Sandy was one of 5 School Board candidates who were introduced at the Arlington Democrats recent meeting. It was great to see this large slate of passionate candidates and to meet the very energized members of the ArlDems.
Sandy's remarks are posted below...
Happy New Year, everyone! And thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself.
My family will tell you that the quickest way to get me on a rant is to send me an article about our “failing schools” in this country. I don’t think it is true in general --- I know it is not true in Arlington.
Arlington has great schools. This school system ranks among the best in the state. Each of our high schools have consistently been ranked in the top 100 nationally. Our on-time graduation rate is over 92 percent. We have a broad array of special programs which enrich the opportunities for our children. We educate a very diverse student population … and that diversity helps to educate us.
But as the financial planners always say, past performance does not guarantee future success. Our excellence will be challenged by a population the continues to grow, presenting new instructional and logistical requirements. And there are gaps, students who aren’t achieving --- thriving --- as others may be. In short, we can always be better.
For example, we have performance gaps between some of our ethnic and economic populations. We have populations which are disproportionately represented in our disciplinary processes. These are national problems, not just Arlington ones. Reading skills are a key indicator of these gaps, but we have challenges across the curriculum. Frustrated children stop trying and start acting out. We have to intervene early to help these students. We have strategies and programs to address these skills, but I’m not convinced that they have been implemented with consistency and competence across our school system.
To achieve that competency, we need talent and stability in our teachers. Our supervisors and principals struggle to implement even the best programs when they have to integrate new teachers into their staff each year. We are starting to lose teachers to other school districts, who are offering better support to the classroom, through specialists, social services and aides --- and yes, sometimes better pay than Arlington, a real change from past years. Every decision we take has to be focused on how it will support what goes on in our classrooms. And if we do not keep quality teachers in those classrooms, we can not expect quality results.
On a different note, Arlington Schools have a stated goal of preparing children for college and career. We’ve been quite successful on the college side. More students are taking advanced courses than ever before, and I’ve written letters of recommendation to the best universities in this country --- a lot of letters. But it is not clear that we have done as well for those whose interests and talents may not yet be college oriented. We need to do our part to enable the many different aspirations of our students.
I’ll be honest, this is very personal for me. Two of my grandchildren are now enrolled in Arlington schools. In their experiences, I have already seen some of the opportunities and challenges that Arlington presents to our families. I’ve spent my entire professional career --- and now some of my retired life --- trying to spark the passion of my students and enabling them with the tools to pursue those passions. My grandchildren love their teachers, love their school, and love learning new things, just as I wished for my students. I want that to continue for them and I want the same for all of our students.
I have lived the impact that policy and leadership can have on the classroom, both good and bad. Therefore, I’m stepping outside my career in the schools to bring that perspective to the School Board. I am well qualified to evaluate the solutions brought before the School Board. I believe I can help my School Board colleagues to translate and interpret some of the data that can so often seem baffling. And with my history of instructional and technology innovation, I am confident that I can offer some vision --- and moderation --- to the planning for the continued excellence in Arlington Public Schools.
You can find my website at “sandy for schools.com” and contact me on the various social media platforms at “sandy for schools”. I welcome your thoughts, opinions --- even rants --- and I welcome the opportunity to win your support.