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Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools
1300 19th St., N.W. Suite 330, Washington. D.C. 20036 (202) 833-4766



Special Permission Process October 1 — January 29: DC Public Schools and Independent Public Charter Schools Giver Students Access to Special Programs

Students Get a Shortened Learning Year

A Survey of the Educational Environment in Your Child’s School

New Vending Machine Policy

The State of School Repairs

Movement on the LSRT Front

Dear Readers


New Alternative School for Disruptive Students Is Sidetracked



The Board of Education, the Emergency Board of Trustees, the Council, Mayor Elect Anthony  Williams and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.

DECEMBER 1, 1998
6:30 – 9:30 PM

R.S.V.P. To Parents United, (202) 833-4766

Here's your chance to meet with the newly elected policy makers and tell them what you want to see in our public schools in the next two years. The new Board of Education will be holding a retreat beginning the next day. Let's send them off to think about good ideas for the future of D.C. public schools.


The D.C. Public School system offers a variety of school programs you may want for your child. We encourage you to take advantage of these options, as well as encourage the school system to expand the offerings when there are waiting lists. If the program you want is not in your neighborhood school, you must apply directly to the school you want your child to attend for "Special Permission" or to the specific charter school. Many of the special programs have specific application forms, so you might have two application forms to fill out. Principals admit out-of-boundary students based on the number of spaces in the school that are not taken by in- boundary students. These are the six acceptable criteria for granting special permission to attend a DCPS school that is out of boundary for your home address.

  1. Economic hardship to the family;
  2. Physical handicap of the student;
  3. Medical reasons;
  4. Psychological difficulties which impair learning;
  5. Gross inconvenience to adult student or minor student's parent or guardian including disruption of family routine;
  6. Neighborhood school does not offer specific curriculum or special course of study.

If you are interested in more than one school, you will have to go to each school to pick up the application form because many schools individualize the forms. Remember, that some schools have more than one special program, each one requiring a separate application. Students rejected by the principal for special permission admission to the school, have sometimes been admitted to that same school through a special program application. And sometimes students are accepted into the school but not the special program. Make sure you have done everything you need to do to get your child into the program you want.

To remain in a school when you are out of boundary you simply reapply every year at the school you currently attend. If you have questions, call the assistant superintendent who handles that school — 442-4099 (ele) 442-5055 (jh/ms) and 442- 5100 (shs). Parents will be notified in February so that DCPS is now competitive with private schools in the admissions process.

There is a great variety of special programs and public charter schools. For a complete list of special programs, please send us a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a note requesting the list of special programs and we will send it out to you right away. If you want more information on how to apply to charter schools, call the Public School Charter Resource Center at 835-9011.

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Although the school year is, by law, 180 days long, our children actually will have only 176 full learning days — 176 days that are 8:45 — 3:15 school days. Parents United worked hard to get former Superintendent Franklin Smith to lengthen the school day so that it matched those in the surrounding counties; we are concerned by this erosion of educational time.

There are nine days when students leave at 12:30 to give teachers time for staff development or record keeping. Because these days are a bit over one half day, the system can count them as full school days. Parents and students know that half days are a wash. In schools that use block scheduling, students will be missing two classes. Since most of the half days are on Wednesdays, students may be missing the same classes consistently. There will also be lost academic time because the calendar shows seven days of Spring Testing in April. If this year is like the first year of Stanford-9 mania, we may find our children's general education in science, history, and foreign languages sacrificed to prep classes in English and math before the test, and to test overload during test week.

An additional three days have been set aside this school year for parent teacher conferences — November 18, February 10 and April 28. Make sure you go! Teachers must be there to meet with you —- take advantage of this opportunity and make these conference days worth the loss of school learning time.

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Are you concerned about the supply of texts, having enough teachers, etc., in your child's school. Does your child have access to the kind of program you want in his or her school? Help us take a brief sampling of parents' observations about their child's school. Fill out the survey and send it back to us. Make sure you put the school on it. You don't have to put your name on, if you want to stay anonymous. If enough parents return this to us, we'll bring the results to the attention of the Superintendent, the Board of Education and any other policy makers.

Send the completed survey to:

Parents United
1300 19th St., NW Suite 330
Washington, DC 20036

Remember, the administration can't solve problems if they don't hear about them. If work requests and book orders get lost in the shuffle, parent voices are the key to getting attention paid to these problems.

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DCPS has put in place a new vending machine policy. Many parents were alarmed about the change, when they found out that their children's clubs, which had received funds in the past, were not necessarily going to receive that money in the future. Here is what we have learned from John Peterson, the contracting officer (442-5093).

Principals were never actually "authorized" to have these machines in their buildings. The administration never knew how much revenue was generated or how it was used. (Inspector General may be looking into the financial reports.) The administration decided to establish rules for vending machine use through the Food Services Division, and to give some of the funds back to the schools while monitoring how that money is spent.

Horton and Barber Professional Services Inc. won the competition to provide the vending machines. They represent Coca Cola (water, soda, juices, juice drinks) and Monarch enterprises (snacks). The contract set the prices as $.75 for 12 oz. sodas and $1.00 for 20 oz. sodas. All unauthorized machines were replaced. Principals choose the vending sites, but the machines must not compete with the food line. In fact, they may be turned off when appropriate. Federal guidelines for school systems that receive food subsidies forbid selling soda or candy in the cafeteria during lunch periods.

Of every dollar taken in by each machine, Horton and Barber gets $0.35, the school system gets $0.15, and the school that has the machine gets $0.50. The principal will receive the money and is supposed to put it into the Student Activity Fund which will be audited four times a year.

Not all schools have vending machines. Although the system can have up to 400 by contract, there are now only 159 beverage and 33 snack machines in D.C. schools. Vending machine revenues are controlled by the principal. Only the teacher's lounge is exempt from this contract, because the teachers' union contract allows teachers to contract for their own vending machines.

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The good news is that there has been an appreciable increase in funding for schools repairs and maintenance over the past three years as illustrated in the chart below.

This is great news for D.C. But money is only one part of solving the facilities problems in DCPS. Capital funds need to be spent efficiently, equitably and so they improve education and communities.

Chart of DCPS Capital Expenditures

The school system is working on developing the capital project list for fiscal year 1999. A working group selected by Superintendent Ackerman is reviewing proposed projects submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers. The members of this group are: Joe Howze (DCPS Capital Program); Gene Kilby (Dir, Level 1 and Level 2 Facilities); Mark Robertson (Asst. Super. for Student Services); Dave Morrow (Army Corps of Engineers); Don Brown (advisor to DCPS on facilities); and Mary Filardo and Sarah Woodhead from the 21st Century School Fund.

A list of proposed capital projects will come from this group based on criteria that evaluate the severity, urgency, impact and type of deficiencies of the problems. The deficiencies in each school were identified during in-depth assessments done by the Corps of Engineers over the summer. The task of the working group will be to see that the criteria are applied to arrive at a responsible list of projects. This proposed list will then be submitted to the Board of Education, Board of Trustees and Control. Board. There should be public hearings on this proposed list, a revision to the list and then Board approval of the actual projects, at which point, work will begin on the projects.

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What are the 21st Century School Funds standards for our school facilities? Review the Goals 2000 Interim Report on Rebuilding Public Schools, available from the 21st Century School Fund web page at or call (202) 745-3745 for a copy.

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Local School Restructuring Teams are finally getting the attention they need to become effective and none too soon. Arlene Ackerman sent a number of people to Seattle to see how governance teams there work. In Seattle, the principal gets the entire budget, not just teacher allotments but the actual money, and spends it with the advice of governance teams that include parents and teachers. Every school's budget and spending is so public that it's available on the Internet.

After many attempts to work with the administration to monitor the process, the Governance Committee was convened on November 5th. Participants representing the Washington Teachers Union (WTU), the administration (Mark Robertson and Brenda Dunson), and parents (Delabian Rice-Thurston and Sheila Carr of Parents United, Alieze Stallworth of the DCPTA). Only the principals' union was not represented. The WTU and parent participants were adamant that we want to see the existing structure made effective rather than an effort to reconfigure participation and change its name.

Our next meetings will improve the guidelines for the 1998/99 school year. We will discuss:

  • The composition - who is a member, how are members selected, and how do members relate to the group they represent
  • The responsibilities of the LSRT
  • The relationship with the principal
  • Guidelines for resolving issues

  • When the LSRT meets and who must attend — meeting frequency, attendance

We know parents are concerned about training, access to information and relationships with principals. If Ms. Ackerman wants the Seattle model to operate here, more effective LSRTs and trained parents are essential. Tell us what changes are needed to improve your LSRT experience. Call 833-4766.

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Dear Readers,

Parents United is once again in a funding slump. We have a major cash flow problem that will not be alleviated until late in January. You can help. If every recipient of this newsletter (around 9,000 people) would send us just $5, the cash flow problem would be solved. The UPDATE costs us almost $5,000, and that's using third class mail. If we send it first class, it costs over $6,000. Please consider a tax deductible donation to support the work we do.

Consider the fact that it was Parents United who brought parents together with Arlene Ackerman on October 8th for an informative hour of Questions and Answers. Or, that we will be bringing more policy makers together with parents at our December 1st Education Summit.

Support our work and you will be supporting improving public education in the District of Columbia. Send your donation with the form below to: Parents United, 1300 19th St., NW Suite 330, Washington, DC 20036. Donors will receive a copy of our Parent Handbook, if wanted. It contains all the critical administrators names and their new phone numbers you'll need to solve problems. Please check off below if you want the handbook. Thank you for your help!

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In our last edition of the UPDATE, Parents United incorrectly identified the State Advisory Panel on Special Education as being a member of the D.C. Special Education Coalition. We had meant to say that they were among those present at a meeting with Arlene Ackerman and members of the Special Education Coalition. We are sorry for our mistake.


D.C. students have lost the promise of a new alternative high school at Taft. Ira Thomas, who was praised in an article in the Washington Times for work he did to upgrade education for disruptive students in New York city, was supposed to be in charge of the new school. Instead, he has been moved to upgrade the Oak Hill school. Emyrtle Bennet is the new administrator of the Alternative School, which is housed at the Hamilton School. It is a day program for students suspended for 10 or more days, GED students and students needing an alternative learning environment.

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Delabian L. Rice-Thurston is the editor of the UPDATE and executive director. R. Loraine Wilson is the office manager. The board of Parents United consists of Co-Chairs: Janice Autrey and Sheila Carr; Treasurer: Elder Wellborn; and At- Large Members: John Pfeiffer and Ron Stroman. Parents United receives its funding through Foundations such as The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation; PTAs and HSAs and individual contributions. Our e-mail address is and our web page is located at

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