Maggie Koziol Testimony – Education Public Roundtable – DCPS’ Plans for Shaw Junior High School and Banneker Academic High School – November 15, 2018

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on this important issue that affects hundreds of families in Shaw and Center City. I moved to Shaw in 2007, my husband has lived in Center City since 2002. We brought both our children home to our little house across the street from the original Shaw Junior High School, and our son now attends Seaton Elementary. Go Stingers!

I’m here because I want a stand-alone middle school to be opened at the Shaw Junior High School location that provides a feeder for all children from Seaton, Garrison, Cleveland, Thomson, and Ross Elementary schools – schools that serve Wards 1, 2, 5, 6 and beyond. I want what was promised to the community years ago and as recently as last year by Mayor Bowser at a public ANC meeting. A change of mayor should not invalidate processes or outcome decisions that predate an administration. At some point — even under mayoral control — community input and Council oversight has to start meaning something.

I also want the high-achieving students and hard-working staff at Banneker High School to get their long awaited and much deserved modernization.

And, I want both to happen transparently, through data-driven, thoughtful, long-term planning, and with the community engagement that’s absolutely critical to decisions of this magnitude; decisions that will impact these communities for a generation or more.

None of this should be a zero-sum game.

Today, I’d like to focus on a question I have regarding process and oversight, the importance of listening to constituent and community needs, and how we get to a resolution that makes sense for the communities involved and the city as a whole.

We know that as recently as 3 years ago the Capital Improvement budget had $55 million allocated for a renovation of Shaw Middle School. Without community engagement, and despite repeated appeals for a feasibility study to be conducted regarding the future of Shaw Middle, that money was reallocated to another school. Under similarly opaque circumstances, the announcement that Banneker High School would be moved to the Shaw Junior High site was made two weeks ago, blindsiding the community and making one wonder if DCPS is prioritizing exclusive test-in only schools over serving predominately at-risk populations.

I understand that the budget has already been allocated for the modernization of Banneker High School, a modernization the students and staff have been waiting for a long time, and is much deserved. Now, as someone who has managed $100 million dollar projects for the US government, I want to ask a question regarding the scope of work changes to the Banneker modernization project. In my experience as a project manager, a project whose scope deviates or changes substantially after it has been approved must be reevaluated and reapproved. An example from my own past work: if a decision had been made to build 10 health clinics in one location, but then later it was determined that a different location was desired, then the contractor would have to through a standardized reapproval process due to deviations from the original plan. Likewise, if I want to build an addition on my row house in Shaw, get my permits, but then decide that I’d prefer to build a roof deck, I’d have to go back to DCRA for new approvals. All this to say, that the budget that was approved for Banneker’s modernization called for a renovation and expansion of the school’s existing building. The Mayor’s announcement from a couple weeks ago is a major deviation from that. Given these substantial changes in the project’s scope of work what is the Council’s role is re-evaluating the budget and decision more generally?

Further, rather than thinking about this as a challenge, I believe that this substantial change in scope and necessary reexamination presents an opportunity for the Council to put a check and appropriate oversight on this opaque process, and for Mayor Bowser, the Deputy Mayor, and DCPS to right the wrong in this matter as it relates to working with the community to come to the best solution for ALL kids in Center City – whether they attend Banneker or will attend the Shaw Middle School.

To close, we have independent analysis that shows we can renovate and expand Banneker AND provide Shaw with the middle school it deserves. And, to the latter point, we know that communities are strengthened through neighborhood schools. The families who attend these schools and those who live in the center of this great city deserve strong, by-right stand-alone schools from elementary to middle and high school, and nothing less.

Thank you for time, and I implore you, please do not let this go unchecked.


Sarah Livingston Testimony – Education Public Roundtable – DCPS’ Plans for Shaw Junior High School and Banneker Academic High School – November 15, 2018

Greetings Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I’m Sarah Livingston, a 12 year resident of Shaw and I appreciate the opportunity to comment on this subject.

I support the DC government in keeping its promise of 2008 to rebuild Shaw Junior High School on the same site it was forced to leave.

I do not support relocating Banneker anywhere because its proximity to Howard University is too good to give up. If the rationale is that it must be moved to have more space to serve more students, then that rationale should also apply to School Without Walls which sits on the George Washington University campus and is also a first rate school.

More broadly, as to where these ideas came from, because I don’t think that they “just fell from the sky” as Councilmember Evans said at the November 3rd meeting of the neighborhood about this.

I believe that when the means for democratic governing of DCPS was abolished in 2007, kicking the public out of any decisions such as these, a group of entities moved in to form a private de facto board of education to take our place. They are a minority of the city’s population, who exclude themselves from the general public into enclaves such as the DC Education Fund, RaiseDC and City Bridge Education to determine what “reforms” DCPS will make. Then they pass them on to the mayor for her to announce them with the expectation that the majority will accept them as orders to be obeyed because the mayor, elected by a majority, said so.

That is the most glaring perversion of democracy I’ve ever seen or heard of!

A government that allows a minority to rule over the majority is not a democratic one and it must find a way to reform itself so that the whole public—including the people in these private entities—can once again democratically govern DCPS so that decisions like these are publicly known parts of a democratically agreed to plan for the public school district as a whole.

Sarah Livingston


Suki Lucier – Education Public Roundtable – DCPS’ Plans for Shaw Junior High School and Banneker Academic High School – November 15, 2018

My name is Suki Lucier. I’m the mother of a second grader at Seaton Elementary school and the president of the Seaton Parent Teacher Organization.

When I was pregnant with our son in 2010, along with the typical questions about when I was due and if we knew if it was a boy or a girl, we also got asked over and over about when we would be moving out of the city. Not if, when. And when we said that we had no interest in moving, we usually heard the same response: but what will you do about schools? I mean, maybe you’re ok through elementary school, but there’s no way you can send him to a DCPS middle school!

At the time, it felt like we had plenty of time to figure out what would be best for our child and family (and, to be totally honest, time for DCPS to get better) but before we knew it, it was time for our son to start school and we chose a charter school in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, we came to realize that even though the school was in our neighborhood and we formed friendships with many of the families and teachers at the school, the fact that those families came from all over the city made it difficult to build a strong school community, and the school never felt like it was part of the neighborhood.

All that changed when my son moved to our neighborhood, in-bounds school, Seaton Elementary, for pre-k 4. We had heard a lot of great things about Seaton- that they had an amazing principal, teachers and staff, a uniquely diverse student population, and quite possibly the most impressive school garden in town- and we quickly learned that while all of those things are true, Seaton’s best quality is one that’s hard to quantify on a DCPS school profile: Seaton is truly a neighborhood school and an anchor in the community.

Being part of the Seaton community has made us feel involved, invested, and connected to our neighborhood and city like never before. We love being part of the parade of families walking and biking into school in the morning and seeing familiar faces all over the neighborhood. I didn’t fully appreciate how meaningful it is to be a part of a community like that, or how beneficial it is for the neighborhood, the school, and its families until I had the chance to experience it, but now that I have, I strongly believe that every child and family in the district should be able to have that same experience. I believe that every child in the district should be able to have a clear path from pre-k to graduation through quality neighborhood schools.

But for Shaw, it’s not even a matter of having a quality neighborhood middle school, it’s that we don’t have a neighborhood middle school at all. Our by-right feeder middle school, Cardozo Education Campus, is over a mile from Seaton, and almost two miles from families living near Seaton’s eastern boundary of North Capitol street. That’s not a neighborhood school, and the hole that leaves in the community is only worsened by the fact that the middle school at Cardozo has always been presented as temporary measure and lacks a strong feeder pattern. Only Seaton and Garrison feed directly into Cardozo as Ross has the option to feed into School Without Walls, and the Spanish Immersion program at Cleveland has the option to feed into McFarland Middle School.
We feel the effects of this all the way down at the elementary level, where Seaton loses kids in 4th and 5th grades because their parents are getting them into elementary schools with strong middle school feeder patterns. And so we looked across the street to where Shaw Middle has sat empty of students, but full of promise for the neighborhood and our kids, for over a decade, and we waited for it to be our turn.

We had good reason to believe it would be our turn eventually: there had been money in the budget for renovating or rebuilding Shaw Middle School every year since it closed, the 2014 Final Recommendations on Student Assignment Policies and DCPS School Boundaries had included a recommendation that DCPS should open a stand-alone middle school at the original Shaw Middle School site, and Shaw had exploded with families since then. And just last year, Mayor Bowser stood in front of our community and said that DCPS remained committed to opening a middle school at that site.

So you can imagine our surprise and dismay when we learned that the Mayor and DCPS had decided to move Banneker High School to the Shaw Middle School site without doing any meaningful engagement with the Shaw community. Now they say that they want to engage with us and they claim that they care about the opinions of the community, but they fail to respond to the request that is being shouted at them from across the city to put the breaks on the plans to move Banneker to the Shaw site until an analysis can be done on the full impact of that decision on all the involved communities. Not only do they insist on pressing on, they refuse to even do us the courtesy of telling us why it is so urgent to do so. Schools are built once every generation or two, so why is this process being rushed like this?

When I was reading about the history of Shaw Middle school, I learned that prior to the school’s relocation to the site at 925 Rhode Island Ave NW in NW, it had been known as “Shameful Shaw” for the deplorable conditions under which students had to study. Please don’t let this be the 21st century version of Shameful Shaw.

To that end, I ask that there be a complete pause in the process of moving Banneker to the Shaw site until the council is able to complete an investigation into the following questions:

-What was the exact timeline of events, including: the decision to remove funds that had been earmarked for the Shaw Middle School renovation; the decision to use those funds to renovate MacFarland Middle School, which is in the mayor’s home ward; the Shaw Middle School site being seen as being available for other options besides a neighborhood middle school; the Shaw Middle School site being seen as an option for Banneker; and the start of the official Banneker Modernization process?

-Has the Banneker building has already been promised to someone, and if so, when it was promised and to whom? Are the rumors that it has been promised to a charter school true, and if so, when was that deal made? Is the refusal to push pause on the Banneker relocation process due to the fact that the current Banneker site needs to be turned over to someone else by a certain date?

-Was the timing of the decisions surrounding moving Banneker to Shaw and the related extremely limited community outreach done intentionally to limit community feedback, particularly from at-risk communities such as non-native English speakers?

-Is there truth to the Mayor’s reported statement that the reason for expanding Banneker is to ease crowding at Wilson and that her plans for a middle school in Shaw are to open a city-wide, test-in school? If so, what are the Mayor’s justifications for denying Shaw a neighborhood, by-right school? Why does Shaw have to pick up the tab for the rest of the city?

This matters. This matters so much. The people who questioned us about our plans to move once we had our son may have been way off base about our commitment to staying in the district, but they were right about how important middle school is. It’s make or break, for students and for their families, but also for DCPS, which is why it’s so frustrating that DCPS refuses to listen to the repeated requests to pause the Banneker relocation process until a full analysis can be done as to whether there is a need for a stand alone neighborhood middle school in Shaw, and if so, whether the neighborhood and city would best be served by having a middle school at the former Shaw site.


Becky Reina Testimony – Education Public Roundtable – DCPS’ Plans for Shaw Junior High School Campus and Banneker Academic High School – November 15, 2018

Hello, I‘m Becky Reina, mother of 2 Cleveland Elementary School students. Thank you for this opportunity to testify.

I want Shaw Junior High School to be reopened as a middle school fed by Seaton, Cleveland, Garrison, Ross, and Thomson Elementary Schools as envisioned by the Office of the DME in 2014 as a result of many hours of public engagement.

I want Banneker to be thoughtfully renovated elsewhere, after real, public engagement with the Banneker community, its neighbors, SHAPPE, and all other interested stakeholders. A renovation at Banneker’s current historic building makes sense to me, but I think that decision should be made in cooperation, publicly, not by the mayor alone, and based on data about the need for expansion and an assessment of how that expansion will affect other DCPS high schools and their feeder schools.

While I prepared this testimony, a friend told me after watching a Shaw Middle School advocate shaming the acting DME at a public meeting, that they were not effective. I suspect none of us are — because we are too angry. We are angry and exhausted from years of begging the city to listen to us, from years of broken promises by mayors, DMEs, and Chancellors. I personally testified to this body in 2015 about my disappointment that Shaw MS had disappeared from the Capital Improvement Plan without explanation. I was in a meeting in your office Councilmember Grosso, with you and Councilmember Allen and Shaw Middle School advocates, in 2015, 3 years ago. We, I, want a strong feeder pattern from PK3 to 12th grade, in every part of the city. I want city leadership to meet the needs of every child in their own neighborhood.

Shame on the Mayor for making this zero sum: Banneker or Shaw, but not both. I would like to read an excerpt from the website, DC Urban Moms and Dads. On, November 10th, an anonymous poster stated that Mayor Bowser attended a West of the Park community meeting and when asked what she intended to do about overcrowding at Wilson High School, she said:

“The quickest way I can reduce crowding and demand for Wilson is to get Banneker at Shaw opened as quickly as possible…If we move them to Shaw, I have 350 more seats we can fill; these are families who would otherwise be clamoring to get into Wilson or SWW…

We can also increase high quality middle school seats by taking the current Banneker space and creating a new, high quality middle school open to all District residents.”

I was not at the this meeting. So you must now ask the Mayor if she said this and if so, what she meant. When I read this, I do not hear an advocate of strong neighborhood schools in every neighborhood. I hear the Mayor telling affluent, mostly white people, that, ‘I will keep those striving students of color out of your high school. I will open more specialty programming away from you to keep your program the way you like it.’

I find this unacceptable. Our goal as a city should always be to meet the needs of the kids who need the most first, to create schools that are racially and economically integrated, that stitch our city, our children, our lives, together —not further apart. More gimmicky, specialty programming will not do that. Another charter school will not do that. More “choice” will not do that. Neighborhood schools do that, especially in mid city, where that diversity exists in our neighborhoods. You fix structural deficits by doing the hard work of supporting kids where they live and where they already go to school, not quick fixes that juke the stats.

I have been standing at the front of my children’s school, talking to fellow parents and grandparents about this. They do not look like me, they did not grow up with the advantages I had – roughly 50% of students at Cleveland meet the city definition of At-Risk (the same is true for students at Garrison and Seaton). These are parents I only know through Cleveland. We are part of a community we have built together because of our differences, because of our kids, because of our school. Shaw Middle School is what these parents want – some of them are Shaw Junior High School alumni themselves. And these parents want your help.

On a recent conference call about middle school options in Shaw – a call that was secret until we found out about it by accident – a DCPS representative asked, “How should we engage these parents if they never show up?” A lack of effective engagement shouldn’t translate into discounting a community or renouncing efforts to engage them directly. These parents want the city to ask them what they want, to listen to the answers. We need the Council’s leadership on this. Please, reopen Shaw as a middle school. Please help us create a strong feeder pattern from PK3 through 12th grade. Do not let the Mayor make these decision without us.

Thank you.


Cathy Reilly Testimony – Education Public Roundtable – DCPS’ Plans for Shaw Junior High School Campus and Banneker Academic High School, November 15, 2018

DC Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators (S.H.A.P.P.E) Testimony Cathy Reilly – Exec. Director

Thank you for this opportunity to offer testify on the Mayor’s and DCPS’s recent decision to – Expand Banneker to 800 students
– Relocate the school to the Shaw site
– Further postpone planning and budget for a needed middle school in Shaw

First I would like to strongly affirm the necessity for Banneker to get a beautiful modernized building and that there be no delay. The conflict before you today did not originate with the Banneker community. You are the oversight body, there are excellent options here for everyone involved.

The decision I would like to focus on is the one to raise the enrollment of Banneker HS to 800 students. The history of the discussions indicates that this initiative came from the Mayor/ DCPS as a way to grow the enrollment in DCPS and respond to a demand that they see for selective admission.
With the announcement of a BardDC eventually growing to 600, DCPS will have 7 application high schools. The Mayor has thus announced an increase of at least 900 DCPS high school application seats going forward. I was curious as to what these decisions might tell us about the vision for DCPS high schools. While I understand that DCPS is assuming that a number of the incoming students will come from charter, private and additional residents, it is still worth looking at the direction this expansion of application seats is taking us. I also do not believe the number of applications in the lottery can be a sole basis for these assumptions. Families are applying to private, charter and public schools and preserving many options.

Looking at our current projected numbers with the addition of BardDC, this Banneker expansion and including Ron Brown as a lottery specialty high school, we have 7 application/lottery high schools which would serve 37% of our enrollment. Our 9 neighborhood high schools (with Wilson serving 29% of these students) would serve 51% and our 6 alternative high schools 12%. We already have capacity to serve an additional 3000 students in our high schools (with the exception of School Without Walls and Wilson). We should be using this already beautifully modernized capacity. Not paying to build capacity we do not need at the high school level.

By expanding the selective admission schools, we are stratifying our public system, we are exacerbating existing divisions and setting up a system that looks like tracking. It appears to us, that the response to the crisis last spring in the comprehensive high schools was to open more selective options, and concentrate ambitious students in separate schools. It was not to highlight what we have and offer more support and creative programing for all of our secondary students.

An alternative vision might have looked at all the possibilities for attracting students to the stunning High School buildings the city has modernized. Expanding and getting the word out on what exists is a start. Application academies within a high school where there are some shared courses and experiences plus increased programming like what will roll out at Coolidge in the fall could be dimensions of this vision. DCPS could maximize its advantage as a system instead of looking at each school as a single unit. Families choosing DCPS at the elementary level would see relief from the lottery and anxiety of chance in the investment in strong feeder systems like the Shaw community has been asking for.

After resolving this issue, we might go forward with a DCPS master facilities plan process with a vision guiding decisions on how much capacity DCPS should have in the application only select high schools; or whether and where schools should be sited—whether we need more high schools or are risking closure of some; or whether to open middle or other schools and where to locate them. Right now, each school is planned independently. Master planning is critical because decisions made about one school affect other schools and communities. We started to build part of this with the Student Assignment Recommendations.

Thank you.


Mary Levy and Caryn Ernst Resign from Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force

November 10, 2018

To: The Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force
c/o Paul Kihn, Acting Deputy Mayor for Education

From: Mary Levy and Caryn Ernst

We write to submit our resignations from the Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force and to state why we have declined to endorse the report just released.

We do this because the report and recommendations fail to deal with the most important elements of the Task Force’s basic mission: to formulate a clear vision to guide the relationship between the traditional and charter education sectors; to significantly reduce student mobility, particularly mid-year mobility; and to create a meaningful framework for opening, closing and siting schools that reflects a sensible vision for public education in the District of Columbia.

There are big underlying issues: Will the City provide an excellent matter-of-right DCPS path from PK through high school in every community in a system that is accountable to them and their elected officials, providing families with shelter from the “chance” of the lottery and the need to traverse the city? To do so would require making that an explicit goal and implementing policies to achieve it. Will the City close more DCPS schools or have charter schools take them over? Does the City recognize the different obligations and challenges of DCPS matter-of-right schools and charter (and other DCPS schools) and the implications of those differences? The report and recommendations, at best, leave these issues open and yet addressing them lay at the heart of the Task Force mandate.

We and others have raised all these concerns during Task Force meetings, in a November letter we sent to the DME, the co-chairs and members of the Task Force, and in comments on the draft. Parents and community members at the public engagement sessions also spoke to these issues
Our voice is not represented in the tone or the recommendations, nor in a minority report. We believe that charter schools are not a substitute for excellent by-right DCPS schools in every neighborhood. Policymakers’ talking to each other does not constitute a framework for opening, closing and siting schools. We fear that the only steps on student mobility facilitate rather than reduce it.
We understand that this task is difficult and that efforts were made, but at bottom, after two and a half years of effort, the key finding of the Task Force seems to be that no real consensus could be reached on a vision or on ways to meaningfully address the key challenges the Task Force was created to address. The report suggests that we are generally on the right track and therefore conveys a sense that the absence of a vision and a framework for where we want to go is not a serious problem. We do not share either view and as such, the report does not reflect our views in letter or spirit. We cannot therefore endorse it.
CSCTF Report final.pdf


CHPSPO Meets Tuesday, October 16 @ Seaton Elementary

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,

CHPSPO will meet on Tuesday, October 16, at 6:30 pm at Seaton Elementary (1503 10th St., NW). We will get an update on the technology advocacy efforts, the proposed Research Collaborative, and the issues surrounding Shaw Middle School. Hope to see you on Tuesday.

Suzanne Wells

101618 CHPSPO Agenda.docx