Danica Petroshius Testimony – DC Public Schools Budget Hearing – April 14 2016



April 14, 2016

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am Danica Petroshius, a Ward 6 resident and a parent of two at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan. Our school is PK through 6th in one building and a middle school in a trailer, and our families come from every Ward. We love this school – the teachers, the principal, the parent community and the Montessori approach.

But once you look beyond the school community, we don’t like what we see. We see a city that has punted our modernization from 2014 to 2017 to 2019 – and now indefinitely. We see a city that cannot provide accurate, full data about our school. We see a city willing to leave schools untouched for too many years.

Enough is enough. We have been told by a few senior members of the government that there is a chance of retribution from the system when parents speak out. That’s wrong. Fear is no way to run a city. We look all our city leaders in the eye and say: hear us and work with us. We have an opportunity now to change the dialogue from one of fear and behind-closed-doors decision-making to one of transparency, accurate data and full investment.

Chairman Grosso, we applaud your call last year to bring a data-driven approach to modernization. We were thrilled to hear that the Mayor would have a transparent modernization process and use data to make the decisions. On approach, we are all aligned.

But the approach breaks down when you look at process and data. There is no record of the data collection used for the building assessments. If it was DGS data, their data shows that our school has never been assessed. It was suggested to us that the Mayor got her own data instead by touring schools. But we’ve never seen that data and we have no idea if it’s accurate. Were modernization experts with her? Were principals who know their buildings best asked to help identify the school’s needs? Was our school included?

In addition, DGS found lead in our water last year without notifying us. We found out from a blog article. Now, DGS cannot provide the data showing that our school is 100% remediated of lead. Whether it’s the building or lead in the water, if we can’t get comprehensive and accurate data, then the entire process fails.

The approach further breaks down when even the metrics to rank schools are faulty and inconsistent. For example, our middle school did not receive a priority like other middle schools. But in deciding our capacity rating, it appears our trailer that houses the middle school was counted which means that they do know that we are a middle school. Some have argued that we are an education campus not a middle school. This bureaucratic distinction between an education campus and a middle school doesn’t change the fact that we have kids who are in middle school in a separate trailer. Do you want to tell our 7th and 8th graders that they are not in middle school?

We’ve given you the charts that show the data is faulty and missing. The process and data systems used to create this proposed modernization plan are broken.

Finally, the system fails on investment. Parents and many on council fought hard to take us from cuts in school modernization last year to increases this year. But it’s not yet a job well done. We can find money for every school and modernize them over the next 5 years. No one believes we have an economic crisis in DC. We are leading other cities in economic growth at 3-4% a year. We have a cash reserve of over $700 million. You can’t throw a stone in this city without hitting a crane that is building more condominiums and more restaurants. And we now are spending $50 million on a practice stadium for a professional basketball team whose owner is worth billions. The city should reprioritize and fund the must-have’s–safe strong schools –first. Only then should they fund the “nice-to-have’s.”

Today, I ask each Councilmember to stand with us and stop the budget process from moving forward until three tests are met:

  1. There is full, accurate and fully transparent data for every school.
  2. The metrics for ranking school modernization include that data and priorities are applied consistently across every school.
  3. There is funding over the next 5 years to fund every school’s modernization needs.

We have attached a letter from over 230 parents in our school calling for a better solution. We welcome parents from other schools to join us. We welcome the ability to work with the Council and city agencies on a solution. The city has set very high learning standards for our children – standards that we as parents help our kids and teachers meet every day. It’s time for the city leadership to set their standards high too.

Thank you.

CHPSPO Meeting Notes – December 15, 2015

CHPSPO Meeting Notes

Brent Elementary

December 15, 2015


1) 3-8th grade PARCC results presentation by Bonnie O’Keefe OSSE

  • Reviewed PARCC Results and handed out one-page guides to the new assessment –> PARCC one pager.
  • New student reports have been designed for DC – mockups and a parent guide are available on the OSSE website in 6 different languages. Schools will get the individual student test results this week. Each school has the option for when and how to distribute those scores to parents. Parents will receive a copy of the parent guide with their child’s report card.
  • PARCC v DC CAS comparison: DC CAS had composition and reading test, PARCC has only one English Language Arts (ELA) test. General level of rigor is much higher on the PARCC assessment.
  • Because this is the first year of PARCC, there were no new identifications to put schools into focus or priority status (i.e. not meeting their goals). However, if schools already in focus or priority status made progress on certain criteria on the 2015 test, they can be removed from that status.
  • The new Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) – the rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Law and the law that will supersede current state waivers – will change state accountability systems. There is more flexibility for states, but some of the rules have changed to in what is required for states in their accountability systems. For example, how OSSE will use test scores will change. But the use of PARCC as the test and the use of the new report cards will not change. Under the new law, OSSE will have 18 months to finalize a new plan with the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Joe Weedon: The State Board of Education will have to approve the OSSE plan and there will be public hearings on what the new accountability plan throughout the Spring and Summer of 2016. The Board is particularly interested in equitable access issues and competency based education.
  • PARCC defines college and career readiness as the 70% likelihood a student would earn credit in an entry level college course (scoring a level 4 or 5 in PARCC).

2) DCPS Budget 101 Presentation (Laura Marks and Anne Phelps from Councilman Allen’s office and Joe Weedon from SBOE)

  • Overview of Budget Process
    • Capital budget and operating budget are the two big pots of funding. You can’t transfer money between them. School modernizations are in the capital budget. Everything in the school walls comes from the operating budget.
    • Budget is about $12 billion per year for the city (federal, private and local funding). Of that, $7 billion is from local funds that can be moved around. 27% of those funds are dedicated for education – the highest percentage of the local budget.
  • Current 2016 DCPS Budget (compared to 2015)
    • No increase in uniform per-pupil funding formula.
    • Capital budget reduced by $330 million over 5 years out of the education sector; Ward 6 school modernizations cut $125 million (though they agree to the current year plus 5 years out when they do capital budgets, they can reassess and change them each year). Overall, the DC 6-year capital plan is $1.3 billion.
    • “At-Risk” Funds are being distributed on need. The original intent is for those funds to follow the at-risk students, but that hasn’t happened in past. This budget makes the effort to get the funds into the schools that qualify. Councilman Allen and others are now interested in knowing whether the funds are being used to supplement not supplant funds in individual schools. Council will continue to look into that through oversight.
    • Extended Day funding is increased, aftercare funding reduced. Councilman Allen is interested in learning more about the effects extended day has on aftercare offerings and how effectively the extended day funding is being used at schools.
  • FY2017 Budget Process has Kicked Off
    • November – normally the Chancellor outlines her priorities, but this year we are still waiting to hear what DCPS will identify as their big funding priorities
    • Now: Parent and community survey online – place to weigh in on budget priorities (November-December)
    • November: DCPS held citywide LSAT planning and training meetings (three done)
    • Now: Chancellor team in process of identifying school enrollment targets and a modernization plan
    • Feb-March: School, LSAT and DCPS work to finalize school budgets
    • In the first 2 weeks of March, DCPS has to wrap up the back and forth with the schools to submit to Mayor’s budget team
    • Date to submit Mayor’s proposed budget to Council is March 24th.
  • Council Role
    • Once the Mayor submits the budget to Council, Council has 56 days (by law in the Home Rule Act) to hold hearings, develop priorities, develop a committee chairman’s budget, then the full committee amend and vote on the committee budget
    • Performance oversight hearings: February 4 – March 11, 2016
    • Budget oversight hearings: April 6-28, 2016
    • May 4 and 5 committee budgets go to the committee of a whole to reconcile all the budgets
    • May 17th there is a reconciliation vote – vote on the entire budget package
    • In the Operating Budget, Council cannot amend the DCPS operating budget easily or at all because even if they have a directive put in to change the operating budget, the Chancellor can reprogram that money. DCPS is a unique circumstance. For example, in the library budget, Council can direct more of the funds. But Council can move around priorities in the Capital budget.

What can parents do:

  • Advocates: Now is the time to focus on advocating at the school level for the right operating budget for the school – with the Principal, LSAT, and parents – to work with DCPS to achieve priorities. For issues across schools, need to advocate with the Mayor and Chancellor on city-wide programmatic funds.
  • Advocates: On Capital side of the budget there is less ability to manipulate the budget than before, but still some ability. But there needs to be coordinated prioritization particularly in Ward 6.
  • Now is the time to start pushing priorities.
  • Two big asks could be: more money in school modernization/capital budget overall, and increases in the per pupil funding formula.
  • DCPS does not fund schools on a per student basis. They fund on a staffing model (see below).
  • Operating Budget Issues – Where can we influence DCPS funding?
    • Key is enrollment projections. If 300, 350, 400 there are different staffing models.
    • Still elements of the budget where the principal and LSAT can advocate within the DCPS process.
    • LSAT has a “School Budget Development Guide” put out by DCPS that can be a tool to help. It often lays out elements that DCPS is changing in terms of priorities and what is changing in terms of school and district funding and thresholds. The FY17 version is not yet available of this guide. Parents need to ask principals for this guide. They may need to ask DCPS for it.

What can parents and advocates do?

  • Ask your principal: what is the projected enrollment number from DCPS (now is when they are asking for adjustments). By Dec 18th the enrollment numbers will be final.
  • Ask principal/LSAT for the latest “School Budget Development Guide” and read and understand the parameters for how DCPS will build the draft school budgets this year.
  • Work with principal and LSAT – now – to align school budget to community priorities. Discuss what trade-offs have to be made and how collectively the community can work on priorities.

3) CHPSPO School Modernization Advocacy

  • CHPSPO feels we need more priority on the school modernization budget overall – arguing that overall and Ward 6 need more funding for the capital budget. Funds should be restored and increased overall.
  • CHPSPO will start working with the Deputy Mayor and Mayor and make an effort to increase the capital school budget overall and for Ward 6 in particular.

Next CHPSPO Meeting:  January 19, 2016

Upcoming Events  (inclement weather may impact schedules – please confirm open house dates w/ individual schools -see )

January 5 – Amidon-Bowen Open House, 9:30-10:30 am

January 7 – Ludlow-Taylor Open House, 9:30-10:30 am

January 8 – Jefferson Academy Open House, 9:30-11:00 am

January 11 – Maury ES Open House, 9:00-10:30 am

January 11 – Brent ES Open House, 9:00-10:30 am

January 11 – Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan EC Open House, 6:00-7:00 pm

January 11 – Maury ES Open House, 6:15-7:45 pm

January 14 – J.O. Wilson ES Open House, 9:30-11:00 am

January 14 – Miner ES Open House, 9:30-10:30 am

January 14 – Eastern HS Open House, 5:30-7:00 pm

January 14 – Jefferson Academy MS Open House, 6:00-7:00 pm

January 14 – School Within a School @ Goding Open House, 6:00-7:30 pm

January 15 – Tyler ES Open House, 6:00-7:00 pm

January 19 – Walker-Jones EC Open House, 9:00-10:30 am

January 19 – Tyler ES Open House, 9:30-10:30 am

January 21 – J.O. Wilson Summer Camp Fair, 6 – 8 pm

CHPSPO Meeting is Wednesday, April 23 @ Payne ES

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,

Hope everyone had a great Spring break. CHPSPO will meet on Wednesday, April 23, from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at Payne Elementary (1445 C Street, SE). We will be discussing Bike to School Day (May 7), the proposals for school boundaries/feeder patterns, SY14/15 budgets, and ways our community can support homeless children attending our area schools. Attached is the agenda. Hope to see you on Wednesday.

Suzanne Wells

042314 CHPSPO Agenda


DC Council Education Committee Budget Hearing – Testimony by Suzanna Dennis, Payne ES

Good morning.  My name is Suzanna Dennis, and I have a daughter in the PK-3 program at Daniel A. Payne Elementary School on Capitol Hill.  Before I begin, I want to thank the Council, Mayor & DCPS for their time and continued support this year.


1. Overview

In the past year I have had an overwhelmingly positive experience as a parent at Payne Elementary.  The teachers, administration, and Principal are fully committed to providing a healthy learning environment.


As you know, Payne fills a unique need on Capitol Hill.  It currently serves 272 students, and enrollment is projected to grow.  Payne is known for its strong leadership; its high quality early childhood curriculum; its program integrating children with hearing impairments with hearing students; its special education services, including a program for children with emotional behavioral disabilities; and as the neighborhood school for children from the DC General Families Shelter.


There is growing PTA, as well as a committed group of prospective parents, neighbors and business owners allied to support the school through the Friends of Payne.  We’re continuing to grow that support through various initiatives, including expanding the school garden program this spring.



2. Budget

As you know, the school has been planning for Phase I of its long-needed and anticipated modernization this summer.  In February/March we had a great showing of school and broader community support to make sure Payne’s renovation goes ahead as planned.  Earlier this month the Mayor’s office submitted to the Council a reprogramming that meets two important goals.  First, it substantially increases Payne’s total capital budget by approximately thirty percent.  Second, it accelerates the renovation schedule by allocating all of the capital dollars in FY14, presumably with the expectation that the whole project will be completed this fiscal year between June and August.  It is my understanding that this new budget fully meets the school’s modernization needs.


Payne now has the exciting challenge of planning an $18 million renovation for all three Phases in the next two months, and executing that plan over the summer.  I remain hopeful that officials will be able to plan for and expend the entire $18 million budget prior to the end of this fiscal year.  Given the ambitious timing and size of the reprogramming, this will be a challenge, but a welcome one given the long standing and extensive capital renovation needs at Payne Elementary.


The Payne community stands committed to providing whatever planning and other support is needed to ensure that the project is completed on schedule.  We ask that the Council, through its oversight role, assist us in this effort.

Payne’s proposed operating budget for 2015 is $3.851 million.  This amount will pay for teachers—including early childhood and special education—the school’s leadership and administrative support, after school and library programs, and facility costs.


3. Closing

I am proud to send my daughter to Payne Elementary.  As a parent, a member of the PTSA, and the Friends of Payne, I look forward to working with the Council to support the great efforts already underway.  These efforts will build on Payne’s historic legacy to make Payne one of Capitol Hill’s most sought after schools.  Much needed improvements to the facility will make a big difference in the academic experience of its students and in the overall success of the school.


Since Payne serves some of the city’s most vulnerable elementary students, the Council’s continued dedication to improving neighborhood safety and community services–such as the families’ shelter–will also help bolster children’s learning experience at Payne.


I want to thank the Council again for their time and their continuing support of Payne Elementary.   We look forward to keeping this Committee apprised of our efforts, including the progress with the modernization.



Testimony before DC Council Committee on Education, Budget Hearing

Suzanna Dennis/Payne Elementary





DC Public Schools FY15 Budget Hearing Testimony by Martin Welles, Amidon-Bowen ES

Good Evening Mayor Gray, Deputy Mayor for Education Smith, and State Superintendent of Education Aguirre:

My name is Martin R. Welles, Esq. and I have three children at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School and am President of the PTA.  While I am primarily testifying today on behalf of my interest in improving Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, it should also be noted that I am one of the Ward 6 Representatives on Deputy Mayor Smith’s Student Assignment and Boundary Committee, and have also recently been named as one of the parent advisors on Chancellor Henderson’s newly formed Parent Cabinet.  I think my interests as a parent are aligned with my interests in trying to have high quality educational options throughout our city.  The comments I make tonight, however, I make as a parent.

It takes a partnership to reform schools and I want to take this time to thank you each of you for allowing me to work with you over the years.  Mayor Gray, we have accomplished many of our goals at Amidon-Bowen, such as increasing enrollment from 229 students to 372 projected for next year (63% increase).   We had a nice 10 point gain in our reading and 4 point gain in our math scores last year and I’m told that preliminary indications demonstrate another successful year is in store for testing.  You can also see a noticeable change in school culture.  We have many partners in our success – from Everybody Wins!, DC United, Playworks, Target Foundation and Kid Power, and of course your office, to name just a few.  Deputy Mayor Smith, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to work with you on the student assignment and boundary issues – I feel our work has only just begun there.  Superintendent Aguirre we had a great partnership in improving Landsburgh Park while you were Director of Parks and Rec – the new basketball courts and community garden have taken hold, and the new dog park should be constructed this Spring.

Mayor Gray, although this is an operating budget meeting, I do want to take this opportunity to thank you for the capital improvements to the school – the Phase 1 renovation, playground renovation, and installation of the new windows which is scheduled to start as soon as Mother Nature cooperates. We are not done at Amidon-Bowen with capital improvements, and we really need to begin working on the renovations to the swing space soon to be vacated by Appletree Charter School, the gymnasium, cafeteria, and additional classrooms in the library.  We are growing rapidly and providing a standard classroom for all children – especially a high risk population like those at Amidon-Bowen is paramount.

There are a couple areas in the 2015 Fiscal Year Budget that I would like for you to consider as they pertain to Amidon-Bowen, and more generally across the District.


  •          Realignment of classrooms due to Growth

We are adding a third section of kindergarten and a third section of 2nd grade due to our growth.  We received the money for the operating costs, but there was no corresponding allocation for capital improvements.  We have the space, but we need capital money so that children are in the same wings as their cohorts.  Otherwise, one section of Kindergarten and one section of 2nd grade will be remotely located from their peers. (see attached drawing) It is an easy fix and we have the space, we just need to combine two small rooms in the kindergarten wings.  This will involve knocking down a wall this summer.  Then, we need to relocate the art and dance rooms so that they are in the space being vacated by Appletree Charter School. This will free up classroom space in the academic wing.  It’s relatively simple and straightforward – just building a couple walls, doors and installing the flooring and walls.  Relocating the art and dance rooms from the academic wing into the “specials” area will allow all classrooms to be in the same area with their peers.  Finally, we will need to install new lighting and doors and a fresh coat of paint in the parent resource room so that we can increase family engagement.  The FY 15 budget accounts for the operating costs, but it doesn’t account for the capital improvements necessary. We have other capital improvement projects to complete the school, but accommodating the 3rd section of Kindergarten and 2nd Grade is urgent and necessary prior to the start of next year. My estimate, unverified by DGS, is that these projects could be completed for approximately $300,000.

  •          Extended Day Program

I support an extended day program at Amidon-Bowen and also support year-round schooling.  There is a line on the budget for extended day next year.  However, it is my understanding that there is a collective bargaining agreement in place with the Teacher’s Union that requires a vote of support from the Union in order to extend the day.  Our teachers work long days and have many challenges and they should be fairly compensated for their work.  I believe Charter Schools have more flexibility in the work day requirements and so, if possible, I would like to see a leveling of the playing field in this respect.  Public schools, especially the lowest 40 performing, need more operations funding so that additional teachers/staff can be hired during the day to alleviate some of the work load and make the extended day program a reality at DCPS.  I would like to see funding for extended day as a line item on the budget, but also have some sort of tie-in to the “regular” work-day funding.  For example, the budget could reflect an additional half-day salary for each grade contingent upon the implementation of the extended day program.  This could give teachers the opportunity for a more flexible schedule during the “regular” day.  I just do not think that a vote by the Teacher’s Union should determine whether there should be an extended day program.

  •          Summer School/Year Round School

I also support year-round schooling and I think adding summer school at each school – especially the lower performing schools is an important first step in this initiative.  When summer school locations are consolidated, the children who need the educational continuity the most just do not attend a remote school – even with busing provided.  Therefore, I would like to see a 2015 budget allocation for summer school at Amidon-Bowen for Amidon-Bowen students, and other students on a space available basis.

  •          Charter School Discharges in October/February

Like clock-work, Amidon-Bowen receives two waves of students discharged from Charter Schools.  The first wave comes in October, after the official count day and after budget money has attached to each Charter and Public school.  The second wave comes around February before the DC CAS test.  Generally speaking, the children who arrive at Amidon-Bowen in October are children with behavioral issues (attendance, discipline etc.).  The February wave generally consists of students whose behavior might be fine, but are basic or below basic in reading and math levels.  While these may be generalizations, it defies logic to think that a Charter school would discharge a well-behaved, high performing student.  I have heard that the children who are nudged out of Charter schools because they are basic and below basic are sometimes promised an opportunity to re-enroll in the next academic year.  Because they re-enroll as “new” students the subsequent school year, the test scores for those children do not count.  If public schools, like Amidon-Bowen, are doing the heavy lifting for the children Charter schools discharge, then there needs to be extra budget money allocated for the October and February influx of children at Amidon-Bowen. I therefore ask for additional money in Amidon-Bowen’s 2015 budget to accommodate the October and February influx of Charter school students.

I thank you for your time and I look forward to partnering with each of you again this year.  We have a lot of work to do, but I am proud to be able to send my children to public school in the District of Columbia.


Elizabeth Bacon

Parent at the Capitol Hill Cluster School and Vice President of the Capitol Hill Cluster School PTA

418 7th Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002

Fiscal Year 2015 Budget for Public Schools in the District of Columbia

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cardozo Education Campus

1200 Clifton Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009


DC Public Schools FY15 Budget Hearing Testimony by Khai Booker – CHML

Good Evening to All,

I am Khai Booker, a long-time parent at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan.  I have 2 children one in 4th grade and another in 6th grade. Our school offers a unique choice in education, is richly diverse and hails from every Ward in the city.  Currently we serve from PK-3 through 6th grade.  We are scheduled to expand to 7th grade next year and 8th the year after.  At a time when many families are leaving DCPS at middle school, we believe that with the right investments, we can keep our students and bring others back from charters, private schools and the suburbs.

Public Montessori is at the forefront of a national trend, backed by a 100 year old pedagogy that has been tested around the globe.   Simply put: Montessori seeks to instill a love of learning in EVERY child. The learning environment we have created shapes the child for success academically as well as socially and has been proven effective in research and by our alumni.  Throughout its history, Capitol Hill Montessori has always worked to mirror the goals of DCPS. Our current Student Satisfaction Index is 98%.  We believe this score reflects Montessori’s insistence that students’ voices be heard.  They need to know that the Mayor and DCPS will keep their word and do their part.

According to the lottery results, many other families want to join our middle school. Over 1/3 of our 6th and 7th grade applicants have chosen CHML as one of their top three schools.  This expansion is definitely about more than 7 rising 7th graders and right-sizing a few toilets.  If we don’t build it, they will still come and when the facilities are inadequate, there will be many angry and disappointed families.   More importantly there will be children who have been let down by the very adults upon whom they should be able to depend.

I’d like to make a few points regarding our current Math test scores, as our Reading scores are very strong. Despite the fact that our school has doubled in size in 3yrs, and the fact that Montessori teaches Math differently than most traditional schools, our Math scores are on a steady incline. On the 2012-13 DC CAS, 38% of our students scored Proficient or Advanced in Math and our goal is to increase this number to 46%.  Our scores on this year’s PIA’s give us hope.  We want to be great.  For this reason, we are doing the following:

  •          Our Students use First In Math and LearnZillion at home;
  •          Our Teachers use sample lessons from Achieve the Core;
  •          We have a  DC CAS Resource Specialist assisting all teachers on how to maximize their classroom time leading up to the test;
  •          We host a Saturday Scholars program.

We are part of a strong and committed community but one of our most important partners must be DCPS. What answer would this panel give to the rising 6th and 7th graders who were promised a middle school and those who are transferring to CHML? Would you still tell them that all you can manage are a few age-appropriate toilets? And finally, do you think that they will believe in someone who does not keep their word?  Thank you for your time and attention.


Testimony of Khai Booker,

Parent at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan

March 20th, 2014


DC Public Schools FY15 Budget Hearing Testimony by Joe Weedon – Maury ES

Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

My name is Joe Weedon. I’m here today as a parent of two students at Maury Elementary School and as a member of the Eliot-Hine MS LSAT. I serve as the Maury PTA’s Middle School Committee Chair and as Maury ES representative on DCPS’s Eliot-Hine Collaboration Team. I am also a member of Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s (OSSE) Title I Committee of Practitioners.

I would like to begin by thanking you for your investment in middle schools in this year’s budget. Parents across the city have waited far too long to see middle school reform move forward. I’d also like to thank DCPS for revisiting, and adjusting, the initial budget allocation made to Maury ES.

FY2015 Budget Process

At community meetings held across the city this spring, Chancellor Henderson promised, repeatedly, that this year’s DCPS budget process would be different. At two events I attended – January 27th for middle school LSATs and February 6th for elementary school LSATs – the Chancellor laid out a timeline for DCPS to announce new initiatives, for school officials to begin planning for the coming year, and for LSATs and parents to be consulted before our final school budgets were submitted to central office. The Chancellor also encouraged those attending these meetings to “dream big” and “envision what you would do with a 10% funding increase.”

Unfortunately, the process was not different and the impact of the Chancellor not following through on promised budget increases was devastating.  Deadlines were missed, information about different initiatives was hard to find and often vague. And, the Chancellor’s promise of across the board funding increases was hollow. The impact of these broken promises cannot be understated. At Maury ES, the LSAT had developed a strong plan to utilize new, promised, resources and then was given only 6 days – over a weekend and with a snow day further undermining the ability to meet – to develop an entirely new staffing plan for the school. After promises of new resources, teachers and support staff were given a budget that threatened their jobs, undermining school moral just weeks before DC CAS testing. Parents and community members felt like they had to break promises to beloved staff and that the future of our school was in jeopardy.

While I am a strong supporter of many of the Chancellor’s initiatives, the annual budget process is unnecessarily frustrating and I’m disappointed that Chancellor Henderson, once again, failed to meet the expectations that she set for herself. That said, overall, the FY2015 DCPS budget provides limited new resources across Ward 6 and begins to fulfill promises made in 2010 about supporting our middle schools, implementing the Ward 6 Middle School Plan and creating stable pathways from early education through high school graduation.

Eliot-Hine MS. A Strong Step Forward.

The FY2015 DCPS budget for Eliot-Hine MS is $4,142,708, a $566,405 increase over the FY2014 budget. At this level of funding, the principal and LSAT have created a staffing plan that will allow Eliot-Hine MS to move forward with the implementation of a strong IB Middle Years Programme by providing world language instruction to all students, by continuing to offer innovative courses – including TV/Radio Broadcasting – and by ensuring all students have full year access to English, Math – including Algebra – and other core subjects.

While the community is generally pleased with the overall budget for Eliot-Hine MS, there are still concerns. Over the past year, DCPS and the community has invested in a new collection for the Eliot-Hine library and media center and the library has become a destination for students; however, at current budget allocations Eliot-Hine will not be able to maintain full-time staffing for the library and media center undermining this investment and preventing our students from having access to these resources.

Across the District, only four middle schools failed to receive allocations for full-time librarians – Cardozo MS, Eliot-Hine MS, Johnson MS, and Sousa MS. Each of these schools falls short of a 300 student threshold for receiving a full-time allocation. However, at current and school-projected enrollment levels, Eliot-Hine MS will exceed this 300 student threshold.

Currently, there are 306 students enrolled at Eliot-Hine MS and the school’s October 1 audit counted 292 students.  Despite this fact, DCPS estimates that Eliot-Hine’s enrollment will grow by 4 students to reach 275 students next year. Clearly, the DCPS estimate is inaccurate. School leadership currently expects enrollment to reach at least 310 students next year and continue to increase as Eliot-Hine becomes a destination school for Ward 6 students (though concerns about the potential opening of new public charter middle schools could alter these expectations). At the current and community projected enrollment levels, Eliot-Hine would qualify to receive a full allocation for a librarian.

Given that Eliot-Hine’s current enrollment exceeds the 300 student threshold and that school officials expect to exceed that threshold again next year, we ask that you provide the school with an additional 0.5 allocation, or $47,313, to ensure that the Eliot-Hine MS library is adequately staffed. 

Maury ES. Concern about Transparency & Changes to Staffing Models.

The Maury ES initial allocation is $3,424,888, $101,351 more than the FY2014 budget allocation. However, this level of funding, due to a projected enrollment increase of 32 students, results in a net loss in funding – approximately a 6% reduction – on a per student basis. This continues a decline in per student funding from $10,173 in SY2012-13 to $9,761 for SY2013-14 to a proposed $9,461 for the upcoming school year, a net loss of $712 per student over two years despite significant cost savings within DCPS from closing schools and increased budgets (two percent in FY2014 and $100 million in FY2015). While the Maury ES budget has shrunk, its student population has grown by 52 students over two years and our test scores have improved dramatically, 29% gains in reading and 19% gains in math in 2013.

Due to an active and engaged PTA which provides generous support to students, teachers and administration, Maury ES is uniquely positioned among DCPS schools to absorb budget cuts and our school community, generally, believes that resources should go to those who need them most. However, the school community is greatly concerned that staffing allocations have not kept pace with the school’s growth. This concerns is demonstrative of the lack of detailed insight, strategic planning, and transparency in the local school budgeting process.

If you compare two schools, Maury ES and Brent ES, both in Ward 6 and with similar student demographics, you see remarkable differences in their initial budget allocations. In short, Brent ES sees an additional $646 per student than Maury ES despite similar enrollments, similar special needs and ELL populations and a lower FARM population. To move forward in creating a strong public school system, DCPS must provide accurate information on staffing models and information on adjustments to per student spending for special needs populations. This will allow school communities to make better informed decisions and to better plan for growth, ensuring that all schools can better plan and make strategic decisions to drive student attainment.

maury testimony

After appealing the Maury ES budget allocation to DCPS, the school community is slated to receive an adjustment to our funding allocation. Maury’s leadership has been informed that the school will gain an additional allocation for a “Related Arts Teacher” (Art/Music/World Language/Physical Education). The new allocation allows for the creation of a staffing plan that will keep the majority of our staffing and programming in place. However, Maury’s total budget allocation still falls well short of the promised 10% increase in funding and, as a result, the school will be unable to fully restore the mental health team and other support positions lost in the FY2014 budget as well as be unable to maintain all programming currently offered while adding new initiatives to further improve math and reading scores across the school. The development of this new staffing plan caused much angst among administration, teachers and parents. And, it was done with little ability to deliberate and collect information from school and community members because of the limited 6 day turnaround required by DCPS.

While the Maury community is pleased with the additional allocation that will allow the school to implement a strong staffing plan for SY2014-15, the community remains disappointed that the Chancellor failed to live up to her promise of changing the way DCPS budgeting is done and failed to provide promised new resources to our school.

Moving Forward.

I encourage you to reform the DCPS budgeting process to ensure openness and transparency. New initiatives must be announced early in the budget process and their impacts must be clearly communicated to local school communities.  Additionally, school communities must receive more time to analyze budgets and prepare staffing options for their schools.

I also encourage you to consider the following reforms to help accomplish our shared goals of moving our public school systems forward.

Updating Staffing Models.  DCPS needs to analyze, make changes to, and publicize its staffing models as well as amounts of additional allocations for special needs and FARM populations. The thresholds for staffing allocations for many positions – assistant principals, “Related Arts / Special Subjects” instructors, social workers/psychologists – is vague and often fails to meet the needs of students and school communities. Updated staffing models should be created in concert with national experts and community input and publicized so that individual school communities can know well in advance, based on their enrollment estimates and student demographics, the level of funding that they will receive. Completing this process will also help DCPS predict ideal enrollment size at each school, supporting the Deputy Mayor’s efforts to redraw school boundaries and realign feeder patterns.

Improving Enrollment Estimates. The District of Columbia MUST do a better job of estimating enrollment. School budgets are determined by estimates that often bear no resemblance to actual enrollment numbers which can dramatically shift from year to year as well as within the school year. DCPS should have a mandatory late spring enrollment deadline that will allow schools to adjust staffing models and reallocate staff to meet individual school needs even if this means that students lose their right to attend their neighborhood school because of capacity issues.

Implementing Ward 6 Middle School Plan.  In 2010, Chancellor Rhee came to Maury Elementary School to announce the Ward 6 Middle School Plan; Chancellor Henderson endorsed that plan upon being confirmed as chancellor.  However, progress in implementing the plan has been unsteady and benchmarks have not been met.  Rather than starting from scratch as the Chancellor proposed last fall, I encourage you to revisit this plan, developed with substantial community input, and see that it is updated and fully implemented. I encourage you to ensure that the infusion of resources into our city’s middle schools is not a one-time investment but rather that we continue current levels of support into future years to allow schools to develop programs and attract more students.

Moving Forward with Middle School Renovations. Eliot-Hine MS and Jefferson Academy MS are in desperate need of renovations. The schools lack modern technology and have inadequate lighting and poor acoustics.  If Washington, D.C. is to fulfill our promise to ensure all students have great middle schools, as well as promises made in the Ward 6 Middle School Plan, we must accelerate the timelines for moving these renovations forward. The city must ensure the successful launch of a new middle school at Capitol Hill Montessori @ Logan, by ensuring it has state of the art facilities and adequate staffing and supplies, as outlined in the Ward 6 middle school plan.

Concluding Thoughts.

While transparency is a major concern, ultimately, our city’s ability to create more schools of choice will require better planning within DCPS as well as better coordination between DCPS and the public charter schools. While the common lottery is a significant step forward, the lack of mandatory early enrollment deadlines – DCPS students can still show up to their in-bounds school on the first day without being enrolled and regardless of the school’s capacity – and the on-going practice of students transferring mid-year from public charters into DCPS schools will continue to be major obstacles to creating sustainable, high-preforming schools.

I’d also like to thank the Deputy Mayor for moving forward an effort to redraw boundaries and realign feeder patterns. While I have my doubts, personally, that the boundary realignment process will, alone, be successful in helping to create more stable enrollment patterns, I applaud the effort and believe that it is needed.

On behalf of parents at both Maury ES and Eliot-Hine MS, I thank you for your support of our schools. While we were disappointed with the many broken promises made about the budget process being “different,” we are satisfied that we can create staffing plans that will allow us to move forward in our efforts to create a strong pathway from elementary school to Eastern High School.