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November 23, 2008

Black Friday Shopping

Dear Shoppers:

The biggest sale day of the year is coming this Friday, and a lot of people have come to celebrate Black Friday with more enthusiasm than Thanksgiving Thursday. Does anyone have any shopping tips for finding the best deals in town? In particular, are any local or specialty stores cutting deals that are more enticing than those at the national chains and big-box stores? Promote local businesses and give us a head start on finding the best deals of the “shop ’til you drop and save the economy” season; send any recommendations you have in time for Wednesday’s issue of themail.

Better than I could explain it, two “Close to Home” op-eds spell out why DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s mission to bust the teachers’ union won’t work to improve public school education and won’t even succeed in busting the union (Larry Cuban, “Michelle Rhee: Better to Be a Marathoner,, and why her promise of higher pay for teachers through merit bonuses is an empty one (Bernadette Nakamura, “The Unmet Promise of Teacher Merit Pay,” Let’s hope someone in the Fenty administration reads these two articles and realizes the administration is racing at full speed down a dead-end road.

Gary Imhoff


School Violence
Ralph J. Chittams, Sr.,

As a parent of school-aged children who, mostly, do the right thing, I am tired of DCPS always seeking ways to accommodate and adjust to the most disruptive elements of the school. We constantly hear that nothing can be done. Chancellor Rhee is now spouting another batch of nonsense — eliminating out-of-school suspensions. The reason out-of-school suspensions don’t work is there are no consequences for being suspended. And, there are no expectations placed upon the child, or the parent(s) of the child, being suspended. Out-of-school suspension should not mean school work is suspended. Work should be given, and that work should be required to be turned in upon the student’s return. In addition, the parents don’t seem to care if the child is suspended. The child clearly does not care. The child roams the streets during the day and is not picked up by truant officers. At the end of the school year the child is “socially promoted” to the next grade. And, as crazy as it sounds, getting suspended gives you street cred.

If you want to start turning the schools around, start expelling students who violate the rules. I did not say transfer them from school to school — put them out! How many of you know of Chapter 25 of the DC Municipal Regulations? It provides clear, unequivocal guidance regarding offenses for which expulsion from DCPS is mandatory. Use or threatened use of a weapon during school hours, on school-related transportation, on school premises, or at school-sponsored activities regardless of the time of day — expulsion. Possession or distribution of illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia during school hours, on school-related transportation, on school premises, or at school-sponsored activities regardless of the time of day — expulsion. Commit any act that causes severe injury to other students, personnel and/or staff during school hours, on school-related transportation, on school premises, or at school-sponsored activities regardless of the time of day — expulsion. If we are going to reclaim our schools and our communities, we have to demand accountability and responsibility. The same is true for adults, but this posting is about DCPS. The question must be asked, why has DCPS not been enforcing Chapter 25? This lack of enforcement is not new under Chancellor Rhee. Chapter 25 has not been enforced for at least the last ten years. If you want to know how and when we truly lost control of the schools, it was when it became clear that there were absolutely no real consequences for bad behavior.

What happens to those students? Let them go to private school. Their parents can’t afford it? They should have thought about that before they abused the right to attend free public schools. I do believe education is a right, but it is not an absolute right. I have the right to free speech, but I cannot yell “fire” in a movie theater. I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but that right ends where my neighbor’s nose begins. With every right there comes responsibility. And when someone violates the principles inherent with a right there should be consequences.


Re: School Violence
Yvette Alexander,

[Reply to Ralph Chittams] Your points are well taken and we all need to work together for solutions to address these issues. No matter what behaviors a child displays, we are still responsible. I am confident that the council will employ the executive to have a comprehensive truancy and disciplinary plan of action for our troubled youth.


Re: School Violence
Ralph Chittams, Sr.,

[Reply to Yvette Alexander] I take issue with one of your points. I am not responsible for the actions of someone else’s misbehaving child — they are. We, the community-at-large, are responsible for providing the opportunity to receive a free, quality, public education. If someone chooses to exempt themselves from that right, my hands are clean. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the parent(s), not the school, not the neighborhood, to train a child. The job of DCPS is to educate, not regulate, behavior. I again ask the rhetorical question: we have rules and regulations, why are they not being enforced?


Re: School Violence
Jackie Pinckney-Hackett,

Let’s focus on two points: 1) it takes a village to raise a child, and 2) bad behavior may be a sign of another problem. Minister Chittams, we are our brothers’ keepers and the keepers of their children. And this is why mentoring the youth (as you do) is so important. There are times when others may be able to make a difference in a child’s life when the child has turned a deaf ear to the parent. The community is responsible for meeting the needs of its residents, which includes students who are truant or behaviorally challenged. DCPS is responsible for educating all students. Therefore, it must create a plan to address the needs of students who have behavior challenges. And in cases where the behavior prevents them from being educated we must evaluate them for special education or a 504 plan. You see, this is not as clear-cut as you and others might think.

I agree with Chancellor Rhee’s plan to eliminate out-of-school suspensions. Children need to be in school and have their behavior issues addressed appropriately in the school environment. This is were wrap-around services would play a vital role. DCPS should create a plan to include DOH, DMH, CFSA and DC Superior Court to address the behavior issues and provide intervention to both the student and the family.

I disagree that parents and students do not care about suspensions. I do believe that sometimes both the parent and student need behavior modification and intervention. The truth is we truly lost control of the schools when people started thinking like you, “I am not responsible for the actions of someone else’s misbehaving child” — we are..

Last, but not least, in addition to Chapter 25 we have the Master Education Plan, which requires schools to create a six-week plan to address behavior, truancy, and other issues that prevent a student from receiving an education. Oh, there is also a little thing called compulsory education age; there will be no throwing out of children under the age of eighteen. We must find a way to educate them all. And by the way, expulsion for more than ten days automatically transfers the student to an alternative setting. DCPS must educate these students regardless of behavior, and there is no way around it! We must have “a comprehensive truancy and disciplinary plan of action for our troubled youth,” as stated by Councilmember Alexander, however, most importantly we must have a comprehensive plan for parent and community involvement.


Tenley Library News
Robin Diener,

President of the Board of Library Trustees John Hill revealed on the night of November 19 that his board has instructed Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper to proceed with construction documents for a standalone library at Tenley. This comes in spite of Mayor Adrian Fenty’s selection earlier this summer of developer LCOR to incorporate the library into a mixed use project there. The mayor’s project involves the joint development of a library, Janney Elementary School, 170 units of housing and retail, as well as underground parking. A preliminary plan ignited neighborhood opposition when it was first floated several years ago. Since then, opposition has grown. Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh, who had initially sought the mayor’s support for the public private partnership to build the library as part of the mixed use project, recently reversed her position. Last month Cheh made public a letter to the Mayor urging him to drop the partnership and support DCPL’s standalone library.

The surprise announcement to ignore the mayor’s plan came at a bimonthly meeting of the Trustees at the Lamond Riggs Library on South Dakota Avenue, NE, serving Wards Four and Five. When one disbelieving Tenley resident asked if Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Neil Albert had been told, Hill responded that it was “not necessary. We are an independent board and can move forward.”

Since hiring Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper two and a half years ago, the Trustees maintained that they would begin construction this fall on the Tenley library and three others. They laid out what they termed a “dual track” strategy, which included working with the neighborhood to plan a standalone library while remaining open to explore the possibilities of the public-private partnership. Numerous meetings with development partner LCOR have not yielded a satisfactory plan for the library in the mixed use project. Members of the Tenley community in attendance thanked the Trustees for keeping their promise to move quickly to rebuild the Tenley library. Trustee Bonnie Cohen deferred all credit for the decision to the leadership of John Hill.


DC Public Libraries Statements on Tenley Library Construction
George Williams,

Statement by John Hill, president of the Board of Library Trustees: “The DC Public Library has been working closely and very cooperatively with the mayor and the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development for some time on the building of the new library in Tenleytown and the planned mixed-used development. We will move forward with the construction of a new library as quickly as possible and accommodate to the greatest extent possible future development on the adjacent site and over the Tenleytown Library.”

Statement by Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian for DC Public Library: “We know that it has been important that there be a library in Tenleytown without further delay. From the beginning, the Library has embraced the plans for development around the library and the directions given to the architect allows for this potential.”

Moving forward, the Library will work with the design team, construction manager, and the Fenty Administration to develop a new schedule with the goal of starting construction as soon as possible. If you have any information requests about this matter, please contact the DC Public Library.


Inauguration Housing Idea
Annie McCormick

I keep reading in the paper about inauguration rentals, landlords, etc. (latest article,

Why doesn’t the District rent out Franklin School? They won’t let the homeless use the building any longer. Is anyone using the building? May as well make some money from tourists who desperately want to see history in the making. Market it as a bare bones, bring your own sleeping bag, arrangement at an ideal location across from a lovely park, convenient to all attractions downtown and only blocks from the White House. For those who don’t have an outrageous amount of money to spend on accommodations this would be an ideal solution. Good for school groups, youth groups, or church groups?


Weekly Residential Street Sweeping Ends Friday, November 28
Nancee Lyons,

The DC Department of Public Works (DPW) announced that weekly (signed), residential mechanical street cleaning will end for the season on Friday, November 28. “No parking/street cleaning” restrictions will be lifted and motorists may park along posted, alternate-side, daytime street sweeping routes without being required to move their cars on street-cleaning days.

Residential street sweeping is suspended for public safety concerns during the winter. Trucks used to clean the streets emit a fine spray of water to keep dust down as they sweep. When the temperature drops to freezing or below, sweeping is discontinued to prevent freezing and accidents to vehicles and pedestrians.

Overnight sweeping scheduled for the District’s major roadways, which include Pennsylvania, Georgia, Constitution, and Independence Avenues, will take place as usual all winter, weather conditions permitting. Motorists are urged not to park in these areas during the posted overnight sweeping hours. By suspending the street sweeping program, DPW personnel will focus on leaf collection, which began November 3, and the upcoming snow removal season. Residents and business owners will be notified when street sweeping resumes again in the spring of 2009.


Nirvana Now? Reinventing Congressional Oversight of DC
Len Sullivan,

Six years ago, NARPAC sent the following letter to the then incoming Congressional leadership. We find the suggestion equally valid today, though we would now add emphasis on energy-squandering metro area traffic gridlock as well. “NARPAC respectfully urges the leadership of the 108th Congress to consider some reorganization of its House and Senate committee structures to address two similar problems of substance. The narrower issue involves the continuing financial difficulties of our national capital city. This is, however, part of the much broader national problem of festering inner city poverty and its corrosive effects.

“DC faces two debilitating circumstances. First, the financial needs of the 29 percent of the metro area’s poor living in DC cannot be met with DC’s 11 percent of the region’s taxable income. Far from unique, this problem plagues many other US inner cities: too much poverty for so small a local tax base. Second, Congress has an undeniable constitutional obligation to oversee District affairs. But the four separate, low-ranking DC oversight subcommittees focus on micro-managing DC’s local government, not addressing its root problems. Subcommittee members have had clear conflicts of interest impacting on DC’s financial security. We submit that Congressional oversight of DC should be at a far broader policy level, and exercised by a single committee.

“On the national scene, metro areas now define the quality of life for most US households. But metro areas per se have no high-level champion in Congress. It is time to assure that significant groups of Americans, including those in the nation’s capital city, are not discriminated against because of inadequate high-level attention in the halls of Congress. For both situations, then, we urge the revitalized Congressional leadership to disband the four DC oversight subcommittees and replace them with a single, more senior Joint Congressional Committee on Metro Area Affairs and the District of Columbia. It should be charged with adopting federal policies and funding procedures aimed at leveling the socioeconomic playing field between America’s struggling inner cities and their prospering but unsympathetic suburbs, including the national capital metro area. For substantiation of our concerns, please call us, or visit our web site at”


Rhee’s Children Are in Boundary
Anne-Marie Bairstow, annemariebairstow at hotmail dot com

Chancellor Rhee’s ex-husband lives on Woodley Place, within the boundary of the Oyster School District, meaning that they didn’t jump any lines to get in — that’s their local school.


Diversity in DC Schools
Natalie Hopkins,

Diana Winthrop decried the lack of diversity in DC schools [themail, November 19], but I haven’t experienced that. My twins attended Stoddert Elementary in Glover Park last year and are now attending Washington Yu Ying (a Chinese-language immersion charter school) in Brookland. Both schools are extremely diverse. Although I’m not familiar with the exact demographics, Stoddert has students of all races and cultures, including many native-speaking Russians, thanks to the nearby Russian embassy. Yu Ying is 47 percent African-American, 30-something percent white, with Asians and Hispanics represented by double-digit percentages as well.


If Not Obama, Everyone Else Get to DCPS
Nelson R. Jacobsen, Ward 3,

I can understand the concern of the first family and their personal choice of schools for reasons that have more to do with security, as well as, on the flip side, a decreased risk to the rest of the kids. I do believe that the school-aged children of everyone else under him who moves into the District should attend some form of public school. This will change more about DC school culture then two little girls.



For the Greener Good
Jazmine Zick,

Wanted: Power; Location: Anywhere But Here. November 24, 6:30-8:00 p.m. As the country’s appetite for energy grows, there is a consensus that we need more power. But who wants a nuclear plant, wind farm, or transmission lines in his or her back yard? A panel featuring Andrew Karsner, former Assistant Secretary, US Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; Tyson Slocum, director of the nonprofit group Public Citizen’s energy program; the Mayor of Port Gibson, Mississippi Fred Reeves; and New York Times journalist Matthew Wald, explore this heated issue. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


Labyrinth Walk, November 25
Ed Bruske,

Tuesday, November 25, 6:00 p.m.-8:45 p.m., Labyrinth Walk, Washington National Cathedral. Free admission. HSW joins the Washington National Cathedral for two evenings of contemplative practices, music, and reflection that is free and open to the public. At 6 p.m. the Cathedral’s Program Manager Terry Lynn Simpson will meet HSW participant at St. Joseph’s Chapel on the crypt level of the Cathedral for a brief introduction and history of labyrinths. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., participants are welcome to walk the labyrinth while listening to the melodic sound of harp music.

There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth, since it is an activity that becomes a metaphor for your own spiritual journey in life. Some people walk with the intention to address an issue in their lives, others to pray and meditate. It is helpful to pause before you enter to center your thoughts on your intention. Walk between the lines of the circuit, being aware that you are sharing the labyrinth. Allow yourself time to contemplate what it means for you to be there; honor this space in your life. The center is a place to pause, reflect and receive insight. Walking the path back out of the labyrinth is a time for deep reflection and a chance to consider what it might mean for your daily living. For many, it is the most fruitful part of the walk. It can lead to action and renewal. This program will be held at the Washington National Cathedral, which is located at the intersection of Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues in northwest, 3101 Wisconsin Avenue, NW. Ages fourteen to adults. RSVP at or 383-1828.


Department of Parks and Recreation Events, November 25
John Stokes,

Tuesday, November 25, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Hillcrest Recreation Center, 3100 Denver Street, SE. The Distinguished Gentleman of Hillcrest will prepare and serve dinner for the community. All ages. For more information, call Orvin Wright at 645-9200.

Tuesday, November 25, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., Ridge Road Recreation Center, 800 Ridge Road, SE. Thanksgiving basket giveaway, all ages. The community will prepare and distribute food baskets to less fortunate families. For more information, call Sonny Hicks at 645-3959.

Tuesday, November 25, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Ferebee Hope Recreation Center, 3999 8th Street, SE. Thanksgiving basket giveaway, ages 13-19. Youth will come together with the community and give away Thanksgiving baskets to those in need. For more information, call Greg Poag at 645-3916.

Tuesday, November 25, 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m., Payne Recreation Center, 303 15th Street, SE. Thanksgiving dinner, ages 6-13. Dinner will be prepared and served for children of the community and those interested in attending the festivities. For more information, call Stephanie Foster 727-5474.

Saturday, November 25, 6:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Petworth Recreation Center, 801 Taylor Street, NW. Thanksgiving basket giveaway, all ages. The staff at Petworth Recreation Center and the churches in the community will be giving baskets to selected community member. For more information, call Howard Marshall at 576-6850.

Tuesday, November 25, 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Kalorama Park Recreation Center, 1875 Columbia Road, NW. Thanksgiving basket giveaway, all ages. Thanksgiving basket given to a needy family in the community. For more information, call John Borges, site manager, at 673-7606.

Tuesday, November 25, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Douglass Community Center, 2100 Stanton Terrace, SE. Thanksgiving feast, ages 6-13. Youth will come together and enjoy a delicious meal while listening to music and socializing. For more information, call Toni Thompson, Ward 8 manager, at 645-3961.



Bedroom for Rent
Tolu Tolu,

Room for rent for three days (maximum of two people), ten minutes from DC events. I have a large furnished room for rent for people coming to DC to be a part of history with the Obama family. Reply to 331-4418 or



Kitchen Remodeling
Russell Cramer,

I am looking to have my kitchen remodeled. Any good references out there? Please call 363-3945.


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