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DC Public Schools FY15 Budget Hearing Testimony by Martin Welles, Amidon-Bowen ES

Good Evening Mayor Gray, Deputy Mayor for Education Smith, and State Superintendent of Education Aguirre:

My name is Martin R. Welles, Esq. and I have three children at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School and am President of the PTA.  While I am primarily testifying today on behalf of my interest in improving Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, it should also be noted that I am one of the Ward 6 Representatives on Deputy Mayor Smith’s Student Assignment and Boundary Committee, and have also recently been named as one of the parent advisors on Chancellor Henderson’s newly formed Parent Cabinet.  I think my interests as a parent are aligned with my interests in trying to have high quality educational options throughout our city.  The comments I make tonight, however, I make as a parent.

It takes a partnership to reform schools and I want to take this time to thank you each of you for allowing me to work with you over the years.  Mayor Gray, we have accomplished many of our goals at Amidon-Bowen, such as increasing enrollment from 229 students to 372 projected for next year (63% increase).   We had a nice 10 point gain in our reading and 4 point gain in our math scores last year and I’m told that preliminary indications demonstrate another successful year is in store for testing.  You can also see a noticeable change in school culture.  We have many partners in our success – from Everybody Wins!, DC United, Playworks, Target Foundation and Kid Power, and of course your office, to name just a few.  Deputy Mayor Smith, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to work with you on the student assignment and boundary issues – I feel our work has only just begun there.  Superintendent Aguirre we had a great partnership in improving Landsburgh Park while you were Director of Parks and Rec – the new basketball courts and community garden have taken hold, and the new dog park should be constructed this Spring.

Mayor Gray, although this is an operating budget meeting, I do want to take this opportunity to thank you for the capital improvements to the school – the Phase 1 renovation, playground renovation, and installation of the new windows which is scheduled to start as soon as Mother Nature cooperates. We are not done at Amidon-Bowen with capital improvements, and we really need to begin working on the renovations to the swing space soon to be vacated by Appletree Charter School, the gymnasium, cafeteria, and additional classrooms in the library.  We are growing rapidly and providing a standard classroom for all children – especially a high risk population like those at Amidon-Bowen is paramount.

There are a couple areas in the 2015 Fiscal Year Budget that I would like for you to consider as they pertain to Amidon-Bowen, and more generally across the District.

 

  •          Realignment of classrooms due to Growth

We are adding a third section of kindergarten and a third section of 2nd grade due to our growth.  We received the money for the operating costs, but there was no corresponding allocation for capital improvements.  We have the space, but we need capital money so that children are in the same wings as their cohorts.  Otherwise, one section of Kindergarten and one section of 2nd grade will be remotely located from their peers. (see attached drawing) It is an easy fix and we have the space, we just need to combine two small rooms in the kindergarten wings.  This will involve knocking down a wall this summer.  Then, we need to relocate the art and dance rooms so that they are in the space being vacated by Appletree Charter School. This will free up classroom space in the academic wing.  It’s relatively simple and straightforward – just building a couple walls, doors and installing the flooring and walls.  Relocating the art and dance rooms from the academic wing into the “specials” area will allow all classrooms to be in the same area with their peers.  Finally, we will need to install new lighting and doors and a fresh coat of paint in the parent resource room so that we can increase family engagement.  The FY 15 budget accounts for the operating costs, but it doesn’t account for the capital improvements necessary. We have other capital improvement projects to complete the school, but accommodating the 3rd section of Kindergarten and 2nd Grade is urgent and necessary prior to the start of next year. My estimate, unverified by DGS, is that these projects could be completed for approximately $300,000.

  •          Extended Day Program

I support an extended day program at Amidon-Bowen and also support year-round schooling.  There is a line on the budget for extended day next year.  However, it is my understanding that there is a collective bargaining agreement in place with the Teacher’s Union that requires a vote of support from the Union in order to extend the day.  Our teachers work long days and have many challenges and they should be fairly compensated for their work.  I believe Charter Schools have more flexibility in the work day requirements and so, if possible, I would like to see a leveling of the playing field in this respect.  Public schools, especially the lowest 40 performing, need more operations funding so that additional teachers/staff can be hired during the day to alleviate some of the work load and make the extended day program a reality at DCPS.  I would like to see funding for extended day as a line item on the budget, but also have some sort of tie-in to the “regular” work-day funding.  For example, the budget could reflect an additional half-day salary for each grade contingent upon the implementation of the extended day program.  This could give teachers the opportunity for a more flexible schedule during the “regular” day.  I just do not think that a vote by the Teacher’s Union should determine whether there should be an extended day program.

  •          Summer School/Year Round School

I also support year-round schooling and I think adding summer school at each school – especially the lower performing schools is an important first step in this initiative.  When summer school locations are consolidated, the children who need the educational continuity the most just do not attend a remote school – even with busing provided.  Therefore, I would like to see a 2015 budget allocation for summer school at Amidon-Bowen for Amidon-Bowen students, and other students on a space available basis.

  •          Charter School Discharges in October/February

Like clock-work, Amidon-Bowen receives two waves of students discharged from Charter Schools.  The first wave comes in October, after the official count day and after budget money has attached to each Charter and Public school.  The second wave comes around February before the DC CAS test.  Generally speaking, the children who arrive at Amidon-Bowen in October are children with behavioral issues (attendance, discipline etc.).  The February wave generally consists of students whose behavior might be fine, but are basic or below basic in reading and math levels.  While these may be generalizations, it defies logic to think that a Charter school would discharge a well-behaved, high performing student.  I have heard that the children who are nudged out of Charter schools because they are basic and below basic are sometimes promised an opportunity to re-enroll in the next academic year.  Because they re-enroll as “new” students the subsequent school year, the test scores for those children do not count.  If public schools, like Amidon-Bowen, are doing the heavy lifting for the children Charter schools discharge, then there needs to be extra budget money allocated for the October and February influx of children at Amidon-Bowen. I therefore ask for additional money in Amidon-Bowen’s 2015 budget to accommodate the October and February influx of Charter school students.

I thank you for your time and I look forward to partnering with each of you again this year.  We have a lot of work to do, but I am proud to be able to send my children to public school in the District of Columbia.

————–

Elizabeth Bacon

Parent at the Capitol Hill Cluster School and Vice President of the Capitol Hill Cluster School PTA

418 7th Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002

Fiscal Year 2015 Budget for Public Schools in the District of Columbia

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cardozo Education Campus

1200 Clifton Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009

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DC Public Schools FY15 Budget Hearing Testimony by Khai Booker – CHML

Good Evening to All,

I am Khai Booker, a long-time parent at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan.  I have 2 children one in 4th grade and another in 6th grade. Our school offers a unique choice in education, is richly diverse and hails from every Ward in the city.  Currently we serve from PK-3 through 6th grade.  We are scheduled to expand to 7th grade next year and 8th the year after.  At a time when many families are leaving DCPS at middle school, we believe that with the right investments, we can keep our students and bring others back from charters, private schools and the suburbs.

Public Montessori is at the forefront of a national trend, backed by a 100 year old pedagogy that has been tested around the globe.   Simply put: Montessori seeks to instill a love of learning in EVERY child. The learning environment we have created shapes the child for success academically as well as socially and has been proven effective in research and by our alumni.  Throughout its history, Capitol Hill Montessori has always worked to mirror the goals of DCPS. Our current Student Satisfaction Index is 98%.  We believe this score reflects Montessori’s insistence that students’ voices be heard.  They need to know that the Mayor and DCPS will keep their word and do their part.

According to the lottery results, many other families want to join our middle school. Over 1/3 of our 6th and 7th grade applicants have chosen CHML as one of their top three schools.  This expansion is definitely about more than 7 rising 7th graders and right-sizing a few toilets.  If we don’t build it, they will still come and when the facilities are inadequate, there will be many angry and disappointed families.   More importantly there will be children who have been let down by the very adults upon whom they should be able to depend.

I’d like to make a few points regarding our current Math test scores, as our Reading scores are very strong. Despite the fact that our school has doubled in size in 3yrs, and the fact that Montessori teaches Math differently than most traditional schools, our Math scores are on a steady incline. On the 2012-13 DC CAS, 38% of our students scored Proficient or Advanced in Math and our goal is to increase this number to 46%.  Our scores on this year’s PIA’s give us hope.  We want to be great.  For this reason, we are doing the following:

  •          Our Students use First In Math and LearnZillion at home;
  •          Our Teachers use sample lessons from Achieve the Core;
  •          We have a  DC CAS Resource Specialist assisting all teachers on how to maximize their classroom time leading up to the test;
  •          We host a Saturday Scholars program.

We are part of a strong and committed community but one of our most important partners must be DCPS. What answer would this panel give to the rising 6th and 7th graders who were promised a middle school and those who are transferring to CHML? Would you still tell them that all you can manage are a few age-appropriate toilets? And finally, do you think that they will believe in someone who does not keep their word?  Thank you for your time and attention.

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Testimony of Khai Booker,

Parent at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan

March 20th, 2014

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DC Public Schools FY15 Budget Hearing Testimony by Joe Weedon – Maury ES

Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

My name is Joe Weedon. I’m here today as a parent of two students at Maury Elementary School and as a member of the Eliot-Hine MS LSAT. I serve as the Maury PTA’s Middle School Committee Chair and as Maury ES representative on DCPS’s Eliot-Hine Collaboration Team. I am also a member of Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s (OSSE) Title I Committee of Practitioners.

I would like to begin by thanking you for your investment in middle schools in this year’s budget. Parents across the city have waited far too long to see middle school reform move forward. I’d also like to thank DCPS for revisiting, and adjusting, the initial budget allocation made to Maury ES.

FY2015 Budget Process

At community meetings held across the city this spring, Chancellor Henderson promised, repeatedly, that this year’s DCPS budget process would be different. At two events I attended – January 27th for middle school LSATs and February 6th for elementary school LSATs – the Chancellor laid out a timeline for DCPS to announce new initiatives, for school officials to begin planning for the coming year, and for LSATs and parents to be consulted before our final school budgets were submitted to central office. The Chancellor also encouraged those attending these meetings to “dream big” and “envision what you would do with a 10% funding increase.”

Unfortunately, the process was not different and the impact of the Chancellor not following through on promised budget increases was devastating.  Deadlines were missed, information about different initiatives was hard to find and often vague. And, the Chancellor’s promise of across the board funding increases was hollow. The impact of these broken promises cannot be understated. At Maury ES, the LSAT had developed a strong plan to utilize new, promised, resources and then was given only 6 days – over a weekend and with a snow day further undermining the ability to meet – to develop an entirely new staffing plan for the school. After promises of new resources, teachers and support staff were given a budget that threatened their jobs, undermining school moral just weeks before DC CAS testing. Parents and community members felt like they had to break promises to beloved staff and that the future of our school was in jeopardy.

While I am a strong supporter of many of the Chancellor’s initiatives, the annual budget process is unnecessarily frustrating and I’m disappointed that Chancellor Henderson, once again, failed to meet the expectations that she set for herself. That said, overall, the FY2015 DCPS budget provides limited new resources across Ward 6 and begins to fulfill promises made in 2010 about supporting our middle schools, implementing the Ward 6 Middle School Plan and creating stable pathways from early education through high school graduation.

Eliot-Hine MS. A Strong Step Forward.

The FY2015 DCPS budget for Eliot-Hine MS is $4,142,708, a $566,405 increase over the FY2014 budget. At this level of funding, the principal and LSAT have created a staffing plan that will allow Eliot-Hine MS to move forward with the implementation of a strong IB Middle Years Programme by providing world language instruction to all students, by continuing to offer innovative courses – including TV/Radio Broadcasting – and by ensuring all students have full year access to English, Math – including Algebra – and other core subjects.

While the community is generally pleased with the overall budget for Eliot-Hine MS, there are still concerns. Over the past year, DCPS and the community has invested in a new collection for the Eliot-Hine library and media center and the library has become a destination for students; however, at current budget allocations Eliot-Hine will not be able to maintain full-time staffing for the library and media center undermining this investment and preventing our students from having access to these resources.

Across the District, only four middle schools failed to receive allocations for full-time librarians – Cardozo MS, Eliot-Hine MS, Johnson MS, and Sousa MS. Each of these schools falls short of a 300 student threshold for receiving a full-time allocation. However, at current and school-projected enrollment levels, Eliot-Hine MS will exceed this 300 student threshold.

Currently, there are 306 students enrolled at Eliot-Hine MS and the school’s October 1 audit counted 292 students.  Despite this fact, DCPS estimates that Eliot-Hine’s enrollment will grow by 4 students to reach 275 students next year. Clearly, the DCPS estimate is inaccurate. School leadership currently expects enrollment to reach at least 310 students next year and continue to increase as Eliot-Hine becomes a destination school for Ward 6 students (though concerns about the potential opening of new public charter middle schools could alter these expectations). At the current and community projected enrollment levels, Eliot-Hine would qualify to receive a full allocation for a librarian.

Given that Eliot-Hine’s current enrollment exceeds the 300 student threshold and that school officials expect to exceed that threshold again next year, we ask that you provide the school with an additional 0.5 allocation, or $47,313, to ensure that the Eliot-Hine MS library is adequately staffed. 

Maury ES. Concern about Transparency & Changes to Staffing Models.

The Maury ES initial allocation is $3,424,888, $101,351 more than the FY2014 budget allocation. However, this level of funding, due to a projected enrollment increase of 32 students, results in a net loss in funding – approximately a 6% reduction – on a per student basis. This continues a decline in per student funding from $10,173 in SY2012-13 to $9,761 for SY2013-14 to a proposed $9,461 for the upcoming school year, a net loss of $712 per student over two years despite significant cost savings within DCPS from closing schools and increased budgets (two percent in FY2014 and $100 million in FY2015). While the Maury ES budget has shrunk, its student population has grown by 52 students over two years and our test scores have improved dramatically, 29% gains in reading and 19% gains in math in 2013.

Due to an active and engaged PTA which provides generous support to students, teachers and administration, Maury ES is uniquely positioned among DCPS schools to absorb budget cuts and our school community, generally, believes that resources should go to those who need them most. However, the school community is greatly concerned that staffing allocations have not kept pace with the school’s growth. This concerns is demonstrative of the lack of detailed insight, strategic planning, and transparency in the local school budgeting process.

If you compare two schools, Maury ES and Brent ES, both in Ward 6 and with similar student demographics, you see remarkable differences in their initial budget allocations. In short, Brent ES sees an additional $646 per student than Maury ES despite similar enrollments, similar special needs and ELL populations and a lower FARM population. To move forward in creating a strong public school system, DCPS must provide accurate information on staffing models and information on adjustments to per student spending for special needs populations. This will allow school communities to make better informed decisions and to better plan for growth, ensuring that all schools can better plan and make strategic decisions to drive student attainment.

maury testimony

After appealing the Maury ES budget allocation to DCPS, the school community is slated to receive an adjustment to our funding allocation. Maury’s leadership has been informed that the school will gain an additional allocation for a “Related Arts Teacher” (Art/Music/World Language/Physical Education). The new allocation allows for the creation of a staffing plan that will keep the majority of our staffing and programming in place. However, Maury’s total budget allocation still falls well short of the promised 10% increase in funding and, as a result, the school will be unable to fully restore the mental health team and other support positions lost in the FY2014 budget as well as be unable to maintain all programming currently offered while adding new initiatives to further improve math and reading scores across the school. The development of this new staffing plan caused much angst among administration, teachers and parents. And, it was done with little ability to deliberate and collect information from school and community members because of the limited 6 day turnaround required by DCPS.

While the Maury community is pleased with the additional allocation that will allow the school to implement a strong staffing plan for SY2014-15, the community remains disappointed that the Chancellor failed to live up to her promise of changing the way DCPS budgeting is done and failed to provide promised new resources to our school.

Moving Forward.

I encourage you to reform the DCPS budgeting process to ensure openness and transparency. New initiatives must be announced early in the budget process and their impacts must be clearly communicated to local school communities.  Additionally, school communities must receive more time to analyze budgets and prepare staffing options for their schools.

I also encourage you to consider the following reforms to help accomplish our shared goals of moving our public school systems forward.

Updating Staffing Models.  DCPS needs to analyze, make changes to, and publicize its staffing models as well as amounts of additional allocations for special needs and FARM populations. The thresholds for staffing allocations for many positions – assistant principals, “Related Arts / Special Subjects” instructors, social workers/psychologists – is vague and often fails to meet the needs of students and school communities. Updated staffing models should be created in concert with national experts and community input and publicized so that individual school communities can know well in advance, based on their enrollment estimates and student demographics, the level of funding that they will receive. Completing this process will also help DCPS predict ideal enrollment size at each school, supporting the Deputy Mayor’s efforts to redraw school boundaries and realign feeder patterns.

Improving Enrollment Estimates. The District of Columbia MUST do a better job of estimating enrollment. School budgets are determined by estimates that often bear no resemblance to actual enrollment numbers which can dramatically shift from year to year as well as within the school year. DCPS should have a mandatory late spring enrollment deadline that will allow schools to adjust staffing models and reallocate staff to meet individual school needs even if this means that students lose their right to attend their neighborhood school because of capacity issues.

Implementing Ward 6 Middle School Plan.  In 2010, Chancellor Rhee came to Maury Elementary School to announce the Ward 6 Middle School Plan; Chancellor Henderson endorsed that plan upon being confirmed as chancellor.  However, progress in implementing the plan has been unsteady and benchmarks have not been met.  Rather than starting from scratch as the Chancellor proposed last fall, I encourage you to revisit this plan, developed with substantial community input, and see that it is updated and fully implemented. I encourage you to ensure that the infusion of resources into our city’s middle schools is not a one-time investment but rather that we continue current levels of support into future years to allow schools to develop programs and attract more students.

Moving Forward with Middle School Renovations. Eliot-Hine MS and Jefferson Academy MS are in desperate need of renovations. The schools lack modern technology and have inadequate lighting and poor acoustics.  If Washington, D.C. is to fulfill our promise to ensure all students have great middle schools, as well as promises made in the Ward 6 Middle School Plan, we must accelerate the timelines for moving these renovations forward. The city must ensure the successful launch of a new middle school at Capitol Hill Montessori @ Logan, by ensuring it has state of the art facilities and adequate staffing and supplies, as outlined in the Ward 6 middle school plan.

Concluding Thoughts.

While transparency is a major concern, ultimately, our city’s ability to create more schools of choice will require better planning within DCPS as well as better coordination between DCPS and the public charter schools. While the common lottery is a significant step forward, the lack of mandatory early enrollment deadlines – DCPS students can still show up to their in-bounds school on the first day without being enrolled and regardless of the school’s capacity – and the on-going practice of students transferring mid-year from public charters into DCPS schools will continue to be major obstacles to creating sustainable, high-preforming schools.

I’d also like to thank the Deputy Mayor for moving forward an effort to redraw boundaries and realign feeder patterns. While I have my doubts, personally, that the boundary realignment process will, alone, be successful in helping to create more stable enrollment patterns, I applaud the effort and believe that it is needed.

On behalf of parents at both Maury ES and Eliot-Hine MS, I thank you for your support of our schools. While we were disappointed with the many broken promises made about the budget process being “different,” we are satisfied that we can create staffing plans that will allow us to move forward in our efforts to create a strong pathway from elementary school to Eastern High School.

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DC Public Schools FY15 Budget Hearing Testimony by Danica Petroshius – CHML

Thank you Mayor Gray, Deputy Mayor Smith and Superintendent Aguirre 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, like Khai, because we want to work in partnership with you to build a great DCPS middle grades education campus.

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. 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 initial 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 some good news this week – our principal says that DCPS has provided a strong operational budget that will allow us to have the personnel and some of the learning materials to kick off our middle grades expansion. Thank you.

But the fact remains that parents and students will be angry and shocked if there is nothing to come to. We need more than a few upgrades to toilets. We need a strong, welcoming middle grades learning environment.

When you approved a middle grades expansion, we parents began working in partnership with our principal, teachers and other stakeholders to prepare for the middle school expansion. We implemented teacher recruitment strategies, created architectural site plans, executed a plan to retain current families and recruit new ones. And as Khai mentioned it worked – our lottery numbers are high which is remarkable given that we don’t even have a place to 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 the $1 million in capital funding we requested in November 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 President of the

Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus PTSO

March 20, 2014

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DC Public Schools FY15 Budget Hearing Testimony by Kevin White – CHCS

Good evening.  My name is Kevin White and I am here to represent the 540 students at Watkins Elementary in Ward 6.

This winter was hard at Watkins.  Frigid temperatures and windy polar vortices were challenging for our 50 year old windows and burdened heating system.  Just last week, several classrooms spent instructional time and indoor recess in the hall because the classrooms were too cold with the wind coming through windows that are sealed and closed with duct tape.

We are relieved to have been allocated $1.5 million in FY 14 for the replacement of these windows.  Window replacement is long overdue.  But this should not give DCPS the false sense that the worst conditions at Watkins will have been addressed.   While some emergency repairs have been completed since 2008, the Master Facility Plan from that time ranked 7 out of the 10 major building systems as Poor or Unsatisfactory.   Additionally, reviewing the Education Specification for Watkins reveals that 85% of our classrooms are too small, our specials rooms are undersized by a factor of 32%, and we lack the multi-purpose/gymnasium space that should be provided to a school with over 500 students and a co-located DPR Rec Center.

The needs at Watkins are too substantial and too well-documented to be ignored or delayed further.  Watkins can not be ignored while DCPS and DGS brag about Gold LEED status and geothermal technology at other schools.  Watkins can not be ignored while DCPS considers investing supplemental capital resources in several schools that have already been modernized within the last 7 years. Meanwhile, the Capital Improvement Plan stretches out modernization for Watkins all the way to FY19.  Phase 1 is projected to start in FY15 but we’ve been pushed back twice before.  We can’t be pushed back again.

We are ready to work with the DCPS, DPR, and DGS to begin planning for our modernization.  We have already created a parent-led modernization committee.  We’ve reviewed the Ed Spec and completed our own building wide space survey.  We are ready to partner with you and formally begin the planning process.

Watkins Can’t Wait for our new windows to be installed this summer.  But, Watkins Can’t Wait even longer for our full modernization to begin.   Thank you for your time.

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Testimony of

Kevin White

Parent at the Capitol Hill Cluster School and

PTA Parent Representative at Watkins Elementary

521 14th Street, SE Washington, DC 20003

Fiscal Year 2015 Budget for Public Schools in the District of Columbia

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cardozo Education Campus

1200 Clifton Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009

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DC Public Schools FY15 Budget Hearing Testimony by Elizabeth Bacon, CHCS

I am Elizabeth Bacon, and I’m here to represent the PTA and LSAT at the Capitol Hill Cluster School. 

We are a PK3 through 8th grade school with 1,300 students at three campuses — with steady enrollment, strong test scores, healthy vertical integration, and the ability to attract students from all over the city.

We are grateful for the increases in the recently released budget. It’s heartening to see investment in our school. This bump allowed Watkins Elementary to recover from severe staffing cuts last year, and add instructional aides that our PTA has paid for in the past two years. At Stuart-Hobson Middle School, we are also able to add staff and pay for popular 9th period extension classes that are now paid for by PTA.

But we don’t see any evidence of investments to help our highest need population. Our LSAT wasn’t given any data to show numbers of at-risk students, or guidance about how to allocate funds to make a difference for those students. Where is the additional support for at-risk kids, as intended by the Fair Funding Act? Is it lumped in with the large “per pupil minimum funding minimum” line item?

Transparency & Continuity

Even with increases, we still need transparency. Parents and the public deserve to be able to understand our school budgets.

And especially with increases, we need continuity. At the Cluster, we’ve seen dramatic swings in funding: down the past two years with an upswing this year. School leaders and parents want to know that DCPS is willing to stand behind and sustain these investments.

As part of the PTA leadership at the Cluster, I worked closely with the administration during the hectic PWP application process. The announcement came with so little specifics, but we kicked into gear, pulled together a survey, and scheduled a time for parent leaders and teachers to collaborate. All within 5 days. Is that really the best approach to make decisions about how to fund exciting and creative initiatives and programs? And, I wonder, do we really make students happier by infusing a large amount of restricted money for one year?

Out of School Time (OST)

On the topic of Out of School Time, despite the increases in our school budget, two teachers were cut from our aftercare budget. We understand this is due to “low attendance,” which we only learned about at budget time. According to DCPS, only 80 OST slots were being used out of the 100 allocated to us. So, funding for those 20 slots was scooped back.

This decision is not at all in line with our school’s needs. About 200 of our students are eligible for subsidized aftercare. Given that, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to open some of the unused OST slots to students who currently use the free Rec program – because of OST’s stronger emphasis on after school homework assistance?  Rather than just cut two teachers from our aftercare budget?

 

Summary

In summary, I’ll reiterate that even with the welcome increases in our budget, we still need transparency. Parents and the public deserve to be able to understand our school budgets.

————–

Elizabeth Bacon

Parent at the Capitol Hill Cluster School and Vice President of the Capitol Hill Cluster School PTA

418 7th Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002

Fiscal Year 2015 Budget for Public Schools in the District of Columbia

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cardozo Education Campus

1200 Clifton Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009

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CHPSPO Meeting Notes – February 12, 2014

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization
Amidon-Bowen Elementary School

401 I Street, SW

February 12, 2014
6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

  1. Update on school boundaries and feeder patterns – Abigail Smith (Deputy Mayor for Education (DME)); Claudia Lujan (Deputy Mayor for Education’s office); Denise Forte and Martin Welles (Ward 6 representatives to Advisory Committee) http://dme.dc.gov/book/student-assignment-and-school-boundaries-review-process
    • Abigail Smith delivered a powerpoint presentation with an update of the DC Student Assignment and School Boundary Review Process.  At the end of her presentation, the floor was opened for comments/questions.
    • Comment: At the focus groups that were recently held, participants were asked for feedback on school boundaries and feeder patterns, but were not provided data about how the current boundaries/feeder patterns are playing out. A: Data will be part of overall discussion, particularly with working groups. See policy brief #3: http://dme.dc.gov/node/776162
    • Misalignment of middle schools – Q: what is percentage of rising 5th graders enrolled in their designated middle schools (and elsewhere) and data around ‘out of feeder’ enrollment/trends around actual feeder patterns from ES to MS to HS? A: The DME’s office has not assessed that data, but the data will be pulled.
    • Comment: Process seems to lack a comprehensive plan around schools; how to utilize space, how system(s) want(s) to evolve. A: The process is meant to elicit ideas that could inform a comprehensive plan.  They are not making an assumption that comprehensive planning will happen prior to making decisions on school boundaries and feeder patterns.  There are discussions between the DME’s office, DCPS, and the PCSB, but there isn’t a “beautifully coordinated process.”
    • Q: How can planning take place when there is no predictability around the opening of charter schools/misalignment of middle grades (e.g., many charters enroll MS at 5th grade)? A: DME does not have authority over PCSB, but the goal of including them in the advisory committee and having the discussions is so that there is better coordination.  DME’s office wants to focus on things they have control over.
    • Q: Will committee make any recommendations about closing schools? A: No, this exercise will not lead to recommendations around closing schools but will make recommendations around strategically opening schools (like Van Ness).
    • Q.  Is it possible to get choice and equitable access simultaneously while looking at issue of income distribution across the city? What is definition of quality?  A.  Example of San Francisco was described, which incorporates a policy that guarantees a certain number of slots in high-performing schools for students from low income families.
    • Brainstorming around ideas to influence policy
      • Controlled choice (San Francisco example)
      • Colorado example of once in an out of boundary feeder pattern, cannot go back to ‘in boundary’ schools without going back through lottery
        • Expression of ‘too much choice’ today in DC leading to a lack of investment in feeder or destination schools.
    • Opportunity for better programmatic integration among feeder/destination via vertical alignment (foreign language consistency across ES/MS/HS, specialty programming like IB, museum, project-based learning…)
    • Address capacity issues by creating more ‘Cluster’ models that dedicate a building to early childhood, ES, MS, HS
    • Better sharing of data by PCSB and DCPS so that when schools open/closing decisions are made, they are done with strategic approach.

2. Adequacy Study Analysis – Soumya Bhat, DC Fiscal Policy Institute. Read detail of recommendations here: http://www.dcfpi.org/dcfpi-feedback-on-dme-adequacy-study

    • Question was asked about at risk funding, and how it is allocated at the school level?   Several examples of schools that do not receive the proportion of funds they should.  It was discussed that OSSE is accountable for the distribution of these funds.
    • Per pupil funding to include the facility funds… could underfund DCPS by $47M and overfund charters by $9M
    • Support around keeping maintenance costs outside school funding formula. Data does not exist around facility needs.
    • Moving resources allocated by outside agencies (like school nurses, etc..). Support keeping nurses outside.

3. Candidates Forum Update and Planning – PLEASE CIRCULATE WITHIN YOUR COMMUNITIES

  •  February 20     Ward 6 City Council Candidates Forum – Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church

-          Sponsored by Eastern Market Metro Community Association (EMMCA) and Capitol Hill Group Ministry

-          Spread the word

  •  March 6        Ward 6 City Council Forum at Stuart Hobson

-          Sponsored by CHPSPO

-          Assist in planning and spread the word

-          Article in Hill Rag

  • TBD    City-wide Mayoral Forum focused on education

 

Next CHPSPO Meeting:  March 18, 2014

 

Upcoming Events:

Candidates Forums

  • February 20     Ward 6 City Council Candidates Forum (CHPSPO co-sponsor) – @ Capitol Hill Prebysterian, 7-9PM
  • March 6           Ward 6 City Council Candidates Education Forum (CHPSPO sponsor)
  • TBD                Mayoral Candidates Education Forum (CHPSPO co-sponsor)

2014 Fundraisers

  • March 8           Tyler Alchemy of Great Taste
  • March 14         Cluster Rocks! Auction & Gala
  • March 22         Maury at the Market
  • March 29         Brent Taste of the Hill
  • May 18            Capitol Hill Classic 10K/3K/Fun Run

 

Ward 6 Parent/Community Meetings on School Boundaries/Feeder Patterns

  • Eliot-Hine Middle School – Thursday, Feb. 13 (cancelled due to snow)
  • Stuart-Hobson Middle School – Tuesday, Feb. 18
  • Jefferson Middle School – Thursday, Feb. 20

DCPS Libraries Win Big – by Peter MacPherson

Dear Friends:

Our 16-month long advocacy effort on behalf of school libraries has paid off big! DCPS has found $3.4 million to spend on school libraries. Cardozo, Dunbar, Wilson, Woodson, Eastern and Anacostia high schools will be receiving opening day collections, which is between 9,000 and 14,000 volumes depending on enrollment. Kramer, Eliot-Hine and Jefferson middle schools will also be getting opening day collections as well, All schools will get 30 periodical subscriptions each and those not receiving an opening day collection will get a smaller mix of hardcopy titles and eBooks. All this in addition to our victory in securing adequate funding from the council in the spring for librarian staffing. Schools will have these assets by September 30th.

There is still much work to be done. We’re going to have to continue to push to ensure that all schools continue to get an infusion of new materials in order to achieve parity. Additionally it’s going to take advocacy to guarantee that schools in the process of being modernized get opening day collections as well. All of this has happened because of the consistent engagement of the community. I can’t thank you all enough for staying the course in this long battle.
Best,
Peter MacPherson

Testimony For Apr 17, 2013 Council Hearing On School Budget By Committee On Education – By Joe Weedon

COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION

 

OVERSIGHT HEARING

The Proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Budget of the District of Columbia Public Schools

 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

10:00 am

 

 

Hearing Room 500, John A. Wilson Building

1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20004

Testimony of

Joe Weedon, Parent

Maury Elementary School

Thank you, Chairman Catania and members of the Council.

My name is Joe Weedon. I’m here today as a member of the Maury Elementary School Parent-Teachers Association (PTA). I am the father of two children at Maury Elementary School. I serve as the PTA’s Middle School Committee Chair and as Maury ES representative on DCPS’s Eliot-Hine Collaboration Team. I am also a member of the District’s State Title I Committee of Practitioners administered at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).

About Maury ES

Maury Elementary, a DCPS school located in Ward 6, is a school with extensive parental and community involvement committed to the education of the whole person. Our educational program fosters intellectual, emotional, social and physical development, thereby enabling each child to compete successfully in a global society. Students are provided with a multi-dimensional, student-centered environment providing a challenge to all students and also promoting maximum achievement.

Maury Elementary has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past few years. Just eight years ago, the school was under-enrolled and then DCPS Superintendent Clifford Janey hosted a meeting at the school where it was stated that Maury was in danger of being closed due to under-enrollment.

Today, the school is thriving. We expect to be home to 330 students next year and we have over 475 students on the waitlist for admission to school. We have an active PTA with approximately 170 members. We have a strong principal in Carolyne Albert-Garvey and, last October, ten Maury staff members were recognized by DCPS as highly effective educators (Asonja Dorsey, grade 1; Beverly Overby, retired counselor; Janine Levin, preschool; Kate Sweeney, librarian; Lauren Bomba, art teacher; Natalie Hanni, grade 2; Norah Rabiah, Instructional Coach; Scott Harding, preschool; Shirley Battle, Kindergarten; and Vanessa Ford, Think Tank/Science Coordinator). Maury is also home to a winner of the Rubenstein Award for Highly Effective Teaching, Mr. Scott Harding (preschool).

FY2014 Budget

The Maury ES community received from DCPS its FY2014, School Year 2013-14, budget proposal on Friday, March 8, 2013. The school budget provided Maury an allocation of $3.2 million for 330 students or $9,761 per student.

 

SY 2012-13

(FY2013)

Projected SY2013-14

(FY2014)

Increase / Loss

Total Budget

$3,174,115

$3,221,203

+ $47,087

Enrollment

312

330

+18

Per-Student Spending

$10,173

$9,761

- $412

The initial budget proposal submitted to Maury Elementary School showed a limited understanding of our school community and the factors that have allowed our school to grow and thrive over the past 5 years. The budget proposal included funding for an additional kindergarten classroom which would have upset years of planning that have resulted in manageable classroom sizes in the upper grades. Additionally, the budget included substantive changes to staffing levels that threaten the on-going success of our academic programs and the support of our parent community. Despite these significant changes, the school administration was expected to return to DCPS a final budget by Thursday, March 14, providing the school’s leadership less than one week to obtain parent and community input.

The Maury leadership has worked in partnership with DCPS to make changes within our budget that will allow for the majority of our current programming to continue. We have accomplished this without asking for or receiving any additional funding to support our staffing or classroom activities.

Despite our school community’s success in obtaining waivers to ensure our academic programs can continue, we still have several unanswered questions about this year’s budget and budget process. Most alarming for many Maury parents are DCPS’s decisions to (1) change the “small school” threshold from 300 to 400 students and (2) strip budget autonomy from members of the DC Collaborative for Change (DC3), of which Maury ES is a member. Additionally, we have significant concerns about how DCPS funds afterschool programming and with the lack of transparency and autocratic decision-making of DCPS.

(1) The “Small School” Threshold

There is no clear threshold for “small schools” in last year’s (FY 2013) DCPS Budget Guidelines. However, last year elementary schools with enrollments over 300 students received funding for full-time librarians, art, music and physical education teachers as well as office staff and other support staff, including social workers and psychologists. This is the same threshold that Maury has repeatedly been told we needed to exceed in order to ensure we’d receive budget allocations for full-time librarian as well as full-time art, music and PE teachers.

Over the past year, during discussion on the plan to consolidate and reorganize schools, Chancellor Henderson often cited 350 students as the threshold for “small” schools at the elementary level:

When schools reach a certain threshold, 350-ish at the elementary school level, 450 at middle, 600 at high school, you actually have the ability to do more flexible grouping. You have teachers who are able to work together because they’re on a team and are not isolated teaching one grade.

DCPS’ Consolidation & Reorganization proposal also clearly lists 350 students as a threshold: “Schools with fewer than 350 students require additional per-pupil funding to offer a full range of services. Sixty-four percent of DCPS elementary schools have fewer than 350 students.”

Despite the threshold being 300 in last year’s (FY2013) budget and rhetoric from DCPS indicating a 350 threshold was possible in the future, in next year’s budget, elementary schools with under 400 students are classified as “small schools.” This decision was made with little to no public input or notice.

The Impact of being a “small school”

Maury Elementary School is a growing community and is projected to reach 330 students in SY2013-14, dramatically exceeding our building’s capacity.

While Maury ES currently has approximately 475 students on its waitlist, our facility, though renovated in 2011, is rated for fewer than 300 students and without a long-promised expansion of the school we will not be able to meet the new 400 student threshold for full-time librarians, art, music and language teachers or for a full-time mental health team. The change in ‘small school’ status means that Maury faced the following staffing reductions:

 

SY 2012-13

(FY2013)

Projected SY2013-14

(FY2014)

Budgeted Loss

Instructional Positions
Librarian

1

.5

. 5 Librarian

Music

1

.5 music or art

. 5 Music or Art

Art

1

.5 music or art

. 5 Music or Art

Classroom aides

8

6

- 2

Administrative Positions
Business manager

1

.5

. 5

Support Positions
Social Worker

1

.5

. 5

Psychologist

1

.5

. 5

 

The value of full-time staff.

The parents and students at Maury Elementary school place a great value on having our teachers in our school throughout the day. We believe that relying upon part-time staff at our school will impact the quality of staff and of instruction, reduce our academic offerings, and impact the school’s culture.

The reliance on part-time staff will result in significant hiring and retention issues at Maury ES and other “small” schools. We strongly believe that teachers, when given a choice, will select to be in a single school rather than splitting their time between two buildings. We believe that the impact of this decision will be that Maury ES will not be able to retain our high-preforming teachers and that we will struggle to attract high-quality applicants for part-time positions in the future.

Second, without the teachers in our building full-time, our academic programs will suffer in the following ways:

Collaboration with classroom teachers will be limited. At Maury ES, there is a culture of collaboration between classroom teachers and the special teachers (Library, Art, Music, and PE which could all become part-time positions in “small schools”), in which all specials teachers work together to help students thrive. If teachers are in the building ½ time, the amount of time for special teachers to collaborate with classroom teachers will be limited and academic progress will suffer.

Reading interventions will be limited. Specials teachers (Library, Art, Music and PE) at Maury ES do much to support the literacy of our students.  The Maury librarian, Ms. Kate Sweeney leads a ‘Reading Lunch’ for 4th and 5th grade students and ‘Open Library’ during recess for students in grades 3-5. This provides students with the opportunity to improve their reading skills and secure additional support in both reading and math. Other ‘specials’ teachers at Maury lead reading interventions during their free and planning periods and support the literacy of our school in multiple ways.

Additional instruction opportunities will not be possible.  Many of the Maury specials teachers (Library, Art, Music and PE) participate in after-school programming and offer special programs for students during lunch or recess periods. Additionally, the Maury PTA has implemented a fundraising initiative to buy computers for a technology class for grades 1-5 next year. This class would teach students both basic computer skills and also the skills necessary to become creators of digital content and to thrive in a Web 2.0 world. This class will not be possible with part-time staffing.

In addition to the retention and academic concerns that DCPS’s decision to staff Maury ES with more part-time position, we also believe that the school’s culture will suffer dramatically. Students have a strong bond with our ‘specials’ teachers that is only possible because of the amount of time the teachers spend at our school. At our recent school fundraiser, the auction items featuring the ‘special’ teachers were among the most in-demand items at the auction, raising thousands of dollars to support our school.

The change to ‘small school’ status will also impact the provision of mental health services across the city, including at Maury ES. Most ‘small schools,’ including Maury ES, will now only have a 1/2 time social worker and a 1/2 time psychologist. Given requirements that these two individuals both be present for certain evaluations and meetings, there will be substantial periods of time when small schools will not have a mental health professional in the building. These staff do remarkable work in helping those with needs, in helping to prevent and solve disruptions in the classrooms and in ensuring that schools can have a positive, inclusive culture.

 

‘Small School’ conclusions:

Over the past several years, DCPS officials have made it clear to the Maury community that we needed to increase enrollment to be guaranteed a fully staffed building. We were continually informed that we needed to be home to more than 300 students. We have met this challenge. Our student population has grown from just 263 students in 2009-2010 to over 300 and our projected enrollment for SY2013-14 is 330. DCPS’s decision to change the “small school” threshold to 400 students, placing our continued success in jeopardy.

By changing the “small school” threshold to 400 students, Maury ES – which was renovated in 2011 and has a rated capacity of less than 300 students – is subject to significant reductions to our staffing and support personnel that will prevent us from retaining and attracting the best teachers, will weaken our academic programs and hinder student growth, and undermine our school’s culture.

DCPS cannot be allowed to arbitrarily change the goal, without notice or providing fully enrolled schools the opportunity to meet the new enrollment thresholds. We also believe that DCPS needs to fully staff all fully enrolled schools to ensure that we have strong staff, strong academic programs and interventions and a strong school culture.

(2) DC Collaborative for Change

The DC Collaborative for Change (DC3) is a group of nine District of Columbia public schools that are united by a shared vision, common values and purpose, and a commitment to realizing the infinite potential for learning among all our stakeholders. As a member of the DC3, Maury ES has long received a degree of budget autonomy that has allowed our school’s leadership to ensure that our budget priorities could be achieved. However, in the proposed FY2014 budget, Maury ES no longer had any degree of budget autonomy.  This change was made without notice or without public input.

While I would like to take this opportunity to Thank DCPS’ leadership for granting Maury ES a number of waivers to allow us to shift resources within our budget to meet the needs of our school community, the Maury ES community does not believe that the process of requesting and securing annual waivers to ensure our school is adequately staffed in a manner that meets our school’s unique priorities is a viable solution. In years past, the school leadership – the principal with the support of the Local School Advisory Team (LSAT) – had the authority to make many of the changes to our budget DCPS has authorized this year.

While we are appreciative of DCPS’ willingness to work with us, the added layer of bureaucracy and the fact that we cannot be guaranteed to receive the same types of waivers in the future are concerning. The fact that our school’s capacity and enrollment likely mean we will continue to beholden to the “small school” funding level makes the lack of budget autonomy more critical.

We believe that DCPS should restore the budget autonomy of DC3 schools to allow the members of the collaborative the budgetary flexibility to provide our children with a well-rounded education with our limited resources. Additionally, DCPS needs to empower instructional superintendents to work with principals to ensure that all schools receive initial budget allocations that meet their unique school needs.

Additional Issue: After School Programming

Afterschool programs provide a variety of unique programming options to students, furthering their academic attainment and cultivating new interests among the students. Participation in high-quality afterschool programs has been proven to improve school attendance, academic achievement, graduation rates and attitudes toward learning. Students attending three hours of afterschool programming each day gain the equivalent of nearly four months of learning time.

Afterschool programs are an integral part of the learning environment and they play a vital role, especially at the elementary level, for working parents. Maury ES has long utilized DCPS afterschool to care for many of our students and the program has seen remarkable growth – both in enrollment and in programming. However, next year, Maury ES will join the growing number of District schools that do not qualifying for DCPS afterschool programming, impacting approximately 70 Maury students who are currently enrolled in the program.

At Maury ES, we recognize that the loss of our DCPS afterschool program is due to the changing demographics of our school community and that it is a long-standing DCPS decision to not provide aftercare at schools that do not qualify for Title I status. However, the Maury community believes that this decision is creating a dual system of “haves” and “have nots” across the District and that it threatens our goal of being an inclusive and diverse – socially, culturally, and economically – school.

Maury Elementary School, through a non-profit after-care provider, has a strong plan in place to ensure that all students will continue to receive strong aftercare programming, including an academic power hour, snacks, and enrichment programs during the next academic year. However, some families – especially those who have to pay increased prices under new system but whom would receive free or reduced cost after-care at schools which receive DCPS aftercare programming – will choose their school based on whether or not a school has ‘free’ aftercare programming. This will lead to a growing economic divide within our school communities.

We believe that it is in DCPS’ as well as the city’s best interest to ensure that all elementary students have access to high-quality aftercare programming to ensure that all schools are economically diverse and that all schools are inclusive. We believe that funds for afterschool programming should follow students in need regardless of the percentage of low-income students in a school.

Additional Issue:  Lack of Transparency and Autocratic Decision-Making

Many in the Maury community – as well as DCPS parents across the city – are concerned with DCPS’ limited communication, lack of opportunity for parental involvement and unilateral decision-making.

First, throughout the FY2014 budget process, DCPS Chancellor Henderson has provided little insight into how the changes in budgeting and ‘small school’ size align with DCPS’ vision to attract students (outlined in the Better School for All Students consolidation and reorganization plan) and improve academic attainment (outlined in A Capital Commitment as well as in RAISE DC). This is especially problematic when the proposed budget for a school such as Maury ES – a school that has seen dramatic enrollment growth and improving test scores – includes significant cuts to staffing and support personnel and limits our ability to allocate resources in a manner that best meets the needs of our school community.

Second, many parents are concerned that DCPS has misled them during the debate about school closings. During testimony to the Council last year, as well as at numerous public events over the past year, DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson stated that the recent round of school closures would save DCPS approximately $8.5 million, which would be put back into schools to improve programming including into support services, libraries and the arts (all slated for cuts at Maury ES). Additionally, in mid-February, Mayor Gray announced that DCPS would receive a 2 percent increase in per-student funding. Yet, Maury ES and many other schools across the city are slated for significant cuts in staffing for the 2013-14 School Year (SY). These cuts are occurring despite enrollment growth at Maury ES.

And, finally, parents are concerned with the limited transparency and lack of parental involvement and notice of decisions that dramatically impact our school environments. This concern relates to DCPS’ unilateral decisions to change the threshold for ‘small schools’ from 300 to 400 and to strip budget autonomy from DC3 schools without any public discussion or notice.

Conclusions

The Council of the District of Columbia has an obligation to ensure that DCPS’ budget is clear and transparent. The Council also has a responsibility to ensure that all students in the District of Columbia are receiving a high-quality educational experience. I’d also argue that the Council also has an obligation to ensure that DCPS is meeting the goals that that have been laid out relating to student achievement and student enrollment.

The Maury community stands ready to work with you – and with DCPS – to ensure that our school can continue to thrive.  Our school community has met every challenge that we have faced – we have increased enrollment and we have improved DC CAS scores. We are working to build strong middle school options across Ward 6 and there are a growing number of families who are committed to seeing our children graduate – together – from Eastern HS.

Yet, we cannot allow DCPS to continually change the goals, including the 300 student threshold for small schools, that they have set out for us. We believe that DCPS needs to fully staff fully enrolled schools. We believe that DCPS needs to restore autonomy to members of the DC3 collaborative and ensure that instructional superintendents are empowered to work with principals to ensure that all schools are adequately staffed and supported.  Additionally, we believe the city needs to reexamine how afterschool programs are funded and ensure that all students in need receive funding regardless of where they attend school. And, we believe that the Council needs to ensure that DCPS operates in a transparent and good-faith relationship with parents and community members to build a system of schools that serve all students in the District.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak here today.