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March 6, 2011


Dear Students:

The National Research Council’s Committee on the Independent Evaluation of DC Public Schools released its report on March 4. The press release is at; a copy of the complete prepublication report can be downloaded for individual use from It’s couched in all the academic niceties, and its main conclusion is that more study is needed before the committee can reach a definite conclusion, but as of now there’s no evidence to prove that moving to mayoral control of the school system is responsible for any improvements in the school system.

There is solid evidence about the school system, though, and Mary Levy presents it in her message below. She had a lot of news about the staffing and budget of DC Public Schools. She shared it with the city council in her testimony to it on Friday, and she shares it with us below.


Richard Layman presents below an argument that we’ve heard before — that the city council’s high salaries are justified by its unusual responsibilities and duties, since the District of Columbia functions as a city, a county, and a state. I’ve heard it before, and I’ve never bought it. Does the city council pass separate legislation and keep different code books for the city of the District of Columbia, the county of the District of Columbia, and the state of the District of Columbia? Does the council provide separate oversight for the departments and agencies in each of the three jurisdictions? Does it have different budgets covering the state, county, and city? No, the city council does what any city council does, no more. If you can show me that it has a greater work burden, please do so.

Gary Imhoff


Data on DCPS Budget and Staffing
Mary Levy,

I have completed my work at the Chief Financial Officer’s office, so I am now free to say what I think. I testified before the city council on Friday about my findings on the DC Public Schools. My findings include:

1) Central administration employees rose by 112, or 18 percent, during Rhee’s tenure, while enrollment went down by 6,600, or 12 percent. Since FY 2003, central office FTEs are up 38 percent while enrollment went down by 28 percent. 2) As of last October 1, about one hundred of the central office staff have salaries of over $100,000 per year. 3) Per student spending went up 28 percent during Rhee’s tenure, compared to inflation of 6 percent, leading to the possibility that better student/staff ratios, smaller classes and other resources were responsible for the modest improvements that did occur. Unfortunately, the level of spending — which is very high compared to other school districts — can’t be sustained. 4) DCPS is now losing half its teacher workforce within five years, and half its new hires within two years. 5) The percentage of inexperienced (first and second year) teachers has risen to almost 20 percent. 6) Beginning teachers (first and second year) are 25 percent of the teachers in three wards with mostly low-income students (1, 5, and 8). 6) A lot of basic budget and expenditure information is not available to the public — such as financial reports and current budgets for both the system and local schools.

My complete testimony is at


The DC Council and Walmart
Richard Layman,

Not wanting to defend DC council, but. . . . The city council in DC, because DC is more akin to a unitary government with “state,” “county,” and “local” responsibilities, has greater responsibilities as a legislature than a typical city council, even for large cities. While certain large cities such as San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York City (comprised of five boroughs) also function as counties, even those governmental bodies have fewer responsibilities than does the equivalent body in DC.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable for the city councilmembers to be paid more, have bigger staffs. and for committees to be staffed with able people. And yes, “program” staffers are white collar workers who tend as a rule to have higher salaries than support staff. That being said, I agree that the real question is the quality of the work we are receiving from the city council and whether or not we are getting the right value for what we are paying.

I would rather than DC city council set as a reference group the best performing legislatures in the US, and work to function at a best-in-class level, where they research issues rather than just have knee jerk responses to whatever crosses their desks, issue reports, regularly survey citizens not just recount random complaints, etc. The Walmart issue is a perfectly good example of failures within how our government is set up. With one or two exceptions, the councilmembers have jumped fully onto the Walmart bandwagon, even though development proposals for at least two of the four sites are particularly marginal and unsupportive of long term commercial revitalization objectives.

The process around Walmart’s entry shows that there are significant weaknesses in our planning regime and zoning codes. For example, why doesn’t DC have a “big box review” ordinance/section of the zoning code, comparable to the Large Tract Review process, so that broader impacts on the local economy can be mitigated and assessed. But we hear very little from city council on these and other issues (or by the Executive Branch, which seems to be studiously ignoring the very short term nature of the development plans for Walmart sites, even though the company looks to be signing seventy-five year leases). To my knowledge, only Councilmember Bowser has issued a press release that lays out some preferred outcomes, while acknowledging that DC zoning regulations provide little opportunity to exact concessions and better outcomes. Meanwhile, the New York City Council is holding hearings on Walmart’s possible entry into the city, and the New York City Public Advocate’s Office, in conjunction with Hunter College, produced a well-researched report evaluating the broader and economic impact of Walmart’s entry into the city, acknowledging some potential benefits but also outlining real costs.

At virtually every opportunity, elected and appointed officials as well as residents tout that we are a “world class” city due to the fact that this is the national capital of the US, and the US is still a dominant force in the world’s political economy and the global economy. But saying it, doesn’t make it so. To make it so, we must demand more of ourselves, our neighborhoods, our community and citywide organizations, our elected and appointed officials, and again, we must demand more of ourselves when we are voting, being sure to elect people who take their responsibilities to the electorate seriously and judiciously. Until then, with all due respect, maybe the city should be setting as a comparison group not the leading cities in the nation, but the lesser functioning communities, because we are in fact, a lesser functioning community, whether or not the city is a world city and may not be world class.



Celebration of Abstinence Awareness Week, March 7-12
Richard Urban,

Did you know that 7.1 percent of black men and 3.2 percent of all adults in Washington, DC, have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS? The sixth annual Celebration of Abstinence Awareness Week in Washington, DC, is March 6 to March 12. Please support the following events and the essay contest.

Monday, March 7, 5:30 p.m., program at 6:00 p.m. Forum: “Sex: What They Don’t Tell You. Why Wait for Marriage?” Youth and adult panels, author Tara White, entertainment and reception (food served). Mt. Bethel Baptist Church, 75 Rhode Island Avenue, NW (1st Street, NW, and Rhode Island Avenue, NW). Enter at ramp on Rhode Island Avenue. Free Admission.

Thursday, March 10, 6:30 p.m. DC Council At-Large Candidates forum. 1330 7th Street, NW, Building (near the Convention Center) Community Room. Focusing on HIV prevention including sexual abstinence, youth and family health, including encouraging both the mother and father to rear children within a family (i.e., marriage).

All Month: essay contest for high school youth $500 first prize, $300 second prize, $150 third prize. Go to for more information. To see the press release and more information on all events, go to


WNDC Programs, March 11, 14, 15
Tonya Butler-Truesdale,

Cinema night returns to the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, on Friday, March 11, at 6:00 p.m., with the film screening at 7:00 p.m. The film will be the Social Network, winner of this year’s Golden Globes for best motion picture, drama, and Oscar nominee for best picture. The Social Network is about founding the world-famous web site, Facebook. In 2003, at his Harvard dorm room, computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg worked on a new idea that became a revolution in communication worldwide. Six years, five hundred million friends, and seventy languages later, Zuckerberg is now the youngest billionaire in history. In 2010, he was Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday gave The Social Network five stars! The film is $5 at the door. Screening is at 7:00 p.m., and a cash bar and small bites menu is available at 6:00 p.m. Reservations are required at

On Monday, March 14, there will be an evening reception and lecture by Robert Glenn Ketchum, “Save Bristol Bay — No Pebble Mine.” For forty-five years Robert Glenn Ketchum’s imagery and books have helped define contemporary color photography while at the same time addressing critical environmental Issues. In 2010, American Photo magazine featured Robert Glenn Ketchum as the fifth in their series of American master photographers, including him with such luminaries as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Richard Avedon. Ketchum is a founding fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. Ketchum’s distinctive prints are in numerous major museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), the National Museum of American Art (DC), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Museum of Modern Art (NY), to name a few.

Ketchum’s work in the Tongass rainforest of Alaska is one of his most visible successes and has been acknowledged as helping to pass the most significant timber reform legislation in American history. Ketchum has been working since 1998 to protect Bristol Bay, the most productive wild salmon fishery in North America. Bristol Bay and the habitat that supports it, is located in southwest Alaska. Recognizing his effort, Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar gave Ketchum the “Partners in Conservation Award” in 2010. The threat to Bristol Bay is the largest proposed open-pit copper and cyanide gold-leach mine in the world. Called “The Pebble,” the mine would be situated in the headwaters of the fishery, between two national parks, three national wildlife refuges, and four state designated parks. The reception begins at 6:30 p.m. and the lecture at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $10. Register at

The third annual women’s history month empowering women program on March 15 at the Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, begins at 9:30 a.m., with the WNDC’s Women’s History Month exhibition of works by Washington women artists and a reception to meet the artists on the second floor. At 10:30 a.m., there will be a panel discussion on empowering women with panelists Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority Foundation; Rosemary Segero, Hope for Tomorrow; Marilyn Sephocle, Women Ambassadors Foundation; and moderator: Faye Barnes, Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide President. At 12:15 p.m., there will be an optional lunch. Admission to the reception and panel discussion is $15; the lunch is $15. Register for this event at


Smart Meter Education Workshop, March 16
Herbert H. Jones, III,

The DC Office of the People’s Counsel and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C present a Smart Meter education workshop on Wednesday, March 16, 7:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m., at MPD Second District Station, 3320 Idaho Avenue, NW, Community Room. Consumers will learn what to do to prepare for the meter exchange, how to alert PEPCO that someone in your home has special medical needs, the steps of the meter installation process, and about proposed features and benefits. For additional information, contact OPC at 727-3071 or see Event Flyer.


National Building Museum Construction Watch Tour of Janney School, March 19
Stacy Adamson,

March 19, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Construction Watch Tour: Janney Elementary School. The Janney Elementary School in northwest Washington, DC, includes the modernization of a 42,000-square-foot National Historic Landmark and a new 41,000-square-foot addition that will increase student capacity from 450 to 525, including art, music, and science classrooms; a multi-purpose/physical education space; and a media/computer lab center. Barbara G. Laurie, AIA, NOMA, project manager with Devrouax + Purnell Architects, leads a tour of the project which is designed to meet LEED for Schools guidelines. Register for events at


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