In yesterday's Virginia Weekly David Smith's position with the Arlington school system was listed incorrectly. Smith is director of the senior citizen nutrition program at Drew Elementary School. Raymond O'Neill is the school principal.
The bumper sticker has been on Larry Cuban's car for two years, but the Arlington school superintendent had never before read its message -- Arlington Has Good Schools -- as a challenge.
But with the start of the New Year, Walter Frankland, the newly installed chairman of the County Board, publicly disputed the truth of Cuban's mobile message.
At a swearing-in ceremony at the County Court House, before a crowd of 75, including current school board chairman Ann Broder, Frankland characterized Arlington schools as deteriorating and said the educational system lacked leadership. He also suggested that two -- Mary Margaret Whipple and Richard Barton -- of the current five school board members resign before their terms expire in June.
School board chairman Broder called Frankland's remarks "self-serving" and "stupid." The two school board members, Whipple and Barton, said they would not resign. Cuban, expressing his reaction in the strongest lanuage he has used since becoming superintendent five years ago, accused Frankland of a "reckless" attack based on a "personal vendetta."
Frankland's criticism has provoked a variety of responses from community groups concerned with the quality of education in the Arlington school system, which has 16,000 students, a current budget of more than $48 million and a reputation for community participation.
"I think Mr. Frankland's attack on the entire school system was unfortunate," said Marjorie Sale, executive director of the Arlington Education Association, which represents 90 percent of the 1,200 teachers in the school system. "Walter (Frankland) is not just some citizen on a corner sounding off. He is now the chairman of the County Board. I feel it was irresponsible."
The education association has taken its own swipes at Cuban and his policies in the past. Last year, the membership passed a vote of "no confidence" in the superintendent and demanded his resignation. But while teachers may have some "reservations" about Cuban, said Sale, Frankland's "broad-brushed" attack "was based on inaccurate information."
Another group which has been critical of Arlington school policies, the Arlington chapter of the NAACP, offered reservations about Frankland's criticism. William Cassell Butler, president of the Arlington NAACP, called Frankland's comments "too strong" and said the responsibility for any decline in Arlington schools goes beyond the current school administration.
Frankland points to Arlington's decline in scores on national tests -- such as the Standard Achievement Test (SAT) given to all college-bound seniors -- as evidence that the schools are not putting enough emphasis on academic achievement.
"When the schools come out with their press releases," Frankland said in an interview last week, "they usually put the scores in a different context. The fact is that Arlington's SAT (Standard Achievement Test) scores have been falling at twice the national average."
Since 1975, Arlington's combined point total in math and English has dropped by 24 points. During the same time, the national average has dropped by just 12 points. But Arlington officials point out that the county scores are still significantly higher than the national average and also are the highest in the metropolitan area.
"When compared with the normal population, we stand out very well and our population is not normal," said Harold Wilson, associate superintendent for instruction. "Right now there are a lot more minorities in the school system than ever before, at least 30 percent. And 15 percent are speaking native languages other than English. In the face of challenges never faced before, I don't think anyone could characterize (Arlington schools) as deteriorating."
Frankland also accused the school system of not maintaining appropriate standards of discipline. Recently, however, Frankland admitted that Arlington "has been tightening up on scheduling and . . . coming around to some of the things I've been advocating."
"Discipline is an emotionally loaded word," answers Cuban. "It's like waving a red flag. Playing that tune would be, from my point of view, reckless and completely out of touch with what's going on in public schools."
Frankland and Cuban have been at odds since 1975 when they fought over the controversial transfer of O.U. Johansen, then principal of Washington-Lee High School, to an administrative post. When Washington-Lee parents protested the transfer, Cuban said it was because of Johansen's age. Later, after Johansen filed an age-discrimination suit in an attempt to retain his principal's post, Cuban and other school officials testified in court that the real reason for the transfer was Johansen's alleged incompetence and inability to deal with minority faculty and students. Johansen maintains that he was moved because of his conservative educational philosophy.
"As an example, the school board some years ago rejected my recommendations for an attendance policy," Johansen said last week, "but last year adopted what they had previously opposed. So you can see that, while I was accused of being too traditional, I was really too avant-garde."
Frankland was one of the leaders of the organized opposition to Johansen's transfer. As a result of the fight, he decided to become a Republican-endorsed candidate for the County Board. He won the election, but because of the four-year terms school board members serve, Frankland was unable to make any appointments until he placed Johansen on the board last year.
"I came into the picture basically on a school issue," said Frankland. "It's a shame that the will of the people cannot be reflected in the school system any quicker than it has in this case."
It was that frustration, said Frankland, that prompted him to suggest that Whipple and Barton resign so he might replace them before next year's budget is drafted. (The school board begins preliminary consideration of the fiscal year 1981 budget next month).
Cuban argues, however, that appointing two new members in the middle of the complicated budget considerations "would wreak havoc in the school system. It would be like asking someone to pilot a boat who has never rowed a boat."
Frankland counters: "I don't think that holds water. The people I would appoint would come up to speed very quickly."
Throughout the current dispute, Frankland says he has been careful not to criticize Cuban personally, but only the basis of Cuban's administration of the school system.
But Cuban, whose contract does not expire until 1981, does not see things quite the same way as Frankland.
"There has just been a steady drumbeat of very personal criticism," Cuban said. "It's the same tune being played again and again. How boring it is."