Alexandria, VA

Alexandria City Public Schools have acknowledged that Thomas Chambliss Williams was a racist and segregationist, and on Friday the School Board will decide on moving forward with the renaming process for T.C. Williams High School.

On the table is a proposal to begin the renaming process by directing Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. to initiate a public engagement process this fall, followed by a report with recommendations next spring.

According to the motion going before the board:

It is well documented that throughout his tenure as Superintendent, Thomas Chambliss Williams exhibited racism, fought to maintain segregation in ACPS, and promoted the school division’s massive resistance to desegregation efforts. This is inconsistent with the forward-looking vision and values expressed in the Equity for All 2025 Strategic Plan.

I THEREFORE MOVE, pursuant to Section III.B. of Regulation FF-R, that the School Board officially consider the request to rename T.C. Williams High School. Accordingly, the School Board hereby empowers the Superintendent to initiate the public engagement process, outlined in Section I. of the regulation, to solicit community feedback and possible nominations for renaming T.C. Williams High School.

There are roughly 4,000 students who attend T.C., and it is the largest high school in Virginia. Last month, in the wake of Black Lives Matter demonstrations after George Floyd’s death, the Alexandria City Public School system condemned systemic racism, and a petition to rename the school was submitted to the board. More than 170 people signed it, including Del. Charniele Herring, Del. Mark Levine, City Councilman Canek Aguirre, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Mo Seifeldein.

Williams was the superintendent of the city school system from the 1930s to the 1960s and was a segregationist who advocated against integration.

Lindsey Vick and Marc Solomon are leading the new fight to get the school renamed. Two previous efforts to change the name failed, and Vick and Solomon want a faster resolution.

“While we understand the enormous challenges in reopening, we cannot accept an extended process to simply decide to change the name,” the pair told ALXnow in a statement. “We believe the school board can vote to remove the name immediately and have a new name chosen by the end of the year. Neighboring districts and districts across the nation have acted faster. Alexandria can, too. Our children are watching.”

The current placeholder name is Tubman-Chavez High School.

“Harriet Tubman was a black female freedom fighter and César Chávez was an important Latino civil rights activist,” notes an ACPS staff report. “[They were] incredible Americans whose names would honor our high school while allowing it to keep the initials ‘T.C.’ They would provide representation to students who do not see their heritage adequately in Alexandria schools’ names… This name change can preserve most branding, allow students to still be part of ‘T.C.,’ and remove this stain on our history.”

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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Alexandria City Public Schools will not comment on assertions made by the former ACPS Chief Operating Officer Mignon Anthony, who lambasted the school system and the leadership of Superintendent Gregory Huthings, Jr. in a scathing opinion letter published by the Alexandria Times.

Anthony apologized for not fulfilling promises made when she started her job in January 2018, and said that the tide turned against her after raising concerns over de-escalating transportation employee complaints. She also that ACPS leadership is unstable and that it “does not serve our students or educators well.”

“At this critical time, when ACPS needs the voice and solutions of every demonstrated leader and change-agent mind, what you actually have behind the scenes is a hurt and confused, disappointed, insecure, silenced and desperately hard-working staff,” Anthony wrote. “This seems to be the ACPS legacy.”

Helen Lloyd, the ACPS director of communications, told ALX now that it is a personnel matter and that she could not comment on it.

ALXnow also reached out to School Board Chair Cindy Anderson but did not receive a reply.

Anthony said Hutchings’ ACPS restructuring plan was hastily done and that ACPS leadership is now short staffed.

“On July 1, 2020, in one fell swoop, ACPS is beginning a new fiscal year without a chief  operating officer, chief human resources officer, director of transportation, director of safety and security as well as the director of procurement, who recently resigned,” Anthony wrote. “I fear others may be contemplating escape or a protective posture – meaning, only do what you are told.”

Mayor Justin Wilson wrote on Facebook that he is aware of much of the issues raised by Anthony.

“There is a lot in that letter that concerns me,” Wilson said. “Much of it, I am aware of. I have expressed those concerns to those who can address the concerns.”

The school board has two public hearings this week on the potential reopening of the school system this fall.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Free food distributions will be disrupted by the July 4 weekend in Alexandria, but food is still available.

Most notably there will not be any Alexandria City Public Schools distributions from Friday, July 3, until operations resume on Monday, July 6.

“Meal distribution locations and pop up sites will not operate on Friday, July 3, ahead of the Independence Day holiday,” advised ACPS.

Here are the available free food distribution points in the city this weekend, according to Hunger Free Alexandria.

  • A bag lunch and food pantry distribution is available on Friday at Meade Memorial Episcopal Church (322 N. Alfred Street) from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meals and food will be served in the courtyard to go.
  • Washington Street United Methodist Church (109 S. Washington Street) has a free breakfast Friday from 6-8 a.m.
  • Christ House (131 S. West Street) has evening meals available every night of the week from 4:30 – 6 p.m.
  • The ALIVE! food delivery program for COVID-19 patients, seniors, the disabled and single parents with young children is available for eligible residents by calling 703-746-5999
  • Rising Hope United Methodist Church (8220 Russell Road) will provide grab-and-go meals from 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday while supplies last

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Alexandria African American activists and leaders virtually came out in force on Sunday to demand that T.C. Williams High School be renamed.

“When I first learned that the high school that I graduated from was named after a segregationist and a racist, I was appalled,” said Lindsey Woodson Vick, a T.C. grad, who organized and led Zoom chat with advocates for changing the school name. “We owe better to the people who came before us and the people who will come after us.”

Vick’s father, Howard Woodson, led an effort to change the school name in the early 2000s.

Woodson, the former president of the Alexandria NAACP, wanted to get the school renamed when the school board approved a massive renovation in 2004.

“When I came to Alexandria in ’75, I was appalled to find out that a couple years before that the teachers lounges have been segregated,” Woodson said. “Black teachers were not allowed to go into the same lounge with white teachers. The school board heard our statement and did nothing, decided to keep the name and here we are today.”

The city, over the last month, has seen Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death, prompting the Alexandria City Public School system to condemn systemic racism, in addition to increased focus that has been put on the police and quality of life issues throughout the city.

Thomas Chambliss Williams, who was the superintendent of the city school system from the 1930s to the 1960s, was a segregationist who advocated against integration. A petition to rename the school was submitted to the school earlier this month, and more than 170 people signed it, including Del. Charniele Herring, Del. Mark Levine, City Councilman Canek Aguirre, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Mo Seifeldein.

“I do not want my daughter having to see that name every day when she goes to school,” said one parent. “That’s just shameful.”

Vick said that the school board has agreed to put the issue up for discussion in September, but that she wants the board to address it next month.

“We need to remain vigilant and make sure that the school board right this is something that needs to be done today,” Vick said. “Not tomorrow, not next week, not in September, but now.”

Board Chair Cindy Anderson said that wouldn’t be possible, except to open the topic for discussion. The upcoming July 10 meeting will cover the reopening plan for this fall, and she said that the school system has so far been focused on contending with the pandemic.

“We actually have to let people know before we vote,” Anderson said. “We have to have public engagement before we vote to even change the name.”

Anderson added, “I understand the urgency… I’m in communication with, with the superintendent and the policy person about this and the kinds of things that we need to do to follow the steps that have been in our policy.”

Glenn Hopkins led an effort to try to get the name changed in the 1990s, and hopes for different results this time around.

“We absolutely must change the name of T.C. Williams High School,” he said. “We don’t have a choice because the time is now, and I expect my friends on the school board to get behind this and make up what for they should have done years and years and years ago.”

Christopher Harris, the current Alexandria NAACP president, is a T.C. graduate, and said he was always proud to be a Titan, until he began to understand who T.C. Williams was.

“Every time someone goes in that school, they have to walk underneath the name and a banner of an individual that does not want us there,” Harris said. “Not only will it be a political issue, it’s gonna be an ethical issue, an issue that a lot of people are gonna have to look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘Okay, it is time to make this change.'”

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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It was a busy week in Alexandria, and there is plenty to talk about.

The city is moving forward with phase three of reopening its economy on July 1, and the news comes as the death toll from the coronavirus moved up to 50 and the number of cases steadily rise.

It also looks like the upcoming Alexandria City Public School school year and city services will continue to be impacted until the virus is held at bay, and school and city staff are developing plans to stagger teleworking and in-person schedules for students and staff alike.

Restaurants are reopening like never before, which is to say that customers are cautiously welcomed as Health Department restrictions are slowly lifted and many establishments have expanded their outdoor seating.

Here are the top 11 most-read articles this week in Alexandria.

  1. Del Ray Pizza Restaurant Converts Parking Deck Into Tropical Oasis Themed Bar
  2. COVID-19 Cases Steadily Increase as Alexandria Releases Phase Three Reopening Guidelines
  3. Large Residential Development in Braddock Goes to Planning Commission Tomorrow
  4. Alexandria Now Has 50 COVID-19 Deaths, Cases Climbing by Double Digits Daily
  5. East Eisenhower Avenue Project Returns With A New Senior Living Component
  6. Students Likely to Rotate School Attendance When ACPS Reopens
  7. Alexandria Preps for Phase 3 Reopening on July 1
  8. Lights On: Two Nineteen Restaurant Reopening Today in Old Town
  9. Developers Take Another Crack at Converting North Old Town Office to Housing
  10. Housing Affordability and Cost of Living Get Low Rating in Community Livability Report
  11. Inova Alexandria Hospital Now Treating 20+ Coronavirus Patients

Feel free to discuss these or other topics in the comments. Have a safe weekend!

Staff photo by James Cullum

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A summer learning program all Alexandria City Public Schools students will be expected to attend is scheduled to start on July 6 and will continue throughout that month.

According to ACPS, summer learning will be offered Monday through Thursday from July 6 to July 31. Pre-K through 8th-grade classes are scheduled to run from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. while high school classes are scheduled to run from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Class sizes are expected to be around 25-30 students together in a Zoom call.

The goals of the summer program are to keep students on track for their upcoming classes after missing several months due to COVID-19. According to an FAQ page:

Academic loss during COVID-19 is real. This year, it has the potential to be combined with summer learning loss, too. We don’t want our children to get further behind. It is important that we as a school division do everything we can to ensure students’ learning needs are being met, especially during these unprecedented times. To minimize summer learning loss, we are offering summer learning and enrichment for all students for the first time.

ACPS officials insisted that the classes aren’t mandatory, although parents who did not want their kids enrolled in the classes have to file a form to opt-out. ACPS said there would be no repercussions for opting out. Students also have the option to access pre-recorded lectures throughout the day.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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The Alexandria School Board has received a petition from the community, and the topic of renaming T.C. Williams High School will be addressed this fall, according to Board Chair Cindy Anderson.

The school system will also be looking at the names of all of its facilities, however no future date has been set in stone as ACPS is focusing on its reopening plan, Anderson said.

“We will look at this in the fall, but we’ll also be looking more holistically at names of all of our facilities,” Anderson told ALXnow. “It doesn’t make sense to address one when there’s discussion in the community about other schools.”

Anderson would not discuss her opinion on the subject, but added, “I think we need to have a discussion about names just generally before we decide what kind of process we might want to consider.”

As previously reported, another effort is underway to send the Board a petition on renaming Matthew Maury Elementary School. Maury, the father of oceanography, was a special agent for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and tried to found a new colony in Mexico after the Union defeated the southern rebellion.

“First of all, we have to decide as a board whether we wanted to pursue it at this time,” Anderson said. “If the answer is yes, then we’d have to devise a process that includes robust public engagement.”

T.C. Williams, who was the superintendent of the city school system from the 1930s to the 1960s, was a segregationist who advocated against integration. More than 170 people signed the petition to rename the high school, which is the largest in Virginia, including Del. Charniele Herring, Del. Mark Levine, City Councilman Canek Aguirre, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Mo Seifeldein.

T.C. graduate Lindsey Woodson Vick is one of the leaders of the effort.

“We have unprecedented support from a variety of stakeholders and feel confident that with continued momentum through the summer the name will be changed this fall,” Vick said.

Marc Solomon organized the petition and was critical that ACPS did not address the issue sooner.

“While understandable given the reopening crisis, it’s just unfortunate that our school board wasn’t able to make this happen sooner like other districts have done,” he said.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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Samuel Tucker Elementary’s proud year-round school program is being cut back this year due to coronavirus, but School Board members offered reassurances to the community that the change is only temporary.

At a School Board meeting last Friday, school principal Rene Paschal said the questions about how coronavirus would impact the school’s calendar started in the parent community and conversations with school staff continued until the school administration was putting together a plan for what a temporary change away from the year-round program would look like.

“A poll showed over 70% support for a one-year modification,” Paschal said. “Every time it came up with a parent, you could almost viscerally see the comma come up with ‘don’t forget, it’s for one year only.'”

The new schedule will align Tucker with the rest of the school system for one year — starting on Tuesday, September 8. Teachers are expected back on Thursday, August 27.

School Board members acknowledged that there was cause for parental concern, given that the School Board has previously looked into eliminating the year-round program at Samuel Tucker. Board members said not only was the change temporary, but some suggested there is support for looking at implementing year-round programming at other schools now that restrictions have been lifted on how early schools can begin.

“I can relate to where that concern comes from,” said School Board member Ramee Gentry. “There was a period of time in ACPS when it did feel to the Tucker community that they had to wage a full campaign every budget cycle to preserve the modified calendar. Fortunately, we haven’t seen that in recent years.”

The ACPS website said that teachers at Tucker will remain on their usual payroll schedule as changing to a new schedule for one year would create an unneeded disruption.

Veronica Nolan, Vice-Chair of the School Board, said that not only is the school board not considering permanent changes to the Tucker calendar, but that she hoped the program could be expanded to more schools, noting that students traditionally lose learned information over the summer between school years — a phenomenon called the Summer Slide.

Photo via ACPS

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With summer officially in full swing, Alexandria City Public Schools is working to reopen its playgrounds to the public.

On Monday, the playgrounds at Patrick Henry Elementary School, Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School and Jefferson Houston School reopened, according to an email that was sent to parents.

“All other playgrounds will remain closed for the time being to complete necessary repairs to ensure the safety of playground visitors,” Helen Lloyd, ACPS director of communications, wrote to parents. “Repairs are anticipated to begin early next week and affected playgrounds will reopen once deemed safe to do so.”

One parent who spoke anonymously was miffed that the playground at Mount Vernon Community School was closed.

“Closed for maintenance?” the parent said. “Seriously? Couldn’t that have been done while everything was closed?”

Playgrounds will be considered open only if and when their gates are unlocked and signs are erected telling folks that restrictions have been lifted.

Lloyd told ALXnow that the coronavirus has slowed down operations, and that as playgrounds are being cleaned and renovated, there is no timeline which playgrounds will open and when.

“We understand families really want to be on the playgrounds,” Lloyd said. “We’re working as quickly as possible to make that happen.”

Courtesy photo

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Morning Notes

Beyer Criticizes Pence Over Second Wave Comments — “Over 116,000 Americans have died. Over 2,000,000 have gotten sick. The person appointed by the President to lead the response (you) flout basic safety precautions recommended by the CDC to prevent spread of the virus as more people get sick.” [Twitter]

Alexandria DMV Opening June 22 by Appointment Only — “The validity of driver’s licenses and identification cards expiring on or before July 31, 2020, is extended for 90 days, not to exceed August 31, 2020. This means that a customer whose credential expired between March 15 and May 31 will have 90 days beyond the expiration date to renew, and credentials with an expiration date from June 1 to July 31 must be renewed no later than August 31, 2020. Vehicle registrations that expire in March, April, and May are extended for 90 days; those expiring in June are extended for 60 days; and those expiring in July are extended for 30 days. In addition, the federal enforcement date for REAL IDs was moved to October 1, 2021.” [DMV]

Mind The Mat Offering Outdoor Fitness Classes — “We’re outdoors! Of course our virtual classes are here to stay but check out our schedule each week to see our outdoor schedule!” [Facebook]

City Pools Opening Next Month With Restrictions — “Outdoor pools will open on July 1 under Virginia’s phase two reopening guidance.” [Patch]

Who Alexandria Schools Are Named After — “Here’s who (or what) Alexandria’s school buildings are named after, with links to learn more information about each person.” [Alexandria Living]

Patagonia Opening in September in Old Town — “Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear company, is moving into the Old Town Theater space on King Street. Construction stopped in March due to concerns about coroanvirus, but the company is planning to resume construction in early September and open just a few weeks later.” [Alexandria Living]

New Job: DASH Bus is Hiring — “Join the DASH team! We’re looking for operators.” [Facebook]

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T.C. Williams High School held a graduation ceremony like no other on Saturday, with world champion sprinter Noah Lyles, members of the student body, the superintendent and principal — while most of the school’s 865 graduates never left the comfort of their homes.

The virtual ceremony was the first of its kind in the history of the Alexandria City Public School system, as all schools throughout Virginia were shut down in March for the remainder of a school year that would also be defined by the state of race relations in the country. The graduating class of 2020 was also the largest in T.C. history, according to ACPS.

Lyles, a 2016 graduate of T.C., said that his life was also filled with adversity and that he is a lifelong asthmatic who was bullied in high school and is dyslexic.

“Facing those adversities are what got me here today,” Lyles said. “You need to know that you can make it through, because just this time period of 2020 will not be your last, and you can make it to the next one, and the next one and the one after that, and you will look back on the times of 2020 and say, ‘I got through that, and I came out stronger than ever.'”

Class President Amiya Chisolm said that she and her classmates faced a school year full of uncertainty and that it will make them stronger in the future.

“Right about now we had envisioned going to our prom, senior cookout, walking around the hallways of our elementary and middle schools and even hearing our names celebrated as we walk across the stage at (George Mason University),” Chisolm said. “Instead, we were unexpectedly hit with a pandemic that not only took away our plans — and some of our loved ones — but also blurred our futures. In addition to this pandemic, we have also witnessed multiple murders in the black community at the hands of police brutality.”

Posted by Alexandria City Public Schools on Monday, June 15, 2020

Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr., said that the class made history with its virtual graduation, and that it will be defined by righting societal wrongs.

“These are times when we can actually collectively feel the uncertainty, the stress, the anxiety as individuals, as families as a school division and as a nation,” Hutchings said. “Class of 2020, we must advocate for social justice and anti-racism in America, regardless of your race, regardless of your background. This is a new time in all of our lives when all lives must matter and we must rethink our priorities, our values and reinvent a new normal.”

T.C. Principal Peter Balas said that the class of 2020 was one of the most special he has ever led, and challenged the graduates to lead the way in the future.

“I challenge you to lead the way and to be the change that you want to see in the world,” Balas said. “And to accept nothing less, because your futures matter. I can promise you that the class of 2020 will always be remembered.”

https://www.facebook.com/acpsk12/videos/304725407199397/?__xts__[0]=68.ARAsbRe8VyP2ncLA2_J1k6lH3AaPI6ygQCfN0wrkLl7ZwL3DlT8-3DTUQnTB8gnUOpP5tuINP6Guu0yxwGCQ2x3EsfZnxDkXVfNVkzNccLQIjg_fW-IiTlH_ONy5Gn7ciqdeulYRDObGN0L4SnHSbnI3OTEo214vlaI206vsslhIfV0KIUXjGAy79wUshyIw3Z0r4uRSQKk0JrL0ha8Urz6CAq5XvWUUTUZ69iMyA1gLr1J9lzpjR27-BdPnh2usBHstFH_mCH5cnLvMuKXgRBrC53iABl2V390tYGjwxmwqtwZRL2ySzEVWt6ifLp5AMLie-wszVaCleu2J_56BlbmuZ7Vmt5qxzR8&__tn__=-R

Images via ACPS/Facebook

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After the long-awaited removal of the confederate Appomattox statue at Prince and Washington Streets, some in Alexandria are turning their attention back to a long-simmering discussion about whether T.C. Williams High School should be renamed.

It’s no secret that Thomas Chambliss Williams, the superintendent of Alexandria schools from the ’30s to the ’60s, was an ardent segregationist who fought against uniting black and white students in the school system. Williams notably fired a black employee who participated in an NAACP lawsuit against the city, though he claimed race had nothing to do with the decision, according to Zebra.

A Facebook group has sprung up around trying to change the name. The group’s leadership is less firm around what the new name should be. The current placeholder name is Tubman-Chavez High School, though other suggestions have included Alexandria High School or Parker-Gray High School in honor of the school that closed in 1965.

This isn’t the first time the topic of renaming T.C. Williams High School has come up. The topic divided the School Board in 2017 after protests to the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, according to Theogony, the student-run newspaper at the school. Theogony reported that some School Board members were concerned that changing the name could hinder donations to the Scholarship Fund — an organization currently hindered by COVID-19 after its annual gala was canceled.

A spokesperson for Alexandria City Public Schools said the name cannot be changed by a principal or superintendent but would require School Board approval.

The official policy on renaming a school is:

The School Board may, at its discretion, consider requests to rename an existing school. The following procedure shall be followed when renaming an existing school to honor individuals or to recognize places or historical events for their contribution to the community or their impact on it. As outlined in Appendix A, such requests must be submitted to the Clerk of the Board with an accompanying petition of 100 Alexandria residents who support the request. In addition, the following procedures shall be followed:

A. Existing schools may be renamed for, but are not limited to, individuals who have made an exceptional and extraordinary contribution to a particular school, school program, or to the school division as a whole; provided, however, that any individuals for whom an existing school is to be renamed shall no longer be an active employee of Alexandria City Public Schools. Existing schools may also be renamed in recognition of a place or event of historical significance related to the school facility itself. Names that could cause confusion with other public facilities in Alexandria, or in adjoining jurisdictions and other areas of the Commonwealth should be avoided.

B. If, after receipt of the request and supporting petition, the Board votes to pursue a request to rename an existing school, the Superintendent will follow the naming process as outlined in Section I. above.

C. Such requests may be submitted at any time, provided however, that following the rejection of a request for renaming an existing school by the School Board, the same or substantially the same recommendation may not be considered again until 12 months after such rejection.

All requests shall include: (1) the name(s) of the individual and/or group(s) making the request; (2) biographical/historical data concerning the proposed name; (3) the rationale for the request; and (4) a petition of 100 Alexandria City residents in support of the request. Appendix A contains the forms to be used for such requests.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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