Forward to April 2000 Update Back to Parents United main page Back to November 1999 Update
Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools
|Who Will Control Our Schools? Mayor,
Council, School Board?
Title 1 Schools Are Losing Funds
DC Youth Orchestra Program to Hold Concert at the Lincoln Theater
DCPS Is Competing with Charter Schools to Retain Students: Competition Can Improve Our School System
Conquering Community Violence to Make Students Safe
Getting Our Full Allotment: DCPS Capital Funds Are Not What They Promised
Where Is the Long Range Educational Facility Master Plan?
Parents and Friends of Special Children: An Organization for You
DC Parent Affairs Office Offers Parents Workshops to Support Students
DC Voice Announces Two Seminars in March
Central Funding Upgrades In-School Suspension Secondary Schools Get Additional Staff
Senior High College Scholarship Announcement
Were Looking for More Activists
Attention Tuition Assistance Program Will Begin Soon
UNITED WINTER MEETING
WHO WILL CONTROL OUR SCHOOLS? MAYOR, COUNCIL, SCHOOL BOARD?
In November of this year, the residents of the District of Columbia may be asked to vote on a referendum to change the Home Rule Charter to redefine the role of the Board of Education and the way it is selected.
The Charter gives over all control of the schools to the Board of Education, but doesn't delineate clearly what the Board is supposed to be doing. The Council is proposing to spell out the Board's responsibilities in new legislation, and will have the ability to make further changes in those responsibilities in the future.
Currently, the Board of Education is elected -- one member from each ward and three at-large members. Under the Council's proposed amendment to the charter, the new School Board will consist of five elected school board members (one at-large and four from doubled up wards) and four appointed by the Mayor.
Even before the Control Board acted, there had never been a clear path of accountability for our schools. When parents complained about the quality of education, DCPS cried, "We have no money." The Council and Mayor for their part would chastise DCPS for not spending money properly, complain that they had no power to make the school system be efficient and effective, then refuse to grant the budget request.
The proposed change (as it now stands - things may very well change) is a compromise reached between the Council and Mayor. A majority of the Council supported an all-elected School Board. The Mayor proposed a board (and superintendent) appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Council.
Parents United's board is unable to come to a consensus on this issue. Many still favor an elected board as it currently exists and some support a mayorally appointed board, with others unsure.
TITLE I SCHOOLS ARE LOSING FUNDS
Has your school lost Title I Funds this year? Are you angry that DCPS wouldn't change your allocation when parents finally sent in their "free lunch forms" showing that you have more eligible students? (Well, they couldn't.) We investigated after receiving calls from parents and LSRT members and found two possible solutions to the problem. 1. Turn in your free lunch form on time so your school will get needed funding. The city's funding for Title I (which is provided by the Department of Education) is greatly affected by large numbers of parents who fail to fill out their free and reduced lunch forms in the fall. 2. Fill in your 2000 Census form so that our city can receive the maximum in assistance for low income people. DC competes with every state in the union for - assistance. Everyone must be counted.
To receive Title 1 money, schools must have a population of 35% or more who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The allocation is made in the Spring for the next school year and is based on the student count made the previous October. Forms returned after the official school count is over are nice for DCPS' compliance with federal rules for getting the forms back but don't increase the funds to the school. That is why it is so important for everyone to fill out and return the forms immediately after they are received. The number of Title I eligible students in our city has become a high stakes issue. Funds are added to the individual school budgets in two ways. First, the Weighted Student Formula gives additional funds to a school for each low income child in the school defined by Title I eligibility. Second, eligible schools receive federal funds for each child from the Title I allocation (this year $24M).
Approximately 50,000 students are eligible by family income as estimated by the data bases but only 45;000 (or less) are expected to be served next year. Sudden losses of Title I funds are very disruptive to a school's planning and educational process. Often forms are not returned because of cultural barriers -- new residents may not file proper papers because they fear immigration problems. More important, many students -- particularly older ones and their parents fear the stigma of being seen as low income.
Schools need to provide a supportive climate that encourages parents to be honest about having a low income. All of our children benefit when schools get more resources. Parent-to-parent assistance in reading and completing forms in English or the home language can also help increase returns.
DC YOUTH ORCHESTRA PROGRAM TO HOLD CONCERT AT THE LINCOLN THEATER
The DC Youth Orchestra will be playing a special concert in the Lincoln Theater (12th & U Sts., NW) on March 19th at 7:00 p.m. This is your opportunity to see a wonderful city resource in action. The orchestra is made up of students from the city and the surrounding suburbs. The concert will feature as guest conductor, Mr. Takao Kanayama, assistant Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) with guest soloist, Ms. Rachel Young, cellist with the NSO. Last summer the Youth Orchestra toured Austria and played six concerts there. For ticket information, call Carol Rende at the DCYOP at (202) 723-1612.
Parents United is very grateful to all of you who have responded to our end of year request for financial support Thanks so much you have helped to keep our work going strong.
DCPS IS COMPETING WITH CHARTER SCHOOLS TO RETAIN STUDENTS: COMPETITION CAN IMPROVE OUR SCHOOL SYSTEM
Schools Sell Themselves at First DCPS Enrollment Fair
The school system held its first Enrollment Fair on February 3, giving schools a chance to sell themselves to the public. Using their best Science Fair/History Fair techniques, schools displayed their programs, academic achievements and extra curricular programs. At least 4000 people grabbed the chance to preview options for their children. The line for out-of-boundary applications snaked the aisles.
What will make the next Enrollment Fair better? Parents need an index to school programs so we don't have to look forever to find a foreign language focus program, specialized science labs, wrestling teams, etc. The fair should be scheduled to take place before the registration period, not in the middle. We'd like to see a map of the city with the schools on it so newcomers to the city will know where schools are, and which school is their neighborhood school. If you have suggestions that will make the Enrollment Fair better, call Janie McCullouch at 442-5155.
DCPS Establishes A Program To Compete with The Paul Junior High School Charter
Paul Junior High School, under principal Cecil Middleton's guidance, has become a public school of choice in our city. Now it wants to be a charter school -- independent and on its own. DCPS decided to fight to retain its top students. Parents are being promised a new Paul Junior High School Mathematics, Arts, Science and Technology School (MAST). It's seven years late. In 1993 Rabaut JHS was closed and the students were moved to Backus. Backus parents were promised a new revitalized Backus Math Science Technology middle school. The lab is there, but there is no program. The school system now wants to put a similar program at Paul.
Paul was in deep decline when Cecil Middleton took the helm. She strengthened the program, concentrated on hiring exciting teachers, stressed responsible behavior, instituted uniforms, and moved troublesome students out. Many parents, who formerly chose to send their children to schools outside their neighborhood, started taking the Paul option seriously.
After Paul received approval of its charter, many in the surrounding community became concerned that children in the feeder schools would no longer be guaranteed admission to Paul. Neither the feeder schools' parents nor the neighborhood's Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, which are charged with reviewing changes in governmental activities, had been involved in the charter development process and many felt that the change to a charter would mean the loss of a community asset. After appeals to Superintendent Ackerman to keep the Paul facility as a neighborhood school, the school system developed the MAST program to serve grades 6,7,8 and 9.
The Superintendent not only promised to consider keeping a middle school in the community, she went all out to make converts to public education. Ackerman has found high quality support for her program. She has enlisted the nationally recognized Galef Institute to establish the arts and humanities program based on academics through multiple intelligences. The program will include dance classes and foreign languages. The American Association for the Advancement of Science and The Carnegie Institution will provide math, science and technology support.
Parents United is glad to see the system acknowledge the need for this kind of program. Given the Backus experience, however, we encourage parents to make sure the system delivers on its promised programs. Perhaps if more schools announced that they want to try the charter option, it might jump-start the system's interest in finding outside support to upgrade programs and keep students in the public schools.
CONQUERING COMMUNITY VIOLENCE TO MAKE STUDENTS SAFE
Seventeen juveniles, thirteen of whom are DCPS students, have died violently this school year. While our school buildings and grounds have not been the site of these deaths, our school community needs to work to better provide environments in which students flourish and feel safe. Patrick Fiel, Executive Director of Security calls it "Safe Passage."
Fiel is focusing on improving the police presence during the trip to and from school, at bus stops and Metro Stations. He is also working to provide police officers specially trained in mediation and conflict resolution to support efforts within our secondary schools. Parents United hopes that capital funds from the fire code settlement will be used to support efforts to upgrade school security such as exterior lighting, fencing and modernized alarm systems.
The Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators (SHAPPE) has a strong focus on school safety. Call Cathy Reilly 7224462 to support their efforts.
GETTING OUR FULL ALLOTMENT: DCPS CAPITAL FUNDS ARE NOT WHAT THEY PROMISED
The Control Board and Mayor have failed to meet the terms of the Parents United Fire Code lawsuit compliance agreement and have given our schools $11 M less than the agreement calls for.
Parents United is prepared to go to court for the funding. The issue is purely one of funding. Schools will remain open.
This decision to insist on total funding is important. The District's crumbling public school buildings hinder effective education far more than they support it. and pose safety and health hazards to students and staff. Construction experts have identified hundreds of millions of dollars worth of major repairs, renovations and construction needs, and the longer the District delays in performing them, the higher the bill will climb. If we cannot obtain the full 27.5% of capital funds during excellent financial times for our city, we will never see the major improvements and new schools we have been promised.
The Parents United lawsuit sought to make the city meet its responsibilities for its school buildings. The 1997 agreement ending the suit made a major contribution by entitling the D.C. Public Schools to 27.5% of general fund long-term financing authority. In July 1999 the District sold general obligation bonds in the amount of $240 million. The agreed-upon 27.5% of revenues from the bond issue is $66 million, but DCPS received only $55 million.
This difference stems from a disagreement in interpreting what are long term bonds. At the time of the settlement, the District issued only one kind of long-term general obligation bond 20 year bonds. According to the Corporation Counsel and CFO the current bond issue was composed of both 15-year and 30-year bonds, and that only the latter are subject to the 27.5% requirement.
The possibility of the City's issuing 15 and 30 year bonds was never raised in 1997, but bond-financed work is supposed to last longer than the bonds supporting it, and many DCPS capital projects have a useful life far closer to 15 than to 30 years. Municipal bond professionals generally treat 15 year bonds as long-term.
It is indeed wonderful that DC's bond rating is now good enough to permit $240 million worth of new projects. But students, staff and parents suffered severe disruptions, including a three-week delay in the start of school to get their 27.5% share, and we want them to have it.
WHERE IS THE LONG RANGE EDUCATIONAL FACILITY MASTER PLAN?
Neither hide nor hair of the Facility Master Plan as been seen by the public or the elected Board of Education. The Control Board has put it under wraps because they are concerned about the loss of student population that the plan projects. Parents should be concerned because the school system said the master plan would be done by December 1999 and the school system is likely to be criticized for the absence of a plan. Criticism is often an excuse for not funding our schools. Parents should also be concerned that the District has approved over $600 million over six years to improve our public school buildings without a plan. The master plan should:
The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers contracted with consultants (through a noncompetitive bid process) to produce a long-range facility master plan. A draft plan was developed, but the Control Board has so far not allowed public release. After it is released, the school system will go into each ward to get community input before the final plan is written. DCPS has submitted a capital budget request for FY2001 to FY2006. You can call DCPS Facilities at 576-6657 to find out where your school is on the list and what work is proposed for next year, but this list may change after the ward meetings.
PARENTS AND FRIENDS OF SPECIAL CHILDREN AN ORGANIZATION FOR YOU
Support for parents whose children need special education support is at your fingertips through Parents & Friends of Special Children. Support sessions, focus groups and training are provided during informal breakfast gatherings offered by Queen ShemaYah (202) 529-0254. (We hope you saw the article in The City Paper that focused on the committed work of Queen ShemaYah last month.) Here is a list of upcoming events:
DC PARENT AFFAIRS OFFICE OFFERS PARENTS WORKSHOPS TO SUPPORT STUDENTS
Does your parent organization or Parent Center need programs that will draw parents? The DCPS Office of Parent Affairs offers four workshops -- Helping your child with reading; Helping your child with math; What makes a good school; Test taking strategies.
Your principal or the coordinator of your school's Family Resource Center can obtain these services for your parents through The Office of Parent Affairs, Trinette Hawkins, Director (4425150).
Special Education Training for Parents
The Office of Parent Affairs will offer parents support in dealing with identifying and obtaining the resources to support children with learning disabilities. The office will present: Understanding the IEP; Inclusion; How to get Special Ed services. The dates, times and locations for the Parent Affairs programs are available by calling Rochelle Young 442-5150.
DC VOICE ANNOUNCES TWO SEMINARS IN MARCH
DC VOICE, along with Parents United and several other local groups, is sponsoring in March, two seminars on raising student achievement. These sessions are free and open to all. Refreshments and child care are provided. RSVP to 986-8534 or email@example.com. For more information on DC VOICE go to www.dc.voice.org.
COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT: How can the community collaborate to support standards-based school reform? Date: 5:30 PM, Thursday, March 2. Location: 1346 Florida Ave., NW. Presenters: Wendy Puriefoy, President, Public Education Network; D. Anthony Habit, President Wake Education Partnership, Raleigh, NC; and Sonia Louen-Walker, former Executive Director, Partners in Public Education, Memphis, TN.
PARENT EMPOWERMENT: A model for enabling parents to become leading advocates for their children. Date: Friday, March 31 at 5:30 pm. Location: Multicultural Services Division, 1536 U ST., NW. Presenter: Dr. Ramon Rojano, Director of the Hartford CT Department of Human Services.
CENTRAL FUNDING UPGRADES IN-SCHOOL SUSPENSION: SECONDARY SCHOOLS GET ADDITIONAL STAFF
No more sending misbehaving students home with work packets they don't do. Superintendent Ackerman is providing funding for one trained InSchool Suspension Coordinator and a room with appropriate technology in every middle school, junior high, senior high and education center (extended elementary school). The Coordinator will be trained in conflict resolution, anger management, mediation and instructional monitoring.
The in-school suspension program will provide students with the help they need in their social interactions if they are going to return to the traditional classroom and be successful. Improving social skills is key even as the Coordinator works with the students on their academics, and they will receive credit for their academic work. The Coordinator will issue progress reports on each student. When the student returns to his/her regular class, the Coordinator will monitor the transition. The Coordinator will also work with parents to help keep the student in regular classrooms and will offer staff development programs to help classroom teachers deal with difficult students.
SENIOR HIGH COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP ANNOUNCEMENT
The Washington DC Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. announces its scholarship program for seniors living in Washington, DC attending public, private and parochial high schools. The application deadline is March 15, 2000. Contact Jacqueline Scott-Hall, Scholarship Committee Chair (202) 396-5431 or Crystal McFarland, (301) 773-9213 of Delta Sigma Theta.
Washington DC Alumnae
Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
WE'RE LOOKING FOR MORE ACTIVISTS
DO YOU WANT TO BE ON OUR "MUST CONTACT" LIST.!! Parents United sends emergency announcements to PTA/HSA presidents when we need to get the word out but cannot afford to send a mailing to all 9,000 "members" on our mailing list. If you are an activist who wants to know about and will attend important hearings, if you will distribute our announcements to other activists, we would like to add you to the "Key Activists" list. Call us at (202) 518-3667 and we will "upgrade your status." But if we do, please, do your part and attend the event and spread the word!!!
ATTENTION TUITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM WILL BEGIN SOON
If you graduated from a high school or equivalent-recognized program on or after January 1, 1998, and were a resident of the District of Columbia for at least 12 months prior to graduation, you may be eligible to receive a newly passed tuition subsidy. Two types of subsidies are available to students:
For more information, call the DC Tuition Assistance Program at (202) 727-2824 or contact the Greater Washington College Information Hotline at (202) 393-1100, ext. 18.
The editor of UPDATE is Delabian L. Rice-Thurston, Executive Director of Parents United. The assistant editor is Loraine Wilson. The Board of Parents United consists of Sheila Carr and Janice Autrey, Co-Chairs; Karalene Robbins and Wayne Proctor, Secretaries; Francesca Dixon, Treasurer; and At-Large Members: Brenda Artis, Mary Filardo, Sergio Luna, John Pfeiffer, Eluvia Sanchez, Lairold Street, Ron Stroman, Angela Thompson-Murphy, and Meg Weekes. Parents receives its funding from individuals, school PTA/HSAs and foundations such as The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and the Freddie Mac Foundation.
Send mail with questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)