$400 Million – by Peter MacPherson

by Pether MacPherson

Dear Friends:


Some of you may not be aware that last week the news was released that the city has a $400 million budget surplus. This is far in excess of the $140 million that was reported back in November. There are many worthwhile projects that could benefit from access to these funds. I’m hoping you’ll join with me in using a portion of these monies to address some severe shortcomings and inequalities that exist in the District of Columbia Public Schools. The needs fall in three areas: libraries, technology and music. We’ve made considerable progress on the library issue in the past year. The chancellor has publicly committed herself to a library and librarian in every school. Unfortunately the libraries need much more help. In most schools the library collections are old and thin or non-existent. Anacostia High School has a media center with no books. H.D. Woodson High School has 400. It should have 16,400. The average age of the books in Eastern High School’s small collection is 1980. The average age of the books at Watkins Elementary School is 1993. And even Wilson High School has a collection that is only half the size it should be. The libraries need a massive influx of new resources. Spending $14 million to $16 million would allow DCPS to bring most of its libraries to accepted norms in terms of collection size. It would give each school at least 30 periodical subscriptions and give students access to a much larger number of databases. It would allow the creation of a 40,000 volume digital library and give schools the eReaders needed to access these digital assets. And money would be available to upgrade library spaces in a poor state of repair.

The second area where the poverty in DCPS is profound is in technology. The limited presence of computers in many schools is quite profound. And even schools that have gone through modernization often received no computers or the ones they did are reaching the end of their useful life. At Maury Elementary School, for example, no computers were provided as part of its renovation. The school has two carts of laptops bought by the PTA. At Watkins, the computer lab is full of eight-year-old eMacs bought by the PTA. They are no longer supported and once they fail have to be removed. And no replacement is available. DCPS needs 15,000 computers, at a cost of $15 million.

Finally, the music programs are in very poor shape as a result of being starved for resources. I was in a District  elementary school music class recently and there weren’t nearly enough instruments to go around. One child ended up using an empty copy paper box as a drum. DCPS needs $1 million in new instruments. It needs 60 new upright and 20 new grand pianos as well as new music software and access to online music libraries. The need in this area is around $2.8 million.

The hole that DCPS is in prevents making much improvement simply using the operating budget. All schools would benefit from this investment and it would allow the city to bring some equity to resources all schools should have. And there are programs stakeholders want–like International Baccalaureate–that require properly staff and resourced libraries. And none are present in the schools currently angling for this certification. In addition there is no currently mechanism to buy books for modernized schools. Right now we’re looking at the prospect of Dunbar High School and the new Ward Five middle school opening with no new books.

We now have a special opportunity to fix these problems and, in the process, greatly improve DCPS. A vibrant DCPS is key to the future of this city. The need here is between $35 million and $40 million. I’ve written the mayor and council and asked them to divert some of the surplus funds to deal with these issues. I hope you’ll do the same. The appropriate email addresses are listed below.

Peter MacPherson
pmacpher at aol.com


DCPS School Consolidation Plan Announced

DC Public Schools’ final consolidation plan was announced on January 17.

What does this mean for CHPSPO schools?

Tommy Wells commends Chancellor Henderson and highlights direct impact to Ward 6 schools and invites the public to attend Chancellor Henderson’s briefing to the Council’s Committee on Education about her “School Consolidation Plan of 2013” on Wednesday January 23 at noon in Room 412 (Wilson Building).

Do you see other impact? How does this impact your school?


Recap of Dec 5 School Consolidation Meeting‏ – by Joe Weedon

by Joe Weedon, Maury ES Superparent


Greetings –

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.