April 5, 2022
Deputy Mayor Kihn
Dear Mayor Bowser, Deputy Mayor Kihn, Superintendent Grant and Chancellor Ferebee,
We write to ask you to urgently bring the DCPS clearance processes for hires and volunteers up to date, and to ensure an efficient and effective system for quickly clearing staff and volunteers to work in or partner with our schools.
Schools are experiencing long wait times for hires they want and need. Substitutes and volunteers are
waiting months for clearances. This is unacceptable. School communities cannot meet your calls to have every child feel “loved,” and for all children to have the opportunity to recovery from pandemic challenges – academically, socially, emotionally and physically – without adequate, safe adults in our school buildings.
We strongly support the purpose of clearances as one critical piece of the process to help ensure that our system does all it can to keep students and adults in school buildings safe from predators and those who might cause harm of any kind. At the same time, we know that schools are currently struggling to be fully staffed and that volunteers stand ready to help schools in a variety of ways. We should be able to meet all these needs quickly and safely.
Some early responses from DCPS staff to inquiries about these delays place the blame on the new legislation that increased requirements for clearances. This, too, is unacceptable. The School Safety Act became effective in April 2019. Multiple agencies have critical roles in implementing that legislation and we expect the Mayor to ensure that your agencies work together effectively and efficiently. We are coming up on the three-year anniversary of that effective date. Even with pandemic-related delays, the clearance process should have been up and running effectively and efficiently by this school year. Instead, we are forcing additional unnecessary challenges on schools that are stretched thin addressing greater student needs and facing flat or slashed budgets.
We ask that you:
· Immediately report to the public: the backlog of clearances (hiring, substitutes and volunteers); specifics on the current plan for and status of readiness for full implementation of clearance process including timeline and process; when the clearance process will be fully functional; and how long the new clearance process will take for each person to receive clearances;
· Place urgency on and prioritize implementation of a fully functional and efficient clearance system; and
· Provide to each school and the public clear guidelines on how any potential hire or volunteer can most efficiently and effectively access the new system.
Please send responses to Suzanne Wells, President of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization, at email@example.com. Thank you for your consideration.
SBOE President: Jessica Sutter
Chairman Phil Mendelson
Councilmember Brian Nadeau
Councilmember Brooke Pinto
Councilmember Mary Cheh
Councilmember Janeese Lewis-George
Councilmember Kenyon McDuffie
Councilmember Charles Allen
Councilmember Vincent Gray
Councilmember Trayon White
Councilmember Anita Bonds
Councilmember Elissa Silverman
Councilmember Robert White