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(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) By the time this story is published, candidates will have just an hour-and-a-half to file the necessary paperwork to run in the Jan. 9 special election to fill the vacant seat on the Alexandria School Board.

The deadline is 5 p.m. to file the following with the city’s Office of Voter Registration & Elections:

  • Declaration of Candidacy
  • Candidate Petitions (with 125 signatures of qualified voters from School Board, District A)
  • Certificate of Candidate Qualification
  • Statement of Economic Interests
  • Statement of Organization

So far, Gina Baum and Tim Beaty have filed paperwork to run for the open seat, according to Angie Turner, the city’s registrar of voters.

Baum is a managing broker with Keller Williams Metro Center, according to her LinkedIn page. As part of her filing, she submitted 150 signatures, a campaign email address and a campaign website, the latter of which hasn’t yet been set up.

Last month, District A School Board Member Willie Bailey abruptly resigned, prompting the Alexandria Circuit Court to order a special election for Jan. 9. The winner of the election will serve out the remaining 11 months of Bailey’s term before the next School Board is sworn into office in January 2025, following the November 2024 general election.

There are at least two other interested candidates collecting signatures — former School Board Member Bill Campbell and retired labor leader Tim Beaty.

Campbell was elected to the School Board in 2012 and reelected in 2015, but lost his reelection bid in 2018. He also lost a 2021 City Council bid, and while he said that he has collected enough signatures to run, Campbell told ALXnow that he’s weighing family obligations before taking the plunge and running for office again.

“I have a few hours left to make that decision,” Campbell said.

Beaty, the former global strategies director for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, addressed the Alexandria Democratic Committee at its monthly meeting on Monday night. He said that he’s been a city resident for nine years, and has been a precinct captain at Cora Kelly School, and that his main goal would be to help ACPS in its collective bargaining efforts with staff.

“I think the process of collective bargaining should be able to help us with retention of too many teachers that are leaving the system because the workers will be represented in the collective bargaining negotiation,” Beaty said, “And to be able to attract more folks with hopefully through collective bargaining process better wages, benefits and working conditions.”

Dining in Old Town. (Staff photo by James Cullum)

All arguments aside, Alexandria’s equity standards and economic prospects have been declared sound.

Yesterday, the city announced that S&P Global Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service reaffirmed Alexandria’s ‘AAA’ bond rating. The city has maintained the designation since 1992, and it equates to a good credit rating for the city to get low-interest rates from bond investors to provide funding for multiple projects.

“This is the ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ for the city’s fiscal management and the state of our municipal balance sheet,” Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “This allows the City to borrow at the lowest-possible rates and maximize taxpayer dollars as we invest in critical infrastructure projects, including two new schools.”

This city said that before the end of the year it will issue $258 million of tax-exempt general obligation bonds to pay for capital improvement projects, like the Minnie Howard Redevelopment Project at Alexandria City High School, the newly constructed Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, and to the West End project at the former Landmark Mall property.

The Nexus at West Alex rendering (via AHDC)

Alexandria also announced Thursday that it got a perfect score in The Human Rights Campaign’s 2023 Municipal Equality Index. The city, which got its third annual perfect score, is one of more than 500 municipalities across the country evaluated on the inclusiveness of their laws, policies and services toward LGBTQ+ residents.

Last year, city leaders decried Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s recommendations restricting transgender bathroom and pronoun use in public schools. In July, Alexandria City Public Schools put out a statement refusing to comply with the recommendations.

“(W)e want to reaffirm our commitment to all students, staff and families, including our LGBTQIA+ community, that ACPS will continue to both implement and develop gender affirming policies for all ACPS students,” School Board Chair Michelle Rief and SUperintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt said in their joint statement. “School Board Policy JB: Nondiscrimination in Education protects students from discrimination due to gender expression, gender identity, sexual harassment and transgender status.”

Wilson said that equity was prioritized by City Council in its 2021 ALL Alexandria resolution, as well as by the city’s LGBTQ+ Task Force.

“I’m thrilled to see that paying off, and our efforts being recognized with another perfect score,” he said. “But this recognition is not the mark of a finished job. We have to keep working to ensure that Alexandria is an inclusive environment for everyone.”

George Washington Middle School (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) accidentally shared private student information in a George Washington Middle School newsletter, though an ACPS administrator said fortunately only one person outside of ACPS clicked the link before it was corrected.

In an email to ACPS parents, ACPS Chief of Accountability and Research Clinton Page said the newsletter had information originally intended just for a limited number of staff. Specifically, the newsletter provided access to:

  • student names
  • student identification numbers
  • English learner status and special education status
  • current year attendance
  • measures of academic progress

Page said home addresses and social security numbers were not included in the document.

“It is my understanding that this link was active for approximately 19 hours, and that this information was accessed by only one person outside of ACPS,” Page said. “We have been in contact with this person and they have agreed to delete the link and disregard the information.”

Page said as soon as ACPS was aware of the issue the link was immediately deactivated.

“We are taking steps to ensure that such links can only be accessed by the appropriate staff members through data security improvements and additional staff training,” Page said.

Page said there’s no reason to believe the incident poses a risk to students.

“While some of your student’s information may have been viewed, we have no reason to believe that this incident poses any risk to your student and do not believe you need to take any action,” Page said.

Alexandria Police lights (staff photo by James Cullum)

An Alexandria middle school student allegedly admitted to her parents and police that she sent a threatening message to her school’s Instagram page last month, according to a recently released search warrant affidavit.

On Oct. 11 (Wednesday), at around 5 p.m., a now-unavailable Instagram account sent a direct message to an Alexandria middle school’s Instagram page and said, “Be prepared for October 12, 2023,” and then said that “11th and 12th grade upper school teachers” were targeted and that there were “many more who must suffer.”

“This message was then followed by 5 photos of what appeared to be stock images of firearms, (a) pipe bomb, and machetes,” police said in the search warrant affidavit.

There are only two middle schools in Alexandria — George Washington Middle School (1005 Mount Vernon Avenue) and Francis C. Hammond Middle School (4646 Seminary Road).

School staff alerted police of the threats, according to the search warrant affidavit.

Police contacted Meta, Inc., the parent company for Instagram, which provided a T-Mobile phone number. The number was matched with a home in Old Town, according to the search warrant affidavit. Police then interviewed the account holder, who said that the phone is used by her daughter, who is a student at an Alexandria middle school.

The student admitted to her mother and police that she sent the Instagram messages, according to the search warrant affidavit.

“(The juvenile) explained that she had utilized her black Google Android cellphone to send the threat and had used online sources in her cellphone to research the… photos,” according to the search warrant affidavit.

Alexandria City Public Schools would not say which middle school was targeted, or whether the student was disciplined.

“Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) does not comment on student matters,” Julia Burgos, the ACPS community relations chief, told ALXnow.

A student walkout at Alexandria City High School protesting for a ceasefire to the Israel-Hamas war, Nov. 9, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Students walked out of classes at Alexandria City High School’s King Street campus this morning to support a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Hundreds of students at the school, which has an enrollment of approximately 4,000 students, engaged in a walk-out protest — joining international protests against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

“There are Palestinian Jews dying every day,” one student speaker said. “We came here for peace. We are not spreading hate today. We are here to help stop a genocide.”

Chants of “No more hiding, no more fear, genocide is crystal clear” were heard from across King Street. Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said news media would not be allowed on school grounds during the walkout.

Most of the students returned to the school after the protest, though some left the campus.

“The protest was great,” one senior in a group of four told ALXnow. “We’re not going back today. We’re ditching school.”

Rabbi David Spinrad from the Beth El Hebrew Congregation stood across from the school with an Israeli flag.

“I’m an American and a Jew, and as an American, I respect the first amendment and people’s freedom of expression,” Spinrad said, “but that freedom of expression doesn’t extend to hate speech, it doesn’t include anti-semitism, which is far more nuanced, particularly in this situation than the vast majority of them have ever been educated around.”

Spinrad said he wants ACPS to ensure the protection of Jewish students at the school during the protests and would be interested to hear about the specifics of a ceasefire.

“If every one of the 248 hostages were immediately returned, if Hamas surrendered unconditionally, then I think a ceasefire is absolutely something that’s appropriate,” Spinrad. “But as long as Israel is fighting a state-sponsored terrorist organization that abuts the state of Israel, their responsibility is first and foremost to their citizens, including those 248 hostages.”

ACHS Executive Principal Alexander Duncan III notified parents via email on Wednesday afternoon that school staff have planned for a “peaceful and safe environment for our students.”

Duncan’s message is below:

It is our understanding that tomorrow (Thurs., Nov. 9, 2023) is a national day of protest related to current events in the Middle East. We have learned that there will be at least one student walkout at Alexandria City High School (ACHS) – King Street Campus that is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. We want to assure you that plans are in place as we work to ensure a peaceful and safe environment for our students.

As students exercise their right to free speech during the school day tomorrow, ACHS administrators and staff, in addition to Central Office staff, will be prepared and positioned to ensure that this walkout is conducted in a safe and respectful manner, with as little disruption to normal operations as possible. As stated in our Student Code of Conduct, we ask students to be kind, respectful and cooperative to prevent problems and solve problems in a peaceful and collaborative way.

For any student who has concerns about these ongoing events and wants to talk to a counselor or another trusted adult, there are resources in place. At ACHS, students can always reach out to a counselor or another Student Support Team (SST) member, administrator, or any trusted adult in the school if they are in need of help. Our students can also reach out to CrisisText and Crisis Link at any time, 24/7, through the contacts below:

  • Text: CONNECT to 85511
  • Call CrisisLink: 703-527-4077

We have collaborated with our Safety and Security Team to ensure that we have adequate security supports in place. The safety and security of our students and staff are of utmost priority.

Students also staged a walk-out protest earlier this year over the cancellation of lunchtime activities.

James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story

The first day at school at George Mason Elementary School, August 21, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) says school modernization and upgrades are the big focal point of the upcoming Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Budget, particularly at George Mason Elementary School.

In a release, Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt said the priority of the FY 2025 CIP Budget is modernization projects to meet projected capacity needs.

“We have made a strong commitment to cultivating a bright instructional future for our community, and our learning environments and facilities are vital to this priority,” said Melanie Kay-Wyatt in the release. “This proposed budget, which is in line with our projected capacity needs for years to come, is a testament to our dedication to providing ample room and flexibility to support student growth, learning and opportunity.”

The ten-year CIP is $314 million.

The budget summary says the FY 2025 CIP includes:

  • $67 million for the construction of George Mason Elementary School
  • $10 million for replacement and capacity additions at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology
  • $6 million for renovation of ACPS’ transportation facility

The lion’s share is for the George Mason project, but the budget item noted it was unclear if ACPS could afford new construction or only renovation of the school, which was built in 1939.

“GM has not had major systems updates due to its established timeline and place in previous CIP Budgets,” the budget said. “Reduction in scope directly impacts total capacity of school, square footage, area for amenities, potential for net zero, and introduces timing disruptions. [The] next step is to evaluate if new construction is feasible or if only a renovation is possible.”

A public hearing for the CIP Budget is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 13, at 6:30 p.m.

The Alexandria City High School Zombie Band marches at the Del Ray Halloween Parade, Oct. 29, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Nearly 1,200 signatures have been collected in a new petition asking for a holiday for Alexandria City Public Schools students the day after Halloween, on Nov. 1.

According to the petition:

For students of ACPS, along with people amongst the world, the day after Halloween is tough. Feeling ill and exhausted after a long night of walking and eating is not what students want to come to school the next day with. Students will be tired, sick, and overwhelmed, since the educational quarter just ended. Students will be unable to focus and put their best effort if they have a raging migraine, or bad exhaustion. Cancel school the day after halloween!

The petition launched on Oct. 30. In 2019, a similar petition raised more than 4,000 signatures.

There is no change listed in the ACPS calendar, and school is scheduled normally.

A tree planting commemorating the 80th anniversary of Charles Barrett Elementary School, Oct. 25, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

World War II was at its peak when Charles Barrett Elementary School first opened 80 years ago. In recognition of the anniversary, on Wednesday students and school officials gathered in front of the school, planted a baby oak tree and sang the school song.

The tree was donated by the North Ridge Citizens’ Association.

“There are so many people who have made our school community the awesome place for learning that is today,” said Principal Loren Brady, who has been at the school for four years. “Charles Barrett has the deep roots in the community that has helped to support us with useful energy.”

The school was built to accommodate the children living in the ParkFairfax development, which was built to relieve a wartime housing shortage, according to Alexandria City Public Schools. It opened with four teachers and 40 students.

“The school opened on Oct. 25, 1943, with desks and chairs borrowed from other schools,” according to ACPS. “Three weeks after classes began the Alexandria School Board voted unanimously to name the school after Major General Charles Dodson Barrett of the United States Marine Corps, an Alexandrian who was killed in the South Pacific on Oct. 8, 1943.”

The school expanded over the decades and now has 544 students.

“I’m so excited for you in your school community on this big moment,” School Board Member Ashley Simpson Baird said at the tree planting. “I know that Charles Barrett will be here for many, many more years to come and we look forward to all the great work you continue to do.”

Brady said that the school will celebrate the anniversary all year, and that school history is included in this year’s curriculum.

Alexandria City High School senior Mohommed Abir Rhaman (with his AP history teacher, Erin Hudson) was notified last month that he literally aced his AP U.S. History exam (via ACPS)

Alexandria City High School senior Mohommed Abir Rhaman was shocked when he was notified last month that he got a perfect score on the Advanced Placement U.S. History Exam.

The notoriously grueling exam takes more than three hours to finish, and Rhaman is one of 13 students in the world who aced it this year, according to Alexandria City Public Schools.

“I was very shocked,” Rhaman said, of learning his score last month. “This was very early in the morning and I was in school, and I just opened my email and just saw all of a sudden while being in a tired state while my teacher was talking in class. I had to conceal my excitement. Not to be rude, just to not disturb anybody, but I was very, very excited.”

The exam, which Rhaman took in May, generally covers the history of the Americas from Christopher Columbus landing in 1492 to the present. It’s split into three parts — 55 minutes to answer 55 multiple choice questions; 40 minutes for short answers to two questions; and an hour-and-40 minutes to write an essay.

“I can confidently say that the month leading up to the test so throughout April, I probably spent well over a couple hundred hours studying for it,” Rhaman said. “And throughout the school year, I spent a lot of time like studying for mainly AP U.S. History, just mainly because history as a subject doesn’t come to me as easily as like math or science.”

Rhaman is currently taking AP English literature, AP U.S. government, AP computer science, AP calculus, AP economics and AP physics. He’s also applying to colleges and wants to study quantum physics.

“My main interest about physics is just like, it’s kind of an attempt by mankind to try to learn more about the world and try to explain why things are the way they are, and try to expand our boundaries and to what we know or at least what we know that we don’t know,” he said.

Staying cool at Alexandria City High School’s graduation at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena, June 3, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria City High School seniors with a 3.25 cumulative grade point average or higher are now eligible for automatic admission to George Mason University.

The deal for the pilot program between Alexandria City Public Schools and GMU was struck earlier this month, and 428 ACHS seniors have since been informed that they have earned a guaranteed admission to the university. The agreement expires in August 2026.

“There are no applications, application fees, essays and SAT requirements, or recommendations,” Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt told the School Board on Oct. 5.

ACHS Executive Principal Alexander Duncan III said that direct access to college takes away the stress of figuring out a path out of high school.

“ACHS is beyond thrilled that our students are afforded this chance and thankful to GMU for providing it,” Duncan said. “No doubt, this will help as we work to provide equal access to education for all students.”

The school system said that anyone granted automatic admission will get a link to an application that’s 75% complete, with students needing to fill out the remainder.

“This trailblazing opportunity allows many seniors who may not have applied for admission to a four-year university the chance to make a life-changing decision with the confidence of knowing they have already received admissions,” ACHS Director of School Counseling R. Briana Hardaway said. “ACPS and ACHS leadership are thrilled about this pilot program and grateful to be among the initial schools in Northern Virginia who are part of this partnership.”


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