Posted on May 28, 2007

Rebecca Perry, Alexandria Superintendent of Schools, is out of a job when her contract expires next June. By a 5-4 vote, School Board members decided not to renew the contract.

Its' decision smells, almost like an aged glass of Chardonnay.


Personal Error in Judgment

In 2004, Ms. Perry visited an Alexandria restaurant after an evening meeting. Nobody knew what was served from the menu but Perry did order two glasses of wine. On the way home, she was stopped by Alexandria police and arrested for driving under the influence. Perry pled guilty to the charge. When her contract came up for renewal later that year, she won the support of the Board for a new one. But a School Board reelection in 2006 turned over eight of nine positions.

Last week, board members would not speak publicly about their decision, honoring privacy laws and for fear of defamation of character. In fact, their attorneys advised them not to speak out about their vote.

Fiscal irresponsibility was the lone criticism of Perry. Her 8% proposed budget increase in operating costs was double what the Alexandria City Council had suggested. Even so, the School Board approved the budget increase by a 5-4 vote.

Mark Wilkoff, who served on the School Board from 2000 to 2005, said the lack of reasoning indicated questionable motives among the five members who voted to not renew Perry’s contract. "The politics of hate and revenge have won," Wilkoff said. "And the children of Alexandria are the losers."

Student Body Achieved Under Perry

To her credit, Perry sustained accreditation for 14 of the 16 public schools in the city. Before her arrival, only two had accreditation. Perry was credited with improving minority achievement and presided over a student SAT score hike while those in neighboring school districts fell.

She assumed the superintendent’s position in 2001 and came to Alexandria from Mecklenburg County, Va., (which borders North Carolina)., where she served as superintendent three years. Before that, she served 21 years in the Fauquier County Public School System. Perry is the mother of five children, all of whom received a public-school education.

The Connection Newspapers reported some board members said Perry had a domineering attitude and was not open to discussion. However, S. Howard Woodson, president of the Alexandria branch of the NAACP, felt otherwise. ”I think this is based on personal vendettas and political agendas. By not allowing public input into the decision, the board was cowardly in its action. If this decision was the right one to make, why not allow the public to comment on it before it was made?"

Washington Post Endorses Superintendent

In a May 27 editorial, The Washington Post called Perry’s tenure “successful.” The article read, “Given the evident progress the district has made and given that most education experts say that turnover tends to undercut reform efforts, the call for a different direction is inexplicable.” Commenting on her drunk-driving arrest three years ago, the Post editorial said, “…she paid a price for that dangerous lack of judgment, and the time has passed for that to be reason for her ouster.”

Bob Battle
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