Testimony of Rebecca Reina
to DC Council, Committee on Education, public hearing
on the nomination of Dr. Lewis Ferebee as Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools,
on 2/6/19 at 6:00 pm,
Cardozo Education Campus cafeteria (1200 Clifton St, NW)
Hello, I‘m Becky Reina, mother of 2 Cleveland Elementary School students, where I have served on the PTA and LSAT. I am also the Interim Chair of the newly relaunched Ward 1 Education Council; although I am here today in my capacity as a parent, not on behalf on the Education Council. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on the nomination of Dr. Lewis Ferebee to lead DC Public Schools.
I have not yet met Dr. Ferebee. He seems to be an earnest, committed educator. There are things about his work in Indianapolis that give me pause: I am very much against handing traditional public schools to charter operators and against dismantling a system of neighborhood, by-right schools at any age-level, including high school; I am also concerned about his oversight of the sexual abuse case that has come to light in Indianapolis, particularly because that school district’s response appeared not to be focused on what was best for the student, but instead on limiting liability.
I am gladdened by Dr. Ferebee’s immediate outreach to the DC community, including the Ward coffees he has already begun and the invitation to meet that I and my fellow Chairs of Ward-based education groups have received. This engagement is a vital first step. But, now Dr. Ferebee must not only listen to community concerns, but also change his thinking and actions based on what he hears. In the past 5 years, I have been to many beautiful stage-managed community engagement meetings and watched numerous Chancellors and Acting Chancellors listen with furrowed brows. I have not seen those same Chancellors defend DCPS against the encroachment of charter schools and the gradual degradation of our by-right, neighborhood feeder system that can and should take children on a clear, well-supported school journey from PK3 to 12th grade in *every* part of this city. To start that defense, our DCPS schools need:
1) adequate At-Risk and ELL funding which supplements not supplants the funding of core school functions,
2) a dedicated technology budget for every school that supports not only laptops for testing but also continuing classroom use of a computers, laptops, tablets, headphones, and SMART boards and maintenance of all these devices — funding that is reliable and continuing, and not based on grants or PTA largess,
3) a clear, adequate feeder pattern in every neighborhood — including but not limited to the reopening of Shaw Middle School in the Cardozo feeder pattern at the site of the former Shaw Junior High School and robust community engagement prior to any changes that affect feeder patterns,
4) additional funding for translation services for schools that require it to communicate with their families,
5) a plan for and funding of transporting middle school students to school in parts of town where public transit is not currently adequate,
6) increased seats in dual language programs,
7) adequate Out of School Time funding for both before and aftercare for every student that wants a seat,
8) a full roll out and adequate training on social/emotional learning curricula and trauma-informed teaching and discipline, including fully funding and implementing the Student Fair Access to School Act,
9) an overall DCPS budget that is adequate and fair to individual schools, both in terms of money and time. — As an aside I confirmed this morning that school leaders still don’t have their budgets although they are due back to Central Office at the end of next week, which is not enough time for adequate engagement with school communities nor to undertake the budget gap-closing measures school leaders are regularly forced to engage in outside the official budget process, such as applying for outside grants,
— and perhaps most importantly,
10) the bravery to end the hyperfocus on flawed test metrics that results in a culture of fear, lack of transparency, top-down unfunded mandates, high teacher turnover, and a narrowing of curriculum; meaning to have the bravery to embrace, nurture, and trumpet the amazing work our students, educators, and families are doing in our DCPS schools every day and to hold space for them as they honestly confront challenges, whether academic or not.
This laundry list of problems are things that our school Chancellor must advocate for if he is not given them by the Mayor. We need a DCPS Chancellor who will have those hard conversation on behalf of our children. And frankly, we need a City Council that uses the full breadth of its power to make sure we have that Chancellor. Please fully vet Dr. Ferebee before voting on his nomination to determine whether he will be the Chancellor that DCPS and its students need.
Thank you very much.