Post Content

Good Wednesday morning, Alexandria!

🌧️ Today’s weather: Showers are likely mainly before 8am, with mostly cloudy skies and a high near 76. A southwest wind will blow at 5 to 7 mph, and there is a 60% chance of precipitation. New precipitation amounts will be less than a tenth of an inch. On Wednesday night, there is a slight chance of showers before 2am, with mostly cloudy skies and a low around 61. A southeast wind will blow at 3 to 5 mph, with a 20% chance of precipitation.

🚨 You need to know

The Alexandria City High School Titans Robotics team and their robot iBeam are heading to the FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas, this month (via YouTube)

For the third consecutive year, Alexandria City High School’s Titan Robotics team won the FIRST Impact Award on Saturday at the Chesapeake District Championships in Petersburg, Virginia. The win means that the team will now compete at the 2024 FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas, from April 17-20.

Titan Robotics’ robot, iBeam, got tenth place out of the 54 teams at the District event. The team is a nonprofit, student-led club at Alexandria City High School.

“But, robotics isn’t all about the robot, it is also about inspiration, teamwork, collaboration, and giving back to the community,” the team said in an email. “The Impact Award is given to teams that reflect the values and embody the mission of FIRST Robotics to transform the culture in ways that will inspire the highest levels of respect for science and technology while encouraging more youth to become leaders in these areas.”

📈 Tuesday’s most read

The following are the most-read ALXnow articles for Apr 9, 2024.

  1. Jefferson-Houston Elementary School administrators put on leave after autistic 4-year-old walked away from school (2232 views)
  2. New seven-story residential development pitched for Landmark neighborhood (1476 views)
  3. Amazon Fresh in the Potomac Yard Shopping Center is still happening (1197 views)

📅 Upcoming events

Here is what’s going on today in Alexandria, from our event calendar.

2 Comment
ALX275 logo (image courtesy City of Alexandria)

The City of Alexandria will kick off its 275th Anniversary celebration on Saturday at noon at Waterfront Park. Festivities will include an official proclamation by Mayor Justin Wilson and performances by the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums and Community Little Big Band.  Visitors can also explore historical exhibits and attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the “Buried Ships of Robinson Landing” exhibit at Robinson Landing. 

At Windmill Hill Park at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, Mayor Wilson and the City Council will dedicate the first of 275 trees to be planted across the city.

Here’s a roundup of all the events, live music, and entertainment happening around Alexandria this weekend; enjoy! 

Are you organizing an event? Submit events to ALXnow.

Friday, April 5

Things To Do

Live Music & Entertainment

City of Alexandria

Saturday, April 6

Things To Do

Live Music & Entertainment

City of Alexandria

Sunday, April 7

Things To Do

Live Music & Entertainment

City of Alexandria

  • There are no events or public meetings scheduled.

Ryan Belmore is an award-winning news publisher, editor, and journalist. Born and raised in Rhode Island, he resides in Alexandria with his wife and two rescue dogs. He was recently appointed to the City of Alexandria’s Board of Zoning Appeals and previously served on the City’s Commission For The Arts. Follow Ryan on Instagram at whatsupalexandria.


Alexandria School Board Members went all-in Wednesday night in asking City Council to fund its budget by approving a massive tax increase.

Mayor Justin Wilson told the Board at a budget work session on Wednesday night that its fiscal year 2025 $384.4 million combined funds budget request would result in a historic tax increase. The Board, in turn, said that the funding could stem the school system’s staffing crisis.

“To be candid, the combination of the operating requests and the capital requests is probably about a 6 cent tax increase, which is not viable,” Wilson said, adding that it would be the largest tax increase since the 5.7 cent tax increase of 2017 raised the average residential property tax bill by more than $300.

The Board’s proposed budget, which was approved last month, surprised Wilson and other Council Members, who said they were left in the dark with its development.

“I’ve heard nothing around a strategic look at how we pay folks,” City Council Member John Taylor Chapman told the Board. “I know many of you personally. I know you care about what you do. I know you are professionals. So, when I say ‘Hey, I expect you to bring a great budget to Council and Council is going to fund it,’ I don’t expect you to be just willy nilly. I expect you to be focused and I think that’s who you are.”

School Board Chair Michelle Rief countered that the Board has been strategic in its thinking, and that she prioritizes the 2% market rate adjustment for staff as the most important addition that needs funding.

“In my opinion, to sort of go out publicly and tell us to fight for the thing that we need and then come here and tell us that we’re we’re asking for too much, I think might be a political strategy on your part,” Rief said.

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, who is running for mayor, said that the city should raise taxes to fully fund the school system’s budget request.

“I know it’s a sacrifice for all of us,” Jackson said. “I mean, we all live here in the city, and raising taxes would be a sacrifice.”

Jackson was the only Council member to not criticize the school system’s budget during the meeting.

“I just feel like we need to get close to what they’re asking for, if not fully funded,” Jackson said. “I think raising taxes also will mean that hopefully we’re not cutting our services and that our services are remaining at the optimum level for our residents and our businesses, but also making sure that our schools are remaining competitive and keeping our community stronger.”

School Board Member Tammy Ignacio was brought to tears while recounting the stresses that staff and students are experiencing.

“We have got to be able to compete with our surrounding jurisdictions,” Ignacio said. “In my 32 years in education, I have never seen it this bad. I have never seen the level of kids in a classroom without a teacher in front of them.”

City Council will set a maximum tax rate next week, allowing the City Manager to pursue some of the Board’s proposed additions, which include $4.2 million for staffers who did not get step increases in fiscal year 2021 and a $5.4 million (2%) market rate adjustment for all eligible staff.

Council Member Alyia Gaskins, who is running against Jackson in the Democratic mayoral primary, said she is in favor of advertising a higher tax rate to consider the additions.

“We have to deliver a balanced budget that responds to the needs of our community and that means doing right by our teachers and students,” Gaskins said. “If in the end we decide an increase is necessary, then I will be leading the charge to figure out relief for those who cannot keep affording these increases, like seniors on fixed incomes or others who are one tax increase away from not being able to afford to live here.”

School Board Member Abdel Elnoubi, who is running for City Council, said that he’s asking them to make an unpopular decision during an election year.

“It’s your decision to decide whether you want to raise taxes or not,” Elnoubi said. “If you do that, if you decide to raise taxes, I’m 100% with you… Let me just address the elephant in the room. It is an election year and as a School Board Member I’m in a less tough position.”

Four City Council Members are seeking reelection, and two members are running for mayor. Elnoubi and School Board Member Jacinta Greene are also running in the June 18 Democratic City Council primary.

Elnoubi said that from Council’s perspective, the Board gets to take credit for the increased funding while City Council has to deal with the consequences of raising taxes.

“That’s very viable, that is the political reality of things,” Elnoubi said. “What I will tell you is we are doing what we think is right for the school system… I would be derelict in my duty if I don’t ask you for what we need, understanding full well you may not be able to give it to us, which is fine.”

Wilson said that the Board needs to work closer with Council to craft not only this budget, but future budgets.

“It is impossible for us to resolve the gap on both the capital and operating side,” he said. “So we are going to pick a number and to come to some conclusion to our process, and it’s going to be challenging to arrive at that number without some really good input from the School Board as to what that should be.”

School Board Member Tim Beaty said that living in the city is becoming more expensive, and that the additions are focused on teacher retention.

“We were doing what we thought was best in order to keep the quality of what we’ve got,” Beaty said. “I’m frustrated that this leads to this huge difference between what we need and what’s available in the budget.”

City Council will adopt its final budget on May 1.

Nasrat Ahmad Yar (image via Facebook)

A 15-year-old Northeast D.C. boy was arrested Friday and charged with felony murder while armed in last year’s shooting death of Nasrat Ahmad Yar, a former interpreter with U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan, who fled the Taliban in 2021 with his wife and four children and moved to Alexandria.

Yar was working as a Lyft Driver in D.C. on July 3, 2023, when he was shot and killed just at around midnight in the 400 block of 11th Street NE. Video footage near the scene showed four young people running through an alley after the shooting. One of them said, “You killed him,” and another responded, “He was reaching bro.”

D.C. Police Chief Pamela Smith announced the arrest on Friday, and said that video of four teens running from the scene was instrumental in making an arrest.

“Thank you for providing information to bring us to this point in respect to the closure in this case,” Smith said.

Assistant Police Chief Leslie Parsons said that police are still looking for several other suspects allegedly involved in the incident.

“There are still several outstanding suspects who were involved in this tragedy, and we encourage anyone with information on those suspects to come forward,” Parsons said. “The reckless actions of these teens cost a man’s life and shattered a family just starting out on their journey in this country.”

GoFundMe supporting the Yar’s family has so far raised $525,630. Hundreds attended his funeral in Fredericksburg, including Army officers Yar served with, the Washington Post reported.

Students get on school buses at Alexandria City High School’s Minnie Howard Campus prompted an evacuation and early dismissal, Dec. 10, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Alexandria School Board approved its fiscal year 2025 $384.4 million combined funds budget on Thursday night and it is asking City Council for $21 million more than the previous budget. If it goes forward, Mayor Justin Wilson says that the request could mean a reduction in city services.

School Board Members tacked on more than $10 million in additions to Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt’s proposed budget, a move that prompted Board Members Meagan Alderton and Chris Harris to vote in opposition to it.

Alderton said that the budget is difficult for the Board to defend.

“For our add/delete session, the board essentially doubled the superintendent’s proposed increase, shifting our ask to an 8.1% city appropriation,” she said at the Board meeting. “City appropriations for the operating budget are not one-time asks when you’re asking for an additional appropriation in any fiscal year. You’re also asking for a promise that this level of funding can be sustained every fiscal year thereafter. So, an additional $10 million dollar promise is one thing, but the additional $21 million promise changes the game entirely.”

City Manager Jim Parajon’s draft FY 2025 budget will be unveiled next Tuesday.

Wilson said that he has not yet reviewed the ACPS budget, but said that the city must be clear about the details of this year’s budget process.

“The School Board’s recent budget decisions more than doubled the superintendent’s request for additional City appropriation, without any offsetting spending reductions in other areas of the budget,” Wilson said. “Funding that increase will require deep spending reductions to other critical services (public safety, human services, transportation or infrastructure), significant tax increases, or both. I look forward to dialogue with the School Board about the details of their request, and the options available for the two bodies as we begin our budget process next week.”

School Board Chair Michelle Rief said that the budget underscores the Board’s commitment to students and staff.

“This budget is a testament to our collective vision for growing a thriving educational community that supports staff and prepares our students for the future,” Rief said.

Wilson said that in the fall, City staff was projecting that Alexandria’s real estate tax base would increase 2.4%, which would have resulted in a $20 million budget shortfall if the School Board had approved what the Superintendent’s budget proposal included. But instead, the real estate tax base grew by 0.33%, the smallest rate of increase in 15 years.

“So, that gap of $20 million is in fact, much larger,” Wilson said.

Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt thanked the Board for their approval, and said that her proposed budget focuses on retention, with a full step increase and a 2% market rate adjustment for eligible staff. The school system is experiencing a staffing crisis, and the budget increases bus driver salaries to $24 an hour for new drivers and more than $47 per hour for senior drivers with more than a decade experience with the school system.

“I truly value the collaboration between the division and the Alexandria City School Board, and would like to thank them for their approval of the FY 2025 Combined Funds budget,” Kay-Wyatt said in a statement. “I also want to express my appreciation for our dedicated Financial Services team for continuing to work to find innovative solutions to the complex budget challenges the division faces. Together we will continue to advocate and work to produce a budget that best supports our students and staff until it is fully adopted in the spring.”

City Council Member John Taylor Chapman said that he wants to see how the Board has prioritized its allocations.

“Conversation is key for our school system, and getting good teachers,” Chapman said. “Past School Boards have been able to turn in a budget that is able to compete with getting good school teachers, balancing priorities and understanding the greater stake in the city’s financial picture. I would assume that is happening this year as well.”

Additions to the budget include:

  • $4.2 million for staffers who did not get step increases in fiscal year 2021 (sponsored by Member Abdel Elnoubi)
  • $307,000 for two deans of students at George Washington and Francis C. Hammond Middle Schools (sponsored by Tammy Ignacio)
  • $125,000 for a college and career counselor at ACHS (sponsored by Member Jacinta Greene)
  • $125,000 for a psychologist at ACHS Minnie Howard Campus (sponsored by Member Abdel Elnoubi)
  • $115,000 for an athletic trainer at ACHS (sponsored by Member Chris Harris)
  • $65,000 for a Dari/Pashto/English fluent-speaking family liaison (sponsored by Harris)
Alexandria’s Southerlyn Marino wrote a step-by-step guide for parents with kids in crew-rowing (staff photo by James Cullum)

Cold, wet and exhilarating: Alexandria parent Southerlyn Marino learned so much about her high schooler’s crew-rowing that she wrote a book about it.

Marino’s youngest son Pierce (now 17) started rowing for Gonzaga College High School three years ago, and learning about the sport was a step-by-step, word-of-mouth process for her. Last month, Marino published Crew: A Guide to Rowing for parents who quickly want to get up to speed on the sport and know which side of the boat is starboard.

“I wanted to share what I learned,” Marino said. “It’s early, it’s muddy, it’s cold. You think it’s gonna be this grand sport. It’s not. You’re more like a birder, and you see your child for like six seconds, and you’re not really sure which one’s yours because they all kind of look alike in the river.”

Marino is a public relations consultant and started writing the book last summer.

“There’s a parent culture in every sport, for sure,” she said. “Like football has a super different culture from crew, and I couldn’t find any books about it to understand crew races, the structure, any of that.”

Marino said that the sport is a good outlet for her son.

“It’s a sport that can really transform them, and it can really help them develop and grow.

The book includes:

  • How and where to get started
  • Key features of rowing boats, gear and equipment
  • Crew and seating positions
  • Rowing strategies
  • Training techniques
  • Nutrition
  • Rowing etiquette
  • Competition and racing tips
  • How to support your child’s crew journey
  • Recovery and injury prevention techniques
  • How to balance rowing and academic study
  • The lifelong lessons of crew racing.
Hope Bachman (on left) and Leslie Jones have led the Alexandria City High School theatre department for 20 years (staff photo by James Cullum)

It’s the end of an era for Alexandria City High School’s drama program. After 20 years directing and producing dozens of theatrical performances, the partnership between co-teachers Hope Bachman and Leslie Jones will come to a close at the end of this school year.

Known informally as “Bach and Jones” to students, parents and staff, the pair were honored in a gala at ACHS last week. Bachman says that deciding to partner with Jones was one of the best decisions she ever made.

“Partnering up with Leslie was the second smartest decision of my life, with the first smartest being my marriage,” Bachman said.

Bachman is a 1998 graduate of Alexandria City High School (back when it was named T.C. Williams High School), and was hired in 2003 after she graduated from the University of Mary Washington. When hired to replace a retiring drama teacher, she was also put in charge of the drama program’s extracurricular activities.

“I was a brand new green baby teacher,” Bachman said. “I was drowning my first year. First year teaching is hard for everybody, but I had all the responsibilities of a first year teacher plus this entire program of afterschool things, which is incredibly time consuming to run.”

Jones, at that point, had been working at the school for eight years as an English teacher and cheerleading coach, and felt that she’d been passed over. It ended up taking a full year for the pair to come together, with Bachman swallowing her pride by asking Jones for help.

Jones said that once they started working together on the fall and spring productions that their relationship was no longer competitive.

“The nature of theater is collaborative,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the production and about the product… because all along we want to teach our kids how to be good theater people, period.”

ACHS shows by Bach and Jones (staff photo by James Cullum)

The pair say a secret to their success has been presenting a unified front.

“It’s a sisterhood,” Jones said. “Believe me, we have been through it all. We don’t always agree. Who does? But we work it out. We always have a mantra between the two of us — ‘Hey, we’ll duke it out behind closed doors and then when we walk out the door we’re a united front.”

ACHS Executive Principal Alexander Duncan III thanked the duo for their work.

“How many teachers can say they regularly bring an auditorium full of people to their feet, either in tears or cheers, as well as having affected the lives and aspirations of countless students?” Duncan said. “We are so appreciative of the unwavering commitment that Leslie Jones and Hope Bachman have shown in their two decades of service to Alexandria City High School students and our school community.”

After a 33-year career teaching, Jones said she’s looking forward to retiring. She and Bachman are now prepping, their final work together, the 2024 spring musical Bring It On.

“This is our swan song,” Jones said. “Once the final curtain (falls) and we’re at the cast party, we’ll be sobbing.”

Bachman said someone will have to step in to help fill Jones’ shoes.

“Just just like Leslie and I had to at the beginning, I will have to learn her successor’s strengths and weaknesses,” Bachman said. “And that person will have to learn mine, and we’ll figure we’ll figure it out as we go.”

Zahra Rahimi (staff photo by James Cullum)

Afghan students living in Alexandria will premiere an eight-minute documentary this Friday on their experiences during the 2021 evacuation from Afghanistan.

The eight-minute documentary “Desperate” was produced and directed by Zahra Rahimi, an Alexandria City High School senior who has gained notoriety over the past six months for her work helping her fellow Afghan students learn English. It will premiere this Friday at 6 p.m. at the Del Pepper Community Resource Center (4850 Mark Center Drive).

The documentary chronicles the story of three Afghan girls who fled their home country in the summer of 2021, as well as their challenges arriving in the U.S. Rahimi also tells viewers at the end of the documentary that special immigrant visas need to be processed faster by the U.S. State Department.

“My intention with this documentary is to be a voice for women and girls in Afghanistan who are not here right now,” Rahimi said. “Their rights are taken away from them and they are sitting at home every day. My other intention is for the visas to be processed faster, because there’s thousands of immigrants in other countries such as Pakistan or in refugee camps, still waiting for their visas to come to the United States.”

The film was also produced by Northern Virginia Resettling Afghan Families Together (NOVA RAFT), a nonprofit where Rahimi teaches English to dozens of children. Her work teaching English and founding an Afghan club at ACHS led to her being recognized earlier this year by First Lady Jill Biden as one of 15 “Girls Leading Change” around the country.

NOVA RAFT has helped hundreds of families transition to the U.S.

“Over the past two years, Alexandria has gained several thousand new residents who have made the city home after the tragic fall of their country to the Taliban,” NOVA RAFT founder Dan Altman told ALXnow. “The documentary and the presentation after is also a tribute to all those that incredible people who helped welcome them here; especially their teachers.”

Rahimi founded a club for Afghan students and helped create an English literacy program teaching dozens of refugee children with Northern Virginia Resettling Afghan Families Together.

Magician with cards (photo via Fengyou Wan/Unsplash)

The Lyceum (201 S. Washington Street) in Old Town will host a free magic show next month.

The show, put on by magicians from Ring 50, will also include a toy drive to benefit the Fund for Alexandria’s Children Holiday Sharing Program, which gets presents for children who might otherwise not get gifts during the holidays.

The magic show also reflects part of the museum’s history, with records showing 19th-century magicians performing at the venue in the 1840s.

According to the city’s website:

Magic is a part of The Lyceum’s history and 19th-century magicians like Signor Blitz and Wyman the Wizard performed at there in the 1840s. This modern family-friendly show will be geared toward children ages 5 to 12, but all are welcome. Attendees are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to donate to the Fund for Alexandria’s Child Holiday Sharing Program, which benefits kids who might otherwise go without holiday gifts this year. For more information, email [email protected]. The show is free, but space is limited so please reserve a space here!

Photo via Fengyou Wan/Unsplash

The Alexandria City High School marquee (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria City High School students will conduct a walkout in support of a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

ACHS Executive Principal Alexander Duncan III notified parents via email on Wednesday afternoon that Thursday, Nov. 9, is a national day of protest against the conflict, and 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.

News media will not be allowed on school grounds during the walkout, according to Alexandria City Public Schools.


Subscribe to our mailing list