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Written Testimony of Mirian Saez Before the Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation Council of the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C. Friday, February 8th, 2002Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. It is an honor for me to appear before you as Mayor Williams! nominee to serve as a member of the District of Columbia Board of Education. I sincerely thank the Mayor, his staff, as well as so many on the Council and on the Board of Education, who generously support my nomination.
Our city is blessed with unique talents, and many excellent leaders serving our public schools. I'm, therefore, humbled to be selected by the Mayor to join leaders like Peggy Cooper Cafntz and the other school board members who are committed to a quality school system.
Since my nomination, I have met with education leaders, parent groups and concerned individuals who care as much as I do about the future of our public schools. I want to express my appreciation to those community members--the Congress of PTAs, Parents United and other education advocates. Additionally, I visited pubic schools in Wards 1, 4, and 7. My thanks to the students, principals and teachers at Drew Elementary, Cesar Chavez Charter School, Brightwood Elementary and the Latin American Youth Center for taking the time to meet with me and share their concerns. Nothing can be more important to our children's future and to their success in life than a solid start in public schools. I look forward to continuing the dialogue and working together as we ensure that all children receive the highest quality of education.
I want to get to the heart of this Hearing-- How I am prepared to serve our city's families and schools, and what qualifications I bring.
As you may recognize from my professional credentials, my strengths are unique in that I have a broad range of managerial skills. What I bring the school board, among other things, are my experience in public finance and accounting, as well as my expertise in operations and facilities management. I am what the industry calls an asset manager. I review how an asset is performing and I make decisions based on its performance and its public worth.
Over the span of twenty years, I have been, responsible for managing assisted housing programs that have served low income children and families and minority neighborhoods both on the local and national levels. Importantly, my career has focused on improving the delivery of services to people: in other words, making government work.
I have been responsible for both operations and capital budgets. My first job in housing was that of a rental assistance coordinator which served 300 children and families. When I left the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1996, my job title was that of Director, Office of Rental Assistance. At the time, that office served 1.4 million children and families.
On the capital budget side, I've been responsible for the construction of developments as small as eight family units. Today, my company oversees a multimillion dollar neighborhood transformation effort that involves the demolition and new construction of rental and homeownership programs with leveraged funds and the creation of public-private partnerships to sustain the hers to come.
I've been responsible for assuring that the buildings themselves are indistinguishable from those on the private market. Once constructed, I've taken a great deal of pride in knowing that the buildings I've developed continue to complement the surrounding neighborhood and are appealing to the general public. A well-trained staff a well designed preventative maintenance program and the required capital funds are key to maintaining a favorable public image about affordable housing.
The assisted housing industry, as you may well know, is not just about creating an apartment and managing a building anymore. It's about impacting the family and creating a creating a better neighborhood. Along with talking about program management and construction efforts, one must also talk about delivering resources to the family, resources that improve a family's home life. Add then, economic development programs, training programs and educational assistance programs to the list of items housing managers provide as a holistic approach to help improve community.
The combination of my efforts -- constructing buildings, managing projects and providing resources to families -- is summarized appropriately as building community by improving the lives of others and improving how government delivers its services.
In this regard, my company, The Rosenberg Housing Group, is one of two dozen companies nation-wide under contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development engaged to perform assessments on low performing housing authorities. I evaluations by reviewing systems, governance and staffing, finance and procurement, policies and procedures. I create work plans to improve performance, with timelines and miles.
While all of the above is in the area of public housing industry, I believe I will be able to transfer and to apply my knowledge in these areas to the challenges facing the Board of Education. In the end, complementing what my career has been about to date -- improving the lives of others for our children, building community and improving how government delivers its services.
The Board has embarked in a major capital improvement plan of its facilities. I can help provide the oversight in this specific area having knowledge in design, procurement, cost analysis and project management.
Our school system continues to be plagued with financial problems. Whether or not it is a function of adequate income or appropriate expense, the school system lacks an adequate resorting system, and therefore cannot provide timely nor dependable financial statements. I have managed through similar sets of financial and: system problems. Without adequate systems, we cannot hold parties accountable for the bottom line and quantifiable results. Our tax payers are demanding better and our children deserve better.
Given my experience in facilities management, I will play a critical supporting role in creating safe learning environments for our children, including those enrolled in the Charter Schools -- and I do support the use of schools as community centers. For we all understand that the physical environment in which our children learn directly affects how they learn.
My career success, however, did not happen by just meeting critical deadlines or meeting the bottom line. A great deal of my work involves listening and learning about how people relate to government and the provision of services.
I am mindful of the communities in our City who feel underserved. And I am mindful of the diverse families the school board serves. My job, therefore, as a school board member will include listening and hearing what everyone has to say, absorbing the frustrations along with the ideas. I will continue the outreach I have begun. I won't be an elected official, so I do not serve a particular group or interest.
I will never forget as an elementary school kid in Ohio having to travel to a neighboring school for band practice. Our own building was over fifty-years old. It was a two-story building with 8 classrooms on about 2 acres. The neighboring school, on at least 10 acres; was a modern one-story building with a gymnasium that doubled as the cafeteria and an auditorium with a STAGE! We didn't know how poor we were until our visit to that school. I realized long ago that some neighborhoods were luckier, more fortunate than others. I learned about inequities first hand.
I understand that our students learn best and our schools work best when we keep our school buildings safe and whole, when we partner with other parents and teachers to provide the resources they need for students -- all students: every child in every school, and when we manage costs so that the focus is on learning.
As a Latina, I also am sensitive to the challenges children face in any learning environment and particularly when they must bridge a gap in language between school and home. I know firsthand what it feels like to have your name mispronounced by teachers and your culture misunderstood. Additionally, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered children as well as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered parents have their own set of school-related challenges. I want to make sure that our school system provides appropriate services to language minority children and diverse families and that those services are sensitively and intelligently applied.
It is not without prior experience in serving on boards and commissions that I accept this public service role. Prior to coming to Washington in 1993,1 lived in a small town in Ohio. Besides my day job, volunteer service was an integral part of my life. Locally, I served on the board the Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
The Board provides oversight for, among other program, the Golden Rule School -- a school that provides education, vocational learning and therapeutic services for children with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. Among others, I served on boards of the Parent Education Program and Area Agency on Aging programs to improve the quality of life for others, improving community. Today, I serve on several national boards, including one organization that provides apprenticeship programs to inner city youth -- the American Community Partnership. Since coming to Washington, understandably, my volunteer work has been with national organizations located here in DC such as the Democratic National Committee. My entry into DC grassroots was through the DC State Committee and now I am the President of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.
From my experience with boards, I find that the mission of a board dictates the role one plays on that board. For example, back in Ohio when I served on the Feed My People Board, I was responsible for the delivery of meals to some fifty families daily and many a day, I physically did it myself. When I served on the Resolution Trust Corporation, I represented the interest of the non-profit world who wanted its fair share of the real estate properties being disposed of by the government. I've served on boards for fund raising purposes and on others for just my namesake. Different boards, different roles.
I understand the many roles that I will have serving on the Board of Education -- consensus builder, policy maker (and the delivery of that policy), public advocate and ombudsman, while avoiding micro-management. From my discussions with many, I know it is a difficult place to serve. But I believe in public service; I believe in improving the lives of others; I believe in building a hefts community. What better place for me to apply my enthusiasm and skills than in the infrastructure of our society, our public school system? Since I've never been one to shy away from complex problems, I'm prepared to assist in playing a critical supporting role in the work of the Board as it empowers teachers to teach and enhances students' learning potential.
As a Washingtonian and a firm believer in the lifelong value of public education I also am, deeply committed to public service and to ensuring the highest quality of education to meet the needs of all of our children As the first member of my own family to earn a college degree, as well as advanced degrees, I deeply prize learning. My mom, who had a limited. education, was too busy working to support our family to focus her concern on my education. Because of this, I remember and appreciate the role my public school teachers played in pushing me to excel and to continue my education.
Serving as a member of our school board is not simply an honor, but a public trust. I am a proud Washingtonian. I am committed to serving all of our community's families and I am grateful to Mayor Williams for his trust in me as I endeavor to meet the needs of our public school children.
The Honorable Kevin Chavous
February 5th, 2002Mr. Chairman:
I appreciate the opportunity to provide you and members of the Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation background information on my qualifications and personal work history, and a synopsis of the contributions I plan to make as a future member of the Board of Education.
I look forward to the opportunity of meeting with you and the Committee, this Friday, February 8th to discuss my qualifications and appointment to the DC Board of Education.
I want to thank you for your leadership as Chairman of the Committee in charge of my confirmation hearing. If you need additional information or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at work, 783-6356 or home, 363-0959.
I eagerly anticipate the confirmation hearing and look forward to your support.
1. Please give a brief synopsis of the significant contributions that you plan to make as a member of the Board of Education.
Recognizing that the role of a member of the Board of Education is one of policy maker and oversight, and not that of an administrator, the contributions I would make are related to the skills I've honed over the course of my 20+ year career in both the public and private sector. These skills include operations management, financial management and facilities management. I've spent a good part of my career improving government's delivery of services to its citizens. I have been successful in connecting resources to results.
Over the span of twenty years, I have been responsible for managing affordable housing programs that served thousands of children and families; I have been responsible for monitoring demolition and construction of major neighborhood housing redevelopment efforts; and I have been responsible for both operating and capital budgets. Clearly, my work history is predominantly in the area of public housing. Yes, I behave the skill set is transferable and the underlying issues and knowledge can be applied to the challenges facing the Board of Education.
The Board has embarked on a major capital improvement plan of its facilities. As a member I can provide the needed oversight in this specific area--- having years of experience in design, procurement and project management. The school system continues to be plagued with financial problems. I will work closely with President Cafritz to insist on the installation of adequate reporting systems, the timely reporting of financial statements and the need to hold parties accountable for the bottom line. Given my experience in facilities management, I will play a critical supporting role in creating safe learning environments for all our children---because, I think we agree that the physical environment in which our children learn will have a direct impact on how they learn.
My career success, however, did not happen by just meeting critical
deadlines or meeting the bottom line.
great deaf of my work involves listening and learning about how people
relate to government and how government provides services. Mindful of
the communities in our City who feel underserved, I plan to actively
seek solicit the input of parts, teachers and student groups. I plan to
be the conduit for change; specifically, to develop policy that
addresses their concerns and to ensure that those policies are applied
sensitively and intelligently.
Other than owning a home at 6208 32nd Place, I do not have any other investment or holdings.
To the best of my knowledge, yes I am current in all my taxes to both the District and the federal government.
5. Are you presently a member of any other board or commission connected-with the District of Columbia Government? If so, please list the names of such boards and commissions and length of service.
No, I am not a member of any other board or commission connected with the District.
I am an owner and partner in a small business called The Rosenberg Housing Group Inc. The business has an Indefinite Quality Contract (IQC) with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Under the terms of the IQC, the business performs technical assistance and consulting services in the area of public housing.
My business partner, Robert C. Rosenberg, is the Federal Court Receiver for the Chester, PA Housing Authority. The Rosenberg Hang Group performs services as directed by the Receiver. This agreement is overseen by Judge Norma Shapiro of the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Funding for the Receivership is paid for by the Housing Authority, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development being the primary funding source.
7. Do you have any immediate family members who are employed by the District of Columbia Board of Education or the District of Columbia Government? If so, please list their names, your relationship to them and their agency and title.
No, I do not have any immediate family member who is employed by the District's Board of Education or Government.8. Please indicate your extensive knowledge of the various functions and operations within the Board of Education, other agencies, businesses and colleges locally that have similar missions as the Board of Education and community development and real estate projects planned or currently underway in the District. Also indict how you will develop a collaborative relationship with these agencies and businesses to complement over the next several years the functions of the Board of Education during your tenure.
I am most familiar with the role of the School Board as it relates to my particular strengths, which are similar to The Committee on Finance & Facilities. This Committee has oversight responsibility for the budgetary allocation and expenditure of all D.C. Public School funds, as well as the management, administrative and support functions of the school facilities.
These oversight responsibilities summarized include: 1. reviewing and providing oversight of budgets and reports, including operating budget, and capital fund budgets, 2. Monitoring and evaluating administrative policies and structure, including hiring practices and other human resources procedures, 3. Developing modern asset management strategies, including those of capital projects and facilities.
As you may recognize from my professional credentials, my strengths are unique in that I have a broad range of management skills in these functional areas. Among other things, are my experience in fines anti accounting, operations management, as well as my expertise in facilities management and capital projects.
I've been responsible for both operating and capital budgets. My first job in housing was that of a Section 8 Coordinator whose budget served 3©0 children and families. When I left the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1996, my job title was that of Director, Office of Real Assistance. At the time, that office budget served 1.4 million children and families. On the capital budget side, I've been responsible for the new construction of developments as small as eight family units. Today, my company oversees a mufti-million dollar neighborhood transformation effort that involves the demolition and new construction of real houses, homeownership programs and commercial property, where we've leveraged funds and created private-public partnerships that will sustain growth for years to come.
My company, The Rosenberg Housing Group, is one of a handful of firms nation-wide under contrail with the Department of Housing and Urban Development engaged to perform assessments on low performing housing authorities. I conduct evaluations by reviewing systems, governance and staffing, finance and procurement, policies and procedures. I create work plans to improve performance, complete with timelines and miles stones.
All told, I am what you call in the industry an asset manager. I review how an asset is performing and I make decisions based on its performance and its public worth. Given my asset management expertise, I believe I will be able to transfer and to apply my knowledge in these areas to the challenges found in the Board of Education. I can play a critical supporting role in creating safe learning environments for our children, including those polled in the Charter Schools, for we all understand that the physical environment in which our children learn directly affects how they learn.
I have studied and have become familiar with the Master Facilities Plan. It will be important to consider the overall Facilities Plan in conjunction with the City's real estate development initiatives. Specifically, how both these initiatives potentially increase or decrease student enrollment and how the schools must plan for such change. It will also be important to consider how the role of the schools as mufti-purpose community centers fit into these real estate development initiatives. My expertise will be especially valuable to the Board in this area by aiding in collaborative planning and creating neighborhood partnership opportunities.
I should note that I am familiar with overall board processes. Prior to coming to Washington in 1993, I lived in a small town in Ohio. I served on the board the Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. The Board provides oversight for, among other programs, the Golden Rule School -- a school that provides education, vocational leaning and therapeutic services for children with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. From my experiences with various boards, I find that the mission of a board dictates the role you play on that board. I understand the many roles the I will play serving on the Board of Education-consensus builder, policy maker (and assuring the delivery of that policy), public advocate, and ombudsman.
A great deal of my present work involves listening and learning about how people relate to government and the provision of services. I an mindful of the communities in our City who feel underserved. And I am mindful of the diverse families the school board serves. My job, therefore, as a school board member will include listening and hearing what everyone has to say, absorbing the frustrations along with the ideas. I will continue the outreach I have started.
9. Please indicate the problems, deficiencies and areas you perceived needing improvement within the Board of Education and your implemented planned approach to solve, strengthen and/or extinguish them and the progress of the approach.
What I perceive as problems and deficiencies in need of improvement are shaped by newspaper accounts, and by meetings I have held with parent groups, PTA representatives, education advocates, students and principals. I randomly selected and visited public and charter schools in Wards 1, 4, and 7. This outreach does not make me an expert by any means, but the discussions do underscore a few difficulties the Board of Education continues to have.
As discussed earlier, the problems related to fiscal management are well publicized and understood. Clearly, the Board of Education needs to procure, install and implement a sound system to track income and expenses. Additionally, a different span of control to fiscal management may be in the best interest of both the Board and the City. I am aware that flaw Board of Education and the City recently agreed to a CFO position at the Board of Education, this is a positive first step. Building capacity, developing standard lures, providing the needed resources and tools and holding personnel accountable will bring the needed discipline to the work force which should result in long term stability.
The Facilities Master Plan is an ambitious document which will bring equity to neighborhood schools. Special attention must be given to assure the timely and efficient use of these scarce and precious capital funds. Keeping to schedules, monitoring progress and staying within budget are critical to the Plan's success. Balancing the capital improvement plans in the future with the facility needs today is a challenge. Resources must be allocated to bring each school's environment to an acceptable level.
Recruiting qualified teachers and retaining good teachers is an area I believe needs special attention. While it is true that many cities suffer from this same problem, DC must be dive in its pursuit of qualified teachers and retention of current teachers who have been successful in their work. I understand that providing affordable housing opportunities can be used as an incentive to attract and retain good teachers in the District. Having a housing background, this is a specific program I can help develop, the program could include: subsidized rent, mortgage down payment assistance, below market rate mortgages, and public school teacher lottery. It is a fact that many of our teachers leave DC public schools for jobs in and around the region for reasons related to salary and housing costs. If we could provide enough of a housing incentive for teachers to stay, we could reduce the amount of employee turnover, a savings that may be well worth the housing incentive cost.
The Board suffers from an image problem. While it is true that problems and deficiencies exist, the Board needs to embark on a public relations improvement campaign. The fact of the matter is that there are many positive stories that do not get the attention they deserve. Telling the success of our children, our principals, our teachers and our partners will go a long way in building or rebuilding public trust.
February 8, 2002
Remarks in Support of Mirian Saez's Appointment to the DC Board of Education
Marilyn Tyler BrownGood afternoon Councilman Kevin Chavous and other council members. I am Marilyn Tyler Brown, chair of the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Board of Education Appointments. I am a former Associate Superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Currently, I am the Director of the Washington National Cathedral Scholars Program; a program designed to provide academic and cultural enrichment to 45 DC Public High School students.
The Mayors Advisory Committee on the Board of Education was a citizen-based committee, with 24 District citizens serving. We all live in various sections of the District of Columbia, we reflect the diversity of our city and most importantly, we all have a firm commitment to education and children. The committee represented educational groups for parents, teachers and citizens.
I am here this afternoon to share with the committee and the public our process for identifying and screening the candidates. After establishing a timeline for assignments, such as notification and closing dates for applicants, we determined appropriate dates for scheduling interviews and presenting our candidates recommendations to the Mayor. Our subcommittee developed the criteria for a nomination form and the format for interviewing candidates. The nomination form was an overall user-friendly document, while it provided inclusive background material on each candidate. We also used the research of other educational groups, such as Parents United and DC Voice to determine how other appointed and elected Board of Education function nationally. Our outreach to the community stated in the brochure ""Setting the Standard for Excellence in Education". You will note we advertised in 15 community-based organizations and The Washington Post and Washington Times.
Our second task was to fill the vacancy of Robert Peck who went on to head the Board of Trade. The subcommittee, using the same criteria and format for interviewing candidates, recommended 6 outstanding candidates to the Mayor.
I am pleased to be here to support the appointment of Mirian Saez to the DC Board of Education. Ms. Saez has experience in the following areas:Small business specializing in property management of public housing;
Successful management of distressed buildings in Pennsylvania; New York; and Newark, New Jersey
Rehabilitation of thousands of units in low income neighborhoods
Ms. Saez will bring increased attention to the language minority population in DC Public Schools. I will be looking for Ms. Saez to reach out to our language minority community and help the Board increase its efforts to address the concerns in this area.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this citizens Advisory Committee worked towards that goal of excellence on behalf of all children in our school system. Mr. Chairman and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to explain and share our process of selection with you. I would like to ask all committee members to please stand and be recognized.
Marilyn Tyler Brown, Chairman
TESTIMONY BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION,
LIBRARIES AND RECREATION OF THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ON
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