Virginia’s top education officials visited Arlington schools Wednesday during their first visit to a Northern Virginia district since they were appointed earlier this year.
Secretary of Education Anne Holton started in her post in February and State Superintendent Steve Staples’s first day was May 1. The education officials said they want to understand the needs of local school districts and to learn about what is working so they can share with other districts across the state.
“It’s a pleasure to get out of Richmond and see where the rubber meets the road,” said Holton in a statement. “Arlington has such a strong school division with so many exciting programs.”
A new Virginia Board of Education member from Leesburg, Andrew Ko, also took part in the tour.
The group made stops at the Arlington Career Center to see the Governor’s Career and Technical Academy as well as a program for teen parents and an alternative high school.
They also visited pre-kindergarten programs at Hoffman Boston, many of which are funded partly through matching grants from the state. Currently, Arlington is the only school district in the Northern Virginia that takes advantage of 100 percent of the funding available through the state’s Virginia Preschool Initiative.
The last stop was Wakefield High School, which started the school year with a new building that local officials highlighted as a model for environmental sustainability.
“Their visit gave us an opportunity to showcase the hard work and dedication of our staff and the programs that make Arlington Public Schools one of the top-performing school systems in the nation,” said Arlington Superintendent Patrick Murphy.
Holton is a former Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge and the wife of Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (D), the former Virginia governor. As first lady, she advocated for foster-care reform and the expansion of state-funded pre-kindergarten.
Staples is a former superintendent from York County who most recently served as executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. He has also been a vocal advocate for standardized testing reform.