Strengthening Our Schools

Ward 3 schools are bursting at the seams and our neighborhoods are growing. We need to fully fund DCPS, 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.

Ease School Overcrowding in Ward 3

Addressing overcrowding means giving our children the chance to learn and thrive in classrooms, not trailers, with student:teacher ratios that are proven to work. If we address our overcrowding, especially through the construction of new schools, we can bring universal pre-k3 to Ward 3 at our elementary schools. These programs have been crowded out due to the overcrowding of our elementary schools. The solution to overcrowding is threefold:  (1) expand our existing schools; (2) invest in more schools; and (3) ensure that every student in every Ward has a safe, modernized, high quality neighborhood public school they can walk to which provides a continuity of programming through the feeder and beyond.

Expand existing schools. We've seen that despite expanding and renovating many of our existing schools, overcrowding remains an issue. We need to dream much bigger with our current and future  school expansions/renovations. For example, our planned renovation of Stoddert will address overcrowding over the next few years. Nevertheless, Stoddert is projected to be at capacity in 2028. School expansion and renovation won't get us where we need to go right now, which is why we'll need to build more schools across Ward 3.  

Invest in more schools. We need more schools in Ward 3 to address our overcrowding.  More elementary schools will ease overcrowding and allow Ward 3 to finally fully provide pre-k3 - the Foxhall school will open up pre-k3 slots at Key, Stoddert, and Mann, all schools that do not currently offer pre-k3. We also need another middle school. I have proposed an Acquisition Fund (see my Housing platform) to nimbly procure available property for critical facilities, such as schools. If we had such a fund in place, we could have exercised our District Opportunity to Purchase (DOPA) rights at the Wardman Park Marriott site in Woodley Park, Intelsat in North Cleveland Park/Van Ness, or in Friendship Heights - all of which present great places for future schools that are readily accessible to existing transit.  

 

Bring all our schools up to Ward 3's level. I’m a big believer in strong neighborhood schools. One great way to alleviate overcrowding is to make the schools outside of Ward 3 as good as the schools in Ward 3. I believe that a neighborhood can only be as successful as its neighborhood public school.  If the school is not providing for its students, no matter what other amenities exist in the neighborhood, the neighborhood will not be successful over the long term. 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. If we can bring neighborhood schools across the District up to Ward 3's levels, parents will prefer their neighborhood school. I know it will take work - including substantial oversight as well as many proposals spread throughout this page - to make happen. 

Neighborhood School Boundaries

A student should not have to cross another school district's boundaries to go to their neighborhood school.  Neighborhood school boundaries should make sense.  A student who lives five blocks from Stoddert shouldn't have to cross through Stoddert's boundaries, Key's, and more, to get to their "neighborhood" school.  Schools often function as a proxy for neighborhoods.  As a basic rule, DCPS should implement school district boundaries that prioritize natural proximity to prevent students from having to cross another school district's boundaries on the way to their neighborhood school.  I will introduce legislation to make sure that our school boundaries are based on reality, not the dictates of a formula.

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

Enhance Parent Power

As a long-time ANC Commissioner in Cleveland Park, I've heard a lot from parents about how their views are not taken seriously by school administration. Fortunately, we have a structure to build upon to give parents a stronger say:  the Local School Advisory Team (LSAT). LSATs help ensure transparency at the school level, but it can be tough to be effective advocates and monitors without more training by OFPE and more time to conduct budget review.

 

We need to increase the powers of LSATs. I would like to see DCPS give LSATs what is essentially “great weight” in the ANC context such that a principal must explain in writing their deviation from the LSAT’s recommendations, akin to what already has to happen with regards to the LSAT as contemplated in WTU’s (expired but governing) collective bargaining agreement. This would make for a more collaborative process between the principal and the LSAT while also amplifying school community concerns and encouraging transparency, especially over the long run.

Increase transparency, oversight, and accountability

Without transparency, we cannot have oversight. And without oversight, we cannot have accountability. Public funds should come with transparency - parents deserve to see how our dollars are spent. To increase transparency, oversight, and accountability, I propose that we reconstitute the Committee on Education on Council and establish an Inspector General on Education.  

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. As your Councilmember, I will demand transparency from the DCPS, the District’s public charter schools, and the Office of State Superintendent of Education.

I spent the first portion of my career as a federal auditor and lead analyst providing oversight for the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General. There, I crunched numbers on a ~$2 billion program's capital and operating costs, ensuring that the plans matched reality and that the numbers added up. Seeing the powerful focus of an Inspector General firsthand has given me great respect for how our federal Inspectors General enhance how our federal agencies operate. 

 

Given that the District-wide Inspector General and the DC Auditor are not well-suited and stretched too thinly to dive into our complex educational system, I propose that we have an education-focused Inspector General. The Education IG's sole job would be to examine all of our schools, from DCPS to our charters to UDC, and determine where issues are in governance, transparency, capital maintenance, and management. The Education IG would provide not just further oversight but also policy recommendations to ensure that we build the best neighborhood school system we can.
 

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, more likely, 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.  

The Foxhall School and the MacArthur School

The proposed Foxhall and MacArthur schools have rightly engendered discussions across Ward 3 on important issues from education to transportation equity. The truth is that both schools are needed immediately and postponing their creation, as a handful of my opponents wish to do, will hurt students across Ward 3.​  

 

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. And the re-upping of the LAB School lease was a missed opportunity for a new District school in an existing District school building. 

Foxhall School. Now is the time for engagement with DCPS, DPR, and DDOT on planning the Foxhall School's footprint on Hardy Park, construction management, and traffic mitigation. As Councilmember, I would be working closely with ANC 3D, DCPS, and DPR to minimize the footprint of the school on Hardy Park to maximize the amount of neighborhood park space. Further, I would seek the input of neighborhood landscape architects to find innovative ways to prevent the school from seeming like it looms over the park.  There is a lot of great work landscape architects can do to reduce the sense of scale of a new building in the park.

 

I would work with DCPS, and DDOT to ensure that school traffic does not backup on Foxhall, Macarthur, or Q Street. At ANC 3C, we’ve worked successfully with Sidwell Friends to minimize the effects of traffic on neighborhood streets and Wisconsin Avenue by pushing pickup/dropoff on to the campus, minimizing the effects on neighborhood streets.  Right now, our Councilmember and ANC 3D should be pushing for an on-campus transportation management plan, possibly including underground dropoffs to make it safer to drop children off, to control access to school grounds by vehicle, and to great school traffic off neighborhood streets as quickly as possible. As your Councilmember, I will be heavily involved to make sure the Foxhall School is a success not just for our students, but for the neighborhood.  

MacArthur School. The MacArthur School as proposed raises substantial concerns involving transportation, equity, and diversity. My neighborhood elementary school - John Eaton Elementary - is in the proposed feeder pattern for this new school. This means that a student in Cleveland Park heading to the new school would spend the majority of their commute crossing the Jackson-Reed (formerly Wilson) district boundaries. This simply does not make sense. Further, the proposed magnet program at the school will mean that students from across the District may face multi-hour commutes to and from school. That is anathema to learning.

Given the transportation difficulties with the location of the MacArthur School and the issues of equity and diversity inherent in its location, we should consider additional sites for a large high school.  The former Intelsat site in Van Ness, the former Lord & Taylor in Friendship Heights, and UDC facilities all offer better, transit-accessible locations for an additional middle school (to relieve pressure on Alice Deal) and an additional high school.  These sites would function far better as proposed magnet schools due to their transit accessibility. 

 

In the short-term, however, I support repurposing the GDS site for the planned high school.  Jackson-Reed is simply too overcrowded to not use the site as both a swing space to alleviate overcrowding and to lay the groundwork for a permanent school.  Long-term, however, we need to think not just bigger but also smarter, which is why we need to build another middle school and high school, preferably located near Metro.  My proposed acquisition fund for critical facilities will allow us to move nimbly to do so, should the properties mentioned above become available.  Over the long-term, we'll be able to rightsize the MacArthur School as other schools come online.  I look forward to working with Ward 3 parents and Council to determine the best way forward for a proposed transit-bereft but needed high school in the northwest corner of our city. 

Special education, neurodivergence, and DCPS

Our lack of special education teachers and occupational therapists comes down to two main reasons: burnout and lack of funding. Murch ES is notoriously understaffed with special education teachers, in part because it does not have enough funding. Our special education teachers are not paid for their time when they prepare IEPs. Special education teachers need to be given paid time to plan adequately for students and this should be appropriately budgeted by DCPS. This should reduce burnout and attrition. Our occupational therapists need support - if one falls ill, most District schools do not have someone to fill in to help our students who need occupational therapy. 

We do not currently address neurodivergence, including autism, as well as we could.  To remedy this, I will propose a law akin to the Addressing Dyslexia and Other Reading Difficulties Act that provides a training and reporting regimen to make certain that our neurodivergent students are not falling through the cracks of our education system.