Different School, Same SIT Story

[The following is reprinted by permission of the writer, Max Kieba, co-chair of the Maury (DCPS) Elementary SIT team. No word on a reply.]

June 9, 2016 at 5:22:54 PM EDT

To: Beers, Nathaniel (DCPS), Tuch, Joshua (DCPS), Davis, Patrick (DCPS), kaya.henderson@dc.gov, Monique Forrest monique.forrest@mckissackdc.com, Marcos Miranda, marcos.miranda@mckissackdc.com, dme@dc.gov, chris.weaver@dc.gov

Cc: Allen, Charles (Council), Marks, Laura (Council), Councilmember David Grosso, chenderson@dccouncil.us, mcheh@dccouncil.us, nrentz@dccouncil.us, Albert-Garvey, Carolyne (DCPS), Weedon, Joe (SBOE)

Subject: Maury SIT Issues–Still looking for updated ed spec and feasibility scenarios (FOIA request needed?)

I’m writing to you on behalf of the Maury SIT [school improvement team]. I’d like to make one more request for feasibility study scenarios and updated ed specs to address the many gaps identified by the SIT for months now.

We’ve attempted to work together with DCPS and DGS as part of the new SIT process in a professional and reasonable manner, but the process is not working. Decisions are being made in this supposedly transparent process but in a very non-transparent manner. Scenarios are being considered that only account for a net addition of 1 classroom using an enrollment projection filled with errors and an expanded boundary with a number of unknowns. There were other scenarios developed and sent to DCPS that DCPS continues to refuse to share. Never mind the ongoing issues with public communication in between SIT meetings.

DCPS claims in presentations that various phases like “feasibility study,” “ed spec” etc. are completed when they’re not.  Yet, budgets are being proposed/finalized that we still have no idea what it gets us, let alone if it’s a reasonable number. Timelines are moving along, and we supposedly will be starting to procure a design architect in June. We fear this project is trending towards something that won’t meet long-term needs and will just be a huge waste of money just like so many other school modernization projects.

We’re at the point now we may have no other option than to submit a FOIA request. A FOIA request seems silly for a process that’s supposed to be open and transparent, but if that’s what needs to happen, so be it.

Attached is the last letter with a list of shortfalls along with a marked up ed spec. As usual when we provide feedback, we get a “thanks, and it will be looked into,” only to have the next call or meeting with incomplete plans, and/or the SIT forced to provide rushed feedback.

A good start that we’ve suggested for months would be to get the documentation submitted to DCPS or DGS for Options C and D of the feasibility study for Maury Elementary prepared by cox graae + spack architects. DCPS has told us they fear it’s something they simply can’t deliver on. We understand that may certainly be the case, but we’d still appreciate seeing them if nothing else than to see if there are certain aspects that can address gaps in A&B. Or, if none of them are reasonable to address the needs, can we get some scenarios that are more reasonable?

If DCPS continues to refuse to provide, we fear we may have to file a FOIA request in which we may need to not only ask for the additional scenarios, but also ask for any/all correspondence, emails, meeting notes, briefing papers, and other written materials from DGS, DCPS, the deputy mayor for education, and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer related to the Maury Elementary feasibility study and the FY2017-2022 Capital Improvements Plan.

If it would help to get all the critical players together in the same room to discuss further before we launch a FOIA request, we’ll be glad to do so. Frankly, we’re getting tired of more meetings and promises only to be disappointed yet again, but maybe this time will be truly different.

I also understand we’re not alone and most if not all SITs have issues, not to mention so many other schools that haven’t been started yet.

When will we get this fixed?  We threw a lot of money at the problem this year, which is great, but costs are all over the map and timelines/deliverables are a mess. If we’re still not managing the money and projects properly, what good does it do?

I think the [city] council has heard the public concerns and is trying to do its part with improving the process under the collective efforts of Chairpersons Grosso, Cheh, and their respective committees. The PACE Facilities Amendment Act will help take that a step further. The SITs try to do their part to provide useful feedback.  Other schools/parents are getting together to come up with ideas to try to improve the process.

When will DCPS and DGS do their part to make this supposedly open and transparent process a truly open and transparent process? When will it truly be done in a way that is equitable and fair to all?

Max Kieba
Maury SIT Co-Chair

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