Newsletter

Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings is making a case for critical race theory (CRT) and abolishing policing practices, although not within the school system he manages.

In an opinion piece published by EducationWeek on April 6 (Wednesday), Hutchings said that school systems need to employ six steps if they want to “embrace” building an anti-racist school or school system. In “The Anti-Racist Counternarrative Public Education Needs Now: Six steps for escaping the trap of attacks on ‘critical race theory’“, Hutchings wrote that most public school educators never heard of the term before it became politicized during the 2020 election cycle.

“It has become so extreme that many states are banning books, rescinding policies, and dismantling curriculum,” Hutchings wrote. “School systems are faced with political strategies to dismantle equitable practices and policies and take our public educational systems back to before the civil rights era if we do not pay attention and react methodically, strategically, and unapologetically.”

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, heavily campaigned against critical race theory, which is an increased study into racism and its effects on society. ACPS has not taken an official stance on CRT, and said that Hutchings’ comments do not reflect the opinion of the school system.

“This is an opinion piece from a national perspective and it speaks for itself,” ACPS School and Community Relations Chief Julia Burgos told ALXnow.

The op-ed lists six “scalable” recommendations, which Hutchings wrote are “imperative for educators to embrace.” The recommendations are:

  1. Know our history
  2. Commit to racial equity
  3. Dismantle instraschool segregation
  4. Abolish policing practices in schools
  5. Prioritize strategic thinking and planning
  6. Demonstrate courage and boldness

Hutchings wrote that ACPS works closely with police to keep schools safe, and that a half hour of “social-emotional learning time” has been incorporated into the school division.

“Policing is a controversial national discussion, and schools are not immune to this controversy,” Hutchings wrote. “Discipline for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students has mirrored some policing practices that have contributed to the prison pipeline for decades. From zero-tolerance policies to arrests in schools for disciplinary infractions, U.S. public schools have harmed BIPOC students by implementing disciplinary policies derived from policing. A focus on the social and emotional needs of students, including restorative practices, instead of suspension and expulsion practices, is key to abolishing policing in schools.”

Policing in schools has been a controversial subject in Alexandria, after the City Council went against Hutchings’ recommendation and defunded school resource officers. Funding for the $800,000 SRO program was diverted toward mental and behavioral health resources for ACPS, but after a marked increase in violent events going into the 2021-2022 school year, Hutchings’ successfully pleaded with City Council for their reinstatement.

Many of the points are included in Hutchings’ recently released book, which he wrote with Georgetown University professor Douglas Reed. The first chapter of “Getting Into Good Trouble at School: A Guide to Building an Anti-racist School System”  is devoted to the T.C. Williams High School name change to Alexandria City High School, which was accomplished through a lengthy community process. The book has eight chapters on various subjects, including “Know Your History to Rewrite Your Future”, “Commit to Racial Equity”, “Make School Discipline Different From Policing” and “Choose Good Trouble: Be a Bold and Courageous Antiracist School Leader.”

14 Comments

Morning Notes

Sudshare app-based laundry service launches in Alexandria — “Sudshare has launched in Alexandria to connect people who hate washing clothes (or don’t have time to do it) with people who are willing to do it for you.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Alexandria gets another new mural — “The newest Alexandria mural was unveiled on Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School.” [Zebra]

Virginia Tech closes Alexandria student housing — “On Nov. 1, university leadership decided against the continued operation of The Gallery, student housing located in Alexandria, Virginia…” [Collegiate Times]

Lasting effects of segregation in NoVA detailed in new report — “A new report tells the history of exclusion and segregation in Northern Virginia and how the Black community has paid a terrible price.” [Patch]

0 Comments

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed an administrative complaint against a janitorial government contractor operating in Alexandria for discriminating against Black and white job applicants in favor of Hispanic applicants.

The Department of Labor filed the complaint against New York-based ABM Janitorial Services on September 15, although the investigation into the contractor began in 2015. Three compliance reviews were made at ABM locations — one in Baltimore, Maryland, and two in Alexandria in the 100 block of Claremont Avenue.

In Alexandria, the government determined that the contractor has “engaged in racially discriminatory hiring practices, failed to preserve and maintain its personnel and employment records, failed to conduct adverse impact analyses, and failed to develop an auditing system,” according to court records.

The entry-level jobs pay $10 to $11 an hour, and the minimum qualifications are being 18 years of age and having a legal right to work in the U.S.

“Many hiring managers claimed to prefer applicants with cleaning experience, but many cleaners hired (in Alexandria) lacked cleaning experience,” the complaint alleges. “The hiring managers regularly hired inexperienced Hispanic applicants for job openings while rejecting experienced Black applicants for those openings.”

The contractor’s cleaning services for the U.S. Army from 2015 to 2018 amount to more than $174 million, and it also has a $68 million contract with the General Services Administration that runs until 2023, according to court records.

The investigation also found that white applicants were discriminated against in favor of Hispanic applicants at a Baltimore location.

Despite repeated requests from the U.S. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the government says that the company has not shown evidence that it changed its hiring practices. The complaint asks the court to cancel all of AMB Janitorial Service’s government contracts and prevent it from working with the government again until the noncompliance is remedied.

“We will work in conjunction with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to ensure that federal contractors administer their federal contracts without discriminating against applicants and employees,” said U.S. Labor Department Solicitor Seema Nanda in a statement. “We will continue to use all available resources to ensure every applicant can seek employment free of discrimination and bias, and when we find evidence of discrimination we will pursue these alleged violations in court.”

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Video shows married gay couple facing down deluge of anti-gay, anti-Asian slurs — “Neighbors say they’ve never heard anything like it anywhere. Vile anti-gay slurs caught on a Ring camera hurled at a gay couple in the heart of Old Town Alexandria. Anti-Asian slurs too. All in a long-simmering dispute over a back alley parking space. The white couple caught on tape insist they’re not anti-gay or anti-Asian, but the language is pretty rough.” [WUSA9]

Little Free Pantry opens outside Charles Houston Recreation Center — “Located right next to the rec center, with a fresh coat of blue paint and packed full of everything from peanuts to fajita kits, the new Little Free Pantry is the culmination of five years of work for Old Town resident Hope Nelson. Little Free Pantries, which allow residents to donate as much as they want and take as much as they need, have sprung up across the country as part of a grassroots movement to provide short-term solutions for food insecurity.” [Alex Times]

Apothecary Museum celebrating Harry Potter’s birthday on July 31 — “In honor of Harry Potter’s birthday, Alexandria’s Apothecary Museum is offering a special tour for families that will explore the old Apothecary and the historic muggle medicines that inspired the Herbology and Potions of Harry’s world.” [City of Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 96F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph… A few clouds [in the evening]. Low near 75F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Apprentice general manager — “Chipotle is growing fast – we’re opening a restaurant every two days and we need leaders to grow with us! Our Apprentices assist in the day-to-day operations of our restaurants – learning what it takes to run a strong business, hire and train great people, and grow our company.” [Indeed]

3 Comments

It’s a different world than when Jacqueline Tucker started work in Alexandria.

Tucker started her job as the city’s first-ever racial and social equity officer in February 2020, and in the months that followed the pandemic and social unrest shook the city to its core.

“It’s a completely different world,” Tucker told ALXnow. “I think that at a minimum that our awareness and consciousness is raised.”

After overseeing racial and social equity training for approximately a third of the city’s workforce, Tucker is offering training to residents for the first time in the 30-Day Racial Equity Challenge. The four-part program started last month, and every day participants complete short assignments, like watching a TED Talk or taking an implicit bias test. The goal is for participants to walk away with a broader understanding of racial bias in the community.

The weekly conversation on the program continues in a Zoom conversation at noon on Wednesday, June 30.

The four-week program is being done in partnership with ACT for Alexandria, and currently has about 30 participants (with 80 signed up) focusing on history, micro aggressions, systemic and institutional racism and what they can do about it.

“It’s designed to be sort of a primer for scratching the very tip of a surface on some of the main issues related to race and equity,” Tucker said.

The format is slightly different than what’s offered to city employees. So far, all 700 Department of Community and Human Services staffers have received initial training from the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, in addition to all city department heads. That training mostly focuses on government’s role in systemic and institutional bias and racism, and each department has an equity team focused on training their staff.

Tucker’s next step is creating an “opportunity map or an equity index map” to show disparities within communities on a public dashboard.

2 Comments

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.”

0 Comments

What a week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week is on Gregory Elliott, a special education teacher at T.C. Williams High School. Elliot also goes by the name of “Sugar Bear” for the D.C.-based go-go band Experience Unlimited, and their song “Da’ Butt” from the Spike Lee movie “School Daze” was featured at the Oscars, along with actress Glenn Close dancing to it.

This week was full of news.

City Manager Mark Jinks hinted at retiring, there was a chlorine spill at Lake Cook and the Alexandria Fire Department is contending with reports of racism, sexism and favoritism.

Additionally, a cyberattack on a gas pipeline resulted in a state of emergency throughout Virginia. We asked readers about it in our weekly poll, and out of 250 responses only 31% (78 votes) considered making alternate travel plans.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Go-go music star-turned Alexandria teacher ‘Sugar Bear’ in the spotlight after Oscars shoutout
  2. Landmark Mall developers to field public question in forum this week
  3. UPDATE: Woman arrested for firing gun near Alexandria Courthouse in Old Town
  4. AHDC proposes nearly 500 units of affordable housing for Arlandria
  5. ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria
  6. Here’s which City Council candidates signed the new ‘Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights’ pledge
  7. Girlfriend of murder suspect arrested for breaking into home and beating up witness
  8. Election: Stark differences as Wilson and Silberberg face off in mayoral debate
  9. Racism, sexism and favoritism reported within the Alexandria Fire Department
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. Wilson and Silberberg clash over new challenges, old wounds, and The Golden Girls

Have a safe weekend!

7 Comments

Tensions are running high within the Alexandria Fire Department, as racism, sexism and favoritism have resulted in “considerable suspicion, distrust, and loss of confidence in organizational processes, and leaders,” according to a 2020 report.

Perceptions of racism, sexism, and favoritism undercut trust in department processes including assignment, resource distribution, discipline, and promotion,” notes the 2020 Organizational Assessment Report for the Alexandria Fire Department. “Women fight a conservative mindset that has not yet disappeared. Conflict and related conditions fester until they become serious.”

Fire Chief Corey Smedley says his staff are exhausted by COVID-19, and that he is working on addressing multiple issues. He said that race relations within the department remain a work in progress, and that he continually hears negative comments against AFD academy classes that are filled with women and minorities.

“I can tell you, based on my experience, I get sometimes a few people that treat me in a certain way that isn’t what I’ve seen my caucasian counterparts be treated,” Smedley told ALXnow. “Specifically my predecessor… When there are more women and minorities in the recruitment class, I get comments about how everybody isn’t cut out for this job… We need to improve our training practices and the philosophy of training.”

Last summer, results from the annual citywide employee engagement survey were mixed, with only about 25 percent of respondents (147 AFD employees) seeing the department as a great place to work and seeing career opportunities for advancement.

According to the report, “A few participants suggested race may have been a factor in promotions of some members, some perceive that there are members who believe that personnel trained by a minority instructor may not be as capable as those taught by white training.”

All of this comes while the department undergoes a reorganization. Just days after the city made a deal on collective bargaining, AFD announced that roughly two-thirds of AFD staff are being relocated around the city.

“The department has met a new low in moral and low level of trust in senior staff,” one AFD staffer wrote. “If senior staff does not engage its employees, seek input (and listen) from people who actually do the work, and so on, we will continue to plunge further into the lowest we have ever been. There are many talented people who work here and who care; that number is rapidly shrinking by the day.”

AFD staff said that a number of issues, including racism, sexism and pay plague the department.

“Blatant racism and sexism,” an AFD employee wrote. “Pay freeze, fools in charge. How dare you hide behind covid and the bodies of dead Americans as an excuse to not provide me with a raise. The rate of inflation is roughly 2 percent a year. So in reality I’m receiving less money because my purchasing power decreases. Data is a joke.”

The reorganization, among other things, calls for shifting more than a dozen members of the technical rescue team and its resources (including the HAZMAT team and Foam Unit for flammable liquid spills and fires) to the station at Potomac Yard from Fire Station 206 at 4609 Seminary Road in the West End.

Morale has never been lower, Josh Turner, president of the Alexandria Fire Fighters Inc. and International Association of Firefighters Local 2141, told ALXnow.

“I’ve never seen morale this low in the fire department in my 11 years here,” Turner said. “People are tired. I’ve got members that are overworked. Between COVID vaccination sites and just running the normal emergencies that we run, people are tired, and they feel like their leadership isn’t looking out for them.”

AFD Chief of Staff Chris Thompson was hired in February 2020. Thompson was a recruiter for AFD for six years before his promotion, and says that he has fought against an exclusive culture where women and minorities were held back from promotion. He said that he has recruited roughly half of the department, and has gotten a lot of feedback about recruiting “the wrong people.”

“I believe that with any change there is stress,” Thompson said. “The changes that we’re making are basically a reorganization. And that’s basically moving apparatus, changing where people might have to work, changes some of the responsibilities.”

Smedley said that staff are working on 14 initiatives outlined in the report, including developing an advisory committee with employees from various divisions; developing an administrative team; creating an EMS blueprint for promotion to higher ranks; revamping communications within the department and working with the City’s race and social equity officer to develop a Departmental Equity Core Team to train staff on race and equity issues.

“I embrace diverse thoughts and opinions,” Smedley said. “I encourage people to be courageous about their convictions and about their opinion and passion. But they have to be aligned with our values.”

2 Comments

Joseph McCoy was lynched at the corner of Lee Street and Cameron Street in Old Town 124 years ago today. The incident was recognized in a small ceremony Friday morning with a group of residents and Mayor Justin Wilson.

This weekend, City Hall will be lit in purple in memory of the 19-year-old McCoy, who was arrested without a warrant and then murdered on April 23, 1897. A mob of white residents stormed the Police House (now City Hall), where McCoy was being held after being accused of sexually assaulting three women. He was shot, stabbed and hanged from a lamppost.

McCoy’s death is one of two lynchings that took place in Alexandria. The other was 20-year-old Benjamin Thomas, who was shot to death and hanged the following year by a mob of residents in Old Town.

Residents are invited to a virtual lecture on lynching by historian Susan Strasser and poetry reading on Saturday at 1 p.m.

A marker was recently installed at the site. It reads:

On a lamppost at this corner on April 23, 1897, Black Alexandria teenager Joseph H. McCoy was lynched. McCoy’s white employer, Richard Lacy, alleged that McCoy had sexually assaulted his daughter. Similar accusations were routinely used against Black males to ensure domination and provoke racial terror within the African American community. McCoy was arrested without a warrant and held prisoner at the police station, located at present-day City Hall.

After multiple attacks on the station by hundreds of white men, the mob broke through McCoy’s cell door and dragged him one block to this location. They shot him several times, bludgeoned him with an ax, and hanged him. The Alexandria Gazette reported that “other indignities were heaped upon his quivering remains.” Such historically coded language suggested dismemberment, including castration, that was often inflicted on Black males who were lynched, especially in cases involving a perceived indignity to a white female.

Virginia Governor Charles O’Ferrall launched an investigation into the lynching. He laid blame on Alexandria Mayor Luther Thompson for failing to respond to repeated attacks despite knowing the mob intended to lynch McCoy. No officials or law enforcement officers were held accountable and no members of the white mob were ever arrested for McCoy’s murder. Several Black men, however, were arrested based on rumors of retaliation.

Upon viewing her nephew’s body, McCoy’s aunt declared, “As the people killed him, they will have to bury him.” At the funeral, Rev. William Gaines of Roberts Chapel proclaimed, “I trust that the time will soon come when all people will realize the fact that the same judgment which they measure to others will be measured to them at the bar of God.”

Joseph H. McCoy was buried in a pauper’s grave at Penny Hill Cemetery.

Image via Justin Wilson/Twitter

0 Comments

It was another busy week in Alexandria. Here are some of the highlights.

This week, ALXnow profiled Mayor Justin Wilson and his opponent, former Mayor Allison Silberberg. The pair are facing off in the June 8 Democratic primary, and have vastly different ideas on city governance.

Alexandria Police released its 2020 crime data this week, revealing a 19% increase in Part 1 crime and 15% reduction in Nuisance crimes. ALXnow also reported a number of noteworthy crime stories, including the release of a video showing a chase suspect who died after his arrest in D.C. on April 12, and the indictment of a West End murder suspect.

This week also brought the unbelievable story of locals chasing down suspected shoplifters in Del Ray.

On the vaccine front, the Alexandria Health Department paused Johnson & Johnson vaccinations, following new concerns about potential side effects.

In school news, Alexandria City Public Schools will shift to three feet distancing in classrooms on April 26. Additionally, the School Board has started a conversation on reducing the number of members from nine to six.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. BREAKING: ‘Alexandria City High School’ chosen as replacement name for T.C. Williams High School
  2. JUST IN: Dr. Stephen Haering suddenly retires as director of Alexandria Health Department
  3. Southern Towers residents nervous as landlord steps up eviction proceedings
  4. Man stabbed at Old Town intersection
  5. NEW: Locals chase down suspected shoplifters in Del Ray
  6. JUST IN: T.C. Williams JV football team walks off field after alleged racial slur, spitting incident
  7. Man faces 10 years for DWI in horrific West End crash in Safeway parking lot
  8. Planning Commission approves controversial subdivision, plants potential loophole for future denial
  9. JUST IN: Video released of police arresting chase suspect who died in D.C.
  10. JUST IN: Six Alexandria Police officers put on administrative duties after chase suspect dies
  11. JUST IN: West End murder suspect faces life plus 13 years in prison

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

2 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list