Post Content

The summer break is nearly over, and Alexandria City Public Schools students will walk into more secure buildings on Monday, August 22.

That’s the message from ACPS, which after a violent last school year, has new security upgrades and procedures this time around.

ACPS will now require all middle and high school children within their walls to have their student identifications with them every day.

“This practice will allow building administration and security officers to ensure that only registered students are accessing the campus during instructional hours,” ACPS said on its website. “Please note that all ACPS school campuses are closed campuses. A ‘closed campus’ means that students are not allowed to come and go without permission, including during lunch time.”

In the first two quarters of the 2021-2022 school year, 18 ACPS students were arrested. There were 41 reported fights/assaults and 13 seized weapons, including a gun, five knives, a stun gun, two fake weapons, and pepper spray. There were also two robberies, three drug offenses, a bomb threat and 13 pulled fire alarms. Just before the end of the school year, an Alexandria City High School senior was stabbed to death in broad daylight in the parking lot of the Bradlee Shopping Center.

All ACPS students will now have 30 designated minutes every day for social, emotional and academic learning.

“Structures such as community circles will be used to deliver the RULER curriculum from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and reinforce positive behavior interventions and supports,” ACPS said. “Each school’s Student Support Team will also provide more targeted and intensive small group and individual interventions to students identified through their school’s Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) process. Students will also be assessed using the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) social-emotional tool to identify and grow individual and collective strengths.”

ACPS also announced that all schools have “designated entrances for students, staff and visitor entry, helping to ensure safety and managing facility access.”

Additionally, the school system will start a digital student identification pilot program at the Alexandria City High School’s campuses. The pilot allows students to scan an ID stored on their phone when they go into their school.

“ACPS staff also are required to visibly display their badge while in schools, Central Office and/or ACPS-owned properties,” ACPS said. “Another security measure will add school security officers (SSOs) to support school administrators at secondary schools.”

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings’ last day is August 31.

“On a personal note, I wish all ACPS students and staff a tremendous year filled with success as you achieve new milestones for yourselves and the school division,” Hutchings wrote on August 12. “As I am about to begin my new journey, I am so pleased that the division is being entrusted to a highly-qualified and dedicated leader in Dr. Melanie Kay-Wyatt, currently ACPS’ chief of human resources, who will serve as interim superintendent as of Sept. 1, 2022.”

Kay-Wyatt is expected to have the job throughout the 2022-2023 school year.

5 Comments

The Alexandria School Board promoted Melanie Kay-Wyatt as the interim superintendent on Thursday night (July 28).

Kay-Wyatt was hired last year as the chief of human resources for Alexandria City Public Schools, and will have the interim superintendent position for at least the 2022-2023 school year or until a permanent superintendent is chosen.

“This was a big decision for our school board, and we’re very excited to welcome Dr. Kay-Wyatt to this role,” School Board Chair Meagan Alderton said. “I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Dr. Kay-Wyatt will do to help us to move on.”

The announcement follows the June resignation of Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., who will step down at the end of August.

“We’re going to have an amazing school year,” Kay-Wyatt told the School Board. “I am very fortunate to stand before an amazing school community this evening. I’m grateful for the opportunity and I look forward to working with strong leaders, amazing staff and it’s just an opportunity for us to get better and better.”

Board Member Abdel Elnoubi thanked Kay-Wyatt for stepping up.

“Thank you so much for willing to step up in a challenging time for education and for educators,” Elnoubi said. “I also believe the fact that we had so many qualified applicants with different skill sets and backgrounds wanting to lead this division and be here in Alexandria speaks volumes about who we are in this Alexandria community.”

Kay-Wyatt has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Mary Washington College, a master’s degree in education from Old Dominion University, a master’s in educational leadership from University of Mary Washington and a doctorate in educational leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University. She previously worked in human resources in Spotsylvania Public Schools, and as a principal and assistant principal at Fredericksburg City Public Schools.

Kay-Wyatt will be paid $21,383 monthly, and the Board will “immediately begin the search process for a permanent superintendent, which will include opportunities for input from staff, students, families and  community members,” according to ACPS.

2 Comments
The Alexandria City High School graduation, June 4, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria City Public Schools expects its interim superintendent to serve for the entire 2022-2023 school year, according to a new job listing for the position.

“It is anticipated that this opportunity could last for the entirety of SY22-23,” ACPS said on the job listing, which was posted on Thursday (June 30). “The Interim Superintendent will report to and work in partnership with the Alexandria City School Board to carry out the vision and strategic goals of the division to ensure the success of students, employees, and the overall school community while the search for the permanent superintendent is underway.”

ACPS asked for community input on the superintendent selection earlier this week, with the goal of filling the job by July 28.

The interim superintendent’s contract would last “Up to six months or until a permanent superintendent is in place,” ACPS said.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr.’s resignation goes into effect at the end of August, and the interim superintendent will be chosen by July 28.

Hutchings was hired in 2017, following a one-year stint by former interim Superintendent Lois Berlin, the former superintendent of Falls Church City Public Schools.

ACPS posted than 70 positions to its career site last month, including principal jobs at George Washington Middle School and  Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School, media relations specialists, school security officers, teachers, counselors and bus drivers.

The full interim superintendent job description below the jump.

Read More

0 Comments

Alexandria City Public Schools want input from the community on the “intensive search” for an interim superintendent.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr.’s resignation goes into effect at the end of August, and the interim superintendent will be chosen by July 28.

“As a result, the School Board and the ACPS community will be engaging in an intensive search for a new superintendent to lead our school system,” ACPS said. “We will move forward at the pace necessary for conducting a thorough and thoughtful process leading to the appointment of a new superintendent to guide our school division to continued success and sustain our positive culture of learning.”

Community members are asked to use the School Board Contact Form for submissions.

“Your feedback will be encouraged and considered as an interim superintendent, who can support the transition throughout the new school year, is sought and as the search for Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.’s permanent successor is conducted,” ACPS said.

Hutchings has been superintendent since 2017, and took over after a one-year stint by former interim Superintendent Lois Berlin, the former superintendent of Falls Church City Public Schools. Berlin left retirement to fill the office, which was vacated by former Superintendent Alvin Crawley.

ACPS released the following schedule:

  • July 7– Special Called Meeting- Public Announcement of interim supt. interviews, pursuant to Virginia Code 2.2-3712 (B)
  • July 8 – Applications for interim supt. position close
  • July 18-21 – Interim supt. interviews
  • July 22 – Board will extend offer to selected candidate
  • July 28 – Interim supt. selection approval and ratification of contract

0 Comments

While last week was bookended with another murder and the Superintendent Gregory Hutchings Jr.’s resignation — still the top story a week later — this week was a little quieter.

Alexandria City Public Schools and the City of Alexandria are working on a response to violence in local schools. The city is also working with regional partners on plans to get through the next few months of a Metro shutdown.

Also, because it’s Juneteenth this weekend, ALXnow won’t be publishing anything beyond Morning Notes on Monday. Have a good weekend!

  1. BREAKING: Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. resigns
  2. Alexandria facing another Metro shutdown, this time without DASH filling the gap
  3. No arrests after multiple cars struck in West End hit-and-run
  4. Arlandria housing project heads back to city review after local Catholic church refuses to yield alleyway
  5. Old Town pay-by-phone parking cost could increase in effort to push drivers to garages
  6. Lane closures start tonight on Duke Street in the West End
  7. Preservation vs affordability in Parker-Gray neighborhood divides Alexandria BAR
  8. City Council stepping in to prevent youth violence within Alexandria City Public Schools
  9. Vice Mayor derided for saying Council nominee for new committee is ‘anti-police’
  10. Arlington leather repair shop Best Foot Forward moving to Bradlee Shopping Center
2 Comment

The Alexandria School Board approved changes to their operating procedures on Thursday night (June 16), and updated rules on engagement with the media.

The operating procedures are a guide for Members’ behavior in office — and state that comments made to media by Board members will “likely be interpreted by the public as an official statement of the Board,” and that all statements (when Members are designated to speak on behalf of the board) must be sent to the Board Chair and Superintendent. The changes now state that School Board Members must now avoid directly communicating with ACPS staff “about Division business”, and clarified language to say that Board members will now receive all written responses to media made by the Alexandria City Public Schools communications team.

The Board unanimously approved School Board Member Kelly Carmichael Booz’s clarified language on the document. Booz said that the change eliminates confusion — that Board Members do not need to provide their colleagues with any written responses to the media.

“My proposal will be to amend that just so it’s really clear what that whole purpose of that was to just essentially say that written responses from ACPs communications to the media on behalf of the school division will also be distributed to school board members and the superintendent,” Booz said.

On June 7, the School Board conducted a closed door retreat at ACPS Central Office to discuss their operating procedures. The meeting was supposed to be open to the public. ACPS communications has not responded to multiple requests for comment to clarify the operating procedures or explain why the doors were locked.

Per the operating procedures, any questions from media related to personnel, student matters, school programs and exceptional/emergency events should be fielded by Board Chair Meagan Alderton and the ACPS communications team. School Board members are discouraged from discussing division-wide topics, but retain the right to talk to the media as individuals.

The Board also voted 5-4 against a proposal by Member Abdel Elnoubi to table the changes to the operating procedures until this fall, which he said would give the public time to review them.

Elnoubi says that there hasn’t been public discussion on the Board’s operating procedures since the Board retreats are not recorded.

“This is the operating procedures that govern our board, how we’re going to work together, how we interact with the community, everything,” Elnoubi said. “I feel it just serves everyone better if we wait, if we postpone this item… giving the community an opportunity to comment, to react for the sake of transparency, just to make sure that everything is being discussed here in a meeting that’s recorded.”

Board Chair Meagan Alderton, Vice Chair Jacinta Greene and Board Members Willie Bailey, Tammy Ignacio and Christopher Harris voted against Elnoubi’s proposal, and he and Board Members Michelle Rief, Ashley Simpson Baird and Booz voted for it.

Board Member Willie Bailey said that Board Members should have brought up their reservations during the retreats.

“I guess I’m a little mixed up or confused,” Bailey said. “I’m sure if there were some serious issues, we probably should have brought this forward during our last meeting, retreat, we had.”

At multiple Board retreats this year, outgoing Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. urged the newly elected Board to not engage with the media by reminding them of their own operating procedures. Hutchings announced his resignation on the last day of school, June 10, and did not attend the meeting. Hutchings is out of the office until June 21.

In March, Hutchings gave the Board a refresher on the operating procedures after Board Members Michelle Rief, Ashley Simpson-Baird, Elnoubi, Kelly Carmichael Booz and Chris Harris edited his proposal for the School Law Enforcement Partnership Advisory Committee. Hutchings said that such “behind the scenes” operations raised transparency issues by violating the Virginia Freedom Of Information Act. In that meeting, he also advised that Board Members not talk to the media without going through ACPS communications staff first.

After the fatal stabbing of an Alexandria City High School student on May 24, Hutchings advised School Board members in an email to not talk with the media. Hutchings wrote:

Board,

You may receive media inquiries regarding recent events. Please do not speak about the incident. I’ve spoken with our communications team to please refrain from using the term ‘no comment’.

However, please say ‘I will refer this media inquiry to our communications team’ then forward to Julia (Burgos with ACPS communications) and Kathy (Mimberg of ACPS communications). Thanks a million!

Sent from Dr. Hutchings’ iPhone

Alderton does not engage in social media, and her public comments are usually limited to official Board meetings and pre-screened monthly editorials to local newspapers. She recently spoke to The Washington Post and WJLA following Hutchings’ resignation announcement, but when pressed for comment by Fox 5 DC for a story about parents upset over a lack of communication regarding the student’s death, she provided no comment.

Most School Board Members haven’t made a single statement to the press since being sworn into office in January. The only exceptions are Elnoubi, Booz and Rief, who have spoken numerous times on the record with ALXnow.

4 Comments

Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. resigned abruptly on Friday morning (June 10).

Hutchings’ resignation comes after a tumultuous few weeks for the school division, following a closed-door session asking the School Board to not talk with the media and about the fatal stabbing death of a student.

The resignation goes into effect August 31.

The following note was sent to ACPS families:

 Message from the ACPS superintendent

It is with a heavy heart that I want to share with you before the end of the school year one of the most difficult decisions of my career. I will be resigning from my position as superintendent of schools at Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) effective August 31, 2022. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the students, staff, families and the Alexandria community since July 2018. I have thoroughly enjoyed my years leading our school division, in which I was raised and educated as a proud member of the Alexandria community. This decision did not come lightly and was prompted by my life’s work to advocate for antiracism in education. I have been proud of what we have accomplished together in bringing forth the very first ACPS strategic plan, Equity For All, that places racial equity at the heart of all our work.

This courageous and bold roadmap compelled me to consider how I can help expand and establish similar initiatives in school systems across the country. It has become my personal imperative and has only been exacerbated by the recent attack on our equity work right here in Virginia. As superintendent, I am limited in my ability to speak freely and openly about this work and assist other school systems to carry out this critical advocacy. It is clear to me that this is the next phase of my career as an educator and the time has come for me to take this leap of faith, expand my reach, and move the needle on racial equity in education. In my four years at ACPS, we have worked collaboratively with our School Board and our ACPS team to realize many significant accomplishments. While I will no longer stand at the helm of ACPS to lead our team, I will continue to support the work and care deeply for our students, staff and families.

In my heart, I know that I will always remain close to ACPS and in the coming months, I will work closely with the School Board to ensure that there is a smooth transition to begin the 2022-23 school year. I have faith in the team that will soon be charged with keeping ACPS moving forward. Thank you for the opportunity to lead this amazing community of educators and to serve as an example to our students, so that they, too, can have their dream job. My hope is that ACPS will continue to develop lifelong learners who will continue to pay it forward; to ACPS and beyond! Sincerely, Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. Superintendent of Schools

A news release from Alexandria City Public Schools said School Board chair Meagan Alderton will appoint an interim superintendent while ACPS conducts a search for a new permanent one.

“Chair Alderton stated that the School Board will appoint an interim superintendent to lead the division while a search for a permanent superintendent is underway,” the release said. “Dr. Hutchings has pledged to work closely with the School Board over the summer to ensure there is a smooth transition in leadership to begin the 2022-23 school year.”

Alderton praised Hutchings’ work at ACPS in the release:

It has been both an honor and a pleasure to work alongside Dr Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. He has led our school division during extremely tumultuous times and, in doing so, has modeled for all of us what it means to lead with vision, integrity, and passion. Alexandria City Public Schools has benefited tremendously from his leadership. As a board, we are sad to see him go, but we wish him the very best in his future endeavors. I have no doubt that we will see him doing great things that will impact public education beyond the boundaries of Alexandria City Public Schools.

Vernon Miles contributed to this story

36 Comments

The Alexandria School Board conducted a closed-door meeting on Tuesday night (June 7) on changes to their operating procedures including a new rule on talking to the media.

In the two-hour-long session, the Board went over proposed changes to its operating procedures, as well as “Eight Characteristics of Effective School Boards,” a report from the Center for Public Education. The meeting was attended by Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., Board Chair Meagan Alderton, Vice Chair Jacinta Greene, as well as Members Chris Harris, Willie Bailey, Michelle Rief, Tammy Ignacio, Kelly Carmichael Booz and Ashley Simpson Baird.

One of the changes would require Board Members to provide their colleagues with any written responses to the media. Another stipulates that individual School Board Members must avoid directly communicating with ACPS staff “about Division business.”

In the meeting, Board Member Willie Bailey — who previously said that he will not talk with the media — said that it’s important that School Board Members are all on the same team as part of a strong collaboration of mutual trust.

“I just think that we need to be aware that it’s a team,” Bailey said. “And I’ll say it over and over again. When one person is speaking about something out in the open, I really do believe that that one individual feels that their — they don’t understand that folks out there on the street, the citizens, the students, the parents, they see it as (reflecting the comments of) an entire Board. So, I just think we just need to be cognizant of that and just make sure we understand that we have to work as a team.”

Member Abdel Elnoubi says the proposed change on School Board media relations creates peer pressure against talking with journalists.

“I missed the retreat for being sick,” Elnoubi told ALXnow. “I need to see the changes within context to be able to react to them. In my opinion, any discussions that touch on board members independence and the Board’s authority is a matter of public concern and should be readily available, but the retreats are not live-streamed or recorded (they are open to the public for in-person attendance however) which limits the public’s access to such discussions that occur often in retreats. When there’s no public or media presence which is almost all the time, I feel it creates a whole set of different dynamics and a group/peer pressure type environment.”

The front doors of Alexandria City Public Schools headquarters were locked at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night while the School Board conducted a Board retreat — a public meeting — in a third-floor work room of the ACPS Central Office at 1340 Braddock Place.

ALXnow gained access to the meeting via the building’s underground parking garage, and the Board clerk confirmed that the doors were locked. She said that ALXnow is the only attendee at such meetings, and that security would unlock the doors.

While the meeting was not open to the public, consultant Laurie Cromwell said that the operating procedures make for an effective Board, although it can seem like a “back-assward” form of governance.

Cromwell was on a local school board in Texas from 1999 to 2003, after which she started her consulting firm Foundation Innovation. She has been a meeting facilitator for ACPS for years.

It seems very foreign. I remember my first year when I was on the School Board thinking it was the most back-assward way to try and make decisions. I mean, I really was just completely dumbfounded [by] the restrictions and the limits. And then, fast forward now since 1999, I get it, but it’s really more not about limiting you, it’s about the due process of allowing the community to see what you’re doing. That’s the bottom line — that the community has a right to know how decisions are being made, and if you’re doing it with doors closed for issues that are not private matters, they are not involved in that process.

Elnoubi and Booz have broken ranks numerous times over Board rules to limit members’ unfettered access to the media.

Booz said she was confused about the language and thought that it directed ACPS to send all messages to media to Board Members.

“I understand your confusion and I will inquire about clarifying this line,” Booz said.

After the meeting, Board Member Chris Harris was asked about the proposed change regarding written responses to the media.

“I haven’t looked at it,” Harris said, and was then shown the document. “I have no comment on it.”

The development comes after Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. told the Board not to comment to the media regarding the stabbing death of Alexandria City High School senior Luis Mejia Hernandez.

Hutchings wrote:

Board,

You may receive media inquiries regarding recent events. Please do not speak about the incident. I’ve spoken with our communications team to please refrain from using the term ‘no comment’.

However, please say ‘I will refer this media inquiry to our communications team’ then forward to Julia (Burgos with ACPS communications) and Kathy (Mimberg of ACPS communications). Thanks a million!

Sent from Dr. Hutchings’ iPhone

Elnoubi did not comply and told ALXnow: “I understand that Dr. Hutchings may be worried if we say something, it may be attributed to the division. We don’t work for the division though, we oversee it and we work for the people of Alexandria, we represent The people. As elected officials, we are free to choose how, where and what to communicate with the community, which gets to hold us accountable. In times like these, the community needs to hear from its leaders and policymakers.”

The Board’s operating procedures state that any questions from media related to personnel, student matters, school programs and exceptional/emergency events should be fielded by Board Chair Meagan Alderton and the ACPS communications team. School Board members are discouraged from discussing division-wide topics, but retain the right to talk to the media as individuals.

According to Board’s current operating procedures:

School Board Members retain the right to speak to the media as individuals, but must understand that any comment will likely be interpreted by the public as an officials statement of the Board.

In a March retreat, Hutchings advised the Board to not talk with the media in a refresher for the board on their operating procedures in the wake of a National Review article stating that ACPS engaged in a coverup over an alleged sexual assault last year.

The following month, Hutchings scolded the Board for their edits of a staff report on his plan to create a School Law Enforcement Advisory Group, which will make recommendations for SROs in schools to Hutchings by this fall. Hutchings emailed Board Members that there were legal issues with their making edits outside of a Board meeting and that the edits were “extremely problematic,” “inappropriate,” and “disrespectful.”

School Board Chair Meagan Alderton and Hutchings would not comment on the matter, except by directing all questions to ACPS communications.

ACPS communications staff did not respond to ALXnow’s calls for comment.

15 Comments

Updated at 3 p.m. There was sadness, relief, and also great happiness at Alexandria City High School’s graduation on Saturday (June 4)

Nearly 800 ACHS seniors walked the stage to receive their diplomas for the first in-person, indoor graduation in three years. The event was held at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena.

In a touching moment, Guillermo Romero, the uncle of senior Luis Mejia Hernandez — the teen who was killed on May 24 — accepted his diploma to a standing ovation.

This year’s class is the first to graduate since Alexandria City High School changed its name from T.C. Williams High School.

0 Comments

Updated at 3 p.m. on June 6: A family member of Luis Mejia Hernandez walked the stage and received a standing ovation from the students, staff and families in attendance at George Mason University’s EagleBank Arena.

Guillermo Romero took took the diploma for his nephew, kissed it and raised it to the sky.

Hernandez was fatally stabbed in the parking lot of the Bradlee Shopping Center on May 24.

Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., said that Hernandez’s life was tragically cut short on by a senseless act of violence.

“We were looking forward to seeing Luis cross the stage today,” Hutchings said.

Hernandez was recognized by ACHS Executive Principal Peter Balas as a hard worker.

“I want to take a moment to ask everyone to hold Luis Hernandez in their thoughts — a Titan who should be here with us today,” Balas told students. “To the Hernandez family, please know that you are forever a part of the Titan family. We are with you now and we always will be. We will hold you in our hearts during this challenging time, and we thank you for entrusting your son to us for his education.”

More than 800 ACHS seniors walked the stage. This is the first graduating class of Alexandria City High School since it changed its name from T.C. Williams High School. It was also the first indoor, in-person graduation for the school in three years.

Balas said that students in this generation are taking their mental health seriously, and that the past few years have been full of traumatic events.

“These past few years have not been normal or usual in any way,” Balas said. “I hope you can look back and remember that you were there for each other, lifting each other up, as you made your way into the world.”

The story and caption incorrectly said that the person who received the diploma was Hernandez’s father. It was a family member.

8 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list