Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on this important issue that affects hundreds of families in Shaw and Center City. I moved to Shaw in 2007, my husband has lived in Center City since 2002. We brought both our children home to our little house across the street from the original Shaw Junior High School, and our son now attends Seaton Elementary. Go Stingers!
I’m here because I want a stand-alone middle school to be opened at the Shaw Junior High School location that provides a feeder for all children from Seaton, Garrison, Cleveland, Thomson, and Ross Elementary schools – schools that serve Wards 1, 2, 5, 6 and beyond. I want what was promised to the community years ago and as recently as last year by Mayor Bowser at a public ANC meeting. A change of mayor should not invalidate processes or outcome decisions that predate an administration. At some point — even under mayoral control — community input and Council oversight has to start meaning something.
I also want the high-achieving students and hard-working staff at Banneker High School to get their long awaited and much deserved modernization.
And, I want both to happen transparently, through data-driven, thoughtful, long-term planning, and with the community engagement that’s absolutely critical to decisions of this magnitude; decisions that will impact these communities for a generation or more.
None of this should be a zero-sum game.
Today, I’d like to focus on a question I have regarding process and oversight, the importance of listening to constituent and community needs, and how we get to a resolution that makes sense for the communities involved and the city as a whole.
We know that as recently as 3 years ago the Capital Improvement budget had $55 million allocated for a renovation of Shaw Middle School. Without community engagement, and despite repeated appeals for a feasibility study to be conducted regarding the future of Shaw Middle, that money was reallocated to another school. Under similarly opaque circumstances, the announcement that Banneker High School would be moved to the Shaw Junior High site was made two weeks ago, blindsiding the community and making one wonder if DCPS is prioritizing exclusive test-in only schools over serving predominately at-risk populations.
I understand that the budget has already been allocated for the modernization of Banneker High School, a modernization the students and staff have been waiting for a long time, and is much deserved. Now, as someone who has managed $100 million dollar projects for the US government, I want to ask a question regarding the scope of work changes to the Banneker modernization project. In my experience as a project manager, a project whose scope deviates or changes substantially after it has been approved must be reevaluated and reapproved. An example from my own past work: if a decision had been made to build 10 health clinics in one location, but then later it was determined that a different location was desired, then the contractor would have to through a standardized reapproval process due to deviations from the original plan. Likewise, if I want to build an addition on my row house in Shaw, get my permits, but then decide that I’d prefer to build a roof deck, I’d have to go back to DCRA for new approvals. All this to say, that the budget that was approved for Banneker’s modernization called for a renovation and expansion of the school’s existing building. The Mayor’s announcement from a couple weeks ago is a major deviation from that. Given these substantial changes in the project’s scope of work what is the Council’s role is re-evaluating the budget and decision more generally?
Further, rather than thinking about this as a challenge, I believe that this substantial change in scope and necessary reexamination presents an opportunity for the Council to put a check and appropriate oversight on this opaque process, and for Mayor Bowser, the Deputy Mayor, and DCPS to right the wrong in this matter as it relates to working with the community to come to the best solution for ALL kids in Center City – whether they attend Banneker or will attend the Shaw Middle School.
To close, we have independent analysis that shows we can renovate and expand Banneker AND provide Shaw with the middle school it deserves. And, to the latter point, we know that communities are strengthened through neighborhood schools. The families who attend these schools and those who live in the center of this great city deserve strong, by-right stand-alone schools from elementary to middle and high school, and nothing less.
Thank you for time, and I implore you, please do not let this go unchecked.