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Max Kieba Testimony – DCPS Chancellor Hearing – December 8, 2016

Testimony by Max Kieba, Maury parent

DC Council Committee on Education Hearing: PR21-1040 – Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools Antwan Wilson Confirmation Resolution of 2016

December 8, 2016

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the proposed confirmation of Antwan Wilson as Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.  My name is Max Kieba: I’m a parent at Maury Elementary, serve as the School Improvement Team (SIT) Co-Coordinator for our upcoming renovation project and one of Maury’s representatives in the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO).

I wasn’t directly part of the selection process other than through CHPSPO we did provide some input on what we hope to see in the new chancellor.   While we’re collectively still getting to know each other better and look forward to learning more from him today, many aspects of his background and skill sets appear to address many of traits we asked for in a new chancellor and areas in which we can continue to improve… communication, helping to address the achievement gap, and equity for high quality education for all students.

We look forward to working with him with an open mind and hope he will do the same in working with us.   We also want to make sure he’s aware that while he is coming into a system that has improved in many ways, it also has room for improvement elsewhere.     Among some areas of improvement I’d like to highlight and which we’d like to better understand his approach and any thoughts he may have based on his introduction to the district and DCPS so far:

Improving Trust within the System

We are all part of the system, whether it’s DCPS front office, the schools, families or other agencies/stakeholders that may interact with one another.  DCPS is a key interface for so many processes, but there are unfortunately a lot of apparent trust issues at play that seems to go both ways… there is a lack of trust families have with DCPS, and apparent lack of trust DCPS has with its schools and families.  Many of these issues involve communication and effective community engagement, but at a high level the general perception is DCPS seems to believe it knows what’s best for the schools, makes decisions with little to no true engagement and the schools and families should just fall in line with decisions that are made.    It’s difficult for schools and families to trust DCPS if DCPS doesn’t trust its schools and families in the communication and engagement process.

Communication and Effective Community Engagement

We continue to have issues with open communication and truly effective and robust community engagement.   Most of my experience has been with the modernization/SIT process, but it seems to manifest itself in other processes as well.  While this can’t all be put on the chancellor position, there appears to continue to be a less than healthy culture at DCPS with respect to communication and engagement within and across certain offices (the silo effect), with other key agencies like DGS and externally with schools and their families.    Information is rarely shared in a timely fashion, or when information is pushed out it comes with little to no raw data with it or substantive rationale for the decisions.  In most cases, schools and families are then asked to provide quick feedback based on limited information because we don’t have time to discuss in detail.  When questions are asked in an attempt to have a constructive dialogue, the answer is usually they’ll get back to us (rarely do they in a timely fashion) or it involves another office we need to contact.  When we contact that office, no replies and the cycle repeats itself.    When we ask for public meetings to discuss further, little to no action is taken or schools have to take it upon ourselves to share information publicly or engage in discussions with others, again though with more questions than answers on what DCPS is thinking.  When someone from DCPS does attend a meeting, it’s usually not the people with decision making authority and the cycle continues.   We want to do what we can to be a team player, follow the process and have DCPS take the lead, but they sure make it tough. 

Continuing to support and invest in our middle schools

DCPS needs to continue to support, invest and help improve our middle schools.  DC enrollment is increasing and the families that are coming into the system are generally more affluent, have more education (and are more white) than the average DCPS student.  Those families are demanding high quality education for their children, yes, but they understand the importance of building a system that provides equality of opportunity (and quality learning outcomes) to all students.  That demand for increased quality can benefit everyone if DCPS can appropriately channel that demand/enthusiasm. The new chancellor should build on this momentum and work with families to keep them in the system (and keep them from moving to the suburbs).  Working with those families means being more transparent on decision-making and critically, moving very quickly to improve middle schools (so those families will stay). Mayor Bowser’s promise of “Deal for everyone” does not, we presume, mean that everyone has to enroll at Deal. The Chancellor should immediately act to make DCPS middle schools competitive with charters from an academic perspective.  Many of these “new” families were lured into DCPS by free early childhood education.  DCPS will keep them if they step up their game in middle school, but it needs to happen quickly.

Middle school decisions should all happen at the same time

The new chancellor should work together with the DC Public Charter School Board to find ways how we can make the decision processes for families more fair and equitable.  One key area is helping to encourage all charters to start their entry grade in grade 6, similar to DCPS middle schools, instead of grade 5.  To be clear, we feel public charters and DCPS do have a place together in the overall education system and there are many reasons families may choose a public charter over DCPS middle school.    However, we are losing far too many families in our school and DCPS in the 5th (and sometimes earlier grades) based often on the fear that if they don’t make a move then, they may have no shot.    In the process of making those early decisions, we also suffer with issues in testing results and the overall achievement gap especially when the better performing students are often the ones leaving the DCPS system earlier.   

Improve on equity

DCPS did not go far enough in solving the problem of using the education system to redistribute how students get assigned to schools. For more affluent/high demand schools, DCPS should introduce a percentage of low-income lottery spots.  With the boundary redrawing, we’ve essentially locked in the tight relationship between income and school quality/outcomes. Schools need to be sized to accommodate both their in-bounds population as well as sub group (10%-20% of total?) of income-based out of bounds lottery winners.   We need to honor the right to attend your neighborhood school, but also recognize the need that building a highly educated society requires a diversity of experiences and background all mixed together.  There aren’t very many US cities that have done a good job with this, but surely we can improve upon the existing model by giving more of an eye to equity.  This is a challenge at Maury with its already being overcapacity and challenges in right-sizing the renovation/addition given our tight footprint, but there are ways to do it right and we embrace diversity. 

School Nurse reduction/reallocation plan

We thank Council for helping to influence in a delay in the decision surrounding resource allocation of school nurses.  We continue to be concerned about the potential for a reduction.  We’ve had multiple 911 calls, broken wrists, asthma issues, etc. etc.  It would be great to make it a priority to prevent cutting our full time nurse.  Currently the issue may be on hold but there is a concern it may be sneaked through when no one is looking (again, the trust issue).  It’s fascinating to see the number of students that have health issues that will fall through the cracks if a nurse is not here.  The solution is usually to rely on “med givers” which are four paras that get pulled out of a classroom to attend the students.  The teachers in pre k 3 and 4 cannot be alone with their students and it has caused other unsafe scenarios when it happens in today’s world.    We need more hours not less.  Or if this truly may be the best approach for multiple reasons, we at least ask for more public dialogue. 

CHPSPO Meeting Notes – October 18 2016

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization

Miner Elementary School, Large Group Instruction Room, 601 15th Street, NE

October 18, 2016, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

 

  1. Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force (Caryn Ernst)
  • DISCUSSION (Policy proposal for by-right, neighborhood schools):
    • In wards 7/8 (and 5) 30-50% of the population mobile throughout the school year (low income). Some schools like Cluster in Ward 6 that also experience churn. Higher percentage of churn in HS than in MS/ES.
      • Most mobility from out of state to in state and from charter to DCPS
      • Task force: What are strategies to reduce mobility
      • By right charter schools as proposed solution. Proposed by DME, not task force and is being supported by the DME
      • The Public Charter School Board did not support the proposal because it would reduce choice for families.
    • Other policy ideas:
      • Since schools impacted by this have a high degree of churn, what if there were a central way to have kids transition via central office and schools have to reserve a percentage of slots for those kids
      • Ed council reps: project churn at school level, set the high churn schools up w/ transition academies to get students transitioned into regular classrooms.
      • Currently, no data about why students are moving
    • ACTION: one of the ward education councils will author a letter supporting policies (not by right)
    • ACTION: Encourage DCPS to discuss policy options under consideration and consider impacts on DCPS
    • (http://dme.dc.gov/collaboration)

2. November Wilson Building Visits – topics & attendees

  • Topics for discussion include:
    • Chancellor search
    • Cross-sector task force – opportunity to raise concerns about mobility proposals, and balance on task force
    • Modernization issues
  • Who to visit: Grosso, Allen, White, Cheh

 

3. Summer Modernization Hearing Follow upWhen

4. Monthly Best Practices Discussions

  • Topics suggested:
    • PTO
    • Fundraising
    • Aftercare
    • Environmental/sustainability

5. Walk-to-School Day Closeout

6. Changes to Nursing (Beth Bacon):

  • Information meeting notes:
    • Charged w/ improving outcomes
    • DOH mentioned needs assessment and some outreach to public but parents not clear what that entailed
    • Moving resources; working w/ community resources/primary care physicians
    • Only 40% of students have universal health forms completed
    • Algorithm which determines 20-40 hours/week support (though not enough nurses currently to cover the support)
      • Special health needs
      • Enrollment
      • Health suite use
      • Profile data
    • Could be reassessed monthly
    • Presentations, etc: http://doh.dc.gov/service/school-nurses
  • Ed Committee Roundtable on October 25.

Next CHPSPO Meeting: November 15, 2016

  • Liz Davis
  • Enrollment Office

Upcoming Events

DCPS State of the Schools

October 18, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Roosevelt High School

Cross Sector Collaboration Task Force

October 25, 6 pm, Location DC Taxi Cab Commission 2235 Shannon Pl SE #3001.

Open Houses

October 19, 6 pm, Jefferson Academy

November 2, 9:30 am and 6 pm, Eliot-Hine Middle School

November 3, 9:30 am and 6 pm, Stuart Hobson Middle School

November 16, 6 pm, Jefferson Academy

December 13, 9 am, Eliot-Hine Middle School

Fall Festivals

October 22, 10 am – 2 pm, Maury Fall Festival

October 22, 11 am – 3 pm, Tyler Harvest Festival

October 26, 4 – 6 pm, Miner Oktoberfest

October 28, 5:30 pm-  8 pm, Hilloween at Eastern Market

October 29, 6 – 9 pm, Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan Haunted Harvest Festival

 

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Update on Changes to School Health / Nurse Program

Follow up on this with good news.

Yesterday, Councilmember David Grosso (At-Large, Chair of Education Committee) introduced emergency legislation to require “any school receiving school nurse services above 20 hours per week to continue at the existing level of services for the remainder of the school year 2016-17.” That means school nurse allocations can’t be cut starting in January with the implementation of the new Department of Health (DOH) School Health Services plan.

Here’s a link to Councilmember Grosso announcing the emergency bill:

At this Tuesday’s Roundtable, there were many, many witnesses speaking out against reductions in school nurse allocations — and speaking up for the value of school nurses. Beth Bacon testified as an SWS parent — and as a CHPSPO/Ward 6 rep, and Sandra Moscoso will submit written testimony with the responses from seven Ward 6 schools on our quick survey. If you would like to add your responses, please answer the 3 questions by 10/31/16.

The hearing lasted 5+ hours – with Councilmember Grosso questioning DOH Director, Dr. Nesbitt, for few hours at the end. Lots of details in the new DOH plan — and Councilmembers Gross and Allen (Ward 6) were adamant about the lack of public engagement and clear explanations on these changes. Note that DOH is transitioning from a nursing contract (which goes through DC Council for review) to a grant program (which doesn’t) — which means that advocacy and monitoring on the part of parents and advocates is not done!

Thanks to everyone who had a hand in this!

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October 18 CHPSPO Meeting at Miner

The Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization will hold it’s October 18 meeting at Miner Elementary. We will be discussing the cross-sector task force, visits to the Wilson building planned for November, follow up to the Summer Modernization hearing, and more. Hope to see you on the 18th.

Suzanne Wells

101816 CHPSPO Agenda.docx

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Council hearing: summer modernization roundtable, Childhood Lead Prevention Act

For those of you tuning into tomorrow’s hearing (http://dccouncil.us/events/te-e-public-hearing) please see materials distributed by CM Allen’s office.

Ahead of the DCPS/DGS hearing tomorrow on summer modernization work and the Childhood Lead Prevention Act, Councilmember Allen asked DCPS and DGS a number of advance questions about the condition of and work at Ward 6 schools. Their responses are attached. If you haven’t already signed up to testify but would like to submit written testimony, the hearing record will close on October 20.

If you are unable to testify in person, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Copies of written statements should be submitted to Ms. Aukima Benjamin, staff assistant to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 108, Washington, D.C. 20004. They may also be e-mailed to abenjamin or faxed to (202) 724-8118. The record will close at the end of the business day on October 20, 2016.

Tomorrow’s witness list is also attached. If you have any questions, just let me know.

Regards,

Laura

Laura Marks, Chief of Staff

Office of Councilmember Charles Allen, Ward 6

1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 406

@CM_CharlesAllen | www.charlesallenward6.com

ATTACHMENT — DCPS Ward 6 Work Order list 10.4.16.pdf

DGS pre-hearing questions letter response CM Allen 10.4.16.pdf

2016-10-06 Summer Modernization, B21-831 Childhood Lead Prevention.docx

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CHPSPO meets September 20 at Payne Elementary

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,

CHPSPO will meet on Tuesday, September 20, at Payne Elementary (1445 C Street, SE). Liz Davis, the President of the Washington Teachers Union, will join us at our meeting. In addition to the discussion with Ms. Davis, we will be discussing the final preparations for Walk-to-School Day, share school practices on morning drop-off, and begin planning for visits to the Wilson Building in October.

I also want to share a recent interview Andy Shallal did with Gary Ratner, Executive Director of Citizens for Better Schools, on the Pacifica Radio show, “Business Matters,” about the need for a new education strategy and what skills our city should be looking for in the next Chancellor to carry out this new education strategy. A voice recording of the 20 minute interview is available at www.wpfwfm.org . Click on “Archived Shows”. Scroll down to “Business Matters” for September 12, 2016, 9:00 am and click on “Play.” (Interview starts around 9:15 and you can skip to that by clicking on grey progress bar to right of the pause button.)

I’m also sharing a letter that was written by a Ward 4 parent regarding changes to staffing for school nurses. CHPSPO has discussed in the past issues dealing with school nurses, and I thought people would want to see this letter.

Hope to see you on Tuesday.

Suzanne Wells

Dear DC Government Officials,
I am writing you to express my concern over changes I recently learned were planned to the way school nurses are provided in our public schools. At a Ward 4 Education Alliance meeting on 9/14, Dr. Schumacher of DCPS confirmed a rumor that schools will no longer have a minimum of 1 nurse per school, and instead have a minimum of 1/2 nurse per school as part of a larger initiative to increase coordination of care with physicians and community health organizations. It was stated that these changes were intended to be implemented by January 2017.

I support the general notions that were presented, including increased equity and better utilization of public resources. But I object to the way the actions are being carried forward. I request that you preserve a full time nurse at each public school. If there are worthwhile initiatives to increase performance and efficiency, then please add to the budget to pay for those. Don’t pay for it by cutting nurse staff to our schools.

In the meeting, it was stated that school staff can manage issues while the school nurse is not present. I strongly object to this for two reasons. First, I don’t see any additional funding going to cover staff positions as we add collateral duties, and I don’t believe you get something for nothing. If anything, the staff should have fewer collateral duties or increased staff to better handle them. Second, the little training that staff gets does not take the place of a true nurse. While they may be able to handle minor bumps and scrapes, can they handle infectious disease outbreaks? Will they know the signs of more serious illness? Waiting until the nurse is back in the office is not an acceptable response. And I do not trust the idea of having centralized resources to supplement by phone. Nothing takes the place of a full-time nurse in the school invested in the school community.

I’d also like you to address the lack of transparency in this process. This represents a notable change in our schools, and you’ve hidden this from us until it’s nearly a done deal. You can do much better than that, and you have in the past. Take, for example, the school boundary realignment process. While it was painful, I do feel that you heard us and adjusted the actions in response to what you heard from us. There has been no such thing for this change, and I don’t think you’re taking us in a direction that many parents want to go. I request that you put a hold on this process and try again with parent input. There’s generally little trust in DC government and this lack of transparency erodes what little is left.

While you state a goal of promoting equity, I don’t think you’ve fully recognized the inequity that reducing nurse staffing drives. For example, when my daughter hit her head, we were fortunate enough to be able to pick her up from school and bring her to a doctor because there was no nurse available in the school. The same would be significantly more difficult for the child of a single parent with a less flexible job.

As it is, your actions seem to be related to the current shortage of nurses, which is already affecting our schools. It’s disturbing to me that the current contract provisions that require at least one nurse per school are not being maintained. What is DOH and DCPS doing about this? Is the council even aware?

Thank you,
Joshua Hertzberg
Ward 4 parent of 2 DCPS students

CHPSPO Agenda 092016.docx