Patch School Board Candidate Questionnaire
District B Candidate Kelly Carmichael Booz
Occupation: Director of Civic Education at the Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier
Incumbent or non-incumbent: Non-incumbent
How long have you been an Alexandria resident? Almost seven years
Which neighborhood do you live in? In between Del Ray and Rosemont
Website, Facebook page or other contact information:
What unique perspective, experience or expertise would you bring to the School Board?
After spending more than a decade building effective educational programs across Virginia, I know what works in public education and what will work in Alexandria.
Education is my chosen profession. For the past 10 years, I have worked with students, educators, and administrators from nearly every county in the Commonwealth and from all 50 states. I am currently the Director of Civic Education at the Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and previously served as an educator leading civics and government classes for middle and high school students at the Close Up Foundation, a non-partisan organization headquartered in Alexandria.
Through my work in civic education, I have reached two overarching conclusions:
1. Public school kids who learn in an engaging environment become the next generation of successful citizens, employees and leaders.
2. Public school educators and administrators with a clear, shared mission inspire each other and their students.
What are top challenges facing ACPS and how do you plan to engage the community to address them?
Achievement Gap: I will fight to close Alexandria’s achievement gap by providing more access to pre-K education; increasing enrollment in advanced classes, meeting special educations needs and goals by providing targeted services, and increasing on-time graduation rates.
Retain and Attract Top Educators: I want to attract and retain top educators and administrators by giving these professionals more ownership in education initiatives; improving communications among teachers, parents, school board, and administration; and providing teacher support for students’ individualized education plans (IEPs).
Transparency and Better Communication: The board must restore community trust in Alexandria City Public Schools through a transparent process for policy decisions that citizens can trust, through sound fiscal management practices, and through open lines of communication to engage the community.
What role do the members of the School Board play in ensuring transparency and accountability at the ACPS Central Office?
As stewards of Alexandria citizen tax dollars and as the employer of the Superintendent, the School Board has a duty to ensure transparency and accountability in the ACPS Central Office. The Board needs to do a better job of increasing transparency and improving communication with the community. The citizens in Alexandria deserve nothing less.
What is your opinion of the superintendent’s job performance?
Dr. Mort Sherman has big ideas and believes in closing the achievement gap in Alexandria. However, he has not effectively managed change in ACPS by doing too much too fast without the input of stakeholders, especially teachers and parents. Teachers need to have a voice in the decision-making process so that programs are done with them, not to them. We have talented teachers in ACPS who are on the front lines, and we should listen to their opinions. Otherwise, teacher morale and retention is impacted, which directly impacts our children. Likewise, parents need better communication from the schools, giving them a voice in the process of implementing new programs.
The School Board must ensure the Superintendent’s programs are focused on quality, not quantity, with each program including a three- to five-year evaluation plan to assess the outcomes. Likewise, these programs need to be better communicated to the public.
Finally, the School Board must insist on more transparency and accountability in the ACPS Central Office under Dr. Sherman’s leadership.
How can a School Board member improve communication between ACPS and parents/caregivers?
The School Board needs to be more transparent and better at communicating its decisions. To accomplish this, I advocate more upfront community involvement about policy decisions before the board takes action. Likewise, the school administration needs keep its website current with important information for students and families about upcoming events, dates, and school changes. I met a number of families on back-to-school nights who were new to ACPS and felt lost due to a lack of communication. As an informed candidate, I have found the ACPS Twitter feed more up-to-date on upcoming events and calendar items than the ACPS website. This is unacceptable. School websites and the ACPS website need to be updated to better serve the needs of our community.
What are some of your ACPS budget priorities? For example, do you favor spending more money to keep class sizes low or a longer school year or day? Are there certain areas that should be trimmed financially?
While many new programs were implemented in Alexandria in the last couple years, very little measurement data exist on how these new programs are improving student achievement. Without a baseline understanding of program impact, we cannot make an informed decision about what programs warrant expansion, revision, or elimination. As a School Board member, I will insist that the School Board inventory and evaluate all programs being funded so that we can make data-driven decisions to allocate resources to programs that close the achievement gap and raise the standards for all students and find savings in programs that are not meeting the needs of our students.
The next School Board likely will need to address the possibility of boundary adjustments and attendance zone changes. What are your guiding principles regarding economic or racial segregation, neighborhood schools, magnet schools, class and school sizes, busing policies and other considerations?
Enrollment in ACPS is growing making capacity a real challenge facing the next School Board. Currently, Jefferson-Houston and Patrick Henry are funded for expansion. Based on projected enrollments, the city may need to build one to three more schools in the next three to six years, as well as expand existing schools to accommodate projected student growth. A long-term capacity needs study commissioned by the City Council and ACPS will be presented to the public this December. The results from this study will greatly inform the incoming School Board and the City Council about where best to allocate funds for new schools, school expansion, pre-K education, and school district lines. While these decisions will be important, keeping class sizes low and ensuring that families have access to their neighborhood school remains a top priority for me.
What role does a School Board member play in helping raise academic achievement for all students and close the achievement gap?
Closing the achievement gap remains the top challenge for Alexandria. Alexandria should be a leader in education instead of falling behind local counties. Alexandria has reduced the achievement gap in some areas like higher enrollment in advanced classes and increased graduation rates; however, the city has declined in others, namely performance in English, math, and science exams. We need to ask tough questions about scores and measurement metrics so we can make sound decisions about policy decisions and where to allocate funding. We will work to raise the bar for every student, from the top and the bottom.
As a School Board member, I will keep our budget focused on programs that help to close the achievement gap while raising the bar for all students to succeed. Pre-K education is one of the best ways to close the achievement gap. Alexandria needs to expand its pre-K offering, and ensure access to Pre-K in Alexandria. Once students are in school, we know that summer school and after school tutoring can help close the achievement gap for some of our lowest performing students, but much of that funding has been cut. Programs like AVID that are college readiness programs for low performing students should be expanded. Finally, the Individual Achievement Plan is another good example of an initiative that helps students take control of their own learning.