Thank you Chairman Catania and members of the Council for holding this important hearing.
I am Danica Petroshius, President of the Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan PTSO and parent of two children at the school – one in Kindergarten and one in preschool 3. I am here because we want to work in partnership with the city to build a great DCPS middle grades Montessori education campus. We strongly believe that our school provides an important choice for parents who want to try a cutting-edge approach grounded in 100 years of practice, evaluation and study. We believe that the Montessori approach is so powerful that it has the potential to draw children back to DCPS schools from the suburbs, private schools and charters. The problem is that, to date, we have not had the kind of support we need from DCPS and the Administration to accomplish our goals, and we ask for your help now.
We want to be clear where we have been – and where we need to go. In January 2013, DCPS announced that CHML would expand to include the middle grades starting in August 2014.
That helped us keep families in our school for 5th and 6th grades – families that would have otherwise left for other middle schools – private, public and charter. Unfortunately, ten months after that announcement, DCPS had provided no resources to make the expansion a reality.
Therefore, in November 2013, we sent letters to Mayor Gray and Chancellor Henderson, held meetings with John McGaw and, later with John Davis, to detail our community’s needs.
Unfortunately, prior to hearing any responses, we were stunned to read in the Washington Post that CHML was cut in the budget reprogramming. We were further disappointed to receive Mr. McGaw’s email stating that “modest improvements… should suffice until a stronger enrollment is built for the middle grades.” We feel we are being told, “if you come, we might build it.”
We got word of one positive step forward recently. DCPS has provided an operational budget that will allow us to have the personnel and some of the learning materials to kick off our expansion next year.
But the fact remains that our parents and students, who come from every ward in the city, will be angry and shocked if there is no middle grades facility to come to. We need more than a few “modest improvements.” We need a strong, welcoming middle grades learning environment.
When the Mayor and DCPS approved our expansion, we parents put skin in the game. We worked with our principal, teachers and other stakeholders to prepare. We implemented teacher recruitment strategies, created architectural site plans, executed a plan to retain current families and recruit new ones. As a result, our lottery numbers were high, which is remarkable given that we don’t even have a place for them to envision their children learning.
As you know, we parents can be demanding and outspoken. I’m a “Type-A” handful for any principal. Our Principal, Brandon Eatman, has been a great and patient leader. But our parents are losing faith in the system that he says we should support. We stand ready to support our principal as he leads our expansion effort. But he and our students need your support to make this promise a reality.
We ask that you provide $1 million in capital funding to turn our empty, preschool-sized, temporary trailer into a vibrant middle grades learning environment. Please don’t set us up to fail. Instead, do what is necessary to give our school community the confidence that our leaders stand with, and for, our children. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.
Parent and Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) President at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan Education Campus
Education Budget Oversight Hearing
Thursday, April 17, 2014 10:00 a.m.
John A. Wilson Building, Room 500