[The following is a letter, dated today, addressed to Mayor Bowser from all eight ward-based education councils and education advocacy groups, offering a way for better schools planning. The deputy mayor for education is in the process of forming a task force to look into schools planning city-wide. The groups signing here want to ensure a very public, city-wide and collaborative process is followed, modeled along the lines of the boundaries work. VJ]
Dear Mayor Bowser:
We are pleased to see that Deputy Mayor for Education [Jennifer] Niles is launching this important effort on cross-sector collaboration and coordinated planning.
The members of our Coalition are deeply committed to these priorities as outlined in our founding principles and look forward to working with her on this project.
As your Administration works to set-up this task force, we wish to emphasize three points.
–Build on the recommendations from the Student Assignment Committee that received a clear message from a wide cross-section of city residents,
–Maintain an open and transparent process, with extensive public access to information, and
–Include a majority of city parents and community leaders on the task force.
Genesis and Vision
After the most extensive public engagement on education in the District in a generation, the Student Assignment Committee heard a clear message from District residents. Based on that message, the Committee outlined a Vision for education in the District of Columbia, calling for policies that would ensure “a city-wide system of high quality neighborhood public schools of right complemented by a diverse set of high quality public school options” (see page 6 of the Final Recommendations on Student Assignment Policies and DCPS School Boundaries, August 2014).
The DC Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force grows out of the recommendations of the Student Assignment Committee (see page 13, Final Recommendations on Student Assignment Policies and DCPS School Boundaries, on better planning across public school sectors), and was intended as part of the method through which we could advance that Vision as a city. The Task Force should build on the extensive work already done and use as its compass point the Vision articulated in the Student Assignment Committee process.
We understand the rationale for conducting certain Task Force meetings in private with minutes summarizing the discussion posted afterwards. That was the method successfully used in the Student Assignment Committee process.
In the Student Assignment Committee process, however the public also had timely access to data, analysis and policy options that informed the Committee; as well as many opportunities for the public to participate in discussions with each other and Committee members about the policy issues being considered. It is essential that a similar dynamic take place with the Task Force and we are heartened that you aspire to achieve it.
Composition of the Task Force
Increasingly, the education leaders in the city have recognized the need to ground education policy on input from the parents and communities most directly affected by those policies. The Chancellor has established a Parent Cabinet and is engaging Ward Education Councils. The Public Charter School Board has formed a Parent Advisory Group.
The issues to be addressed by this Task Force could have a substantial impact on the nature of our education system and the fabric of our communities. The policy recommendations proposed by the Task Force must be guided by community input.
We, therefore, urge you and the DME to empanel a Task Force that is majority District of Columbia residents who are connected to constituencies that will inform them and the Task Force—including parent, community, and faith-based leaders.
One set of organizations, part of our Coalition, providing community leadership across the city on these issues is the Ward-based Education Councils. Another such organization is the Senior High Alliance of Parents Principals and Educators (S.H.A.P.P.E.), also representing community and school leaders across the city. As you and the DME consider nominations for the Task Force, we urge that you give significant weight to individuals put forward by these groups, as they will represent every ward and bring broad input into the discussions.
Thank you and the DME for your time and attention to these matters and we will look forward to working with you on this project as it moves forward.
Ward 1 Education Collaborative
Ward 2 Education Network
Ward 3 – Wilson Feeder Education Network
Ward 4 Education Alliance
Ward 5 Council on Education
Capitol Hill Public School Parents Organization (CHPSPO)
Ward 7 Education Council
Ward 8 Education Council
DC Language Immersion Project
DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI)
21st Century School Fund
Senior High Alliance of Parents Principals and Educators (S.H.A.P.P.E.)