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August 8, 2010

Influential Bias

Dear Reporters:

Why do I harp so frequently on the Washington Post’s editorials in political races? Are they really that important and influential? I think they are. The Washington Post’s editorial board’s obvious bias and lack of balance in the mayor’s race is important to the city as a whole, because the Post is the dominant news outlet in this town. The Washington Times has practically abandoned local coverage. The Washington Examiner has outstanding reporters and editors covering the local beat, but can’t match the size of the Post’s staff or its circulation (though the Post is rapidly losing its circulation, which fell ten percent last year). The local television stations, more often than not, follow the Post’s lead on which stories to cover. will launch this week, and it’s still to be determined whether it can compete on local news by relying on the strategy of aggregating the work of independent local bloggers.

Because only a small percentage of voters vote in a primary election, the winner of the Democratic primary is usually determined by turnout, by the amount of enthusiasm that candidates can generate among their core supporters. But a significant number of primary voters have little firsthand experience with or knowledge of the city government; they are simply doing their civic duty by voting, on the basis of the limited knowledge they have. Many of these uninvolved voters rely on the Post for their opinions. So if the Post editorial board tells them that they can safely ignore the corruption and cronyism of the Fenty administration, they will feel free to ignore it. If the editorial board says that the secrecy and lack of transparency of the Fenty administration is only a minor flaw, uninformed voters who don’t have to get information from the city government will take their word for it. If the editorial board says that the administration’s overt hostility to the city council, its refusal to work with it or keep it informed, is simply what a competent administration has to do to get things accomplished, and if it scolds and blames the city council whenever it does active oversight over administrative agencies and departments, then it stands a strong chance of misleading voters into thinking that they, like the editorial board, should not hold the administration accountable for its faults and failures.

And when the editorial board actually misreports the facts in order to favor its candidate, it undermines and wastes the credibility of the newspaper as a whole. In its Friday editorial on the Ward 4 Democratic candidates forum and straw poll, the editorial board writes about the rowdiness at that forum, which it characterizes as nastiness, but says, “Most of the invective has been directed at Mr. Fenty, and while his campaign surely has had its excesses, the truly disturbing behavior comes from Mr. Gray’s supporters,” The board’s bias toward Fenty led it to distorting and falsifying the facts of what happened at the forum, and to ignoring the widespread misbehavior of Fenty’s supporters there. It raises questions about what else the newspaper is misreporting, or what it is not reporting in order to prop up its candidate. It hurts us all. If we cannot rely on the newspaper to be honest in this case, or if its preferences so blinder its viewpoint that it can’t see what’s all around it, even in the same room, how can we trust its coverage of anything?

Gary Imhoff


Death of a Community Playground
Jack McKay,

Seven years ago, residents of Mount Pleasant came together to give our neighborhood school, Bancroft Elementary, a playground suitable for their Head Start and kindergarten children. On August 3, they awoke to see bulldozers reducing their playground to dirt, with not a word of warning from the school system to the neighbors who had paid for, and helped build, that playground.

Before 2003, this neglected, inner-city school had only a pitiful little play house, on a bare asphalt lot, for its youngest children. Residents donated over ten thousand dollars, raised another thirty thousand dollars from foundations, and obtained a twenty-five thousand dollar grant from Councilmember Jim Graham, to give the school a brand new playground for the two-to-five children. On November 8, 2003, over a hundred volunteers appeared at the school to assemble and install the play equipment, in a modern-day “barn raising.” In 2004, several thousand dollars more was donated by the neighborhood to finish up the job. My wife and I, though having no children ourselves, contributed over a thousand dollars, believing in a decent playground to be shared by the children of Bancroft and the preschoolers of the neighborhood. This was a community playground, primarily serving the school, but open to the public, thus serving the neighborhood as well as the school. The DC Public School system paid for nothing, providing only some labor for grounds preparation.

Last week, this was all destroyed, along with the vegetable gardens that Michelle Obama so recently visited. None of the participants in this destruction, including Bancroft, the DC Public School System, the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, and the Bancroft PTA, told the neighbors who had helped pay for and build the playground that this destruction was coming. Even the Mount Pleasant ANC, which had contributed a thousand dollars to the playground effort, was left totally in the dark. The neighborhood was blind sided by bulldozers. We suppose that a brand-new playground is on the way. Will it really be open to the neighborhood, a community playground, as the one we built was supposed to be? That’s not clear. But then nothing is clear, because the people running this show aren’t talking to the neighborhood around their school. Yes, it’s now “their school,” no longer “our school.”


Deceptive Advertising
David P. Frankel, Friendship Heights, DC,

As someone whose day job it is to evaluate deceptive advertising, I just saw a television spot for the Fenty campaign that makes me cringe. It’s a clip of DC Councilmember Jack Evans looking at the camera and stating in full as follows: “Some people say that Adrian Fenty doesn’t play well with others. School Without Walls was built under his leadership after fifteen years of promises. As the longest-serving member of the DC council, I know that Adrian Fenty can work with others — and get results — in moving our city forward.”

My stepdaughter attended from School Without Walls (“SWW”). She graduated from there in June 2005. While she attended SWW, I was involved with several other parents and the school’s administration in its effort to advance the public-private partnership with George Washington University to cede part of the school property to GWU in exchange for approximately twelve million dollars to help pay for SWW’s modernization. I attended many school meetings, testified at several DCPS Board of Education meetings, and wrote letters of support for the proposal. At no time did I ever hear of any support for (or opposition to) SWW’s modernization by Adrian Fenty or Jack Evans. Most importantly, all of the heavy lifting for the SWW modernization was completed before Adrian Fenty became mayor.

Look at this time line: March 21, 2006, DCPS and GWU entered into a memorandum of understanding for the SWW/GWU public-private partnership. April 3, 2006, DCPS and GWU filed their joint Planned Unit Development application with the DC Office of Zoning. September 12, 2006, Adrian Fenty won the Democratic primary for DC mayor. October 30, 2006, the Zoning Commission heard all testimony in support of and in opposition to the SWW/GWU public-private partnership proposal. Neither Adrian Fenty nor Jack Evans testified at that hearing. In fact, their names are not mentioned anywhere in the 278 page transcript. Here is a link to the Zoning Commission’s hearing transcript: November 7, 2006, Adrian Fenty won the general election for DC mayor. November 13, 2006, the Zoning Commission voted 4-0-1 to support the SWW/GWU public-private partnership proposal. December 11, 2006, the Zoning Commission voted 4-0-1 to take final action to support the SWW/GWU public-private partnership proposal. Here is a link to that final Zoning Commission Order that recites much of this history: January 2, 2007, Adrian Fenty became DC mayor. The SWW construction project commenced in 2007 and was completed in 2009, as scheduled. Yes, SWW was completed during Adrian Fenty’s term as DC mayor. However, the important agreements and approvals, as well as getting the financing in place, were all accomplished before he became mayor.

Adrian Fenty actively and vigorously opposed the huge taxpayer subsidy for the Nationals’ baseball stadium (as did I). Nevertheless, the stadium was completed during his term as DC mayor. Does this mean he can claim the baseball stadium as has accomplishment? Of course not. He has no record of supporting or opposing the SWW modernization to distinguish him from any other DC councilmember. This does not give him the right to claim it as his accomplishment — even through his surrogate, Jack Evans.


Schools That Failed
Cherita Whiting,

The 2010 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results have been released by the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education. You can review the stats for yourself here: [this link appears to be down on August 8, but you can access reports for individual schools by using the drop-down lists in the left column of].

Elementary schools that failed reading and math for 2010: Aiton, Amidon-Bowen, Bancroft, Barnard, Beers, Brightwood, Brookland at Bunker Hill, Browne, Bruce Monroe-Parkview, Burroughs, Burrville, Cleveland, Cooke, Davis, Drew, Eaton, Emery, Ferebee Hope, Francis-Stevens, Garfield, Garrison (made AYP for math but failed in reading, Hamilton Center, Harris, Hearst, Hendley, Houston (made AYP for math but failed in reading), Hyde-Addison (made AYP for math but failed in reading), Jackie Robinson Center, Janney, Ketcham (made AYP for reading but failed in math), Kimball, King, Lafayette (wow, the mayor’s kids go here, and it failed), Langdon (made AYP for math but failed in reading), Lasalle-Backus, Leckie, Malcolm X, Maury, Miner, Moten at Wilkerson, Murch, Nalle, Noyes, Orr, Oyster (wow, the chancellor’s kids go here, and it failed), Patterson, Payne, Plummer, Powell (made AYP for reading but failed in math), Prospect (made AYP for math but failed in reading), Randle Highland, Raymond, Marie Reed, River Terrace, Ross (made AYP for reading but failed in math), Savoy, Seaton (made AYP for reading but failed in math), Shaed, Shepherd, Simon, Smothers, Stanton, Takoma, Terrell, Thomas, Thomson, Thurgood Marshall, Truesdell, Tubman, Turner at Green (made AYP for reading but failed in math), Tyler, Walker-Jones, Watkins, Wheatley, West, Whittier, Jo Wilson (made AYP in math but failed in reading, Winston.

Middle and high schools that failed reading and math for 2010: Anacostia, Ballou, Ballou Stay, Cardozo, Columbia Heights, Coolidge (made AYP in reading but failed in math), Deal, Dunbar, Eastern, Eliot-Hines (made AYP in math but failed in reading), Ellington, Hardy, Hart, Jefferson, Johnson, Kelly Miller, Kramer, Luke C. Moore, MacFarland, McKinley (made AYP in math but failed in reading), Phelps, Ron Brown, Roosevelt, Shaw-Garnett Patterson, Sousa, Spingarn, Stuart Hobson, Wilson, Woodson.


Use of IMPACT to Fire Teachers Without Prior Testing Is Unfair
Mai Abdul Rahman,

Providing K-12 quality education is arduous and involves the engagement of all the stakeholders with one simple objective: to deliver a long term educational plan that guarantees student success as noted in 2008 by GAO, So far DC’s two-billion-dollar educational executives have failed to produce: Instead, Fenty’s education team and Chancellor Rhee chose a much easier strategy — blame schoolteachers for DCPS’s failure to make AYP during their tenure (2007-2010).

This “blame the teacher” strategy was made public in April 2009 in a Washington Post report, which claimed that Chancellor Rhee was working on implementing a teacher evaluation plan for DCPS that she would use to fire teachers, One week before school opening, teachers learned that Rhee has chosen IMPACT to evaluate their classroom instruction and assess their competency. This took place during the five-day mandatory professional development teacher training on August 17- 21. First day of school began on August 24. No pilot test of IMPACT was ever conducted by DCPS prior to its launching. DCPS teachers and principals were expected to implement IMPACT in their classrooms and their schools immediately. To augment DCPS’ failure to offer proper staff training, principals were hastily arranging for in-school staff IMPACT training, which was randomly offered by DCPS central office during the remaining five mandatory staff development days.

No other school district has attempted to advance a professional evaluation system of teachers and schools without prior testing. IMPACT utilizes a complex assessment system that applies twenty different assessment systems and a comprehensive “teaching and learning framework” with twenty-two different tools in nine categories that DCPS teachers must meet in thirty minutes of class instruction while observed by their school principal or “master educators.” In view of IMPACT’s innate complexities and its intended use to fire teachers and school personnel, most school district leaders would have deemed it necessary to pilot test IMPACT to control system errors, to ensure its proper application, ascertain that its components are relevant and valid, and reflect the core instructional competencies that teachers and staff need to demonstrate.

In addition, IMPACT was implemented by school principals who, while they had no prior knowledge of DCPS’s new complicated evaluation system, had to at the same time manage the day-to-day operations of their schools and oversee 50.4 school staff, DCPS principals were expected to assess their teachers using an unfamiliar, time-consuming evaluation system, while trying to calm their jittery staff worried about their jobs. Principals were learning IMPACT and applying it all at the same time and, if the truth be told, many were forced to delegate this sensitive obligation to others. The “Master Educators” who were contracted by DCPS as outside teachers’ evaluators also failed to provide the proper evaluation of a substantial number of DCPS teachers. For far too long teachers were unhappy with an evaluation system that was left to scarce and arbitrary principal class observations, and all agree that a uniform DCPS evaluation system is necessary. But to launch such a complex performance evaluation system without prior testing is unfair, and using it to fire 165 teachers is unconscionable. Rhee’s decision to implement IMPACT in this way that will more than likely further deteriorate her relationship with the same teachers she depends on to carry and implement her educational reforms in their classrooms.


Finally, There’s Going to Be a WTU Election
Candi Peterson,

Although long overdue, members of the Washington Teachers’ Union will finally have an election of officers. According to WTU’s Constitution, union elections were supposed to be conducted in May, with officers being installed in office on July 1. This has been a long, protracted battle which began with AFT becoming involved in taking over the elections of the fifteen-member WTU Elections Committee in June because members had not been properly elected . Once elected, the elections committee members requested George Parker, WTU President (whose term ended June 30, 2010) to provide the necessary paperwork so that they could commence elections, Parker refused. Despite repeated appeals by elections chairperson Claudette Carson to Parker requesting that he (Parker) cooperate with elections committee members to move forward with a timely election, Parker dug his heels in. What followed next was Parker’s convening a June 9 and June 15 Executive Board meeting and appointing four new board members illegally (Carynne Conover, Jacqueline Hines, Monica Jones-Martinez, and Bill Rope). I was banned from these WTU meetings by George Parker as a Board of Trustee member even though I have been an active participant in executive board meetings for three years. Parker, with his newly appointed board in tow, took the following measures of setting a new election schedule for the fall of 2010, stating that it was the executive’s board’s role to determine the elections schedule. Initially, Parker’s crony, John Tatum, who is appointed as a paid parliamentarian by the union president, told the Washington Examiner newspaper that elections would be held in November with officers not being installed until January 2011. Later Parker and Tatum changed the date to a September election — perhaps after all the pressure.

What followed after Parker’s election meddling were his retaliatory actions to reduce the salary of Nathan Saunders, WTU General VP, to a big fat zero while Parker continued to earn a hefty sum, $150,000 and perks. Next, Parker also refused to sign Saunders DCPS leave of absence. Parker’s actions left Saunders working for free and would have forced him back into the classroom at the beginning of school even though he was elected to office by the membership. Subsequently, Nathan Saunders, WTU General VP, filed a law suit as did Claudette Carson, WTU Elections Chairperson, to right these wrongs.

Suddenly but not surprisingly, the AFT became interested in “talking resolutions” after the lawyers became involved. Heretofore, AFT President Weingarten had basically said that this was a local matter and that she only wanted to “get in and get out” after the WTU Elections committee was elected. Union members wrote letters to AFT President Randi Weingarten demanding a union election as well as the restoration of Saunders salary and approval of his leave of absence from DCPS. Even AFT members wrote to President Weingarten declaring how absurd it was for Local 6 not to conduct a timely union election and to reduce an officer’s salary. The power of the pen and a lawsuit here and there is mightier than the sword. President Weingarten heard union members’ voices and decided to hold an investigation into these local concerns at the AFT headquarters this summer. I was in attendance at the AFT hearing. It appeared to me to be a “kangaroo court” in which members of Weingarten’s AFT Executive Council heard only some of the evidence. All of my testimony as a witness was stricken from the record, which was totally unacceptable. No real court in this land would allow such nonsense simply because they didn’t like the content of one’s testimony. I must say however, I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome of AFT’s final ruling. As a result of the investigation, the AFT will take charge of the WTU 2010 internal election and the elections process, has already begun with a notice of nominations to WTU members. Nominating petitions that were previously submitted will be accepted. The eligibility cutoff date for WTU members to participate in this election will be the last payroll period in June 2010, which means that newly retired teachers as well as teachers who resigned or were terminated will also be eligible to vote. The American Arbitration Association will be retained to conduct the balloting and certify the elections results . The WTU will restore his lost pay to Nathan Saunders. The WTU will also be required to notify DCPS that Saunders’ release time from the classroom should be extended at least through the conclusion of the election. The AFT Executive Council will retain jurisdiction over these matters to ensure compliance with its directives. At long last, WTU members will finally get a chance to vote.


Who’s Listening to Our Teens?
Leo Alexander,

It was reported that last Friday night that a brawl started onboard a Metro train at the Gallery Place station and spilled out onto the platform at L’Enfant Plaza. It involved as many as seventy youth; three were sent to jail and four to the hospital. If you read the online comments after this story, the overwhelming majority of their authors used words like thugs and animals to describe these young people. Some folks even wrote that some of these youth should be shot on sight. Obviously, they were far past asking questions as to why this melee started in the first place. I’m not defending the behavior, but I understand all too well the source.

While this was happening downtown, I was walking in the eastern sector of the Brightwood community with a group of folks who wanted to show me some of the problems they were having with the youth in their neighborhood. Their complaints were loud and unruly teens who stand on the corners, smoke marijuana, and drink alcohol late into the night. Every morning, these folks say they have to pick up the litter left from the corner party the night before. For about thirty minutes, I got separated from the group while talking to some of their neighbors. When I turned the corner at Tuckerman and 9th NW, I came face to face with around seven of these alleged troubled youth. They weren’t smoking or drinking, but were surprisingly interested in talking. Some talked about being foster children and being from broken families. They talked about not being allowed to go to the neighborhood swimming pool as a group; having to instead go one by one. They talked about wanting to have the same recreation facilities other neighborhoods have such as indoor basketball courts and about not having jobs. They knew some of the neighbors have a problem with them hanging on the corners but said, “Where dey want us . . . jail?” These kids aren’t stupid; they need direction and stable families.

This was the first time that their group had ever been approached by an aspiring politician; they said they’d seen some canvassers “in da ‘hood for the other two dudes,” but no one had actually stopped to engage them. The homeowners in this neighbor have a right to be concerned. These youth are angry. They are confused. They live in the moment for instant gratification because right now they have little hope for their future. They look around and don’t see their brothers, uncles, or fathers working, so why should they believe in a future for them in DC. This is a recipe for danger and it’s no longer tucked away in some areas of Southeast.

Since launching my campaign, I’ve spoken about the shortage of jobs and the problems this causes when men cannot be husbands or fathers. During the Civil Rights Movement, some marchers carried signs that read “I am a man.” To the well meaning progressive/liberal community, this statement wasn’t a plea for welfare or some other social program; it was a shout for economic opportunity. Nearly fifty years later, DC’s men still want to work. They want to be heads of households and responsible fathers. However, if our leaders continue to allow the business community to exploit an illegal workforce at the expense of Washingtonians and who continue to basically pay lip service to enforcing the First Source Agreement, it’s only going to get worse. There will be more unruly behavior in public; there will be more youth killing each other; the dropout rate will increase; and the achievement gap will continue to widen. This current trend of dependency, detention and displacement isn’t the answer.

On September 14, you have a choice. You can choose the status quo from Fenty and Gray who court your favor and promise you whatever it is you need to hear to secure your support and your vote while continuing down the same well-trodden path that does nothing to address the problems that affect all Washingtonians. Or you can look seriously at a fresh platform from a political newcomer (Leo Alexander) who recognizes that tackling the root causes of generational poverty is not a platitude for folks east of the river, but a strategy that will produce a healthy and prosperous new direction for the entire District of Columbia.



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, August 13-14
John Stokes,

August 13, 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., Douglass Recreation Center, F. Douglass Court and Stanton Terrace, SE. Fashion show for ages thirteen and under. Youth will be modeling different outfits and enjoying fun day at Douglass recreation. For more information, call Arnecia Dockery at 645-3980.

August 14, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., West Potomac Park. DPR 5-Men & 5-Women Citywide Slow Pitch Softball Tournament for ages eighteen and up. End of the season coed single elimination slow pitch tournament featuring the top eighteen teams from the many DPR Leagues, for the city title bragging rights. For more information, call Luna Harrison at 316-4249.

August 14, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Kennedy Recreation Center, 1401 7th Street, NW. “Ready, Set, Go Back to School” Kennedy Annual Bookbag Giveaway for ages six through 17. Let’s get ready to rock the school year! Register your student for Kennedy’s Annual Bookbag Giveaway 2010 to receive a bookbag and supplies to assist with a successful school year! Donations will be accepted. Pamela Pugh, site manager, at 671-4794.



Send a Kid Back to School with All the Stuff He Needs
Susie Cambria,

Turns out that not as many organizations submitted information as I had expected; oh, well. Eleven organizations (nonprofits and government) chose to submit information and partake of free publicity. Now it’s your turn — take a look at the list,, see what appeals to you, and then shop and donate away. Now more than ever, DC students need help with supplies for their studies.

Some organizations ask you to buy specific things. DCPS is included; here is the DCPS list by grade,


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