Alexandria city officials have ramped up efforts in recent years to improve the stubbornly dismal academic performance of Jefferson-Houston School. They brought in a new principal and a group of new teachers; they hired an outside turnaround consultant and math coaches; they instituted extra tutoring, drew up blueprints for a state-of-the-art makeover and scheduled the longest school day in the city.
But Virginia lawmakers say it’s too late. The state plans to take over the school, thanks to bills passed in the General Assembly last week that would create a statewide school division to oversee Virginia’s chronically under-performing schools.
The move is galvanizing protests from teachers, principals and school board leaders in Alexandria and around the state. They argue it’s impractical for a distant school board to manage the day-to-day details of bus rides and school lunches. And they say it’s out of sync with a long American tradition of locally controlled public schools.