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February 9, 2014


Dear Libs:

The Gallup Poll ranks DC as more liberal than all fifty states, by far, with 38.1 percent of its residents self identifying as liberal (compared with the two most liberal states, Vermont at 32.4 percent and Massachusetts at 30.2 percent), But what does “liberal” mean in this context? My guess is that in the politics of the District of Columbia liberal voters are more liberal socially than they are economically. Successful DC politicians have been somewhat chastened by the city’s having reached the brink of bankruptcy and experienced the imposition of the Control Board, and they are unlikely to gamble with the city’s finances. Among the mayoral candidates, only Andy Shallal uses rhetoric nearly as socialist as New York mayor Bill de Blasio.

Socially, however, DC politicians advocate nearly every liberal and far left cause without any fear of public resistance. Among our political class, advocacy of same-sex marriage is old-fashioned, last year’s news. Cutting-edge thinkers are now “evolving” on their attitudes toward polygamy and any other forms of marriage that anyone may propose, so that they can’t be accused of being out-of-date, last century, or traditional in their thinking. The most modern and up-to-date councilmembers are tired of halfway measures such as providing illegal drugs like marijuana under “medical” exceptions, and want to promote recreational marijuana use under the pretense that “decriminalizing” marijuana is much different from “legalizing” it. Councilmembers Tommy Wells and David Grosso are impatient with and oppose Council Chairman Mendelson’s minor amendments to their bill to promote marijuana, arguing against any effort to discourage driving while stoned or smoking marijuana in public. (Don’t call them libertarians, though; they would be fully in support of laws banning smoking cigarettes in public, smoking cigarettes while driving, or inhaling water vapor through electronic vaping devices. Since E-cigs look like tobacco cigarettes, they must be dangerous, though marijuana cigarettes are harmless.)

I’d welcome any corrections or contradictions. In what ways, if any, are DC politicians conservative, or respectful of any conservative ideas?

Gary Imhoff


Orr Elementary School: DCPS Dirty Little Secret East of the River
Candi Peterson,

In a February 6 post on The Washington Teacher education blog, I wrote about the inhumane teaching and learning conditions at DC’s Orr elementary school. Benjamin Orr elementary school is located at 2200 Minnesota Avenue, SE. Niyeka Wilson is the school’s principal. Principal Wilson is no stranger to controversy, as parents from the Parent Action Consort (known as PAC) recently wrote DC city councilmembers alleging that Wilson had written malicious comments on her Facebook page disparaging an Orr parent and student with physical health challenges. Members of PAC called for the disciplinary action of Wilson. Reportedly, Wilson is now under investigation by DCPS. The results have yet to be reported.

My January 2014 visit to Orr revealed some horrific learning conditions for students at this once esteemed school. While in the vault classroom, I observed evidence of a classroom with teacher’s objectives, behavior chart, touch math chart, foundations sound chart, and call and response posted in the room. It is reported by staff that special needs students receive pull out instruction in a vault, not intended for human habitation. In another space in the school, 42 students (which is well above the student-teacher ratio) cram into a fabricated music room like sardines with little room for both students and instrumental music equipment. One has to walk sideways around furniture in the music room just to move about. It has been reported that students complain of soaring heat which reaches temperatures as high as 93 degrees even on the coldest of days in this makeshift room without windows. Heat overcame me even for the short duration I stood inside.

News of my story found its way to Melissa Salmanowitz, press secretary in the DCPS Office of the Chancellor. On February 7, Ms Salmanowitz wrote, “Ms. Peterson, I read your recent blog post about Orr Elementary School. I found several inaccuracies and I hope you can take a few minutes to correct them. The space you mention is not a classroom and no students are in that space. There are some other inaccuracies we would like you to correct. Specifically, there are no special education classrooms at Orr and certainly no classrooms in the way you inaccurately described them. Orr uses a push-in model where the special education teacher works collaboratively with the general education teacher in the classrooms. The space referenced in the blog is used as an office space and at no time are any special education classes being held in the space. The music classroom has thirty students, never more. While we agree Orr is in need of a modernization, we work closely to address any needs that come up in advance of their modernization. There is no way to lock the door from the inside as it has to be locked from the outside. We do need to replace the doors and the order has been approved and the school is awaiting the delivery and installation of the doors, which we expect very soon. Students at Orr are safe. They are never in any harm, as your blog would suggest. What is actually happening at Orr is great teaching and strong leadership. Your post ignores all the wonderful things happening in the classrooms every day at Orr. Instead, this post is rife with falsehoods and we would appreciate corrections. Thank you, Melissa.”

I’m not a bit surprised at the DCPS response. Since the Rhee era; the DCPS strategy is to cover up the ugly truth and manipulate coverage of what’s really happening in our schools. When backed into a corner DCPS hates to admit wrongdoing, falsifies information to promote their own agenda, glosses over the problems, and cites the wonderful things they claim are happening. An Orr insider E-mailed me to share that on Friday, February 7, central office staff visited Orr to take a look see at the vault. Some student tables were moved out of the classroom vault before their arrival. Sounds like a cover up to me. Allegedly Principal Wilson didn’t open the door, claiming she didn’t have a key to the padlock. A DCPS teacher at Orr who requested anonymity stated, “Not only is Principal Wilson failing to provide positive leadership, but she is proving to be completely dishonest. How can we trust her to be the role model our school needs when she fails to admit wrongdoing and tries to cover up her mistakes? I truly hope DCPS is smart enough to realize what she’s doing and doesn’t become complicit in this cover-up. This would be shameful.”

Luckily for Orr, I have pictures to prove what I reported. The picture of Orr’s classroom vault shows students working on a laptop, posing in front of a number line, and students enjoying a bite to eat. Featured in the picture is the vaults’ rear back door as well as yellow covering of storage shelves and a yellow and green table (prior to removal). My camera lens wasn’t wide enough to capture all forty-two music seats, but my pictures show in excess of thirty student chairs inside the music room, not thirty, as Salmanowitz reports. See pictures at The Washington Teacher blog,


Why Do You Want to Be Mayor?
Andrea Rosen,

You say [themail, February 5], “Andy Shallal has shown more skill than experienced councilmembers in coming up with political approaches that appeal to the whole crowd.”

I would say that Mr. Shallal has shown more skill at characterizing the deficits of our government in soaring terms than other candidates, but his solutions are thin at best.



MLK Library Designs Meetings, February 15, 18
Robin Diener, President, MLK Library Friends,

DCPL has posted the concept designs for the renovation of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Library in anticipation of the architects’ presentation to the public this coming Saturday at MLK. You can view the full submission of drawings by each of the three teams at Be warned: It’s a lot to take in. Far from being the “conceptual” drawings we were told to expect, they are very detailed. Use your largest screen, not your hand held device.

Each of the teams has presented two related designs — one for a stand-alone library with mixed use components such as cafes and bookstores, and one for essentially their same library adjusted to accommodate additional floors of private housing on top. It’s concerning to me that all three architects chose housing for their designs and none chose public options like the City Archives or community college or conference center, among the many ideas out there. This leads me to wonder how the public-public option will get fair consideration.

DC Library Board of Trustees President John Hill has said that all options are on the table. The Friends should expect a full examination of them. We will discuss ways we can help ensure that, along with your thoughts about the designs, at the meeting of the board of the MLK Library Friends on Tuesday February 18, at 6:30 p.m., at MLK in room A-3. Everyone is invited to attend. If you cannot attend, but have thoughts about the designs and/or process, please send them to us at Meanwhile, enjoy. The concepts are very different from each other. I think they are all quite interesting and exciting to contemplate. Don’t forget to attend the presentation of the designs, if you can, on Saturday, February 15, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at MLK in the Great Hall.


DC Communities Fight Harmful Development, Panel and Discussion, February 15
Parisa Norouzi,

All across the District, the DC government is pushing unwanted development on public property, without community support, and DC communities are fighting back against harmful developments. Join us to hear about these efforts, discuss the lessons learned, and get involved. February 15, 2:00-4:00 p.m., at the Anacostia Library, 1800 Good Hope Road, SE. Limited child care will be available; please RSVP to Jennifer at 234-9119 x105 or

Find out how communities are using the zoning process, historic preservation, legal action, and other strategies from panelists Frazer Walton, Kingman Park Civic Association, fighting the Streetcar barn at Spingarn High School; Tony Norman, Friends of McMillan Park, fighting the condo-ization of McMillan Park; Robert Lee, Highland Together We Stand, fighting for renovations and preservation of public housing; and Parisa B. Norouzi, Executive Director, Empower DC.


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