Four DC Public Schools items: Chris Lewis reports at City Desk (http://tinyurl.com/mc6sj8)
on DC Voice’s report on its interviews with over a hundred DC middle
and high school teachers (http://www.dcvoice.org/pdfs/ReadyClassroomsReportFull.pdf):
“There’s lots of interesting stuff, but here’s the whammy stat:
‘The teachers were asked if they like how the school system is run and
to provide reasons for their answers. Eighty percent of the teachers
replied no to this question, 8 percent replied yes.’ The remaining 12
percent said they both like and dislike aspects of DCPS management. When
the 80 percent were asked to explain their discontent, the most common
response was ‘a lack of respect for and blaming of teachers.’ Other
frequent complaints are ‘poor communication between the District and
local schools’ and ‘a rigid governance structure’ that ‘does not
pay attention to what is happening in the classroom, nor allow for
questions to be asked.’” Eighty percent of teachers dislike how the
system is run. For the teacher-haters who want to see Chancellor Rhee
run over teachers with a bulldozer, that’s encouraging news, but for
anyone who wants the DC public school system to work, it’s disastrous.
Any system that alienates 80 percent of its front-line workers is not
just failing; it is dying.
Dan Brown, a DC charter school teacher, has written a scathing
account of the DCPS teacher firings at The Huffington Post, “Mass
Teacher Layoffs in DC Amount to One Hell of a Power Play by Michelle
The Washington Post’s editorial board cheers on Rhee’s war
against teachers again today: “Critics of DC Schools Chancellor
Michelle A. Rhee say she is using the city’s budget problems as a way
to get rid of teachers she doesn’t want. They’re probably right” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/22/AR2009092203476.html).
But the Post pretends, with no evidence, that Rhee is firing bad
teachers, when she is only firing the 80 percent of teachers who think
she is doing a bad job running the schools. She can’t fire her way
into a workforce that supports her; she can only bully her way into a
workforce that dare not criticize her mismanagement.
Earlier this year the city council passed a budget that included some
additional money for the DC State Board of Education. Mayor Fenty, who
wants to cripple the Board of Education and make it powerless, vetoed
the whole citywide budget over this item. Last week, it looked possible
that the city council would actually stand up to the mayor and overrule
his veto, but instead it caved completely and surrendered to the mayor.
The Washington Post’s CityWire described (http://tinyurl.com/ms7rhq)
the details of the agreement that the council is trying to portray as a
“compromise,” and commenters on the CityWire site don’t buy it, as
they shouldn’t. Commenter candycane1 writes: “Ok if I read this
correctly, they [the Board of Education] get to hire three people, not
of their choosing but from a list given to them by the Superintendent,
whose boss is the Deputy Mayor of Education, whose boss is the mayor. So
basically, the hirees comes from the mayor. What a compromise.” The
Board of Education won’t even have the power to fire any of its new
employees chosen by Rhee. So much for its independence.
And the Washington Times has an article whose title is
self-explanatory: “Private Parts Made a Public Concern: DC High
Schools Test for STDs as Well as College Aptitude,” http://washingtontimes.com/news/2009/sep/23/private-parts-made-a-public-concern/.
Also, two items not related to the schools: Mark Segraves wrote a
touching obituary tribute to Voice of the Hill founder Mark Robey:
Harry Jaffe’s column gets it right about the “new ethics code”
passed by the city council yesterday: it’s nothing new, and it’s
toothless. It’s the kind of code councilmembers can love: “It lacks
one crucial component — consequences, as in penalties, as in pain. . .
. There was not one mention of sanction or censure or expulsion, let
alone impeachment” (http://tinyurl.com/kwr8nh).
On September 17, the DC Public Library issued a press release (http://dcpl.dc.gov/dcpl/cwp/view.asp?A=11&Q=570783)
that noted because of an 11 percent, or $4.8 million, reduction in the
Library’s FY 2010 budget there would be a dramatic change in hours and
services at all library locations: “Neighborhood libraries will no
longer be open on Sundays. Instead, Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial
Library, which is currently closed on Sundays from Memorial Day to Labor
Day, will be open year-round on Sundays. In addition, this library,
currently open from 9:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, will
open from noon-9:00 p.m. on those days. All public libraries will be
closed on all Monday holidays.” The press release also notes that, “Other
services are affected by the Library’s budget reduction. The Library’s
bookmobile, which travels to a small number of schools, will not be used
next fiscal year.”
It was against that backdrop that Sam Ford of WJLA and I raised
questions at today’s press conference for the groundbreaking of the
new Tenleytown-Friendship Library on Wisconsin Avenue. According to
Mayor Fenty and Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper, the new 22,000 square
foot library will be completed in December 2010. However, prior to the
reopening of the new library, DCPL will have completed the construction
or renovation of six other branch libraries (Anacostia, Watha T.
Daniels/Shaw, Benning, Francis Gregory, Washington Highlands, and
Georgetown). Neither the mayor nor Cooper would answer a basic question
— how would the new libraries be funded and staffed, given the
budgetary constraints currently forcing service cutbacks on DCPL and the
Mayor Fenty seemed to be genuinely surprised by the question. He didn’t
seem to know that library hours and services were being curtailed in
FY2010 because of budgetary problems. His response to Sam Ford’s
question was to call for Ginnie Cooper to come from across the open
field, and then to indicate he had to leave the press conference
immediately. After Cooper stated that there really wasn’t any funding
problem, she tried to brush off additional questions by saying that her
“working philosophy” on such matters was to “build for the long
term, deal with the short term.” When I continued to press Cooper to
answer the question, she said, “I don’t have time for this,” but
then said she had to get out of the sun. When I told her I’d walk with
her to a shaded area of the open field, she said that she needed to get
back to her office and that she was leaving. And so, for me, today’s
press conference ended with the sight of Cooper running toward the
Tenleytown Metro, with a small cadre of DCPL employees scrambling behind
Clark Versus Phil for Council
Karl Jeremy, firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier this month, Loose Lips had the following excerpt: “Clark
Ray is now officially running for a Democratic at-large DC Council seat,
having kicked off his campaign Saturday morning outside Java Hut in
Dupont Circle. . . . [Ray] pledged to support Fenty’s school reform
efforts and fight for increased access to higher education. He also
vowed to bolster community policing and work to bridge the divide
between the city’s poorest and wealthiest residents. Testimonial from
Ray supporter Judy Leon: ‘This is a dog whose life was changed by Mr.
Ray,’ Leon said, explaining how the 4-year-old yellow Labrador was
rescued from a puppy mill. ‘She’s now able to come out of her shell
[at the new Dupont dog park] and play with other dogs.’ Ray’s first
hire: campaign manager Adam Barr, formerly of DC for Obama.”
It would be useful if voters had some solid reasons to consider Clark
Ray as a credible candidate for an at-large council position.
Aspirations are great, but the efforts Mr. Ray sites as his priorities
are already on the entire city’s radar screen or the result of someone
else’s efforts. So, for purposes of the LL compilation, voters are
left with the testimonial from Judy Leon — that Clark Ray changed the
life of a Labrador Retriever. That is truly commendable. Labs are great
dogs. But when you put the happy Lab story up against Phil Mendelson’s
solid record of achievement and his outreach to communities across the
city, Mr. Ray comes up short in terms of goals and accomplishments.
DC Education Compact Closes
Donna Power Stowe, email@example.com
As of Wednesday September 30, the District of Columbia Education
Compact will cease operations as an independent organization. The
current economic climate has made it difficult for many nonprofits to
meet their fiscal needs, and this is the case for DCEC. However, while
the organization is closing down, we are exploring two strong options
for continuing the civic engagement work of aligning the education
-related work of the many public and private sector entities toward
shared goals and outcomes, for measurable progress towards these goals
and outcomes. This process may take two to three months, and in the
interim I will continue to be in communication with the Hub Leaders and
other key education stakeholders. Once we have settled the details of
the next stage for DCEC, we will be in touch with that information.
As of September 30, Ariel Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,
and Tia Evans can be reached at email@example.com.
I can still be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
through October 31 and at the phone numbers below. My personal E-mail is
email@example.com. My personal
cell number is 703-362-3039.
I thank you all for your support and involvement with DCEC over the
past five years, and look forward to sharing with you new contact
information for DCEC’s next stage of continuing the important work of
organized, broad-based civic engagement around quality public education
for all children in the District of Columbia.
Residential Permit Parking Reform (Continued)
Jack McKay, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last April I described here (themail, April 20 and April 27) Mount
Pleasant’s experimental approach to providing parking for
schoolteachers and other people commuting to jobs in our neighborhood.
What are these day workers to do when every block in the neighborhood
becomes zoned for Residential Permit Parking (RPP), and there’s no
commercial parking in the area? Our answer is to allow schoolteachers
and other neighborhood employees to park, for a fee, in the curbside
spaces left clear by residents taking their cars to their workplaces. At
the end of the day, those neighborhood employees go home, freeing up the
curbside space for residents coming home from their jobs. In Mount
Pleasant, I estimate that two thousand cars leave the neighborhood every
morning, and only one hundred commuter’s cars arrive, so there is
ample curbside space.
The pilot program designed last fall by the District Department of
Transportation (DDOT) charged commuters about $2.50 a day for parking on
neighborhood streets, a fee selected to avoid undercutting public
transit. Even with that low daily cost, the proceeds of the program
would add up to a significant annual sum, which would be shared with the
neighborhood, compensating residents for their giving up some daytime
parking space. The number of passes was limited to assure plenty of
daytime parking space for residents, and commuter parking was to be
allowed only in parts of the neighborhood where observations had shown
ample free space during the day. Given that many of these commuters come
from nearby suburbs, it’s a de facto commuter tax. What’s not
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, and today, six
months after this program was to begin, there is no daytime parking pass
program in Mount Pleasant. Worse, school has begun, and the
schoolteachers who used to park on a few unzoned blocks, now RPP-zoned,
have no place to park. They, and the employees of the nursing home in
our neighborhood, are now collecting $30-a-day RPP tickets. (This has
quieted early complaints about the $2.50 per day fee.)
What happened to make this program crash and burn? The problem seems
to be that it threatened to be too popular. Schools all over the city
were eager for such a program, allowing school staff to park on
neighborhood streets instead of on school playgrounds. Evidently that
spelled its doom. Frightened by the specter of dozens of schools
clamoring for the Mount Pleasant day-pass program, the District dropped
the idea. As of August we were told by DDOT that it is dead, with no
explanation given, and no one accepting responsibility for its demise.
It was, it seems, such a good idea that it had to be strangled at birth.
Three DC-Area Nominees for the MacArthur
Phil Shapiro, email@example.com
Three people from the DC area — Shrine Mitchell, Denise Lewis, and
Jeffrey Elena have been nominated for the MacArthur Awards. The
MacArthur Awards does not accept nominations, but that doesn’t stop
anyone from describing who they would nominate, right? See http://tinyurl.com/n944ov
Coincidentally, all three of these individuals are involved with
technology as a tool of education, empowerment, and community
development. I wonder why that’s so?
Annie, thank you so much for your story on the illegal storage
container [themail, September 20]. This just serves to illustrate how
truly and utterly unprepared this city is in terms of deterring or
preventing a terrorist episode. How easy would it be for some
terrorist-type to set up a storage container in just such a manner as
this one was set up? The sheer magnitude of possibilities for how such a
container could be used to carry out nefarious purposes and execute a
terrorist attack are stunning. And with the way your concerns about that
container were ignored by so-called city “officials,” the
possibility of a successful terrorist attack is simply mind-boggling.
The probability of success would be extremely high. So, for anyone in DC
to claim that “we” (not sure who they mean) are prepared to respond
to a terrorist attack, let alone, deter one, is just a complete joke.
Your story is the perfect piece of evidence to support that DC is a
laughingstock of so-called emergency preparedness, and in reality, is
the poster-child of complacency and unpreparedness. With the lame and
unconcerned attitudes you received, the entire city is a weak link in
the chain. Wait . . . what chain? There is none.
Lower Speed Limit to 20 MPH
Lee Watkins IV, firstname.lastname@example.org
Saving people’s lives is more important than getting motorists to
their destination a minute faster (where they will then waste more than
fifteen minutes looking for free parking). Fact is, if you hit
pedestrians at 20 mph they usually survive with only minor injuries. If
you hit them at 25 mph, their odds of dying are very high. At 30 mph,
death is nearly guaranteed. Pedestrian deaths outnumber motorist deaths
both in the city and nationwide. You also have the cyclists to watch out
for (share the road). Speeding in the city has a minimal time return,
measured in seconds, at best a minute or two. In exchange for that we
lose many lives that could have been saved. Drivers speed out of
selfishness and disregard for the lives of others. There is a wide
consensus to ticket drivers who endanger the public. Further, that money
can be put to good use to build alternatives to driving cars in the city
like trams, bike tracks, expanded sidewalks, etc.
If you don’t want to get a speeding ticket or kill someone, I have
a solution for you. Slow the hell down! There are people out there who
depend on you to act responsibly. Set a good example.
Law Enforcement and Moral Turpitude
Philip Wirtz, email@example.com
The recent proposal in themail that law enforcement should be lax
unless there is a moral turpitude (definition: “a vile or shameful act”)
component to the violation surprises me. Moral turpitude is just one of
many reasons for a law; public safety is another. A person who exceeds
the speed limit is not committing a “vile or shameful” act: he/she
is committing an act that places public safety at risk. Under the moral
turpitude argument, a law requiring drivers to pull over and yield to an
emergency vehicle with its lights flashing and alarm sounding should be
loosely enforced, since there is no moral turpitude violation associated
with that law. Opposition to law enforcement seems to reflect
endorsement of a lawless society, where each individual becomes entitled
to determine which laws should be followed and which laws should not. If
the view is that circumstances have now changed so that a speed limit
needs to be modified, then work to change the limit. But a societal
model under which law enforcement is lax unless there is some sort of
moral turpitude involved seems to me to be both unworkable and
Speed Traps: Look Around Before Proceeding
Joel Lawson, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the September 21 issue of themail, Gary Imhoff’s peevishness is
finally turned away from those of us seeking marriage equality and
towards a true moral challenge: speed traps. Beginning his message with
the salutation “Dear Moralists,” Gary offers a glimpse into his
mindset: “there are two major types of crimes,” he helpfully
teaches, “some acts are bad . . . we want to catch and punish every
person,” while other crimes aren’t so important: “other acts aren’t
bad in themselves, even though they may be illegal.” Comforting
speeders, Gary suggests there is “no moral failing involved”
regarding speed limits on DC streets.
So, was that salutation supposed to be “Dear Moralists” or “Dear
Fellow Moral Relativists”? Four hundred fifty-one words later, an
important word is left unmentioned: “pedestrians.” In light of some
horrific accidents recently, let’s add “bicyclists.” Our civics
professor has forgotten that the lives of residents might be worth
inclusion when holding forth on the morality of motoring. Speed traps
reduce speeding and increase safety, according to research such as that
conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Any driving instructor will tell you it’s dangerous to only
consider your own view from behind the wheel. When it comes to opining
about speeding, look around before proceeding, Gary.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Save Our Teachers, Our Students, and Our
Schools, September 24
Candi Peterson, email@example.com
According to inside sources, DCPS instructional superintendents met
Saturday at a breakfast meeting and got their marching orders from
Chancellor Rhee. They were advised to meet with DC principals on Monday
to inform them that layoffs will start next week for teachers.
Principals will be advised to lay off teachers as early as next week.
Most of the layoffs will impact DC teachers and some school-based
personnel. It is reported that even some principals and vice principals
will also be let go.
Rhee promises to pay DCPS employees one month of their salary in lieu
of a thirty-day notice required when implementing a reduction in force.
RIF’d staff will all be let go prior to September 30. Rhee is anxious
to get teachers and other DC staffers out as quickly as possible.
Rank and file educators will gather outside of the DCPS central
office on Thursday, September 24, starting at 4:00 p.m. to protest
teacher layoffs. We request that other laid off and terminated
government employees, parents, students, city workers, residents,
community activists, local leaders and the media join us in taking a
stand for our teachers, students, and schools. We are baffled that
Chancellor Rhee hired over nine hundred new teachers this summer, and
that only one month into the school year announced that — due to a
budget shortfall — she will make imminent teacher layoffs prior to the
start of the fiscal year. Please join the rank and file this Thursday as
we protest Rhee: The Teacher Terminator.
Congressman Eleanor Holmes Norton hosts What Has Happened to Marriage
in the Black Community?, with special guest speakers Audrey Chapman,
relationship expert, and Dr. Shane Perrault, psychologist.
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Room 140B, 801 Mt. Vernon
Place, NW, L Street entrance. Convention Center/Mt. Vernon Metro
National Building Museum Events, October 1
Sara Kabakoff, firstname.lastname@example.org
October 1, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Sustainable Communities: Plan Like Your
Life Depends on It. Professor Greg Hise, University of Nevada, Las
Vegas, and Barbara Campagna, National Trust for Historic Preservation,
explore the decisions made by mankind on where and how to live, based on
available materials, technology, and energy sources. $12 members; $12
students; $20 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required. Walk in
registration based on availability. At the National Building Museum, 401
F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at http://www.nbm.org.
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