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School Board meeting gets heated over formation of school law enforcement advisory group

A miscommunication on the formation of an advisory group left the Alexandria School Board in disarray on Thursday night (March 10).

As expected, Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. and staff discussed the creation of a school law enforcement partnership (SLEP) advisory group, but Board Member Tammy Ignacio was not pleased with communication between Board members on proposed edits to Hutchings’ proposal.

The 12-person advisory group will be formed this month and make recommendations on the partnership between Alexandria City Public School and Alexandria Police for the school resource officer program, and also on school safety initiatives.

Ignacio said she was not privy to the edited recommendations that Rief circulated to Board members before the meeting. She said that the staff report recommending the formation of the group was released last Friday, and that she planned to make her edits to staff at the meeting, and was surprised by inter-Board conversations on the issue.

“We can’t openly expect to bring data forward when we’re backstabbing our own Board and making decisions and writing memos and editing them for our own specific purpose,” Ignacio said. “And if that is the way that this Board is planning to run, I don’t want to be a part of it. Transparency. Do not stand up here in front of our public and our children and our staff and talk about transparency when you’re going behind the backs of other Board members and creating memos and editing them. It is unacceptable. It is unprofessional.”

Member Kelly Carmichael Booz then made a motion to put the advisory committee under the purview of the Board, which would make it a more public process.

Board Chair Meagan Alderton said that the Board needs to focus.

“If we don’t get focused we have failed these children,” Alderton said. “Everybody needs to get focused. We have a motion on the table. Just vote.”

The motion failed in a split 4-4-1 vote with Booz, Rief, Abdel Elnoubi and Ashley Simpson-Baird voting for it, while Board Chair Meagan Alderton, Vice Chair Jacinta Greene, Chris Harris and Ignacio voting against and Member Willie Bailey abstaining. That means that the advisory committee will still be Hutchings’ responsibility, and that he will report its findings and recommendations to the Board.

Rief said the Board needs to to talk about working together as a group.

“I think there was some confusion coming into this process about the Board’s role,” Rief said. “I want more involvement from our teachers, students, parents and community members.”

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