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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


JULY 1998

School System Holds First Facilities Planning Meeting — More to Come
The Power of Parents in Chicago Public Schools: A Model for DC Public Schools’ Restructuring Teams
Summer Stars Starts Off with a Bang!
Enjoy DCPS’s Parent Training Summer School
DC Needs Foster Parents for Latino Children
You Must Prove That Your Child Is a Resident!
$80 Million in Building Repairs — This is Progress!
Staffing Cuts Balance Budget/Reduce Services
Changes in Allocation Criteria for Local Schools
National Coalition of Education Activists Annual Conference


Creating tools for parents based on your own children's work

The Education Trust will show you how to evaluate your children's writing and math.

WHAT IS AN “A” FOR GRADES 1- 6: Wednesday. July 29, 1998 from 7 PM - 8:30 PM Sixth District Police Station 100 42nd St., NE (Access at Minnesota Avenue Metro or Benning Road Metro)

WHAT IS AN “A” FOR GRADES 7-12: Tuesday. August 11. 1998 from 7 PM - 8:30 PM Washington Highlands Library, Atlantic Street and South Capitol Terrace, SW (East of the Anacostia River)

The Price of Admission for DCPS parents is: your child’s math work and a sample of his/her written work such as book reports and essays that were graded or have teacher comments on them. (Without work samples, you have nothing to study!)

The meetings are limited to 50 people. RSVP to 833-4766 so we can make certain that we have materials for you! We'll give you a ride home, if you need it.


On Wednesday, June 25, 1998, DCPS held its first meeting on long-range school facilities planning at Eastern High School. The meeting was an opportunity to begin the community input into the planning process for facilities planning. An overview of how work is and has been done was provided by Assistant Superintendent Mark Robertson, Director of Facilities Joe Howze and a representative of the Army Corps of Engineers. Breakout sessions were set up to allow the community to work in smaller groups. At these breakout sessions the participants offered responses to questions that the school system felt were important to starting up the process of community input. The questions are:

  1. Who should be involved in providing input about the facilities plan?
  2. How should the community meetings be structured?
  3. What are the common facilities needs at various school levels? Elementary; Middle/Junior High; Senior High

Although most of the meeting was an overview of the facilities office, the meeting allowed DCPS administrators to understand who they need to be inviting to future meetings and how those meetings might be structured. When those next meetings are scheduled we will let you know where and when they will be taking place. You should expect them to be broken up by type of school (elementary, middle or senior high) and for the elementary schools, probably by area of the city — there are over 110 elementary schools in the District.

As of this printing, we have not learned when and where the substantive meetings will take place. Watch the newspapers, call our office, call Mark Robertson (724-4400) but stay in the loop if you are concerned about your school.

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While public schools in the District of Columbia are all supposed to have functioning Local School Restructuring Teams (LSRTs), consisting of the school’s principal, 1 building representative, 4 teachers, 4 parents, 1 support staff member, 1 community representative, and, at the high schools, 1 student representative, many teams are either not effective decision-making bodies or do not exist at all. Given that a December 1997 study indicates that the vast majority of Chicago Public Schools’ local school governance bodies (called Local School Councils) are succeeding, the Chicago school councils could be a good model for DCPS.

The Illinois State Legislature established the Local School Councils (LSCs) in Chicago in 1988 as part of the Chicago School Reform Act. LSCs were the centerpiece of the Reform Act. Each Chicago school was to be governed by an elected LSC, consisting of 6 parents, 2 community representatives, two teachers, the principal and, in the high schools, 1 student representative. Chicago’s teams have more legal standing and stronger responsibilities for parents. The Chicago Councils have the power to appoint and fire the school principal. LSCs help create and approve the school's budget, based on a lump-sum allocation from the Board. With few exceptions, LSC decisions are binding. Further, to properly equip them to carry out their significant duties, LSC members are required by law to attend three full days of training, provided by Chicago-area universities. This training covers such topics as methods of raising student achievement and legal issues related to schools.

DCPS’ Superintendent Franklin Smith established LSRTs on his own authority in 1992 to make parents, teachers and the community more involved in the school decision-making. Part of the hope was that the barriers between the home and school would be broken down. A greater community buy-in to education would encourage the home and community to better support schools. The DCPS LSRT’s only mandated responsibility is to develop the local school plan. In fact, the LSRTs’ decisions are only advisory — the principal is the final authority. In Washington the LSRTs are primarily made up of school system employees. Many of the limitations in LSRT powers and the configuration of LSRT membership arose from the compromises with teacher’s and principal’s unions and with the bureaucracy and political leaders who did not want to surrender much authority to local schools or to parents.

The response of the Chicago community to the creation of LSCs was nearly as amazing as the legislature’s establishment of the local school governing bodies. The first LSC election in Chicago drew an astounding 17,256 candidates and 294,200 voters. By the beginning of 1990, approximately 5,500 LSC members were actively participating in the governance of their schools.

While the number of candidates and voters has diminished somewhat over the past six years, about 8,000 candidates and more than 122,000 voters are now actively participating in the LSC elections.

When the Chicago parents and community members were given control over their local schools, many pessimists predicted disaster. Last December, the University of Chicago-based Consortium on Chicago School Research released a study which demonstrates that the parents and community representatives who make up LSCs are well-qualified to run individual schools. The educational level of both the parent and community representatives on the LSCs is higher that the Chicago average, and these LSC members have a higher occupational status than both the Chicago and the U.S. averages. Moreover, the study states that over two-thirds of LSC parents and community representatives are active in the broader community and, as a result, are well-positioned to effect credible, meaningful change.

The Consortium estimates that between 75% and 90% of the LSCs are “highly functioning” or “performing well but need support.” Between 10% and 15% of LSCs face more serious problems and are not effective school governance teams. Ultimately, though, the Consortium concludes that, “The vast majority of LSCs are viable governance organizations that responsibly carry out their duties and are active in building school and community partnerships.”

Furthermore, since 1990, most test scores in Chicago public schools have improved greatly. In general, test scores in both reading and mathematics in Chicago’s elementary schools have been rising. In the high schools, on the other hand, while math scores have gone up considerably, overall reading achievement has not risen. While students in Chicago are still scoring well below the national norm, they have improvement on several national tests since the LSCs began.

The LSC success in Chicago may stem from conditions that DC does not have. Chicago had a longstanding grassroots movement and other helpful school governance changes. For example, as the LSCs were created, the existing Board of Education was abolished, principals were given authority to fill teaching vacancies with applicants of their choice, regardless of seniority, and the amount of “remediation time” which a principal had to grant an unsatisfactory teacher was decreased significantly. Also, the teachers’ union lost bargaining powers.

No one knows whether the DC Public School system, parents, and community members are ready for such sweeping reform and responsibility. One thing, however, is clear: given that it took nearly ten years of hard work and dedication for Chicago's LSCs to show fruit, DCPS will have to travel a long and arduous road before schools would show significant, measurable improvement.

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The summer Stars program appears to be more popular than anyone expected. With over 25,000 students enrolled by the cut-off date of Wednesday, July 1, 1998, the administration was scrambling to make sure all schools were adequately staffed. Assistant Superintendent, Mark Robertson who is in charge of the program, reported that two thirds of the students are there for enrichment. Only elementary school students scoring below basic were required to attend the Summer Stars program. Many parents took to heart Mrs. Ackerman’s proposal that the program be a “gift” to the students and a large number have enrolled their children even though the students scored at basic or above and passed all their courses.

Parents United has advocated small classes for years. We hope the 15:1 pupil teacher ratio will be a successful learning environment and will allow the school system to justify more funds for smaller classes when they testify before the Council, Mayor, Control Board and the Congress. Unfortunately, students in 9th and 12th grade who are taking courses for Carnegie Units this summer are not guaranteed these small classes.

We would like to learn what you think about how the Summer Stars program worked. Did every child who wanted to go have a space? We were told that students at one high school were turned away. A parent complained that their child’s school was chaotic even in the second week. Did supplies arrive by July 6? Let us know how you thought summer school worked for your family. Wait until the end and give some serious thought to whether or not your child has improved his or her reading and/or math skills. We are all hoping this will make a difference!

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Are you ready to learn how to raise your child’s brain power while having fun and meeting other parents? DCPS has trained parents to offer courses this summer at the Summer Stars schools. Though the courses started early in July, you still have time to take one or two, maybe all three. These are the three courses: 1. Help your child learn to read 2. Help your child learn math 3. What should you do with your child over the summer.

Each school decides which course they want to offer so just look at the dates for the schools near you, call the school and go!!!

Backus, Tues., July 21
Brent, Thurs., July 23
Deal, Mon., July 20
Douglass, Tues., July 21
Evans, Mon., July 20
Garnet-Pat, Mon., July 20
Jefferson, Mon., July 20
Lincoln MS, Wed., July 29
Malcolm X, Thurs., July 23
McGogney, Tues., July 28
Merritt, Wed., July 22
Meyer, Thurs., July 23
Nalle, Mon., July 27
Noyes, Tues., July 28
Park View, Wed., July 22
Paul, Mon., August 3
Payne, Wed., July 22
Powell, Mon., July 27
Reed, Wed., July 29
Rudolph, Wed., July 22
Savoy, Tues., July 21
Shaed, Thurs., July 30
Simon, Thurs., July 30
Smothers, Wed., July 29
Stuart-Hob, Tues., July 21
Takoma, Mon., July 27
Terell, MC Tues., August 4
Thomas, Thurs., July 23
Thomson, Mon., July 27
Turner, Thurs., July 23
Tyler, Wed., July 29
Van Ness, Mon., August 3
Walker-Jon, Mon., August 3
Webb, Tues., July 28
Wilkinson, Tues., July 28
Wilson JO, Thurs., July 30
Winston, Thurs., July 30

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Foster Care gives children who have been abused or neglected a temporary home while their parents work to correct the problems that have led to the removal of their child. There are currently 3,000 D.C. children in foster care.

There is a particularly critical need for culturally-sensitive foster families for Latino children — as of today, there are only two foster homes in the entire D.C. system in which Spanish is regularly spoken. As a result, Latino children coming into foster care often are placed in temporary homes far from their communities, and they must make difficult cultural adjustments.

The Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), a community-based, non-profit, multicultural organization, has joined forces with the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency to address this problem. LAYC looking for committed, responsible and caring adults, either Spanish-speaking or culturally familiar, single or married, with or without children, who can provide a temporary home, and help a Latino child stay connected to his or her cultural heritage.

Foster parents offer a caring, safe, healthy, stable and nurturing home in which can grow. They receive financial support (about $465/month), training and bilingual/culturally sensitive supervision to help them do the job. If there is space in your heart and your home for a Latino child needing a temporary family, think about becoming a foster parent. Training classes begin soon. For more information, call Claudia Carcamo of the Latin American Youth Center at (202) 234-4813.

You can make a difference in the life of a child!

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DCPS is now demanding that all parents prove they live in Washington, D.C. in order to have their children attend D.C. schools in 1998/99. You should verify residence at the schools that each of your children will be attending. Three documents (listed below) are required to prove residence. Take originals and copies of the documents. Show the originals but leave only copies with the school (originals may be lost). Bring the documents to the school(s) between August 10th and 21st.

ONE of the following documents is REQUIRED

TWO the following documents are REQUIRED

For more information, call your local school, the office of the Assistant Superintendents, 724-4099, or the Office of Parents Affairs, 724-4235.

NOTE: All students entering an odd year grade (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11) must provide the child’s school with a health and dental form with up-to-date information and vaccinations. Please call your school to find out where you can pick up the forms.

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Roofs, boilers, air conditioners, windows and other major projects are among the high cost, long lasting capital construction projects that are funded this year. The Parents United lawsuit to enforce the fire code yielded $80 M dollars in capital improvements money this year — $40 M each from Congress and local funds. As part of the settlement to withdraw the lawsuit, the school system was promised at least 27.5% of the city's capital budget each year until schools are repaired. We are trying to obtain a list of all projects funded this year so parents will know that there is progress in building conditions.

Listed below are the capital projects of record. If your school is on the list below and you want further information on the status of the project, call Terry Hernson in the Capital Improvements Branch at 576- 8810.

Roof replacements (to be completed by Sept. 1st) — Bancroft, Burroughs, Cardozo SH, Coolidge SH, Davis, Drew, Eaton, Eliot JHS, Emery, Ferebee-Hope, Garrison, Hart JHS, Hearst, Hyde, Johnson MS, Kenilworth, Kramer MS, LaSalle, Montgomery, Moore, Murch, Plummer, Raymond, Seaton, Shaw J., Sousa MS, Stanton, Terrell JHS, Tubman, Watkins, West, Wheatley, Whittier (Garfield, Paul JHS, Ballou SHS, Taft and Leckie are already completed).

Boiler Replacements (work ongoing through October) — Beers, Bell MCHS, Bowen, Eliot JHS, Lafayette, Reed, Roper MS, Ross, Sharpe Health, Shepherd, Spingarn SHS, Terrell JHS, Wheatley

Chillers Repair/Replace, etc. — Anacostia SHS, Brookland, Bruce Monroe, Dunbar SHS, Gage-Eckington, Phelps CS, Roosevelt SHS, Thomas, Wilkinson

Boiler and Chiller — Gibbs, Hine JHS, Roosevelt SHS

Window Replacement (contracts not yet awarded) Birney, Brown JHS, Burroughs, Coolidge SHS, Davis, Francis JHS, Green, Key, Hearst, MacFarland MS, Peabody, Shadd, Slowe, Stoddert, Young;

Window Repair — Eastern SHS

Emergency Generators — Burroughs, FerebeeHope, P.R. Harris, Sousa MS, Turner, Young

Asbestos Abatement — Johnson JHS, Taft MS

Electrical Work — Aiton

Elevators for ADA — Cardozo SHS, Wilson SHS

Structural Repairs — Coolidge SHS, School Without Walls SHS, Wilson SHS

Interior Finishes — Bell MCHS, Langdon

Miscellaneous - Garnet-Patterson Gym repairs (awaiting funding through Metro reimbursement), Work on underground storage tanks (no specific schools)

[Source: FY98 Capital Improvements Program as of June 5, 1998 and Status of DCPS Capital Projects (as of July 1, 1998)]

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The school system’s budget crisis is reflected in staff cuts that do affect services to students. First the school administration examined its employees and found irregularities in staffing that they are clearing up, but which reduce the number of people available to our schools. For example, one of our high schools was reported to have 10 people paid as assistant principals when only 4 were authorized. Parents United is told that people who are removed from one position appear in another without authorization. Because all city agencies are being held to their budgets, Superintendent Ackerman has accepted the need to eliminate unauthorized staff.

Our children have benefited from having additional staff in the building, when the people were competent. Some schools are losing a counselor or teacher because they have more staff than the formula allows. Schools are threatened with the loss of programs because they can no longer offer the specific course that the excessed teacher alone is qualified to teach. Schools are confronting larger classes or combining classes of different levels because they have too few teachers to teach each level separately. This is not to our children’s advantage.

On the other hand, our schools have historically traded funds for supplies and materials to maintain personnel. We do not know how the system can offer the variety of courses we want our children to take with fewer teachers, counselors, librarians, etc. Ms. Ackerman has, however, pointed out to us that principals need improved training in the art of scheduling courses so that we can do more within our authorized staffing levels.

The table below represents the changes that we find in the official staffing criteria between this year and last.

Changes in Allocation Criteria for Local Schools
SY 1997-98 to SY 1998-99
New criteria dated June 2, 1998

Category Level Current SY 1997-98 Next Year SY 1998-99 Comment
Assistant principal MS & SH 1/500 1/600 Cut
Attendance aides MS & SH 1 per none Cut
Office clerks MS & SH 1/900 1/600 & 500 Improvement
Library aides MS & SHe 1 per none Cut
Second librarian large SH 1 per none Cut
“Exploratory options” MS none 1/200 New
Counselors MS 1/400 1/500 Cut
Subject teachers Ele & MS 1/110 & 120 1/100 Improvement
Aides Ele gr 1-3   1 per non-Title 1 only New
Facilitator Targeted assistance none 1 per New
Reading/math teacher Targeted assistance none 1 per New

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Register now for the

National Coalition of Education Activists Annual Conference on


Thursday, July 30 - Sunday August 2, 1998
Marriott Metro Center, Washington, DC

Keynote Speaker: Tony Baez

The National Coalition of Education Activists (NCEA) is a multiracial organization of parent and teacher activists working for fundamental reform of public schools throughout the United States. NCEA’s annual conference provides a unique opportunity to learn about the work of education activists all over the United States. Workshop topics include: standardized testing, ebonies, bilingual education, tracking, teachers’ union, vouchers, parent involvement, school funding and more. For example, one workshop is “From the outside In: Community Organizing to Improve Schools” by Mothers on the Move from the South Bronx on parent organizing for school reform.

The conference site rotates each year, so don't miss it while it is here in DC! Registration fee is reasonable, includes lunch and is on a sliding scale. Information can be sent to you by mail or FAX, call 202-238-2379.

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