PAC Meeting Minutes – April 19, 2016

Minutes of the H-B Woodlawn Parent Advisory Committee meeting, April 19 2016

Attendees: Anne Hammer, Casey Robinson, Dave Tornquist, Kristen Colston, Laura Saul Edwards, Chuck Kleymeyer, Celia Boddington, Leslie Atkins Anne Rogers, Audrey Pritchard and Meredith Wadman.

Plus our panel of H-B fine Fine Arts teachers: Tom Mallan, theater and film teacher; Faylinda Kodis, visual arts teacher; Carl Holmquist, band director, Bill Podolski, chorus teacher.

Business Section of the Meeting:

Laura Saul Edwards, PAC Co-Chair: 

Laura announced that former H-B PAC chair Melissa McCracken was selected by the School Board for an APS Honored Citizen Award, given annually to some 12 citizens.  The PAC had nominated Melissa, the mother of H-B graduate Finley McCracken (2014), for the award. She will be honored on the evening of Thursday April 21stat a reception and plaque presentation.  Melissa is chair of the design committee for the new H-B building in Rosslyn.

The PAC has approved and paid Arlington’s Central Library a donation of $100 for May’s annual study night.

H-B’s No Sweat Fundraiser letter will soon be going out to all families. In October, parents will be needed to sit on the committee designating how these funds are spent from among the proposals that teachers submit.

Update on construction of the revamped middle school on H-B’s current site on Vacation Lane: The concept design was supposed to be in hand by now, but has been delayed due to a proposal to include a road that connects Vacation Lane to Old Dominion, to separate car traffic from bus traffic. This proposal is now under closer scrutiny. The School Board approved it, but the County Manager and the County Transportation Commission are having further thoughts about this. So the presentation of a design review for this site has been delayed; it should have been before the County Board by now.

Separately: A couple of months ago. APS staff suggested that instead of executing the Vacation Lane (Stratford) and Wilson (new H-B building in Rosslyn) projects simultaneously, the Stratford project might be phased in, with the effect of delaying the opening of the revamped middle school on Vacation Lane by one year, to September, 2020.  Our H-B program would be at Wilson by September, 2019 which is when the construction work would begin on Vacation Lane. In this scenario, our community would not need to endure intensive construction.

This would also mean that the Stratford program would not have to move out of this building to a temporary facility while the Wilson site is under construction.

Celia Boddington: Informed by her perch on the Advisory Committee on Instruction, Celia says the School Board is extremely concerned about impacts on the Stratford program of having to transition twice in two years, because those kids are already vulnerable.

Laura Saul Edwards: On May 5, the Superintendent of APS presented a proposed Capital Improvement Plan as is done every second year, in even years. The School Board is expected to vote on the new CIP in early June. The bottom line is that as it stands now, the County and School system have the authority only to borrow about half the money needed to build a new comprehensive high school and two elementary schools in addition to renovating several middle schools to accommodate the constantly growing APS student population. Laura said: “We don’t have anywhere near the money we need to build what we need to the standards we need. So we’ve got to get creative.”

Casey Robinson:

Principal’s Report: The high school last Thursday and Friday was in New Orleans on a “truly fantastic music trip. I have done many of them. This was by far the best I’ve ever been part of. The kids were amazing and did absolutely everything we asked and more.” At the same time, Faylinda had a group of advanced art students on a trip to New York, in museums, looking at and doing art. Thursday and Friday also happened to be the model General Assembly in Richmond.  Our Salome Gongadze, a senior whom the students elected, ran the entire thing which involved students from all over the state.

Today is the first day of fourth quarter. Things really ramp up from here. From an administrative point of view next Thursday April 28 we begin our allocation process. Then we’ll have our all- school Town Meeting to vote on allocation the following Tuesday, May 3rd. The challenge is always: how do we balance our desire for small class size with student interest in taking a wide variety of classes. From there we go to master scheduling and from there to arena scheduling.

This Friday April 22 we’ll be celebrating our colleague Julie Dickson-Brown at her memorial service. She is present in our minds.

Kristen Colston:

Wilson Project update:  Kristen is reporting for the Building Level Planning Committee, which is supposed to approve a schematic design on May 11. That then is supposed to go to the School Board on May 18 or 19. But there are still a lot of open issues with parking and lots of other things. We’ll see if it all stays on schedule.

Casey Robinson: Regarding the new H-B building at the Wilson site, we are moving into a phase where a lot of the work is really on instructional spaces and how they are fitting into the building. We spent a couple hours with the architects today: should the art room be here? Should the music room be here? Very fine detail. There will still be months of very fine tuning after the schematic design that’s coming next.

End of the business Section of the meeting


Tom Mallan, theater and film teacher

Faylinda Kodis, visual arts teacher

Carl Holmquist, band director

Bill Podolski, chorus teacher

Bill: [Despite its reputation for being “the arts school” H-B is not formally so. But it’s true that] between 6thand 12th grade, about 2/3 of H-B students are enrolled in a fine arts program.  One-third are enrolled in music ensembles.

Tom: based on other secondary schools I’ve worked in, my theory [about why so many of our students participate in the fine arts] is that we have some real geniuses behind the design of the schedule. And a really strong interest in scheduling kids into as may electives as interest them…. So many are involved just because they can be.

Faylinda: This is the time of year when I get students asking me: Do you know when your Art 2 class is? I want to take it….It really falls on Casey to try to make all the pieces come together. I would agree with Tom that that’s a big piece of this.

Karl: We arts teachers feel so supported and so trusted and so free to run our disciplines, our classes, our rehearsals, our performing, and trusting the students to take on major responsibility as well. What I love about this place so much is that because it’s small, if you make that wonderful choice to become involved in the fine arts, you are expected to deliver. Because we’re small. You can’t just sit back in a clarinet section of 18 players and doze off…even as a sixth or seventh grader. It gives them some confidence. It gives them a sense that, “I can do this.” That individuality and collective experience together is so unique.

Bill: Interestingly, the music arts have not always been a part of the H-B Woodlawn story. …It’s kind of a new phenomenon. When Casey was a student here, group ensembles were something you did at your home school. It was Arts Ed that said: those hippies need some music instruction….a band and orchestra and choir program followed.

Tom: I personally came here a number of times in the 1990s as a freelance teaching artist and directed plays. …The theater program became a major point of expression of some of the core values of the school: one of them being student autonomy. This program hires its own students as directors. The kids choose their own material and they have a lot of leeway to do it….The kids really step up to this idea that they are choosing content…They take a lot of pride and a lot of responsibility in that.  Theater is also a place of cross-grade integration, where 6th-graders are on stage with 12th-graders. And 12th-graders have to feel some sense of mentorship.

The theater program is also a place where vocational skills are being taught: sewing, painting, set design, it’s a place for integration of music, art and physical activity. Theater is also a place of community building in the absence of sports teams.

The film department: A student lobbied Town Meeting just ten years ago to make a film department where there was none. This was Cutter Hodierne [who has succeeded tremendously as a filmmaker and] came back and spoke to our students just last year.

Film exists because the students wanted it. And it really resembles the theater department because of the kids’ ability to lead each other, mentor each other and choose whatever wacky content they want….It looks very different than the Career Center’s TV program for example.

Casey: We had more of a traditional art program [years ago]. I think we’ve had three art teachers in the last thirty years.

Bill: The Black Box was originally the bomb shelter of the school. In 2006 the music wing opened, largely as a result of the number of students in the music program.

Tom: The photo program has had ups and down over the years. Since George [Laumann] took over [teaching last September], interest has skyrocketed—his allocation is going up next year because of what a great job he’s doing.

Karl: In the ten years I’ve been here something like 30 students have gone on to advanced music degrees and/or professional music careers.

Tom: One of the reasons we are thought to be an arts school is that our most talented kids are given space to go as far as they can go. Extraordinary things happen. Kids write entire plays and musicals.

Faylinda: we have a group of seniors this year who have actually installed an exhibit at the Arlington Arts Center….It was really a beautiful thing to see them come together and put this installation up.  Next Wednesday night April 27 is the opening.

BillA Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future is a book by an economist, Daniel Pink. His argument is that the MFA is the new MBA.

End of Fine Arts Teachers’ Panel


Reid Goldstein: What has the School Board been doing? Dealing with the budget for a couple of months now. It has been a good budget year.  Partly because it was a good year for insurance. APS is self-insured and there were far fewer claims than expected. We had put aside a bunch of money and didn’t have to use it.

Over the past few years we made a bunch of cuts….Now our projections are for the APS student population to grow from 25,000 students to over 30,000 by 2021, and keep going. In order to accommodate these students, we need infrastructure, so we put a lot of positions back in the budget this year.  We ended with a $3.5 million gap between what we needed and what the County Board was prepared to give us. Just last Thursday they decided to give us another $2 million, leaving a $1.5 million gap which I believe they are voting on this evening. So depending what happens we will either have a fully funded budget or we will have to figure out how to close that $1.5 million gap.

Thursday April 21 is a School Board meeting where we have an agenda item on the School Board’s proposed budget. People can show up and say whatever they want about the budget. Then the budget will be formally adopted at the May 5th meeting.

That will happen just in time to start the Capital Improvement Plan.(CIP) This is a ten-year plan for how we are going to address crowding. We redo it every two years, in even-numbered calendar ears. And depending on what it says, we’ll have a school bond on the ballot this November.

We are looking at a roughly 2,800 deficit in high school seats in the next ten years [middle school a little less, elementary almost as much]…We are spending every dime we have available. The whole point of the CIP process is to figure out what the priorities are and how we are going to meet these capacities needs, then to devote as much money to it as we need.

What else is going on? Meeting the Needs of the Whole Child is our Number Five Strategic Plan goal. Last month we established the Whole Child working group, 40 members of the Arlington community, students, staff. To address the…needs of the child. It’s a huge huge task. They will have an interim report on April 21. That will be the skeleton of what they are planning. The effort will roll forward into next year and possibly beyond. Meeting the needs of the whole child really encompasses everything and they are trying to figure out a good way for us to do it.

Following Reid’s brief presentation, there was a question and answer session with him, touching largely on capacity issues and the current plans for the Vacation Lane and Wilson sites.

Our final PAC meeting of this academic year will be on Tuesday May 17th, at 7:30 in the Library.  The subject will be “June Time.”

Volunteers will be needed for several PAC positions in the 2016-2017 school year, including a PAC co-chair to join Dave Tornquist.  Look out for email traffic on this subject on H-B News and Talk. Please consider volunteering.