Photo credit: DC Public Schools
- by Joe Weedon
International Baccalaureate Programme
World-class curriculum and programming for Capitol Hill students
by Joe Weedon, Maury ES Superparent
I wanted to provide everyone with a quick recap of last night’s meeting with Chancellor Henderson about DCPS’s proposal to close/consolidate schools across the District.
Last night’s gathering brought together a standing room only group of parents, teachers and students from Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. The discussion followed the lines of the other forums held last week in Wards 5, 7 and 8. The Chancellor gave brief opening remarks and then small group discussions began. There were DCPS employees taking notes from each small group that will be compiled and presented to the Chancellor. The Chancellor also made her way around the room to observe and listen in on the small group conversations. The groups did report out at the end of the meeting.
The main messages coming from the crowd largely revolved around saving individual schools, questions about why different schools were included and requests for information from DCPS on what their plan is to facilitate the consolidations – ie, will teachers be offered jobs, will there be busing, will there be extra staff to aid in the consolidation. At the end of the day, I believe the consensus was that DCPS is moving too fast. Additionally, there is strong sentiment that DCPS needs to provide more clear information about the criteria for selecting schools, the projected cost savings, and a strategy for reinvesting the funds. Additionally, questions were raised about why the closing/consolidation process is being conducted separately from the redrawing of boundaries (which is expected to take place next year). A final point was a great concern that DCPS and the Public Charters are operating independently without any coordination… the public charters plan to open several new schools this fall raising the question of whether or not DCPS should close more schools or whether a moratorium should be placed on additional openings/closings until there is a central vision and plan for our school system.
Specifically for Ward 6…. It was disappointing to be included with residents from Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6. While the chancellor said she was looking for new ideas and outside the box thinking, the size of the meeting and the limited focus on issues directly impacting us in Ward 6 prevented this. Overall, the representatives from Eastern HS did a great job of expressing concerns about the movement of Spingarm students into their school, though it may have been lost in the overall chaos of the evening. I mis-spoke earlier in the week, one Ward 6 school – Prospect Early Learning Center – is slated to be closed; however, it was not brought up last night and it appears there is limited concern about integrating students from Prospect into their community schools.
The path forward…
We need to ensure that Eastern HS is supported fully in the integration of any new students. Eastern’s culture and curriculum are significantly different from that at Spingarm. Long-term, the inclusion of new feeder schools into Eastern is also significantly problematic. Eastern’s ideal capacity is approximately 1100-1200 (I over estimated based on outdated documents in my note earlier this week). That means they expect to have approximately 250 – 300 freshman each year. With nearly 500 3rd graders already in the Eastern feeder pattern, we cannot sustain a school where more individual students have a ‘right’ to attend.
Visit this link – http://www.engagedcps.org/ – to urge DCPS to slow the process, to ensure that feeder pattern realignment is done in conjunction with school closings.
Thanks for your support of our schools.
For Tweets from the same meeting, see the CHPSPO Storify.
The following was send to Councilmembers Mendelson, Evans, Brown with copies to CHPSPO members on May 25, 2011.
Vote Against the Proposal to Divide Wards 6 and 7 at 17th Street from Benning Road to Barney Circle
As members of the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO), we are voicing our extreme concern about the D.C. Council’s consideration of the proposal to divide Wards 6 and 7 at 17th Street from Benning Road to Barney Circle which would effectively move Eliot-Hine Middle School and Eastern High School from Ward 6 to Ward 7. We are opposed to this move because of the impact it would have on our neighborhood cohesiveness and the community’s efforts to strengthen our neighborhood public schools.
CHPSPO started over six years ago, at a time when some Capitol Hill public elementary schools were bursting at the seams and others were woefully under-enrolled. A group of active parents from each school joined together to share common concerns and great accomplishments. It quickly became clear that our shared interests far exceeded any superficial differences. CHPSPO has established a strong record of working to support our neighborhood’s schools. The School Libraries Project, a $2.4 million public/private partnership with the DC Public Schools that renovated eight public school libraries on Capitol Hill was CHPSPO’s first success at supporting our neighborhood schools. This was followed by efforts to start 3 and 4-year-old programs at our elementary schools, and most recently a proposal to strengthen the middle schools. DCPS has said they want to replicate the community-driven process started by CHPSPO in wards across the city.
With the success of our elementary and middle schools and the renovation of Eastern, the Ward 6 public schools are becoming the schools of choice for families in Ward 6. Currently, many of the Ward 6 elementary schools feed into Eliot-Hine Middle School and then to Eastern High School. Splitting up Ward 6 would create a misalignment between the school feeder patterns and the political oversight of the schools.
Building on the academic gains Eliot-Hine has achieved, under the leadership of Principal Willie Jackson, is the cornerstone of CHPSPO’s — now DCPS’s — Ward 6 Middle Schools Plan. Our neighborhood schools have become a community. Drawing a political line at 17th Street removes Eliot-Hine and Eastern from our community at the very moment that our success at the elementary level is poised to spread into Eliot-Hine and Eastern High School.
We strongly encourage the D.C. City Council to keep the close, successful community that is Ward 6 intact and look to other less drastic solutions to realign the city’s ward structure. This proposed redistricting undermines the democratic representation we deserve and expect, and jeopardizes the progress being made to attract families back to the DC public schools.
Signed by the following on 5/24/11
Suzanne Wells, Tyler Elementary School
George Blackmon, Maury Elementary School
Elizabeth D. Festa, Maury Elementary School
Sandra Moscoso, Montessori @ Watkins/Logan
Rachel Klein, Ludlow Taylor Elementary School
Sherry Trafford, School Without Walls
Isabella Harris, Brent Elementary School
Clayton Witt, Stuart-Hobson Middle School
Barbara Riehle, Montessori @ Watkins/Logan
Heather Schoell, Maury Elementary School
Shahna Gooneratne, School Within School at Peabody
Eastern Senior High School invites middle school students and their families to attend our information session where you will learn about the academic programs and activities for the Class of 2015, participate in a question and answer session, and receive a school tour. We are excited to launch a rigorous academic experience at our newly restored, state-of-the-art campus and look forward seeing you on Saturday, February 5th at noon.
12:00 – 12:30 Presentation on Academic Programs
12:30 – 12:50 Question and Answer Session
1:00 – 1:45 Building Tour
The event will take place at Eastern Senior High School, The Pride of Capitol Hill (1700 East Capitol Street NE). Please contact Rachel Skerritt, incoming principal, with questions at email@example.com or by phone at (202) 939-5299.
Curious about your neighborhood school? Check out the upcoming open houses. Mark your calendar now, but check back if the weather is particularly ‘iffy’ (as in 30 inches of snow…).
The ribbon-cutting at beautiful, beautiful Eastern High School is tomorrow, Wednesday, August 25th at 10:30 a.m.
Please join the Mayor and the Chancellor, Eastern alumni, teachers, students, and lots of Eastern fans in front of the building for this great event!