History of H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program

Stratford Junior High 1950-1978

Design & Construction

After World War II, the population of Arlington increased 137% by 1950 and was continuing to expand. More schools were needed. One location selected was on Vacation Lane, the site of an old YMCA camp. The school was named Stratford Junior High School after Robert E. Lee’s birthplace in Virginia. It was one of the twenty four new schools built between 1946 and 1960, and the first of four junior high schools constructed during the 1950s, followed by Williamsburg in 1954, Kenmore in 1956, and Gunston in 1959.

Stratford Jr. High was designed by architect Rhees Evans Burket, Sr. in 1949 and constructed by the Wise Contracting Company in 1950. The school was built to house 1,000 students. The total cost of the project was $1,676,909 which raised controversy. The“tax payers wondered whether ‘Arlington can afford to continue to build gold-plated schools.’” (National Register of Historic Places- page 20).

Stratford Junior High 1951 – 1978

Stratford Junior High school was formally dedicated in 1951. It was a neighborhood school for grades 7-9. 1070 students pushed the school’s size limit. Stratford students heard a loud ringing bell before each class demanding attendance. Patrols roamed the halls and kept them “skipper free.” At first glance, Stratford Junior High School looks like just any other generic junior high of the day but it was far more than that.

Stratford had an array of sports teams, ranging from a successful football team to teams for tennis and wrestling.

History is made on Vacation Lane – School Desegregation

Stratford Junior High School became one of the first public secondary schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia to desegregate with the admission of four African American students – Ronald Deskins, Michael Jones, Lance Newman, and Gloria Thompson in 1959. The event signified the end of massive resistance in the Commonwealth of Virginia and dealt a powerful blow to the opponents of racial equality nationwide. Stratford Junior High School was added to the National Registery of Historic Places in 2003. Read more about the role Stratford played in school desegregation.

Alternative Programs in Arlington: Woodlawn and Hoffman-Boston

How Woodlawn Started

The Woodlawn Program was founded in 1971 by Ray Anderson, a teacher at Wakefield, Jeffrey Kallen, Bill Hale, and others who felt a pressing need to provide a more individualized, caring environment for students. They made a proposal to the Arlington County School Board to form an alternative high school program. Woodlawn was created for students looking for change and experimentation. It opened with 171 juniors and seniors in its first year, adding sophomores, during the second year, increasing the student enrollment to 273.

Students were responsible for their own educational program. Most classes at Woodlawn met three times a week and were graded on a credit or no credit basis. Most work was done outside the classroom with independent studies being common. Some classes met only a half hour a week. If a student wanted to learn something but there wasn’t a class, they could make a proposal to a teacher. If possible, the teacher would “sponsor” that class for the student(s) and meet with the teacher once a week, doing the rest of the work independently. Apprenticeships could also replace classes.

Woodlawn did not have a principal; Ray Anderson was the head teacher. The governing body for the school was, and still is, Town Meeting which was made up of all students and teachers in the program. Town Meeting allowed students to have an equal voice within the school. Both faculty and students interviewed new staff members.

Woodlawn had fewer students and smaller class sizes than the other schools in Arlington. Students called teachers by their first names, and there was equality amongst students and faculty. This and the small size allowed students and teachers to develop personal relationships. Every student had a Teacher Advisor (TA) who mentored the students and helped them develop their educational program.

Woodlawn had few rules and regulations, allowing students to learn for the sake of learning. Students were, however, expected to behave responsibly and make educated decisions. Verbum Sap Sat (“A word to the wise is sufficient”) was decided as the school’s motto after it was suggested to Ray by a friend.

How Hoffman-Boston Started

There was also interest in creating a similar school for younger students. The county agreed. In 1972, a year after Woodlawn started, Hoffman-Boston opened as an alternative Junior High School, grades seven-nine, under the supervision of Don Brandewie in the building previously known as Jefferson Elementary School.

At Hoffman-Boston, students were allowed to take their classes at their own pace. They were not required to finish in June. Students were required to attend at least six to eight twenty-five minute modules, out of sixty modules each week. Most students went to class for no more than four hours a day. Attendance was limited, and there were no bells. Interdisciplinary teaching was common at Hoffman-Boston, meaning that teachers would combine curriculum from different subjects into a teaching unit. Each student had a Teacher Adviser (TA) who guided students and acted as a guidance counselor.

H-B Woodlawn Moves to Vacation Lane in 1978

Stratford Junior High is Closed – 1978

In the mid 1970s, due to declining enrollment, Arlington was closing and consolidating schools. Superintendent Dr. Larry Cuban proposed moving 9th grade students from the junior high schools to high schools in September 1978, creating Intermediate Schools for seventh and eighth grade students. Stratford’s student enrollment had dwindled and the School Board had decided to close Stratford in September 1978.

In the yearbook, graduating students would explain what they left behind after their experience; very much like the senior quotes left on their building’s walls today. Like H-B Woodlawn, Stratford (despite it’s size) had a tightly knit community that should not be forgotten.

Two programs merge

By the end of the 1970s, the popularity of alternative learning died down. The superintendent, however, remained in support of alternative education. Financial and population issues caused the school board to propose a merger of Woodlawn and Hoffman-Boston. (Christy Mach, page 100)

The idea to merge Hoffman-Boston and Woodlawn started in 1976. With school closings and consolidations, Superintendent Dr. Larry Cuban proposed merging the Hoffman Boston and Woodlawn programs in 1977.

The School Board wanted to move the programs into the Stratford Junior High building on Vacation Lane. The reasons were primarily because of budget cuts, and closing schools was necessary. A merger proposal was finished in November 1977.

Woodlawn students, however, didn’t believe that younger students from Hoffman-Boston had the maturity to handle the academic freedom and greater responsibility over their own education that students in the Woodlawn program enjoyed. “At a January 1977 public hearing before the School Board a group of Woodlawn students spoke so strongly against the September 1977 date for merger that the Superintendent and School Board reconsidered the proposal and decided to delay the merger until September 1978. But it was made clear that a new program was to be created, rather than the Woodlawn idea of merely “co-locating” the two programs in the same building.” (Merger Report pg. 4)

Because a new program would be created, as opposed to simply being in the same building as two separate schools, Woodlawn students questioned what would happen to their philosophies and traditions. For example, would they still have Town Meeting? Because of the younger students, would they still have an open campus? Many were also concerned about the possibility of having a principal, instead of a head teacher. One student even said “Woodlawn had no loyalty to Hoffman-Boston, and the program had everything to lose and nothing to gain from the merger.” These were issues that needed to be resolved. To settle these conflicts, a Merger Committee was formed to create the new philosophy of H-B Woodlawn.

Theresa Flynn, class of 1981 and former librarian at H-B Woodlawn, was on the building committee when the merger was proposed.  “We were offered several options:  keep the Woodlawn facility on 16th Street (too small), keep the Hoffman-Boston building on Queen Street (too small), the Mason Arts Building on Wilson Blvd (too small), Gunston (too large/cold/impersonal) or Stratford.  I remember the day we walked in to see the building.  We saw the fish pond and that was it … we were sold.  We met all summer in the building in 1978, but there was no air-conditioning yet, so it was kind of brutal.”

The Merger Report- The H-B Woodlawn Program is Created

The Merger Committee believed that “all students are unique, and should be valued for who they are.” The school should create a learning environment that meets the need of all students individually. With this belief, the school must meet the intellectual needs of students. To accomplish this, there was a teacher-guidance system. Each student was assigned a teacher-advisor, who would guide their students. Students should develop the ability to make responsible choices. H-B’s philosophy was and still is based on the Latin phrase Verbum Sap Sat which means a word to the wise is sufficient. In other words, people don’t need to be told to be sensible.

Courses from both the Hoffman Boston and Woodlawn programs were offered. Students proposed electives and voted on them. In this way, students could have a more personal curriculum. Students could also have outside teachers come in to teach a course for a quarter or create an independent study class. Students would request a class they would like to take, and if possible, they would meet with a teacher once a week, doing the rest of the work independently. Students could also take internships, working outside of the school (though students had to arrange them themselves). Students could take certain classes at their home schools, for example, music classes and could participate in art, drama and sports at their home schools. They could even be in the yearbook. All students graduate from their home schools, not H-B Woodlawn.

Ray Anderson became the Head Teacher of H-B Woodlawn, and Margery Edson, the former principal of Hoffman-Boston, became the principal of H-B Woodlawn. The administration included the principal, head teacher, assistant head teacher, and business manager.

The role of a teacher was to instruct and counsel students. They should direct students towards evaluating their own learning. At the end of a quarter, many students stayed up late to catch up on work in order to get a good grade in their classes. Some believed that this was because teachers didn’t put enough pressure on students to complete work early. Though most classes used the standard A-E grading system, some continued to use the Credit/No Credit system, based on what students wanted. There were attempts to change the grading system entirely, but none were successful.

Town Meeting was kept as the governing body for the program. Town Meeting used to be held in the Auxiliary Gym, under the current gym where the Stratford Program is now located.

The name “Stratford Junior High” was scrapped, and the new school was named H-B Woodlawn. H-B Woodlawn opened under Ray Anderson in September 1978. There were some advantages to merging the two schools: better educational continuity, more teachers, and its popularity increased. At the start of the program, anyone who wished to attend could apply and attend.

Theresa Flynn recalls, “the merger was very difficult.  It was many many years until the two programs really functioned as one.  I would say that the addition of the 6th grade and the design of the Middle School Program kind of made us one.”

1978 – 1995: The Middle Years

In 1978, the year of the merger of the Woodlawn and Hoffman-Boston programs, all junior high schools in Arlington became “Intermediate Schools.” Ninth graders started attending senior high schools, leaving only seventh and eighth grade students in the newly named intermediate schools.  H-B Woodlawn offered grades seven through twelve from 1978-1990.

Sixth graders were added to the H-B Woodlawn program as part of the Middle School Movement in 1990. Middle Schools created a school environment to meet the special developmental needs for students in grades six to eight. Arlington had not required H-B Woodlawn to add sixth grade students, but if they had not, students would have had to make a transition to Middle School in sixth grade, then make another transition in seventh grade if they wanted to come to H-B. Thus, it made sense to follow the rest of Arlington and expand the H-B Woodlawn program to grades six through twelve.

AP Classes – With more students wanting to go to college, colleges became more competitive and increased admission requirements.  AP Classes were added during the H-B Woodlawn’s second year, 1979.  Students became more concerned about their GPA and getting into colleges. They demanded more AP classes be added to the curriculum which was passed by Town Meeting.

Administration – The Woodlawn Program did not have a principal. Instead, there was a head teacher, Ray Anderson. The Hoffman-Boston Program had a principal, Margery Edson. After the merger, she became the principal, and Ray remained the head teacher. After Margery retired in 1980, Ray became the principal, and Mary McBride became the head teacher. Mary Flynn became the Middle School administrator in 1990, followed by Frank Haltiwanger in 2001, Judy McKnight in 2004, and HBW graduate Casey Robinson (class of 1995) in 2010.

Teaching and Class Size: In 1985, all full-time teachers started teaching six classes instead of five as teachers do in other schools in Arlington. Even before 1985, some teachers were already teaching six classes.  All administrators also teach a class.  Instead of guidance counselors, all teachers and administrators at H-B Woodlawn serve as a Teacher Advisor (TA).  These extra classes and absence of guidance counselors allows H-B Woodlawn to have a smaller class size than other Arlington schools.

The HILT Program:  By the mid 1980’s all other secondary schools in Arlington had a HILT program for second language learners.  Because students at H-B Woodlawn had a different admission policy, none of the these students came here.  In 1984 a new program was created at H-B Woodlawn for older HILT students who had recently arrived in the United States and needed additional time to learn English and acquire credits for graduation.  The program allowed students to stay in high school up to age 21 and increased the diversity at H-B Woodlawn.  Typical of other HILT programs, new students took all their courses with HILT teachers gradually taking regular courses for graduation as their English improved.

1995 Building Renovations – The Jackson (Stratford) Program joins H-B Woodlawn on Vacation Lane

In 1994 Arlington County decided to move the Jackson Program to the Stratford building. The Jackson Program was renamed the Stratford Program after the original name of the school. The Stratford Program serves students ages 11-22 who have multiple disabilities and who will likely require life-long special care. Having the Stratford and H-B Woodlawn programs in the same building would provide students in both programs opportunities to mingle and increase diversity.

The addition of the Stratford Program coincided with major renovations to the building in 1995. The Stratford Program operates as a separate program with their own staff, administrators and rooms. Stratford was given a segment of the school, on the ground floor, as a“safe haven” where most of their class time would be spent. The area formerly used as locker rooms, auxiliary gym and health classrooms were converted to serve the students’ needs. The idea of a safe haven was not new, the high school, middle school and HILT students all had general base areas. Other areas of the building like the gym, cafeteria and auditorium were available for Stratford students.
In addition, extra classes were literally dug out of the first floor to make more classrooms, a computer lab and a Middle School office. New light fixtures, a new heating system and an Internet cable network made the building a more modern learning environment.

H-B Woodlawn Popularity Grows – Challenges to Admission

Increasing popularity brings problems

In the early years of the programs anyone in Arlington Public Schools who wished to attend would simply apply. Waiting lists were short.  Woodlawn used a lottery for several years, but the majority of students who applied were eventually offered admission.

After the two programs combined, however, the popularity of the program increased. In the 1980s, as test scores and college admission rates at H-B Woodlawn were often higher than the county average a “first-come, first-serve” admission policy was adopted. This became problematic when parents began arriving earlier and earlier to sign up their children. Finally in 1992, parents of prospective students camped out on the back lawn of the school for three days to ensure their children’s admission.

The lottery was subsequently reinstated. This, too, became a challenge, as the numbers of minority students dropped dramatically and the socio-economic balance of the school became skewed. A new lottery was developed in which minorities were double-weighted to ensure ethnic diversity in the program.

The lawsuit

In 1997, several parents filed a lawsuit against H-B Woodlawn and Arlington Traditional Elementary School’s weighted lotteries. They claimed these “affirmative action lotteries” were reverse discrimination. There were attempts to create alternative proposals, for example, taking home addresses or economical status into account, but none were approved by the court. After going through several courts, the school system lost its battle. The lotteries for both schools were “unweighted” and extra students were added to each program retroactively. Once again, the number of minority students dropped.

The solution

A committee of students, teachers, and parents came up with a solution. The slots in the lottery were given out in proportion to the home elementary school populations. This was adopted in 2001, and the number of minorities doubled in that year.

Capacity changes

There have been many pressures to add new students to H-B Woodlawn since the merger. Every couple of years, the school board asks H-B to add new students, notably in 2000. This is because of how small H-B is compared to other secondary schools and the number of people on the waiting list each year.

In 2010 a new program for students with Autism was added.

Good-bye to Hippie High – 2004 – Present

Changes in Leadership

H-B Woodlawn was dubbed Hippie High” because of its laid-back style and reputation for attracting liberal students in large numbers. After Ray Anderson retired in 2004,  Frank Haltiwanger became principal and Judy McKnight became the Middle School administrator. Mary McBride remained the Head Teacher.  The Washington Post ran an article about Ray with the headline “Farewell to Hippie High“.

Frank and Mary wanted to change the impression that H-B was a “hippie high.”  According to Mary McBride, the term was no longer meaningful. “It is rather outdated and not very upbeat. The term ‘hippie’ can also be used to reference people smoking, or using drugs and alcohol.” Mary hoped to see H-B described with a more positive and newer term.

Casey Robinson, an H-B Woodlawn alumnus from 1995, became the Middle School administrator in 2010 when Judy retired. Mary McBride passed away in May, 2014  and Graham McBride became the newest assistant principal.  In September 2014, the former Middle School office was converted into a classroom and all three administrators are now located in the main office on the second floor.  Frank announced his retirement in July, 2015 and Casey Robinson was named the third principal at H-B Woodlawn.  In June 2015, Kate Seche was hired as assistant principal.

H-B Adds a Music Wing – 2006

It had long been apparent to the HBW students and staff that the music facilities needed a makeover. The music program at H-B was very popular and space was an issue. The school board agreed and began developing plans for a new music wing in 2004. The two floor addition included large classrooms for choral and instrumental music, a small computer lab, storage for instruments and numerous practice rooms. During this renovation a blackbox theatre was created, and the art and photo studios moved to join the music departments to create an arts wing.

AP Classes – Changing Curriculum

Increases in population have made colleges even more competitive.  Most colleges want students who take the most rigorous courses.  Students and parents concerned about future college admission started demanding more and more AP classes.  H-B Woodlawn is often ranked very high on lists of “best schools” because of the high percentage of students taking AP courses, and is often rated one of the most challenging high schools in the Washington, DC area.

AP classes, changes in state requirements for graduation and Virginia SOL (Standards of Learning) tests have brought standardization in the curriculum.  Many courses resemble those at other secondary schools in Arlington leaving little time for the type of learning originally envisioned in the Woodlawn program.  H-B Woodlawn stills offers an English elective program for all sophomores during the second semester.  These courses are frequently taught by people outside the school system.  Students can also still make arrangements with teachers to take a course on an independent study basis, take courses online through Virtual Virginia or Arlington’s Distance Learning program, or take a class at the Career Center.

Starting in June 2013, after AP and SOL testing, all students and teachers participate in Junetime.  For four days, students and teachers participated in mixed-grade seminars enjoying hands-on, project-based learning and a different structure for the school day.

The Program for Students with Autism

In 2010, H-B Woodlawn added an Program for Students with Autism.  Students in Arlington who were diagnosed with Autism could attend H-B as part of the program. This added two teachers and several resource assistants to the school.

HBW Student Population Trends

H-B Woodlawn students and staff believe that diversity in student population will lead to a better working and learning environment for students. Throughout HBW’s history, we notice a constant change in student population. Beginning as two very small programs, the Merger created a school with students ranging from 7th to 12th grades and later adding 6th grade.

The age span of students increased again with the addition of the HILT and Stratford programs which both have students up to age 21.  These programs, and the Asperger program in 2010, brought many different types of students to the building.  The desire for diversity even brought the lawsuit in 1997 against the lottery weighed to increase ethnic diversity.

The total enrollment at H-B Woodlawn has been constantly questioned throughout its history. H-B Woodlawn was created at a time when Arlington’s population was declining and it was built around the idea that some students need to have close relationships with their teachers in order to get the best learning experience. Smaller class sizes are required for these relationships. Arlington’s overall population fluctuates and the school population reflects these changes. Due to H-B Woodlawn’s philosophy and admission policies, other schools have seen significant increases in enrollment while H-B Woodlawn’s has remained fairly constant.  It is important to note that H-B Woodlawn receives the exact same per-pupil funding as the rest of Arlington’s secondary schools, but uses the money in different ways to achieve these smaller class sizes. Arlington is currently experiencing a huge increase in student population and H-B Woodlawn’s program is increasing by 10% gradually before its expected move in 2019.

This page was written by Matt Beckwith (2013), Eren Guendelsberger (2013) and Teri Doxsee, former ITC after interviews with current and former students and staff, and a wide variety of resources listed here.