To the Editor:
Now you see it, now you don't. Our School Board has the ability to make decisions disappear almost overnight. Their recent magic was visible on our very first school tear down, Patrick Henry, when in fact all but the vote was necessary to pass option C1 — an option which was structurally compatible with the neighborhood, contained adequate green space and most importantly was neighborhood friendly with no bus privileges on Latham Street. The School Board rallied hard for a tranquil Latham Street, deferring bus traffic to the more commercialized Taney Street.
The School Board did a magical 360-degree turn and supported Option A1, an option they had committed against — an option that places the buses , garbage trucks and the semis-trailers back on Latham — an unfriendly gesture at best.
Why would they do such an about face? The pat answer given by the board is that they will save $1.5-2 million by re-contouring 5500 sq feet in this project. Citizens, when has the School Board ever been interested in saving money on any project? Certainly not with the T.C. High School and Jefferson Houston construction budget, nor with the infamous T.C. tennis lights to which we were told was needed for the community — 150 percent over budget.
How can you judge how expensive A1 is when you have not even run the numbers — side by side with the more friendly C1 option. [Superintendent of Schools] Dr. [Alvin] Crawley stated he cannot guarantee it will be less expensive to do this A1 project, and so, if this is a pie in the sky idea — is it in our best interest to destroy life on Latham? We are going to create great congestion in this neighborhood; we are going to change the character of this neighborhood forever – to save $2 million, this is a $46 million project .
The reality is the School Board was running up huge architectural fees with all the changes being made, the process was totally disorganized and completely flawed as mentioned by [Council member] Mr. [Paul] Smedberg in the June 2015 City Council meeting. He wanted to fire the entire group. The School Board was told to keep this project on schedule regardless, to pick a plan and go with it. When they could not make the decision someone else did, hence the 360-degree turn. We have 11 neighborhood schools ready for renovation — is this the way we will proceed? Blindfolded? This neighborhood advisory group is a farce — a mere ploy by the School Board to check the box under neighborhood advisory and move on.
How can the School Board possibly make a decision before you have the updated documents and data. The normal time to review documents is 24 hours a day in advance of the vote; the School Board got the documents the same day they were delivering the vote. With no details , no definite cost estimate, no line item comparison of costs, there should have been no vote.
However there were some heroes in this process — [School Board members] Ms [Margaret] Lorber and Ms [Cindy] Anderson thank you for your foresight — for your depth of analysis and thank you for not being intimated. You were a breath of fresh air in a very poorly run process. Ms Lorber and Ms Anderson, you have given me and the citizens of Alexandria hope that you will vote for what you believe in and for the community and not for your own personal agenda. If you can spread this logic to the rest of the group we would all be much obliged. Thanks.