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Involvement in Arlington schools | GUEST OPINION
Last night I attended Arlington High School’s musical production of Legally Blonde. As I looked around the audience, I was amazed at how many friends and acquaintances I recognized in the nearly sold out performance.
This is just one example of how supportive Arlington is of our students and school district. When we gather for community events, I think many of us are struck by how many friendships we have made through our children and their schools.
Successful schools depend on great communication and cooperation between community members and their school district. The Arlington School District has done an exemplary job of nurturing these relationships through a variety of actions and opportunities open to us all. One example of this is the district’s Advisory Council for Education, also known as ACE. This committee is composed of 29 individuals who represent a wide variety of interests in the district including parents, community representatives, district staff and administrators, and students. We meet monthly to discuss various topics that pertain to our schools and learn more about decisions our district staff and School Board are considering.
During each meeting, the ACE Committee is briefed on topics that cover some aspect of our schools. We ask questions and provide ideas and feedback to staff to help guide and improve the decision making process. This year we’ve covered some pretty exciting and innovative ideas and changes. For example, our district has launched a host of changes to the school lunch program. Our cafeteria staff is working hard to introduce healthy choice menus that offer more fruits, vegetables, and low fat options to students. But they are going beyond simply preparing healthier meals; they are working directly with our nearby agricultural community to bring locally grown and processed food to the students. This initiative benefits everyone; students get great food and our farmers will have the opportunity to sell their products close to home. Although this partnership is just beginning, we see this as something that has the potential to grow and thrive as the future unfolds.
Another set of topics ACE has considered are the sweeping changes in the district’s framework for teacher evaluations and teaching methods. Early in the year, we were briefed on the great progress our students are making in achievement in basic categories like reading and math. At a later meeting we saw how the district is changing the way teachers work together to continue the progress of their students as well as improve their own professional standards. We’ve also received a run-down on the condition of our district’s buildings and facilities. Some of our buildings are in dire need of upgrades and improvements. To address a very long list of much needed improvements, a working committee has formed to assess and rank our needs and develop a plan to get things done.
ACE meetings are always public and open to anyone. Attending the meetings is one great way to remain informed about ideas and actions that affect our children, and provide input. The meeting dates, agendas, and minutes are available on the district website at www.asd.wednet.edu under the Community tab in the Involvement section. The names of current committee members, their terms of appointment, and the sector they represent are also on the website. All of us are happy to share what we know and communicate your ideas and concerns back to the School Board and Superintendent McDuffy. The Board of Directors and district administrators value their relationship with the ACE Committee members and appreciate their feedback and insights. Our district embraces volunteers and welcomes your participation. Volunteer opportunities include, but are not limited to, serving on a committee such as ACE, helping out as a tutor or classroom assistant, joining your school’s Parent Teacher Association or Booster Club, or staying informed by attending Arlington School District events and checking the website regularly http://www.asd.wednet.edu.
Ruth Milner is a parent volunteer with Arlington Public Schools.