Strengthening Our Schools
Ward 3 schools are bursting at the seams and our neighborhoods are growing. We need to invest in more schools, improve schools District-wide, close the achievement gap, improve teacher retention, maintain our public schools, and increase transparency and accountability. To address overcrowding, we need to both build more schools in Ward 3 and improve schools outside of Ward 3.
Strengthening our schools means more than just the policies below, though. In the District, so many of our issues are interrelated. Our teachers and our students need to be secure in their housing, which means we need to build more affordable housing across the District. We need to address the root causes of student performance issues, such as poverty, unsafe infrastructure, and more. Our schools should be accessible – students should be able to get to class without safety issues and they should be able to get to school via safe, reliable transit, if need be. While the policies below will surely help, we also will need to reinvest in our communities to ensure that all our students thrive.
Invest in more schools
I am open to any plans that will ease our overcrowding and take into account the needs of families to have their children attend the same neighborhood schools as their siblings contemporaneously enrolled. One great way to alleviate overcrowding is to make the schools outside of Ward 3 as good as the schools in Ward 3. We should be encouraging students to attend their neighborhood schools and the best way to do so is to make those neighborhood schools as good as our Ward 3 schools. We also need to address our feeder pathways. Students should not have to cross multiple school districts to attend their neighborhood school. I will introduce legislation to make sure that our school boundaries are based on reality, not the dictates of a formula.
Foxhall and MacArthur Schools
The rollout of the Foxhall and MacArthur schools has been lacking in community engagement. Neighbors abutting Hardy Park are rightly concerned that construction will ruin their park. Foxhall and Palisades neighbors are concerned about additional school traffic. Now is the time for the ANC to work with DCPS, DPR, and DDOT to develop a construction management plan for the Foxhall School to ensure that construction does not interfere with park usage and unduly burden the neighborhood. The community should be engaged in the planning for both schools to push student pickup/dropoff on to school property. At ANC 3C, we have worked with multiple schools to minimize pickup/dropoff staging on neighborhood streets. Finally, with regard to the Foxhall School, the ANC, as representative of the neighborhood, should work closely with DCPS and DPR on the landscape architecture of Hardy Park to keep Hardy Park’s neighborhood feel.
I support the much-delayed expansion of Stoddert Elementary School, but DCPS needs to rethink its Stoddert boundaries - a proposed rule for school boundaries: students should not have to cross another school's boundaries to get to their school.
Close the Achievement Gap
To address the achievement gap, we need to immediately prioritize funding for underperforming schools and ameliorate teacher turnover. We know that housing insecurity is stressful. We know that poverty is traumatic. Therefore, we need sufficient special education teachers who aren’t paid solely for classroom time and social workers who are given the tools and time to work successfully with those students who are experiencing these ongoing societal failures. And we need full-time nurses and mental healthcare workers on campus and we need increased dedicated at-risk funding.
Fully fund “underperforming” schools
Institute a moratorium on closing public schools
Increase the prevalence of trauma-informed and restorative practices across DC schools
Prioritize the modernization and repair of schools that serve a high percentage of at-risk students
Provide substantial wraparound services for families of at-risk youth at our school facilities
Increase after-school opportunities
Increase transparency and accountability
Public funds should come with transparency and accountability. Parents deserve to see how those funds are spent. The Council needs to restore its Committee on Education to better conduct oversight of our school system. Strong Council oversight must be the backbone of a functioning education system. Currently, we have very little visibility into how our taxes are used by the District’s charter school system. As your Councilmember, I will demand transparency from the District’s public charter schools.
Capital Upkeep and Improvement
We need to fully fund our capital maintenance and improvement plans. Capital upkeep and maintenance of our schools is a serious issue. We keep hearing horror stories of leaky roofs, doors without doorknobs, and no running water. But the day to day effects of poorly maintained facilities takes an emotional toll on students and teachers. This hurts learning.
We need to have our schools in a state of good repair. That means when a roof is nearing the end of its predicted viability, we replace it; if windows need to be removed and repaired on a regular basis, then we do so, etc. In this way, we can provide a safe environment for students and teachers and also prevent catastrophic failure. I recommend that for the purposes of equity, we bring our schools with the most at-risk youth up to a state of good repair first.
We need to center upkeep and future-proofing when we talk about maintaining facilities. We need to ensure that our buildings and the systems on which they rely are not just safe and secure, but also resilient by design and fulfilling their mission of serving their communities. We need to transition to net-zero energy consumption by improving the energy efficiency of our school buildings. To that end, we need to to install energy-efficient windows, electric heat pumps, and green rooftops.
Over the next thirty to forty years, DC will see significant flooding due to climate change. We will see more extreme weather. That means that our buildings will need robust HVAC systems, good power infrastructure including some backup power, and water/sewage that won’t be affected by localized flooding. This will take substantial funding, strict oversight, and a fearlessness in holding DCPS and DGS officials accountable. I will ensure that we protect and improve on DCPS facilities to ensure that our children and grandchildren receive the best education we can provide in a safe and equitable environment.
Improve teacher retention
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 24% of teachers leaving DCPS cited the performance review process, IMPACT, as the reason for departure. As the State Board of Education noted, “IMPACT has ‘created a polarizing environment and has become one of the leading drivers in teachers exiting. This evaluation process has left teachers frustrated and scared.’” Dr. Ferbere, the Chancellor of DCPS, commissioned an independent review of IMPACT, though we have yet to see the results.
Successfully addressing our teacher attrition crisis will require building back trust between teachers and administrators, reforming or replacing IMPACT, fully funding DCPS (including for capital upkeep), providing tax credits to help recoup what they’ve spent compensating for a lack of resources, and diluting our current unilateral school governance.
Celebrate the Trades in our schools
The lack of people going into the trades is a serious issue nationwide and a particular issue in DC. We need to make sure that National Skilled Trades Day is something celebrated in our high schools with education on the trades and the wonderful opportunities the trades provide. As Councilmember, I will work with local trade unions to build bridges with DCPS so that we can provide students with an understanding of all of their career options, including in the trades. For more on how unions can partner with the District, please see my Labor Rights platform.
Increase Vocational Programming at the University of the District of Columbia
UDC offers a great suite of vocational programs, but if we're going to address our workforce needs, we'll need to expand our programming. We need to include plumbing, pipefitting, home health, coding, and other programs to address our needs as a growing city. For programs in the trades, we need to partner with unions like Plumbers Local 5 to ensure that the programs are pathways to apprenticeship.