Arlington superintendent Francisco Duran gets new 4-year contract

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Francisco Duran.(Courtesy Arlington Public Schools)

Citing Superintendent Francisco Durán’s leadership during the pandemic and investments in new resources used to teach reading, the Arlington School Board voted unanimously last week to renew his contract for another four years.

Durán was entering the final year of his original contract, which he signed after being hired in 2020. He joined Arlington Public Schools from neighboring Fairfax County, where he worked as chief academic and equity officer for the state’s largest school system.

Durán’s new deal is scheduled to end on June 30, 2027.

“Education has been a game changer for me in my life,” Durán said at Thursday’s board meeting. “It’s opened so many possibilities for someone who grew up speaking Spanglish — not English too well and not Spanish too well — and learning English by learning French. Being able to actually understand grammar through that experience is what motivated me at the very, very beginning of my career to ensure that we were instilling the skills that students needed to be able to read and write at a level that would allow them to open any door.”

During public comments, community members representing several groups praised Durán’s ability to navigate the pandemic’s complexities, emphasize equity and invest in new curriculum resources.

At a previous board meeting, Durán touted investments in the Science of Reading, a literacy approach that emphasizes phonics, in contributing to improvement in end-of-year test scores.

Michelle McCarthy, principal at Jamestown Elementary School, told Durán she appreciated “the work you have done to increase compensation for all staff, the passion you have demonstrated to increase and improve social-emotional learning and well-being for all stakeholders and the work you did to implement our baseline agreement through collective bargaining.”

“We have no doubt that you will continue with the same level of commitment that you have displayed since starting with us several years ago,” McCarthy said.

One parent of an APS elementary school student and a “medically complex special needs graduate of APS” said she believes in Durán’s mission “of creating a school system that knows each of its students by name and most definitely by need.”

Board member Mary Kadera said the school system’s reading screener helped identify over 800 elementary school students who needed extra reading help, “students that we would not have caught early if we had stayed satisfied with the status quo. That is truly monumental.”

In addition to helping students catch up academically, last year, Durán navigated the school system through a rise in youth overdoses. Now, the school system has expanded the availability of Narcan and introduced a plan to allow students to carry it.

In comments after the vote, Durán described students who are suspended and excluded from schools “based on behaviors that at times are behaviors that we have because the systems and structures in place created [it] for them. When we look at the data, we see those are Black and brown students with disabilities. That is unacceptable.”

“If we’re going to be the amazing school system that I know we are, that includes [helping] every student, not just a few,” Durán said.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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