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Open Letter to the School Board

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Dear Arlington County School Board,

Hung on the walls of your building are your Core Values: “Excellence, Integrity, Diversity, Collaboration, Accountability and Sustainability.” Last Thursday, you voted, in a unanimous 5-0 decision, to abandon all of these values with your passage of High School Boundary Refinement option four.

The school board has struggled for quite a while with the segregation of its schools. In earlier years, (all the way back in the 1950s and 60s), integration was difficult for your predecessors to achieve, as they were under “Massive Resistance” (a term used to describe a movement during which laws were passed that cut funding from integrated schools).  Now the issue of school segregation is subtly resurfacing again as schools are regressing to levels of segregation which are the highest they’ve been since their original integration. Just last month, the Commonwealth Institute -a think tank which analyzes Virginia governmental policy-called you out for inequality. It cited the fact that there are two schools in your district (Randolph Elementary and Carlin Springs Elementary) with 73 and 80 percent free and reduced lunch populations respectively, when the county average is 30 percent. Although the report did not go into detail, when comparing elementary school boundaries to a map of median income in Arlington, I found a disturbing trend of economic gerrymandering as pictured below.

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-12-30-03-pm

 

*Red dots represent elementary school locations.

Proximity to a school, the factor which was supposed to trump all others in this boundary selection, seems to have been neglected for the sake of economic homogeny. To simplify, you sliced up the county to put more wealthy students with other more wealthy students, and to put less wealthy students with other less wealthy students.  

According to the latest statistics on your website, Wakefield currently has 4 times more free and reduced lunch population (by raw numbers) than Yorktown. The percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch among the three high schools are 46.92, 31.06 and 12.35 representing Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown respectively. For a school system that has diversity as a “core value” and maintains in its vision statement that it is a “diverse and inclusive school community,” don’t you find it a bit strange that you have the third least diverse school, in terms of percent white, inside the beltway (behind Langley and Madison)? Surely a school system that values diversity so much would be horrified by their levels of segregation, both racial and economic, and would take every opportunity they could to right this wrong.

However, this is not the case. With your passage of option four, you voted to move a cohort, of which 57 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch, to Wakefield, while moving a separate cohort of just four percent free and reduced lunch to Yorktown. Not because it was impossible given the circumstances; you had the option to move a cohort of 23 percent free and reduced lunch to Wakefield. Just look at a map of median household income with the area you could’ve selected versus what you did.  

option4a

You know very well that free and reduced lunch kids do better in schools that are not overwhelmingly dominated by other free and reduced lunch kids. If not, I encourage you to view these studies from Fairfax County Public Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools and the Center For Public Education. However, you don’t even have to look that far, as an analysis done by our very own Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development (CARD) pictured below will show you the same result. I would like to highlight the Fairfax report as it identifies a statistically significant tipping point — if 45 percent of the student body is in poverty, schools are very unlikely to achieve expected standards for achievement (also pictured below). This move will push Wakefield further over that point.

Furthermore, the socioeconomic makeup of a school has a profound impact on the opportunities students of that school are afforded. Just take a look at the PTA budgets of your three high schools (pictured below). Yorktown boasts 54,110 dollars, Washington-Lee spends 40,147 dollars, and Wakefield only spends 17,610. PTAs fund scholarships, academic trips such as tech expos, club events such as Model-UN conferences and much more. Yorktown’s PTA spends over three times the amount Wakefield’s does. This level of inequality in the public education system of such a small county should concern you.

Although you claim to “value all students, staff and families in our diverse, inclusive school community,” when given the opportunity to help free and reduced lunch students, you consciously chose to do the exact opposite. Your stated mission is to prepare students to “be responsible and productive global citizens.” Surely part of becoming a “global citizen” includes knowing how to interact with people that don’t look like you.  Yet, this move in four years according to your own data will remove 27 percent of black students at Washington-Lee and send them to Wakefield, despite the fact that Wakefield’s a black population is already larger (20.7 percent to Washington-Lee’s 9.0). After this move, according to your data, Wakefield will have twice as many black students as Washington-Lee and Yorktown combined. Additionally, if your projections for this move are correct, Yorktown will pass James Madison and Langley to host the highest concentration of whites in one high school inside the beltway. Arlington is only 26 square miles but through negligence you’ve managed to become more racially segregated than all 406 square miles of Fairfax.

This brings me to my last and most personal point. Throughout this entire process you’ve used this image at the beginning and end of every single presentation on your boundary changes to highlight the diversity that you claim to value so much.

 

You probably don’t know this, but the black student to the left is Jordan Hinkson. I know this because I’ve been good friends with his younger brother since 7th grade. I find this image ironic and symbolic because he lives in W-L’s only historically black neighborhood: the one that you moved to Wakefield. If your current boundaries were in effect when he attended high school this photo, which you use to symbolize the diverse and inclusive community you claim to cherish, would never be possible. You undoubtedly will use the same photo when presenting the changes on December 12th at High School Information night. Because of this, I request you use this photo instead.

It would be more accurate.

Sincerely,

Matthew Herrity

Update: 12/11/16 1:08 pm: If you feel strongly about this, I encourage you to sign a petition about the school system: https://www.change.org/p/arlington-county-school-board-arlington-public-schools-integration

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87 Comments

87 Responses to “Open Letter to the School Board”

  1. Melissa Hinkson on December 7th, 2016 9:34 PM

    I am so very proud of you Matthew Herrity. You have laid out the facts plainly and there’s no disputing that!!! Thank you for being so thorough and deliberate in your presentation of what is obvious to almost everyone except our School Board members and their “supporting cast!” You have shed light on the adage “actions speak louder than words!” Clearly, “we” are not doing that which we claim to be most important. What a shame! #standforsomething

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  2. Amy Cataldo on December 7th, 2016 9:44 PM

    Bravo, Matthew Herrity!

    #standforsomething

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  3. Sean Steele on December 7th, 2016 10:16 PM

    You nailed it, Matthew. It’s school de-integration.

    My oldest son is one of the few students at Randolph Elementary that doesn’t receive free or reduced meals and we’re proud to be there with our neighbors — but the School Board obviously doesn’t value diversity the way we do.

    Shame on them.

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  4. Symone Walker on December 7th, 2016 10:47 PM

    Bravo Matthew Herrity! I don’t know you but I couldn’t be more proud of you. This is one anazing piece of journalism. Yes, journalism. Thank you for your courage in speaking truth to life. Continue to #StayWoke.

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  5. Alexander Wallace on December 8th, 2016 12:12 AM

    Matthew,

    I doubt you remember me, but two years back we were in MUN together and you were on my WASHMUN staff. I just wanted to say that I am extremely impressed with this article. I was often frustrated with County government, but this strikes me as a new low. You’ve done a good job with this; keep on it.

    – Alex Wallace

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  6. Jane Ashley on December 8th, 2016 5:11 AM

    Very compelling argument here. It does seem like we’re in an increasingly slippery slope backwards here in Arlington.

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  7. Jane Ashley on December 8th, 2016 8:23 AM

    Matthew
    I hope you are sending a copy of this to the washington post (letters to editor and the reporter who covers schools on the Virginia staff there. I wish I could give you a name there. Jay mathews has covered education there for a long time. You might try him), and to local tv stations. Channel 7 has done some good reports on problems for marginalized kids in the schools.
    Good job, young man!

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  8. Heather Toronjo on December 8th, 2016 8:56 AM

    This is brilliant. Thank you so much for writing!

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  9. Dana Kelley on December 8th, 2016 9:23 AM

    What a terrific, and damning, analysis. I share your contempt for the school board’s craven decision.

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  10. Linda Staheli on December 8th, 2016 9:26 AM

    I know the school board struggled tremendously with this decision and got a lot of pressure, but at the end of the day, these values of diversity, collaboration and accountability need to be given much higher attention in Arlington. I’d be happy to help you amplify your passion here, as it is a passion of mine.

    Arlington Public Schools funds an amazing course on racism that I am taking now at HB — I’d love to see the school board work with you to address these issues head on. They should start by requiring that all students and teachers take this course, as well as all members of the school board (Reid is taking now with me, which is great). And then we collectively as a community need to put our values in lines with our actions. I would start with creating a committee that meets for specific action outcomes soon and recommend you co chair it with an adult.

    You are to be commended Matthew — I do hope you get that press. Thank you.

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    Anonymous Reply:

    Thank you for sharing information about the course on racism. I will look into that. Who teaches the course? Love the idea about the committee. Would love to explore that. I might even be interested in chairing it with Matthew. It’s time “we the people” band together and address the issues that we have ignored for far too long!

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    Michael Palermo Reply:

    Hi! I teach the Leadership and Diversity course at Yorktown and we’ll be discussing your article our class next week. If you would like to learn more about the course (which actually originated as a club at W&L many years ago!), please feel free to contact me. Excellent work!

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    Sars Reply:

    The teachers do undergo an excellent year long professional devopment program learnica for about racial discrimination

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  11. Anonymous on December 8th, 2016 9:43 AM

    This article is well stated and absolutely true. Matthew: Your next essay should addres residential segregation in Arlington and the way in which the County Board’s housing policies promote and encourage that segregation through affordable housing policies and funds. It is a strong contributing factor to the School Board’s boundary dilemma.

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  12. Matt Davis on December 8th, 2016 9:48 AM

    Matthew,

    Your family should be incredibly proud of you. This is a very well written, well researched, well reasoned argument. As a parent of two recent Wakefield graduates, and a South Arlington resident, I am horrified at the things I have seen and heard people say to excuse this absolute travesty of justice. This letter is being shared all over the web and I will be doing the same immediately. I hope you send this to the local news outlets/papers, etc.

    Matt Davis

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  13. DMW on December 8th, 2016 10:52 AM

    Well done and important comments. Made me as proud as possible to be a W-L alum and a parent of an APS student.

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  14. Anonymous on December 8th, 2016 10:52 AM

    You are fighting an uphill battle which means winning will require that your side will have to endure heavy casualties to prevail.

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  15. Ernesto on December 8th, 2016 11:08 AM

    Good job kid! Now it’s time to read your article at the next school board meeting!

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  16. Wray Coble on December 8th, 2016 11:09 AM

    Matthew, a long-time friend sent this to me here in NC and I am so glad he did. Your careful and detailed analysis and brilliant commentary is inspiring – and calls out the hypocrisy in your community, But, sadly, what you so well documented in Arlington is not confined to Arlington – this sad story is repeating itself across the United States and is certainly true here in North Carolina, where we have essentially turned back the clock and retreated to our racial enclaves. And with what we are witnessing at the national level and proposing a new Secretary of Education with 0 engagement or commitment to public education, authentic concerns for diversity and equality are off the table. Only the clarity and calling out of ‘our kings with no clothes’ can remind us of our values – and of actions aligned to this values.

    Bless youy!

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  17. Paul Maniscalco on December 8th, 2016 11:11 AM

    SO well done. Nailed it. Fight the good fight, Matthew.

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  18. Ann Felker on December 8th, 2016 11:16 AM

    As your first teacher, I must say that I am not surprised by your passion, your precision, your wisdom. Your beautifully presented analysis is a challenge to the School Board and the community at large that must be addressed.You have written eloquently for your generation that “gets it.” In diversity, we thrive.
    I too suggest that you broadcast your important message to a larger audience. Your neighbor, Emma Brown, should be your contact at the Post.
    So very proud of the little guy who once thought of himself as a Power Ranger…you have now realized that ambition, using the weapon you could always wield with honesty and grace—WORDS. Thank you.

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    adviser Reply:

    Thanks Mrs. Felker! Throughout my research I discovered how vocal you were when we redistricted in the 90s about the integration of Arlington. Learning about your efforts was very inspiring when I was researching.

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    Ann Felker Reply:

    Thanks…I am comforted to know that you could still see the efforts of us who came before Matthew’s generation to raise awareness …Sigh. Your research was impeccable and your use of data was awesome.

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  19. Carol Schadelbauer on December 8th, 2016 11:26 AM

    As a former parent at WLHS I couldn’t be more proud of Matthew Herrity. From the “mouth of babes” we learn the truth. He speaks with facts and heart. We are all enriched by a diverse environment in schools, work and life.. Parents of Arlington need to listen to their children.

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  20. EMC on December 8th, 2016 11:35 AM

    Matthew you amazed me with this article and having lived across from WL and being a Parent of a WL student I cant be more proud of you!!! Keep up with your passion and I hope it spreads far and wide!

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  21. Juliet Hiznay on December 8th, 2016 11:38 AM

    Matthew, well done! I am working on some statewise civil rights issues and would love to talk to you. Please email me. Also,

    Students need more of a voice, and we need to make sure they are heard across the county. Building bridges between schools is one way to do this. I would like to know what is in progress along these lines. The surveys produced by APS are designed for fabulous feedback. What about surveys that are designed to really explore the issues that students face day-to-day that need to be addressed through policy and practice?

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  22. Andy S. on December 8th, 2016 11:43 AM

    Very passionate write up. I look forward to your follow up to this.

    As described the situation seems so dire that I imagine your only course of action is to formally request relocation of your school assignment (for you and your entire family) to those schools where you can help drive the diversity numbers in the other direction. I can’t wait to see you take this first step and turn it into real action. Way to BE the change. Can you please provide us an update when you are accepted to attend Wakefield?

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    Sarah W Reply:

    Matt has one more year of high school. Perhaps he could make you a chart showing what one year of one non-FRL at Wakefield would do to move the needle on diversity at Wakefield.

    And that’s assuming he’s not in the IB program, in which case he can’t transfer without abandoning all that work.

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    Andy S Reply:

    Should he not start the ball rolling? Someone has to be first to take a stand against this type of oppression. With the decisive school board decision like this things won’t change without real action.

    The time for consensus building and information sharing to ensure a measure like this did not pass was before the vote.

    Writing articles didn’t stop the Dakota pipeline from being built and I am sure that you are not suggesting that he do nothing other than write an opinion piece. We need real action for people to take notice and begin to change.

    Perhaps a petition to allow an exchange of a one for one student swap to help drive numbers in both schools would be better? I am sure he would be willing to give that a try with such passion on the topic.

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    Katy Sokolove Reply:

    Your comment almost seems passive aggressive, but maybe I am wrong. I would hate to think anyone trivializes such an important issue by personalizing an equity issue that has implications for our community and nation. Excellent article Matthew Herrity.

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    Dana Kelley Reply:

    I’m afraid Andy is definitely being snide and passive aggressive. Apparently he would rather shut down this discussion than participate in it.

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  23. Sunee Claud on December 8th, 2016 11:57 AM

    Mr. Herrity, Thank you for taking the time to research and compose such an informative piece. With your permission, I would like to forward this to a contact at the Washington Post.

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    adviser Reply:

    I would love that! Thank You!

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  24. Maureen McMorrow on December 8th, 2016 11:58 AM

    PTA Funds has been an issue of concern for me for many years. Thank you for bringing them to light. When comparing Jamestown’s fundraising efforts with my home school’s efforts at Abingdon, it is shocking. As a middle school teacher, we are increasingly dependent on PTA for supplies and buses for field trips. For PTAs to have such inequities seems so wrong.

    Maureen McMorrow
    Arlington Teacher

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  25. Melissa Perry on December 8th, 2016 12:27 PM

    Matt, I’m so incredibly proud of you. Your letter is very well written and TRUE!

    Thank you for your courage in speaking truth to life. Continue to #StayWoke #standforsomething

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  26. Samantha Hunter on December 8th, 2016 12:38 PM

    Wonderful article. I have a toddler and I hope they grow to find a cohort of kids like you- impassioned, empathetic, and involved.
    Thank you.

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  27. Joshua Waldman on December 8th, 2016 1:23 PM

    Matthew — very persuasive and nicely written article. If people want to change what the school board does, they should vote for new people on the school board, including during the primaries when, for all practical purposes, the election is decided.

    School board member James Lander, who is up for reelection in 2017, spoke on this issue at the November 3, 2016 school board meeting with regard to the high school boundary changes, diversity, and free and reduced lunches. He made it quite clear that he does NOT support the kinds of things Matthew is advocating here. He said: “For me, diversity isn’t necessarily free and reduced lunch, and that’s not really important to me. … In Arlington, I would like to think that as progressive of a community as we are, when we talk about demographic diversity, that we don’t necessarily have to qualify it by race or by how much money you make.” See his full comments here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-8H47Op3Og&feature=em-share_video_user (go to 1:59:00)

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    Anonymous Reply:

    Excellent point. James Lander makes it clear that grouping any demographic (white, black, FARM, etc.) is dangerous, for it prevents seeing the individual’s gifts and needs while propagating stereotypes. It is wrong to assume that black students and students receiving free and reduced lunch are in need of white, affluent students in order to achieve. It is just as wrong to assume that white, affluent students are all the same. Though I do not think Matthew believes this, his comment of “You know very well that free and reduced lunch kids do better in schools that are not overwhelmingly dominated by other free and reduced lunch kids,” could be misinterpreted. I applaud him for speaking out and attempting to hold the school board accountable for a perceived injustice. It is up to adults (teachers, Arlington County citizens, parents, School Board Members, etc.) to fill in the gaps of this article. What, or who, influenced the School Board’s Decision? Who are are affected families and what are their perspectives? What are the advantages of each high school in the county? Wakefield’s demographics are its strength, not a disadvantage. For I would argue that its student body is the most compassionate, welcoming, and inclusive of all the high schools in Arlington County. As a teacher, I have a sense of relief when I know my most tender students (often those with physical disabilities, limited English proficiency, and learning differences- I do not know their socioeconomic status) are going to Wakefield, for I know they will be welcomed with open arms by a community that sees only the individual, not the statistics.

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  28. Mary on December 8th, 2016 1:59 PM

    #preach

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  29. Carrie on December 8th, 2016 2:15 PM

    Outstanding letter! Please make sure you share this with Arlington community groups and news outlets. I went to Wakefield and would not have wanted to go to either of the high schools on the north side! I loved the diversity 🙂

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  30. JimBob on December 8th, 2016 3:28 PM

    You should embrace that Gandhi quote about being the change and totally move to Green Valley. You’ll do great there…as long as you tool up first.

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  31. Gary Steele on December 8th, 2016 3:42 PM

    Great letter. I encourage you to add to your analysis the county’s “choice” schools. Also note, I am about to cite a number of APS facts about HB. We should not criticize anyone for sending their kids to what seemed to be the best school possible. We should criticize policy makers who practice hypocrisy and unfairly allocate tax dollars and land resources to a chosen few over the needs of the many, and especially when they disadvantage the very achievement gap groups they claim to want to help most.

    In a county whose middle and high schools are 10-12% African American, HB is below 3%. How does a county wide “lottery” program end up with half as many African Americans as Yorktown? Our middle schools are 27% Hispanic, our high Schools 33%, but the HB “lottery” yields 19%? Free lunch percentages https://www.apsva.us/statistics/free-and-reduced-price-meals/ are noted for the 3 high schools in your article, but HB–a county-wide “lottery” at 15% is at 1/2 the percentage of W&L, 1/3 Wakefield, with similar comparisons to Kenmore, Gunston and TJ, while it is barely above Yorktown, Williamsburg and Swanson.

    No surprise as HB is the only middle school program not to offer extended day and the free lunch snack that goes with it https://www.apsva.us/extended-day/ . Up until recently, special ed students who needed significant support were not allowed in the program by policy—just a handful of Aspberger’s program students who had above average GPAs and IQs. I pointed this out, and they took down the policy, but have not put up anything changing it. Kids with other disabilities that need significant support who have below average grades must attend the massively overcrowded regular middle schools and soon to be massively overcrowded high schools with the vast majority of the other achievement gap kids. HB is the only APS secondary program with 6-12 content in one building and small class sizes, so for students whose disability impacts some subjects more than others, it is the only place where they could take classes in all subjects at their ability level in a non-overwhelming setting.

    APS’s Civil rights report omits disability statistics, and HBs Jim Crowe style euphemistic mission— “The focus is on students who need less restriction and a degree of freedom similar to that of college students” —translates to mean that a disproportionately wealthy, white group of kids who need the least help and structure are also getting the highest cost facilities and the lowest student:teacher ratio with no overcrowded classes in a district that claims to try to close the achievement gap. Structured as a “program” (none of the choice elementary schools are programs), HB rolls its test scores to home schools, so SOL reporting does not reveal if (a) the “lottery” is tilted to high scoring students as well or (b) how many students with disabilities are in the HB population. What we do know is that ACDC insiders and campaign consultants seem to win the lottery at remarkably high rates judging by the string of SB members with HB ties. Hmmm, wonder why the SB voted to add only 10 seats per grade to HB as overcrowding swamps WIlliamsburg, Swanson, Gunston and all 3 high schools while spending $100M that should have gone to a 4th 2500 seat comprehensive high school???

    HB is the only secondary school without overcrowded core classes http://www.apsva.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015_16-class-size-report-1.pdf and is getting a new home that will be the highest cost per seat Googleplex-ish secondary building in the country http://www.insidenova.com/news/arlington/cost-cutting-efforts-continue-on-future-h-b-woodlawn/article_6b278450-6db2-11e5-b28f-dfe8804ad5bd.html Loudon just finished a 1600 seat high school with full athletic facilities on an environmentally sensitive lot for $75M.

    Tied into this whole plan is the School and County Board’s mutual embrace of “truthiness” and enrollment growth denial. The County forecasts a 27%, 60,000 person population increase by 2040, https://projects.arlingtonva.us/data-research/ but the School Board says enrollment growth is a “bubble” that will reverse even though children under 5 and adults entering parenting age are growing faster than the population as a whole. The School Board just approved a lease for all Ed Center staff to move to Syphax–a location few private sector firms would want– with no public discussion, no RFP to see if any of the many metro accessible empty office buildings in Rosslyn would offer a better deal with less traffic impact. No cost estimates whether refurbing the space and only leasing incremental growth space would have been cheaper. Sheer contempt for taxpayers and a breach of fiduciary duty. Moving staff to Rosslyn would at least reduce traffic and support the restaurants and shops needed to attract other commercial tenants. School Board members tell concerned citizens that the Ed Center, a fraction of the size of the Wilson lot, is the fait accompli home of 1000 to 1300 additional high school seats, blowing out the W&L campus to 3500, with no designs or alternate sites by fancy NYC architects before the decision is made, like happened for HB, Stratford and Discovery.

    We have almost 8800 kids in grades 1-4. For over a decade, APS grad class sizes have grown by 12% from 7th to 10th grade. These already born and enrolled kids will grow to be 9,700 students in 8 years, but we will only have 7,200 seats at the three high schools and HB. APS and the School Board have issued a forecast that assumes unprecedented numbers of rising 6th graders disappear (almost 9% in 2025 when this year attrition was below 1%), counted adult ed seats at Langston and Arlington County High towards the future 9-12 need, and claimed they can take the 157 seat Career Center to a magnet tech program for 800-1000 for $12M when they can’t successfully add 240 seats to an elementary school for $20M. Many of us in the Yorktown zone who supported the chosen boundary plan did so because Yorktown has the smallest campus and building and were solely focused on the overcrowding impact. We want more diversity in our schools, but fear that the lack of a sound capacity plan will mean that Yorktown zone kids will opt for neither an underfunded ARLTech nor a 1300 seat office tower magnet on a 3500 seat W&L campus, and classes with 35 kids each will be the result.

    The County Board approves 5-7000 new housing units per year, student yields from high rise apartments are rising, single family redevelopment is attracting larger families with more kids. No new land is being acquired for schools. The plan is in place to completely destroy the quality of Arlington middle and high schools outside of HB. What an outrage.

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    Samantha Hunter Reply:

    Wonderful post!

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    Kate Beysselance Reply:

    I have long thought that, since the HB program is popular and successful (by many measures) it should be replicated on the south side of Arlington. I agree with the issues you raise about the program, but I also think that one reason HB does not have the ethnic and socio-economic diversity of other schools is because it is not conveniently located for folks on the south side of town, and that impacts lower income families in particular.

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  32. Diane Hendel on December 8th, 2016 4:12 PM

    Magnificent reporting! I hope that the Post picks this up.
    Especially disturbing since, anecdotally, the instances of overt racism in the schools since the election are higher at Yorktown…

    From a Wakefield parent, living in WL district

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  33. Anonymous on December 8th, 2016 4:16 PM

    Excellent analysis, well argued. Thank you for this contribution to your school and the larger community.

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  34. Charlie Thomas on December 8th, 2016 5:41 PM

    Thank you, Mathew, for bringing this to my attention. Desegregation is the one proven approach to improving school achievement and yet it is rarely talked about!

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  35. Mrs. Bridges on December 8th, 2016 5:54 PM

    Your article was both insightful and informative, and I appreciate you as a mother of APS students and a community member of color. Leadership is in your future and Arlington schools and community could benefit from a young person like you. I have children that attended both WNL and Wakefield. From my perspective, though everything you said is true, WNL’s lack of diversity caused my son to not want to attend. He said he didn’t want to feel isolated like his sister when she attended. She often felt the students and staff did not connect with her in a meaningful way. Integration means so much more than simply putting people who look different together. It requires a commitment to allowing students to openly and freely discuss issues in the larger community and society, and this requires diversifying the workforce. In a 2014 National Education Association report entitled “Time for Change: Diversity in Teaching Revisited”, they found “that the disparity between minority student enrollment and teachers of color continues to be a major stumbling block on the path towards greater academic performance for all students.” In the interest of brevity, I will just conclude by saying that Arlington’s problems with diversity are not just in the schools. They are in the minds of all levels of leadership and throughout the community. We can do better. We should do better. I think you and others can make that happen.

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  36. Wesley Joe on December 8th, 2016 7:39 PM

    Matthew, this is superb at so many levels. I am so hopeful for the future if students like you are going to be our future leaders. This so thoughtful and well-supported. You write with intelligence and moral authority.

    I sincerely hope that you and your fellow students claim your rightful power when you are eligible to vote. Ultimately, combining your arguments with that action is the way to improve our community. Despite the mess that we adults have made of it. President Obama was right: when it comes to these issues, your generation is better than ours.

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  37. Dan on December 8th, 2016 7:58 PM

    Madison HS is in Vienna, outside the Beltway. Perhaps Arlington students never venture to this far-away land.

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    adviser Reply:

    Agreed, it was included because it is under Fairfax Public Schools which has a large amount of schools in the beltway. It would not make sense to credit FCPS exclusively for its integration of schools inside the beltway without looking at the district as a whole. Hope this helps.

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  38. Amy Wathen on December 8th, 2016 8:56 PM

    Matthew! This is one of the best opinion pieces I have ever read penned by a high school student. I am the Adviser at The Chieftain, Wakefield High school’s newspaper. We will be using this as a model example of opinion pieces for years to come.

    Thank you for your passion and journalistic integrity.

    -Ms. Wathen

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  39. Melissa Hinkson on December 8th, 2016 9:27 PM

    A good journalist is able to “clarify” without insulting. Well done!

    [Reply]

  40. Kelly Reed on December 8th, 2016 9:39 PM

    Yes, everything you said! It is appalling that school segregation is happening in Arlington, VA. This is intentional. Not an oversight. It’s happening. Period. We need true leadership, not excuses and false pretenses. Thank you for speaking the truth in this article. Shame on our Arlington leadership for failing us again.

    [Reply]

  41. Jeffrey Coupe on December 8th, 2016 10:18 PM

    Matthew,

    Excellent analysis! I treasure diversity in South Arlington. My kids attended Randolph, TJ, Wakefield [and W-L], and we love living here. It’s sad to think that the protection of privilege dominates education politics and other spheres of public life in Arlington. So, thank you for writing such a superb piece on the high school boundary decision. I also want to follow up indirectly on the implications of your article when turned on its head – that South Arlington is the part of the county that provides a world class education – one that mirrors many of the ideals of the county’s vision for education. This world education has shaped the way my children think globally, the friendships they’ve cultivated, the values they hold. Keep up the good work, and I too hope that your article reaches a larger audience in the days to come. Bravo.

    [Reply]

  42. Sue M on December 8th, 2016 10:59 PM

    Besides the SB, responsibility can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the residents who petitioned their way out of a potential shift that would create greater race and economic equity across the schools using property value declination, walking to school, friendship breakups and island creations as a front for mostly implicit racism. Shame on our neighbors and friends who claim to be color and socio-economic blind for speaking so strongly to preserve the status quo so they wouldn’t have to address their personal racism issues. I am embarrassed for our Board and for our community / association and parent leaders who have perpetuated and accelerated structural racism in Arlington in this process.

    [Reply]

  43. Anonymous on December 8th, 2016 11:26 PM

    Well done Matthew!! The information provided in your article should be made availble, somehow, to all Arlington residents to make them aware of the shameful decision of the school board.

    [Reply]

  44. Leslie M on December 9th, 2016 7:14 AM

    Outstanding job, Matthew.

    In a county with superb, well resourced schools, why are we so fearful?

    I too am embarrassed for the school board and the parent leaders of this effort.

    [Reply]

  45. Anonymous on December 9th, 2016 10:16 AM

    Excellent article, Matthew. You point out many of the disparaging differences between YHS and WHS and these need to be relayed to the public in reference to socio-economics, equality, and racial distribution. Institutionalized racism is the worst kind because it is covert, but if more people are informed, the better.

    [Reply]

  46. Anonymous on December 9th, 2016 1:03 PM

    Im A Warrior

    [Reply]

  47. Cleavon Ford on December 9th, 2016 1:10 PM

    Matthew,
    Bravo! This was a very well written open letter; I am a graduate of Wakefield High. Wakefield has been Arlington County’s dumping ground for decades. I am so glad to see such a young man absolutely nail this. Thank you for your courage for sharing this with us all.

    [Reply]

  48. Anonymous on December 9th, 2016 1:12 PM

    This is a really fine piece of writing on a topic of huge importance. I applaud you for this. I think the problem here is parents who trolled the School Board demanding this outcome. I’m sure their quite pleased with themselves.

    [Reply]

  49. Jenifer Wicks on December 9th, 2016 1:45 PM

    I would encourage you to file a complaint with Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. If you need assistance, please contact me after Dec 16 at jenifer@jwickslaw.com

    [Reply]

  50. Ann Felker on December 9th, 2016 2:22 PM

    Wakefield is not a dumping ground. That term demeans the amazing learning that happens there very day. Wakefield is Arlington’s’ s best kept secret.

    [Reply]

    Melissa Hinkson Reply:

    Wakefield has maintained a high standard disputed the lack of attention or applause. I think that’ was the message that the last post was trying to relay.

    [Reply]

  51. Janet on December 9th, 2016 7:39 PM

    Well done Matthew, please send this to the Washington Post, may be it will open up more about this school board and it’s spineless acts.. I totally agree with your letter, and believe in a fair and equal education for all our students. Thanks for writing it

    [Reply]

  52. Melissa Hinkson on December 9th, 2016 8:26 PM

    Wakefield has maintained a high standard disputed the lack of attention or applause. I think that’ was the message that the last post was trying to relay.

    [Reply]

  53. Melissa Hinkson on December 9th, 2016 8:28 PM

    Wakefield has maintained a high standard dispite the lack of attention or applause. I think that’ was the message that the last post was trying to relay.

    [Reply]

  54. Lillian Simcox on December 10th, 2016 1:02 AM

    Well Done. Matthew. This should go to the Washington. And too Fox News. God Bless.

    [Reply]

  55. Anonymous on December 11th, 2016 1:08 AM

    Young man, you are awesome! Please look at educator and author Jonathan Kozol. It appears that you are continuing his work of unequal treatment of children.
    Matthew never stop fighting. You have a strong following.

    [Reply]

  56. Nancy Van Doren on December 11th, 2016 11:32 AM

    Matthew and members of the Arlington Community,
    We received Matthew Herrity’s email and opinion piece in the afternoon on Dec. 7. We have been working on a thoughtful, substantive and thorough response that will be forthcoming. There was never any intention not to respond. On complex topics, such as this, we may take at least a week to respond. I have communicated to Matthew both personally and in writing that we intend to respond. Thank you for your patience and your passionate dedication to our great schools.
    Nancy Van Doren

    [Reply]

  57. Fred Millar on December 11th, 2016 11:26 PM

    Way to go, Matthew. Would look forward to discussing various aspects of the segregation in APS. I have tried for some years to get even one elected official in Arlington publicly to say the words that are patently true: “Arlington’s segregated schools.” Not one would/will do so. Much less make it a priority for removal.

    I’ve done lots of research in past years on the topic, and almost never succeeded in getting the WashPost education writers to take seriously the segregated schools — you are right in focusing on the quite deliberate boundary decisions which are designed to reinforce school segregation [using economic segregations as an excuse instead of an imperative to integrate] instead of working against it in placement of students as some other school districts elsewhere in the US, even in Confederate areas, have done.

    Lots of others have been doing good research on this also…e.g., in VA universities. I gave a presentation on APS segregated schools to the VA Martin Luther King Memorial Commission — can we attach slides?
    Here is an op ed from 2012 I did for the former Post section TheRootDC: [sorry for the long post]
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/therootdc/post/de-segregating-arlington-schools/2012/10/29/d153De-segregating Arlington schools

    Comments 12
    By Fred Millar October 29, 2012
    On Thursday, school officials in Arlington County will kick off a five-month public discussion about how to redraw the district’s school boundaries. The system decided to build two new schools and expand four others to address unanticipated overcrowding, and to prepare for this, the boundaries must be redrawn.
    It’s a process that also allows the schools with the highest concentration of white students — all in wealthier North Arlington — to play a dominant role in the earliest-needed boundary decisions.
    Like school districts nation wide, Arlington has many schools that areincreasingly segregated by race and class, according to federal and local data. For example, Carlin Springs Elementary School in South Arlington — the part of the county where many immigrants and moderate income families live — has more poor students than all nine North Arlington elementary schools combined. Nottingham Elementary School has 85 percent white students, while Carlin Springs has 4 percent. Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School in North Arlington have 92 percent and 65 percent white students, respectively, while South Arlington’s Kenmore Middle School is 23 percent white and Wakefield High School is 17 percent white. This racial segregation has increased between 1998 and 2010.
    These students — many who are poor, many who are minority, some who are both — are attending schools which are racially and economically isolated because of school district policy. Existing school attendance boundary lines prevent the vast majority of students living inside one zone from attending schools outside their district. Instead, Arlington school zones are designed heavily to favor “neighborhood schools”. But this policy reinforces the patterns of residential socioeconomic segregation rather than seeking diversity independent of those housing patterns.
    This racial and socioeconomic school isolation has massive and lastingimpacts on student achievement. Social science research has consistently found that what works for student achievement is not throwing money at high-poverty schools, but integration. Indeed, the major in-school factor that affects student achievement is who your classmates are. This is not a racial or economic bias judgment: Every child can learn, but students learn from their peers. And in schools with high-achieving classmates, their high-income parents will ensure that the curricula, climate and parental participation are at high levels.
    The United States’ civil rights community has promoted socio-economic integration of schools as the key way forward to closing student achievement gaps. In addition, these leaders assert that focusing entirely on less effective “supplemental resources” for high-poverty and high-minority schools — such Montgomery County public schools’ program to add $2,000 per student per year to the lowest-achieving schools in the “red zone” — have been extensively tried and is futile. Tacked on programs, such as college tours and after-school meetings for minority students, mean school leaders are still trying to live with segregation.
    But Arlington public schools have shown they know how to achieve diversity in a limited way, For the Spanish immersion programs at Key and Claremont elementary schools, school officials deliberately clustered some neighborhoods from North Arlington with some from South Arlington on the east and on the west sides of the county, so both groups could learn the desired language from their peers. This underscores that parents and school officials know the value of educational integration. But this limited exception proves the rule: Arlington’s policies are designed to be segregative.
    Those of us valuing equal opportunity should insist that starting now, Arlington schools should adopt a policy that no school should have a student diversity profile that varies more than plus or minus 10 percent from the overall diversity profile for the countywide student population. This would not mean that to achieve significant degree of educationally beneficial diversity, a county school diversity standard would need to require absolutely equal diversity. For example, at Carlin Springs Elementary, the concentration of students on free and reduced lunch might be lowered from the roughly 85 percent to perhaps about 40 percent — still 10 percentage points more than the countywide average of 30 percent. Meanwhile, at Nottingham Elementary, the percentage of free and reduced lunch students might be increased from roughly 2 percent to perhaps 20 percent, which is still 10 percentage points less than the county-wide average of 30 percent. Racial diversity calculations might also be used to fine-tune these low-income calculations.
    Indeed, with expert help, some citizens have begun drawing sophisticated maps socio-economically clustering Arlington neighborhoods using census data. Now we need detailed data from the school officials on student locations, which, so far, school officials have refused and are likely to provide only after some public pressure.
    The most important educational resource the local school district allocates with its decisions, fairly or unfairly, is its high-achieving students. If Arlington school leaders continue to draw boundaries isolating high-achieving students into racially and economically isolated wealthy “neighborhood schools,” it is denying its most crucial educational resource to poor and minority kids. And white students are the most racially isolated of all student groups in the United States, thus are denied the benefits of diversity, which many citizens of all races recognize as critical for personal and economic well-being in a global economy.
    In short, 20 years of civic silence is long enough on the issue of socioeconomically isolated schools in wealthy, compact Arlington. The school board needs to show a modern-era leadership in not just talking about the value of diversity, but walking the walk, with boundary policies and boundary decisions that (as with the Spanish immersion programs) mix students in diverse schools which will deliver excellent educational opportunities and achievement for all.
    Fred Millar, a resident of Arlington County is an educational sociologist and a member of the Arlington Public Schools Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Eliminating the Achievement Gap and the Citizens Advisory Committee on English for Speakers of Other Languages and High Intensity Language Training.

    [Reply]

  58. Reid Goldstein on December 12th, 2016 11:04 AM

    Speaking only for myself, I first want to say how incredibly proud I am to call Matt Herrity an Arlington Public Schools student. His article reflects the 5Cs – critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, & citizenship – that characterize the Profile of a Virginia Graduate https://www.apsva.us/instruction/high-school-experience-redesign/.

    I also want to applaud him for sparking a community conversation. This is a topic that requires a robust and ongoing community dialogue. I’m thrilled to see how much interest this issue has generated; I wish we had seen this much input on it BEFORE we voted last week.

    As Matt notes, diversity is more than pictures of students. All of our students – from every ethnic, racial, linguistic, cultural, economic and ability background – share a need for diversity: to learn and grow with others who are different so that they are skilled in working with and for people of different backgrounds and, more importantly, so that they develop a true acceptance of a diverse life, rather than an abstract, intellectual, enforced tolerance of diversity. The public schools have a key role in teaching our students about each other, and all the diverse features of our community and society. Attending a diverse school is a far more effective approach than simply listening to a lecture or reading a book about differences. In addition, there is a growing body of evidence that diversity in schools benefits all students in myriad ways.

    Matt’s article brings home the theme of the November 14 Washington Post article on the growing resegregation of schools (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/virginias-schools-are-growing-more-racially-and-economically-segregated/2016/11/14/2822cc0c-aaa4-11e6-a31b-4b6397e625d0_story.html?utm_term=.de88fe91b7aa). Creating a more diversified public school system needs to be tackled on multiple levels. It’s the responsibility of teachers, students, principals, administrators, School Board, County Board, and community members with and without school-age children. A lack of active participation from these parties results in isolation, and ignorance to the needs of our community.

    The School Board seeks public input. This conversation has to happen at the dinner table, over the back fence and on the sidelines of sporting events. It has to happen when talking to school-based and central office personnel. It has to be conveyed to decision-makers in timely and effective ways. Matt Herrity raised the issue as a concerned citizen making an impact on his local political system. If others don’t continue the conversation, then this will be simply a social media distraction of the moment – nothing more.

    Reid Goldstein
    Member, Arlington School Board

    [Reply]

    Daniel Burns Reply:

    Mr. Goldstein, there is a very simple solution for achieving better integration in Arlington County High Schools: zone the high schools by drawing north south lines, so that each high school has the approximately same proportion of residents from North and South Arlington. There is no reason why Route 50 needs to be an informal dividing line.

    [Reply]

    Dana Kelley Reply:

    Me. Goldstein, thank you for your thoughtful response. I also want to thank you for your comments at the most recent school board meeting in support of Option 3. But I have to take issue with one point you’ve made above. There were several members of the community, including myself, who spoke at school board meetings and wrote to school board members to raise exactly the concerns Matthew has raised here. Unfortunately, it seems like some members of he school board weren’t listening, or didn’t want to hear.

    [Reply]

  59. Melissa Hinkson on December 12th, 2016 1:31 PM

    Thank you for your thoughtful and candid response to Matthew’s article. It is my understanding that there was quite a bit of conversation about this issue before the vote. Sadly, I think most citizens believed that school board members would see the obvious and value that.

    [Reply]

  60. Eddie Love on December 12th, 2016 2:38 PM

    Great job Matthew! Very proud of you! I am the father of your former soccer teammate–Kyle Love. Keep up the great work, and God Bless you and yours this holiday season!

    [Reply]

  61. c. thomas on December 13th, 2016 1:09 PM

    Outstanding! I recommend you also send a copy to National Public Radio, (NPR). They also have a Facebook page. You can also Twitter Steve Inskkeep at NPR. The education reporter for the Washington Post is Valerie Strauss.
    https://twitter.com/NPRinskeep?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

    Get the message out there. You give me hope for the next generation. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  62. No name on December 15th, 2016 8:27 AM

    Thank you Matthew for your report well stated. It is a shame that our school district never took what they so claim to represent into account.

    [Reply]

  63. Mike Hunt on December 15th, 2016 9:56 PM

    Why not just go the school closest to your house? Study and work hard for yourself and let others choose their own way. Why do high school kids get free lunch anyway? They’re old enough to figure out how to feed themselves, why should we buy it for them. Crying like a little girl about how much the PTA’s raise for their own kids. Jesus Christ how much more funds does the foreigner school take for lunches and breakfasts and language teachers and social services. Quit the bitching about fairness

    [Reply]

  64. Kami Sapundzhieva on December 17th, 2016 8:34 AM

    Thank you for starting this fight for justice, Matthew!

    This is a great example that the new generation understands what the future holds and knows better than us how to build a better one.
    Parents of Arlington – we should listen to our children, change our mindsets and overcome biases. All of it starts at home!
    This shouldn’t be happening in our country, while we preach democracy, human rights and freedom abroad. It certainly shouldn’t be happening in one of the richest counties that ironically also voted Democrat. Is this (political) hypocrisy? It all starts at home and our children will judge us for this hypocrisy hopefully before it is too late for us to change.

    There is an answer to what is happening that is called Education Discrimination Complaint that can be filed with the Federal government:

    http://civilrights.findlaw.com/discrimination/how-to-file-an-education-discrimination-complaint-with-the.html

    I am willing to work with those who want to explore the route. Maybe the School Board will listen. And maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up so that our children are not afraid to speak up.
    Thank you to all of you who signed the petition.

    Happy Holidays!

    Kameliya

    [Reply]

  65. Fred Millar on December 25th, 2016 3:30 PM

    Might be useful to link some of the commenters who are opposed to APS segregative boundary-drawing.

    Send email addresses to me? and I can link us up.
    Fred Millar
    fmillarfoe@gmail.com

    [Reply]

  66. Becca on December 29th, 2016 6:26 PM

    I used to teach at Carlin Springs and want to applaud my former colleagues there — they all work so hard for the students, and their commitment and the passing rates achieved (despite so many obstacles) should be celebrated!!! I am proud to work for APS but ashamed of the continuing, increasingly economically segregated school boundaries that affect elementary through high school students. All students benefit from diversity, and the county must do more than pay lip service to this fact.

    Thank you for this excellent piece. My father was a civil rights lawyer and very involved with APS PTAs. At one point he and others called for more equitable boundaries — and also suggested partnering higher income ptas with lower income ptas, but little came of it.

    [Reply]

  67. Smithb553 on January 22nd, 2017 9:40 AM

    Great, thanks for sharing this blog.Really thank you! bckefakgkdadckca

    [Reply]

  68. Paula Endo on February 18th, 2017 1:19 PM

    Congratulations, Matt! I knew you were a good friend of our grandson Aidan and a terrific Cross Country runner at W-Lee but did not realize that you were such an articulate and passionate spokesperson on educational diversity (which benefits us all), on supporting our immigrants and refugees through our schools and communities, and for working against all policies which can lead to our return to the past practices of segregation.

    How could we contact you directly? We’d love to talk to you about your efforts and activities!

    Thank you,
    Paula and Todd Endo

    [Reply]

  69. paula Endo on February 18th, 2017 1:25 PM

    Congratulations, Matt! I knew you were a good friend of our grandson Aidan and a terrific Cross Country runner at W-Lee but did not realize that you were such an articulate and passionate spokesperson on educational diversity (which benefits us all), on supporting our immigrants and refugees through our schools and communities, and for working against all policies which can lead to our return to the past practices of segregation.

    How could we contact you directly? We’d love to talk to you about your efforts and activities!
    I’m re-sending this because I think I accidentally hit the wrong buttons!

    Thank you,
    Paula and Todd Endo

    [Reply]

  70. Smithd482 on March 10th, 2017 7:51 AM

    Very interesting topic, appreciate it for putting up. edfbgecdcaaeegga

    [Reply]

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