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State Closer to Jefferson-Houston Takeover

Virginia's General Assembly passed a budget Saturday including $150,000 to fund a new body that would be charged with taking over chronically failing schools.

A measure designed to improve chronically failing schools in Virginia, including at least one in Alexandria, received funds in the state budget passed Saturday and so inches closer to becoming law.

The measure creates a new body, the Opportunity Educational Institution, which would take over the commonwealth’s schools that consistently have not met accreditation requirements. There are currently six of these schools across the state, including Alexandria’s Jefferson-Houston School in Old Town.

The state budget adopted Saturday by the General Assembly includes $150,000 for the new institution, far less that the original $600,000 sought by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Del. Greg Habeeb (D-Salem), the House patron of the governor’s legislation, told the Virginian-Pilot that he had hoped for full funding but the start-up money was enough to get the program operational.

Del. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria), said the diminished funding “does not give it much to work with.”

• See — Krupicka: State Bills Could Spell Trouble for Jefferson-Houston

The Alexandria City Public Schools board says the measure is unconstitutional because it unfairly usurps power from school boards.

• See — Graf: School Control Bill Could Merit Legal Action

Krupicka told Patch that he will continue to push for changes to the measure. The governor has about 30 days to sign it into law.

“I am hoping we can provide more flexibility to analyze what a school needs before a takeover is considered," he said. "There should be some discretion in this process as every school has different needs."

He added that there should be options for local districts to implement changes that would help prevent a take over as well as a process for local community and parent involvement.

Krupicka is also concerned that the bill currently doesn’t lay out a “clear path” for communities to get a school back.

“Right now they can be taken over forever, regardless if they improve. And the use of local taxes and facilities needs to be more clearly defined to ensure local resources are used for their students and also so they are used efficiently and fairly,” he said.

Doug February 25, 2013 at 05:42 PM
Only $150k to fund this? And no indication of exactly what this institution will do to fix the problem? Yeah, makes total sense. <sarcasm>
Edmund Lewis February 26, 2013 at 12:57 AM
That is $100,000 less than what we pay our superintendent. Raking in over $250,000 a year for the past five years and this is what our schools face! Disgraceful.
LAR February 26, 2013 at 04:12 AM
Edmund, I would prefer for the school superintendent to use the $250,000 a year to improve my neighborhood schools rather than give it to an organization that has no interest in our community. At least Mr. Sherman is accountable to us and we can have conversations with him. Will we have the same access to the new Opportunity Educational Institution? Do we know who they are? Are they educators? Politicians? Are they accountable to us? NO. Why would I want my hard earned money go to them??? I would prefer the money go directly to my neighborhood school. I prefer to have my money make a difference in my community school. I don't want my hard earned money placed in a pool for all "failing" VA schools. I want my money to go to Jefferson Houston where I can see a difference is being made. Keep the state out of my school! And keep that OEI out of my neighborhood school. Progress is being made now - lets keep it going.
elizabeth February 26, 2013 at 11:52 AM
Dr. Sherman accountable? Have conversations with him? Have you ever tried to do either? Because I have. It's not pretty and most certainly is not being held accountable.
Jon Rosenbaum February 26, 2013 at 12:38 PM
Can anyone explain why Alexandria tax payers should fund the new building for Jefferson Houston if the Commonwealth is going to expropriate it? We could use the money to build a much needed school elsewhere. Why not move the Jefferson Houston students and then leave the Commonwealth with an empty building!!?
lawgal February 26, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Alexandria and the Commonwealth will have to map out what they intend to do to bring students with limited abilities, nonexistent family support, distractions in the home and neighborhood, emotional crises, etc. up to grade level - if possible. These children need help and understanding. Leaving them to languish in a "failing school" and then quarreling for years about what to do is inappropriate. The defensive behavior ("How dare anyone tell Alexandria what to do!) is also unhelpful. Full disclosure: I have served the public schools of the U.S. in a prior career. I have no children in APS, but if I did, I doubt if I would attempt to have them educated there.
LAR February 27, 2013 at 07:52 PM
I would love to hear about your experience. You can email me privately. I am entering into the JH debate and would love to know all sides of the argument. Thank you. arasavong806@comcast.net or is it .com, please try both.
LAR February 27, 2013 at 08:09 PM
Your statement is somewhat confusing. It seems that on the one hand you have some compassion for these students with their limited abilities, non-existent family support and distractions in the home and neighborhood, etc...yet on the other hand you would abandon them like many people have in the community. I'm not saying that parents and community members can make all the changes in a school, but I think a school with good teachers can use the extra help and support from their community to help improve the school and its environment. I'm just really shocked that the community is so critical about something yet do nothing to help make improvements. Every bit of support is helpful. I'm sure everyone has heard this before but it takes a village to raise a child. Where is our village? We need to care about our community and do something. Something as simple as collecting the box top to help out the PTA to raise money to support some of the programs in the school. something as simple as going to the school and reading to the children. Something as simple as tutoring the students on a math homework they are having trouble with. Just so everyone knows, I am a mom to a rising Kindergarten student at JH. And I am excited to be a part of the JH community (unless the state takes over then I will not be sending my kid there).

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