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Krupicka: State Bills Could Spell Trouble for Jefferson-Houston

Measures that have passed the state House and Senate would allow a newly created body to take over schools that have been denied state accreditation.

The Virginia House and Senate have passed separate but similar legislation that would create and empower a body to take over any school that has been denied state accreditation, such as Alexandria’s Jefferson-Houston School.

Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45th) is staunchly opposed to the measures for their failure to include input from localities housing such schools.

“There’s no due process. This board has unilateral power to take a school over from a school district,” Krupicka told Patch. “There’s no check on that power, no obligation to meet with the community. …The board is created to be the judge, jury and the executioner.”

House Bill 2096 creates the Opportunity Educational Institution to be administered and supervised by the Opportunity Educational Institution Board. The Senate has a similar version with Senate Bill 1324.

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The bill requires that any school that has been denied state accreditation and permits any school that has been accredited with warning for three consecutive years to be transferred to the institution. That school would remain in the institution for five years or until the school achieves full accreditation.

The bill also offers requirements for student attendance, staffing and funding for the institution.

The No Child Left Behind flexibility program requires states to designate the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title 1 and Title 1-eligible schools as priority schools. Jefferson-Houston falls into that category. T.C. Williams High School is not expected to be labeled similarly if it continues making progress.

Krupicka said the governor’s bill was modeled after a program in Louisiana after schools there were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

“The big difference is that in Louisiana they gave them lots of money. …In Virginia, this doesn’t come with any money,” he said, adding that in Louisiana the body could have started turning schools back to their local districts two years ago, but they have yet to turn over even one school.

“Results are mixed there… and the only real improvements are because they put hundreds of millions (of dollars) into the schools. The Virginia proposal has no new money,” he said.

Krupicka also expressed concern that the new body could require all of the money Alexandria spends on Jefferson-Houston to get shifted to "this new bureaucracy."

“The state motivation for this bill is to help schools that are perpetually failing. I agree with that,” Krupicka said. “I think there are school districts that require extra intervention of this type. My problem with this bill is that it assumes every local district is the same and that some body in Richmond can magically solve everything in our community or any community.”

Krupicka, a Democrat, said he has met with the governor’s staff sharing his concerns but his comments were disregarded.

On the House floor Wednesday, Krupicka suggested creating a mechanism for an independent body, like the Board of Education, to control when a school is taken over and when it returns to local control. He also advocates requiring the newly created school to engage with the local community through the creation of a local oversight body made up of parents and community leaders.

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Bea Porter February 07, 2013 at 03:07 PM
Jefferson Houston has been in a bad space for a long time, a new building will not improve the achievement goals. It will put a band aid on a school that needs improved education, not a new building. Stop the new building process until we see this school become fully accredited. Morton Sherman has made so many changes in this school between the teachers and management. These children deserve the best education they can get and if it means being taken over by a higher authority, so be it. A new building is not going to better educate the children, good teachers will educate the children.
Sherry Henderson February 07, 2013 at 06:06 PM
The entire Alexandria City Public School system is a train wreck and the problems with it have been glaring, for so many years, that Alexandrians simply put up with how poorly things are in regard to their public schools, that overall, they simply just don't care about getting them fixed. From top to bottom ACPS needs to be dramatically overhauled, which even Stevie Wonder could see, but Alexandrians would rather ignore dealing with the problems, that go on year, after year, after year, after year, after year, after year. Look, if parents and other invested interests in the Alexandria City Public Schools system got really riled up and raised their voices in disgust, maybe, just maybe, it might start a wave to make the necessary changes to make our public schools better, but that never really happens. The Alexandria City Council will point fingers and blame the Alexandria School Board, who, in turn, points fingers at Mort Sherman, who, in turn, is one of many to tragically fail at trying to fix ACPS. The Alexandria City Council and the Alexandria School Board should all come to the conclusion, that everyone in Alexandria now realizes, that our city schools should be run by either Fairfax or Arlington Counties. I think that Fairfax County would run City of Alexandria schools much better than what's currently in place now. Alexandria students have been suffering for years, with poor ACPS management, and it's time for a dramatic change, change which couldn't come soon enough!
Doug February 07, 2013 at 11:32 PM
My goodness. 2 things in one week from democrats that I agree with (first it was Justin Wilson and the Carver Nursery School and now this). It's refreshing for a DEMOCRAT to realize that the government isn't the solution to everything. I'm not saying that ACPS has done anything to warrant not intervening. I am saying that government and taxpayer dollars aren't the solution to all of life's problems.
James Robinson February 07, 2013 at 11:49 PM
Has anyone not realized that our fine governor is in bed with the charter school lobby and that this is just one more nail in the coffin? Are there any educators backing this bill?
Edmund Lewis February 08, 2013 at 04:44 AM
Talk about in bed with people, slow down, you don't need to point a finger all the way down at Richmond. Just look within the confines of ACPS and the dealings around this failing school for the past 5 years. The superintendent first brought in the Hawn Foundation's Mindfulness program to Jefferson Houston. The superintendent sits on the Board of Directors of the Hawn Foundation. Then the superintendent brought in the Success for All reading program to Jefferson Houston. Current ACPS Chief Academic Officer Gwen Carol Holmes is the former Chief Operating Officer of Success for All. Now the superintendent brings in American Institutes for Research as the turnaround partner for Jefferson Houston. The AIR principal research analyst working with Jefferson Houston was a mathematics consultant previously hired by the superintendent.
Sherry Henderson February 08, 2013 at 07:27 PM
The problems with Alexandria City Public Schools are something that the past and current Alexandria City Council and Alexandria School Boards have all failed to address. They have a 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' attitude and act as if there aren't any problems. They are all elected officials and it's their responsibility to fix Alexandria City Public Schools, yet, it appears that is not a high priority, which displays a lack of caring and total disregard for students going to public schools in the City of Alexandria. The problems with ACPS have been ongoing, for many, many, many years, yet no one elected official, or even in a combined group, in the City of Alexandria, has got the nerve to grab the bull by the horns and say that enough is enough and poor management won't be tolerated any more. I'm quite sure that we'll have the same lack of interest by the Alexandria City Council and the Alexandria School Board for the next three years. The little 'fiefdoms' of the provinciality of the Kingdom of Alexandria are laughable, and sad, to say the least, and are a continuing embarrassment that our neighbors in both Fairfax and Arlington County find a great amount of amusement, at our expense. With a population base of 144,000 people, in 15 square miles, it is perceived that fixing problems with ACPS have a very low priority, especially for a government agency that eats up a large portion of the city's annual budget. Who will take the lead to fix ACPS? Sadly, no one.
Justaskin February 09, 2013 at 12:04 AM
I find Ms. Henderson's comments to be interesting when she lumps everyone together - past school boards; past city councils; current school boards; current city councils. Apparently, she hasn't taken advantage of tuning in on channel 71 to watch one of the better "reality" shows on television these days - the Alexandria City Public Schools School Board meetings. These current school board members, all of them, are asking meaningful questions and EXPECTING answers from the superintendent and others employed by ACPS. Stay tuned. There may be a fireworks show yet.
Bill Purdy February 11, 2013 at 08:54 PM
Sherry Henderson's histrionics and slash-and-burn grandiloquence reveal much about her opinions but less about actual facts. Her high opinions of our neighboring jurisdictions begs the question, why is she still living here? Travel on I-395 will get you to both jurisdictions, Ms. Henderson. Bon voyage!
Jon Rosenbaum February 11, 2013 at 11:01 PM
If the commonwealth wants to take over the school,fine. But let them pay for the new building. I see no reason for Alexandria to build a schol it does not control. Also, all this criticism of the School Board and Superintendant are unwarranted. The school system and teachers are fine. We spend more per student than other adjacent jurusdictions. Our problem is that the majority of students here are poor or speak English as a second language. Many of the students have no interest in education nor do their parents. So there is only so much teachers can accomplish.
Sherry Henderson February 12, 2013 at 03:56 AM
Jon, if the school system is so 'fine', then why is Alexandria City Public Schools rated so low in comparison to other school systems in the Commonwealth of Virginia? Is that 'fine' to you? There are many other jurisdictions that have students who are, as you say, 'poor or speak English as a second language', yet those jurisdictions have all prospered. So, while other school systems in the Commonwealth of Virginia which have the same demographics of the City of Alexandria have achieved great success for their students, you think that things are 'fine', here? That attitude, of sticking your head in the sand, or, 'see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil', just doesn't cut it. Too many students who go to the City of Alexandria public schools are being short-changed, so you can't easily dismiss major problems of the entire operation of the Alexandria City Public Schools on, as you say, 'that the majority of students here are poor or speak English as a second language'. That's not true and that's not the problem. There are many problems with the Alexandria City Public School system that have now manifested into multiple problems at many different levels. So, Jon, if everything is 'fine', then, please tell me, enlighten me, as to why Alexandria City Public Schools, over a long period of time, are always lowly-ranked in comparison to other school systems in the Commonwealth of Virginia? Let's just blame it all on poor students, or those who don't speak English, hmm?
Justaskin February 12, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Bill, I see that you have drawn the attention of someone who doesn't know the difference between thrown and throne. Here's hoping that you are able to attract higher quality critics in the future. Meanwhile, keep up the good work.
Jon Rosenbaum February 12, 2013 at 12:18 PM
The demographics are not the same. We, for example, have the highest poverty rate in the DC area, except DC itself. Higher than PG county. Sixty per cent of our students qualify for federal food aid. I did not say the school system is perfect. But the students are not being "shortchanged". Alexandria spends more on public education per students than most other jurisdictions. I only wish many of our students and their parents prized education as much as you. Some do, but not enough. This limits what teachers, even the best, can accomplish.
Sherry Henderson February 12, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Bill, if you can get off of your throne of your little small-world fiefdom with your haughty attitude, you might see that everything I've stated has been pure fact, without 'histrionics' and 'slash-and-burn grandiloquence'. Bill, since you seem to be so pompous with your attitude, I'm quite sure that you've got the "grand solution" to fixing the inherently problematic Alexandria City Public Schools system. MOST people whom I know in Alexandria, and I know quite a few, have routinely complained at how poorly run and mismanaged the Alexandria City Public School system is, today. You must have recently moved here, not to know about the untold years of desperately low ratings City of Alexandria schools have in comparison to other schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If you have lived here for a while, I'm guessing you think that City of Alexandria public schools are great, that there aren't any problems, that everything is perfect. Really? By the way, my thought of either having Fairfax or Arlington County possibly running City of Alexandria schools is not my idea, nor is it a new idea, either. It's been brought up in the past, but, then again, you're apparently not up on what's going on in the City of Alexandria. Bill, you need to wake up and smell the coffee, because there are jurisdictions in the Commonwealth of Virginia who have similar issues, as the City of Alexandria, but they have raised their standards with much greater success serving their students needs.
elizabeth February 12, 2013 at 03:24 PM
I don't know about you, but I, personally, think a student is being short-changed if they get to 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc grade not being able to read. Doesn't seem to me that the the school system, teachers and administration, are accomplishing what they are mandated to do.
Jon Rosenbaum February 12, 2013 at 05:15 PM
They and their families are short changing them. Our excellent teachers can't force them to learn.

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