Charities Have Resource

In Locally Based Web Site

The article "Summer Puts a Squeeze on Area Nonprofits" [Extra, Aug. 5] puts needed attention on the lag in donations to local charities and nonprofits. However, I was disappointed to see that there were no resources for struggling nonprofits or individuals inspired to help. I am convinced that many readers would like to know where to turn.

Local organizations such as offer businesses and individuals a convenient source for donating their used office equipment, clothes, furniture and more to charities and nonprofits in their area. Charities can sign up free of charge, search the site, and request items they can use for their organizations and parishes. Many items discarded by businesses and individuals are consistently listed and claimed by charities and nonprofits in the Washington area and nationwide.

Businesses such as Throwplace help make the vital connections between donors and nonprofits possible and are important to explore in the lean summer months. When given new and convenient avenues for donation, many people find that they do have that old computer in the back office, extra canned and packaged foods and children's clothes in the attic to give to those in need.

Mara Veraar

The District

Call for Continued Support

For Alexandria Schools

During the past several months, the Alexandria School Board has made several difficult and controversial decisions about the management of individual schools, the leadership of the school system and the leadership of the board. The board made its decisions based on all the information available to it at the time, input from wide sectors of the community and thoughtful deliberation and soul-searching by each individual member.

These decisions have generated a lot of debate within the community and the board. Reasonable people have disagreed over the correctness of the decisions. We could continue to debate the soundness of these decisions, parsing each other's words and looking for ways to embarrass and humiliate each other. Such a protracted debate would, however, take precious time and energy from educating our children and stall educational progress.

Furthermore, an extended debate is unlikely to change minds. Our other option is to move forward, learning from our past, finding new ways to work cooperatively with each other, redirecting our energy to the education of our children, and realizing that, as with all controversial decisions, time will ultimately be the judge of the soundness of the board's decisions.

This coming school year presents the school system with many significant educational opportunities that require the school system and the community to work together. Building on past educational successes, the Alexandria public schools are embarking on some innovative initiatives and expanding other initiatives designed to provide high-quality education for all our children. Our success as a school system depends on a continued partnership between the schools and the community.

Our success this past year, plus the innovations planned for the year ahead, provide our students with much promise.

* In all areas of testing, from kindergarten reading readiness, to SOLs and SATs in the high school, there was improvement and it was dramatic in a number of areas. For four years, SAT scores have risen more than the state and national increase rate, even though Alexandria's schools have far more students at risk than the state or national average.

* K-prep (a two-week pre-kindergarten workshop for incoming students) is now available in all elementary schools except Tucker, which began school July 21 on its new modified, year-round schedule.

* Three new Parent Resource Centers have opened around the city, in cooperation with public and private organizations, offering learning resources where there are families in need.

* Our tuition assistance program for teachers now offers complete reimbursement for courses leading to a master's degree in a field related to a teacher's work for Alexandria public schools.

* We are expanding the laptop initiative program this fall to the entire high school. Every student in grades 9-12 in the public schools of this city will have their own laptop for the year, with high-speed, wireless networking in the two schools and dial-up connections available to the students at home. We are not only "leveling the playing field" for our students, but also their families.

* The capital improvement budget has supported a long list of renovations and updates in all schools. We move forward with these renovations this year.

* With tremendous community support, we awarded a construction contract for the new T.C. Williams High School to Hensel-Phelps, the ninth-largest and one of the most respected contractors in America (best known lately in this area for rebuilding the devastated areas of the Pentagon). The new building may well be the first public high school in America with the coveted silver rating for environmental sustainability. After a strong grass-roots movement, the Alexandrians for a green T.C. brought the issue to the School oard three years ago.

* Increased funding for differentiated resources that puts the money for resources in the hands of those most knowledgeable about the needs.

* Continued small class sizes that are the envy of surrounding jurisdictions.

* We now have the opportunity to move forward with programs such as math specialists in every elementary school, payment of the cost of Advanced Placement exams for every student taking AP courses, competitive teacher salaries and increasing choice at the elementary school level.

Clearly, we have accomplished much in our public schools in the last few years. Those achievements can continue only in an atmosphere of cooperation and collegiality among board members, the staff, the school community and the city as a whole. We deeply appreciate the long and strong commitment of the City Council and mayor to our schools. Nearly 250 local businesses and organizations participated in our partnership last year and over 2,500 individuals volunteered countless hours in our schools. None of the growing achievement record of Alexandria's public schools would have been possible otherwise. Let us continue to do the job with the same spirit.

Mark O. Wilkoff


Alexandria City School Board

Praise for Boissonnault,

None for Perry or Luby

I sat quietly and watched the drama unfold during Alexandria School Superintendent Rebecca Perry's arrest for driving while intoxicated, and the School Board's subsequent punishment. But after your latest article on Melissa Luby's son pleading guilty last month to destruction of property -- a Class 3 misdemeanor -- I felt compelled to write. Hear, hear to James Boissonnault in his quest for Luby's School Board seat and his quest to oust Perry. Having been graced by her presence as our former superintendent, all I can say to the students and parents is, I feel your pain.

It was truly a happy day for many in Mecklenburg County when Perry requested to be released from her contract early to take the job in Alexandria. I personally would have made her pay to get out of her contract early just on general principle.

In reference to Luby's son, I wonder where he got the idea to egg Boissonnault's house? Most teenagers do not involve themselves in their parents' battles. However, I do have to feel some pity for Luby. Perry appears to make it a habit of picking one individual board member to be her friend in each division she works. Unfortunately for that friend, they tend to lose their own identities and beliefs and take hers on. It happened here in Mecklenburg, it appears to have happened in Alexandria and it will probably happen in her next school division. I do, however, feel truly sad for those who have gotten caught up in the drama that seems to surround Ms. Perry wherever she goes.

Kelly C. Boyle

Mecklenburg County, N.C.