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D.C. arts magnet may slip a year

It looks as if plans for the middle school fine arts magnet--the one that Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee dispatched Hardy Middle School principal Patrick Pope to open in fall 2011--will be pushed back a year. DCPS had been looking at existing buildings to renovate for the new school, but in an Oct 12 e-mail to members of the "blue ribbon" advisory panel, which is scheduled to meet today, DCPS community and family engagement chief Peggy O'Brien raised the possibility of taking more time with the project.

O'Brien noted that some panel members had been leaning in that direction since the group's meeting in June. She quotes actor Eric Booth, who said the "extra months will allow time to clarify the school's identity, goals, and design with an inclusive process that taps the best knowledge and most promising practices in the field, enabling the school to become a national leader from the outset."

A couple of more practical factors are also in the mix. One is the city's parlous financial condition, with the possibility of a $400 million budget shortfall by 2012. School officials said last spring that $20 million had been set aside in the DCPS capital budget for building renovations, but it's not clear whether that money is still there. Even if it is, the other problem is that Rhee is gone--Friday is her last official day--and mayor apparent Vincent C. Gray has never liked the idea of a middle school arts magnet. He's said that the existing middle schools should have their arts programs upgraded instead.

The arts magnet was the stated reason that Rhee pulled Pope last year from Hardy, which has its own popular arts and music program. The move triggered huge pushback from parents who accused Rhee of meddling in an attempt to attract more neighborhood kids to the Georgetown school, which draws most of its enrollment from across the city.They regarded the whole arts magnet idea as a contrivance to ease the removal of Pope, who did not market the school to the surrounding neighborhood as aggressively as Rhee wanted.

Their protests caught the attention of Gray, who praised Hardy as a "one city school" and said at a March D.C. Council hearing that moving Pope was ill-advised. With the arts magnet apparently on a slower track, calls for his reinstatement could intensify.

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By Bill Turque  | October 27, 2010; 8:34 AM ET
 
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Comments

Um... I seem to remember offering to bet a fair sum of money (or pride) that this school was never going to open (largely due to budget) and that this was a transparent ruse to get rid of Mr. Pope when a good chunk of the community did not wish to have him leave.


Posted by: Wyrm1 | October 27, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

You knew this was a lie when it was announced, I hope you are not surprised. This debacle is one of the reasons Rhee lost the confidence of the parents...she lied to them.

Posted by: topryder1 | October 27, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Let's see, the community advisory group, which presumably includes the ever-pouting Pope, is urging the school system to postpone for a year so that the magnet school can be done right. Alternatively, DCPS could simply ram the idea through, disregarding community input, in order to meet the initial deadline. The magnet school may or may not ever happen, but at least it's being approached in a thoughtful inclusive manner.

Posted by: horacemann | October 27, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

"Vincent C. Gray has never liked the idea of a middle school arts magnet. He's said that the existing middle schools should have their arts programs upgraded instead."

"A couple of more practical factors are also in the mix. One is the city's parlous financial condition, with the possibility of a $400 million budget shortfall by 2012."

"Extra months will allow time to clarify the school's identity, goals, and design with an inclusive process that taps the best knowledge and most promising practices in the field, enabling the school to become a national leader from the outset."

People, we have just got to work on our reading comprehension. Some people read this entire article (or rather, don't read it), and come to the conclusion that this is all part of Rhee's conspiracy. Sigh.

Posted by: heatherdc1980 | October 27, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Another day, another lie. If Fenty had won the election Pope would have been fired by Rhee.

How these folks can lie with a straight face and how foolish for some to think that this possible school is being approached in a thoughtful inclusive manner.

Rhee lie, Pope was basically fired, and Hardy Middle School suffered because Rhee wanted to suck up to a few.

End this bull, send Pope back to Hardy and let the staff continue to educate children.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | October 27, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse


Please refer to Bill Turque's blog of May 5th, 2010, entitled,
'Scoping Out Space for a Middle School Arts Magnet',
which can be found at this web address:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcschools/2010/05/scoping_out_space_for_an_arts.html

Mr Turque was not able to stay for the entire meeting. I have reliable information that the project has barely progressed since I wrote the following after attending the May 5th meeting:

-------------------------

Abigail Smith (DCPS Chief of Transformation Management), Dr. Wilhoyte (Middle School Instructional Superintendent) and other DCPS central office staff were woefully unprepared for a meeting designed to describe the proposed magnet Arts Middle School.

There is no Executive Summary, no Curriculum, no substantive research into other examples of this school model, or even evidence that parents (DCPS or otherwise) have expressed any significant interest in going to such a school if it were created.

Ms. Smith stated she was confident that this proposed magnet Arts Middle School would attract students to the DCPS system. When pressed for any supporting research or parent requests for such a specialized school that would be directed at 6th through 8th graders, she gave none. And there was apparently little or no consideration of other arts program alternatives that may compete for families who would consider this focused education at such an early developmental stage.

I have had significant exposure to arts programs in many forms, and the difficulty of establishing a successful program that can compete with the myriad of extracurricular opportunities that are available to children at all stages of life. It cannot be done without a serious commitment to a well-conceived program that does not sacrifice any of the critical core instruction that children between the ages of eleven and fourteen require.

The arts faculty needs to be top-notch and experienced, which is very hard to gather if there is any question about the commitment of the school system to the long-term success of the program. The addition of a core faculty (math, reading, history, science, etc.) requirement necessitates lower student/teacher ratios and a larger threshold school size to accommodate the diversity of arts and music offerings that will appeal to a very small percentage of the overall DCPS population. The consensus opinion of respected arts educators is that such schools cannot begin small and expect to grow into a successful program as Ms. Smith has clearly indicated is the approach in establishing this new school.

--- continued below ---

Posted by: AGAAIA | October 27, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse


--- continued from above ---

Ms. Smith seems to expect Principal Pope (an administrator) to pull together the essential elements of this very unique and rare school model that should be the responsibility of a team of expert arts curriculum planners. Apparently, to this point, there have been no educators with direct experience in such a special school, not to mention arts curriculum development, that have provided input into this bold initiative of the Chancellor.

When asked if she could identify an example of such a school, Ms Smith said that there was one in Montgomery County, but could not readily name the school, until Dr. Wilhoyte (who came to DCPS from MCPS) provided her with the name. There was no further discussion of this potential model for a DCPS magnet Arts Middle School or any of the qualities that make it a contributing part of the MCPS system, which has a population of 142,000 students; more than three times that of the DCPS system.

One last, but important point; because arts programs are inherently more expensive, the Duke Ellington School for the Arts depends heavily on private donations to the Ellington Fund that contributes a third of their operating budget. In these uncertain economic times, many institutions are scrambling for a much smaller pot of philanthropic monies. It is a bad time to establish school programs that will likely require significant private support to survive.

-------------------------

P.S.: I also would recommend that Mr. Turque ask the relevant planners at DCPS about the interest shown by the community for this Magnet Arts Middle School. I would presume there is a file that contains letter(s) in support. The results would be most illuminating …

Posted by: AGAAIA | October 27, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Vince Gray endorses this and every other move made by DCPS. Has done this since Rhee said she was going. Leave No Teacher Behind, eh?

Posted by: axolotl | October 27, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I will say it again!

WHY IN THE WORLD WILL DCPS PURSUE THIS SCHOOL WHEN THE HARDY MODEL WORKS. MEANWHILE, DC SPENDS OVER $250 MILLION ANNUALLY BECAUSE IT HAS INFERIOR SPECIAL EDUCATION FACILITIES AND LACKS ADEQUATE STAFFING TO MEET THE NEEDS OF DC STUDENTS. IN RESPONSE, DCPS IS REPEATEDLY SUED AND PAYS $250,000,000 ANNUALLY FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS AND RELATED TRANSPORTATION FOR LESS THAN 3000 STUDENTS!

Why not build and staff state of the art special ed centers that would reduce being sued for $250 million a year? Is it more cost effective to pay the $250 million than to hire the staff and equip the classes? if so, just say so and prove it to the populace.

This is a classic example of waste.

Posted by: oknow1 | October 27, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

@axolotl

Vince Gray endorses this and every other move made by DCPS. Has done this since Rhee said she was going. Leave No Teacher Behind, eh?

Can you explain what you mean by your comment. I am confused?

Leave No Teacher Behind eh? What teachers are you talking about?

Posted by: guylady201001 | October 27, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Can you explain what you mean by your comment. I am confused?

Leave No Teacher Behind eh? What teachers are you talking about?

Guylady201001,
This is part and parcel of axolotl's posts on Bill Turque's blog(ue): to attack teachers and anyone she/he is in the mood to attack for not answering her/his question:
"What do you take responsibility for?"

He/she has demurred as to whether she/he would go into a Catholic church and demand that the priest(s) tell her whether or not they abuse altar servers.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | October 27, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Where is the money fro this arts middle school? The $20 million that was allotted is woefully inadequate. Now even this amount can't be identified. Where's the planning budget? Oh - that's right, there isn't one. What a load of crap and waste of everyone's time. Way to f*** up a school. Thanks for ruining Hardy, Michelle.

Posted by: madmom1 | October 27, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

This is typical Rhee- create grandiose plans with little planning and we know the outcome.

This has happened time and time again under Rhee and her response is a press release that somehow spins it to make her look like she has accomplished something great.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | October 27, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Phil - again: you can get the help you deserve, and should go get it. Good luck.

glady - that's the unofficial motto of the WTU.

Posted by: axolotl | October 28, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

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