Chairman and Councilmembers. I am Sandra Moscoso, a parent of two students at School Without Walls High School, president of the school’s Home and School Association, secretary of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization, and treasurer of the Ward 2 Education Council.
A lot has gone wrong this year, but I want to focus on where we have found success and what we need in order to ensure the remainder of this year is less chaotic. I also want to focus on ensuring that schools have what they need to support learning, social, and emotional recovery over the years to follow.
An incredible amount of time was wasted fighting over reopening due to lack of transparency by DCPS and in turn, lack of trust from teachers and school communities. It was not until teachers, administrators, and communities were brought into the planning (in December) that reopening plans gained traction, and reflected the needs of the schools. I hope DCPS and other education agencies will learn from this.
DCPS central office must empower principals and teachers. School staff are directly accountable to students and families and they must be the ones to drive the design of learning, social, and emotional programming. Empowering means administrators have time to give input BEFORE plans are announced to the city and cause confusion. Empowering means ensuring school leaders have the tools and resources to implement their plans, and it means supporting principals and teachers publicly. This last bit is particularly important in the environment where the public undermining of teachers by the Mayor and Chancellor has fractured trust in schools and has left many families feeling confused, powerless, and unhappy.
This is an oversight hearing, but it’s no secret our schools are set to endure system-wide cuts to school staff in SY22 due to inadequate budgets. Council cannot let this happen, particularly when DC is poised to receive $400 million that can be used through SY23, and it is entirely up to DCPS to use those funds for staff.
Schools should open their doors (or e-classrooms, depending on health and safety) with robust and familiar instructional staff, equitable access to technology, opportunities for students to pursue interests and build relationships, and most importantly – mental health resources to help students cope with current and ongoing stressors. Programs like Decoding Dyslexia and the original outdoor classroom, Foodprints, must also be funded.
The Office of State Superintendent for Education must also do its part by giving the public access to decision-useful data on attendance, mobility, teacher retention, and beyond. Administrators, together with school communities can use this to learn from each other, and to better design academic, SEL and enrichment programming customized for their students’ needs. I support an independent OSSE to better serve our students.
[And it’s not in my written testimony, but we need more transparency around school reopening data related to testing.]
Thank you for this opportunity to testify.