One Big Difference

Things don't seem to change much in Alexandria's school politics. The superintendent of schools removes a popular principal from a well-performing school and puts her into a poorly run school, angering parents. An aloof and arrogant School Board refuses even to listen to parents with complaints about the schools. Intimations of racism are whispered surrounding decisions by the School Board.

In the early 1990s, then-superintendent Paul Masem made a fatal mistake, removing a popular principal from MacArthur Elementary School, in one of the wealthiest and most vocal neighborhoods in the city. He thereby earned the enmity of hundreds of parents, just as current School Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry has with her personnel decision. An out-of-touch School Board, which was appointed by the City Council in those days, then made a mess of two middle schools in Alexandria while ignoring the warnings of parents that they were moving too fast in creating the schools.

When I and other parents, led by former city councilman Lonnie Rich, convinced Alexandrians to vote for elected school boards and ousted the last appointed board, we were accused of racism by some in the black community, who thought the appointed board was more sensitive to their needs. This time, the School Board itself has been accused of racism for demoting its vice chair, a black woman, who opposes the superintendent.

There are some differences this time: alcohol and eggs. Alcohol entered the picture after Perry was caught driving while intoxicated. School Board member Melissa W. Luby was a passenger in the car. Luby, who seems to be the progeny of the school boards of the early '90s, then tried to use the mayor and other public officials to rescue her.

The son of City Council member Joyce Woodson is also involved. He was arrested, along with Luby's son, for egging the home of a parent leading the campaign against Luby. It's all great theater for a small town with nothing better to do in the summer.

The biggest difference, though, between Alexandria in 2004 and Alexandria in 1992 is that the citizens don't have to put up with this nonsense much longer. We can vote Luby and the entire School Board out of office if it doesn't shape up, or even petition the courts to remove a board member between elections. In the early 1990s, it took superhuman efforts to get rid of boards who had been appointed as patronage by Alexandria's politicians.

Philip K. Beck


Stop the Personal Attacks

We are saddened and dismayed at the recent flurry of letters, articles, discussions and interviews that lodge personal attacks at individuals within this city that appear to revolve around a dislike at positions taken by those elected to public office.

Those of us who made the effort to vote in the recent city elections chose people to run our city whom we felt would do the best job, not believing we would always agree with their decisions. Now that decisions are being made that some individuals might not agree with, public statements are being made against the character of some of these elected officials. When did this behavior become acceptable? When did we forget that it is the issue(s) that should be the focus of our dialogue, not character assassination because the decision or outcome did not go the way we would like? Does freedom of speech also mean the freedom to be uncivil? We don't think so.

There is a procedure for recalling elected officials, and if there are enough voters who are unhappy, have at it. That's the way to address these issues.

We are among the vast majority of residents, voters and land and business owners in the city who do not have children in school but understand the importance of a strong school system, run by people who are professionals in that field, who strive to make all of our schools the best in the nation.

It is our observation that the vast majority of those professionals do just that. We also believe that we have elected a School Board to oversee that process. We don't always agree with their decisions, but we would rather their focus be on educating Alexandria's youth than battling over personal attacks.

Two years from now, we will have an opportunity to vote for them again or to vote for others. That's the way this country was built to work. Let's return to a more civilized behavior in the public arena. Let's focus on the important issues, of which there are many, not personal attacks on those who we have chosen to serve and do serve our community for one of the highest of callings: public service.

Rick and Ann Dorman