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February 22, 2014

Balanced Diet

Dear Dieters:

Here are seven health foods that are good for you, around which a balanced diet can be built: coconut oil, coffee, whole milk, salt, chocolate, popcorn, and eggs. That’s according to Evelyn Nieves in an article that was published on two irreproachably leftist web sites, Salon and Alternet, “7 foods that were supposed to be incredibly unhealthy — but are actually anything but,” The politics of the web sites are important because diet and nutrition have been politicized. You aren’t really what you eat, but you vote the way you eat. Do you eat quinoa and drink acai juice, or do you eat hamburgers and drink malted milks? Are your salads made of kale and romaine lettuce, or of spinach and iceberg lettuce? You know who you are, then, and which side of the ballot you will be voting on.

Nieves’ article is important because it is a crack in the iron wall between leftist foods and right-wing foods. It presents me with hope that there can be peace in the political battles over which foods can be favored and which must be heavily taxed, forbidden to children (at least in their school diets), or banned completely because, you know, “science” tells us so. The food battles aren’t really about health, nutrition, or science. They are about who can exercise power over whom, who can flex his or her steroid-enhanced muscles and push his will on people whose mouths water for the wrong foods. If you want to keep politicians out of your bedroom, keep them out of your kitchen, too, if only for consistency’s sake.

Gary Imhoff


MLK Memorial Library, Part I
Dorothy Brizill,

Last week, Mayor Gray and the DC Public Library (DCPL) Board of Trustees announced the selection of an architectural team of Mecanoo Architecten, headquartered in the Netherlands, and Martin and Johnson, based in Washington, to oversee the renovation of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, DC’s central library at 9th and G Streets, NW. This selection follows years of acrimonious public debate, beginning with the effort of Mayor Williams in 2006 either to demolish the building or to sell it to developers and to relocate DC’s central library to New York Avenue and the old convention center site (

During the February 18 press conference, Neil Albert, presently the chair of the library boards’ facilities committee, claimed that the selection process was “open and transparent.” A detailed review, however, suggests otherwise. In truth, the winning architectural firms were actually chosen by a secret, seven-member Technical Committee established last summer and chaired by DCPL’s retired chief librarian, Ginnie Cooper. The library’s Board of Trustees, had it participated in the selection process, would have been required to meet publicly and discuss the selection process at its biweekly public meetings. The Technical Committee never met publicly. To give the false impression that there was community input into the selection of the architectural team, however, a fourteen-member Advisory Committee was established this past January by DCPL, but this Advisory Committee met formally only once, and then just for an hour, ten days prior to the February 18 press conference. It discussed the qualities and qualifications that should be considered when choosing an architectural firm to renovate MLK. It did not discuss the plans themselves; the plans were not presented to it, and neither were the project costs in the proposals submitted by the three finalist firms. It wasn’t until February 13 that DCPS issued a press release detailing, for the first time, the existence and memberships of the Technical and Advisory Committees (

In the coming months, the library staff will draft a contract with the architectural firms and formally submit it to the library’s Board of Trustees for approval prior to its being transmitted to the DC city council. It is unclear what the contract will contain, since there is still no agreement among all the stakeholders, the board, and city officials regarding the building’s future design and whether, for example, a public-private partnership will need to be established and additional floors added to the building’s structure to help underwrite the projected cost of $250 million.


Delayed Opening for Sharpe and Mamie D. Lee Schools Consolidation
Candi Peterson,

DC Public School’s plans to renovate River Terrace Elementary School have been delayed due to an unusual find of native American Indian artifacts. Officials from the Office of Specialized Instruction, along with Cluster XI Instructional Superintendent Terry DeCarbo, announced at an impromptu meeting on February 18 that plans to merge disabled students from Mamie D. Lee and Sharpe Health schools would not happen until August 2015. A letter from Dr. Beers, DCPS Chief of Specialized Instruction, sent to parents on February 20 confirmed the delay in River Terrace’s opening,

Both schools educate severely disabled students. Last school year, in 2013, the consolidation of these schools was announced and expected to be completed by August 2014. An outcry from parents was the backdrop at school meetings held to discuss the impact of school closures and consolidations in different wards throughout the city. Among the most vocal were Sharpe Health School parents who expressed concerns that River Terrace was not accessible to disabled students, placed students at great risk due to polluted soil and water at a nearby power plant, and was located at one of the most dangerous Metro stations (Minnesota Avenue Metro). Lost to students from both schools would be long time established partnerships, a therapeutic pool, and experienced veteran teachers and staff who have helped students achieve despite incredible physical and mental challenges.

DC Central office officials called the meeting, and notified teachers and school staff of both schools of it with only twenty-four hours advance notice. DCPS failed to contact representatives of the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU), the Council of School Officers (CSO), or AFSCME. A teacher at Mamie D. Lee notified me so I was able to attend. A Power Point presentation was shown, but it was not provided to attendees. It outlined the strategic plan to proceed with interviewing staff for the consolidated school. Members of the Central Office hiring team explained that although students would stay put for another year at their respective schools, plans were underway to locate River Terrace’s administrative team and school staff by August 2014. Mr. Brooks, hiring manager, said in one of the sessions; “We know this is incredibly difficult and with the utmost respect we come to you. . . . It is a very good chance we can help you find something else.” Beers’ letter to parents failed to mention that teachers and school staff from both schools would be displaced.

Teachers and staff were handed out Frequently Asked Questions fact sheets, one in green for WTU members and one in yellow for administrative and support staff, DC teachers can expect pink slips effective the last day of school June 19, 2014, which gives Highly Effective and Effective teachers sixty days from that date to find a new position (August 18, 2014) or face possible separation. Administrative and support staff will face a Reduction in Force (known as RIF) on August 19, 2014. If these staff members don’t secure a position by that date they will face being separated from service. Staff in both locations, including the schools’ principals, were solemn faced and perplexed about what they heard. One of the most vocal critics was Cheryl Gillette, Mamie D. Lee’s WTU building representative, who has been an advocate for students. She has challenged the management decision to consolidate the schools and said that it will harm the district’s most vulnerable students and displace teachers with specialized training who go above and beyond in working with students intellectual and physical health challenges.

A DCPS former Sharpe parent who was in attendance at that meeting requested anonymity. She said, “I’ve seen staff come and go. What looks good on paper is not good in person. You are all making decisions but you don’t know these kids; these teachers know these kids.” Maurice Asuquo, a blind teacher at Sharpe, captured parent sentiment when he made a passionate appeal on behalf of DC’s disabled students. Asuquo said; “I would be very disappointed if I find out someone wants to take this building (Sharpe Health School) from disabled students. . . . Don’t dump them behind a highway. I think it’s dirty. Don’t hide me behind a highway, don’t expose me to chemicals. I appeal to the consciousness of those who care, whether it’s the mayor, Councilmember Muriel Bowser, or Councilmember Vincent Orange. It’s so unfair. People aren’t listening to what we are saying. I’m going to speak up for the children.”

Last year I had hoped district officials would come to their senses and remove Mamie D. Lee and Sharpe Health schools from the school closure/consolidation list. Certainly there were a host of other options the district could have considered, such as renovating Sharpe and housing both schools there in a longtime established school in upper NW, in a much safer neighborhood. No credible school system treats its most vulnerable population in this manner. Loosing your school is bad enough, but robbing students of their long-term teachers, principals, and school staff who have been vital to their achievement is not in our students’ best interest. I’m with Asuquo; somebody has to speak up for the children.


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