Absurd Absurdities (And Other Recent DC Education Events & Info.)

–On May 11, DCPS held a public information session about the new Ward 3 high school at 4530 MacArthur Boulevard NW. I found out by accident a few hours before the meeting started. (Yes, I have been a DCPS parent for 17 years. Yes, DCPS has had all my contact information for that time and it has not changed.) From what I gathered, the several hundred people attending were mostly from that area of the city, for whom this would be a school of right—even though some portion of its 1000 seats will be set aside for at risk students. Concerns with traffic, parking, metro access, boundaries, programming (it will start with only 9th graders and grow gradually), and principal selection were all raised. Few answers appeared. Given that now BOTH the deputy mayor for education’s office as well as the common lottery board (or see here) have acknowledged that our student population is not growing (even though the deputy mayor has some issues with accuracy), expect at least one DCPS high school outside Ward 3 closed as a result.

–For its recent feedback sessions (or see here) regarding school accountability and revisions to its school report card, our office of the state superintendent of education (OSSE) has circulated at least two, slightly different slide decks for its sessions with school stakeholders (except teachers–naturally). Here is the one for the parent session I attended in April (all by myself!), and here is the one circulated by SHAPPE. Charmingly, one page of the slide deck they presented to me touted what great engagement they had back in 2017 and 2018 for this effort (which tells you everything you need to know—because this and this and this and this is how it really went down then, so we’re not exactly talking about hearing the voices of the people). OSSE expects to have a draft plan out sometime this month. In the meantime, you might consider attending another feedback session organized by the Ward 8 education council on May 19 at 6 pm (register here).

–In the wake of this week’s release of the FY23 draft budget (as well as the draft budget support act), DCPS budget expert Mary Levy unpacked the ugly reality behind happy claims that the council is providing increased funding to DCPS schools with large percentages of at risk students, while a council vote affirmed that police will be phased out of publicly funded schools (despite the wishes of the mayor and council chair Mendelson).

–Until the release of that draft budget, it was unclear whether renovations of several DCPS schools would be further postponed. That was because council chair Phil Mendelson had apparently prioritized Briya staying at DCPS-owned Sharpe, which is also being used as swing space for Dorothy Height. The shortage of swing space in DCPS (because most DCPS buildings not in active use as schools have been taken away) meant that allowing Briya to stay would delay renovations of Truesdell and Whittier, as Truesdell could not be at Sharpe alongside Dorothy Height. Now the draft budget ensures both Truesdell and Whittier will be renovated on schedule, which suggests Briya will be leaving Sharpe. Ironically, the charter board itself (or see here) noted that Briya’s location at Sharpe was intended to be temporary. While some charters (hey there, Perry Street Prep!) have lots of space to accommodate a small program like Briya’s at Sharpe (6000 square feet), several of Briya’s other campuses were not fully utilized per the master facilities plan. At least a new bill acknowledges that charters often get a pass on utilizing their space wisely. But don’t hold your breath in this election season: The last time a co-located charter school wanted to retain its rented DCPS digs beyond its welcome (Appletree at Jefferson MS), DCPS was made to look like the big heavy in breathless Post op-eds. Expect possible drama—and that bill to die on the vine absent lots of co-signers.

And speaking of lack of swing space: My inquiry into signing up for the May 18 hearing for the lease extensions of Gibbs and Shaed yielded an extraordinary admission. When the emergency legislation was passed in December (recall that I was unable to find it in the public database until April–yeah), DGS took that to mean it could renew the leases posthaste. And voila: it did! Ergo, no need for a council hearing! So it is that two DCPS school buildings have been signed away for most of this century without ANY council oversight or ANY articulation of public benefit (other than the charters in those buildings are so very very nice)–all to directly benefit a private organization that the council chair’s significant other once headed. Here is my email chain on this—to which I (naturally) got no response from anyone addressed, including the council chair. Expect more silence on the matter until, uh, 2070 or so.

–Despite emailing the early childhood education help desk (ECEhelpdesk@dc.gov) at OSSE several weeks ago, I have gotten no answer (and no bounces!) on who is running the early childhood centers at Old Miner and Old Randle Highlands as well as at the site of the demolished Marshall Elementary. Fascinatingly, a document from the deputy mayor for education dated August 2019 (or see here) said that DCPS would be running all of them. But the November 2021 meeting for the Fort Lincoln renovation (see minute 56 of the video here) made clear that the contract for that site will be bid out. Also unanswered: how access is going to be determined, whether by the My School DC lottery or in boundary to those schools so as to preserve neighborhood access. Expect no answers until it’s all a done deal.

–The common lottery board held a special meeting on April 21 to determine whether DCPS should have a separate lottery for a re-opened preK3 class at Hyde-Addison. Apparently, DCPS got rid of the class in the fall (not entirely clear why), but now they want to ensure the 16 or so slots would be available for students on the school’s waitlist. The lottery’s parent advisory council was apparently appalled at the idea of bypassing the regular lottery. The tied vote of the lottery board marked the end of the road for this–but for the (odd to me, but what do I know?) conclusion that DCPS would simply conduct its own lottery for those seats. Hard to know where this will go from here—but probably not equitably.

Stuff You May Want To Bookmark

**Recall that due to the close timing of the budget release and budget oversight in March, the council committed to asking questions of education agencies only after public hearings. Yet I got no response from the council chair’s committee director as to where these questions or their responses are posted publicly. Here and here and here are the only ones I have (kindly provided by someone in the Wilson Bldg. who took pity on me). These appear to be the ONLY ones available from any DC education agencies for this year’s oversight (or, perhaps more precisely, lack thereof).

**Surprising exactly no one, covid reporting in DCPS is (still) not being done per the law, even as covid cases in DCPS are rising.

**The Washington Teachers’ Union has a candidate questionnaire, with excellent analysis by education analyst Betsy Wolf.

**C4DC also has a great candidate questionnaire.

**Per Scott Goldstein, there are no recent updates to this informative chart by EmpowerEd of charter salaries. (Some schools complained that the data was old—and then did not share updated information.)

**Enjoy some recent production in the (sadly) long-running FOIA request regarding testing for lead in DC school playgrounds and on other rubber surfaces intended for children. In January, a DC court ruled in favor of DC Safe Healthy Playing Fields regarding FOIA productions around this issue, so expect more documents (and likely more findings of lead and/or their redaction).

**Fun final fact: Before outgoing Ward 5 council member Kenyan McDuffie was disqualified from running for DC attorney general for not being in active practice as a lawyer, he sat on the facilities committee for Georgetown Day School, whose building at 4350 MacArthur Blvd. (yeah, the one mentioned above) DC bought at twice its assessed value after it was on the market for 3 years. So McDuffie WAS active in a legal matter after all.

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