At a press conference earlier this evening (see video and press release below) in front of the Reed School in Arlington, former School Board Chair Elaine Furlow said that we’re at a “turning point for Arlington,” and that’s why she supports Erik Gutshall – “the kind of forceful leader that can actually find solutions” – for Arlington County Board.
It’s important to mention that Furlow served on the Arlington School Board from 1998 through 2005, including – as she pointedly noted – several years with Libby Garvey (currently the incumbent County Board Chair who Erik Gutshall is challenging). According to Furlow, governing effectively means “knowing the issues…doing the work…listening to people, sorting through the differing opinions, getting to a solution without taking decades to do it.” As I confirmed with Furlow afterwards, this was indeed intended as a hard shot at Garvey, who Furlow said did NOT know the issues, did NOT do the work, did NOT listen to people, did NOT sort through differing opinions, and did NOT get to solutions without taking decades to do it.
In stark contrast, Furlow said that Gutshall is a “good listener, he’s balanced.” Furlow concluded that it’s from her experience working with Garvey on the School Board “that I so wholeheartedly recommend to you and so proudly introduce Erik Gutshall.”
Video: Erik Gutshall calls on Libby Garvey to “stop dragging her feet and show the leadership our community desperately calls for…to provide a long-range, comprehensive plan to provide enough seats to meet Arlington’s growing number of students.” “It’s time to follow through on implementing the key recommendations in…the award-winning Community Facilities Study.” “We need a more open, honest, transparent discussion, where all the cards are on the table; no more backroom deals or answers baked into the process”
Video: Arlington citizens speak out in support of Erik Gutshall for County Board. Key criticisms of County Board Chair Libby Garvey included: uncertainty about where children will attend school (which “undermines the sense of community”), lack of transparency in the process for what will happen with the schools, school overcrowding due to lack of capacity and failure to get ahead of the problem, a “piecemeal approach that has characterized” efforts to address school overcrowding in recent years, and failure to act promptly on the Community Facilities Study and instead allowing it to “languish.” Back in 2007, “Libby ignored community needs and we are still paying for that mistake today….Arlington deserves better.”
Video: Arlington Education Association President explains his support for Erik Gutshall (and his opposition to incumbent Libby Garvey) for Arlington County Board.
Gutshall calls on County Board Chair to Work Immediately with School Board, Public to Fully Address School Crowding
Arlington VA — Erik Gutshall, candidate in the Democratic Primary for County Board, has called for immediate collaboration between the County and School Boards to provide a long range comprehensive plan to provide enough seats to meet Arlington’s growing number of students. Neighbors, parents, teachers, and current and former School Board members joined Gutshall at the Westover-Reed Center on Wednesday as he called for Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey to “stop dragging her feet” and follow-through on implementing the key recommendations of the Community Facilities Study. “Do it quickly, so we can all get to the real work of finding solutions,” Gutshall urged, reinforcing his support for the widely lauded blueprint to fully address school crowding.
“The failure to plan for rising enrollment has led to many missed opportunities. For example, in 2007, neighbors begged for this building [Reed School] to reopen as the neighborhood elementary school it had been until the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, my opponent Libby Garvey forcefully opposed this idea and even opposed making small investments during the renovation that would have made it easier to expand at a later date,” Gutshall said. “If they had moved on it in 2007, elementary students would be walking to it today.”
Introduced by former School Board member Elaine Furlow as “a plain-talking leader with common sense and vision,” Gutshall said: “As the father of three APS students, I listen every day to parents’ concerns about the crowding in our schools. Unfortunately, for the third Capital Improvement Plan cycle in a row, there’s no long-range plan that fully addresses the need for more school space. Without the appropriate collaboration with the County, our Schools can not know what land resources may or may not be available to them. This is why we see so many TBD’s on the Superintendent’s current CIP. Unfortunately, these unknowns erode confidence in our decision-making. “
“We need to take the long view, build flexibility into our buildings, and be open to unconventional solutions. Despite strong, clear recommendations from the 250 citizens who participated in the Community Facility Study and two requests from the School Board, my opponent, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, has chosen to distract the community with her now-deferred proposal for a Blue Ribbon Panel rather than follow the much lauded blueprint designed to engage us all in our biggest challenge – the need for more schools.”
The Community Facility Study presented its recommendations at a joint session of the School Board and County Board in November 2015. Eight of the nine School and County Board members in attendance voted to direct the staff to return with a plan by February 2016. Mrs. Garvey abstained. The two Boards met again in April 2016 for additional discussion. The County Board has not acted on the key recommendation that would accelerate facility siting decisions—a joint committee with two School Board members and two County Board members to oversee capital planning and a new joint citizen advisory commission to advise the board members.
PTA leader Laura Saul Edwards said: “It’s important that we undertake a robust community process that flushes out all information, and invites ideas and views from across all schools and neighborhoods. When neighbors and school leaders come together, we are capable of respectfully moving beyond the piecemeal approach, getting all the cards on the table, understanding how each site could fit into an overall comprehensive plan. Erik knows these 50-year decisions shouldn’t be made one at a time – they should be part of a master plan for schools because schools are the heart of our community!”
Arlington Education Association President Gerry Collins added: “Good planning for space means teachers can focus on teaching and kids on learning. We teachers are proud of the work we do every day for Arlington’s children. As we noted in endorsing Erik, we support his view of schools as both institutions of opportunity for our students as well as assets for community activities and events. We like that he approaches decision-making as a consensus builder, with an eye to transparency and engagement all along the way. As someone who participated in the early ’90s planning for expanding school capacity, I know that when done right, the outcomes are better for everyone.”
Westover civic activist Bob Orttung added: ” Schools are the centers of the community. Uncertainty about crowding and where children will go to school undermines that sense of community. So any process launched now MUST have a limited time horizon so that families and neighborhoods can focus, learn and robustly debate the options before the Boards make their decisions.”