Status

Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO)

Virtual Meeting

May 7, 2020

1- Digital Equity in DC Education Update

  • DCPS has distributed ~8K devices.  Elementary school distributions happening this week.
  • Sent 2 pages of recommendations to DCPS. Asked for additional tech support; ensure curriculum includes picking up digital literacy skills
  • Wifi was set up in public spaces, not in public housing units
  • Pushing for analytical framework so there can be broader options at different price points
  • FY21 budget asks: DC Education Coalition for Change (DECC) trying to figure out – is there a way to advocate for federal funding

 

Q: sense on how many students still need laptops? When schools handout devices and hotspots they learn more about who needs them. Lacking good data on the full need. School principal shave a good sense of who needs them, but not down to the family level detail

Want DC gov now to start looking at options; if fed $ comes

 

2 – Re-Open DC Letter

  • 200+ signatures, based on ideas and Qs parents are asking about response to pandemic
  • Asked DME how groups are invited to participate, and stressed those most impacted need to be at the table. DME responded, but did not answer how ‘seats at the table’ are selected

3 – Re-Open DC Education and Child Care Committee

  • All input received has been taken into consideration
  • What got heard: families will be allowed to opt out
  • A lot of fear about bringing teachers and students back to school while there will be a lot of pressure on the schools to open up. 
    • Concern there can’t be a long-term phrase of mostly online learning 
    • Need to get students back to their communities and schools
    • Concerns; if we go back to school with social distancing, DCPS must take advantage of the space it has
    • Committee report now due May 15.  Committee members not likely to see report before it goes to the Mayor.
    • At what level is it prescriptive? How much does Department of Health determine and how much do LEAs? Will there be DoH on site to manage/watch over implementation of risk mitigators
  • Need to push DCPS to hear voice of parents who have to be at work, those struggling with digital learning, students who are ELL and those missing sense of community

Q: Education report goes to Mendelson/Rice/Fenty/ will form all the input into one doc.  Unclear who is doing the writing (Kihn, etc?)

  • Will there be consistent recommendations across sectors?
  • Acknowledgement that families should have right to make own decisions and schools should have the responsibility to connect with families
  • Not a lot of disagreement across what various groups submitted

Q: What was Liz Davis’ input?

  • Feedback from teachers with concerns on how will they be protected
  • WTU sent out survey and had 45 teachers volunteer to serve on a task force. Concerns about getting sick and bringing back illness to their families; a lot of questions and concerns are driven by safety concerns
  • Goal is to go back to the classroom
    • Issues were around PD/use of platforms; online learning
    • Huge concern on digital divide; up to half students aren’t participating in digital learning
  • Can we use Canvas?  Series of videos being created
  • Is there a way for teachers to provide feedback to central offices about what they need?
    • All feedback going through principals
  • A lot of work can be done over the summer; need a lot of voices over the summer
  • It’s a big threat to DCPS if we transfer to long term distance learning – we have to make it safe, but need to think creatively about how to do this.
  • Need to make sure all health forms are in with the DCPS deadline to support healthy schools

 

Suzanne Wells Testimony – Joint Budget Oversight Hearing for Education Agencies

Committee of the Whole

Committee on Education

Joint Budget Oversight Hearing for all Education Agencies

June 4, 2020

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today at the joint budget oversight hearing for all education agencies.  My name is Suzanne Wells, and I’m the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO).  Our organization is a member of the Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities (C4DC).

As our city develops the FY21 budget while dealing with the economic impacts from covid-19, the W6PSPO is deeply appreciative of the commitment the city has to funding education, particularly our public schools.  We recognize the city has many serious needs, and reduced revenues make the choices of what to fund very difficult.  We know meeting these needs isn’t going to be easy. But both covid-19 and the national cries for racial justice show the important responsibility our city has to reimagine our public school system.  We must not let inertia or lack of will allow us to continue doing business as usual.  We must find ways to address deep needs while wisely using public funds.

Unfortunately, what stands out about the education budget for both DCPS and the charter sector is how much it is business as usual.  DC’s dual system of schools of by right and charter schools is costly, with duplicative offerings and dispersed enrollment resulting in many inadequately resourced schools.  This continues with the FY21 budget.  We can no longer afford the experiment of opening new schools to provide a lottery chance for families to choose a school. The unregulated growth of DC charters in the last 20 years has been out of proportion to DC’s student population. This has resulted in a 40% school closure rate, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars spent on schools that closed, and thousands of unfilled seats, including 10 new schools opening in 2020 that currently have a fraction of their seats filled. Each empty seat means resources are spread more thinly across existing schools.

Significant municipal savings could be realized by investing and growing our by-right public school system, and ensuring every student has a high-quality neighborhood school regardless of where they live. Encouraging increasing enrollment at DCPS schools of right will provide a return on investment in existing infrastructure, reduce per pupil charter school facility allowances, and save money budgeted for the Kids Ride Free program.  A commitment to our by-right public school system will begin to allow us to use our city’s education funds in more meaningful ways that support students.

There are several things we encourage the City to do to reimagine our public school system.  First is to more accurately project enrollment counts to reflect the fact that DCPS receives more students after the October enrollment count than they are funded for; thereby allowing DCPS to better serve the students it receives.  Second, enact a moratorium on the approval and opening of any DCPS or charter school for FY21, unless needed to ensure a DCPS by-right choice for families.   Third, is to stop the expansion of new campuses for existing charter schools for five years.  We also believe the City should commit to no school closures for FY21, thereby ensuring stability and reducing trauma.

We must reimagine the FY21 budget so there are no cuts for schools educating the highest percentages or numbers of our at-risk students. Investments in supports for these schools to address digital divide issues, food insecurity, lack of access to high-quality health care and behavioral support, and lack of special education services, while also ensuring those schools have equitable teacher training, experience, and retention.

One particular part of the Mayor’s proposed a budget that is glaring in its business as usual approach is the funding for technology.  The proposed budget sticks to DCPS’s pre covid-19 plan to provide computers to every student in grades 3-12 over three years.  SY20/21 will be year two of the three-year plan to provide a 1:1 device to student ratio.  This plan is totally inadequate for the new reality of education, in which learning will occur at home and in school. We must get to a 1:1 ratio this coming school year.  The Digital Equity in DC Education Coalition estimates it will take an approximately $11 million investment in computers and IT support in FY21 to get to the 1:1 ratio.  Without this investment, we risk having students whose families can’t provide them with computers fall further behind.  We also urge the city to establish a Digital Divide Coalition that can develop recommendations for providing wifi connectivity throughout the city.

Another area that needs to be reimagined is school libraries (Attachment A).  In the FY21 school level budgets, it appears 18 schools (primarily at east-of-the river schools) petitioned out their librarians, including Miner Elementary in Ward 6. These schools didn’t petition out their librarians because they think librarians aren’t important, rather they didn’t have the funding to support all the positions they need to provide their students with a well-rounded education.  We strongly encourage the DCPS budget be reimagined so that librarians are funded for every DCPS school.

We ask the Council to strike Subtitle B (Education Facility Colocation Amendment Act of 2020) from the Budget Support Act. Once school reopens, DCPS will need its entire school inventory to allow for social distancing as DCPS finds ways to bring back the most students it safely can.  Co-location is an important issue, and shouldn’t be slipped through in a budget amendment.  If the Council believes co-location is important, it should hold a public hearing on it in the future.

While it is not a budget issue, we strongly encourage DCPS to communicate with parents sooner rather than later about what the school schedule will be for the coming year.  For the most part, I have not heard parents express preferences for any particular schedule, but rather parents need to know as soon as possible what the schedule will be so they can begin planning for distance learning at home, before and after school options, and child care.

In closing, these difficult times require us not to continue doing business as usual.  The education budget must be reimagined in ways that will promote equity and ensure there is a high quality by-right education choice in all parts of the city.  We can and must reimagine the education budget.


Attachment A

DCPS Librarians

  1. Full-time certified librarian staffed in every DCPS school.
  2. Schools with over 300 students must employ a full-time librarian.
  3. Increased funding for print and e-books for general and special education populations.
  4. Timely delivery of funding for library books.  DCPS librarians did not receive the promised library books for their collections due to budget/purchase order delays.  This crippled and marginalized many programs last school year.
  5. Funding for general technology.  Some library programs do not have projectors, SMART Boards, laptops for self-checkout, laptops/desktops for student research.  Some are even struggling with the poor or lack of circulation desk computer to check out books through the online vendor, Follett Books.
  6. Confirm receipt of the Empowered Learners Initiative (ELI) computers – some schools have not given the librarian the DCPS issued ELI laptops designated for the librarians.  This is a citywide technology program and librarians were included in the original design and implementation.
  7. Funding for Makerspace activities and projects.  DCPS librarians have been charged to create Makerspace activities and projects for students, but unfortunately expected to pay for all supplies.
  8. Funding for office supplies.  Librarians need to be included in the general supply list for departments within a school rather than as teachers.  DCPS librarians have clerical supply needs that exceed beyond the yearly allotment of supply funds teachers receive each year.

 

Status

Parent Sign On Letter Raising Questions about Learning in a Pandemic – to the Mayor and Committee on Education and Child Care

Note: we could not find a publicly available list of all of the Committee members’ emails. We found as many as we could. Please share with the full Committee. Thank you.

Dear Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Reopen DC Committee: Education and Child Care,

On behalf of the 203 parents and community members who signed, please accept the attached letter. It contains over 30 questions across topic areas including safe and healthy learning, facilities, and more, all with a focus on equity. We hope that you will consider and share feedback on these issues as you develop your report and plans.

Parents, educators, and students are all critically important partners in this work. We must listen and learn from one another in order to succeed – especially in a time of crisis. Families know this and are ready, as always, to help and share our thoughts.

As parents signed the letter, they also raised the additional ideas and questions below. This important ongoing feedback underscored why it is so critical that the stakeholders that are most impacted by these decisions be at the table. We believe these should be considered too:

  • Work Security. How will we ensure that security guards, janitorial staff, kitchen workers who are essential staff and vital elements to school operations are able to maintain employment even if they or a close relative are affected by COVID-19?
  • Nurses. How will we ensure that if schools are open for in-person learning there is a nurse on site in every school?
  • Special Education. How will we ensure that the specific needs of students with disabilities are met? How will districts address IEP requirements during remote and hybrid arrangements? How will we address social distancing for students who require hands-on assistance or aides? How will we ensure the compatibility of online platforms with assistive technology?

Importantly, this work is not yet done. We must continue to reach out to those parents not yet heard from. We hope that as you develop your report, you recommend that dialogue and feedback continue through the Pandemic and that the full spectrum of stakeholders be included. Only then will we be sure that all issues and perspectives are being heard and addressed.

Thank you for your consideration.

Danica Petroshius on behalf of all of the signees

Status

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.

 

 

 

Status

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
Status

W6PSPO Updates – March 19, 2020

Dear Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization members,
I hope everyone in the W6PSPO family is staying healthy and safe.
Our schools have been working hard to ensure students are fed, and getting resources in place so learning can continue remotely.  We greatly appreciate all they are doing.  As homeschooling sets in, we appreciate more and more the hard work teachers do.
Many people are sharing on-line and other resources that parents can use as they home school.  I’ve started a google doc with a few ideas, and encourage everyone to add to the list.
There is one sure thing everyone can do now, and that’s be counted in the 2020 Census!  The U.S. Census Bureau has mailed census IDs to homes across the country.  Fill out your census information online before April 1.  Completing your census information by April 1 will help conserve natural resources, save taxpayer money, and process data more efficiently!
Unfortunately, Bike-to-School Day is not going to be held this year.  We hope we will all be able to celebrate Walk-to-School Day in October.  http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/
For the time being, the DC Council budget oversight hearings have been postponed.  As we learn more about when these hearings will be rescheduled, we will share it.  The Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities (C4DC) recently released a proposal that seeks investments in DCPS.  When you have time, please take a look at the proposal.
Suzanne Wells
Status

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.

Status

W6PSPO Meets Tuesday, February 25 @ Tyler Elementary

Dear Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization members,

W6PSPO will meet on Tuesday, February 25, from 6:30 – 8 pm at Tyler Elementary (1001 G Street, SE). Deputy Chancellor Amy Maisterra will join us for a DCPS budget discussion. We will also be joined by a representative from the Mayor’s Office of African Affairs who will share the city’s efforts to ensure everyone is counted in the 2020 census.

On March 17, the W6PSPO is hosting a discussion with the Ward 6 middle school principals. The panel will feature principals from Capitol Hill Montessori, Cardozo Education Campus, Eliot-Hine Middle School, Jefferson Academy Middle School, and Stuart Hobson Middle School. Child care will be available for children ages 3 and above. We are encouraging people who plan to attend to register for this event. Please share information about this discussion with your school communities.

Many of you saw the Washington Post article about this year’s DCPS budget, and the classification of library media specialists as non-essential. W6PSPO has had a long tradition of supporting school libraries and librarians. A petition is circulating in support of DCPS librarians. So far 630 people have signed this petition. We’d like to help get several thousand signatures. Please share this petition with your school communities.

Hope to see you on Tuesday.

Suzanne Wells

022520 W6PSPO Agenda.doc