The $60.2 million budget proposed by Alexandria Schools Superintendent Robert W. Peebles focuses on minority, special eduction and academically talented students, three areas considered high priorities by the school administration.
Peebles "tried to present a realistic budget for the type of children we have in Alexandria . . . varied backgrounds," said Pam Walkup, president of the Education Association of Alexandria.
The budget proposed by Peebles last month, which will have to be approved by the City Council in May, calls for $233,715 for improving minority achievement, $5.99 million for special education programs and $63,028 for review of the existing Academically Talented Program.
Standardized test scores in reading and math published in August 1985 showed black students scored significantly lower than white students. Black students in grades one through eight scored between 29 and 42 points below their white counterparts on a 100-point test, while in 11th grade, black students scored in the lower third of students tested nationwide and white Alexandria students were in the upper third.
Of the 10,344 Alexandria school students attending school in 1985-86, 12.9 percent or 1,333 are in special education programs, almost 8 percent or 806 are learning-disabled and 981, almost 10 percent, are in English as a Second Language classes.
Peebles said that Alexandria now has the largest number of students it has ever served by special education programs and the largest number ever enrolled in English as a Second Language. Of every 100 students enrolled in Alexandria classrooms this year, nine are enrolled in English as a Second Language Classes; three of these are Salvadoran refugees, most of them from illiterate families.
The number of learning-disabled students has risen 37 percent over the last five years. In 1983-84 there were 624 learning-disabled students, and in '84-85 there were 715. Now that number is 806 with a projected increase of 66 next year.
Of the existing Academically Talented Program that Peebles plans to totally restructure and consolidate for students in grades 4 through 6, Walkup said "much stricter guidelines," are needed. Walkup added that a lot of students are highly motivated but not gifted. According to Walkup, 25 percent of the student population are in the program whereas 3 to 5 percent of students in other school systems are in similar programs. "It's time to reevaluate."
In addition to these priorities the School Board plans to review a transitional kindergarten-to-first-grade pilot program budgeted at $137,475. The program, proposed to start in the 1986-87 school year at all 10 of the Alexandria schools with first grades, would "cut down on kindergarten and first-grade retention," said Shirley Urquia, director of elementary education.
"At the end of the kindergarten year, some kids are not ready for first grade," said Urquia. "Transitional first will be another year to prepare students for first grade." She added that the program will not be repetitive of kindergarten or first grade classes but a "bridge" between the two. Options to the proposed program, said Urquia, are retaining the kids or passing them and letting them struggle.
Peebles said the board will "look closely at [all the schools'] programs to see if they are hitting the needs of kids."