to our community in their current form.  

Option #1 – Increase the size of the H-B Woodlawn program by up to 600 students
This option would ostensibly end/destroy the H-B Woodlawn program by increasing the size to a point where implementing its unique form of governance and educational philosophy (outlined above) would be impossible.

Still, H-B operates within the larger Arlington community, which has made the school’s success possible. As school enrollments rise, the H-B community recognizes that the school will need to “do its part” by growing its enrollment, as well.  One option to consider: if Arlington’s high schools are operating at an overall utilization rate of 110%, it would be reasonable to set similar enrollment levels at H-B so that it is also operating at 110% and taking its “fair share” of the growing student population. However, it would be unreasonable to expect a small school like
H-B to act as the primary relief valve for one particularly crowded school, just to avoid boundary changes or other potentially difficult decisions.

Option #2 – Relocate H-B Woodlawn to a leased space:  This option is not viable until there is a proposal for providing an equivalent physical space for the H-B Woodlawn program. An equivalent school space will require classroom facilities as well as access to a gym, auditorium, art and music studios, science labs, library, and outdoor fields.

This option is also concerning to our community because of its temporary nature. There are no other school programs in APS with 600+ students in a leased facility. Being moved to an undetermined rental space to make room for another school is not acceptable to the H-B community. H-B’s students have the same right as every other Arlington student to a stable, permanent home – one without a yearly lease.

1 comment:

  1. W&L PTA is reporting: "The H-B Parents Advisory Committee tells us that APS restored the documents and apologized for removing them."