Arlington school leaders are getting abuse from both ends when it comes to criticism of newly announced summer-school restrictions.
A group that has pressed Arlington schools leaders for a faster reopening of classes says new limitations show a continued lack of leadership, while at the same time the Arlington Education Association is blasting school leaders for throwing teachers under the bus on the issue.
“The lack of urgency and willpower at the top should be concerning to us all,” Arlington Parents for Education said in a May 11 press release, saying it remains “disappointed by the disregard Arlington Public Schools shows toward teachers, families and students.”
The latest skirmish comes after school leaders said they would have to downscale summer-school programming because it couldn’t find enough teachers willing to do the job, particularly at the elementary-school level.
Seeming to cast blame on teachers – whose contracts end in late June and are not obligated to teach summer school – for the situation sent the president of the Arlington Education Association into a fury, saying the school system’s phraseology in explaining the situation to the public “demoralizes employee morale and is degrading to all.”
“All employees of APS have diligently worked countless hours adjusting their personal lives to the impromptu changes in school scheduling for the past year, at great sacrifice to their own families,” Arlington Education Association president Ingrid Gant said. “Statements from APS continue to demonstrate a lack of respect for their employees at all levels.”
Arlington Parents for Education wasn’t in a charitable mood, either, saying the school system could have prioritized summer school, but opted not to. “At what point do we stop sacrificing the education of our children on the altar of incompetence at Syphax?” the organization noted, referencing the building where top school-system leaders and School Board members work.
In her broadside, Gant noted that the pay and bonuses offered by APS to teachers to sign up for summer school (an extra $1,000 for teachers, $500 for support personnel) “for some do not cover child care or the missed time with family.”
Like virtually all public-school systems across the Washington area, Arlington Public Schools has been slow in rolling out a back-to-class effort; currently most students are in classrooms only two days a week.
The result of what has now been a 14-month period without five days in class has been somewhat predictable: Parents with the resources are moving their students to private schools or hiring tutors, while those without such resources are forced to do the best they can under the circumstances.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona recently acknowledged new data suggesting more than half the nation’s students have suffered significant learning loss from online and hybrid instruction.
The upcoming Arlington County Democratic Committee School Board caucus may wind up being a referendum on the situation; candidate Miranda Turner has made getting students back in class five days a week her prime focus, while contender Mary Kadera has taken what her supporters term a more nuanced approach to the issue.