PAC Meeting Minutes – September 21, 2015

The meeting convened at 7:30 pm in the library.

Attendees:  Casey Robinson, Graham McBride, Kate Seche, Laura Saul Edwards, David Tornquist, Meredith Wadman, Kristen Colston,  Chuck Kleymeyer, Celia Boddington, Anne-Marie Bolton, Elisabeth Casey, Jan Gronemeyer, Harald Kenerleber, Linda Friedman, Greg Lane, Maribeth Egan, Vicky Mendelowitz, Richard Walker, Jeanne Radday, Kathryn Ricero, Laura Hall, Anne Hammer, Launa Hall, Jacky Jenks, Adam Walsh, Hillary Horn, Rich Ferlauto.

Welcome:  Our PAC co-chairs opened the meeting. David Tornquist, the new PAC high school co-chair, is the father of  10th-grader Caroline Tornquist, who has been at HB since 6th grade  Laura Saul Edwards, the middle school co-chair, is continuing in that position. Her son Elliot Edwards is in 8th grade, and came to H-B in 6thgrade.

Minutes: The minutes of June 2, 2015 PAC meeting were approved.

Principal’s report by Casey Robinson:

Casey reported on a “great” first couple of weeks of school.  H-B welcomed more new students than it ever has, because this school year marks the launch of an incremental increase in the student body of 10 percent.  The incoming 6th-grade class is one of the largest ever. There are also a small group of new 7th-graders and 19 new 9th-graders, plus a handful of new 10th– graders.

During this time of  transition for H-B (new leadership; a move coming), the focus of the faculty remains on H-B’s core principles: community, self-directed learning and self-governance.

There are a number of new staff, and about 2.5 new teachers, to accommodate the growth in the study body and to more accurately reflect numbers in the HILT program.

Casey and the staff are excited to welcome Kate Seche, H-B’s new assistant principal, who brings a strong background in working with English as a second language students, which will be a real asset for the HILT program.. Kate is providing terrific help with that program, and working closely with its students. She’s also working on tasks that fall under the “Director of Counseling” role, relieving Casey, who carried these jobs in the past. Kate is also is going to be working as the primary administration contact for 9th– and 10th-grade students, teachers and parents.

We have a new librarian, Maggie Carpenter, from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County. Maggie brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and skill set in research. In terms of actual books being checked out, the library is being used constantly. Maggie is strong in that area and will be a really good resource for our teachers.

Ackesha Cathirell and Steve McKenney are our two new special education teachers. We have a new Spanish teacher, Travis Reyes teaching Spanish II, III and our fluent speakers program. Elena Velasco is our new theater teacher and the new sixth-grade science teacher is Jason Yoon.  We hired a part time photography teacher, named George Laumann who is a retired APS teacher.  Diedre Reimers is a new part- time social studies teacher and Randy Latimer a new part-time computer science teacher. As computer science teachers are hard to find, Randy is an exciting catch.

The school schedule has been adjusted slightly, with Friday afternoon TA time moved to Monday afternoon, to capitalize on more attentiveness on Mondays than on Fridays! Town Meeting is now on Tuesday instead of Thursday.  The other TA time is now on Thursday.

We have added two more grade levels to the personalized device program, so the 6th and 7th graders now have IPads in hand and the 9th and 10th graders have laptop computers. While there have been some technical difficulties we are really focused on helping the teachers find ways to integrate this technology.

Other topics: Looking to a future in Rosslyn with far fewer parking spots available, H-B is already trying to encourage alternative transportation, including more carpooling. H-B has signed up with Arlington Transportation Partners to boost this effort, and Catherine Frum, a high school English teacher, is H-B’s liaison to that program. She will be putting together related activities.

Frisbee is up and running, and the first Black Box show opens on October 8.

Next  Monday, Sept. 28, is H-B Woodlawn’s Back to School Night.

 Reports by other PAC Officers

Treasurer’s Report: Laura Saul Edwards reported for our Treasurer, Kelly Kabiri, who couldn’t be present. We as a PAC had about $45,000 in the bank at the close of last year.  See the PAC website (click on the “Parents” tab at the top of the H-B home page, then select PAC on the drop-down menu) for the ways in which this is put to use, including teacher testimonials.  There is still time to donate if you have not yet done so. Parents can send a check made out to H-B Woodlawn with No Sweat in the comment line to the Main Office.

Advisory Council on Instruction: Cecilia Boddington report from the School Board’s ACI, which held its first meeting of the year last week.  The ACI is forming a committee on digital technology and there are opportunities to serve the ACI in other capacities. Contact Cecilia for details: Celia_boddington@yahoo.com.

H-B PAC’s Capacity Committee.

1.     The new building in Rosslyn.

Kristen Colston, the chair of the Capacity Committee, gave a status report on planning for the new H-B building in Rosslyn.  For more detail than you can imagine, go the PAC website (hit the “parents” tab at the top of the H-B home page and click on PAC on the dropdown menu). Once at the PAC site, go to the bottom of the menu on the left, and click on the link “new Wilson and Stratford sites.”  Here you can find information both about plans and renovations at  H-B’s current site (“Stratford”) and plans for its new site (“Wilson.”).

Kristen reported that a bind has emerged: the School Board insists that the new H-B in Rosslyn be built for the budgeted $80.2 million, and yet the plan presented to the Board in August by the Building Level Planning Committee  (BLPC) was $20 million over budget.  A big chunk of this increase, $9 million, was due to escalation in construction costs.  The BLPC has been sent back to the drawing board by the School Board and told to come up with a plan that keeps to the $80 million target. The new, on-budget design, is due to be presented to the School Board on October 8th. It’s not clear that this will happen on time.

To follow this and other details of the planning processes both at H-B’s current site and in Rosslyn, be sure to sign up for H-B News, H-B Talk, and to like “Love HB” on Facebook. These are the forums where the BLPC is interacting with H-B parents.

2.      Renovations, etc. at H-B’s current site. (called “The Stratford site” by the planners.)

We heard a report from Laura Saul Edwards, our PAC co-chair, who sits on the Building Level Planning Committee (BLPC) for the renovation of the Stratford site:

The renovation will convert the current H-B building into a 1,000-seat neighborhood middle school beginning in September 2019.

Our assistant principal Graham McBride serves with Laura on the BLPC for H-B.

The meetings of the BLPC  have revealed that the reno is a very challenging process. Not only because of the historic nature of the building, with integration in 1959, but because of where it is situated, on an island surrounded by high volume traffic. The BLPC has been consumed with trying to figure out how to route buses, cars and walkers around the site safely, while respecting neighbors’ concerns. It looks like access to Old Dominion could be approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation if needed.

The Stratford BLPC is currently considering about four designs for the reno.  The concept design should be complete  sometime in mid to late October.

As with the Wilson site, the designs are running over budget, and for the same reasons, especially increasing construction costs in the industry broadly. The most expensive of the designs being considered is $18 million over the School Board-designated budget of $29 million.

If the project remains on schedule,  ground will be broken for the reno in September 2017.

Laura concluded that “Despite bumps, I am confident we will get through this and we will end up with a building that serves our needs and that the academic program will continue to flourish.”

Topics for Upcoming PAC Meetings

David Tornquist asked for input on this, and parents volunteered topics that included:

–what to expect for our students, academically and socially, each year at H-B

–any topic that includes student panelists is especially appreciated

–how to support our students’ self-directed learning at H-B

–teen suicide, in light of the recent suicide of a Wakefield student, including addresses high rates at some Virginia universities

The Arlington-Aachen Exchange and other exchange programs with foreign students

Casey clarified that APS policy is that it does not comment on foreign exchange programs, and does not endorse them. This is out of concerns about liability. The PAC however can publicize such programs.

The next PAC meeting will take place on Tuesday October 20 at 7:30.

The meeting adjourned at 8:45 pm.