Rebecca Reina Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 6, 2019

Testimony of Rebecca Reina

to DC Council, Committee on Education, public hearing

on the nomination of Dr. Lewis Ferebee as Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools,

on 2/6/19 at 6:00 pm,

Cardozo Education Campus cafeteria (1200 Clifton St, NW)


Hello, I‘m Becky Reina, mother of 2 Cleveland Elementary School students, where I have served on the PTA and LSAT. I am also the Interim Chair of the newly relaunched Ward 1 Education Council; although I am here today in my capacity as a parent, not on behalf on the Education Council. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on the nomination of Dr. Lewis Ferebee to lead DC Public Schools.

I have not yet met Dr. Ferebee.  He seems to be an earnest, committed educator.  There are things about his work in Indianapolis that give me pause: I am very much against handing traditional public schools to charter operators and against dismantling a system of neighborhood, by-right schools at any age-level, including high school; I am also concerned about his oversight of the sexual abuse case that has come to light in Indianapolis, particularly because that school district’s response appeared not to be focused on what was best for the student, but instead on limiting liability.

I am gladdened by Dr. Ferebee’s immediate outreach to the DC community, including the Ward coffees he has already begun and the invitation to meet that I and my fellow Chairs of Ward-based education groups have received. This engagement is a vital first step. But, now Dr. Ferebee must not only listen to community concerns, but also change his thinking and actions based on what he hears. In the past 5 years, I have been to many beautiful stage-managed community engagement meetings and watched numerous Chancellors and Acting Chancellors listen with furrowed brows.  I have not seen those same Chancellors defend DCPS against the encroachment of charter schools and the gradual degradation of our by-right, neighborhood feeder system that can and should take children on a clear, well-supported school journey from PK3 to 12th grade in *every* part of this city. To start that defense, our DCPS schools need:

1) adequate At-Risk and ELL funding which supplements not supplants the funding of core school functions,

2) a dedicated technology budget for every school that supports not only laptops for testing but also continuing classroom use of a computers, laptops, tablets, headphones, and SMART boards and maintenance of all these devices — funding that is reliable and continuing, and not based on grants or PTA largess,

3) a clear, adequate feeder pattern in every neighborhood — including but not limited to the reopening of Shaw Middle School in the Cardozo feeder pattern at the site of the former Shaw Junior High School and robust community engagement prior to any changes that affect feeder patterns,

4) additional funding for translation services for schools that require it to communicate with their families,

5) a plan for and funding of transporting middle school students to school in parts of town where public transit is not currently adequate,

6) increased seats in dual language programs,

7) adequate Out of School Time funding for both before and aftercare for every student that wants a seat,

8) a full roll out and adequate training on social/emotional learning curricula and trauma-informed teaching and discipline, including fully funding and implementing the Student Fair Access to School Act,

9) an overall DCPS budget that is adequate and fair to individual schools, both in terms of money and time. — As an aside I confirmed this morning that school leaders still don’t have their budgets although they are due back to Central Office at the end of next week, which is not enough time for adequate engagement with school communities nor to undertake the budget gap-closing measures school leaders are regularly forced to engage in outside the official budget process, such as applying for outside grants,

— and perhaps most importantly,

10) the bravery to end the hyperfocus on flawed test metrics that results in a culture of fear, lack of transparency, top-down unfunded mandates, high teacher turnover, and a narrowing of curriculum; meaning to have the bravery to embrace, nurture, and trumpet the amazing work our students, educators, and families are doing in our DCPS schools every day and to hold space for them as they honestly confront challenges, whether academic or not.

This laundry list of problems are things that our school Chancellor must advocate for if he is not given them by the Mayor. We need a DCPS Chancellor who will have those hard conversation on behalf of our children. And frankly, we need a City Council that uses the full breadth of its power to make sure we have that Chancellor. Please fully vet Dr. Ferebee before voting on his nomination to determine whether he will be the Chancellor that DCPS and its students need.

Thank you very much.

Sandra Moscoso Testimony – Roundtable on Chancellor of DCPS Dr Ferebee Confirmation – February 6, 2019

Sandra Moscoso Testimony

Committee on Education’s public roundtable on PR23-0067, the “Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee Confirmation Resolution of 2019.”

February 6 at 6:00 P.M. at Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus

Good evening, Chairpersons and Councilmembers. I am Sandra Moscoso, the parent of a 7th grader at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan and 10th grader at School Without Walls. I am also a long-time member of the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization, which has served as the Ward 6 education council for 14 years.

During our time with DCPS and also DC Charter Schools my family has seen one superintendent and six acting-interim-chancellors at the helm. I share this as a reminder that my children are in the end, the beneficiaries or victims of your decisions, but also a reminder that most of us are here not as watch dogs, but rather, for the long haul. We come in peace, as community members seeking to collaborate with you and DCPS to strengthen our schools.

I have attached an excerpt from a letter released June 2018 by the Coalition for DC Public Schools & Communities to reiterate what CHPSPO supports in a Chancellor.

Today, I will focus on transparency, advocacy, and institutional commitments.

I have heard Acting Chancellor Ferebee cite transparency as the way to build trust. This is heartening, but it’s important we have a shared understanding of what transparency means. To me, this means transparent decision-making, creating opportunities for families and school educators to weigh in on decisions, and it means transparency around the data, facts, and evidence upon which decisions are made. Today, there is a very active conversation about transparency in charter schools. DCPS is ahead here and has the opportunity to continue to lead, by publishing decision-useful data in open formats. I will plug as the perfect home for now.

On advocating for DC Public Schools, I say – join us! Las month was “School Choice Week” and this reminds me there is a huge lobby effort supporting DC charters. This does not exist for DCPS. Neighborhood schools are also schools of choice. It has been a source of frustration for families who spend blood, sweat and tears supporting our local schools to have efforts undermined by glossy marketing campaigns. For years, we have pushed for DCPS to leverage built-in strengths like geographic communities, feeder pattern communities, and multi-generational alumni networks. After years of leaving these feeder relationships up to schools, in Ward 6, we’re finally starting to see feeder-wide events and open houses supported by DCPS. I hope this type of support will continue and grow.

Finally, I want to talk about institutional commitments. Early in this testimony I shared the number of DCPS leaders my family and community have engaged with. As you can imagine we have all been through many many visioning sessions, where we have been asked what we want from our schools. I think by now, our city has a good sense of what the community wants and this is captured at a high level in the DCPS Strategic Plan for 2017-2022. I ask Council to hold DCPS’ Chancellor to this commitment and to please not start over.  Dr. Ferebee comes to DC having developed a network of innovation schools. I hope he will take the time to get to know our schools and recognize the local, on-the ground innovation that takes place every day. I hope he will not be tempted to push schools to run after externally mandated shiny things at the expense of honoring DCPS’ commitments.

Thank you for this opportunity.