Citizens of Alexandria make no mistake; your participation and community discussion with any and all projects related to our schools is truly a waste of time. Each year the school board is given a check — for at least 44 percent of the entire city budget ($280 million this year.) to spend in any way they see fit. Once the funds are dished out there are no checks and balances — no oversight committee — no accountability even from the City Council and the mayor. In fact according to City Manager Mark Jinks, it is illegal for the mayor and the council to hold the school board accountable for anything including the school budget and SUP requirements.
Let me rephrase that: The school board has carte blanche to spend as much of your tax dollars as they see fit — to disburse funds on any and and all projects regardless of cost as long as they have majority votes of school board members to do so. Any funds left over are theirs to keep and are redeposited into their slush fund for other projects such as tennis courts, lights, walls around fields etc. Your immediate reaction is that I am wrong — that such action is reckless. It’s been happening all along — it’s in our city charter — so stated by the city manager. This lack of oversight is dictated by the current city charter from which the board operates.
To those wonderful citizens who labored and fought the battle for Patrick Henry Elementary School — you lost because the school board wanted something else and was not required to inform you. The issue of safety echoed through the council chamber the day of the vote. In a letter obtained from Mr. Jackson director of Educational Facilities through Clarence Stukes and Dr. Crawley dated May 13, 2016 concerning the recent traffic study for Patrick Henry, the letter stated “the conclusion of the traffic study states that A1 is not recommended, C1 would allow for better control of vehicular and pedestrian movements on the campus.” If safety was the issue — and it was — then C1 was the winner. However the City Council members had their backs to the wall, they capitulated and the neighborhood lost. So much for community involvement.
This idea of community involvement haunts me. I view it as a check list — a ploy to allow you to feel that you are being heard. You now understand the incredible monetary authority possessed by the school board; it doesn't matter if its right as long as it is legal. They can do what they want. Ladies and gentleman this is far from over. These next years will be spent with the citizens of Alexandria defending their neighborhoods not with community input but with litigation rather than communication because conciliation is not part of the school board’s vocabulary.