On the eve of the anniversary of his first year in office, U.S. President Barack Obama motored from the White House to the Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church this morning to spend time with the students there, and then deliver a major address to announce that he’s seeking another $1.3 billion in this year’s federal budget to continue his “Race to the Top” educational stimulus effort.
Graham Road Elementary is described as “one of the lowest-income yet highest-achieving schools in Fairfax County” where almost 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals and 95 percent of the school population is comprised of African American and Latino students. In 2008, according to the White House, “all of the school’s sixth graders met Virginia’s reading standards, and 96 percent met math standards.”
Departing the White House in a motorcade at 9:41 a.m., the president and Education Secretary Arne Duncan arrived at Graham Hill Elementary at 9:59. The president walked into a classroom where sixth grade students and teachers Mary Olmstead and Amanda Shopa awaited him and said, “Hey guys, hello!” He shook hands with all the approximately 30 students and said, “Good to see you.” The two sat on stools in the front of the class and Duncan asked, “Who is never going to wash their hands again!” to a lot of laughter. They began a 20-minute conversation by asking the students about their schoolwork.
The president and Secretary Duncan then moved to an adjacent classroom with a brightly-decorated sign reading, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Look at the Letters We Know in This Room!” When he entered the room to find news photographers sitting in chairs meant for very young children, he quipped, “You guys look really cute in those chairs.” In addition to his formal remarks, Obama said the Graham Road school “is one of Virginia’s finest” and “used innovative approaches to teaching.” He added, “Offering our children an outstanding education is one of your most fundamental obligations.”
Ironically, Graham Road Elementary is under extreme pressure from budget cuts being considered this month by Fairfax County school and Board of Supervisor officials.