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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.

Scott Goldstein Testimony – Digital Equity and Financial Literacy Council Hearing

Testimony on Digital Equity and Financial Literacy in Washington, DC

EMpoweredScott Goldstein- Executive Director, EmpowerEd

November 5, 2019

 

Good Afternoon Chairman Grosso and Chairman Mendelson.

I am here to support and call for strengthening the Student Technology Equity Act before you today. I also strongly support the financial literacy bill and its pilot program, but will focus my testimony today on digital equity.  This bill is a basic starting point- providing for a full audit and needs assessment of the technology and access in our school system right now. The council is on the right track to prioritize digital equity and establish a starting point that enables us to layout a blueprint for action.  As a result of the excellent advocacy from parents and allies, DCPS has already taken positive steps in this direction.

For a moment, I want to back up to why this matters. In 1950, it took nearly 150 years for the amount of knowledge in the world to double.  In 2013, the amount of knowledge in the world doubled every 12 months.  Now, in 2019, it’s every 12 HOURS.  There is a basic canon of knowledge our students need to be prepare to exercise citizenship, but given the rapidly expanding universe of content in the world, what is perhaps more important is for students to know how to sift through that knowledge, to search for it, extrapolate what they need and analyze it effectively.  If that’s not reason enough, the influence of social media, online advertising and its recent effect on our national elections should be enough to convince us we need to take digital literacy and media literacy very seriously.  It’s also why it’s essential that we not focus only on how many laptops, tablets, etc… that we have but also on how we’re using them.

I remember very well as a teacher when each spring rolled around and with it, testing season.  But it wasn’t necessarily the schedule changes that came with it that bothered me most.  Instead, it was that I was now facing two months (yes, that’s how long the testing window often is) with no access to laptops since every available laptop was going to be used for PARCC testing. That was around the time of year that I did one of my favorite projects- a social movement project that allowed students to take on a social movement from history and dive deep into it, analyze it and think about how it continues today. That required deep research and was made nearly impossible without laptops.  So what did I do?  I bought tablets for my whole class- digging into my own pocket and getting help from friends and family.  Then, once I got the project underway, I was told by administrators that I couldn’t use the tablets I bought anyway for my project because the wireless network couldn’t stand having all the students testing plus students doing research on tablets.  So for a whole two months- no internet access, no in school research for our students. It so happens that in many content areas, the curriculum demands teachers teach units that include research, video access and more during that very testing window, and yet we can’t teach the required curriculum when we don’t have access to the technology called for in our curriculum.   That’s not an acceptable status quo for our students.

When I did have access- what mattered most to me was not just the content my students could access, but building in my students the ability to access and analyze the world of information at their fingertips.  Students often did not know what to write in a google search to get the right result, how to weed through thousands of results, how to determine source credibility- all essential skills. This bill should be strengthened to audit technology use and the current practices in educating our students for digital literacy in addition to access to the hardware itself. As always, given that half of our students attend the District’s Public Charter Schools, I would hope the council would not shy away from ensuring that technology equity is not a promise we make only to half of our students.  Access to this technology and to the skills needed to navigate it are essential for our students current and future success. Thank you.

Ward 6 Checklist for Budget Legislation

Picture1Checklist for budget legislation

Below are some priorities for future budget legislation from Ward 6 parents  


On transparency of school budgets:

☐ Ensure the public has sufficient data to identify exactly how “at-risk” funds are allocated and spent at each school, for both DCPS and charter schools.

☐ Report for each school the amount of “at-risk”, special education, and English learner funding separately by category and differentiate these categories from money spent on general education (e.g., comprehensive staffing model).

☐ Create categories that allow stakeholders to easily determine how much money is spent at individual school sites, as opposed to central office administrative costs (e.g., resources such as instructional superintendents should be coded as central office).

For DCPS schools only:

☐ Require DCPS to identify separate funding amounts by school for “at-risk”, special education, English learner, and general education in initial school budgets.

☐ Require DCPS to publish the percent change in year to year school budgets after removing costs moved from central office to school budgets (e.g., school security officers) and accounting for increases in staffing costs and enrollment changes.


On how funds are allocated and spent:

☐  Enforce the law that requires “at-risk” funds to be allocated directly to school sites and to be used as supplemental funds, as opposed to using being used to back-fill general education costs.

☐  Require that charter LEAs also use “at-risk” funds to supplement instruction or services. Currently, the law only applies to DCPS schools.

For DCPS schools only:

☐ Give discretion back to school communities to determine how to allocate “at-risk” funds, within certain criteria outlined by DCPS.

☐ Require DCPS to meaningfully engage school communities before making any changes to the school budget model. Also require DCPS to publish side-by-side comparisons of each school budget under the old and new models at least one fiscal year prior to implementation.

October 31, 2019