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Betting the Ranch on the D.C. Schools

Adrian Fenty played it smart throughout the long, long campaign for mayor. He was the young dynamo, the man who would work tirelessly to make the city work again. Like all 463 other candidates, Fenty assured audiences that he was fed up with the failures of the city's public schools and he promised dramatic change.

But it wasn't until late in the campaign that Fenty put any meat on that promise. What he finally came up with was a plan modeled on the change in school governance that has taken place in several other big cities, most notably New York and Los Angeles, where mayors have supplanted school boards and taken over administrative authority or oversight of the schools.

Yesterday, the D.C. Council voted 9-2 to approve a mayoral takeover, essentially stripping the D.C. school board of its authority and paving the way for Fenty to push out Superintendent Clifford Janey and put in a handpicked successor, quite likely Rudy Crew, who is now the chief of the Miami-Dade County schools in South Florida and who previously flirted with taking the Washington job.

At yesterday's council hearing, the toll that the months-long debate over the mayoral takeover has taken was clear in the brittle emotions and sniping comments coming from the elected officials. Council member Carol Schwartz, one of those two Nay votes, ignited a nasty little debate when she accused her colleagues of collaborating with the mayor: "I know the deals have been struck."

From Ward 3 newcomer Mary Cheh to veteran David Catania, the council members expressed outrage that Schwartz would accuse them of cutting deals to hand Fenty his first big victory in his young term.

"I don't know what that means," Cheh said of the "deals" comment. "I'm voting for it because it's the right thing to do." A more angry Harry Thomas Jr. (Ward 5) called Schwartz's words "an affront and misrepresentation." Catania challenged Schwartz to prove that any member of the council had done anything untoward.

"I have been aware since the get-go," Schwartz replied, that "Issues were allowed to be made by colleagues that if they were allowed to include this or that, I'd give it my support. That actually took place."

Catania summarized Schwartz's accusation as a description of "the normal deliberative process," causing a number of council staffers to snicker in the wings off the dais. And indeed, that is what happened: Fenty made his proposal, council members told the mayor what they needed in the legislature for them to support it, and the deal was done.

Far more important to most of the council than the sausage-making of this bill was the sense that all of Washington's elected officials will be judged by whether they finally do something about a school system that is dysfunctional to the point of having messed-up financial records, routinely failing to spend already allocated money on essential repairs, and being chronically incapable of improving student achievement.

"If creating a system of accountability is making a deal, then, yes, I had a discussion around a deal," said Council Chairman Vincent Gray.

Here's a stat that Gray used that pretty much says it all: In the past year, the District has added 11,000 new jobs as businesses expand and the city's long-struggling retail sector finally springs back to life. Over that same period, the number of D.C. residents who are employed dropped by 800. Which means that companies are finding that D.C. residents are incapable of performing well enough to handle many of those new jobs, so they hire from outside the city.

Obviously, we've been down this road of school reform too many dozens of times over the past two decades. And I have strong reservations about the notion that an improvement in the governance of the school system will necessarily have a real impact on what happens in the average classroom. But there are many matters that could be improved by better management and oversight: Building repairs, financial controls, textbook distribution, procurement and many other business side aspects of running a school. In theory, cleaning up that large chunk of the operation should make it easier for the system to focus on education, but that's not a certain logical line.

Schwartz sought and failed to win support for a citizen referendum on the change in control. The hunger for quick change is palpable. "Every day we wait," said Marion Barry, the Ward 8 council member, "another child is being sent to the dung heap. Let's not tarry."

Catania warned against the danger of sentencing yet another generation of D.C. schoolchildren to "a second-class status." Nobody wanted to hear Schwartz's warning that the council and city government already have too much on their plates. Nobody even bothered to respond when she noted that yesterday's paper included a report on the woeful shortcomings of the District's care for the mentally retarded--and that's an area that the mayor already took control of some years back.

Bottom line: Nobody really expects miracles from this takeover, yet very few--and hardly anyone on the council--believe it makes any sense to stick with the system that has failed so spectacularly.

Adrian Fenty has won his first big victory, but everyone who has come before him to this task has failed. Everyone. He is to be admired for taking on the biggest issue in the city. Now he's made Washington's #1 headache all his own. Let's watch.

By Marc Fisher |  April 4, 2007; 7:36 AM ET
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I agree, Marc. He is taking on a monumental task that nobody in DC has been able to handle before. The new Mayor is to be commended for doing this. This is the ultimate "going for it" in his career as Mayor of DC. Positive results (if he can pull this off) will benefit thousands of DC residents.

If he can only get some cooperation from the powers-that-be in the existing management structure. That is where I think this will fall short. There are too many little empires (and emperors) within the school system, and they will do whatever they can do to maintain their little empires.

Posted by: SoMD | April 4, 2007 8:53 AM

Well said Marc. I hope Fenty and the city succeeds. But now we need to look at a way to suspend those union rules which protect incompetent principals and teachers from terminations. There are many who need to be shown the door and replaced with professionals who care about teaching kids and not just collecting a pay check.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 4, 2007 9:29 AM

You really have to give Fenty his due for this. He did what he said he would do--tackle what is arguably the #1 problem facing the city. He studied ideas that people had come up with in other cities, devised a plan, and put it forward, early in his administration. Many pols would have gotten elected promising reform, then "studied" the problem endlessly.

Yes, there's a good chance he'll fail. But so what? At least he has the guts to try.

The real cretins in this drama are the entrenched interests--teachers' union leadership, education bureaucrats, etc.--who somehow think it's OK, or even desirable, to preside over a system that ruins the futures of the children they're entrusted to educate. Absolutely pathetic.

Posted by: Claudius | April 4, 2007 9:55 AM

Fenty deserves great praise for the speed and effectiveness with which he has accomplished this while having so much else on his plate -- which he has also handled with speed and effectiveness -- as new mayor. I think all that bodes very well for our children's future in the DC Schools.

Posted by: SWDC | April 4, 2007 10:26 AM

This school reform is different because it gets the education professional out of the loop as much as possible. They are an elitist class that believes they have all the answers and want to account to no one. Nor do they want to be bothered by anything that even smacks of results or accountability. The problems with NCLB and SOL are solely the result of them being implemented by people who have a vested interest in seeing them fail. Fenty should fire everyone above the level of principal. And then fire half of those.

Posted by: Stick | April 4, 2007 11:02 AM

Those members of council who are arguing that taking over the schools is the wrong thing need to cut the crap.

We have a metropolitan area with a booming economy, yet significant amounts of poverty and unemployment. Our residents as a whole are among the most educated in the country, if not the world, and yet we have high illiteracy rates.

All this money is flowing through our local economy, and tens of thousands of people are locked out of it because some of our schools and communities and families have been dysfunctional for too long.

With this as the backdrop, I've wondered why DC kids who know they're being shortchanged -- that in so many ways, adults have written them off, told them they don't count -- haven't taken to the streets and shut down the city.

It's got to stop. NOW. And it's high time to try something else.

I love DC and don't want to leave it, but if I don't have a better feeling about the schools when my child is ready to start in a couple of years I'm outta here. There's no way in hell I will let his future be sacrificed, shortchanged or short-circuited by D.C. Public Schools.

Posted by: dirrtysw | April 4, 2007 11:09 AM

Nothing will change until Fenty is able to get rid of the people that are bringing the system down. And I am not talking about the people in the central office. I am talking about the kids that are destroying the system. The system has broken down. The bulk of this is due to the families that the system serves. Who really thinks this system would be this bad if kids from Fairfax were attending DC public schools instead of DC kids?

Posted by: Nathan | April 4, 2007 11:14 AM

I understand your statement, but I am not pleased with the Fenty takeover. I think that Robert Bobb should have been given the opportunity, and the council and the Mayor could have ratched up the pressure to get it done. Either way, the needs of the school system are known. The challenge is "are the citizens of DC willing to pay to overcome the neglect that is rampant in our society." As a parent, my kids have been readers at age 4, comfortable in phonics at age 5 or 6. I will never forget my oldest in DCPS kindergarten, one other kid could read, the majority knew some alphabets, and some did not even know all colors let alone the alphabet. Needless to say the kids with discipline problems were the ones at the lower end. Not that they were not capable, but you could tell which parents and families invested time in their kids education. Some of the academic issues impacting these students start that early. DCPs has remedial needs that really have to be addressed, and that means the investment of dollars.

Posted by: RobGreg | April 4, 2007 11:15 AM

This is simple.

The blame lies not so much within the system, which in understandably discouraged given the uphill fight it has to face against the popular culture our kids are exposed to.

I feel like popular culture should be eliminated and restricted from public schools. There needs to be an emphasis on discipline and respect more so than the continuing pouring of money for 'mo textbooks'; if the child isn't disciplined to sit down and study, no fascility or study material can aid him.

Uniforms, discipline, respect- that will give the educators some hope for success. Right now the system is more discouraged than it is broken.

Posted by: ilia | April 4, 2007 11:21 AM

While I agree something needs to be about the school system, the mayor's plan is not the answer. The problem is more than mismanagement, incompetent teachers, not enough textbooks, and delapidated buildings. The root of the problems is this you want better schools you need parants! We (i have kids in the system) want government to solve all of our problems. Parents who send there kids to school unkept unfed and undiscplined expect the system "parent" them. How can we expect teachers to do there job if we are not doing ours as parents. No matter who runs the school system it ultimately is our reponsibility as parents to provide our kids with they need prior to them walking through front door of school.

Posted by: Terror | April 4, 2007 11:51 AM

Some principles have tried to instill environments of discipline in DCPS and have failed. Not because people rejected discipline, but they took a positon that discipline was the core issue and virutally the only poistion. I would agree with some sense of discipline, but the real issue is having and holding folks to standards. Make sure the kids get the lesson.

Posted by: to ilia | April 4, 2007 12:09 PM

What I find perhaps most disturbing is that only 11 people some 6 hours after this posting have bothered to comment. That fact prevents me from thinking it's important that Fenty seems to be betting his legacy on school reform. When he fails no one will notice or care and he'll continue his "walk" for re-election.

Let's see if he thinks enough of his own reform efforts to enroll his children in public schools....

Posted by: CW | April 4, 2007 1:30 PM

In a City where inertia usually trumps action, I agree that Mayor Fenty should be greatly applauded for devising and implementing a well-thought-out plan. Will it be "The" answer? Probably not. But it's a good start. Frankly, it would be hard to do worse than the current system and should therefore bring marked improvement. I will agree with a few previous posters though... The real change will begin with the firing of dead weight in the DC School System. A good friend who worked for the City told me nearly a decade ago (during the Williams administration - of which he/she was no particular fan...) that there were still staunch Barry loyalists who were working actively to see that schools didn't improve while Williams was in office. So..., I hope part of Fenty's plan is to flush the system of poor-performing teachers and administrators who are clogging it up.

Posted by: J_in_Ward7 | April 4, 2007 1:35 PM

Not a dime has ever been lost underestimating the DC government.

Posted by: Slim | April 4, 2007 2:42 PM

Slim - If you are betting on DC government to fail, you also are betting on our children to fail. Shame on you.

Posted by: Church Lady | April 4, 2007 2:52 PM

After 10 years of tutoring in and around DC, I gave up 4 years ago. It wasn't the parents, as suggested. I met many parents that wanted to make the system work for their kid. I met many teachers struggling against a system in stagnation. I even one administrator that really cared about the students, their families, and educational excellence. There isn't just one problem with the system, there are many. The only way to fix it is to get a good person at the top who doesn't have to go through the many layers of politics that was the DC school board and the entrenched administration to fix the system. This is a first step, but it is just a beginning. The proof will be on the end product. Do the schools improve or not? We have to wait 2 or 3 years to see. It may be a gamble, but in life, you can't win if you don't bet.

Posted by: GaveUp | April 4, 2007 3:12 PM

Our education system is defined by the candidates colleges and universities are looking for. That's got to stop. We need to define for ourselves what a meaningful education consists of -- and we need to fashion our schools to meet those ends.


Posted by: phil shapiro | April 4, 2007 6:30 PM

Good for Fenty, and I hope he succeeds.

If he also gets really serious about juvenile crime, his chances would skyrocket.

Posted by: gitarre | April 4, 2007 7:52 PM

I am pretty skeptical about the Fenty school reform effort. Reforming city services in Washington is almost impossible. We had a reform mayor (Anthony Williams) for eight years, and many city services are still poor. For example, please see the ambulance service. So, I doubt that school reform will amount to much improvement. I understand that the charter schools are not covered, and a large number of students attend those schools. By the way, does the city check the residency of the charter school students? I live next to a D.C. charter school, and I regularly see parents driving autos with Maryland license plates drop off their children.

Posted by: Jeff | April 6, 2007 6:24 PM

Non-Partisans for DC Democracy

You have to take notice when a staunch Democrat named Phil Mendelson and a committed Republican named Carol Schwartz agree that District citizens are getting screwed by special interests D.C. Council bureaucrats. Genuine democracy for D.C. citizens may be on its deathbed as we scrutinize the back door deals made over mayor Fenty's school takeover scam. It's politricks as usual regarding our best interests.

While myopic council members Cheh, Thomas, Catania, Graham and others get mayoral trinkets for their ward-based issues, the rest of us scramble for poisoned political crumbs. Despite their pretentious indignation, council member Schwartz was correct regarding the "deals made" to ram Fenty's takeover down the Districts throat. The false sense of urgency promoted by council members Barry and Evans is only a smokescreen for their own years of legislative incompetence on education.

At every turn, there's been an effort by Fenty & Friends to remove citizens from the details and decision process of their shift from democracy to autocracy in District government. They disguise it by calling it "a change in governance" as if most of us can't understand the real deal going down. Though D.C. Council chairman Vincent Gray boasts about holding "marathon hearings" for the public's benefit, everyone by now understands these media stunts are nothing more than talk shows to appease rising citizen disgust.

Beyond their know-it-all self-serving platitudes on trying to "do something" to remedy public education in D.C., council member Mendelson was most correct in noting that making change is not synonymous with making the right change. Imagine what will happen when mayor Fenty gets bored and frustrated with the dirty details of changing our schools. Just as with his handling of MRDDA, our children and city will again become victims of his administrative deficit disorder.

Creating educational excellence in D.C. requires a genuine and effective partnership of parents, teachers and truly competent leadership. With all the degrees and expertise some have touted over the years regarding their leadership on fixing D.C. schools, it is time to shut up and show some effective, measurable and sustained results. That is the lesson our children should learn from our leaders.

Dennis Moore
Chairperson, District of Columbia Independents for Citizen Control (DCICC) -

Posted by: Dennis Moore | April 14, 2007 11:53 AM

A Real Plan and Solution for DC Educational Excellence

The attempt by Fenty & Friends to use the US Congress to circumvent input and control by District citizens (democracy) is a bully tactic by local bureaucrats who fear genuine District government accountability. Yet, simultaneously and hypocritically, they ask Congress for voting rights. For all the talk about "bringing hope" to DC citizens about good governance and progress, public servant Fenty is only serving himself and other DC autocrats that fear real citizen involvement and oversight in the details of District governance and power. Citizen power, and democracy, is about to be trampled by an energetic and smiling Trojan horse. Fortunately, DC is not an abbreviation for dumb citizens, or docile constituents.

It takes a real plan with measurable benchmarks and results to empower DC children. The facade of creative media posturing, legislative deception and back door politricks will soon fall apart -- reference the last six years of president Bush. Creating empty chairs to throw more money at is fiscally and operationally irresponsible. Surely, it takes no leap of logic to understand that citizens should control the public services and facilities funded by citizens. Top-down autocrats are inherently political and shortsighted, and quickly become dysfunctional, unaccountable, arrogant and corrupt. Haven't we learned this lesson from current events on a federal level?

District of Columbia Independents for Citizen Control only supports full citizen control of a DC school system funded by our hard earned tax dollars. If our school system is to improve in the ways that best serve our children, then citizens must be the controlling partners that guide and empower it. Fenty & Friends must understand -- despite their smartest-people-on-the-planet arrogance -- it's about our children, our school system, our money, and DC public officials work for us. We, the people, are the true owners of their official entitlements and the authority entrusted by us -- clearly defined as democracy.

The DCICC strongly backs a proactive plan that redevelops DC public and public charter schools into citizen controlled non-tuition Public Academies standardized by 10-student class sizes. Our academy concept is designed to enhance greater attention to individual student needs and academically empower all children, especially our special education achievers, with a stronger, empowering and challenging educational program. At a basic level, we believe our plan fosters a truly student-focused District educational system where children are achieving basic reading and introductory mathematics by age 3, not grade 3 -- with an infrastructure where college attendance or post-high school professional occupation training is a standard accomplishment. Citizen-parent oversight and control is a key element throughout.

Reestablishing truly empowered Neighborhood School Councils, elected and organized by parents, educators, and neighborhood citizens to manage individual schools, will ensure that the quality and level of "customer" oriented service effectively serves diverse end-users -- us. Oversight by a genuinely empowered and fully elected state Department of Education, Board of Education and Superintendent of Curriculum is a more streamlined and publicly accountable system than the top-down multi-layered maze that autocrat Fenty proposes. An all citizen elected system, effectively accountable only to the people, is the foundation that enhances the checks and balances on dysfunctional and autocratic power. Also experienced and effective public administrators know that keeping it simple and accountable are critical elements in organizational effectiveness. We, the people, know the system is working when our children are prepared for college, successfully start life in a chosen occupation, or create a District-based business. We all benefit exponentially when there is a true partnership with citizens to benefit our students.

In our Excellent Schools Plan (ESP), the standard elementary to high school curriculum includes comprehensive English, general sciences, technology, practical to advanced mathematics, environmental studies, critical to strategic thinking, conflict resolution, performing arts, fine arts, American culture, world culture, social science, government studies, entrepreneurship, and personal finance. Additionally, courses will include writing, public speaking, interpersonal communication, language options (Spanish, Hausa, Swahili, Yoruba, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Aramaic, Cherokee, French, Italian, Latin, German, and Portuguese), introductory college studies, life management, team dynamics, citizen activism, physical fitness and health education. High schools will include diverse occupational training courses and paid apprenticeship programs for seniors (computer repair, software and Internet programming, electrical and electronics repair, plumbing, carpentry, automobile repair, healthcare services, and small business startup), complemented with rigorous academic studies.

The ESP initiative is designed to systemically provide guaranteed full funding, upgrades and accountable operation in all aspects of the Public Academies to effectively educate pre-school (age 2) children to high school students. Additionally, as a support tool for teachers and students and on-time delivery of up-to-date textbooks, students will be assigned highly durable wireless notebook computers. These rugged lightweight units will be pre-loaded with secure curriculum software appropriate to grade level and specific teacher lesson plans -- plus additional CD and DVD formatted educational resources. The computers' wireless capability will be encoded to only access to a school intranet transmission, the ISIS system (Information Systems Infrastructure for Schools) discussed below, as well as formatted CD and DVD educational content. As our children are already electronically engaged, we must embrace this interest and ability by using both familiar tools and hands-on teacher instruction that enhance their education. Additionally, these tools will increase fiscal responsibility within our school system regarding costly textbook procurements, storage, waste and on-time delivery.

Within 3-5 years we have the power to rescue and empower all of our children by initiating the development, proliferation and standardization of a Public Academy education system starting with the preschool academy (age 2-3), primary academy (kindergarten to 3rd grade; age 4-7), junior academy (4th to 8th grade; age 8-12) and senior academy (9th to 12th grade; age 13-16) students. The program combines highly motivated and experienced teachers with state-of-the-art educational resources. Each class of 10 students has one teacher, amounting to a maximum 400 students per school composed of 100 students per grade. In the toddler years, company workplaces can be given tax incentives to facilitate onsite preschools -- as well as enhance the productivity and peace of mind of their working parents. In the senior academy years, 16-year-old graduates will go into college and/or private and public sector apprenticeship programs -- thereby creating an experienced and capable District-based workforce for our core and emerging industries. The 8 wards of the District of Columbia, not just the so-called "Washington area" suburbs, become magnets for businesses and services -- another exponential socioeconomic and fiscal benefit.

Community school population sizes can and should be proportioned to the appropriate requirements of a neighborhood. This ensures consistent academic quality for all District communities. A school's 19 to 20-member Neighborhood School Council (NSC; 10 parents, 5 teachers, the school academy principal, 3 community members, and 1 student at the senior academy level) will manage, advise, regulate, and regularly assess overall academy operations, administration and effectiveness. A staff of 10-20 highly competent administrative specialists supports the entire teaching staff and NSC parents. Again, parents and teachers have equally integral and accountable roles throughout the school process. A cademic and operational effectiveness is focused locally at the source -- the student -- not at the top-down and middle-management bureaucracy level. This is the reality of actual "parent involvement" when it is genuinely, effectively and fully implemented.

Teachers are required to have a specialized bachelor's degree in science, mathematics, history, languages, arts, health, fitness, technology, business or another needed discipline. All ESP teachers will have at least 1 year of exceptional hands-on teaching experience, and are required to pass an annual standardized (annually revised) written and oral examination prior to retention. Teachers, as determined by the NSC, will receive yearly salary bonuses based on the overall certified academic performance percentage of their class passing annual mid-year and end-year standardized examinations.

A proactive and holistic approach will be at the core of a comprehensive ESP educational initiative -- engaging and servicing children, parents and guardians at home and community centers -- ensuring that health, nutrition, housing, transportation, violence, parenting and related issues are effectively addressed to enhance educational success.

Admittedly, the ESP concept is bold and outside the box -- perhaps radical to some -- yet, it is a very doable, practical, fully accountable, fiscally responsible and effective plan that can bring our school system truly into the 21st century. Moreover, a school system truly controlled by its users and beneficiaries is best. Most parents and educators instinctively know this. Our children prove they respond best to community-controlled involvement -- a village genuinely and successfully raising every District child.

These are the key operational elements of ESP. They are designed to foster genuine educational achievement through citizen control in the District of Columbia:

• An accountable and targeted budgeting process, managed through the Central Accounting and Payroll System (CAPS), directs the appropriate quantity of money, supplies and resources to the academies. An academy's entire budget is strictly monitored, and based on specific needs as determined by each Neighborhood School Council, with monthly Board of Education oversight.

• Parents, or guardians, will be required to attend half-hour monthly advisory meetings to discuss their child's overall and specific progress, as well as address any concerns or issues. Additionally, special-needs counseling will be available. The parent, student, and a trained advisor experienced in both academic and social issues counseling will attend this service when confidentially recommended by the student's teacher. Real-time attentiveness to student performance ensures better outcomes.

• In addition to the standard school facilities (modern fully equipped classrooms, a combined student and faculty dining room, separate boys and girls gymnasiums, separate swimming pools, multimedia library, faculty and administrative offices), the campus will include high-tech digital audio and video studio facilities for diverse student productions. Student education will be enhanced by their ability to use the studios for news, cultural, and specialized multimedia projects related to course material. Science and technology labs will be standard, plus durable wireless pre-programmed notebook computers for each student for homework and classroom instruction. Student-focused and effective spending of the millions already allocated for DC schools makes this and more possible.

• Build fully functional and architecturally modular schools where the quantity of classroom and office space can be easily resized (expanded or reduced) to fit neighborhood student populations. This will facilitate parents, students and communities that deserve walking distance neighborhood schools. The construction of the schools must adhere to both environmentally and educationally sound standards, thereby further enhancing student-focused academic success.

• Guarantee full funding to maintain the annual base salary of teachers at $43,500 (currently $42,370), plus performance bonuses and benefits. This upgrade will be tied to annual, equitable, and fully accountable teacher performance assessments. Incompetent and dysfunctional teachers will not be retained. Additionally, consistently low performing teachers will be provided a six-month probation period to meet appropriate teaching, NSC, District and professional standards before termination. The overall aim is to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers for DC's most important immediate and longterm investment -- our children.

• Establish a functional, accountable and fully funded Central Supply Service to provide basic and specialized school supplies at no expense to teachers and students. Reduce costs and raise access to educational resources by gradually replacing textbooks with durable wireless handheld or laptop computers pre-loaded with grade appropriate educational materials. Develop tight controls with severe penalties to eliminate waste and fraud in the acquisition and distribution of school supplies, equipment and services. A zero tolerance, and enforcement driven, accountability process enables fiscal responsibility and sharpens the focus on what really matters -- effectively educating our children.

• Build the ISIS (Information Systems Infrastructure for Schools) network to enhance interactive administration (class-to-class and school-to-school) and student learning (home-to-school). ISIS is designed to empower students, teachers and parents for online after-school learning, tutoring, mentoring, real-time school information, and academic support that will raise District academic success and sustain world-class educational achievement. More than ever, also supported by tried and true traditional methods, our children need 21st century tools to succeed in this new millennium.

• Create a strong partnership network of parents, teachers, local colleges and businesses to generate practical long term plans to educate children for the real world of the 21st century. Support a school administrative structure that effectively partners both parents and teachers in school activities and student accountability. A school system without accountability promotes chaos and failure.

• Expand the school year to begin on the third Monday of August, and end on the last Friday of June. This schedules the entire school year for 44 five-day weeks of education. Absences for weather and other emergencies will be made-up by requiring students to attend school for three hours (9 a.m. to 12 noon) during at least one Saturday session within the earliest period after emergency absences.

• Redevelop and expand University of the District of Columbia into the tuition-free Frederick Douglass University, in honor of the District's renown ex-slave educator, activist and diplomat. Provide introductory college courses for senior academy students that prepare and complement their freshman year studies at FDU. Require students to be graduates of DC Public Academies, or 2-years legal citizenship and DC residency, for admission. Ex-offender education will also be expanded.

An educated District populace is a critical socioeconomic asset that produces exponential economic and social dividends for both the individual and our communities as a whole. Effective and accountable management of these dividends are critically linked to sustaining, growing and enhancing our city-state presently and beyond.

Realistically, in this new millennium, District of Columbia citizens and children are increasingly in a regional-to-global race against socioeconomic failure. Educational preparedness is not an option -- it is critical to our survival. Again, politics and politricks must end, and replaced with a truly empowered partnership of parent and teacher control. This joint effort is effectively different from the "parent involvement" touted and never fully practiced by officials. A student-focused partnership expands academic achievement due to oversight by the actual participants and beneficiaries in the school system -- parents and teachers.

Mayor Fenty, or other DC government officials, are welcome to use our ESP plan as a template for genuine citizen partnership and educational empowerment in the first 1000 or less days of their administration. While they are in the on-the-job-training phase of their newly acquired duties, Fenty & Friends will need all the substantive advice they can handle. For the sake of our children, and the careers of certain elected or appointed officials, we hope objectivity, insight, advocacy, follow-up, competence and consistent respect for everyday DC citizens are assets they bring to their jobs -- not just during an election year.

Again, any form of "takeover" by an unaccountable bureaucracy at any level is an arrogant assault on democracy and citizen control in the District of Columbia. Ironically, mayor Fenty's efforts will cause our statehood slogan, "Taxation without representation," to have a more sinister meaning for District citizens and those who might support our statehood and representation rights. Instead of hope, Fenty becomes a liability. Any public official providing direct or indirect approval for this form of autocracy, or one person single-body rule, must be put out of office before and on Election Day by the citizens who are the rightful authority over the power some elected public officials choose to abuse.

Dennis Moore
Chairperson, District of Columbia Independents for Citizen Control (DCICC) -

Posted by: Dennis Moore | April 14, 2007 12:19 PM

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