Newsletter

For five years Port City Publius has let fly. The anonymous blogger won’t shy from criticizing the superintendent, or blasting “NIMBY” residents who favor changing the leadership of City Council.

Who is this writer? Is Port City Publius more than one person?

Port City Publius wouldn’t answer those specific questions, but the writer opined on a number of Alexandria-centric topics in a recent interview.

ALXnow: You are very funny in your posts. Who are your favorite writers?

Port City Publius: Charlie Pierce is a good example of someone whose writing and worldview has influenced my approach; I definitely have an affinity for the ink-stained wretch set. Caitlin Flanagan writes the way I want to write, though the majority of her takes suck pretty bad. Alexandra Petri, without question. Tressie McMillan Cottom. James Baldwin. Ursula Le Guin. bell hooks. Mel Brooks. Tolkien, except for the Silmarillion which is terrible and anyone who says otherwise is lying to themselves. C. Wright Mills and Arlie Russell Hochschild. All the writers in the Jezebel and Deadspin diaspora remain indispensable. Elizabeth Bruenig often makes me challenge and reassess my priors. I’ve read Jamelle Bouie and Matt Yglesias going back to when they were both at Slate. I think Jason Isbell has a lot of smart things to say.

ALXnow: What inspired you to embark as Port City Publius?

Port City Publius: You know the famous scene from Network, the one where the sweaty guy is shouting about how angry he is? Well that was me five years ago. I finally sat through one too many public meetings where the only testimony was from retirees with incredibly intense outlier opinions about how many buildings built after 1800 should exist (none) how much noise and fun is ok (also none) and how many working-class people could be permitted to try and eke out a life in this city (spoiler: it’s none again). It remains fu**ing wild to me that nearly anyone who wants to run a business in this city has to first put up with some guy named Carl who last worked for OMB in 1987 say that he’d really rather they only be open from 1-3pm on alternate Tuesdays because the shadows cast by business patrons might damage the rare book collection he keeps near the front windows of his home.

I knew from conversations with different groups of friends and sewing circles and tennis partners and drinking buddies that most people around here felt pretty differently about things, but this perspective wasn’t being heard or included in public dialogues because we have, uh, lives and sh**. So I set out to put a voice to that. To establish a counter-narrative to the intensely tedious NIMBY bull**** that had infected the waterfront plan, among other things at that time.

ALXnow: When do you decide to publish? Do you only strike when needed?

Port City Publius: First I ask myself “do I have real work to do this week” at which point the answer is usually yes and nothing gets published. Beyond that, I’m typically looking for something to catalyze my internal barometer of “well that sh** can’t stand.”

ALXnow: What are you going to write about next? Is there a list of topics, or do you shoot from the hip?

Port City Publius: As Gloria Steinem famously said, without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming after all is a form of planning. I’m sorry what was the question again?

ALXnow: What is your political philosophy? Has it changed over the last few years? What prompted that change?

Port City Publius: I think we have an obligation to prevent the immiseration of each and every one of our fellow citizens, and that government intervention is a necessary and crucial part of that. I’d say I generally follow the teachings and live the values that right-wing Christians pretend to believe in: you know, loving your neighbor and taking care of the poor and seeing the worth and potential in every person and whatnot.

To the extent that you can map me onto the political spectrum, I’d fairly describe myself as progressive; but I also think the left/right dichotomy is often reductive, and both mainstream political parties can be pretty lame and show excessive deference to the status quo at the expense of pursuing transformative change.

ALXnow: You like saying ‘Yes’ to development and decry NIMBY’s. Can you spell out the future that you’d like to see realized for the city?

Port City Publius: Used in this context “development” is an essentially useless term that has been effectively weaponized by the modern inheritors of the Know-Nothings. I think we should say yes to a wide variety of things that move this city forward in a manner that benefits a broad constituency of residents and interests, even if the proposed thing looks and feels different and isn’t made of bricks and cobblestone. I would not broadly describe each of these things as “development.” If I built you a gorgeous brand-new public waterfront park, would you call that “development”? If I tear down an over-enrolled and under-maintained elementary school and replace it with a beautiful new building, is that “development”? I think it tremendously sucks that the grumps and busybodies in this city get to describe anything they benefit from as “investment” and anything they think inconveniences them as “development.”

The future I want is one in which we radically reduce the resident veto over the ability to do business here. This is not the goddamn United States Senate, old white men do not have a divine right to filibuster the necessary progress desired by the majority of the populace. I want a future where more people try out the words “sure, why not” rather than their reflexive “well, actually.”

There exists an intense bias toward the preservation of the status quo, even on the part of (especially on the part of) people who otherwise think of themselves as well-meaning. I am reminded of King’s disappointment in the white moderate, and his searing observation that “shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will” and really the point I’m trying to make here is that more of you need to read “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

The future that I want for us is one in which we do things that make us feel uncomfortable because feeling a little uncomfortable is actually ok.

ALXnow: With the most recent primary election, is the city headed in the direction you want?

Port City Publius: I think the seven candidates on the Democratic slate generally seem like well-intentioned, thoughtful people. And I think we can roughly extrapolate that they would govern in a well-intentioned and thoughtful manner. I think it’s hilarious that a dude who worked for Jesse Helms is laboring under the deluded belief that someone who accommodated and enabled a notorious segregationist can get elected here.

But I also think the notion of the city being headed in a particular direction lasts exactly as long as the interval of time between each council public hearing. The people on that dais are complicated, flawed, fallible people — just like each of us. The exercise here is not to bestow upon them some blank cheque mandate to go forth and rule over Pax Alexandria, may the sun never set on our empire. No, we should challenge them and hold them to account and measure their success by the fidelity to which they hew to the shared values they have publicly committed to. This is not baseball. You should not be a fan of one party or another–of one politician or another–and in doing so blindly overlook the ways in which they are failing to live up to the best version of themselves. They are public servants. They are an avatar of our collective will, and we should never lose sight of that.

That all being said: do I think we are headed in a better direction right now than if the candidates mostly running because they thought city council was like a Super HOA had won? Yes. Yes I do think we are headed in a better direction.

ALXnow: The Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook group lost strength after the primary. None of their candidates made it on the ballot for November. What does that tell you?

Port City Publius: That they probably shouldn’t have kicked so many people out of the group.

No, listen. I sort of mean that. Their thin-skinned pettiness is absolutely the reason they didn’t win anyone around to their point of view. They kicked out so many people! And every one of those people told ten other people (who told ten other people, and so on) what a joke that group was. If you create an environment in which you kick out anyone who doesn’t gleefully parrot the propaganda you’re pushing, what kind of group will you be left with? Please don’t say the modern Republican party. Ok fine I see how I left myself open to that joke. Very good. You’re very clever, we get it.

My point is you can’t persuade anyone if you drive off everyone that doesn’t agree with you. And also that people will see right through your bullsh** when you define “integrity” as “willingness to do the highly specific and sort of weird sh** I want” and constantly flex that definition based on the proximate needs of acting out your irrational hatred of a certain local politician.

ALXnow: Are groups like BIBA merely a new-normal part of local conversations? Or is this a direct result of politics getting turned up 11 notches and Republicans trying to influence things?

Port City Publius: I think this is a great reminder that politics is hard and best not left to sloppy amateurs in an information bubble fixated on issues that most people genuinely don’t give a sh** about.

ALXnow: Aren’t you essentially the same kind of critical voice as BIBA — a resident(s) who has had it with what they perceive to be ridiculous elements in the community? Or is your voice representative of Democratic values and theirs is representative of… something else?

Port City Publius: I don’t see an equivalence. I deploy righteous indignation and world-weary exhaustion as a rhetorical technique in service of advocating for policies and actions that largely benefit people that aren’t me. They think someone paved a road wrong for Suspicious Reasons.

I think if I woke up one morning and decided to dedicate most of my free time to complaining on the internet about all of the ways that I was personally inconvenienced by things meant to improve the lives of people that have less than me, well, I think I’d have to do quite a bit of soul searching about that.

My sincere advice for people in this city–for anyone anywhere really–is to be more selfless. Stop looking for ways that the ordinary progress of the world is secretly a targeted attack on you, personally. Stop looking for reasons to be so upset about everything. Hurl your laptop into a river and live your life, which I need you to understand is really pretty great relative to any global or historic measure.  Facebook and numerous other parts of the modern media ecosystem are intentionally making you upset so they can sell you brain pills and reverse mortgages and whateverthefu** else. You don’t have to play their game. You really don’t.

ALXnow: Are you going to endorse any City Council or School Board candidates? If so, who?

Port City Publius: I think we should abolish the school board and return control of schools to the city. Does that count as an endorsement?

ALXnow: It doesn’t look like you’re anti-establishment. You are often highly critical of the City’s critics by backing Mayor Justin Wilson and city plans and departments. What elements of the current government are you critical of? How are the City manager’s office, police department and school system holding up, for instance?

Port City Publius: I think if we had actively and intentionally set out to have terrible schools leadership during this crisis it would have been utterly indistinguishable from our actual experience. We’ve gotten this far through a mixture of inertia, dumb luck, and the titanic efforts of parents and families and individual teachers and administrators; because it has been astonishingly clear that the superintendent is terrified to make any choice that could ultimately be deemed unsuccessful and have that failure accrue to him and his reputation. He’s the football coach that always punts on 4th and 1 because that’s what convention says and if you follow convention and fu** up, you don’t get blamed, the punter does. This dude is writing a book about educational leadership! A book! That is off the charts Andrew Cuomo energy! I hope the Raleigh Unified School District–or wherever the hell he finds the next rung of the ladder he thinks he’s climbing–hurries up and makes him an offer so our community can get someone with creativity and moral courage into this job. A book. Jesus.

The police seem fine.

ALXnow: You are not always praising local politicians, like former Mayor Silberberg. Are you connected to the @ALXBottle handle? It reads similarly to your style, as you both are highly critical of her.

Port City Publius: Surely you can accept that the sample size of local residents who think the former mayor was a dilettante who never bothered to learn or execute the core competencies of the role she was serving in is an N larger than 1.

Besides, my burner account is a Ron Swanson parody joint. I don’t have time to run another one.

ALXnow: How would you rate Justin Wilson’s performance as mayor?

Port City Publius: 85% Fresh.

ALXnow: Why keep your identity secret? Are you maintaining anonymity as an effort to protect your butler? What happens if you write under your real name? Could you lose your day job?

Port City Publius: I think if my identity came out, most people would think it was unbecoming of a former secretary of state and presidential candidate to write an ongoing series of essays about a city she’s never lived in. Plus I already got in enough trouble for the email server thing, I’m not just going to hand the New York Times another round of bullsh** for Peggy Noonan to freebase, you know what I mean?

ALXnow: When you write, “Port City Publius is committed to seeing Alexandria thrive for generations to come,” what does that mean? What kind of commitment are you talking about? Like, no matter what you won’t move away and will keep writing?

Port City Publius: It means that all of us need to be better about making choices that don’t directly or immediately benefit ourselves; but are instead done in the interest of improving the lives of people we will never know or never meet. We live in a society, man.

ALXnow: Alexandria City Public Schools have been criticized for their handling of the pandemic. While a broad question, how do you think the school system is doing and how would you characterize the effectiveness of their leadership at the upper-staff and elected levels?

Port City Publius: I think I answered this a few questions ago when I called the superintendent a mendacious hack.

ALXnow: What issues are you looking at in your crystal ball affecting the city? Increased taxes? Employee compensation? Affordable housing? Flooding? Development? These seem like perpetual problems that have plagued the city for generations.

Port City Publius: I haven’t seen anyone talking about renaming streets in Old Town so I think I’ll probably tackle that? In all seriousness – everything you list here is really important and are each deserving of substantive dialogue and consideration. And there has been a great deal of that already, on a wide range of forums. One of the reasons that I feel so very lucky to live in this city is to be around so many people who both care about making things better and apply their considerable skills and talents to that task. I’d embrace the chance to add clarity and purpose to the discussion of any of these issues, should my thoughts come together in a way worth sharing. As long as, you know, the Emmys aren’t on or something.

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Superintendent Gregory Hutchings greets students (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Alexandria students returned to classrooms for a full five-day school week last Tuesday, marking the start of what could hopefully be the first full year in-school since the pandemic started in early 2020.

Across the school division, Alexandria City Public Schools faced a series of hurdles — from extremely minor like a fox in the vicinity of a middle school to more serious, like a violent brawl in Alexandria City High School.

Four days before reopening, the School Board voted to require vaccination for staff, or that staff submit weekly COVID-19 tests.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings has faced some criticism for his handling of school administration by former ACPS employees, but the School Board recently approved a contract renewal for Hutchings and included vocal support for the superintendent.

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Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. has one request for the community at large: Lay off the email campaigns.

Rather than individual emails with a question or a comment, Hutchings said his office and others in ACPS staff have been bombarded recently with copy-and-pasted emails. It’s become enough of an issue that Hutchings said at a School Board work session last week that the level of crowding in school staff emails has sometimes caused issues with missed communications.

“There’s this campaign, at times, to do emails to the Board,” Hutchings said. “That is not how we operate. What happens is that I have work coming into that same email address and I have to filter through all of that to get the day to day work done. That has an impact on our operations, that’s just not the way to do business… We’re shifting into a space where it’s ‘bombard people with emails and that’s how we get things done.'”

Beyond his office, Hutchings said that extends to principals of various schools. Hutchings asked that the community give them space to work rather than spend most of their time addressing emails.

The latest issue to draw some public ire, Hutchings said, is the topic of school lunches.

“We’ve been hearing a lot about lunch at schools,” Hutchings said. “I was getting several emails about lunch. Some of them, one that stood out, was that our principals are powerless or don’t have a say, and I was really surprised because we’ve focused on empowerment of our principals. Our principals and our staff are well equipped to give me feedback, to provide me guidance, and help me make decisions on what’s best not only for their schools but for the division overall.”

Hutchings said parents throughout the region have been pushing for schools to have outdoor lunch to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, but the superintendent said it’s a complicated issue.

“How do we establish a plan in ACPS to ensure that is is a sustainable solution,” Hutchings said. “Not a temporary fix — but something to have five days a week for this whole school year. We need to ensure we’re putting structures in places to be able to do that. Every school cannot do outdoor lunches as an option.”

Currently, programs involve spacing lunches out to have the fewer of kids in the cafeteria at any given time. Hutchings said students are also trained to remove their mask to eat, not to remove their mask for the full lunch period.

“We’re teaching them that etiquette,” Hutchings said. “That means you eat your food, put your mask on, then talk to your friends.”

Moving lunches outdoors, Hutchings said, can quickly spiral out of control in a few ways.

“We have to keep in mind that there’s more than just lunch happening in our schools; that’s school operations 101,” Hutchings said. “We have recess happening, physical education, and people just sometimes outside of the schools depending on when and what location. We have to ensure that the planning we put in place is going to be sustainable, and that’s really the bottom line.”

Added to this are concerns about heat waves, flooding, and other inclement weather situations, the superintendent said.

“We would literally, each day, be figuring out what we’re going to do in regards to the lunch period, which is a complete disaster,” Hutchings said.

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Beside the masks and the news crews flocking around the hallways, after more than a year of virtual or hybrid learning, the start of the 2021-2022 school year was strangely normal.

Children at George Washington Middle School clumped together into groups of either friends or convenient strangers headed to the same destinations. Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, School Board Chair Meagan Alderton, and Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) staff greeted students as they came into the building.

This is the first time that ACPS has fully reopened since the pandemic started in March 2020.

For many of the students, Hutchings said the constant mask wearing will be the biggest difference between this year and pre-COVID school years. Some students had been in schools for a hybrid learning program in the spring, but today marked the return to a five-day-per-week in-person school day.

“They have to wear it at all times,” Hutchings said. “We also have temperature checks every day and handwashing stations. The masks are helpful in regard to mitigation.”

Around 500 of the school system’s 16,000 students will remain virtual through the Virtual Virginia program.

Last week, the School Board voted to require staff to either be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. A mandatory survey was sent out on Friday, and Alderton said staff are still sorting through the results.

“It’s so exciting to be back in the building,” said Wendy Gonzalez. “There’s an energy the kids bring back into the building.”

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What a week in Alexandria.

Public uproar over Sunday’s flooding spilled out throughout this week, which continued to be threatened by near-daily flash flood advisories from the National Weather Service.

Our top story was on Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who criticized City Manager Mark Jinks on the city’s stormwater infrastructure. Mayor Justin Wilson says that multiple projects are underway and take time, and that the city is now looking into whether spot improvements and any other projects can be accelerated.

The group DrainALX has also gained popularity, as it continues to catalog stormwater issues and complaints. One Del Ray resident even told us that she’s turned to therapy after repeatedly spending thousands on a continually ruined basement.

Our weekly poll also found 55% of respondents (193 people) have experienced flood damage to their homes, 14% (74 people) have experienced other sorts of property damage and 31% (159 votes) have never had any property damaged by a storm in the city.

This weekend’s forecast is partly cloudy with a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon, followed by a 40% chance of thunderstorms Sunday night.

School issues

The week before school starts, the School Board unanimously approved Thursday night the requirement that ACPS staffers get the coronavirus vaccine.

“We do have authority to require testing and require vaccinations,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said at the board meeting. “However, there have been no cases where someone has contested that requirement. That has not occurred as of yet, and I’m sure it’s going to begin soon…”

In the meantime, Alexandria is also prepping COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. As Alexandria looks to accelerate stormwater projects, Sheriff gives city manager a D-
  2. The Four Mile Run Bridge in Arlandria will not fully reopen until fall 2025
  3. Institute for Defense Analyses announces Potomac Yard move-in later this year
  4. Woman behind DrainALX campaign shares frustrations and hopes from locals after Sunday flood
  5. HUD Secretary Fudge visits Alexandria, says affordable housing is a Biden Administration priority
  6. New census shows Alexandria not majority-white
  7. Alexandria School Board to discuss mandatory vaccinations for staffers this week
  8. After rampant flooding over weekend, another Flash Flood Watch is in effect for Alexandria
  9. Poll: Have you gotten the infamous mite bite in Alexandria?
  10. Alexandria Fire Department struggling with staffing shortage and forced overtime
  11. Stuck in quandary, Del Ray flooding victim seeks therapy

Have a safe weekend!

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With serious and unresolved health-related decisions looming, Alexandria City Public Schools is set to reopen its doors to full-time instruction on Tuesday, August 24.

“I’m looking forward to putting the stressful 18 months behind us,” an ACPS parent told ALXnow. “It’s time to move ahead and get these kids back in school. I know things will look different and we will have some rough patches, but we owe it to the kids to get them back.”

Just days before reopening, the School Board will consider a vaccine mandate for all ACPS employees at its meeting tonight. The school system has been criticized by parents for waiting too long to tackle the vaccine issue, echoing some of the widespread frustration that the school system didn’t open quickly enough last year.

“Together, Alexandria City Public School students, teachers, staff, and families have met the challenges of the past school year during a dual pandemic of COVID-19 and systemic racism,” Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. wrote to parents. “We are excited to make the most of our opportunity for a new beginning as we enjoy the energy and enthusiasm that comes with having our students back for five days a week of in-person learning.”

ACPS reopened to five days a week just last month — for summer school. Also last month, Alexandria City High School principal Peter Balas told ALXnow that his school — the largest high school in Virginia — was ready to fully reopen. Next Tuesday will also mark first school year since it changed its name from T.C. Williams High School.

“ACPS will continue to adjust measures based on the latest health guidance and best practices and update the chart accordingly as changes occur,” the school system wrote in its 2021-2022 Health and Safety Guidance.

With COVID numbers on the rise, the School Board recently decided that all 15,000+ students and staff wear protective face coverings in school. The Virginia Department of Health says unvaccinated residents account for a vast majority of new COVID cases.

Face masks are required to be worn inside school buses and classrooms, except when eating and exercising. Masks are not required outdoors.

Students and staff are also required to keep six feet of social distance and quarantine for two weeks if they are unvaccinated and have been in close contact with anyone who has contracted COVID-19. Vaccinated students and staff who are not symptomatic do not have to quarantine.

Staff and students are also required to complete a Daily Symptom Checklist

“There will be daily online health screenings and temperature screenings in school entrances and procedures to limit the number of visitors in school facilities,” noted ACPS. “If students are closely interacting during recess or by the nature of a sports activity, then the recommendation would be to wear masks. Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised.”

ACPS is still teaching virtually, but the deadline to enroll in Virtual Virginia expired last month.

According to ACPS, this is what to expect when school resumes:

  • 5 days per week in school
  • Normal classroom capacity to accommodate five days a week, in-person learning
  • Hot breakfasts and lunches will be available every day
  • Bus routes and schedules will return to normal
  • All activities and athletics will be offered in-person
  • All special education services will be offered in-person
  • English for Speakers of Other Languages will be offered in-person
  • Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors program offerings at Alexandria City High School will be offered in-person
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math will be offered in-person
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Last year marked the first time in 14 years that ACPS saw an enrollment decrease, and with schools headed back to in-person teaching at the end of the month it’s likely that the school system could see enrollment increases in the years to come.

So, where are all the new kids coming from?

In addition to overall population growth — the city population has grown by 14% in the last ten years — Mayor Justin Wilson explained in a recent newsletter that city studies have found that not all development contributes to student population growth equally.

“The type and age of housing is a significant determinant of the student generation rates,” Wilson said.

Wilson pointed to a report put together by the Joint Long Range Educational Facilities Work Group roughly eight years ago that analyzed data on what types of housing have a greater impact on the population of ACPS.

“Today, 88% of ACPS students live in housing that is over 30 years old,” Wilson said.

While there has been much new construction in Alexandria over the last few decades, Wilson said the high-rise apartment complexes and townhouses weren’t found to be major sources of student populations.

“We learned that low-rise apartments generate nearly three times the students as high-rise or mid-rise apartments do,” Wilson said. “We learned that single family homes generate nearly double the students as townhouses. We know that public housing and other income-restricted units far outpace any other property type for student generation.”

ACPS saw a 3% decrease in its student population — 474 students — last year, in large part due to the pandemic and the school’s shift toward virtual learning. Even Superintendent Gregory Hutchings pulled his child out of ACPS to send to private school. But while questions remain about how schools will safely implement in-person learning with concerns about the delta variant of COVID-19, the school has committed to returning to five day, in-person education this month after utilizing a hybrid model last year.

Prior to the pandemic, ACPS enrollment projections estimated an increase from 15,827 students in 2019 to 17,018 students in 2024. It’s still unclear how last year’s dip in enrollment, and what enrollment for the upcoming school year, could affect those projections.

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What an absorbing week in Alexandria.

Just as the ball gets rolling with reopening and loosened restrictions, the pandemic rears its ugly head. With coronavirus transmission levels climbing, Alexandria is once again recommending that residents go back to wearing face masks indoors.

Our weekly poll found that 37% of respondents (337 votes) don’t plan to wear masks indoors again unless required, 32% (291 votes) never stopped wearing masks and plan to continue, and 30% (275 votes) stopped wearing masks indoors and plan to start again.

In the meantime, Three Dog Night, Tanya Tucker, and more are scheduled to play at the Birchmere next month, and the Little Theatre of Alexandria has gone back to in-person performances with its latest farce, Neil Simon’s Rumors. The city’s annual sidewalk sale is also on track to be largest ever, with participation from more than 70 local boutiques on the pedestrian-only blocks between 700 and 1100 King Street.

Turning toward the Olympics, Alexandria boxer Troy Isley won his first contest earlier this week, but lost his second match in a close split decision on Thursday night. Next week, Alexandria City High School will host a watch party for alumnus star sprinter Noah Lyles, who is the favorite to win the gold medal in the 200 meter race.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Alexandria car dealership receptionist busted for alleged credit card fraud
  2. One year of lane closures in Potomac Yard starts today
  3. Man arrested after armed carjacking in West End
  4. BREAKING: Potomac Yard Metro opening pushed back to September 2022
  5. New Potomac Yard luxury condo community sells 30% of properties before construction starts
  6. Residents protest against conditions at West End apartment complex
  7. Local Democrat challenges Rep. Don Beyer in 8th District Primary
  8. Cigar and vape shop to open on Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray
  9. EXCLUSIVE: Halal slaughterhouse opens, gives away free chickens for first two days in business
  10. Without School Resource Officers, Superintendent wants more private security inside and police patrolling outside
  11. Poll: Do you plan on wearing a mask indoors again?

Have a safe weekend!

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In a victory for civil rights, the marquee for Alexandria City High School was unveiled Wednesday morning, replacing the old sign bearing the name of T.C. Williams High School.

It’s been nearly a year since the effort to change the name of Virginia’s largest high school began. The new name will go into effect July 1, as will the official renaming of Matthew Maury Elementary School to Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School.

“I think this is a great step towards equity,” rising junior Miracle Gross said. “This year more than any I learned what he really stood for and why our community is against it.”

T.C. Williams High School gained international fame for the ‘Remember The Titans‘ film, which depicted the newly integrated Alexandria football players winning the 1971 state championship by bridging racial divides. Ironically, the school itself was named after a staunch racist superintendent who spent years actively working against integrating the school system.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that the day would go down in history, and that the school mascot will remain the Titans.

“Once a Titan always a Titan,” Hutchings told the audience of students, administrators, parents and former graduates. “We are proud of our diversity and we realize that that name, Thomas Chambliss Williams, did not deserve to be honored on our only high school in the city of Alexandria.”

Wednesday was also the last day of school, and for the next three months ACPS will work to replace all of the markers with the name T.C. Williams.

“We already started to order the uniforms,” Hutchings said. “It’s going to take us some time to get through all of our marquees as well as all of the signage within the school building.”

School Board Vice Chair Veronica Nolan said that it’s also a somber day.

“Systemic racism is something that was created with purpose and with resources attached to it,” she said. “And the staff at T.C. Williams fights it every single day.”

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(Updated 6/23) Alexandria greeted a new marquee at the newly named Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School on Tuesday, as the old name of Matthew Maury Elementary will be officially retired on July 1.

Also, the school’s mascot is now the bee and the official school colors are green and blue.

Brooks, a beloved teacher for decades at Charles Houston Elementary School and Cora Kelly Elementary School, passed away last year. Accepting the recognition in her honor were her husband, former Philadelphia City Manager and retired U.S. Army Major Gen. Leo Brooks, Sr., and her son, U.S. Army Major Gen. Leo Brooks, Jr. (Ret.) Brooks’ other son, U.S. Army General Vincent K. Brooks, was not in attendance.

“This is indeed a day to remember,” Brooks, Sr. said, adding that he hoped the school’s new name will inspire students. “Her loss is difficult for all of us, and she’s come and gone and set an example for all of us to follow.”

The school was named Matthew Maury Elementary School for nearly a century, after the Confederate leader and noted oceanographer. The School Board voted for the name change in April after a long community campaign, which also resulted in a new name for T.C. Williams High School, which is named after a racist former superintendent who worked intently against integration. The marquee at T.C. will be removed and the Alexandria City High School name and logo will be unveiled on Wednesday morning, June 23.

“I also think this is a day of reflection,” School Board Vice Chair Veronica Nolan said. “I think we want to give some thought today as to why is there a name change and that we must remember that systemic racism was done by design and impacts so many of our students.”

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