|Students express support for AHS |
at school board hearing.
The proposed recommendation in the Annandale Regional Study, which the Fairfax County School Board is scheduled to vote on July 28, would move that community to Woodson High School. At a school board work session on yesterday, at-large board member Tina Hone said she will propose an amendment to keep those students at Annandale High School (AHS).
Ponton retired at the end of the school year, and the school’s former assistant principal Vincent Randazzo is the new principal of AHS.
In a July 18 e-mail to members of the school board, Ponton, calls the Wakefield Chapel community “the lifeblood of AHS.” We thought it was worthwhile to reprint the letter in its entirety:
Dear School Board Members,
I'm writing in support of a proposed amendment by Ms. Hone to keep the Wakefield Chapel community within the Annandale High School attendance area.
When I was promoted to principal at AHS in July of 2005, I inherited a school that was in crisis. Gang-related activity was threatening the safety and security of the learning environment, teachers were working in isolation, and leadership at the top was non-existent. In those early days as principal I often wondered what I had gotten myself into?
Six years have passed and I'm proud to say that I would put Annandale High School up against any other high school in FCPS in terms of academic, co-curricular, extra-curricular, and athletic programs and activities. The school climate and instructional culture is beyond reproach.
While student enrollment has increased over the years, test scores have risen dramatically (among all sub groups) while school suspensions and expulsion recommendations have decreased. Students are polite, cheerful, patient, and tolerant of one another. Time and hard work has healed the wounds of the past. However, is history on the cusp of repeating itself at AHS?
The Wakefield Chapel community of students and parents IS the lifeblood of AHS. To say that if these students (and parents) are removed and sent to another school that “others will step up” is simply an opinion. There is no data to support such an opinion.
On the other hand, PTSA president Emily Slough has presented the board with “real time” data that conclusively demonstrates the negative impact of removing Wakefield Chapel and moving them to W.T. Woodson. To me, losing this supportive community means the poor get poorer (AHS) and the rich get richer (WHS). With approximately 50 percent of AHS students living in poverty, it is unconscionable to remove such a vibrant middle-class community. In my view, all facets of school life will be negatively affected.
In addition, I sometimes feel that the overcrowding situation is often overblown. Yes, the hallways are narrow and crowded during change of classes, but the school has adapted to other aspects of overcrowding. AHS has four lunch periods (and additional serving lines) and sometimes there are two pep rallies in one day if the stadium cannot be used. In fact, student enrollment actually decreased this year, going from a high of 2,600 students (September) to 2,529 (June).
Finally, if Annandale High School is to remain in the top 5 percent of all high schools in the country (according to Jay Mathews) the Wakefield Chapel community MUST stay and continue their contributions to upholding our “Tradition of Excellence.”