Status

DC Council: Please Support Transparency, Stability and Success for All Public Schools, All Students

Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization
Please Support Transparency, Stability and Success for
All Public Schools, All Students

The Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO) is an all-volunteer collaboration of parents, educators and community members helping to strengthen and support public schools in Ward 6. Ward 6 schools serve a diverse student population, including students from across the city. Almost 40% of students attending Ward 6 DCPS schools live in Wards 5, 7, and 8.

We believe the DC Council can play a significant role in demanding and shaping a stronger education system that supports success for every student. We ask the Council to leverage every tool in its toolkit, including adjusting budgets, demanding action by DCPS in oversight, requesting a performance-based budget, amending the School Reform Act, stopping administrative actions that have not included robust public engagement and may negatively affect communities, to implement the following recommendations.

Ensure Transparency for All

Transparency for All Schools and LEAs. Parents and students must know that they are safe and supported. We support the Public School Transparency Act and urge the Council to take swift action to pass it.

Strong Oversight. We need strong oversight over both sectors and our education system as a whole to ensure transparency so that parents and the public are never kept in the dark about proposals, decisions or the impact of decisions on students, educators and school communities.

Stabilize School System and Supports

Invest in School Improvement and Stability. Having access to a predictable, high-quality elementary to high school feeder pattern is the most important predictor of in-boundary participation rates. We continue to see the opening of new schools that don’t take into account impacts on feeder patterns [1], pull students out of their in-boundary schools, and spread our precious education dollars thin. We see regular closures of schools causing great disruption and confusion to families. We need strategies for filling under-enrolled schools, particularly middle and high schools, and meeting the needs for middle schools that take into account what communities want. And, we need to continue to build on specialized programs such as language immersion programs by providing them a feeder path that continues those specialized programs.

Invest in Teacher and Principal Retention. Excessively high teacher and principal turnover creates tremendous instability throughout the school systems. An October 3, 2018, DCSBOE report on Teacher Turnover found that “teacher turnover is higher in DC than in other comparable American cities, including New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee, and higher than the national average. The yearly teacher turnover rate, averaged over three years, across both traditional public and public charter schools is about 25 percent, compared to a national average of approximately 16 percent and an average of 19% among a selection of urban districts. In both sectors, schools with the highest percentages of at-risk students tend to suffer from the highest rates of teacher turnover.” We recommend that the Council take action on the recommendations outlined in the report:

  • Create and maintain a single comprehensive and publicly available source of teacher and principal turnover data
  • Require the state to work with LEAs to ensure richer data collection on teacher and principal characteristics
  • Support a new, sustained research project exploring linkages between teacher and principal turnover and student success

In addition, as Chancellor Ferebee said at our recent W6PSPO meeting “Often people don’t leave jobs, they leave leaders.” We must ensure that the principal evaluation system includes effective processes for feedback from staff, students and parents. And we must be sure we are doing all we can to ensure our teachers and principals have the support they need to help all students succeed.

Develop and Follow a System-wide Master Facilities Plan. The master facilities planning by the Administration lacked authentic engagement and is unworkable as it only looks at planning for half of our students. We need a system-wide structure for planning and decision-making around school facilities for all public schools, both DCPS and Charter, including accurate projections for enrollment and vacant seats, strategies for filling under-enrolled schools, and community-responsive and community-engaged planning for new schools. System-wide plans should include coordination and strategy around opening, closing and changing the programmatic focus of schools.

Community-School Supported DC Research Collaborative: Kick off and fund the DC Research Collaborative, guided by a robust, diverse steering committee not comprised of majority mayoral appointees, that ensures safe and full sharing of data to support the work of the Collaborative, grounded in the needs of students and school improvement from the perspectives of those on the ground.

Ensure Adequate Resources and School Budgets

Educational Technology, including IT Support and Teacher Training: The DCPS technology initiative in the Mayor’s budget focuses on computer hardware and is a good first step. However, schools also need adequate IT support and teacher training to ensure that technology is used effectively. A comprehensive, multi-year plan for DCPS technology, as called for by the DCPS Student Technology Equity Act of 2019, is needed. Additionally, Council should press DCPS and OCTO on how it will support school technology for the remainder of this school year, in advance of online PARCC testing.

Adequate and Equitable Education School Budgets: Each year, costs increase faster than increases to school budgets. As a result, many schools are faced with staffing cuts each year. Schools can’t close achievement gaps and ensure college and career readiness for all with fewer and fewer resources each year. We must provide enough resources so every school has a strong base budget that builds on the previous year’s budget. In addition, at-risk funding must supplement, not supplant, other funding. Solving this challenge will likely involve increasing DCPS’s budget allocation from the Mayor as well as “looking under the hood” in DCPS central office budgeting, and at citywide costs for operating both DCPS and a charter sector. We highly recommend that Council (1) require and fund the DC Auditor to conduct a DCPS and PCSB budget audit and (2) commission a school budget expert to investigate these issues and make recommendations to mitigate unstable school budgeting and continued reductions in school staffs in the years to come.

Adequate Capital Budget for School Facilities: We must ensure that our DCPS schools that have yet to be modernized see a fast track to modernization and that we have robust funding for ongoing maintenance, repair and stabilization needs. We must also ensure safe, healthy, and modern school buildings.

  • Ensure an Effective Partnership between DGS and DCPS: Currently, school buildings are not being maintained efficiently and effectively. School communities too often have to turn to Councilmembers, media and social media to turn work orders into action items. We need significant oversight that will lead to new policy or funding that will ensure DGS and DCPS can work together efficiently and effectively to quick-response action that ensures the safety and health of students and faculty at every school.

  • Ensure Healthy and Safe Schools: Significant attention needs to be paid to ensure agencies are adequately protecting the health and safety of students, educators and staff in schools. We need to ensure transparency and support for lead-free schools and water and keep schools safe from other environmental hazards. We need to ensure transparency and allow the public access to observe implementation of the Water Filtration and Testing Protocol.

Support and Demand Effective Public Engagement

Effective Local School Advisory Teams (LSATs): LSATs are a critical aspect of ensuring school budgets are implemented effectively and are responsive to educator, student, and school community needs. However, LSATs are implemented unevenly and with varying degrees of success across schools. There should be significant research and oversight to understand the current state of LSATs and solutions uncovered to ensure robust engagement of LSATs across all schools.

Agency Support for Authentic Community Engagement: We need a robust conversation about how to improve community engagement in education issues involving the Mayor’s office, DME, DCPS, OSSE and the PCSB. From the lack of engagement in the Chancellor search to lack of regular engagement with communities about how to problem-solve together, DC has generally failed in engaging parents and communities in productive solutions. We believe that authentic engagement can be a critical lever in accelerating progress for students. Oversight is needed to uncover how engagement can be improved and systems put in place to ensure its effective use. Specific examples include major disconnects between agencies and those on the ground (e.g., educators and parents) on issues such as modernization, stabilization, school budgeting, school openings, strengthening feeder systems, school technology needs, etc.


[1] DCPS will open a new selective high school this year, Bard High School Early College and plans to double the capacity of  Banneker Academic High School, and the PCSB is considering 11 new applications this spring that include six stand-alone middle or high schools.

Status

School Transparency Bills: Discussion with Councilmember Allen – May 20, 2019

Summary of Discussion with Councilmember Allen regarding School Transparency Bills. Meeting was hosted by the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization on Tuesday, May 20, 2019.

Resources:

 

Background behind the drafting of the Public School Transparency Amendment Act of 2019 (introduced by Charles Allen):

  • Public accountability and transparency are important
  • Meant to bring parity between DCPS and DCPCSB and require ALL LEAs (DCPS, KIPP, BASIS, etc) to be subject to OMA and FOIA
  • Follows recommendations and best practices established by National Alliance for Charter Schools vis a vis Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA)
  • Talked w/ charter school parents who are surprised FOIA and OMA do not apply to their school boards
  • School leaders looking for transparency and voice
  • In terms of administrative burden, when we look at other school systems, there do not seem to be a lot of FOIA requests
  • Hearings are split. June 26 is School Based Budgeting and Transparency Amendment Act of 2019,; Oct 2 for CM Allen’s Public School Transparency Amendment Act of 2019  expecting both conversations to be similar, including public testimony.

Discussion:

Resources needed to support LEAs in FOIA compliance:

  • CM Allen and colleagues want to think creatively around accountability and transparency and willing to support resources towards LEAs and DCPCSB in fulfilling FOIA requirements.
    • *EmpowerEd Research reflects that subjecting schools to FOIA is endorsed by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools and data show it hasn’t been cumbersome for schools in the least. There are no states that provides support funds to local LEA’s to comply with FOIA since it is usually such a small percentage of someone’s existing job. In EmpowerEd research calling charter schools across many states, they talked to no school who received more than five FOIA requests in a year.

Competing(?) Bills

  • While there are several school transparency bills on the table, it is possible that elements from each will come together in a synthesized version. It’s likely that the hearings on each bill will yield discussion across all of the bills.

Transparency gaps raised:

  • We’re not asking for any more than what public schools provide. Also, all contractors that do work for the city are subject to FOIA.
  • Families concerned about at risk dollars, transparency, is money there for my child being used for my child? If there’s an issue, will we be able to FOIA that? These are public dollars. If passed, will it be properly funded the right way to be implemented?
    • FOIA may not be able to help with this (or other issues) directly, but allows communities to be empowered to ask the questions and sunshine on govt.
  • Monument Academy, sexual assaults, weapons charges and allegations have yielded mixed responses vis a vis transparency. In situations where something wrong is at the school, what could bill do to ensure transparency? CM Allen: When Monument was coming in, there was pushback from neighbors, so stood up for Monument. Does having ability to have more information bring transparency? Some issues described come up against criminal justice system, which we also need to be sensitive to.
  • Is it possible to get a fiscal impact statement for transparency bill? Can we FOIA DCPS and ask how much spent on FOIA? CM Allen: Typically, fiscal impact statement not prepared in advance of a hearing. However, just because FOIA requires resources, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. From agency side, transparency is a cost of doing business.
  • Wish DCPS and DCPCSB get on the same page. It would be so much easier for parents. Parents have kids in both sectors, it would be easier to stay on top of everything happening. Education dollars are significant and affecting a lot of kids. If we take away labels, they are all DC kids. Where is curriculum? Where are the teachers?
  • There are less restrictions on public funds – none of the bills put the same restrictions on at-risk funds across DCPS and charters.
  • Teachers would like for more information sharing so they are more protected: care about how schools are spending money, compensation (no pay scale, equity concerns), how our schools are governed – unless at a school that prioritizes teacher and parent voice.

Possible solutions to DCPCSB FOIA compliance structure:

  • (DCOGC) Recommendation for DCPCSB to serve as FOIA facilitator for LEAs. The way this can work is that while FOIA doesn’t let you reach private entities, but if it’s required that LEAs turn over their information to the DCPCSB, if you don’t get the records; you want, you can appeal to the Office of Open Govt and compel the DCPCSB to turn over the documents. It makes sense for DCPCSB to develop disclosure policy.
  • The way it currently works, you are unable to FOIA the contractor and what power does DCPCSB have to get info from LEAs?
  • Answer is for DCPCSB to include in charter the provision that requires school to turn over records to the board.

Outreach around bills

NEXT STEPS:

Status

W6PSPO Meets Tuesday @ Payne

The Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization will meet on Tuesday (June 18) at 6:30 pm at Payne Elementary (1445 C Street, SE). Jessica Sutter, the W6 State Board of Education representative will join us for a discussion on what makes a rich curriculum. We will also plan for the June 26 hearing on Councilmember Allen’s At Risk Funding bill and Councilmember Grosso’s School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act. We will also discuss organizing an annual tour of the schools in W6 which is one of the action items in our strategic plan.

Finally, please let me know who your school’s newly elected PTA/PTO officers and who your W6PSPO contact is, and I will update our roster. Thanks to those schools who have already let me know. If you want your name removed from this e-mail list, please let me know.

Suzanne Wells

Strategic Plan Action Items 2019.docx

Status

Support The Master Facilities Plan – Modernize Banneker HS and Shaw MS Campuses on Separate Sites


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2019 
     Contact: Alexandra Simbana
   Save Shaw Middle School Coalition
   202-907-5518
Save Shaw MS Coalition Opposes Mayor Bowser’s Proposal
to Build Two Schools on Shaw Site
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a closed-door meeting yesterday with ANC 6E Commissioner Alex Padro, the Mayor proposed a plan to build both Shaw Middle School and Banneker High School on the Shaw JHS site.

The Save Shaw Middle School Coalition strongly opposes this plan. “This proposal is a profound disservice to both the Shaw Middle School and the Banneker High School communities”, declared Alex Padro, ANC 6E Commissioner.
The Council has consistently voted for the modernization of Banneker at Euclid Street and has supported the rebuilding of Shaw at Shaw.  These decisions are consistent with the educational facility master plans, the approved capital budgets, and the recommendations on feeder patterns and student assignment that then Mayor Gray accepted and the Council approved in 2014 and should not be delayed.

A high school with a middle school like the one designed and built in Ward 4 to include Roosevelt High School and MacFarland Middle School involves about 17.5 acres for a middle and high school with total capacity for 1800 students.

Source_ Google Earth_ both juxtaposed pictures taken at 965m
Another public school campus is the Columbia Heights Education Campus, built in 2006 with a 1400 student capacity for both an application high school and a neighborhood middle school sites on a tight 8 acres. The Columbia Heights Education building is 325,248 gross square feet, a building that is larger than is permitted to be built on the Shaw site. In addition, the Columbia Heights Education Campus schools were constructed and opened at the same time, which was the only way to fit on their small site.

Maggie Koziol, parent at Seaton Elementary DCPS said “Building two schools on this small site would deprive children and community critical access to outdoor and athletic facilities. I don’t understand why Banneker would want to make this move to the Shaw site.  We have no tennis courts, no track, no baseball or softball fields.  There are only 6.1 acres for the Shaw school and recreation areas, but there are 13.1 acres of school and athletic areas at the historic Banneker site.”

###
About the Save Shaw Middle School Coalition:
The Save Shaw Middle School Coalition (https://twitter.com/saveshawms) was born in response to the Mayor’s decision in October 2018 to build Banneker High School on the site of the Shaw Junior High which had been promised to the community since the school was closed in 2008. We believe all children – at Banneker and in the schools that feed into Shaw Middle School – were promised modernized schools and deserve a thoughtful long-term solution that meets their needs.
Status

W6PSPO Meets Tuesday, May 21 @ Brent

Dear Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization members,

W6PSPO will meet on Tuesday, May 21, at 6:30 pm at Brent Elementary School (301 North Carolina Ave., SE). We will be joined by Councilmember Charles Allen and LaJoy Johnson-Law with Advocates for Justice & Education to discuss issues dealing with transparency in public schools, and the Public School Transparency Act that was introduced by Councilmember Allen.

Hope to see you on Tuesday.

Suzanne Wells

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/transparency-in-public-schools-with-ward-6-councilmember-charles-allen-tickets-61506856664

Status

Transparency in Public Schools with Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen on May 21 – 6:30pm at Brent ES

shane-rounce-236805-unsplash

Please join our May 21 meeting, 6:30pm at Brent Elementary.

Councilmember Charles Allen,  LaJoy Johnson-Law (with Advocates for Justice & Education http://www.aje-dc.org) will discuss the Public School Transparency Amendment Act of 2019 that was introduced by Councilmember Allen.

Come early to hear from CM Allen and stay for and open discussion on how we can achieve much needed transparency across our all our publicly funded schools.

This event is co-hosted by EmpowerEd https://www.weareempowered.org/.

Please register to help us ensure adequate space: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/transparency-in-public-schools-with-ward-6-councilmember-charles-allen-tickets-61506856664