By Jasmine Berry
This afternoon, D.C. City Council Committee on Education members were able to probe more deeply into DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s Consolidation and Reorganization Plan that was released last week. The hearing lasted nearly three hours, and each committee council member had their inquiries about how schools in their wards would be affected.
DCPS educators and parents have been curious about the specific savings in the DCPS budget that these school closings are purported to provide, as well as her specific plan for the consolidated buildings, new feeder patterns and options for displaced students.
Here are the highlights from the meeting:
Chairman of the Committee on Education and Member-At-Large David Catania:
- Believes in both public schools and charter schools, as long as they are competing properly and in balance.
- Says DCPS is simply not in the game at the moment when it comes to competition from charter schools.
- Taking 2,600 students out of schools and hoping they will return is anyone’s guess if it will be successful.
- He asks how we can keep students removed from Macfarland in DCPS schools when the only proficient schools nearby are charter schools.
- Says there are no excuses for why DCPS students are not exceeding the achievement levels of charter schools when the evidence suggests that they can.
Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells:
- Says if other sectors expel students, DCPS must pick up the slack.
- DCPS has to be the school system that provides for compulsory education in the city and maintain infrastructure.
- Wells noted the robust school systems in Wards 3 and 6, the many public school closings across the river and asks will charter schools become the schools for a specific economic demographic, i.e. lower income families.
Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander:
- She does not accept under-enrollment as a reason for closing schools in Ward 7.
- A moratorium on school closings in Ward 7 was necessary until a report based on analysis of school achievement was completed.
- Says we need a balance of honors and remedial programs- DCPS needs to address the needs of under performers as well.
Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham:
- He is concerned with the budget regarding Cardozo accommodating Shaw students. He asks, “How does all this other money suddenly appear?”
- He is also concerned about the vacant building at Garnett Patterson.
DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson:
- Has found that the main concerns regarding school closings are: equal opportunities, reinvesting funds, keeping students safe, improving coordination between charter schools and DCPS schools, and ensuring smooth transitions for students.
- Says she can’t yet present specific allocations within the budget, but DCPS is allocating funds to schools and giving principals wide latitude as to where funds will be further allocated.
- In 2013, schools are to reduce non-instructional staff and have employees offer more support in a wider variety of areas.
- We must be aggressive in recruitment to keep students in DCPS schools.
- She has begun to have conversations with charter schools about partnerships. Once such partnership she has begun to facilitate will have students attend a charter school then later return to a DCPS school.
- She says to keep DCPS students in public schools and not in charters, they must work really hard and capitalize on the assets they are able to provide.
- Says she doesn’t have all of the answers right now but I believe we can work together to chart a very clear path with benchmarks.
- Says housing patterns have a big effect on the education system; When students are with a diverse socioeconomic group they do better moving forward.
- Asserts that charter schools in Wards 7 and 8 do better because they do what DCPS schools cannot: control who’s enrolled.
- Wants to look at attractive program offerings and create more magnets. She believes that they do have potential to increase enrollment.
- She reminded committee members that DCPS needs to keep swing spaces on cases of emergency: at least one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school.
- Says that every school slated to close will have a transition coordinator.
- Says she plans to turn Springarn into a career and technical education hub. Specific program plans should be finalized in about a month, and the program will likely have a strong emphasis on transportation.