Category Archives: Schools

BLOG: Report on quarterly ANC Chairs meeting with Mayor Gray: FY 2015 budget

Cross-posted at www.willstephensanc.com

On Monday, April 7th, Mayor Gray hosted his quarterly meeting with ANC Chairs and agency heads.  This is an initiative that the Mayor started about 3 years ago.  The meeting usually begins with introductions, and then a presentation or two from various city agency representatives, followed by questions and open discussion.  These sessions can be very useful because the Mayor includes all of the agency heads at the meetings.  This way, there is always someone to answer any question that arises, and the Mayor can direct an agency head to follow up on concerns or issues raised during the discussion.  I hope whoever is the next mayor will continue this new tradition.

Monday night’s meeting focused almost exclusively on the budget.  The session began with a presentation on the Mayor’s proposed FY 2015 budget by Eric Goulet, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Budget and Finance.  Full budget information is available here.

Some overall highlights of the budget overview included the following:

  • Increases the District’s fund balance to $1.75 billion (the highest ever) to improve the city’s bond rating;
  • No new taxes or fees;
  • Represents a 4.5% total increase over the approved FY 2014 budget;
  • Human services and education make up over 60% of the total budget; and
  • 71% of the budget is generated from local taxes and fees (with the rest coming from federal grants, payments, and Medicaid).

With respect to the ANC and our part of the city in particular, some highlights of the budget presentation included the following:

  • $38 million for renovation of Garrison Elementary School;
  • Property tax relief for seniors (based on the recent legislation sponsored by Councilwoman Anita Bonds);
  • Creation of a “One City Business Portal” for unified licensing and permitting;
  • Fully funds a force of 4,000 police officers; and
  • $114 million for sidewalk repairs, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements (including eliminating the current $18 million backlog of outstanding sidewalk repairs).

This is the third year that the Mayor has discussed the budget with ANC Chairs, followed by town hall meetings around the city.  I thanked the Mayor for respecting the intelligence of ANC Commissioners and residents by hosting these sessions.  The budget is probably the most important piece of legislation that the Council passes each year, but at the same also the hardest for individual residents and stakeholders to understand, because it is so large and dense.  The budget puts hard dollars toward priority items and thus reflects our values as a city — how we want to improve the quality of life and help people.  I appreciate that the Mayor is willing to explain clearly the priorities reflected in the budget proposal, package it in a way that is understandable, answer difficult questions about it, and solicit feedback on it.

With regard to specific budget items that we discussed at the quarterly meeting, I thanked the Mayor on behalf of our ANC for the Garrison School funding, as well as for funding the backlog of sidewalk repairs, given the heavy pedestrian traffic in our area.  I suggest that ANC Commissioners host walk-throughs of their Single Member Districts to make sure any necessary sidewalk repairs are noted and logged in the District Department of Transportation’s list in order to get repaired between now and the end of FY 2015.  I’ll be doing a sidewalk repair walk-through in 2B08 with DDOT representatives in May.

The Mayor, Mr. Goulet, and others will be holding town hall meetings in each ward to discuss the budget proposal.  The Ward 2 Budget town hall meeting will take place at the Sumner School (17th and M) at 6:30pm on Thursday, April 24th.  Community members are encouraged to attend.

NEWS: Community Education Forum on Unified Lottery – Saturday, Nov 16 at 1 PM

2014/15 Enrollment Lottery info session, Saturday 11/16 at 1pm

The Logan Circle, Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom Ward 2 Education Network invites you to attend a community education forum on Saturday, November 16 from 1pm to 2:30pm at the School Without Walls Francis-Stevens Campus at 2425 N St NW, in rooms 208 & 209.

This meeting will feature Kari Brandt from DCPS who will make a presentation about MYSCHOOLDC.ORG, the portal for next year’s Enrollment Lottery. Megan Hanley, a former community outreach coordinator for Ward 2 schools will also be on hand to answer questions.   The 2014/15 lottery sign-ups will go from from December 16through March 3 (Feb 3 for high schools).

This year the lottery will combine DCPS and Public Charter Schools for the first time.

There will be light snacks.  Babysitters will be on hand to care for the kids in a separate playroom just steps from our meeting room.

RSVP to: W2EdNetwork@gmail.com

This meeting is sponsored by the Foggy Bottom Association, the Logan Circle Community Association, and the Dupont Circle Citizen Association in conjunction with the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions from Foggy Bottom (ANC 2A), Dupont Circle (ANC 2B) and Logan Circle (ANC 2F).

BLOG: Commissioner Silverstein on the Chancellor’s school closure plans

Commissioner Mike Silverstein (2B06) provides the following update on the Chancellor’s school closures plans and the ANC’s actions:

The Chancellor’s announced planned closing of Francis-Stevens Educational Campus, which came as a shock to the community, brought a unified community response that resulted in the only public elementary school in the West End – Foggy Bottom neighborhood remaining open.

Chancellor Henderson’s tentative plan to close FSEC cited a number of issues that had to be resolved to avert closure, and the school’s PTA – headed by attorney Tom Martin and his wife Erin – who is a school administrator – fashioned four alternative plans to directly address the issues.

FSEC is located in ANC 2B06, but it borders Foggy Bottom ANC 2A, and it serves students from all eight wards. Its location makes it convenient for parents who work in the West End-Foggy Bottom neighborhood to drop off their children before work and pick them up after work. The school has a long established after school program that operates until 630pm, making it possible for parents to finish work and still have time to pick up their children. It also houses the DCPS program for students who are visually impaired.

FSEC has a capacity exceeding 450 students, and the main issue that had to be overcome to keep the elementary school open was under-utlilization. It was operating at 55% of capacity. While pre-K and kindergarten were full last year and some early education children were turned away, enrollment steadily drops through grade eight.

The PTA option accepted by DCPS involved co-locating part of School Without Walls High School at FSEC, along with an aggressive recruitment program to enroll more elementary and middle school students.

Foggy Bottom ANC and Dupont Circle ANC took part in a rally and listening session at the school in late November that received widespread press and television coverage. ANC 2A secured a large grant from George Washington University to help finance student recruitment efforts. ANC representatives met with DCPS officials to underscore the community’s commitment to keeping FSEC open as an elementary school option. Both ANC’s passed resolutions urging DCPS to keep FSEC open. Ward Two Councilmember Jack Evans took up the battle in Council, pointing out that the planned closures of FSEC and Garrison would leave Ward Two with only one DCPS elementary school.

Ward Two Board of Education Representative Jack Jacobson and At-large Representative Mary Lord stressed the importance that we all speak with one voice on FSEC, and the consensus was that the FSEC PTA would speak for all of us.

Perhaps the most telling moments in the battle to keep FSEC open occurred when Chancellor Henderson told parents from other schools facing closure that they should come up with positive, workable plans like the Francis-Stevens parents had done.

When the final decision came down in January, the good news was that the Chancellor was persuaded that demographic trends and new construction in Ward Two will lead to population growth and more children, and that will mean more demand for early education slots in the immediate future. She accepted the co-location option as workable.

Garrison and Francis-Stevens were spared closure, and Francis-Stevens will become School Without Walls at FSEC. It will continue to provide pre-K through grade eight education and will also be a second campus for School Without Walls. A portion of the building will house classrooms for SWOW, which will add to campus utilization. SWOW Principal Richard Trogusch will be in charge of the entire operation.

The FSEC near-death experience led to an unprecedented degree of cooperation among the two affected ANC’s, community groups, and the school PTA. Friendships were made and alliances forged as promises were made to keep the school open.

Now comes the hard part: keeping those promises that were made, and working together with DCPS and SWOW to have a smooth transition from FSEC to the District’s first pre-K through 12 educational campus.

Dupont Circle ANC remains committed to a livable, walkable neighborhood, and that means a vibrant and diverse neighborhood schools. We stand ready to assist the parents and staff at FSEC in our common cause.

GUEST BLOG: Former Commissioner Phil Carney on the “Standing Ovation for Teachers” Event

Please enjoy this guest post from recently retired ANC 2B Commissioner Phil Carney:

A Standing Ovation for DC Teachers (www.stadingovationforteachers.org)

At the third annual event honoring exceptional DC public school teachers, the surprises were the award presenters:  Secretary of Health and Human Services, Vernon Jordan, Jim Lehrer, Andrea Mitchel, the Mayor, a graduate of DC’s Duke Ellington School who starred in Meet the Browns TV show, and a former DC public school teacher who started her rather successful second career upstairs at Mr. Henrys on the Hill, Roberta Flack.  Each had a story about a teacher or teachers who changed their lives.

George Stevens created and produces shows like the Kennedy Center Honors.  Three years ago he came up with the idea for a special event to honor DC Teachers which he now also produces.  The presentations are held in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with a reception held afterward.  This year there was a 46 percent increase in DC teachers rated as “exceptional.”  My gardening buddy, Steve Aupperle, was one of the many honored as exceptional teachers.  NBC’s Jim Vance again hosted the event.  There were 7 teachers and one principal individually honored as the best of the best.

What impressed me the most were the presenter’s stories.  Kathleen Sebelius shared that her nun teachers always argued that their girls would have opportunities that they never had and could accomplish amazing things.  And then the Cabinet member added, “And I did.”

Jim Lehrer had my favorite story.  As a teenager he wanted only to play shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He told friends who told his coach who told Lehrer that he needed another plan for his future because Jim was a lousy baseball player.  The next day Lehrer’s English teacher gave him an “A” for a paper and wrote, “You are a very good writer.”  By the next day he had decided to become a writer and except for 3 years in the Marines, he has spent his life writing.

Philanthropist David Rosenstein had a teacher who told him not to worry about the big words he couldn’t pronounce and had him stay after school and practice pronouncing those big words with the teacher.  The teacher also took him to the Pratt Library and got him a library card that allowed him to check out 12 books a week.  And every week after that, he checked out 12 books a week.  Today he still reads books plus 10 newspapers every day.

Forty years ago while on Army leave in Hawaii and en route to DC from Korea, I first heard Roberta Flack in concert sing her signature song.  As she explained back then, a new kitten inspired her to write her most famous song.  And forty years later I again heard her sing, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.    Her voice may not be as powerful, but her beautiful song still is.