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Emergency Transitional Education Board of Trustees
1997 Annual Report




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Emergency Transitional Education Board of Trustees
District of Columbia Public Schools
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Results, Year One
Community Involvement

Results, Year One

Public and community input, derived from six public meetings and additional written comments, helped shaped the One Year Academic Implementation Plan.

More than 60 teachers and administrators participated in the first wave of training on performance standards; subsequently, all DCPS principals participated in additional training.

New assessments have provided honest baselines for measuring student performance, plus detailed data that will help shape instruction. The same assessments will also provide a basis for teacher and principal evaluation.

79 new bilingual teachers were appointed to provide expanded services to language minority students.

17 DC principals were removed from their posts or put on probationary status in the first set of appointments under the Becton Administration. New evaluation procedures, tied clearly to academic gains, will promote stronger performance from all principals in the 97-98 school year.

An unprecedented amount of major facilities work has been accomplished by the Chief Operating Officer and his staff – 56 new roofs, numerous boilers and chillers replaced, dozens of schools renovated and refreshed to greet new student populations.

An improved Automated Incident Reporting System (AIRS) now produces more accurate and timely records of security matters.

Principal surveys show increased satisfaction with security: From 31 percent responding "good" or "excellent" in April 1997 to 58 percent responding similarly in November 1997.

Eleven schools were closed, addressing the system's overcapacity. Disposition of excess DCPS properties, some of which stood vacant for years, has begun. Eight sales have been approved by the Trustees, with expected revenue of $9.5 million.

Sharp reduction has been accomplished in the size of central administration, from l5% of the DCPS workforce in FY97 to 11% in FY98 – with more to come as the central academic office is reduced by an additional 25 percent.

An accurate headcount is now available: 9,980 employees as of December 1, 1997.

A new budget system is beginning to track accurately how much is spent and who is accountable for it.

Increased spending authority has been provided at the individual school level.

Foundations and private donors helped support two major initiatives this year, providing funding to help build principals' skills through the Leadership and Management Institute, and creating a New Beginnings Fund to ease the transition of students and staff from closing to receiving schools.

Private-sector grants to DCPS totaled $1.65 million in FY97. This figure represents funds recorded by the central office. Other donations, whose total is untallied, have gone directly to schools, as have equipment and in-kind support.

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In its "Resolution. Order and Recommendation'' of November 15. 1996, which established this Emergency Board, the District Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority required annual reports to the Authority, and to the public, on the progress of school reform.

This is the first of those reports. It documents decisions and actions taken in response to the Authority's mandates, as well as additional steps taken by the Administration and Emergency Board to deal with issues not contemplated one year ago.

The Order conveyed to the Emergency Board all the powers and duties of the elected school board. except for those specifically reserved. There was particular urgency in the language directing swift action on academics and management problems, whose magnitude had become an embarrassment to the Nation and its Capital City. The Order also reflected language in the DC School Reform Act, passed earlier in the year, which had authorized development of technology plans and new academic standards: required a long-range plan for academic improvement: and directed a massive effort to revitalize the aging and ill-maintained school buildings in which the District's students are educated.

The Authority's order went beyond the congressional language in one important respect. It declared that the conditions pertaining in the District's schools had indeed reached "emergency'' status, justifying creation of an appointed board to supersede the elected body. It was in this atmosphere of crisis that the Emergency Board was named.

Part of the first year's challenge has been to define a proper role for this organization: a nine-member board with a CEO who sits as a full member in the fashion of a corporate board. but who is accountable to the Trustees as a Superintendent is accountable to a conventional school board. Early on, the Board and CEO, General Julius W. Becton, adopted a collegial, consensus-based approach – but the Board readily acknowledges the CEO's leadership as the chief executive and principal decisionmaker in the DCPS structure.

In this first year the Administration and Board have repeatedly confronted problems arising from the school system's inability to produce mundane data about its functions. Gen. Becton and his staff have made solid progress, and by the end of this first year it is indeed possible to say how many people work for DCPS and how many students we have. But for much of the first year, both the operational responsibilities of the Administration and the policymaking functions of the Emergency Board have been afflicted by long-standing problems in the DCPS infrastructure.

This report is organized in four sections: Academics, Facilities, Management, and Community Involvement, categories which generally reflect issues covered in the Authority's Order, plus those raised in germane public law. By way of introduction. the following table provides a sampling of mandates, drawn from these sources, that faced the Emergency Board as it began work one year ago:


Improve the Quality of Educational Services
Ensure Ongoing Improvement through Strong School Improvement and Recognition Processes
Develop Long-Term Reform Plan
Develop Programs on Literacy, Communications, and Critical Thinking
Lower the Dropout Rate
Develop Districtwide Assessments
Strengthen Accountability Leadership at the School
Increase Teacher Accountability for Student Performance
Assess Opportunities to Increase Student Involvement in Arts/Athletics
Establish Procedures to Ensure that Every Student is Provided Skills for Employment
Improve Special Education Services
Develop Short and Long-term Plans for Educational Technology
Reduce Violent Incidents


Obtain Funding Needed for Emergency Capital Program
Identify Long-term Funding for Capital and Maintenance
Improve Facilities Program Management
Begin Stabilization of Facilities
Dispose of Excess Facilities
Assist Charter Schools in Obtaining Facilities


Conduct Responsible Oversight of Administration
Streamline Central Administration
Develop Reliable Processes for Producing Data
Improve Management Information Systems
Develop Performance Measures Across the System
Improve Personnel Management
Develop School-based Budgets
Focus Resources on Student Achievement
Reduce Cost of Non-Educational Services through Privatization and Other Means
Develop Long-term Financial Plan Reflecting Balanced Budget Each Year
Strengthen Procurement Controls

Community Involvement

Obtain Community Input Through Reports and Recommendations of Board of Education
Define Parent Role in School-Site Decisions
Improve Functioning of Local School Restructuring Teams (LSRTs)
Increase Volunteering Efforts
Form Effective Partnerships to Advance Student Learning
Increase Grants

Clearly, no reform program could tackle and solve every one of these problems in the first year. This report describes a beginning: a break with the past, and a start toward the creation of an exemplary school system.

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While much of the first year concerned facilities and management issues. the Emergency Board and Administration created a new foundation for raising academic achievement – the single most important objective of their work

Creation of long term plans for academic improvement took place in several stages. On March 18, in a public meeting at H.D. Woodson Senior High School, the Trustees released a draft framework entitled Children First, endorsing the three basic thrusts of academic reform that had been developed in a year-long process by the DC Goals 2000 panel: Student Achievement: Quality School Staff: and Governance and School Autonomy. In May, in another public meeting at Cardozo High School, the Trustees approved for distribution a draft long-range education plan which described strategies to strengthen literacy for all students. bang the DC curriculum in line with emerging national standards. create performance standards for all staff. and target assistance on schools that are not making progress This plan was disseminated to more than 800 educators public officials, parent groups, and opinion leaders throughout the District, and was the subject of a public hearing in late May.

In response to legitimate criticism that the draft academic plan was too all-encompassing, and in light of a national search for a new Chief Academic Officer, the Trustees decided to request a one-year implementation plan in order to sharpen focus and establish clear priorities for the forthcoming school year. The Emergency Board reviewed early drafts in July working sessions, and held a public meeting at Hine Junior High in August to gather input. That meeting featured breakout sessions on each section of the one-year plan, including a new section on accountability. Despite a record-breaking heat wave, more than 100 citizens took part in a spirited and productive discussion. One week later, in another public meeting at Sumner School, a new draft was released incorporating 38 changes directly resulting from the public input at Hine.

The arrival of Arlene Ackerman as Chief Academic Officer prompted a final review of the one-year plan incorporating her changes. At a September 21 public meeting at Takoma Elementary, Ms. Ackerman presented a streamlined document that concentrated on the "what" rather than the "how" – in other words, establishing a clearer sense of the community's educational goals rather than prescribing a detailed set of management strategies. Ample public comment followed, and in a public meeting on October 29, at Fletcher-Johnson Educational Center, the Emergency Board approved the revised one-year plan – a plan strengthened by the open process of public input.

A second step now being taken toward academic excellence is creation of a new leadership structure. both at the central office and in schools.

As mentioned. Arlene Ackerman was selected as Chief Academic Officer in August, following a lengthy national search. Weeks later, in recognition of the centrality of academics in the DCPS mission. Gen Becton announced that Mrs. Ackerman would also serve as Deputy Superintendent. She brings to both positions a distinguished background as teacher, principal, and administrator in urban school systems. As Chief Academic Officer of the Seattle school system, she helped generate across-the-board increases in student achievement results. She has also trained aspiring principals at Harvard University. Mrs. Ackerman has begun a sweeping downsizing and reorganization of the central academic office, with completion expected by January 1998.

Sharing Gen. Becton's view that school principals are the key to academic reform, the Emergency Board approved steps to strengthen the caliber of school leadership. In July, the Board approved shortening the term of principal appointments from three years to one, reinforcing their accountability. At the same time, the Trustees approved a resolution giving the CEO/Superintendent direct authority to hire principals, with no prior review of the slate by the Board. This step was taken to eliminate any possibility of political or personal favoritism in principal selection.

But accountability is only part of the equation: To face growing challenges, principals need new management skills. Trustee Charito Kruvant was instrumental in developing private-sector support for the Leadership and Management Institute, co-sponsored by DCPS and George Washington University, through which all DC principals will build instructional leadership and professional management skills. Not only will this benefit the principals involved: it also symbolizes a new determination to enlist the private sector as partners in systemic change. rather than as sources of occasional donations.

The Emergency Board has also supported the Administration's efforts to support increased school-site autonomy by reallocating greater resources to the school level, including enhanced DAPS (Direct Activity Purchase System) accounts that now put 85% of non-personnel spending under direct control of the principal.

School-level leadership also requires viable school-site governance that gives parents and community members a serious and well-defined role in school-site decisionmaking. As part of the one-year academic plan, and in response to numerous comments at its public meetings, the Emergency Board endorsed review of the implementation of Local School Restructuring Teams. (LSRTs). in order to ensure genuine participation.

The important role of parents has also been highlighted by the Chief Academic Officer's appointment of a liaison officer who is working directly with a variety of schoolbased and citywide parent groups. Trustee Nate Howard, who represents parents on the Emergency Board, is helping to coordinate efforts to develop new guidelines for parent involvement in DC public schools.

Even prior to creation of the Emergency Board the District's educational and civic leaders had recognized the need for stronger academic standards. Teams of teachers and administrators had created draft content standards in language arts, math, science, and social studies. The Trustees hoped to reinforce and accelerate the drive for standards.

In April, the Acting Deputy Secretary convened a meeting at the U.S. Department of Education in which the Trustees, as well as members of the Board of Education and community leaders, heard presentations on three approaches to raising standards: the core-curriculum method of the Core Knowledge Foundation: the standards-based redesign strategy of the Modern Red Schoolhouse project, one of the New American Schools Development Corporation models: and the systemic approach offered by the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). While each approach had merit, the Board authorized the Administration to begin negotiations with NCEE for a comprehensive engagement including widespread teacher and principal training on NCEE's performance standards: assistance in streamlining central office functions to put more resources at the school level: and public engagement strategies to win parent and community support for tougher standards The contract was delayed to enable the new CAO to review it: the final version, outlining a three-year strategy (in performance-based, one-year increments) was signed in early December.

For more than a decade, DCPS had been measuring academic performance by using standardized tests that w ere increasingly compromised by familiarity and maladministration The rigorous, nationally-recognized Stanford-9 assessments in reading and math were administered on a pilot basis in fall 1996 and then throughout most grade levels in Spring 1997. Release of preliminary citywide results in a July press conference, showing one-third of third graders failing to reach a basic level of reading achievement, galvanized extraordinary press and public reaction – showing the necessity reliable and broadly disseminated testing results. Results of school-by-school scores from the Spring 1997 tests, including contextual data on each school. were released in mid-December.

On her arrival, Chief Academic Officer Ackerman decided to implement twice-yearly Stanford-9 tests: a diagnostic test administered in the fall, with results now being used for instructional planning, and a second test in the spring, with results to be released for accountability purposes.

The DC School Reform Act called not only for new standards and assessments. but also for promotion gates that would end the practice of social promotion in DC schools. At a July press conference, Chairman MacLaury and CEO Becton outlined plans that no child would be promoted beyond third and eighth grade who did not reach basic levels of reading proficiency for that grade level. Shortly after her arrival, CAO Ackerman called for an even earlier start in assuring reading proficiency. and set the first "gate" at the end of second grade, adding additional factors beyond test scores at the third and eighth grade levels. New promotion rules embodying these initiatives, as well as a set of more demanding requirements for high school graduation, will be formally considered by the Board in early 1998. If approved, new promotion policies will be in effect for the end of the 1997-98 school year.

Along with higher standards must come more effective assistance to students and schools in difficulty. The Administration's revised FY98 budget reflects a number of "safety net" strategies, including teacher training and summer school, to assure that every child has the best possible chance of succeeding under the new, more stringent promotion requirements. In addition, a citywide campaign called Everybody Reads has been launched to help boost early reading achievement. Chairman MacLaury and Vice-Chair Maudine Cooper participated in the campaign's November launch, seeking to provide trained tutors for every second-grader who is "below basic" in reading. (According to Spring, 1997 test data, more than 40% of students are at that level.) The Greater Washington Urban League, of which Cooper is President and CEO, is also creating a clearinghouse of local literacy programs to support the reading initiative.

Beginning with a presentation by Dr. Robert Slavin of Johns Hopkins University at its initial January retreat, the Emergency Board took an active interest in the question of redesigning struggling DC schools. Chairman MacLaury had visited Memphis to see first-hand how that city has embraced a variety of models offered through the New American Schools Development Corporation. The Board scheduled briefings as the 23 'targeted assistance" schools went through a mandated process of choosing redesign strategies in the winter and spring, and monitored the progress of implementation. Several nationally recognized programs are now at work in these schools, including Slavin's Success for All; the Learning Community program created by Temple University's Laboratory for Student Success; and an early reading program based on nearly two decades of reading research by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

As of this writing, the Board is considering a new and far-reaching plan for redesign or s reconstitution of failing schools being recommended by CAO Ackerman. Under the proposed strategy, which could go into effect at the conclusion of the 97-98 school year, underperforming schools whose Stanford 9 reading and math results fail to improve sufficiently will be candidates for reconstitution, with teachers and principals required to reapply for their jobs.

Mrs. Ackerman has moved swiftly to overhaul grants administration. which had become a confused and unaccountable area. Dr. Mitzi Beach. the new Director of Categorical Programs and Development. is moving all grant-funded employees to the appropriate funding sources: aligning grant objectives with the CAO's academic plan; working with the U.S. Department of Education to create effective oversight of DCPS's "local" and "state" functions while reducing overlap and duplication: and creating new systems to ensure the independence of external entities such as charter schools and community-based organizations that depend on DCPS for timely flow of funds.

Improving safety discipline in DC public schools is critical to improving academic achievement. At its first public meeting in early February, the Board approved for public comment proposed rules recommended by the elected Board of Education to strengthen discipline policies, including requiring a one-year expulsion of students who bring weapons to school. and provision of alternative settings for suspended and expelled students. In July, the Board reviewed Administration plans for an alternative school to accommodate students whose behavioral problems made education in conventional settings difficult. Locations for the new DC Academy were found at the former Hamilton and Weatherless schools, and the two campuses opened in September. Trustee Emily Washington, a veteran DCPS educator, now teaches at the DC Academy.

The DCPS special education system is 'badly broken," according to deputy CAO Elois Brooks, who has taken on major responsibility for fixing it. Nearly 7000 students are already in special education, and as of December 5, another 2200 were awaiting assessment. Sluggish procedures and historically poor service carry a huge price tag: Of the $68 million spent on special education in FY97, more than half was paid in private-school tuition for roughly 1200 students who could not be served adequately in the regular public system. Attorneys' fees accounted for another $2 million. The Administration is taking steps to stabilize and improve this system, including aggressive efforts to reduce the assessment backlog; funding for 60-80 new special education teachers and counselors in the revised FY98 budget: creation of new programs for children with emotional disturbances in 8 schools: new bilingual special education programs in 3 schools: and new high-school level programs for students with specific learning disabilities in another 3 schools.

But DC has a unique burden in this area. Under the Mills decree. DCPS is required to assess and place special education students within 50 calendar days of referral. This is the shortest time line in the nation. The Board and Administration have repeatedly sought relief from this inequitable situation from both Congress and the DC Council.

In recognition of the growing diversity of DCPS population, the CEO created an Office of Multicultural Education Affairs to analyze, improve, and coordinate services to multicultural and multilingual communities. The Becton Administration also created a Diversity Task Force that analyzed and made recommendations on the delivery of services to these communities.


More than 60 teachers and administrators participated in the first wave of training on performance standards: subsequently, all DCPS principals participated in additional training.

New assessments have provided honest baselines for measuring student performance, plus detailed data that will help shape instruction. The same assessments will also provide a basis for teacher and principal evaluation.

79 new bilingual teachers were appointed to provide expanded services to language minority students.

17 DC principals were removed from their posts or put on probationary status in the first set of appointments under the new Administration. Stronger evaluation procedures, tied clearly to academic gains, will promote stronger performance from all principals in the 97-98 school year.


  • The strong start of our new Chief Academic Officer is encouraging – but the Emergency Board. like many DC citizens, is frustrated that more progress has not happened, sooner, on academic matters. This resulted largely from the protracted leadership transition in the DCPS academic area. which ended in August with the selection of Mrs. Ackerman. The need to move quickly on school closings and emergency facilities work complicated matters further: both were critically important, but diverted energy and attention from the task of improving academics.
  • Evaluation is key to any accountability system. The Emergency Board inherited a system in which evaluation had become a joke, with a minuscule number of teachers receiving – "unsatisfactory" evaluations in the 95-96 school year. The Board heartily endorses CAO Ackerman's proposal to base 50% of principal evaluation on student achievement, and is preparing to review related proposals on teacher evaluation.
  • Owing to its unique status as both local and "state" agency, DCPS is responsible for disbursing grant moneys to charter schools, and there were unacceptable delays in doing so this year. The CFO and CAO are now working collaboratively with the City Council to fashion an equitable allocation formula for charter school funds, and the Board is encouraged that the CAO is taking steps to delineate more clearly the staff responsibility for charter issues. With dozens of new charter schools likely to come online within the next several years, it is imperative that they and DCPS develop a relationship that is cooperative and mutually reinforcing, rather than antagonistic.
  • By design, the Trustees did not address in the first year every charge and mandate they were presented. There is not yet a formal recognition program for exemplary schools: athletics, the arts, and extracurricular programs have not been directly addressed; and the Trustees are just now looking at the Administration's proposals for a school-to-work program. Of necessity, the principal focus of the first year was basics: standards, assessments, reading skills, teacher and principal training.

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The first important Facilities action was accomplished in December 1996, with of a Chief Operations Officer for DCPS: Maj. Gen Charles Williams, former President of the New York City School Construction Authority.

The Emergency Board gave quick approval, in January, to the Administration's proposal to terminate the ServiceMaster contract, and to opt for a more economical, in-house approach to custodial services.

An early and continuing priority of both Board and Administration is the safety and security of DCPS students and teachers. CEO Becton moved quickly to increase security personnel; ordered a complete security survey; expanded collaboration with the Metropolitan Police Department; and installed new metal detectors and surveillance cameras in schools. A $12 million budget request for security equipment, however, was pared down sharply, leaving only $2 million available for acquisition of needed security technology.

In February, the Trustees reviewed and sent on for legislative approval a long-term facilities master plan, envisioning three stages of renewal for the aging DCPS physical plant: First, stabilization, to make existing schools safe for student occupancy; second, functionality. to address important features and systems such as lighting and lavatories; and third, modernization, to equip DC schools with features needed for 21st century learning.

At a March public meeting, the Board responded to the Authority's mandate to close at least six school buildings by approving criteria and processes for closing unsafe and underutilized schools. A list of 18 schools proposed for closure by the Administration was issued later that month at a second public meeting, along with the rationale for each choice. In late April, following site visits, reviews of documentation, and three formal public hearings, the Trustees approved 11 of the 18 school-closing recommendations. The decision was a first step toward addressing the system's vast overcapacity. Designed to accommodate the peak enrollment reached in 1970 – 147,000 – it now serves a student population under 80,000. (Even after the 1997 closings, there remain approximately 3 million square feet of excess capacity.) The Trustees monitored on a weekly basis the work of the Administration's Transitional Support Team, and members of the Board were also instrumental in persuading private philanthropists to create a New Beginnings Fund to underwrite costs associated with merging school populations.

In early 1998, the Emergency Board will consider whether to defer any additional closings until the 1998-89 school year, as well as the academic, financial, and facilities criteria by which any such decisions should be guided.

The DC School Reform Act. as amended. calls for DCPS to use moneys from sale and lease of closed schools to help fund long-range capital needs (estimated by GSA at $2 billion over the next decade). The same Act requires DCPS to provide a preference to charter-school operators in disposition of these properties. The Trustees responded to these mandates in two stages: first. by proceeding with the sale of excess properties according to a disposal strategy adopted at its April 28 public meeting; then, in October, adopting on an interim basis a policy granting charter operators discounts of 15 percent on properties with an appraised value over $1 million. and 25 percent on lower-valued properties. The policy provides additional lease credits for renovation This approach is intended to provide the growing DC charter movement with needed help, while seeing that students in regular DCPS schools benefit from prompt disposition of properties.

As of December 10th, the Trustees had approved eight sales of excess properties. the first such sales in nearly two decades. One of these has already closed, and other approved sales, pending legal and Authority review, are expected to produce more than $9.5 million in revenue. In all. DCPS expects between 520 and $30 million this fiscal year from sales and leases of excess buildings.

One of the most important accomplishments of this year, settlement of the Parents United lawsuit. was not envisioned in the Authority 's order – even though the lawsuit was filed in 1993. The suit addressed fire code violations in DC schools, and by early summer the Administration had successfully abated more than 1600 such violations, virtually ridding the system of them. But the suit became a pervasive problem, affecting the entire school system, when the presiding judge decided on July 11 that any construction constituted a potential hazard and that no construction work could proceed while children were in school.

The Administration and Trustees faced a series of difficult choices: to relent in their effort to make DC schools safe and structurally sound, continuing the wasteful practice of patching fire-code violations but delaying substantial renovations until summer; to open most schools except those where work was underway, possibly putting thousands of students at a disadvantage; or to go ahead with total replacement of more than 60 rotted roofs, even if it meant delaying the opening of schools.

After consultations with parent groups, CEO Becton announced on August 8 a delay of three weeks in the opening of schools. At a tumultuous public meeting the next week at Brookland Elementary, the Emergency Board publicly and emphatically endorsed his decision.

Yet even after the September 22 opening date, students at five schools were summarily evicted and forced into temporary quarters when minor fire code violations were discovered or roof replacement was required. As it became clear that this pattern of disruption would continue as long as the lawsuit persisted, the Trustees and Administration stepped up efforts to persuade Parents United to settle the litigation. With the able intervention of the new Corporation Counsel, retired appellate Judge John Ferren, a settlement was finally announced on November 4. The Trustees and Authority jointly agreed to provide $80 million in capital funds this fiscal year, and to appoint an advisor on capital program matters. The Authority also agreed to apportion at least 27.5% of future DC capital budgets to school needs.


An unprecedented amount of major facilities work has been accomplished by the Chief Operating Officer and his staff – 56 new roofs, numerous boilers and chillers replaced, dozens of schools renovated and refreshed to greet new student populations.

An improved Automated incident Reporting System (AIRS) now produces more accurate and timely records of security matters.

Principal surveys show increased satisfaction with security: From 31 percent responding "good" or "excellent" in April 1997 to 58 percent responding similarly in November 1997.

Eleven schools were closed, addressing the system's overcapacity. Disposition of excess DCPS properties, some of which stood vacant for years, has begun. Eight sales have been approved by the Trustees. with expected revenue of $9.5 million.


  • The first annual review of the facilities master plan will begin in January, 1998. It will be a community-based process, and will reflect clearly how school facilities support DCPS academic planning.
  • Future school-closing decisions will grow out of this community-based facilities planning approach. There is no question that excess capacity will have to be reduced – but a more collaborative approach with the Emergency Board and affected communities sharing the same assumptions, can reduce much of the conflict that erupted over this year's decisions.
  • Concerning school closing and property disposition, the Trustees will continue to encounter difficult choices. Few parents enjoy seeing a school closed: members of a community may treasure even a dilapidated school building. But the Trustees' guiding principle must be to take action that will benefit all the children in the system. It makes little sense to preserve failing structures for political reasons, or to maintain derelict properties in the hope that future renewal will bring them back to life.
  • DCPS spent almost $50 million in capital funds in FY97, the largest capital program in years. Including the regular capital budget, shares of city bonds sales, and a one-time windfall from privatization of Sallie Mae, DCPS may have up to $100 million in its capital coffers for FY98. But even with an annual infusion of funds now guaranteed by the Authority, sustained effort will still be required to finance our long-term $2 billion capital need.

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Much of the first year has been spent retooling the internal systems and practices of DCPS. Although the Authority's order of November 15, 1996 described numerous chronic problems in the management of finance, personnel, and information systems. Trustees were still taken aback by the magnitude of dysfunction they confronted: a system that could not tell how many employees worked for it, or where they worked; how many students it taught; whether teachers were certified; how much money was being spent by various programs; and whether contracts were properly executed.

Gen. Becton and his team have made solid progress. But changing DCPS from a sluggish and unaccountable bureaucracy into a flexible, lean, customer-centered operation is a mammoth task – having as much to do with corporate culture as with computers – and the Trustees recognize that more time will be needed.

Two items – one ambitious and complex. one simple and compelling – signify the attempt to change DCPS management from a complacent and inward-looking bureaucracy to a service center helping to meet the needs of public school educators.,

Performance Measures for every part of the DCPS organization have been developed with assistance from the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche and have been submitted to the Authority in draft. These measures, comparable to those used in cutting-edge private sector industries, will provide everyone from program managers to Trustees and the public with clear benchmarks for progress and hard data about whether they are being met.

Quarterly surveys are being distributed to principals to rate the performance of central office support functions including facilities and clerical services, academic support services, and MIS. Results of these surveys are shared with top management in order to assure that resources are effectively deployed in support of schools. During the coming year, similar surveys will be developed for parents and other "customers" of DCPS.

To lead the effort to reengineer management practices at DCPS, Gen. Becton filled two important posts: in May, selecting as Chief Financial Officer Ed Stephenson, formerly of the U S. General Accounting Office, who had overseen educational matters for the Authority; and in July, selecting as Chief Human Resources Officer Shelia Graves, who had previously served as Special Assistant for Personnel to the Secretary of Defense.

One of the first tasks before the Trustees was approval of the FY98 budget request. It represented the first major step in directing resources away from central administration and toward classroom needs, as central staffing fell from 15% in the prior budget to 11%. Trustees campaigned actively on behalf of necessary funding during the budget process that ensued, yet the city's budget stringency resulted in a considerably lower allocation of local funds ($460 million) than requested ($525 million), lower also than the FY97 budget ($472 million).

Two other budget issues received attention this year. First. development of a program-based budget. using the activity-based costing process. Under prior practices, numerous programs were lumped together into large budget categories, making accountability for individual programs impossible. The Chief Financial Officer has replaced this with a new budget structure that mirrors the organizational structure, provides monthly reports to program managers, and financial accountability at the program-manager level. The CFO is also working on a school-based budget, beginning with an improved school staffing model that is helping to allocate resources appropriately throughout the system beginning with the 97-98 school year.

Reform of procurement was another management priority in this first year. The Emergency Board fully supported the overhaul of the procurement division, including replacement of key personnel: and more recently endorsed Gen. Becton's decision to transfer responsibility for this function to the office of the Chief Financial Officer, aligning it with conventional business and public sector practice. One perennial procurement problem, textbook purchase, saw dramatic improvement this year. A consolidated order was sent to publishers in April, and 97% percent of textbooks were received by the opening of school.

DCPS has also taken steps to downsize its organization. with total current employment under 10.000 for this first time this decade.

Through the combined efforts of the CFO and CHRO, DCPS has taken major steps toward establishing a valid headcount and review of personnel files. CHRO is now putting hard copies of files onto CD-ROM for easier storage and retrieval. The Chief Human Resources Officer has re-established a Position Management and Classification Division whose staff are conducting a 100% audit of all positions and incumbents, as well as reviewing positions for pay accuracy.

The new Chief of Human Resources. Shelia Graves. is taking decisive action to ensure a workforce that is both competent and fit to serve. by improving the quality and thoroughness of background checks. She is eliminating from consideration any potential candidate whose check reveals fraud, drug use, or criminality, and is also conducting a sweeping review to ensure that appropriate background checks have been done on every current DCPS employee. Already, more than 70 incumbent employees have been terminated as adverse information has been discovered.

The CHRO is also in the process of evaluating several MIS systems that could decrease the administrative burdens of both DCPS principals and managers. Such systems could address one of the most frequent complaints of principals, that central-office delays keep them from getting new hires into the classroom on time.

Obtaining reliable enrollment information is a central management problem facing DCPS, since the count drives spending formulas. An audit by the General Accounting Office of the October, 1996 enrollment count procedures found a number of weaknesses, including potential duplications and inadequate use of automation. The Administration took steps to rectify this problem, conducting several test runs and a final count on October 30, using an automated database and cross-checks. This process revealed an authoritative DCPS student count of 77,111.

A related problem, whose scope is as yet undetermined, is the practice of enrolling out-of-District children in DC public schools without paving tuition. Since the Board approved in September a base tuition rate for such students of more than $6000, DCPS may be losing millions each year. The Emergency Board is planning to act in early 1998 on new Administration proposals to enforce reliable proof of residency for every DCPS student.


Sharp reduction has been accomplished in the size of central administration, from 15% of the DCPS
workforce in FY97 to 11% in FY98 – with more to come as the central academic office is reduced by an additional 25 percent.

An accurate headcount is now available: 9,980 employees as of December 1, 1997.

A new budget system is beginning to track accurately how much is spent and who is accountable for it.

Increased spending authority has been provided at the individual school level.


Perhaps nothing signifies more clearly the decay inherited by the CEO and other Trustees than the fact that background checks were carried out – and then ignored. Thankfully, there is no record of crimes or abuses by employees who should not have been hired in the first place. But children were put at risk by negligent practices.

Ineffective management information systems have complicated the process of reform in every area of the school system. DCPS has lacked sufficient computing power to analyze its own test results. or to obtain information needed for basic financial and budget decisions. The budget approved by the Emergency Board last year called for $20 million in technology improvements, both schoolbased and administrative; without these funds, we have lost critical time in getting needed systems in place. Moreover, our internal efforts to upgrade technology have been stymied by the District s review of MIS systems that interface with those of DCPS.

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Community Involvement

Given the nature of issues confronting it, and the need to ask frank questions about the problems it inherited, the Emergency Board decided to hold off-the-record working sessions. The volunteer board deemed this the most efficient and effective means of doing business – and for this decision, has drawn criticism.

However, as this report demonstrates, the Board has also done a good deal of important business in public. In fourteen public meetings, the Board has heard several hundred citizens testify on matters ranging from school closings to assessment procedures. Two of these meetings featured intensive dialogue on drafts of the DCPS academic plan.

CEO Becton and his top staff have been in virtually constant communication with parents and citizens of the District. Gen. Becton meets quarterly with parent leaders; CAO Ackerman keeps a strenuous schedule of meetings with community leaders; COO Williams and his staff have fielded hundreds of inquiries about how construction and operations activities might affect school neighborhoods. and have now institutionalized this process with a policy of pre-construction community briefings at every site. The CEO and his staff chiefs have also begun biweekly press conferences to answer questions about the entire range of DCPS operations.

Members of the Emergency Board have taken personal responsibility for communicating with the venous key sectors of the District, including parents. language-minority communities, and the business community.

The Authority's Order establishing the Emergency Board delineated a specific role for the elected Board of Educationto provide. through its President who sits as a Trustee, "input, advice, counsel, guidance, reports and recommendations on education policy to the Board of Trustees." As the Emergency Board is an appointed body. this role took on special significance, since it would provide constituents of the elected Board with a direct voice in the deliberations of the body that will oversee school policy until June 30.

Sadly, the current president of the School Board has not fulfilled this responsibility. The Emergency Board early on demonstrated its desire for a productive working relationship with the elected Board: among its first public actions, for example, was preliminary approval of recommendations on safety and discipline which had been developed by the prior Board. Two joint meetings were held early in the year. However, except for a proposal to rename a school. and requests to expand the Board of Education's budget, the incumbent Board president has presented not a single resolution passed by the elected Board. Only rarely has he even shared with the Emergency Board the views of his colleagues on the elected Board. While he has failed to communicate with his own colleagues on the school board about actions of the Emergency Board, he has chosen repeatedly to share confidential information with the press. After one such episode, which resulted in publication of sensitive personnel information obtained in executive session, the Emergency Board was forced to censure him.

Fortunately, other Board of Education members have formed constructive relationships with the Emergency Board. At every recent working session. at least one member of the Board of Education has been invited to share in Trustee deliberations, and to report to the Trustees on matters of importance to school board members and constituents. Other guests have included Councilmember Kevin Chavous, chair of the DC Council's Education, Libraries, and Recreation Committee, and Donald Brown, appointed as advisor on facilities matters in the settlement of the Parents United suit.

New relationships are forming between DCPS and business leaders, philanthropic officials, and other community leaders. There are more than 950 active partnerships between businesses and DC public schools; and more than 23.000 volunteers gave nearly 4 million hours of service in the 1996-97 school year.

The Emergency Board and the citizens of the District owe a debt of gratitude to those who stepped forward to offer help at times of greatest difficulty. When the opening of schools was delayed, Vice-Chair Maudine Cooper mobilized a coalition of nonprofit organizations and city agencies to provide safe and educationally sound activities for students. WRC 4 made its Nebraska Avenue facility available for an organizational meeting, and Editorial Director Angela Owen arranged for printing of booklets outlining the availability of programs. Dozens of individual community and social-service groups went the extra mile in creating opportunities for learning.

After schools opened another trying time took place, as thousands of schoolchildren had to be relocated in temporary space when their own school buildings were suddenly shut by court order. The University of the District of Columbia generously provided classroom space for 1800 students: students were also housed temporarily in numerous churches. and in spare space in active schools.


Foundations and private donors helped support two major initiatives this year, providing funding to help build principals' skills through the Leadership and Management Institute, and creating a New Beginnings Fund to ease the transition of students and staff from closing to receiving schools.

Private-sector grants to DCPS totaled $1.65 million in FY97. This figure   represents funds recorded by the central office. Other donations, whose total is untallied, have gone directly to schools, as have equipment and in-kind support.

Public and community input, derived from six public meetings and additional written comments, helped shaped the One Year Academic Implementation Plan.

Cooperation among Trustees, Administration, and the community was a critical factor in shaping public opinion when five DC schools were shut and thousands of students were put in temporary quarters. One particularly important case was that of Bell Multicultural High School, whose students helped bring public attention to the damage being done by the Parents United lawsuit when they staged marches and rallies to dramatize their unnecessary exclusion from education. Gen. Becton met with student leaders, and the Emergency Board held a press conference at the school's shuttered entrance to call for an end to the lawsuit. Among the participants were Bell Principal Maria Tukeva, the President of the DC Congress of Parents and Teachers, members of the Authority, and leaders of citizens' associations.


  • The Emergency Board continues to seek ways of balancing its need for efficiency and confidentiality with the public's legitimate desire to be involved in school-system decisions. Large public meetings have provided useful input, but they have also tended to draw similar lists of speakers regardless of the agenda. And of necessity, such meetings demand tight limits on the time allotted to individual speakers. The Board will continue holding monthly public meetings on important topics during the coming year, perhaps using alternative formats such as the breakout sessions that proved so useful in considering the academic plan last summer. It is taking additional steps to broaden public communication, including publishing summaries of its working sessions on the DCPS home page ( http//www.kl2.dc.us ); publishing proposed rule makings on the home page in advance of meetings in which they will be considered; and requiring briefings on how community input was sought, and what was received before approving disposition of excess DCPS buildings.
  • Opportunities for volunteer help and private funding were missed in the past year because offers did not get quick follow-up. Reorganization and new leadership in the area of corporate and community relations has already begun to improve this picture.
  • The Board of Education has scheduled elections for new officers early in January. The Emergency Board looks forward to forming a solid working relationship with the school board's new leadership.

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The first year of any major reform is always a challenge, and this year has not gone smoothly. The Emergency Board has done its best in facing a series of difficult judgment calls. This report has tried to address these situations frankly, and to point out where the Board's job has been complicated by aging facilities and archaic technology.

But the biggest problem before this school system is not management competence, computers, or money. It is an organizational culture that accepts failure – a culture that puts jobs for adults ahead of learning for children; a culture that operates according to personal connections instead of rules that apply to all. Disrupting that status quo is bound to produce controversy. Those who have learned to live with failure – or who have made a living out of it – are uncomfortable, and see every new problem as confirmation that the old way was right after all.

Even Trustees who know this city well can be startled by the complacent acceptance of failure. The recent comments of our new Chief Academic Officer are illuminating on this score. Speaking to a reporter following the release of school-by-school test results showing 14 out of 18 DC high schools with more than 90 percent of students below basic levels of proficiency in math she said that such outcomes are by and large not the responsibility of the students... they are the result of a system's failure to educate its students.'' She was frustrated she said by the lack of community outrage about the low performance of our schools – and referred to this as – educational genocide."

In the year to come, outrage must be coupled with action. The Administration, the Emergency Board, the Board of Education, parents, teachers, principals, community groups, churches – all must work to transform this system. When this Board's mandate expires on June 30, 2000, it must leave behind a reengineered. standards driven system of schools.

The Washington, DC public school system should, and can, become a model for the nation. Some of the essential groundwork has now been laid. Thirty short months remain on our watch. There is no time to waste.

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Emergency Transitional Education Board of Trustees

Bruce K. MacLaury, Chair
Maudine Cooper, Vice Chair
Julius W. Becton, Jr., CEO
Peter Gallagher, Member
Elliott Hall, Member
Nathaniel Howard, Member
Charito Kruvant, Member
Don Reeves, Member
Emily Washington, Member


Paula R Perelman, Chief of Staff and General Counsel
Nelson Smith, Director of Policy and Planning
Gloria Murry, Director of Communications and Outreach
Jacqueline Brocks, Assistant to Chief of Staff

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