How Much Have We Lost?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Weekly Column: Virginia Education Official’s Visit Focuses on Improving Student Testing

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of December 3, 2014.
Virginia Education Official’s Visit Focuses on Improving Student Testing
Two weeks ago, Virginia Education Secretary Anne Holton toured Walt Whitman Middle School and Hybla Valley Elementary School at my invitation as part of the state’s effort to change the way we assess school progress.
 
Virginia school accreditation is largely based on student performance on the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, tests created in 1995 by then-Governor George Allen.  

Thirty schools in Fairfax County were accredited with warning and seven of those schools, including Mount Vernon High School and West Potomac High School, are in the 44th Delegate District along the U.S. 1 Corridor.

Friday, November 28, 2014

My Lawyer Hat: Time to Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage

In my other job, I practice law for a living, including personal injury, wrongful death and medical malpractice. 

I posted this article below on my law firm blog which is generally applicable to anyone who owns a car. 
Time to Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage
This weekend, I received  a text message from GEICO regarding my policy renewal so I thought I would take a minute to check out my coverages.  Surprisingly, they were not what I thought they were.

The number one problem I see when people come to see me when they are injured is a lack of coverage.  Frequently, the worst drivers on the road are either uninsured or have bare bones minimum policies.
I have settled countless cases for extremely low values simply because there is not enough coverage and the person who injured my client had no assets.  Most people do not realize that you can protect yourself and your family against these kinds of situations. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Squirrels of Capitol Square

I just saw squirrels highlighted in the second issue of the 2014 newsletter of the Virginia Natural History Society.  

Style Weekly has an entire article on it you can read here:


Both articles have a vivid account of the murder of one squirrel by a dog and the attempted murder of a dog by a brick-wielding Capitol Policeman named Mr. Eustice who apologized for only maiming the dog because "he attempted to kill it."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Are Race & Class Barriers Also a Problem in FCPS?

I was driving between court appearance last week, and I ran across this story by Kavitha Cardoza on WAMU regarding race and class divisions in the District of Columbia.  As I listened, it occurred to me that much of it might just be just as applicable to Fairfax County as it was the District.

For example, one of the points made during he story was that kids from low income families tend to do better when they go to school with kids from other background.

In the story, a Harvard Fellow with the Century Foundation, Richard Kahlenberg, pointed out that packing low income children into one schools doesn't is problematic.  He said "one of the best things you can do to improve the education of all children is to give them access to an economically integrated environment.... low income kids will do better if you give them the right environment."

He points out that putting low income families in schools where (1) you have parents in a position to engage, (2) peers are academically engaged, and (3) where you have strong teachers, is the best way to maximize the ability of all children to learn.  He pointed out that packing all of the lower income kids into schools doesn't work.

First, Kahlenberg's description of successful schools reminded me of West Potomac H.S. when I attended between 1984-1989.  I had lots of friends from lots of different backgrounds.  As kids, we didn't think or judge - we all competed for the same grades (and in full disclosure, I was nothing special - #74 out of 420 something).

Second, this story brought to mind the existing situation on U.S. 1 where we have multiple schools with over 70% free and reduced lunch populations.  This just reiterates why we need to get to work on U.S. 1.

Listen to the story and let me know what your thoughts!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Weekly Column: Annual School Accreditation Reports a Mixed Bag

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of October 2, 2014.
Annual School Accreditation Reports a Mixed Bag

The Virginia Department of Education has issued accreditation reports on our public schools. For our area, the results are mixed.

First, it is important to understand that the state instituted new math tests this year. Statewide, 32% of schools were not fully accredited, largely because of new math tests. In Fairfax County, 171 of 191 schools (11%) were not fully accredited - 7 of the 20 Fairfax County schools with accreditation challenges were in the U.S. 1 Corridor.

Hybla Valley ES returned to full accreditation this year notwithstanding having the highest free and reduced lunch (90.3%) and limited- English proficient populations (66.96%) in Fairfax County. Hybla Valley shows that committed teachers, principals, students and families can meet accreditation’s steepest challenges.  They deserve a round of applause. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Weekly Column: U.S. 1 Transit Study: It’s Time to Speak Up

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of October 15, 2014.
U.S. 1 Transit Study: It’s Time to Speak Up
Last week, Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transit held the last public hearing on the U.S. 1 Multimodal Transit Study. This study will determine the most appropriate road configuration, mode of transit and accompanying land uses for the U.S. 1 corridor for the next 30 years. As the study ends, public input is absolutely critical.

In 2012, Senator Toddy Puller and I won approval of $2 million to fund the study.  After sixteen months taking input and considering various alternatives, the consultant team is recommending the “Hybrid Option” – (1) a six-lane U.S. 1, (2) a bike-pedestrian path the entire length, (3) a median-dedicated bus rapid transit system from Huntington Metro station to Woodbridge, and (4) a two-stop Yellow Line Metro extension with stops at Beacon Hill and Hybla Valley. The total cost in 2014 dollars would be about $2.4 billion.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Protecting Mt. Vernon's Fisheries

The 44th District is fortunate to serve as the sentinel "guarding" our border with Maryland.  The Potomac River is a true asset and Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) helps to keep it thriving and to restore it.  Outdoor activities like fishing and hunting create millions of dollars of economic activity in the Commonwealth.

DGIF's has a team of biologists who continually monitor the our areas creeks and rivers.  It is funded nearly entirely by licensing fees for fishing and hunting, and grants.

DGIF's biologist in our area is John Odenkirk.  I have taken several trips with him to learn about his efforts to study and monitor the Potomac's Snakehead population which originated in Dogue Creek and Little Hunting Creek.  Here's some of my prior posts:


DGIF publishes a series of videos called "The Fish Head Chronicles" on Facebook.  One of their latest versions focuses on John's Mount Vernon fish monitoring and removal of an invasive species called the water chestnut.  You can see the passion he brings to his job in the video.  You can watch it here.


Enjoy the video and make sure you "Like" their page on Facebook!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

44th District School Report Cards

The Virginia State Board of Education has issued its academic report cards for all of the schools in the 44th District.

I will write more later on the significance of these results.  The schools that changed status from last year are West Potomac HS, Whitman MS, and Hybla Valley ES.

44th District Schools 2012-13 Academic Report Cards 

SchoolAccreditedFRM
Population
Limited
English
Proficient
Link
Overall Fairfax County
Fully
Accredited
27.83%
West Potomac HS
With 
Warning
42.22%16.03%
Mt. Vernon HS
With 
Warning
55.8%16.83%
Hayfield Secondary
Fully
Accredited
32.16%9.32%
Carl Sandburg MS
Fully
Accredited
44.82%17.74%
Whitman MS
With 
Warning
60.45%22.54%
Belleview ES
Fully
Accredited
33.64%23.22%
Bucknell ES
With 
Warning
78.09%44.17%
Fort Belvoir ES
Fully
Accredited
30.5%4.14%
Fort Hunt ES
Fully
Accredited
32.31%12.65%
Groveton ES
Fully
Accredited
72.29%54.66%
Hayfield ES
Fully
Accredited
10.93%11.66%
Hollin Meadows ES
Fully
Accredited
54.15%34.77%
Hybla Valley ES
Fully
Accredited
90.39%66.96%
Mt. Vernon Woods ES
With 
Warning
84.3%53.18%
Riverside ES
Fully
Accredited
66.04%40.27%
Stratford ES
Fully
Accredited
18.96%5.84%
Washington Mill ES
With 
Warning
56.4%34.86%
Waynewood ES
Fully
Accredited
1.66%4.28%
Woodlawn ES
With 
Warning
63.29%25.10%
Woodley Hills ES
Fully
Accredited
69.64%52.16%

Monday, August 25, 2014

Weekly Column: The Top Three Issues: The Future of U.S. 1, Improving Local Schools, and Helping The Uninsured

The following is my column that will exclusively appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette in the week of August 25, 2014.

The Top Three Issues: The Future of U.S. 1, Improving Local Schools, and Helping The Uninsured
There are many issues facing the communities between the Potomac River, Huntley Meadows Park, Fort Belvoir and the City of Alexandria.  The top three are U.S. 1, the future of our local schools, and a burgeoning uninsured population. 

First, our quality of life revolves U.S. 1.  The future of U.S 1 not only functions as the spine of our mobility, but it drives housing, retail choices, property values, schools, environmental quality, crime levels, and tax revenue.     

A year ago, Senator Puller and I secured $2 million to fund the U.S. 1 Multimodal Study and determine the optimal transit, road, pedestrian, cycling, and accompanying land configuration for the U.S. 1 Corridor.  That study will come to a conclusion in the next few months.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Weekly Column: Children’s Issues Dominate First Hispanic Town Hall

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of August 18, 2014.
Children’s Issues Dominate First Hispanic Town Hall

On Saturday, August 16, 2014, I held my third town hall meeting of the year and my first ever Hispanic Community Town Hall.  I was also joined by the first Democratic elected Latino State Delegate - Alfonso Lopez - who represents South Arlington and Bailey's Crossroads.  

The Hispanic population has grown from less than one percent in Virginia in the 1970s to 8.6% today.  Here in our area, there was virtually no Hispanic population when I was a kid.  Today, the Hispanic population is the largest minority demographic in the 44th District.  One in four people who lives in the 44th District is Hispanic.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mulligan Road/Jeff Todd Way Set to Open!

The Mulligan Road - newly renamed Jeff Todd Way - saga is set to come to an end very soon.  The new road will run from the Roy Rogers in Woodlawn to the bottom of the large hill on Telegraph Road just south of Hayfield Secondary School.  It is a hugely needed improvement for East-West traffic flow in the Mt. Vernon-Lee Area. 

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) advised me today that the road will be open on August 18, 2014 with a ribbon cutting on August 25, 2014.  Here's some older articles I've written about it:



On Sunday, August 10, 2014, I "inspected" the new road on my bike with my new GoPro camera.  You can see my video at 4x speed below the flip (sorry there is no music).


Judge Martin V.B. Bostetter, Jr.

When I got out of law school, the economy was still in the doldrums.  The firm seemed to have a few post-divorce bankruptcies coming through and the partners needed someone to figure them out so it fell to the new guy - me.  That's how I became a bankruptcy lawyer among other things.

At the time, there were two judges in the Alexandria Division Courthouse - Stephen Mitchell and the Chief Judge - Martin V.B. Bostetter, Jr.  I went on to try a few cases to both of them.

Last week, I learned of the passing of Judge Bostetter at the age of 88.

While I did not practice regularly before him and only practice before him for three of his forty years on the bench, I will never forget the day I was sworn in.

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