Sandra Moscoso Testimony – DCPS Budget Hearing – April 14 2016

Testimony by Sandra Moscoso

Education Committee DCPS Budget Oversight Hearing,

April 14, 2016


Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

I am a member of the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO), a DCPS Parent at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan and a DC Charter School Parent at BASISDC PCS.

My ask of Council given your influence over education budget are:

  • Be transparent in how decisions are made.
  • Be consistent in your support of and honor commitments made to student, families, and educators.
  • Get the most out of limited funds by supporting TRUE coordination between DC public and DC charter schools.

On transparency, while city education agencies have made great strides over the past few years around making data and policy more accessible, there is still a long way to go for the lay (or even savvy) parent to understand the rationale behind how decisions are made.

This is due to the lack of transparency and lack of consistency around how funding decisions are made. Capital funding decisions in particular.

In the absence of transparent inputs, processes, and evidence-based decision-making, there is plenty of room for lack of trust. Sadly, this is where many (if not most) of parents like me sit today.

On consistency, honor commitments our students depend on.

I think back to my daughter’s school, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan. On April 6, 2011, I sat in the school’s multi-purpose room, along with about 100 parents, teachers, and students, as we learned about our school’s future home. The then Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization of DC Public Schools delivered a presentation of plans for the building we would be moving into August of that year. Those plans included basic repairs to get the school ready to safely accommodate our students, with plans for Phase 1 modernization in 2014.

While disappointed that we would wait 3 years for modernization, we trusted in the system and patiently waited our turn. 2014 has come and gone, and now our students (most of who will have aged out) will have to wait over a decade for a modernized building?

We ask a lot of our students (and their teachers). We ask them to sit through long days, 10-20 minutes to scarf down their lunch, and dwindling recess. We ask them to tolerate hours of skill and drill, and assessments every 6 weeks (if not more). We ask them to adjust to bouncing around schools, yo-yo access to resources, and initiatives du jour. On top of this, our students live with the pressure that if they do not perform well on standardized tests, their teachers or principal could get fired. This is the type of responsibility we put onto 3rd graders, 9 year olds.

In turn, can we really not accept the responsibility for ensuring their learning environments are adequate? We owe them modern, beautiful spaces to learn.

Finally, I recognize that resources are limited and funding is scarce. I believe that funding two public education sectors without strategic coordination between them exacerbates the issue of scarcity.

I have children in both sectors, and the problems I witness in both are quite similar. Aging facilities in need up updating, scarce resources for programming. I cannot understand how it is possible that the city is willing to open a school in the same neighborhood where a similar, up and coming but highly under-resourced school exists. I have seen first-hand how this reckless practice has hurt my children’s DCPS and Charter middle schools, as well as all of my neighborhood middle schools like Eliot-Hine, Stuart-Hobson, and Jefferson Academy.

Fund the schools here today adequately (DCPS and Charter) give them a chance to succeed, and put a hold on opening new ones or we’ll never find our way out of this cycle.

Ensuring there is true coordination between the two sectors should be at the top of EVERY councilmember’s agenda. Doing this well will mean better use of resources, and equity around how those resources are distributed.

Back to trust, if we cannot count on our elected officials to find a way to get the most out of our education sectors, I wonder whether we have the right officials in place. I am very sorry to put it this way, but the argument of “Congress gonna Congress” cannot possibly be tolerated when it comes to addressing our city’s education challenges.

I have faith in this Council, I hope that I can continue to say you have my trust.

Thank you for your time and attention.


CHPSPO Meeting Notes – September 15, 2015

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization
Stuart Hobson Middle School

September 15, 2015

1) Discussion about CHPSPO’s nomination to the Cross-Sector Task Force

  • Issues we think are important for the Task Force to address
    • Planning: # of seats, site selection, curriculum
    • Grade alignment (consistency around at grades are included in middle school)
    • Financial transparency
    • Long-term à amend the existing laws
    • Ways to foster stability throughout the school system
    • Ways to foster collaboration not competition
  • Discussion with people interested in serving on Task Force
    • Caryn Ernst (Capitol Hill Cluster School parent and former PTA president) and Sandra Moscoso (Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan & former LSAT Chair/BASISDC parent)
  • Voting on CHPSPO’s nomination
    • Caryn Ernst was selected to receive the CHPSPO nomination.

2) Discussion about blog, Valerie Jablow;

  • Follow the blog via email, disseminate it into your communities and reach out to Valerie to contribute posts

3) Upcoming DC Council Education Committee hearings and events. Laura Marks

  • Visit here for calendar of Education Committee hearing dates in September and October 2015 and instructions for submitting testimony
  • Public School Food and Nutrition Services Programs and School Food and Nutrition Services Contract Requirement Act of 2015 – public roundtable. Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 10:00 a.m., Hearing Room 412
  • Early Learning Quality Improvement Network Amendment Act of 2015 and Higher Education Licensure Commission Amendment Act of 2015. Thursday, October 1, 2015, 10:00 a.m., Hearing Room 412
  • Public Charter School Fiscal Transparency Amendment Act of 2015. Wednesday, October 14, 2015, 1:00 p.m., Hearing Room 120

4) CHPSPO visits to Wilson Building, Ivan Frishberg.

In process of scheduling group visits with councilmembers on education committee.

5) DCPS Library Resourcing. Peter MacPherson.

  • Proposal to advocate for adequately resourcing DCPS libraries (recommended is 20 volumes/student, which is not currently the case at many schools). Idea is to apply the $13.7 million settlement from Chartwells towards funding volumes in schools without adequate collections.
  • Surveys were distributed to CHPSPO librarians to collect information about individual school collections. Please return completed surveys to Suzanne Wells.

6) Walk-to-School Day Planning, George Blackmon

  • Wednesday, October 7, 7:30-8:30 AM @ Lincoln Park
  • Schools are encouraged to hold their own events, if the distance to/from Lincoln Park is inconvenient.
  • Speakers; draft agenda:
    • 7:30: Arrival/Snacks and American Parkour Academy demos
    • 7:45: Ward 6 CM Charles Allen welcomes everyone
      • NOTE: Charles give a shout out to Mark Toorock and Matt Caraballo from American Parkour Academy (they won’t speak, but will be leading demos on the park).
    • 7:48: Maury ES Cheerleaders perform
    • 7:53 Miriam Kenyon, director of health and physical education at District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS)
    • 7:56: Tommy Wells, Director of the District Department of the Environment
    • 7:59: JO Wilson ES Cheerleaders perform
    • 8:04: Fitness celebrity Gabriella Boston leads yoga stretch
    • 8:10: Charles Allen sends everyone off to school

7) American Parkour, Mark Toorock and Matt Caraballo

Next CHPSPO Meeting:  October 20, 2015

Upcoming Events

September 30 Education Committee hearing on DCPS Food & Nutrition Services Program, 10AM

September 30  DCPS State of Schools with Chancellor Henderson, Dunbar HS, 7-9 PM

October 4        Brent Fall Festival

October 7        Walk-to-School Day (register your school at

October 8        Jefferson Academy vs Stuart Hobson (6-8 PM @ Coolidge HS)

October 10      Capitol Hill Cluster School PTA Renovators Tour Fundraiser

October 17      Capitol Hill Community Foundation’s A Literary Feast (

October 21      Education Committee hearing on issues facing youth

October 24      Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan’s Haunted Harvest, 6-9PM

October 24      Maury Elementary’s Fall Festival

October 24      Tyler Elementary’s Harvest Festival, 11AM-3PM

November 8    JO Wilson’s Taste of H (

Public Hearing for DC Schools FY16 Budget – Testimony by Suzanne Wells, CHPSPO

The following testimony was prepared by Suzanne Wells of CHPSPO. on March 16, 2015 at the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget for Public Schools in the District of Columbia organized by the Executive Office of the Mayor.


Fiscal Year 2016 Budget for Public Schools in the District of Columbia

Suzanne Wells

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization

March 16, 2016
Columbia Heights Education Campus
3101 16th St., NW

Thank you for the opportunity to provide my views on the FY16 funding for public schools in the District of Columbia.  This is an important hearing because important education policy decisions are made when our city makes decisions on how it allocates funding for education.

The Washington Post reported last Friday, March 13, on the DCPS plans for allocating its FY16 budget.  Overall, there are many good things in the budget.  Kaya Henderson has called next school year “the year of the high school.”  The extra investment in high schools is expected to provide more Advanced Placement courses, and more electives for students.  We support this much needed investment in high schools.

However, we must caution that the work on our middle schools is far from being done.  Middle schools across the city provide the bridge between our elementary and high schools.  DCPS has faced a persistent problem in retaining students after elementary school.  While there have been investments in past years in our middle schools, and modest gains in improvement, continued investments are needed.  Support similar to what is being provided next year for high schools is also needed at the middle school level in order for them to thrive.

We support DCPS’s plans to begin providing a per student funding formula for library collection development.  While we have not been able to closely examine the local school budgets, because neither those budgets nor any substantive budget guidance was made public even as of 2 pm today, we caution that the funding for library collection development should be a real increase to the local school budget, and should not come at the expense of other important items in the local school budget.

Because this hearing is on the funding for public schools, both the schools DCPS manages and the public charter schools, we must raise to you our deep concerns about the lack of comprehensive planning between DCPS and the Public Charter School Board PCSB) when new charter schools are opened.  I will use the remainder of my testimony to explain why this lack of planning should be of concern to both you and the taxpayers of the District of Columbia.

Last week, we learned a new charter middle school, Washington Global, has leased a building in Ward 6 that is less than 1,700 feet from Jefferson Middle School in order to start its International Middle Years Curriculum program. In Washington Global’s own charter school application, they targeted Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8 for locating their new school based on their own analysis of need.  In Ward 6, we have three middle schools, Stuart Hobson, Eliot-Hine and Jefferson along with Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan which is a city-wide school that DCPS expanded to go through middle school.  Stuart Hobson is at capacity, but both Eliot-Hine and Jefferson are under enrolled.  Both Eliot-Hine and Jefferson have been steadily improving.  Eliot-Hine is expected to become certified as an International Baccalaureate Middle Years program for the coming school year, and Jefferson is shifting to a college prep program.  Washington Global’s program essentially duplicates the program being offered at Eliot-Hine, and is substantially similar to what is being offered at Jefferson.

With the opening of the new Washington Global, taxpayers will now be paying for a new charter middle school when it essentially duplicates what is being offered at other middle schools in the city.  Taxpayers will be paying for the opening of a new charter middle school when we know that we have existing under enrolled middle schools.  Taxpayers will be paying for Washington Global to renovate the building they have leased while both Eliot-Hine and Jefferson will continue to wait for their Phase 1 modernizations that the taxpayers will eventually be asked to fund.

Because there is no planning between DCPS and the Public Charter School Board, our educational dollars are being spread thin.  Because there is no planning, our educational dollars are not being strategically used to support students.  The taxpayers, parents and students cannot fix the “no planning” problem.  It is up to the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor for Education, the DC Council, DCPS and the PCSB to fix the “no planning” problem, and we urge you to make this your highest priority.

Public Hearing for DC Schools FY16 Budget – Testimony by Cathy Reilly, S.H.A.P.P.E.

The following testimony was delivered by Cathy Reilly of S.H.A.P.P.E. on March 16, 2015 at the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget for Public Schools in the District of Columbia organized by the Executive Office of the Mayor.



Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators

Thank you for this opportunity to testify.  The Senior High Alliance has been advocating for high school students for the last 17 years.

By most reports the 2016 budgets for the DCPS high schools will boost elective choices and opportunities for these young people.  It has the potential to match the capital investment the city has made in the DCPS High schools with a program investment.  If this is maintained it will make a huge difference in our ability to provide the families of Washington DC with something they overwhelmingly asked for – a strong DCPS system of feeder schools of right in every ward of the city.  Thank you.  I am looking forward to seeing the budgets and learning what schools are able to do with the funds.

The work in realizing the vision of a predictable and strong set of schools in each of the 9 feeder patterns is not yet done however.  The crucial elements remaining are:

  • Meeting the demand for the pre-school seats by expanding and providing by right access in wards of the city serving at risk and title one students. This will strengthen the whole feeder pattern.
  • While the middle grades bump in funding has helped, most of the K-8 middle grades programs cannot compete with a school with the options Alice Deal offers. We need the 4 middle schools recommended in the Student Assignment recommendations to provide a seamless route. One in Ward 7, two in Ward 4 and one to feed into Cardozo.
  • Required planning with the charter sector to support the vision endorsed after an expansive public engagement process as part of the Student Assignment process. A core system of high quality neighborhood schools of right complemented by a set of high quality public school options.  We cannot do this with an unlimited number of schools.  We have to have a planning process across the sectors.  One that looks at location and need.   Need is not defined by where there are schools that have or do not have students scoring proficient.  We can do better than a pure market model in sustaining our public infrastructure and supporting our public institutions.

We would like to also work with you Chancellor Henderson and with Dr. Simmons on universal and institutional support for all of young people who are struggling.  I think the launching of a “Black Girls Matter” conference and some of the feedback from some students east of the river regarding the proposed small YMOC high school should have a space to really be heard and considered.    We would like to work with you on making that happen.

We welcome the Burdick school coming back into DCPS and hope that there will be work on a model that makes it easy for schools under many different circumstances to be part of DCPS.

Thank you

DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Dr Bella Dinh-Zarr, Tyler ES

Good morning.

My name is Dr. Bella Dinh-Zarr and my son has attended DCPS schools for almost 3 years.  For the past 2 years, my husband Dr. Robert Zarr and I have been part of a group advocating on behalf of librarians and libraries in DC Public Schools.  What we – and the 5 thousand (5000) people who signed our library petition on – want, is simply to Save Our School libraries.

School  libraries are a critical tool and resource in all levels of education today – from Preschool to 12th Grade.  Libraries and librarians support 21st century learning as well as the most basic literacy – reading and writing.

Two years ago, Chancellor Henderson instituted a plan that put school librarians on a path to extinction. Under this plan, small schools would no longer have librarians funded by the central office.  And, bigger campuses were given the latitude to spend library funds on other things.

But this committee, under your leadership Mr. Chairman, found the funds to ensure that a large number of DCPS students still attend a school with a librarian. And, to her credit, Chancellor Henderson found monies for a large influx of new books into most of our modernized high schools and some of our middle schools; as well as a modest contribution to most other DCPS campuses.

Our message for school libraries in the FY15 budget is that additional funding is required, not just to maintain the resources we have, but to improve and expand our libraries, because we are already so far behind.

Last fall, DCPS spent $3.4 million for library materials, including 125,000 new books. It sounds like a lot, but a huge shortfall still exists and even schools that received the most funding are still far below accepted nationwide norms in terms of the size of their library collections. About 300,000 additional volumes are still needed at a cost of $6 million.

The most recent information we’ve received from DCPS shows that no additional money is budgeted in FY15 for books. There’s no money for high schools in the process of modernization.  There’s no money for middle schools, such as Stuart-Hobson, that will have their libraries modernized this summer. There is still no money to help the huge number of elementary schools with aging and or almost non-existent collections.

Our schools need an additional $3 million each in FY15 and FY16 for libraries. They need an additional $1 million each year so that all schools can have their collections refreshed.  Many schools need new technology in their libraries, including computers, SmartBoards, eReaders, document cameras, and other devices to help leverage a 21st century library. It is estimated that many schools, particularly those that have had no modernization, need $50,000.   This is a small investment for the valuable resource of our school libraries.

Finally, even though DCPS has made a commitment to funding librarians for most schools, a large number of positions have been vacant or filled by non-credentialed staff. DCPS has no additional resources for its librarian recruiting efforts. The pool of available qualified candidates in our region is just too small. DCPS needs to assist staff to complete their credentials and to recruit nationally using tools such as signing bonuses and relocation expenses to encourage librarians to come to Washington.  We also have an opportunity with the University of Maryland, which applied for a federal grant to train 10 librarians for DCPS. Unfortunately the school did not get the grant. But DCPS could fund this grant itself. A commitment of $250,000 each in FY 15 and FY16, would produce 20 librarians for DCPS. A program like this was done a decade ago and many of those librarians are still working today and are among our best. We urge this program be funded.

Please keep up your important work and fund our school libraries to the needed levels.  It’s no accident that most of us have good memories of our school libraries and our school librarians – they are often the heart of learning in our schools.  If you save our school libraries, the community you serve, especially the students, will greatly benefit from – and remember – your strong leadership.

Thank you.


Testimony of

T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH

Parent at Tyler Elementary School

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500

DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Danica Petroshius, CHM at Logan EC

Thank you Chairman Catania and members of the Council for holding this important hearing.
I am Danica Petroshius, President of the Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan PTSO and parent of two children at the school – one in Kindergarten and one in preschool 3. I am here because we want to work in partnership with the city to build a great DCPS middle grades Montessori education campus. We strongly believe that our school provides an important choice for parents who want to try a cutting-edge approach grounded in 100 years of practice, evaluation and study. We believe that the Montessori approach is so powerful that it has the potential to draw children back to DCPS schools from the suburbs, private schools and charters. The problem is that, to date, we have not had the kind of support we need from DCPS and the Administration to accomplish our goals, and we ask for your help now.

We want to be clear where we have been – and where we need to go. In January 2013, DCPS announced that CHML would expand to include the middle grades starting in August 2014.

That helped us keep families in our school for 5th and 6th grades – families that would have otherwise left for other middle schools – private, public and charter. Unfortunately, ten months after that announcement, DCPS had provided no resources to make the expansion a reality.
Therefore, in November 2013, we sent letters to Mayor Gray and Chancellor Henderson, held meetings with John McGaw and, later with John Davis, to detail our community’s needs.

Unfortunately, prior to hearing any responses, we were stunned to read in the Washington Post that CHML was cut in the budget reprogramming. We were further disappointed to receive Mr. McGaw’s email stating that “modest improvements… should suffice until a stronger enrollment is built for the middle grades.” We feel we are being told, “if you come, we might build it.”

We got word of one positive step forward recently. DCPS has provided an operational budget that will allow us to have the personnel and some of the learning materials to kick off our expansion next year.

But the fact remains that our parents and students, who come from every ward in the city, will be angry and shocked if there is no middle grades facility to come to. We need more than a few “modest improvements.” We need a strong, welcoming middle grades learning environment.

When the Mayor and DCPS approved our expansion, we parents put skin in the game. We worked with our principal, teachers and other stakeholders to prepare. We implemented teacher recruitment strategies, created architectural site plans, executed a plan to retain current families and recruit new ones. As a result, our lottery numbers were high, which is remarkable given that we don’t even have a place for them to envision their children learning.

As you know, we parents can be demanding and outspoken. I’m a “Type-A” handful for any principal. Our Principal, Brandon Eatman, has been a great and patient leader. But our parents are losing faith in the system that he says we should support. We stand ready to support our principal as he leads our expansion effort. But he and our students need your support to make this promise a reality.

We ask that you provide $1 million in capital funding to turn our empty, preschool-sized, temporary trailer into a vibrant middle grades learning environment. Please don’t set us up to fail. Instead, do what is necessary to give our school community the confidence that our leaders stand with, and for, our children. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.


Testimony of

Danica Petroshius

Parent  and Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) President at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus

Education Budget Oversight Hearing

Thursday, April 17, 2014  10:00 a.m.

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500