In Defense of School, City

As president of the T.C. Williams High School Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), I read the article about the high proportion of childless households in the city of Alexandria with much interest ["Assuming a Singular Identity," Jan. 27, Metro].

The article, while well-done as a whole, left the impression that there is a raging argument in the city over whether to even build a new T.C. Williams and also that educational opportunities in Fairfax County are superior to those in Alexandria.

It is a fact that our demographics create a special challenge to those of us making the case for educational programs and buildings. Yet, there is little real argument over whether to pursue the T.C. Williams project. The fact is that a new school will be built; the discussion now is over details regarding how the new building will be designed.

While it is true that the neighbors did not want to have the new school built on a current park site, the fact is that very few of them disputed the need for a new, updated facility.

I participated in a town meeting on the T.C. Williams project and said that night that I was pleased at how much common ground there was between people whose priority was to have a new facility and those whose priority was preservation of the park.

I was also dismayed at the suggestion that families are moving out of Alexandria because the schools do not measure up. I would stack the elementary, middle and high schools my children have attended in Alexandria up against any in the country in terms of the overall quality of education and of the faculty and staff.

With the facility upgrades being done in the middle schools and the two high school buildings (along with those at many of the elementary schools), today's Alexandria children can look forward to many years of high-quality instruction in world-class facilities.

The real story is how much progress has been made in Alexandria in making the case for educational investments and in providing a high-quality education to our students.

Greg Principato


T.C. Williams PTSA

An Unethical Message

As a taxpayer, I'm outraged that Arlington County Treasurer Francis X. O'Leary runs a Democratic get-out-the-vote operation from his government office.

O'Leary's Jan. 22 e-mail that encouraged everyone to vote for Albert C. Eisenberg was unethical.

[Editor's note: County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac has said O'Leary did not violate county rules in sending the e-mail because rules related to use of the system apply only to county employees and O'Leary is a constitutional officer.]

O'Leary misleadingly referred to Eisenberg as the incumbent and the only person qualified for office.

It's an unlevel playing field for candidates seeking office outside of the Arlington County Democratic Committee's grip on our entire electoral system. This negatively impacts disenfranchised Democrats, Republicans and Independents like me.

We have no constitutional office that can promote our campaigns at taxpayer expense. O'Leary's biased election predictions, based on an unlevel playing field, impede our success. Some candidates must run early and one to two times just to crack open democracy's door -- only to have it slammed shut by Democratic elitists that smear rivals as eternal losers.

We must prove ourselves to the press while Democrat incumbents are proven by press. I'm outraged that Arlington democracy has degenerated to this.

Robert T. Molleur


Ivy a Ruthless Invader

As one who testified twice in Richmond in favor of Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple's bill to combat the invasive plant know as English ivy, I was dismayed to read your rather lighthearted treatment of this important issue [Odds & Ends, Jan. 30].

According to a recent study by the Nature Conservancy, invasive species -- such as English ivy -- run a close second to development as the most serious threat to biodiversity on the planet, far more dangerous than the issues of pollution, overexploitation and disease that your paper has rightfully given thoughtful consideration.

Locally, English ivy is Public Enemy No. 1 because it crowds out native ground cover and provides neither habitat nor food for Northern Virginia's native birds and wildlife.

In addition, English ivy hurts our water because the shallow root systems fails to hold the soil on steep hillsides, harms our atmosphere by weighing down otherwise healthy trees and choking young tree seedlings and damages our health by providing cover for Norway rats and mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus.

Arlington spends nearly $100,000 a year to eradicate English ivy, but the monetary cost of the infestation has been masked by the hundreds of volunteers -- mobilized by the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust and other environmental organizations -- who give up their Saturdays to remove this invader from our parks and natural areas.

Nonetheless, perhaps the true cost of English ivy can neither be seen nor heard -- the notable absence of the native birds and wildlife that used to so dominate our region.

And that is no laughing matter.

Michael A. Nardolilli

Vice president

The Northern Virginia

Conservation Trust