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W6PSPO Meets July 16 at Northeast Library

The Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization will meet on Tuesday, July 16, at 6:30 pm at the Northeast Library (330 7th St., NE). Jennifer Comey from the Deputy Mayor for Education’s office will join us to give an overview of EdScape Beta, a new data resource tool intended to inform and support program and school planning. Hope to see you on Tuesday.

| edscape

Suzanne Wells

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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

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W6PSPO Meets Tuesday, April 9 @ Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan

The Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization will meet this Tuesday, April 9, from 6:30 – 8 pm at Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan (215 G Street, NE). We’ll be joined by Theodora Brown with the Ward 5 Council on Education and Eboni-Rose Thompson with the Ward 7 Education Council. They will share their ward council’s education priorities, and we’ll discuss ways we can support each other’s work. We will also discuss city-wide impacts with the proposed SY19/20 budget.

Hope to see you on Tuesday.

Suzanne Wells

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Suzanne Wells Testimony – DC Public Schools Budget Oversight Hearing – March 29, 2019

Committee on Whole and Education

Budget Hearing

on the

District of Columbia Public Schools

Friday, March 29, 2019

            Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  My name is Suzanne Wells.  I am the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization, and the parent of an 8th grader at Eliot-Hine Middle School.

When the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) released the school report cards in December 2018, Eliot-Hine, a Title 1 school, was rated as a one-star school, ranked in the bottom 5% of all schools in DC, and designated as a Comprehensive Support School.  We learned last night that Eliot-Hine was selected to be a Connected School which will allow the school to become connected with partners and city agencies to offer a range of supports to students, families and staff.  Because of its Comprehensive Support status, Eliot-Hine will be receiving some additional funding.  Is the funding Eliot-Hine will receive enough?  No.  However, because of the school’s low enrollment, it is hard to justify funding it more.

While I don’t feel Eliot-Hine has served the current students at the school well, I am hopeful for its future.  This summer the planned renovation will begin.  We anticipate Principal Magrino will be back next year, and bring much needed stability and leadership to the school.  Training will be provided to staff this summer to strengthen the IB program. The DCPS enrollment team is working to make in-bound families aware of opportunities within the Eastern feeder pattern, e.g., the January Eastern Feeder Fest.  I firmly believe as result of all of these efforts, we will start to see more and more in-bound families choosing Eliot-Hine in the coming years.

We must ensure the same investments are happening at the schools in Wards 7 and 8 that have seen multi-year enrollment declines, and broken feeder patterns.  Targeted efforts in Wards 7 and 8 to fix broken feeder patterns and provide course offerings, experiences and safe passage to and from school that students in other parts of the city have will ensure Ward 7 and 8 families have what they say they want, i.e., quality in-bound schools to choose from, and will be the fiscally responsible thing for the city to do as families are attracted back to DCPS.

To date, as a city, we have not confronted the staggeringly inefficient use of resources.  Why when almost 18% of our city’s budget or close to $2 billion is spent on education are there discrepancies in offerings among our schools, and many school needs going unaddressed?  Why is there going to be a cut in, e.g., school librarians or technology maintenance?  I believe a key reason is we are inefficiently using our education dollars.

No one really understands the inefficient use of resources inherent in our two-sector school system, DCPS and the charter sector, that operates without any coordination.  DC has truly been a leader in investing in capital improvements to our school buildings, and I commend the Council for its support for the renovations of our DCPS schools. Yet many of these renovated schools are under enrolled.  Across the city we have many small and under-enrolled schools that cost more to run on a per student basis than a fully-enrolled school.   There’s no better example of this than our high schools where we fund nineteen high schools (four DCPS and 15 charters) that enroll fewer than 400 students.  These schools cost more to operate on a per student basis, and they don’t offer the students the educational opportunities and experiences they deserve.

Operating small and under-enrolled schools isn’t the only area where we see inefficiencies.  Taxpayers pay over $3,300 for a facilities allocation for every student attending a charter school while we have thousands of empty seats in many of the beautiful DCPS school buildings our city has renovated. And, there are 11 applications before the Public Charter School Board (PCSB) this spring to open new charter schools to serve 4000 additional students while we have over 20,000 vacant seats across both sectors.

In closing, I would like to ask the Council to explain why it makes sense to open up even one new school this year when there are vacant seats in both sectors.  I would also like to ask the Council to explain why it makes sense to open any new schools this spring instead of investing in strengthening the feeder patterns of our by-right school system.  And, I would like ask the Council to commission a budget study that identifies the inefficiencies in our City’s two sector/choice approach so we can reduce the inefficiencies, and put our tax dollars towards supporting students.

 

 

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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.

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CHPSPO Meets Tuesday, March 19 @ Payne ES

CHPSPO will meet on Tuesday, March 19, at 6:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C St., SE).  Chancellor Ferebee and W6 SBOE representative Jessica Sutter will join us at our meeting.  We’ll also be deciding on CHPSPO’s new name!  I hope you can join us.

Suzanne Wells

————————

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization

March 19, 2019

Payne Elementary School

1445 C Street, SE

6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Mission Statement – To promote cooperation among the parent organizations of the public schools on Capitol Hill in order to improve the education received by all children attending our schools.

6:30 – 6:40 Welcome and Introductions

6:40 – 6:50 At-Risk Funding Overview – Betsy Wolf, Amidon-Bowen parent

6:50 – 7:30 Open discussion with Chancellor Ferebee

7:30 – 7:45 Open discussion with Jessica Sutter, SBOE W6

7:45 – 7:50 Wilson Building Visits – Danica Petroshius

7:50 – 8:00 CHPSPO’s new name

Next CHPSPO Meeting: April 23, 2019 (Note: 4th Thursday due to spring break)

Upcoming Events

Budget Oversight Hearings

March 27 State Board of Education, Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education, and the Office of the Student Advocate

March 29 DCPS (Public Witnesses Only)

April 4 Public Charter School Board

April 9 Office of the State Superintendent of Education

April 25 Deputy Mayor for Education

March 25 Capitol Hill Community Foundation Spring Grants deadline

March 29 Ferebee Friday, Pretzel Bakery, 8 – 9:30 am

Visit CHPSPO on the web at http://chpspo.org

Signe Nelson Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 12, 2019

Testimony before the Council of the District of Columbia

Committee of the Whole & Education Roundtable 0 PR 23-0061

The Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools

Dr. Lewis Ferebee Confirmation Resolution of 2019, February 12, 2019

Submitted by Signe Nelson

 

Good afternoon, Chair-Persons and Members.

My name is Signe Nelson, 19 years an ESL teacher, currently serving in Ward 4 where I also reside.  I also sit on the WTU Executive Board. I am here to voice my own objection to the Mayor’s choice for DCPS Chancellor, Dr. Lewis Ferebee

I do not know Dr. Ferebee personally. I won’t comment on his lapse of judgement as a mandated reporter – I can’t say whether it is more or less serious than the lapse of judgement that cost Antwan Wilson his job.

Nor do I object to the nation-wide search for the best available talent and relevant track record.  In fact, in my opinion, complicity in the failed policies and practices of the Rhee/Henderson era, and the lack of demonstrated will or ability to move DCPS in a new direction, effectively disqualify the leading internal candidates.

My real concern is privatization of public education.  Funding for education is the first or second line in every state budget, including the District of Columbia.  That’s a lot of money.  We have charter schools thanks to Congress, through the District of Columbia School Reform Act of 1995, not because our citizens EVER voted to use Washington, D.C. as a laboratory for a charter school experiment.  Charter expansion got a big boost during the Rhee-Henderson years with the closure of over 40 neighborhood schools of right.  At the same time, DCPS turned over key functions to outside contractors closely allied with the charter world, and funded by pro-charter philanthropists. And we are under relentless attack by charter expansion interests masquerading as democratic, grass-roots activism, also funded by pro-charter philanthropists.  It should not really come as a surprise that the expansion of the charter sector to nearly 50% of enrollment, and the ill-conceived “reforms” of the last 12 years have led to little appreciable improvement in the educational experiences and outcomes for the overwhelming majority of our children in both sectors. On the deepest level, I believe it is all about the money.

What I am seeing here right now disturbs me, and it should disturb you, too. The Mayor hires (and the Council confirms) a deputy mayor, whose premier expertise is in charter conversion.  She backs charter advocates in SBOE elections.  Now she offers us a chancellor, who rather than turning schools around, turns them over to private operators.  It looks to me like the plan is to continue to privatize at the expense of public education, by setting the foxes to guard the hen house.  This is the same strategy the President uses to weaken Federal departments and agencies by placing them in the hands of individuals hostile to their missions.   Whose plan is this?  Who is making education policy behind the scenes? In Indianapolis it is the Mind Trust.  In L.A., it is Eli Broad’s plan. In Washington DC, is it City Bridge Education? Education Forward DC? DC Public Education Fund?  The City Fund? Walton Family Foundation?  As Deep Throat said, “Follow the money.”

So now it is on you.  If you confirm Dr. Ferebee, it will be your responsibility to monitor him closely.  Require transparency and accountability.  Defend against unelected, private interests making education policy to suit their own agenda.  Maybe he will surprise me.  Like Dr. Ferebee and Mr. Kihn,  Antwan Wilson was a Broad Fellow,  but he surprised many of us by not following a Broad agenda.  Some folks think that’s the real reason he is no longer with us.

As we go forward, keep in mind the fable of the frog and the scorpion: A scorpion asks a frog to ferry him across a swollen river.  Familiar with the scorpion’s deadly reputation, the frog refuses, but the scorpion reassures him with soothing words and an appeal to logic: “It would be against my own interests to sting you,” he reasons, “for it would bring about my own demise.” Half way across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. “Why?” gasps the frog with his last breath. “Because it is what I do.” sighs the scorpion with his.