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W6PSPO Virtual Meeting Notes – April 9, 2020

Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO) Meeting Notes

April 9, 2020 – via Zoom

Attendees:

  • Sonja Walti, Jefferson Academy and School Without Walls
  • Danica Petroshius, Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan
  • Jessica Sutter, State Board of Education Ward 6
  • Grace Hu, Amidon-Bowen, @Digital Equity in DC Education
  • Valerie Jablow, Duke Ellington
  • George Blackmon, Maury
  • Amy and Joe Weedon, Eliot-Hine and School Without Walls
  • Elsa Falkenberg, Tyler
  • Sandra Moscoso, Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan and School Without Walls
  • Suzanne Wells

Digital Equity

We learned from Grace Hu that DCPS made the decision to release devices to students who don’t have access to technology at home.  They have been releasing devices to high school students first, middle school students who haven’t already received devices from schools should begin receiving them next week, and elementary students will be after middle school students.  DCPS has purchased 10K wifi hotspots that are being distributed to schools, and then to students who need them.

The ~16K devices DCPS has to release are not all at the locations where they are needed.  Decisions have been made to shift devices from schools with low demand for devices to schools with high demand.  Principals/teachers have best handle on which students need devices.  There is no city-wide estimate right now on the exact number of devices that are needed, but it is expected more than the ~16K devices will be needed.  Private fundraising may fill gaps.  PTAs/PTOs may fill gaps.  DCPS has talked with Amazon about providing e-readers, but outcome of this discussion is unknown.

Jessica Sutter shared the DME is having daily calls to discuss digital divide and other education issues.  Notes from the calls are publicly available.

Distance Learning and Communication

DCPS, principals and teachers have done an amazing job of shifting to on-line learning.  There is much to be learned, and much to be improved, but the effort everyone is making is to be commended.

DCPS is using the Office 365 software, and Teams learning management product.  Some schools are finding that individual teachers are using other software platforms as everyone gets up to speed with Office 365.

It is recognized there are some students who are going to need support possibly beyond their family to use the devices, navigate the software, and learn when/how to access school work.  Schools are going to need multiple tools in hand to meet multiple needs, e.g., some schools may still need paper packets to give out to families for a period of time.

Students and parents are finding it sometimes to be challenging getting assignments from multiple platforms at different times from different people.  Sonja Walti shared from her professional experience that with on-line learning uniformity, consistency and regularity are key to making the on-line learning experience work.

Parents are observing when a large part of a class is on-line together, the teacher has to learn “on-line classroom management,” techniques.

Community

Schools are finding it is challenging to keep families feeling a part of something during this time.  Some things that parents have found to work are:

  • Zoom meetings with individual classes
  • Virtual mom’s and dad’s nights out over zoom
  • Zoom meetings with Principals and entire school
  • Anacostia HS is planning a virtual block party

Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up, and we know we want to do something special to recognize teachers for what they’ve done.

Need to think about special ways to recognize promotion ceremonies that students graduating from K to 1st grade, elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, and high school will likely miss in person.

Budget

DCPS has said there is going to be a hiring freeze for positions except for teachers and principals.

Little detail is currently known about impacts to current and next year’s budgets.  We believe it is important to keep the LSAT’s engaged in budget decisions so that the decisions are informed by family needs.

Other

Sandra said DCPS is exploring on-line registration this year.

Some schools are starting to have virtual playdates or other connections with incoming SY20/21 families.

Sonja expressed concern that planned efforts to increase enrollment are not likely to happen, and how can school budgets be protected.

Grace said the Office of Teaching and Learning (Karen Cole) is looking for feedback on distance learning.  Melody Molinoff with the W3 Education Council is working on their own survey.  W6PSPO should contact Melody, and share what we learned from our survey and this meeting’s discussion.

Valerie discussed the need to support teachers to be sure they are able to get support during this #StayHomeDC time when they can’t collaborate the same way they normally do with their colleagues.

We discussed the need to take the pressure off teachers with the merit evaluations.  While it is important to learn how teachers are adjusting to on-line learning, it should be a time to do just that, learn how to do on-line learning better, but not a time to focus on performance evaluations.

Please continue to share your challenges and how you are addressing them by adding comments to this google slide. We will monitor and keep this up to date. Add links when possible. Thx!

Next Steps

  1. Grace Hu is interested in receiving feedback from schools on how the device distribution is going.
  2. W6PSPO needs to connect with the Ward 3 Education Council and the Office of Teaching and Learning to provide feedback from our survey and how the on-line learning is going with a goal of sharing lessons learned. We want to emphasize uniformity, consistency and regularity.  (Suzanne & Grace lead)
  3. We all need to share ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week, and how we can be advocates for teachers.
  4. We all need to share ideas to promotion activities.
  5. We need to advocate for LSAT involvement in upcoming budget decisions.

 

 

 

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W6PSPO Virtual Meeting April 9 @ 7:30 pm

Dear Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO) Members,

Virtual Meeting to Share Challenges and Solutions
I trust you and your families are staying healthy during these difficult and trying times.  We’d like to have a virtual W6PSPO meeting on April 9, 2020, at 7:30 pm to touch base with each other.  We’ve put together a short survey in advance of our meeting to find out what issues or  challenges you or your school community are facing, and what is working well for you or your school.  We’d love to have principals join us, if their schedules permit.

We will hold our virtual meeting on zoom.  We’d like to ask that you indicate on the survey whether or not you plan to call in for the virtual meeting on April 9.  If you can complete the survey by 5 pm on April 8, we’d appreciate it.  We will send an invitation to  the zoom meeting to all those who plan to call in for the meeting.

Digital Equity Petition
Ensuring equitable access to distance learning is proving to be difficult.  The Chancellor has estimated about 30% of students don’t have access to computers and/or internet connectivity.  Please sign this petition asking the Mayor to make computers available to those students who don’t have them, and work to make broadband access available to low-income families.

Tragedy in the CHCS Family
Finally, I trust by now you have heard about the heartbreaking loss of Maeve McKean and her son Gideon.  Maeve was the PTA president of the Capitol Hill Cluster School, and Gideon was a student at Watkins.  Our hearts go out to Maeve and Gideon’s family, and to the entire Capitol Hill Cluster School community.

Suzanne Wells
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POSTPONED: Ward 6 Middle Schools Today & Tomorrow – March 17 @ 6:30pm

Please stay tuned for a new date….



Date:         March 17, 6:30-8:00 pm

Location:   Jefferson Middle School Academy, 801 7th Street SW

Register:   https://bit.ly/38vfIeM or go to eventbrite.com and enter “Ward 6 middle schools” in the search option. 

Do you want to learn more about Ward 6 middle schools and how we can support them as parents and community members? Join us for a panel discussion featuring principals from the following schools:

  • Capitol Hill Montessori
  • Cardozo Education Campus
  • Eliot-Hine Middle School
  • Jefferson Middle School Academy
  • Stuart-Hobson Middle School

For questions about the event, please e-mail w6pspo@gmail.com.

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SURVEY: 2020 DC Public Charter School Board Executive Director – Due Feb 5

The next Executive Director of the DC Public Charter School Board will deeply affect the lives of thousands of DC children and families and hundreds of educators in communities across the city. It is a complex, difficult, and important job. We all want an experienced and well-qualified person with the right combination of talent and experience and need your input to determine that balance.

The Ward 7 Education Council has created a survey where citizens across all 8 Wards can weigh on on what they are looking for from the next DC Public Charter School Executive Director.

Please share your thoughts by February 5, 2020 –> https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/7XLFQ78

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W6PSPO Meeting Notes – November 19, 2019

Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO) Meeting Notes

November 19, 2019

Miner ES

1.Sharing PTA/PTO Best Practices – PTA/PTO Meetings Panel/Open Discussion

David Treat and Julie Muir – Miner Elementary, Elsa Faulkenberg – Tyler Elementary, Lona Valmora – Capitol Hill Cluster School

We kicked this series off with a discussion on PTO meetings. Find our notes here. We’ll continue adding to this series at https://w6pspo.org/pto-best-practices/.

2. Campaign for Lead-free water – proposed rule from EPA re; lead and copper is looking for a 60 day extension of public comment period. Asking if W6PSPO will sign-on for extension to March 13 2020 that will go to EPA and OMB. Attendees voted to sign-on

3.  Discussion with the Washington Teachers Union on SY2020/21 Budget Priorities

Priority 1: Fund DC Schools.

Despite an increase in Mayor Bowser’s education budget for FY2020, 20 public schools, including 17 schools in Wards 7 and 8, saw significant budget cuts for the current school year. Overall funding for DCPS did not keep up with rising costs, leading to cuts in many schools.

    • Increased Investment – Meet 2013 Adequacy Levels

In 2013, the District Government commissioned an Adequacy Study calling for per pupil expenditures of $11,628.( In November 2019, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education awarded grant to Afton Partners, LLC to conduct a study of the UPSFF.) We need to reach, if not exceed, this amount in the FY2021 budget and for the first time fully funding our schools. The proposed FY 2020 budget increased the UPSFF base by 2.2 percent, from $10,658 to $10,891 per-student.

    •   Closing the Opportunity Gaps – Spending of At-Risk Dollars

Achievement gaps across nearly all subgroups measured by NAEP have not changed or have grown since 2002/2003. The NAEP scores mirror results on the city’s PARCC tests. The PARCC scores show steady, albeit slow, growth across most demographic groups. However, once again, we see achievement gaps growing. Research is clear that increased spending can, when combined with other reforms, help close achievement gaps, but in DC the funds have not reached the students who are in greatest need.

    • Special Education – Increased supplemental funding.

The District of Columbia continues to fail DC students with special needs. The US Department of Education labeled DC as “needs” assistance” in implementing federal requirements of Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Additional funding will allow DC Public Schools to reduce special education class sizes and increase the planning time allowed for Special Education Teachers.

 

Priority 2. Living & Learning Conditions.

If we care about children, we have to improve all the conditions that affect them.’ 

    •   Trauma Informed Practices & Screening

When trauma goes unchecked and is sustained, it can disrupt a child’s brain development, interfering with functions children depend on in school such as memory recall, focus and impulse control. In a trauma-informed school, the adults in the school community are prepared to recognize and respond to those who have been impacted by traumatic stress. To ensure adequate staffing, we need more information on the experiences of our students and propose that the city screens every student for trauma and uses the findings to ensure adequate staffing.

Priority 3. One Set of Rules for All Schools.

Regardless of where a student attends school, she is entitled to the same rights as a student, including transparency and adherence to all local laws.

 

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W6PSPO Meeting Notes – January 21, 2020

W6PSPO Meeting Notes

January 21, 2020

Stuart-Hobson MS

1. Laura Marks (Councilmember Charles Allen’s Chief of Staff), Anne Phelps (DC Budget Office Counsel and Senior Advisor) and Jonathan Antista (Deputy Director for Budget) shared an overview of the DC Council performance and budget oversight process. Please review the following documents:

2. Elizabeth Feinstein with Flavors Hook Kids DC presented information about the risks of flavored tobacco products, and current bills before the City Council that would end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.

  • Most needed action now is to reach out to Councilmembers and ask: 1 for a markup of the bill to ban flavored tobacco to include the flavors of mint and menthol; 2 fund the bill. Take action here.
  • Learn about vaping-related issues at https://flavorshookkidsdc.org/. Contact Elizabeth Feinstone to get involved in local, DC advocacy.

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Next W6PSPO Meeting: February 18, 2020, 6:30-8pm, Location TBD

Upcoming Events

From February 3-7, Teaching for Change’s DC Area Educators for Social Justice, local organizers, and community members will collaborate for the DC Area Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. The Black Livers Matter at School Week of Action seeks to improve the school experience for students of color. Throughout the week there are evening events and resources are offered to teach about structural racism, intersectional Black identities, Black history, and anti-racist movements. More information is available at http://bit.ly/BLMatSchoolDC2020.

Upcoming Hearings – Sign up early to testify and double-check date here (dates change)

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ShawMS@Banneker community meeting – Sunday 11/24/18 at 2pm

Neighbors –
On behalf of the parent-led ShawMS@Banneker group, I am writing to invite you to our community meeting this coming Sunday, November 24th, at 2pm at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th St NW). Shaw@B is a group of parents formed to engage with DCPS and the community around the planning process for a Shaw Middle School at the Banneker site, with the goal of having students in 800 Euclid St NW as soon as possible, potentially as early as the fall of 2021 (when current 4th graders would be in 6th grade).
At this meeting:
  • we will present the background on Shaw@B,
  • host a presentation by Cardozo EC Principal Arthur Mola on the current middle school program at Cardozo, and discuss how the community can support his school,
  • dig into the result of our survey of parents on their aspirations regarding educational programming for middle schoolers, and
  • discuss next steps.
We hope you can join us!
Becky Reina
Cleveland ES parent

Sarah Wolf Testimony – DCPS SY2021 Budget Hearing

Sarah Wolf, Peabody Elementary School 

Testimony to the DCPS Public Budget Hearing, October 29, 2019

Good evening Chancellor Ferebee and Deputy Chancellor Maisterra

My name is Sarah Wolf and I am the parent of a kindergarten student at Peabody Elementary School. I have been a DC resident since 2003 and currently live in Ward 6. I am also a member of the Peabody School Improvement Team, which was set up in September 2019 to address safety and maintenance concerns on the school playground.

Peabody is the early education campus of the Capitol Hill Cluster School in Ward 6. It educates 226 students in grades PK3, PK4 and Kindergarten. Peabody is a diverse school that draws students primarily from the Capitol Hill neighborhood: 81 percent of students attending are in-boundary. Eight percent of students are economically disadvantaged and five percent have special needs.

In 2018, when our son Roman was offered a PK4 spot at Peabody through the DCPS lottery we were delighted. Peabody prides itself on providing a joyful learning environment for kids ages 3-6 years old. The school is a bright, cheerful place decorated with kids’ artwork, the teachers are kind, and the program provides a gentle introduction to school life. My son loves it.

So, you can imagine my shock on the first day of school, at dismissal, to see Peabody staff attempting to drive out of their parking spaces in a playground full of little children. The situation struck me as potentially dangerous and not at all in keeping with the safe, supportive learning environment that Peabody endeavors to provide.

Over the course of the last and this academic year, I, along with other parents, have witnessed many close calls between kids and cars. The school has a policy of “honk and freeze.” The teachers honk their horns, the kids are supposed to freeze. However, we have seen kids completely ignore the honk and instead of freezing, run straight towards the moving car. We have witnessed kids obey the honk and freeze but freeze behind a car that is backing up. We have seen 10-12 cars that are double parked, maneuver through a busy playground with parents and caregivers trying to direct traffic and kids still run in front of cars. We have helped cars to back up, only to see a three year old on a tricycle ride behind the cars. In all cases, accidents were avoided due to the efforts of parents and drivers working together to keep kids safe. But other times, it was pure luck that the child running behind the car did not get hit. These close calls are too frequent and put our children in an unnecessarily risky situation. 

Playgrounds were established to provide a safe place for kids to play that is free from cars. I cannot believe that if the city were designing a new playground today, they would place cars within it with no barriers or fencing to separate the kids. The Mayor’s Vision Zero Initiative seeks to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities involving pedestrians. I find it inconsistent that the city focuses on pedestrian safety on the way to and from school, but once at the school site, there are no such safety or traffic measures in place.

In addition to parents worrying about keeping their kids safe from cars, the playground itself has become over the years, unsafe. There are three main problems that are leading to injuries including scrapes, bruises and broken bones.

  1. The playground surfacing includes blacktop, poured rubber and wood chips. The blacktop and poured rubber have uneven surfaces, gaps and sinkholes, and provides insufficient padding in some places, especially under ladders. A week ago, a Peabody parent reported that her four year old daughter tripped on the surfacing and fell onto the corner of a picnic table getting a black eye. The same week, a four year old Peabody boy fell off a ladder and badly scraped his forehead. Another Peabody parent says her PK3 and Kindergarten kids come home almost every day with scrapes on knees and elbows from falling on the blacktop.

  2. The playground equipment is between 15-25 years old and no longer meets current safety standards. One structure in particular (orange/blue) is not age appropriate for students who are three and four years old — who are the majority of Peabody students.

    According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Public Playground Safety Handbook, monkey bars are not intended for children ages three or younger, and for children ages four and above, the structure should be no higher than 60 inches. The Peabody monkey bars are 77 inches in height. A Peabody parent reports that in 2017 her four year old daughter fell off the monkey bars and fractured her elbow. A three year old boy also fell off the same monkey bars and had severe bruising. His mother says the only reason he didn’t break his arm was because he is such a tall and heavy child. The same handbook says sliding poles should not be used in playgrounds for preschool students. The Peabody playground has three sliding poles measuring between 85-100 inches in height. In 2017, a five year old boy fell off the pole and broke his elbow in two places. He had to be hospitalized and had three pins inserted into his arm.

  3. In addition to the equipment not meeting current safety standards, the equipment itself is old and not well maintained. The coating on the play structures is peeling off, exposing rust and creating sharp edges that poke into kids’ hands. For awhile, yellow safety tape was put up on the chain climbers. It seems to have been removed yet the sharp edges remain.

In summary, the playground is in need of an overhaul.

In 2013, Peabody received funding for Phase 1 Modernization under the 10-year DCPS School Modernization Plan. The Education Spec included renovating floors and ceilings, improving lighting and electrical, and upgrading IT, water lines, service lines and HVAC systems. The playground was not included.

I understand that DCPS has abandoned the phased modernization process and now uses the PACE model to prioritize schools for modernization. Given Peabody’s current rank of #30 (out of 32) on the modernization priority list, we would not receive full modernization funding until at least 2024 but likely many years later as there are higher priority schools. However, I am aware that outside of modernization funding, there is a city-wide Capital Improvement Plan as well as stabilization funding available to address repairs of school buildings and athletic fields.

One solution to the car safety problem would be to create a daytime school parking zone under the law that was passed last year. We are working with our ANC Commissioner and gathering data to submit a formal request. Another solution is to redesign the Peabody site to include separate spaces for cars to park and for kids to play. There also needs to be an interim solution that does not rely on children ages 3-6 to be always conscious of cars. The playground is supposed to be space for kids to play, exercise their bodies, and stretch their imaginations without worrying about moving cars. We cannot wait for an accident to happen.

I, representing the Peabody community, urge the Education Chancellor to address the Peabody safety concerns in the next DCPS budget. 

Suzanne Wells Testimony – Digital Equity and Financial Literacy Council Hearing

Education Committee

Public Hearing

District of Columbia Public Schools Student Technology Equity Act of 2019, B23-0196

November 6, 2019

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.  My name is Suzanne Wells, and I am the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization.

Ward 6 parents have been at the forefront of advocating for adequate and reliable technology in our schools.  Last year four of our school PTAs (Miner Elementary, Payne Elementary, Amidon-Bowen Elementary, and JO Wilson Elementary) were founding members of a parent advocacy effort to address the unreliable technology in DCPS.  They have since formed a city-wide coalition of parents who have been advocating for additional funding and support for school technology, as well as a long-range technology plan.

Ward 6 schools have struggled to maintain working technology. Ward 6 schools don’t just use computers for testing, they also use them for learning. Several Ward 6 schools use blended learning programs that combine digital learning with traditional teaching. Having Central Office provide devices for grades 3-12 will help support our schools.  Having a comprehensive technology plan will help to ensure there is a multi-year, sustainable plan for funding and providing technology to schools, not just a short-term initiative.

I believe the DCPS Student Technology Equity Act is needed because it recognizes DCPS has not done an adequate job in providing technology throughout the school system.  The bill places aggressive, but achievable timelines for conducting a needs assessment, and developing a comprehensive technology plan.  My remaining comments focus on questions for the Education Committee about the Act.

  • The Act seems focused on student computers, tablets and similar devices. Schools today use Smartboards in classrooms, and teachers need laptops to do their work. Because technology such as Smartboards is not included, and teachers are not mentioned in the bill, is it the intention of the Education Committee that these not be included in the comprehensive technology plan?

I believe the Act should be flexible and broad enough to cover a wide range of technology outside of computers and tablets, and written in a way that acknowledges there will likely be new developments in technology we don’t even know about today.  I would also caution the Committee in using overly prescriptive words such as “a plan to achieve or maintain a one-to-one-device-to-student ratio for grades 3 – 12,” and instead use language that seeks to optimize the use of technology in the classroom to support student learning.

  • The Act gives significant responsibility to the Technology Steering Committee. The Committee is tasked to contract with a DC-based partner, conduct the technology needs assessment, and develop a comprehensive technology plan.  As I read the bill, I was struck by how much responsibility is given to the Technology Steering Committee instead of to DCPS.

Many, many organizations have technology plans that are developed in-house. Of course, many of the members of the Technology Steering Committee members will undoubtedly be DCPS staff.  Yet, I could also envision a successful path forward where DCPS is directed to do many, if not all, of the responsibilities described in this Act, and the Technology Steering Committee advices DCPS on the technology audit and the comprehensive technology plan.

Can the Education Committee explain why it believes placing the responsibilities in the hands of the Technology Steering Committee rather than DCPS will be the best approach?

  • Finally, implementation of a comprehensive technology plan will require funding. I would hate to see DCPS have to reduce teaching staff or cut out other vital needs in the school to fund technology.  I encourage the Education Committee to work with DCPS to find the funding to implement this Act.