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Residents for School Reform

DC residents Beth Schmierer and Kristin Ehrgood felt like every time they turned on the news, all the commentary about Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's efforts to improve the school system were negative. Rather than just gripe to friends, they decided to do something about it.

They started an online petition titled DC School Reform Now. "For too long," the petition says, "the DC Public School system has failed to provide adequate education for DC's students. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee, with the strong support of the DC City Council, have begun to implement these much needed reforms to help DC's students succeed. However, a vocal minority of residents has created the false impression that the citizens of DC are opposed to these reforms."

Ehrgood, 37, who is pregnant and lives in Ward 3, told DC Wire this week that when Rhee first talked about plans to fire under-performing workers in the central office last Fall, she was talking with friends about how to support Rhee's efforts. "Children's interests need to be put ahead of adult [interests] and we brainstormed ways we could support the chancellor as concerned residents."

After a brainstorming lunch, she sent an email to family and friends encouraging them to support Fenty and Rhee's firing legislation that was pending before the council. (The measure eventually passed and Rhee started firing workers last month). The group, made up of residents from various neighborhoods in the city, Ehrgood said, felt momentum around their organizing on the legislation and talked about ways to keep it going. They decided on the website and the petition, which went live on March 12. So far they've collected close to 100 signatures and counting, Ehrgood said.

"We are putting together our thoughts and next steps," Ehrgood told D.C. Wire. "Our first step is getting as many people as possible to sign the petition. We are emailing it, taking it with us to meetings we attend, and generally informing people that it exists. Our follow up steps will be coming shortly."

"We firmly believe in putting the interests of children ahead of the interests of adults. We recognize this is going to mean difficult choices for the chancellor, city council and mayor, yet now is the time."

By Theola Labbé-DeBose  |  April 7, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Education  
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Comments

Why is the domain name (dcschoolreform.org) registered to another organization?

Why is the physical address tied to the web site address the Whitman Walker Clinic (1407 S St NW), which, presumably, has nothing to do with this site?

Posted by: hiya | April 7, 2008 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Reform is never easy, and it's never clear that what's coming is going to be better than what we have -- except in this case. What we have are baby jails with the teachers acting as the prison guards. No serious human being could call this 'academic' or 'scholarly', it's more like 'penitentiary.' Three cheers for concerned citizens interested in helping the reform movement rather than blocking it.

Posted by: HarpoDC | April 7, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Kristin Ehrgood and Michelle Rhee taught together as Teach for America teachers in Baltimore, in the "cohort" of 1992. See http://www.teachforamerica.org/alumni/summits/metro_dc/speakers.htm.
I wonder why she didn't mention that.

Posted by: borbely | April 7, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

The issue is not reform but the improvement of management of the school system. In the past 10 years DCPS has had 5 or more superintendents. All have come with stellar resumes and better off school districts, yet when they come to DC they all have failed. the question is why. unlike any of the past 5, Rhee has the support of the mayor. Yet, the council is once again playing it's typical game of being wishy washy and not vetting issue before they vote.

the power to fire folks was never a question. they had the power to fire, but the real deal is did they have effective managment practices to do it. I worked in DCPS for 3 years. the only performance reviews i ever knew of were for basically to give promotions and bonuses. they were not based on building or growing employees. this all fits into the management problems of DCPS. Rhee and her crew need to establlish a new organizational structure and protocols. simply axing incumbent employee which they admit they will have to replace ain't the answer.

Posted by: oknow1 | April 7, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, the link above, showing the personal connection between Ehrgood and Rhee, has an extra period at the end. It's a link to a Teach for America D.C. "alumni summit" this past Saturday, at which both of them were scheduled speakers ( http://www.teachforamerica.org/alumni/summits/metro_dc/metro_dc.htm and then click on "Speakers and Presenters" on the right).

This blog entry is pretty misleading. The headline should read "Rhee Colleague Organizes Rhee Supporters."

Posted by: borbely | April 7, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

The issue isn't whether to have school reform or not- it is what kind of school reform.

I would suggest that the people behind this petition get a little more specific on what it is they support and think is good. I would have a long list of things I think the Chancellor Rhee is doing right but then again there are some that aren't going quite as well as some people would like.

Clearly the proof will be in whether we can raise the test scores and knowledge of our students.

This is as much a community issue as it is a schools issue. How do we prepare children for school and what to we expect of them when they are in school. We sometimes forget that children have learnt in all kinds of settings from on room schools with outhouses to beautiful new schools with computer labs. The reason for children learning is often a combination of what their parents demand of them and how good the teacher is.

So I am a strong proponent of school reform and a strong backer of Mayor Fenty efforts, but I think the time has come for parents to get specific with what it is they want and send that to Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee. It is not enough to complain about parents who don't see things going so well, but to say what you want to see happen.

The words "school reform" have many meanings and have been applied many different ways in different systems across the nation.

The issue many times comes down to do you see the glass half empty or half full with regard to the progress of "reform".

Posted by: peterdc | April 7, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

hiya- I can answer your questions. The site is registered to me Alex Lawson. I donated the server space and my time to build and maintain the website, as well as purchasing the web addresses. So in order to cut down on how much my volunteering puts me back I mirrored it off of a site I already own. This is what you get with an all volunteer group of folks with no budget. You can see my bio here
http://dcfightsback.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=32&Itemid=47

borbely- I am heavily involved in the group and I am not connected to TFA, so I don't think your headline works. And since our meetings include many people who are not related to TFA I thing the Post headline is right on.

Posted by: Alex Lawson | April 7, 2008 8:47 PM | Report abuse

hiya- I can answer your questions. The site is registered to me Alex Lawson. I donated the server space and my time to build and maintain the website, as well as purchasing the web addresses. So in order to cut down on how much my volunteering puts me back I mirrored it off of a site I already own. This is what you get with an all volunteer group of folks with no budget. You can see my bio here
http://dcfightsback.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=32&Itemid=47

borbely- I am heavily involved in the group and I am not connected to TFA, so I don't think your headline works. And since our meetings include many people who are not related to TFA I thing the Post headline is right on.

Posted by: Alex Lawson | April 7, 2008 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, this is funny. "Hey everybody, support school reform!" EVERYONE supports school reform. If this is the level of discourse these "reformers" reach for, I'm not too impressed. Perhaps they should have titled their petition "We support Rhee no matter what she does." That would have been more accurate and honest.

And why is it not mentioned in the story that Ehrgood is chummy with Rhee? The story makes it sound like any old inspired DC resident. That is a glaring journalistic omission!

Posted by: geo | April 7, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

As a volunteer who is helping the petition effort at DC School Reform NOW, I wanted to respond to some of the comments so far. First, I am not a Teach for America alum, nor are most of the folks involved.

Second, it is unfortunate that some of the criticism surrounds our motives and does not address our goal - to improve the education system in DC. At DC School Reform Now, we believe that Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee, with the support of the DC City Council, need to implement reforms to turn around the schools. We don't have the perfect solution, but we do believe that they need to be given the chance to transform the schools.

The opposition to the reform agenda, however, seems to be concerned more with maintaining the failed status quo than providing a quality education to DC students. The status quo hasn't been working for years. It's time to enact some bold reforms and make some real changes with the DC Schools.

I hope that DC residents will visit www.dcschoolreform.org to show Mayor Fenty, Chancellor Rhee and the City Council that we need DC School Reform NOW.

Posted by: Simon | April 7, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

I find it interesting that people would criticize anyone for working to help implement rightminded, thoughtful reform. My problem with many of the school activists against Rhee and her efforts is that many don't have any solutions - just complaints that they weren't consulted. One Ward 5 activist attending as many of the school closure meetings as he could was directly asked by a DCPS senior official, "What do you suggest we do. What is your solution?" He had no answer yet he goes from meeting to meeting and council hearing to say nothing. Just that people need to be consulted. Well people were consulted just not them.

Many of these activist are upset that they were not a part of the process. They have been a part of the process for 40 years and nothing was done. That they were not part of this process seems like progress to me.

Posted by: Troy | April 8, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

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