6 Questions With Tannia Talento

The Arlington School Board member discusses the boundary changes, class size, the opportunity gap and efforts to rename W-L.

Photo by Terry Belt.

Talento, 42, joined the board in January 2017 after campaigning to address the opportunity gap and mental health education in Arlington’s schools. She was elected vice chair in July.

What unique perspective do you bring to the board?

I don’t have a college degree, which makes me a minority in Arlington. I was a daughter of immigrant parents who came here from Guatemala. We were low-income at times. [As an adult] I was a working mom and a single mom for a while. Those people exist in Arlington.

What do you hope to achieve during your term?

Closing the opportunity/excellence gap. I passionately believe we can do that here. We have all the resources, the systems and the staff. We battle a lot of subconscious bias and low expectations for [some] students.

What’s the board’s biggest challenge going into the new school year?

The boundaries are changing with the 2019 opening of Fleet [Elementary School, on the Jefferson Middle School campus]. So, it’s finding a way to assure [parents] that no matter where [their kids] end up, they will have a great education.

Any looming tough decisions?

We are going to have to…raise class sizes. I don’t how much longer we can continue to sustain class sizes with the budget we have.

What steps are schools taking to keeping students safe?

After the shootings [in Parkland, Florida], we did an assessment of our protocols. We can’t take our safety for granted. Over the summer, we updated our systems to make sure everything is uniform; the same style of check-in, all the doors will be locked, always have a school resource officer.

In June, the school board voted to change the name of Washington-Lee High School.

It was a difficult decision, but [the name Lee] has been a symbol of hatred and divisiveness used by white supremacists. For a school system as diverse as ours, how do you justify honoring a name that is being used as a symbol of hate?

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