Ask the Super: ACPS Superintendent Sherman Answers Your Questions
This week, ACPS Superintendent Morton Sherman addresses the No Child Left Behind waiver, Jefferson-Houston, the CIP budget and the pressing issue of over-crowded schools.
The following questions were submitted to Patch by teachers or parents of children attending Alexandria City Public Schools. Do you have a question for Dr. Sherman? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter to @alexandriapatch. Please include your name and contact information if a Patch editor needs to contact you.
Question: Do you think Alexandria will benefit if the State Board of Education accepts Virginia’s request for a waiver to the No Child Left Behind law? How will it affect ACPS and could you offer some examples?
Sherman: The waiver application by the state is undergoing some revisions this month to comply with [U.S. Department of Education] concerns. One of the core issues from the federal department of education dealt with the overall percent of passing needed in order to meet state requirements. Virginia's was initially lower than the federal department of education wanted.
The Virginia waiver calls for the elimination of Choice as we have seen it the past 10 years.
I am generally encouraged by the request for a waiver as it looks as if the negative sanctions approach will be replaced with clearer measures and with targeted improvement areas, e.g., differences in achievement among student groups.
Question: What does the International Baccalaureate Program at Jefferson-Houston School mean? Will the school follow a regular ACPS curriculum or does someone else oversee it?
Sherman: Jefferson-Houston will follow the ACPS curriculum. The IB program creates a framework for our curriculum in general categories. The IB program encourages, and requires, schools to look at existing curriculum with a world lens.
Question: Have the recent problems with the CIP budget been resolved? Are all the projects that were supposed to be on track to get funding finished or on the way to getting finished?
Sherman: Nearly all of the outstanding concerns about invoices have been resolved. We will be presenting an update this Thursday, May 10, to our School Board. All major projects included in the 2012 budget will be completed either this year or as part of the 2013 CIP budget. For example, we will be completing the Hammond elevator in the 2013 budget because we were delayed in starting this and a few other projects as we worked through the problems in the Facilities Department. Bottom line looks like assignment of some charges for some projects was like putting moving things from one bucket to another... which is wrong, but without the loss of public funding or resulting in personal gain.
The most pressing issue for us now turns to how to address capacity. We are packed in nearly all of our schools. Our enrollments continue to rise, and are projected to go from 12,400 this year to over 14,000 in the next four to five years. We want to move away from MOE (modified open enrollment) as we support neighborhood schools. With projected projects in the city which will further increase enrollments (Potomac Yard and Landmark Mall areas), we are more and more in need of two new elementary schools... one on the east side and one one the west side of the city. The Beauregard area may see some small decrease in enrollments, but not nearly enough to make up for what we already have in our schools and projected to come.