Scott Goldstein Testimony – Deputy Mayor for Education & District of Columbia Public Charter School Board – Performance Oversight – February 15, 2019

EMpowered

Performance Oversight Hearing- PCSB and Deputy Mayor for Education

Testimony of Scott Goldstein, Executive Director EmpowerEd

February 15, 2019

Good Morning Chairman Grosso and Chairman Mendelson.  My name is Scott Goldstein and I am the Executive Director of the teacher advocacy organization EmpowerEd.  We asked teachers to submit input for oversight into both PCSB and the Deputy Mayor for Education.

First, on the Deputy Mayor for Education, I want to point out that I have been very pleased by the willingness of this Deputy Mayor to listen to the community.  He has listened clearly to teacher voices and clearly integrated their thoughts on issues like the crisis in teacher turnover into his thinking and made it a priority.  He has been out in the community regularly meeting with advocates and engaging in conversations- but not just with those who we might already agree, but soliciting broad feedback from diverse voices.  We all applaud that approach- and others in the DC education community should take note.

I asked teachers what key questions they had for the Deputy Mayor.  The top four questions were these:

  1. How are schools being guided to implement the Fair Access to Schools Act, since this applies to both sectors? How will schools and principals be held accountable for following the Act? What funding is available to them to implement?
  2. How would you define a viable, matter of right public school system? How are you working to achieve it?
  3. Do you support subjecting all public schools, including charter schools, to the same basic transparency rules- including FOIA and the Open Meetings Act?
  4. Is it a priority for you to take serious action to de-segregate our schools both racially and socio-economically?

The overriding question that faces the Deputy Mayor for Education is how will we plan comprehensively for education in this city.  Teachers and parents are deeply frustrated that we continue to open and close schools at random without considering the whole picture.  Acting Chancellor Ferebee said himself in his confirmation hearing that we should not just be opening new schools, especially next to existing neighborhood schools, in places where the specific demand does not exist. What is the Deputy Mayor’s strategy and timeline for implementing a comprehensive school plan in DC?

At the Deputy Mayor’s confirmation hearing I proposed an idea I would like to re-surface and hope to work with the Deputy Mayor on in the coming weeks and months.  Much like any new building must receive an environmental impact report before being permitted, any new school should have to receive an equity report before being granted permission to open.  There is a lot we need to take into account- including neighborhood demand, over and under-enrollment at surrounding schools, programming relevancy, the impact the new school will have on both enrollment and diversity at existing schools, what plan exists for ensuring the school will be staffed by a diverse teaching staff that reflect the student population and many more factors.

To start, there are several questions teachers wanted you to put directly to Director Pearson.

  1. Do you believe there should be accountability for charter schools as a system, related to its effect on education in the city, or only accountability for individual schools?
  2. Do you support teacher collective organizing in charter schools and would you support allowing charter teacher the options to participate in the DCPS pension plan?
  3. Who are all the agencies and actors that you believe have authority over the charter sector? If you believe it to be only PCSB, where in the law do you find that interpretation?
  4. What do you plan to do about the correlation between PMF scores and the at-risk status and SPED populations of the students the school serves? Will you prioritize intentionally de-coupling those indicators in how you measure schools to ensure you are measuring HOW the school serves instead of WHO they serve?
  5. How many discussions have you had with stakeholders about ways to improve teacher retention in the past year?
  6. Do you support subjecting charter school boards to FOIA and the Open Meetings Act? Why or why not?
  7. Do you believe it’s important for your schools to recruit and retain teachers of color? If so, what do you do to collect teacher demographics, analyze them, and take action to improve.  If you’re leaving this up to LEA’s- how are you ensuring equity for all DC students, so that they can learn from adults who look like them, an incredibly important factor in their education.

We very much appreciate that PCSB has taken new steps to consolidate information that was already public into one central transparency hub on their website. That’s helpful for the public. But the overwhelming top concern we heard from teachers was this one- when the public charter school board proactively seeks input on policy- it is rarely teachers.

We know that schools with stronger family, student and teacher engagement produce stronger results- so we should do everything in our power to arm our families and educators with everything they need to be part of the discussion. If we want schools to be responsive to the needs of those they serve- we should ensure every single LEA is subject to the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

Transparency is in the system’s best interest.  When stakeholders are involved in solutions on the front end, you rarely see bad headlines on the back end. A disturbing argument is often made that somehow transparency is divorced from our work to better outcomes for students.  If you believe that, you don’t genuinely believe in the power of community engagement.  Too often those in positions of leadership see transparency as oppositional. But transparency is the opposite- it’s how an organization shows it values those it serves and it’s how those in the community show loyalty to an institution they care deeply about. No one spends their free time attending a charter school board’s meeting because they don’t care about that school.  All public schools should be equally public.

We hope that both the Public Charter School Board and the Deputy Mayor for Education will listen to the voices of teachers as they make policy with recognition that there are not “adult issues” and “youth issues” and that in fact better teaching conditions are better learning conditions.  When teachers ask for policy makers to address turnover- it’s to ensure they’re students have consistency.  When we ask for transparency, it’s to ensure students are being treated equitable across our schools.  When we demand a diverse workforce, it’s because that matters to student outcomes, and when we demand diverse schools it’s because all students benefit from diversity. We look forward to working together more with teachers at the table as key stakeholders who should be engaged and respected in the policy process. Thank you!

Martin Welles Testimony – Deputy Mayor for Education & District of Columbia Public Charter School Board – Performance Oversight – February 15, 2019

Public Testimony of Martin R. Welles, Esq. For

PERFORMANCE OVERSIGHT HEARING: 

COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION & COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

Deputy Mayor for Education

District of Columbia Public Charter School Board

Friday, February 15, 2019

10:00 a.m., Hearing Room 120, John A. Wilson Building

 

Good Morning Co-Chairman Mendelson and Grosso, members of the Education Committee and Committee of the Whole.

My name is Martin Welles and I’m a parent of 3 children who attend Hardy Middle School.  My children have also attended Amidon-Bowen Elementary School and Appletree Charter School.  I am an active volunteer and serve on the Jefferson Middle School SIT (school modernization team), Amidon-Bowen and Payne Elementary LSAT teams, and on the Board of Directors of Hardy PTO as Vice-President Civic Engagement, the Board of Directors of Near Southeast Community Partners as Treasurer, and on the Board of Directors of Capitol Hill Little League as Treasurer to name just of few of my volunteer activities. I do have a full-time “day job” as well.

My comments today will be directed toward both the DME and the Charter School Board:

Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn:

First of all, I would like to welcome DME Kihn to DC government and thank him for his hard work since arriving.  Many of you know that Near Southeast Community Partners (NSCP) originated the “Feed the Feeder” series – a Principals Roundtable and Networking event to strengthen our neighborhood feeder school patterns.  In DME Kihn’s first week on the job, he attended our Ward 6 Feed the Feeder event and was one of the first to arrive and last to leave.  He spent the entire night meeting and speaking with teachers and parents.  I heard many positive comments from attendees and they were impressed with his willingness to listen.  When offered the microphone to provide some words, he said he was just there to listen.  I’m not sure I would ever pass up a microphone – so I don’t know what to make of that.

On another occasion, after reviewing the facts and understanding the situation, DME Kihn honored a commitment made by the previous administration.  It was the right decision and put an end to a contentious situation.  In short, DME Kihn’s approach has been reasoned and informed.

However, I did attend another event in which DME Kihn was a panel speaker on “Equity in Education.”  His presentation and remarks were focused on the District of Columbia, but I did find the narrative conveyed to be a little off-putting.  He articulated data that pit one Ward against another.  He seemed to convey that a Ward that was showing high scores, was somehow to blame for another Ward’s low test scores.  I walked away thinking that his comments seem to suggest that a high achieving Ward, rather than being celebrated, should be punished for being successful,  I would like to see excellence celebrated and invigorated, regardless of what Ward it exists.  Making every Ward’s neighborhood schools strong and desirable should be the priority, but it should not be a zero sum game.  There is room for growth and excellence everywhere in DC.

There are several hot button issues that I will require attention in the near future:

Amidon-Bowen:  Developers are trying to get a zoning variance to build a 50-foot tall, 32-foot wide, 40 unit dormitory to house actors and interns.  The lot is restricted to 3 stories, but more importantly the want relief from property line setbacks because the lot is only 40 feet wide.  The proposed building will be right on top of the playground and become a constant source of noise complaints.  Additionally, granting a zoning variance to the developer will waive the District of Columbia’s property rights to add capacity to the thriving Amidon-Bowen school in a neighborhood where 18,000 housing units are slated for development.  The developer has submitted a bad plan, and neither the DME nor DC Council should support it.

Hardy Middle School – Science Teacher Position:

The 7th grade students at Hardy Middle School have been without a permanent science teacher for almost the entire year.  Due to a series of unfortunate events, a substitute had to come in and teach.  Even though it was doubtful the permanent teacher would return quickly, the position was encumbered and that prevented hiring a dedicated science teacher.  DCPS and the DME’s office need to figure out a way to attract a permanent “substitute” teacher, and double encumber the position.  It would be nice if the DME could step in with a special budgetary authorization to double encumber a position so that when, and if, a teacher returns, the long term substitute is not forced to leave and so that two teachers could make up for lost ground.  An offer was finally made to a full-time science teacher, but I learned yesterday that the new hire was not able to start.  This is a serious problem, not only specific to Hardy Middle School 7th grade, but likely throughout the school system.

Hardy Middle School Capacity:  Hardy received a 5 star rating and that has certainly increased the desire of families to attend Hardy.  The 3rd floor of the building contains the Fillmore Arts Center.  As Hardy continues to grow, the need for classroom space becomes greater.  It is time to start shrinking the footprint of Fillmore Arts Center at Hardy Middle School and find a new location for them.  The first step would be for the Fillmore Arts Center to vacate classrooms that are in the 6th grade hallway.  These classrooms could be used for 6th graders so that they do not have to run up and down stairs to get to their classes on time.  It is also my understanding that the number of schools busing to Fillmore has reduced due to expansion and modernization at their own schools.   Fillmore offers a great curriculum, but it is only available to relatively few students anyway, and Hardy needs the space.

Thank you DME Kihn. Thank you to the Council for listening to my comments I look forward to continuing to work with you.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CHARTER SCHOOL BOARD

I’m not sure the taxpayer of the District of Columbia is getting what they bargained for with the Charter School sector.  The reason I am unsure is because Charter Schools are not subjected to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or open meeting laws.  Therefore, there is not any real way to know how much of our taxpayer dollars are spent on teacher salaries, benefits, building leases, and administration.  We do not know to whom the Charter Schools are beholden, if anyone.  I would like the Charter School Board to contractually require Charter School operators, in exchange for the $100s of millions of taxpayer dollars, to hold open meetings, to operate transparently at the same level as DCPS, and to be accountable to their customers – the parents and students who attend and the taxpayers who fund their enterprise through the FOIA.

The time for reform is ripe.  Of the 17 schools that received a 5 Star rating – 12 were DCPS schools and only 5 were charters.  The promise of Charters was that through innovation and freedom from regulation, they would be able to provide superior education to our children.  With the number of Charter School closings – either through abandonment or loss of license – it is clear that promises made during the application promises were hollow.  Granted, closing a low performing Charter school may be a way to instill fear among operators, but it really has an adverse impact on families who are now left without a familiar place, a familiar teacher, or a familiar peer group.

What was a promise of niche education, has turned in to mass education.  The Charter School model has now become to replicate DCPS and all its great offerings.  The innovation and methodologies that were promised 20 years ago materialized in very few schools.  And while there are several excellence Charter Schools, I’m not sure that the bulk of the sector has lived up to the hype and expectation.

I implore this Council and the Charter School Board to adopt transparency and compliance with the FOIA and open meeting laws. It can be done on a contractual basis, it doesn’t necessarily have to be legislative.

Sincerely,
Martin R. Welles, Esq.

Parent of 3 Children at Hardy Middle School

Vice President, Hardy Middle School PTA

Member, Student Assignment and Boundary Committee

Member, Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Cabinet

Board of Directors, NSCP – Treasurer

Board of Directors, CHLL – Treasurer

 

LL.M. Georgetown University Law Center – Taxation

LL.M. George Washington Law School with Highest Honors – Litigation

J.D. Loyola New Orleans – International Law

M.A. Loyola New Orleans – Communications

B.A. Viterbo University

A.A. University of Wisconsin – La Crosse

 

 

Status

DME’s Attendance Summit – April 21

1 in 4 students in Washington DC is chronically absent, meaning they miss 10% or more of the school year. Chronic absenteeism is strongly linked to falling behind academically and dropping out of high school, and missing just two days a month can put students at risk of academic failure.

Join us Saturday, April 21 for the Every Day Counts! Attendance Summit, where participants will gain knowledge of research, local resources, and promising practices to help improve student attendance in Washington DC. Our event will kick off with a breakfast pep rally, featuring student performances and conversations with policymakers.

Register Here!

DME-Attendance Summit Post 1.3 (1)

 

The DME encourage you to extend invitations to others in your community and attend as a team, as teams will have an opportunity to reflect together on next steps. We’ve designed the attached toolkit, which will provide you with the communications tools to spread awareness and increase your community’s involvement at the upcoming summit.

Summit Teams might include:

  • Teachers and school staff
  • Students, parents and family members
  • Local business owners, faith leaders, and organizers
  • Health and safety professionals
  • Community-based organizations
  • Others who should be part of the conversation

The Summit will run from 9:30am to 3:00pm EST at Ron Brown High School, 4800 Meade Street NE. The event is hosted by The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, in partnership with Kinvolved, a national organization focused on engaging students, parents, and families in increasing student attendance.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Katrina Ballard for any additional information.

DME Attendance Summit Toolkit

Status

Learn About the DC Public Education Master Facilities Plan

Join fellow DC residents to learn about the DC Public Education Master Facilities Plan 2018 and take part in a workshop in which you can share your ideas and feedback about public school facilities planning in the District at one of the three Public Education Master Facilities Plan community engagements.

The materials and content will be the same at all three engagements. Dates, times, and locations below. Please RSVP at https://dcpubliceducationmfp2018.eventbrite.com.

MFP Community Engagement #1

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Time: 6:30PM

Columbia Heights Education Campus, 3101 16th St NW

Metro Station: Columbia Heights (Green/Yellow)

MFP Community Engagement #2

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Time: 6:30PM

Center City PCS – Capitol Hill Campus, 1503 E Capitol St SE

Closest Metro Station: Stadium/Armory (Blue/Orange/Silver)

MFP Community Engagement #3

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Time: 10:00AM

C.W. Harris Elementary School, 301 53rd St SE

Closest Metro Station: Benning Road (Blue/Silver)

 

For more information, please go to http://dme.dc.gov/MFP2018

DC MFP 2018 - Community Engagement Flyer

Status

Cross-Sector Task Force Feedback Opportunities – April 9 and Online

The second Citywide Meeting to collect feedback on the Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force’s recommendations will now take place on Monday, April 9 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm in the same location, Thurgood Marshall PCS.

Register here!

In addition, if you are unable to attend in person, the Public Comment window opened on the website on Friday and will remain open until Monday, April 23, the day before the next Task Force Meeting.

Status

CHPSPO Meeting Notes– February 20, 2018

Stuart Hobson Middle School, 410 E St., NE
February 20, 2018, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Mission Statement – To promote cooperation among the parent organizations of the public schools [in Ward 6] in order to improve the education received by all children attending our schools.

Overview of the DC Council Performance Oversight and Budget Hearings –

Laura Marks, Chief of Staff, Councilmember Allen and Anne Phelps Budget Counsel at Office of Budget Director shared a presentation with key budget facts, timeline, and key advocacy opportunities/dates. Please review the FY19 Education Budget Process – CHPSPO Presentation for details.

About the budget: Important to note, the budget is a finite amount. Operating budget (recurring costs like payroll, goods, services) is planned for 4 years (must be sustained for 4 years). Capital budget (one-time, more limited spending like facilities) is allocated annually.

About education budget: Enrollment projections have huge impact on school level budgets

  • Really important to get these #s right, but they are often off
  • Per Pupil Funding applies to DCPS and charter; also takes into account special needs

Education is underfunded. For example, for FY18’s budget OSSE recommended 3.5% increase for FY18. The Mayor’s budget office proposed 1.5%, Council passed 3%. ***If PPF increase this year is <3%, will be tough to fund operating budget; keep programming***

It’s important to engage in Budget forums and hearings not only to bring visibility to specific issues, but to learn about other priorities. When testifying, bring written copies: Councilmembers and staff write notes/qs on testimony.

Ward 6 School Facilities Tour – Joe Weedon, State Board of Education

Joe Weedon to organize on behalf of PTAs a tour of schools to identify potential problems and critical things that need to be implemented between now and when schools are slated to be renovated.

CHPSPO Strategic Planning Meeting – Danica Petroshius and Suzy Glucksman

To enhance our efforts to develop common goals, facilitate collaboration, and drive real change among public schools in Ward 6, to improve the education received by all children, the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization (CHPSPO) is engaging the DC education community in a strategic planning process.

All CHPSPO members, as well as families, principals, and engaged community members are invited to participate in this strategic planning (working) meeting where we plan to develop long-term and short-term priorities for our work supporting Ward 6 schools.

https://chpspo.org/2018/02/13/join-chpspos-strategic-planning-feb-24/

Bike-to-School Day Planning – Sandra Moscoso-Mills

Bike to School Day is Weds, May 9. CHPSPO organizes a ‘party’ at Lincoln Park, where families from all nearby schools meetup, socialize, grab a snack, engage in activities, and join bike trains and walking groups to get to school ON TIME! Learn about the national efforts at http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/.

Please reach out to Sandra to if you’re interested in helping identify local and national speakers, organize activities, invite city partners (DC Water, DCPS, WABA, bike shops, etc), and help get the word out at your school.

  • JO Wilson Cheerleaders to perform

Chancellor’s Parent Cabinet – Heather Schoell

Meet periodically and have broken out into issue-based groups of Middle School, Budget, College and Career. DCPS central offers a lot of programming, but not doing a good job communicating to families.

Find background and meeting notes, here: https://dcps.dc.gov/page/chancellor%E2%80%99s-parent-cabinet-sy-2017-2018-cabinet-priorities-and-updates

Other advisory committees shared by the group include

  • Global education advisory group (both Heather Schoell (Eliot-Hine and Eastern parent) and Stefany Thangavelu (Maury parent) serve on Global Ed Advisory Group)
  • Public Spaces advisory group

More on Boards and Commissions: https://mota.dc.gov/page/boards-commissions-and-task-forces-district-government

New Chancellor – Group Discussion

Ideas for engaging raised: engage in process for finding replacement; relay shortcomings from last experience; Are there changes we should push for vis a vis governance, particularly regarding the role of the State Board of Education.

ACTION: Draft letter to Mayor articulating issues raised during meeting.

——

Next CHPSPO Meeting: March 20, 2018

Upcoming Events

DC Council Performance Oversight and Budget Hearings

  • Wednesday, February 21, DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing, public witnesses, 10 am (Wilson Building)
  • Wednesday, March 28, DCPS Budget Hearing, public witnesses, 10 am (Wilson Building)
  • Thursday, April 19, DCPS Budget Hearing, public witnesses (Wilson Building)

Cross Sector Collaboration Task Force Focus Groups

  • Tuesday, March 13, 6 – 7:30 pm, Columbia Heights Educational Campus (3101 16th St., NW)
  • Wednesday, March 21, 7 – 8:30 pm, Thurgood Marshall PCS (2427 Martin Luther King Ave., SE)

CHPSPO Strategic Planning Meeting – Saturday, February 24, 9:30 am – 1 pm, Northeast Library (7th & Maryland Avenue, NE)