|he three week delay in school openings has shaken me as it has countless other
DC school parents. We had accepted that our new CEO and Trustees have been given the
authority to operate independent of parental involvement. However, none of us was prepared
to hear an off-handed announcement on the 6 o'clock news that school will be delayed for
three weeks -- no consultation, no warning and no contingency plans. This top-down edict
is a moral and financial disaster for our students, parents and the tortured image of our
city that didn't need to happen.
First of all, our bevy of well-paid ex-generals, armed
with unprecedented power and resources, should have been able to schedule, contract and
complete 45 30-day roofing jobs over the two and a half months of summer break.
Second, if our employees were not able to meet their own self-imposed timelines, our
"children first" Trustees and CEO had a variety of options for dealing with
leaky roofs and potential fire code violations. They chose the route most punishing to DC
students and their parents. Becton chose to begin work in late-July and August on roof
replacements that would clearly take him past the opening date of school. The 45 roof
replacements were not court mandated, but rather are Becton's discretionary strategy for
avoiding future potential code violation citations. Obviously, this skirmish is about
getting out from under what is seen as an overly controlling court, not about providing a
timely academic program.
Third, our CEO and Trustees should be aware of the impact of their brinkmanship. The
majority of our 78,000 students are not wealthy or even middle-class. It is not a joke
when a single parent who lives from paycheck to paycheck and even then struggles to hold
on to a low wage job has to scramble to cover yet three more weeks of daycare. Several
thousand DCPS workers will go unpaid. Yet, instead of expressing concern, Trustee Maudine
Cooper suggests that "parents find babysitters or keep their children in summer
programs while waiting for school to start and then send the bill to Parents United. Ask
them to pay.'" Except for the fact that Cooper is head of the District's Urban
League, her words would be read as spiteful and supercilious, displaying a profound
indifference to the reality of DC parents.
Fourth and most important, our new school management team should have focused all their
considerable talents on opening on time, with principals and teachers in place, not on
getting around the rightful oversight of the courts.
Parental involvement -- the CEO and Trustees actually consulting parents -- would have
kept the school on task and we would be opening on time. We still could.