DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Dr Bella Dinh-Zarr, Tyler ES

Good morning.

My name is Dr. Bella Dinh-Zarr and my son has attended DCPS schools for almost 3 years.  For the past 2 years, my husband Dr. Robert Zarr and I have been part of a group advocating on behalf of librarians and libraries in DC Public Schools.  What we – and the 5 thousand (5000) people who signed our library petition on Change.org – want, is simply to Save Our School libraries.

School  libraries are a critical tool and resource in all levels of education today – from Preschool to 12th Grade.  Libraries and librarians support 21st century learning as well as the most basic literacy – reading and writing.

Two years ago, Chancellor Henderson instituted a plan that put school librarians on a path to extinction. Under this plan, small schools would no longer have librarians funded by the central office.  And, bigger campuses were given the latitude to spend library funds on other things.

But this committee, under your leadership Mr. Chairman, found the funds to ensure that a large number of DCPS students still attend a school with a librarian. And, to her credit, Chancellor Henderson found monies for a large influx of new books into most of our modernized high schools and some of our middle schools; as well as a modest contribution to most other DCPS campuses.

Our message for school libraries in the FY15 budget is that additional funding is required, not just to maintain the resources we have, but to improve and expand our libraries, because we are already so far behind.

Last fall, DCPS spent $3.4 million for library materials, including 125,000 new books. It sounds like a lot, but a huge shortfall still exists and even schools that received the most funding are still far below accepted nationwide norms in terms of the size of their library collections. About 300,000 additional volumes are still needed at a cost of $6 million.

The most recent information we’ve received from DCPS shows that no additional money is budgeted in FY15 for books. There’s no money for high schools in the process of modernization.  There’s no money for middle schools, such as Stuart-Hobson, that will have their libraries modernized this summer. There is still no money to help the huge number of elementary schools with aging and or almost non-existent collections.

Our schools need an additional $3 million each in FY15 and FY16 for libraries. They need an additional $1 million each year so that all schools can have their collections refreshed.  Many schools need new technology in their libraries, including computers, SmartBoards, eReaders, document cameras, and other devices to help leverage a 21st century library. It is estimated that many schools, particularly those that have had no modernization, need $50,000.   This is a small investment for the valuable resource of our school libraries.

Finally, even though DCPS has made a commitment to funding librarians for most schools, a large number of positions have been vacant or filled by non-credentialed staff. DCPS has no additional resources for its librarian recruiting efforts. The pool of available qualified candidates in our region is just too small. DCPS needs to assist staff to complete their credentials and to recruit nationally using tools such as signing bonuses and relocation expenses to encourage librarians to come to Washington.  We also have an opportunity with the University of Maryland, which applied for a federal grant to train 10 librarians for DCPS. Unfortunately the school did not get the grant. But DCPS could fund this grant itself. A commitment of $250,000 each in FY 15 and FY16, would produce 20 librarians for DCPS. A program like this was done a decade ago and many of those librarians are still working today and are among our best. We urge this program be funded.

Please keep up your important work and fund our school libraries to the needed levels.  It’s no accident that most of us have good memories of our school libraries and our school librarians – they are often the heart of learning in our schools.  If you save our school libraries, the community you serve, especially the students, will greatly benefit from – and remember – your strong leadership.

Thank you.

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Testimony of

T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH

Parent at Tyler Elementary School

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500

DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Danica Petroshius, CHM at Logan EC

Thank you Chairman Catania and members of the Council for holding this important hearing.
I am Danica Petroshius, President of the Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan PTSO and parent of two children at the school – one in Kindergarten and one in preschool 3. I am here because we want to work in partnership with the city to build a great DCPS middle grades Montessori education campus. We strongly believe that our school provides an important choice for parents who want to try a cutting-edge approach grounded in 100 years of practice, evaluation and study. We believe that the Montessori approach is so powerful that it has the potential to draw children back to DCPS schools from the suburbs, private schools and charters. The problem is that, to date, we have not had the kind of support we need from DCPS and the Administration to accomplish our goals, and we ask for your help now.

We want to be clear where we have been – and where we need to go. In January 2013, DCPS announced that CHML would expand to include the middle grades starting in August 2014.

That helped us keep families in our school for 5th and 6th grades – families that would have otherwise left for other middle schools – private, public and charter. Unfortunately, ten months after that announcement, DCPS had provided no resources to make the expansion a reality.
Therefore, in November 2013, we sent letters to Mayor Gray and Chancellor Henderson, held meetings with John McGaw and, later with John Davis, to detail our community’s needs.

Unfortunately, prior to hearing any responses, we were stunned to read in the Washington Post that CHML was cut in the budget reprogramming. We were further disappointed to receive Mr. McGaw’s email stating that “modest improvements… should suffice until a stronger enrollment is built for the middle grades.” We feel we are being told, “if you come, we might build it.”

We got word of one positive step forward recently. DCPS has provided an operational budget that will allow us to have the personnel and some of the learning materials to kick off our expansion next year.

But the fact remains that our parents and students, who come from every ward in the city, will be angry and shocked if there is no middle grades facility to come to. We need more than a few “modest improvements.” We need a strong, welcoming middle grades learning environment.

When the Mayor and DCPS approved our expansion, we parents put skin in the game. We worked with our principal, teachers and other stakeholders to prepare. We implemented teacher recruitment strategies, created architectural site plans, executed a plan to retain current families and recruit new ones. As a result, our lottery numbers were high, which is remarkable given that we don’t even have a place for them to envision their children learning.

As you know, we parents can be demanding and outspoken. I’m a “Type-A” handful for any principal. Our Principal, Brandon Eatman, has been a great and patient leader. But our parents are losing faith in the system that he says we should support. We stand ready to support our principal as he leads our expansion effort. But he and our students need your support to make this promise a reality.

We ask that you provide $1 million in capital funding to turn our empty, preschool-sized, temporary trailer into a vibrant middle grades learning environment. Please don’t set us up to fail. Instead, do what is necessary to give our school community the confidence that our leaders stand with, and for, our children. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

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Testimony of

Danica Petroshius

Parent  and Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) President at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500

Status

DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Lamont Clark, CHM at Logan EC

Thank you Council Members for holding this important hearing.   I am Lamont Clark Treasurer of the Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan PTSO and parent of one son who is a 1st grader at the school currently.  My second son will begin attending the school in the fall.

As the father of two black boys I am acutely aware of the potential perils of their education or lack of it. My oldest son loves to touch things and explore his surroundings what educators would call a physical or kinesthetic learner. However in the traditional classroom children are expected to learn by sitting in their chairs and listening to the teacher – not by exploring.

Unfortunately, when a child’s learning style doesn’t match with the teaching style, trouble occurs. Young black boys can quickly get labeled ‘special ed’ if their learning style does not match traditional methods. Moreover, educational experts have noted that kids as young as eight or nine years old may lose interest in school and by fourth grade African American boys particularly  experienced a sharp decline in their test scores.

As we all know, these same young African American boys go on to have lower high school graduation rates, a greater likelihood of going to prison and higher mortality rates from homicide. I can’t, WE can’t, let DCPS be a pipeline to DYRS.

But Montessori teachers are trained to stimulate the child’s enthusiasm for learning, to guide it, and to help the child learn according to his own unique needs and capabilities.  That is why I am fully invested in Capitol Hill Montessori and would like my child to be able to attend through middle school. While I am fully aware of the sobering statistics of African American boys failing, I am also aware of studies that find that:

“Attending a Montessori program from the approximate ages of three to 11 predicts significantly higher mathematics and science standardized test scores in high school.”[i]

 

Another study found that “In East Dallas, a neighborhood in which the high school dropout rate is over 50%, children who attend EDCS [a Montessori school] have graduated from high school at a rate of 94%, with 88% of those graduates attending college. A ten-year study of standardized test scores found that third grade students’ average scores were in the top 36% nationwide in reading and math.”[ii]

 

Still another study “found that 12-year-old Montessori students wrote more sophisticated and creative stories and showed a more highly developed sense of community and social skills than students in other programs.”[iii]

 

And finally, a comparative study found that “There were strong differences suggesting that Montessori students were feeling more active, strong, excited, happy, relaxed, sociable, and proud while engaged in academic work. They were also enjoying themselves more, they were more interested in what they were doing, and they wanted to be doing academic work more than the traditional students.”[iv]

 

For too long schools across our nation — and here in our nation’s capital — have failed African American boys.  Montessori may provide one way to reverse that trend.  But we can only succeed if DCPS works with us to provide a fully-equipped and vibrant middle scho

 

[i] Dohrmann, K., “Outcomes for Students in a Montessori Program: A Longitudinal Study of the Experience in the Milwaukee Public Schools” (AMI/USA May, 2003). 

 

[ii] East Dallas Community Schools: Montessori Outcomes [Need more info in this reference so that someone could find the study.]

[iii] Lillard, A.S. & Else-Quest, N., “Evaluating Montessori Education,” Science 131: 1893-94 (Sept. 29, 2006).

[iv] Rathunde, K., “A Comparison of Montessori and Traditional Middle Schools: Motivation, Quality of Experience, and Social Context,” The NAMTA Journal 28.3 (Summer 2003): pp. 12-52. 

 

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Testimony of

Lamont Clark

Parent and Parent Teacher Student Organization Treasurer at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500

DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Tiffany Brown, CHM at Logan EC

Good Afternoon:  Council Member Catania and other members of the Committee on Education, thank you for the opportunity to speak at this important council hearing.  My name is Tiffany L. Brown, I am a 4th generation Washingtonian, a product of DC Public Schools, a DCPS Teacher, the Chairperson of the LSAT at the Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, (CHM@Logan), and the proud parent of two children at the school, one in first grade and the other in kindergarten.  I am here as a member of a school community that works tirelessly to ensure that the District has a great Montessori school, Pre-School through 8th grade.  CHM@Logan provides District children an unique learning experience.  The Montessori approach to learning is to embrace the whole child in their learning.  While there are prescribed gates of learning, each student is guided to ensure they reach their own milestone.   In August 2014, CHM@Logan will operate as a full-fledged Pre-school – 7th grade Educational Campus.  In order to do this, we need adequate funding to make this happen.  In late 2013, We, the CHM@ Logan community solictilated assistance from the Office of the Mayor, City Council, as well as DCPS to assure that the facilities as well as the resources would be in place, not planning to be there, but to be there by August 2014.  To date, we have not gotten any assurances that this will happen by the first day of the 2014-2015 school year.  As a product of this great school system, I know that this can be accomplished.

 

I do realize that every parent wants only the best for their child and that is what we want at CHM@Logan.  Our school body is composed of students from every ward in the city, including military families.  Every year since our inception, our numbers have grown, and the number of families seeking a Montessori Education for their children is astronomical, with 1,283 that applied for this upcoming school year alone.    Of that number, nearly 40 have applied for our middle school classes.

 

With all that said, we need our facilities to meet the ever-growing demands of our school community, as we expand to middle school.    We have asked and continue to ask for additional funding to convert our Annex space to a more suitable middle school environment; things like right-sizing the bathroom so that it is appropriate for middle school aged students, adding the needed technology, and other materials that make a Montessori Middle School Program work.

 

As it stands now in the District, the Middle Schools are a mess!  We want to help the District as it turns around its middle schools in the city.  We would love to be viewed as a beacon for Public Montessori Education that the Nation can follow.   If we fail to plan, then we plan to fail.    We want our children to feel supported, protected, and given the opportunity to learn in a Montessori Environment through Middle School.  We are asking that you help us by fully funding the Middle School Expansion, now.  We need our doors to open in August 2014, Ready to Educate.    At CHM@Logan our mission is to educate the whole child for a whole world.   Fully funding our middle school expansion will assist us in doing just that!  Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

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Testimony of

Tiffany L. Brown,

Parent and Local School Advisory Team Chair at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500

DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Shin Young Stallings, CHM at Logan EC

Good morning all, my name is Shin Young Stallings. I live in Anacostia and I’m a 6th grader at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan.  I am very interested in Physics.  To study Physics we need a science lab with equipment like Newton’s cradle, gears and turners, magnets, scales and electrical equipment.  I really want to be an engineer in the future, but to achieve that I need to learn physics.  To get a science lab, we need 25 to 35 thousand dollars, but not only for physics.  We also need the lab for biology, chemistry, astronomy and geology.  I hope you take this in to consideration for the future of our school.  Thank you.

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Testimony of

Shin Young Stallings

Student at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500

DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Gregory Melchoir-Fisher, CHM at Logan EC

Hello, I am Gregory Melchior-Fisher, a 6th grader from Capitol Hill Montessori, and I am here to show what our school could become if we get a science lab. We have almost 300 more currently enrolled today and over 1,000 children on our wait list. Our school needs more science equipment, but we will need to have more money. Many kids in our school want to be astronauts, or doctors, or teachers, or a scientist. They will not be able to reach their goals, unless you help them. Maria Montessori said, “Give a child a chance for success.”

 

We only ask for 25,000 to 30,000. Many schools in DCPS started small, just like us, such as Alice Deal or Stuart Hobson. We can only dream right now of having a middle school that large, but with a science lab, that dream could become a reality. I hope you put our testimonies into serious consideration.  Thank you for listening us today, and I hope we get that science lab.

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Testimony of

Gregory Melchior-Fisher

Student at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500

Status

DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Charlie Melchoir-Fisher, CHM at Logan EC

Good morning council members and neighbors. My name is Charlie Melchior-Fisher, and I’m here with my classmates from the Capitol Hill Montessori @ Logan. We need to have a science lab. Our school is adding a middle school, and I’ll be a 7th grader there.  DCPS says every middle school and high school student should have high quality science, but our school has never had a science lab. We will need one for years to come, so we ask you to give us 20,000 to 30,000 dollars so we can get proper science equipment for the coming year. We know that it may seem like we’re asking for a lot, but science is important to the curriculum and the world. Thank you for listening.

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Testimony of

Charlie Melchior-Fisher

Student at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500

Status

DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Preston Melchoir-Fisher, CHM at Logan EC

My name is Preston Melchior-Fisher, I live in Brookland and I am a 6th grade student at Capital Hill Montessori.  As President Obama said, “Leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today, especially in science, technology, engineering and math.” Our school has minimal equipment to learn most of these four subjects. Without a real science lab, we, our middle school cannot thrive, or our current primary and elementary students when they get to middle grades. We will be behind the rest of the world in science, engineering and the like. Our school needs a science lab to learn STEM, so that we can excel in all types of sciences, such as biology, chemistry, archeology, astronomy and geology, as well as engineering and technology. Thank you for listening.

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Testimony of

Preston Melchior-Fisher

Student at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500

Status

DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Mary Melchoir, CHM at Logan EC

Happy Thursday council members, staff and fellow citizens. My name is Mary Melchior. I am a resident of Brookland in ward 5 and have three 6th grade boys at the Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan.  Our school is adding a grade each year expanding up to 8th grade creating the first adolescent Montessori program in DC.

 

As a member of the ward five council on education we struggled for years after our community middle school was closed and our elementary schools were converted to PK-8 campuses to see our schools get the basic facility components. These schools were left without labs, or basic middle school offerings for years.

 

It seems in approving the middle grades program at Logan DCPS is repeating the same mistakes. No funding has been provided to update the building our middle graders will be using. No science lab, no technology, no basics. Just two years ago $147,000 was spent to renovate this same building to house the School within a School program.  This was always intended to be a temporary facility for them.  Now there are zero dollars to upgrade that same building for middle grade students for a program intended to be a permanent expansion.

 

My family has become the disheartening example for our school community. We chose to stay at Logan due to the strength of the program, staff and teachers and DCPS’s stated commitment to our middle grades program. We did not move to our guaranteed slot at Stuart-Hobson, or other options at McKinley tech middle school or a charter. Now they have pulled the rug out from under us. The building renovation is cancelled, our guarantee to spots at Stuart Hobson are gone, McKinley we are wait listed, middle grades charters largely don’t accept 7th graders. Our choice is gone and we are pointed to by other families at Logan that we can’t trust the city and DCPS to provide just the basics for our students.

 

It also speaks to the general mismanagement of school renovations since mayoral control.  The IG did a report outlining much of it under Mayor Fenty but I think many of the same problems exist.  The original Master Facilities Plan assessed the condition of buildings and planned their renovations due to basic conditions, worst buildings first.  Now we have a standard of the order of school renovations is a matter of mayoral whim.  There may be standards, but they are not explained and the public has no input. The MFP also planned to keep a number of our closed schools in inventory until after the major renovations were finished.  That would have allowed the system to do long term planning and avoid rush costs in renovations by moving students to another building for the year a building was renovated.  Not doing this has not served the taxpayer or DCPS, and the cost increases due to turning these buildings over to charters rather than use them as swing spaces are used as a reason to indicate that charters should get more facilities money.    Also SITs are formed too late to do proper planning leading to projects having large cost overruns and probably not the best designs for their purpose.  Thank you very much for your consideration.

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Testimony of

Mary Melchior

Parent at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500