Updates from Letty – November 4, 2016

Dear Friends,

This week’s update will be shorter than the past few editions – part news and part PSA as we all gear up for Election Day next week. The update section will be of interest to those following the GMHS/MEH campus project. We have no regular City Council meetings scheduled next week, so my updates will be on hiatus and back in your inboxes on November 18th.

Feel free to reach out with questions or concerns until then – especially if you have thoughts on how we’re moving forward with GMHS.

Happy voting!


What Happened This Week:

Joint City Council-School Board Work Session (video available):

Key takeaways:

  • What’s happened since last month – since our last joint meeting, Link – the process consultants – wrapped up interviewing both elected bodies and began interviews with additional stakeholder groups. Staff has been working closely with Link on developing the draft of the roadmap and distilling the feedback from the interviews into questions that need to be answered. Questions have been bucketed by areas of “ownership” and categorized as fact/opinion.
  • Goals of joint session – review the draft of the roadmap and review/add to the 20+ questions (see pages 9-16 here) and decide on a working structure to move the project forward. Questions range from simple data-based questions like “what is current capacity of GMHS” to very complex ones like “what is a budget we can afford, and what are the ways to finance it?” You’ll see that the roadmap assumes we are targeting a November 2017 referendum for the project, which is feasible but ambitious.
  • Working Group – yay or nay? Given the aggressive timeline, the recommendation from Link was to charter a small working group (2 members from each body) to work with them and staff for the next 2 months, with the goal of being able to issue a RFP by Jan/Feb 2017. The working group would not be a decision-making body and would bring all policy decisions back to both full bodies for action. After much debate, ultimately both groups voted unanimously to charter the working group. I expect membership to be determined this week and the working group to start meeting minimum weekly, beginning next week. All meetings will be continue to be open to the public.
  • Letty’s thoughts – while I understand the hesitation of some to charter a working group, I advocated for the idea so that we could make a concerted effort to shoot for the November 2017 timeline. The HVAC and roof maintenance issues at GM are only increasing (with looming costs that will be tough to swallow, knowing that the building could be torn down), so I see a 4 person group as a more practical and efficient way to work together. My hope is that over the next two months, we can:
    1. Find answers to the questions posed so that both bodies have a consistent understanding of the current status of the school, what we can afford, and options. To me, the options we have are: build new all at once (with or without development), build new in phases (with or without development), renovate, fix maintenance issues, or do nothing.
    2. Engage the community and key stakeholders in those options and implications of each of those options. The lack of transparency to the community was one reason the last PPEA process failed, and I’d like to ensure that we bring citizens into the fold much earlier. You should see the same data we have and be able to let your voices be heard. Even if you disagree with the option we choose, I’m a firm believer that if you show people how you came to the decision, it is more likely to be accepted.
    3. Choose an option that we can all support, and issue a RFP.
  • Next Steps – expect the working group to get to work, ahead of the next joint session on November 21!


School Enrollment Projections

For those of you who may not be on the FCCPS Morning Announcements distribution list, the official school enrollment figures and forecasts have been published here: City Council as a body has not discussed the data yet, so I don’t have more information on the assumptions behind the data (ie, I can’t answer questions like – do the projections include current and planned development?) Personally – while we’re hard at work on the GMHS/MEH project – I am equally concerned about the forecast at the elementary level, especially as it relates to bumping up against the 660 hard enrollment cap at Mt. Daniel by 2020, and believe we should accelerate district-wide capital planning sooner than later.


What’s Coming Up:

Are you ready for Election Day?


  • Tues 11/8 – Election Day
  • Tues, 11/15 – Joint meeting with Arlington County Board and Alexandria City Council – in Alexandria
  • Mon, 11/21 – City Council work session (regular and joint with School Board) – topics to include: joint discussion with SB on campus plan; City Hall project; Visioning work; Closed Session on Miller House
  • Mon 11/28 – City Council meeting