Here's the framework for a joke. 1) Carl Cohn, the former superintendent of the Long Beach, California, school system who is the current leading candidate being courted to become DC's new school superintendent, tells DC government officials that more than anything DC schools need a period of four years of stability and continuity in their governance. 2) In response, the mayor and the city council finally agree to a compromise agreement that preserves the current hybrid appointed-elected school board for another four years and returns to an all-elected board at last in 2009. 3) Then Cohn says he may take the job as superintendent, but he won't commit to staying for more than a year. 4) Elected officials say that's all right with them (with the honorable exception of Peggy Cooper Cafritz, who refrained from commenting).
Insert your own punch line here. Is anybody laughing?
It’s Not Impossible
Ed T. Barron, email@example.com
Today's Post (15 June) has an article about major cities that have helped reduce the severity of major problems like teenage murders, etc. [Marc Fisher,
“Solving City's Problems Starts at the Top,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41743-2004Jun14.html].
The article also says that frustration and acceptance of the status quo hinder any improvement in bad situations (read poor schools) in DC. The answer is not in more hand wringing or funeral vigils. The answer is simply in planning.
For each and all of the major problems facing DC there should be top level and supporting plans and processes for making things better. Even a flawed plan is better than no plan at all. Our city is burdened with a bureaucracy that is totally reactive. The Mayor sits on his hands and only moves them for wringing and posturing when something hits the fan. If we only had a proactive city government that was performance graded on its plans and implementation, then we would see some of the problems diminish.
Field of Schemes: Goofus vs. Gallant
Ed Delaney, firstname.lastname@example.org
[The Fields of Schemes web site describes itself this way:
“Fieldofschemes.com is the companion website to Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit (Common Courage Press), by Joanna Cagan and Neil deMause. Since 1998, we have been casting a critical eye on the roughly $2 billion a year in public subsidies that go toward building new pro sports
facilities.” It's front page (http://www.fieldofschemes.com)
cites an article in the current New Republic:]
“Goofus vs. Gallant: It's subscription-only, but The New Republic's website has an excellent analysis by Aaron Schatz that compares LA's courting of an NFL team with DC's of an MLB franchise, concluding: 'Los Angeles and Washington offer case studies in the right and wrong ways to attract a sports franchise. Williams has bought into the fantasy that stadiums and professional sports teams are worth the expenditure of public money because they generate economic growth. By courting Major League Baseball so aggressively, he has enmeshed himself in a bidding war for which DC taxpayers will almost certainly pay a steep price. Los Angeles, on the other hand, has basically dared the NFL to ignore its lack of a football franchise. And as of two weeks ago, it appears that the city has called the league's bluff. In the end, both mayors will probably get their teams. But only one will have served the interests of his constituents in doing
The article in Wednesday's Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A44604-2004Jun15.html)
seems to put into play the scenario suggested in the Times on June 13, 2003:
“Evans said he will demand automatic escalators in the level of the gross receipts tax, if enacted, to raise more money should attendance and tax revenue fail to meet projections. One hurdle, for example, would be the Internet, where many tickets are sold but sales tax is not collected. 'What we need to figure out is a way that this [debt] doesn't wash back onto the city in the event of an serious downfall,' Evans
said.” In other words, they're looking to tie the entire project and its backing [meaning possible dramatic raises in taxes on them much higher than the suggested doubling of last year's estimated tax if any shortfall occurs] to businesses who were already hostile to what was proposed last year! From fed dollars to taxing DC businesses back to the Stone Age, the baseball brigade keeps cobbling together one untenable plan after another, presuming to keep them alive by keeping all concerned parties except Major League Baseball, the Washington Baseball Club, and select developers in the dark.
State Education Office
Dorothy Brizill, email@example.com
At today's press briefing, Mayor Williams announced that he was appointing Deborah A. Gist to the position of Interim Director of the District's troubled State Education Office
Gist will be replacing director Connie Spinner as of July 1, 2004. According to sources, Williams has been seeking a replacement for Spinner since May 1. At that time and, indeed, up until Tuesday of this week, the mayor had advocated a reinvigorated, well-managed State Education Office as a key component of his school governance proposal. But the SEO had proven unable to manage even its summer feeding program, leading to numerous city council hearings, criticism from the US Department of Agriculture, and the creation last fall by the mayor of a Blue Ribbon Task Force to review and evaluate the program
Gist lacks substantial management experience. Her major qualification for the position seems to be that she was a classroom public school teacher in Texas and Florida from 1988-1996. When I spoke to her after the press conference today, I asked her about the SEO's problems with the summer feeding program; she acknowledged that she knew there had been problems in the past, but she was unaware that there was any concern about the SEO's planning for this summer's feeding program.
I have to admit to being pretty sick of the Reagan, Reagan, Reagan, Reagan drum beat over the last week. The three-story tall photos of The Great Communicator draped with black bunting on the Reagan Building almost sent me over the edge. Now that it's over, I sort of hate to revisit even one small part of it, but. . . . When Thurgood Marshall died flags all over Washington were flown at half-staff. My office is near the FBI building on Pennsylvania Avenue, and I noticed that the flags that they fly along the front of their building along said avenue were not at half staff. So I called
Their public affairs office said that those were “ceremonial” flags only and that the FBI would not be lowering them to half-staff. The official FBI flag, I was told, was around the corner and it was at half staff. The staffer said that the ceremonial flags show the historic progression of the design of the US flag and that they would not lower them. I complained up the food chain that it seemed petty to me that they would not lower these flags in memory of such an important man. No dice. They never did lower them.
And what did I find on Monday morning last week? You guessed it — all of these ceremonial flags were lowered to half staff.
If my memory serves me correctly this, is the second attempt to install gambling in DC. Some years ago the churches of DC were up in arms, as were many citizens. to thwart the advance of gambling upon our city. Well, it appears that the same people are involved in trying this ploy again with some new players. Must we endure the ignominy of gambling that was thrust upon Atlantic City, NJ, where the local communities have yet to enjoy the fruits from the gambling tables, or are we to believe that Bow Tie will see to it that the paltry cut from the gambling interest will bring improvements to our city schools or other governmental interests? Cities that have gambling have a larger cut of the pie (better than 50 percent) then the Initiative proposes (25 percent). So you can figure that the gambling interests know that they are dealing with nincompoops when it comes to the city's getting its fair share of the take. With that in mind, it will not take long before arm twisting and back door dealing will bring the real slot machines into reality, and certain sections of the population will loss of their dignity, jobs and lives to the gambling interests. Those who wish for gambling in their back yards just might get their wish, to the heartbreak of others.
“Undue White Influence”
Mark Eckenwiler, themale at ingot dot org
In the last issue [themail, June 13], Melody Webb indicated she couldn't find student demographic data on the DCPS website. May I suggest the link on the DCPS home page
prominently labeled “Data: DC Public Schools Official Enrollment Count for the 2003-2004 SY
— Racial Breakdowns”?
As for the rest of Ms. Webb's polemic, the most unintentionally revealing comment is her call for
“explor[ing] solutions to the real or perceived problems” of
“undue white influence.” Putting aside that curiously offensive last phrase, I find it odd that
“perceived” (but not real) problems require any solution at all. Given the many painfully real problems faced by DCPS, solving its imaginary problems seems to me a rather low priority.
“Fix the problems that blacks have created in their own school
system”? Their? Last I checked, public schooling was for everyone. Your words imply that the benevolent white folks must step in to help the incompetent blacks (who are undoubtedly so inept because of
“their” DC public school education). “Publicly criticize at public gatherings and in the black media those black parents a) who speak
Ebonics”? “Ebonics” is a grossly outdated term and highly offensive
— an ironic choice of words to use when attempting to inspire a group of people to educate themselves.
There are no easy answers to fixing the public school system in DC (or other urban systems, and increasingly suburban ones, for that matter). This is mainly because, as you point out, the problems lie more in a lack of focus and priorities coupled with the de-emphasis of education in popular culture than in unqualified teachers or outdated textbooks. Until parents and the media provide a consistent positive image for young people, children in DC will continue to fail, both academically and socially. No superintendent or new curriculum can make up for the drug deals, homicides, beatings, and squalid living conditions that many of DC's children experience on a daily basis. However, the
“public criticism” of a man spewing words such as “ebonics” and
“their schools” is not going to make a positive difference. The community needs strong leaders of all races who understand the 'other' culture of DC (not just Capitol Hill and Georgetown), and who can communicate with parents and the media on a respectful level using words that are accessible to them in order to raise awareness of changes that need to be made.
My personal contribution is knowing what I can do to make a difference. Teaching elementary school here for five years and mentoring teachers around the world through my web site have been my contribution to the understanding and education of young people in urban environments. Next school year, I'll be teaching in the inner city of Miami, in a system no less troubled than Washington's. My goal is to earn a vice principalship the following year. I believe that working within the system to make a positive change on every level possible has been far more meaningful to this city's youth than any public criticism. Even if I had not chosen teaching as my profession, I would still focus my energy on making a difference with as many individual children, educators, and parents as possible, rather than attempting to fight a negative culture with more negativity.
[The word “Ebonics” is not a derogatory term. The term was invented in 1973 by Robert L. Williams, who argued that the way some black urban Americans speak is a separate and primary language that is not a dialect of English, but instead is based on the
“phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics” of African Niger-Congo languages. Williams called this language
“Ebonics,” and he edited a self-published book on the subject in 1975: Ebonics: The True Language of Black Folks. The term was popularized by the December 18, 1996, resolution of the Oakland Unified School District that endorsed that concept, asserted that Ebonics was
“genetically based rather than a dialect of English” (an assertion that was dropped from a later revision of the resolution), and adopted Ebonics as a language of instruction in the school system.
— Gary Imhoff]
[Reply to Esther Cohen, themail, June 9:] Dear Esther, I do have to teach my daughter to view the group warily and know that she is judged by different standards. I wish I didn't but I do! Unfortunately, in all my years (and there are quite a few), the common denominator is that African-Americans are viewed, collectively, differently. I could spend hours citing example after example and within her generation; not mine, my parents or her cousins (who're more than years older). I'm not belaboring this point anymore in this public forum because this would be a very unproductive use of my time and energy and with my quite a few years, I know what subjects continue to be arguable. Truth crushed always rises . . . either I teach her the truth now or she'll be crushed later. And no parent wants their child crushed.
[Reply to Bryce Suderow, themail, June 9:] I didn't play the race card. Don't have to. Truth speaks for itself. I don't resort to race as my winning card . . . race matters always and forever in this country and that's the harsh reality. My specific suggestions: 1) Again, do not speak from ignorance, for you know not what organizations I belong to that address education, social change, or the like. 2) Publicly refrain from telling me who to criticize and when; perhaps you should talk to those white parents who a) do not speak standard English, b) don't offer their children a stable family life (and the majority population wins this contest), c) don't provide enough food at home so that their kids' minds are alert at school (joblessness -- did you see the
Post article about the mining town nearby, hunger, low employment, and homelessness are color blind). 3) Poor reading and failure to read is a growing American problem. d) Discipline is rendered differently by parents (should I also criticize the white parent whose child, as recently as last week, created chaos in the classroom? I did not.) Leadership is basis for any organization; leaders that know how to govern and manage; that's what I complain about the most and am most vocal about. Without it an organization is destined to fail.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
DC Public Library Events June 19, 20
Debra Truhart, firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, June 19, 11:00 a.m., Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW. Give-a-Boy-a-Book: this is a special reading awareness program targeting the interests of young males with refreshments and a book giveaway. School ages. Public contact: 645-5880.
Sunday, June 20, 1:00 p.m., Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Neighborhood Library, 7420 Georgia Avenue, NW. Rose Marie Simms Studio students perform in a piano recital. All ages. Public contact: 541-6100.
CHIME Celebrates the Fete de la Musique with Six Programs, June 19-20
Dorothy Marschak, email@example.com
June 19: 7:30-9:30 p.m., Rai music, with the Kasbah Band, at The Palestine Center, 2425-35 Virginia Avenue, NW, 338-1290. Rai music comes from Algeria, with Spanish, French and Arabic influences. 7:30-9:30 p.m., masterpieces from Bach to Gershwin, with Christine Kharazian, violin, and Frank Conlon, piano, at Annunciation Catholic Church, 3810 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.
June 20: 12:00-2:00 p.m., Stormy Weather: A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald with jazz singer Cynthia Lin, at Mimi's American Bistro, 2120 P Street, NW. 12:00-2:00 p.m., Raga-time: Music of South Asia, with Brian Q. Silver, sitar, and Shubha Sankaran, surbahar, at Teaism, 400 8th Street, NW. 2:00-4:00 p.m., Latin American songs from folk to classical with In Series artists, at Christ Lutheran Church, 5101 16th Street, NW (corner of Gallatin). 3:00-4:00 p.m., String Along, with Christine Kharazian, violin, at Middle C Music Store, 4530 Wisconsin Avenue, NW.
For more information, contact CHIME (Community Help In Music Information): firstname.lastname@example.org, 232-2731,
Don’t Blame It on Your Dog, June 21
Bruce Snyder, email@example.com
Learn how to better communicate with your dog. Adrien Zubrin, a certified canine behavior counselor/trainer, will speak at the Chevy Chase, DC, Library on Monday, June 21, at 6:30 p.m. The library is at 5625 Connecticut Avenue, NW, 282-0021. Tell your friends ho have a dog; especially tell your friends who are thinking about getting a dog.
“We ask dogs to live in a world that they are unprepared to live in. We talk at them and they don't understand us. Learn how your dog takes in information, how dogs learn best, how dogs communicate with each other, and how we can communicate with
Congressional Hearing on DC's Budget Imbalance
Ben Slade, PublicMailbox@benslade.com
A hearing on the subject of the District's billion dollar structural budget imbalance (perhaps including how federal restrictions contribute to it) is scheduled for this coming Tuesday, June 22, at 10:00 a.m., by the Senate Appropriations Committee's DC Subcommittee. (although I couldn't find notice of it on any of the Senate web pages) The hearing will be held in Room 138 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
The chairman of the DC Subcommittee is Senator DeWine (R-Ohio). You can read Sen. DeWine's very DC-friendly statement from the May 19, 2004, DC Senate budget hearings at
Specifically, Sen. DeWine said: “I believe that the Federal government must recognize the costs it places on the City and the burden it places on the City's infrastructure, all the while limiting the ability of the City to raise revenue. Indeed, many of the problems facing the City result from it being the seat of the Federal Government. As Chairman of this Subcommittee, I will work to explore and develop ways to avoid a financial catastrophe for the
District.” Statements by DC officials from that same hearing can be found at
The Mayor's report to the Senate on the District's structural budget imbalance can be found at:
(look for transcripts from July 19, 2004). For more information about the District's "structural [budget] imbalance" see
CLASSIFIEDS — HOUSING
Seeking Housing for UDC Law Students
Joe Libertelli, firstname.lastname@example.org
Drawn from a new record of 1150 applicants, our wonderful Class of 2007, more than ninety students, is continuing to look for rooms, apartments, and houses. Some are prepared to sign leases now. Others are lining up places to live for later in the summer, and still others have temporary lodging and can wait until the fall before moving into more permanent places. If you or someone you know has a room for rent in a home, an apartment, or a house to rent, please have them contact our student housing coordinator Janice Cheeks at
Please provide the following information: cost; deposit; lease terms (yearly, month-to-month, etc.); location; date of availability for move-in; time frame for decision making (i.e., ASAP or taking applications until what date); description of availability of mass transit; drive time estimate to UDC (at corner of Van Ness Street and Connecticut Avenue, NW) if known; any amenities (dishwasher, a/c, laundry facilities, spa facilities, team of dancing rhinos, etc.); policy on pets; policy on smoking; and, of vital importance, how they can contact you via phone and E-mail and time of day to call.
CLASSIFIEDS — VOLUNTEERS
Community Organization Seeking Summer Interns
Parisa Norouzi, email@example.com
Empower DC, a grassroots organizing project, is seeking part-time summer interns to assist with a number of community based campaigns. Empower DC's mission is to enhance and improve the self-advocacy of low and moderate income residents of DC in order to bring about sustained quality of life improvements. Interns should be committed to social justice and passionate about the empowerment of DC residents. Good social skills and oral communication skills are a must. Hours and days are flexible and can be worked out on an individual basis. Unfortunately, no pay is available at this time.
Intern projects will be determined based on interest and ability. Possible projects include support work related to Empower DC's many campaigns: affordable housing and anti-displacement work; quality, affordable child care assistance for low income families; voter education and registration; neighborhood oral history project in Northeast DC; organizing opposition to the Mayor's proposal for a taxpayer funded baseball stadium; development of an archive of DC affordable housing work over the last twenty-five years. Contact Parisa Norouzi at Empower DC for more information: 234-9119,
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
Does Anyone Still Listen to Records?
Rona Mendelsohn, Rona1@rcn.com
In cleaning out our garage, I came across many, many old 33-1/3 RPM records, mostly classical music and show tunes. I'd like to sell them, if possible. Does anyone know of a place that might take them? Or is anyone interested in learning more about the collection?
I want to thank the many people who responded to my E-mail and offered good advice about finding a new home for LPs and I want to pass on what I learned in the process. 1) Memory Lane in Forestville will purchase LPs, but the shop is really only interested in soul and jazz at the moment. Second Story Books and similar establishments will also purchase some items, but it will require lots of time picking and sorting on your part and may not be worth the effort. Call any or all of these places before actually taking anything to them. 2) The Book Project at the World Bank is not interested in records or CDs. However, if you have books that would be appropriate for a college library overseas, it may be worth a call to the volunteers who pack and ship the donated books. The number is 473-8960. 3) E-Bay probably holds possibilities for many people, but after looking at the large collection already there, I decided this option required more time and energy than I was willing to give it. 4) I did contact music schools at local universities and other adult programs (since so much of the collection was classical), but no one responded. Summer may not be a very good time for my task and this might have worked better had I more time.
5) Saving the best for last, I found the Wheaton Branch of the Montgomery County Library system actually welcomes donations, which it resells at the library and in its store in Wheaton Plaza. These folk were extremely accommodating.
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