DCPS Libraries Win Big – by Peter MacPherson

Dear Friends:

Our 16-month long advocacy effort on behalf of school libraries has paid off big! DCPS has found $3.4 million to spend on school libraries. Cardozo, Dunbar, Wilson, Woodson, Eastern and Anacostia high schools will be receiving opening day collections, which is between 9,000 and 14,000 volumes depending on enrollment. Kramer, Eliot-Hine and Jefferson middle schools will also be getting opening day collections as well, All schools will get 30 periodical subscriptions each and those not receiving an opening day collection will get a smaller mix of hardcopy titles and eBooks. All this in addition to our victory in securing adequate funding from the council in the spring for librarian staffing. Schools will have these assets by September 30th.

There is still much work to be done. We’re going to have to continue to push to ensure that all schools continue to get an infusion of new materials in order to achieve parity. Additionally it’s going to take advocacy to guarantee that schools in the process of being modernized get opening day collections as well. All of this has happened because of the consistent engagement of the community. I can’t thank you all enough for staying the course in this long battle.
Peter MacPherson

$400 Million – by Peter MacPherson

by Pether MacPherson

Dear Friends:


Some of you may not be aware that last week the news was released that the city has a $400 million budget surplus. This is far in excess of the $140 million that was reported back in November. There are many worthwhile projects that could benefit from access to these funds. I’m hoping you’ll join with me in using a portion of these monies to address some severe shortcomings and inequalities that exist in the District of Columbia Public Schools. The needs fall in three areas: libraries, technology and music. We’ve made considerable progress on the library issue in the past year. The chancellor has publicly committed herself to a library and librarian in every school. Unfortunately the libraries need much more help. In most schools the library collections are old and thin or non-existent. Anacostia High School has a media center with no books. H.D. Woodson High School has 400. It should have 16,400. The average age of the books in Eastern High School’s small collection is 1980. The average age of the books at Watkins Elementary School is 1993. And even Wilson High School has a collection that is only half the size it should be. The libraries need a massive influx of new resources. Spending $14 million to $16 million would allow DCPS to bring most of its libraries to accepted norms in terms of collection size. It would give each school at least 30 periodical subscriptions and give students access to a much larger number of databases. It would allow the creation of a 40,000 volume digital library and give schools the eReaders needed to access these digital assets. And money would be available to upgrade library spaces in a poor state of repair.

The second area where the poverty in DCPS is profound is in technology. The limited presence of computers in many schools is quite profound. And even schools that have gone through modernization often received no computers or the ones they did are reaching the end of their useful life. At Maury Elementary School, for example, no computers were provided as part of its renovation. The school has two carts of laptops bought by the PTA. At Watkins, the computer lab is full of eight-year-old eMacs bought by the PTA. They are no longer supported and once they fail have to be removed. And no replacement is available. DCPS needs 15,000 computers, at a cost of $15 million.

Finally, the music programs are in very poor shape as a result of being starved for resources. I was in a District  elementary school music class recently and there weren’t nearly enough instruments to go around. One child ended up using an empty copy paper box as a drum. DCPS needs $1 million in new instruments. It needs 60 new upright and 20 new grand pianos as well as new music software and access to online music libraries. The need in this area is around $2.8 million.

The hole that DCPS is in prevents making much improvement simply using the operating budget. All schools would benefit from this investment and it would allow the city to bring some equity to resources all schools should have. And there are programs stakeholders want–like International Baccalaureate–that require properly staff and resourced libraries. And none are present in the schools currently angling for this certification. In addition there is no currently mechanism to buy books for modernized schools. Right now we’re looking at the prospect of Dunbar High School and the new Ward Five middle school opening with no new books.

We now have a special opportunity to fix these problems and, in the process, greatly improve DCPS. A vibrant DCPS is key to the future of this city. The need here is between $35 million and $40 million. I’ve written the mayor and council and asked them to divert some of the surplus funds to deal with these issues. I hope you’ll do the same. The appropriate email addresses are listed below.

Peter MacPherson
pmacpher at aol.com


DC Public Schools Library Task Force Report Released

CHPSPO members started raising awareness about the need for DCPS to strengthen its approach to school libraries in early 2012. As a result of these efforts, DCPS established a School Library Task Force.

DCPS released the Task Force report that includes a series of recommendations on staffing, programming, collection and resource development, district-level support, facilities, and the creation of a Culture of Literacy Campaign. Read the School Library Task Force report for more details.

CHPSPO Meeting Notes – November 20, 2012

Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization
Maury Elementary School Library – 1250 Constitution Ave., NE
November 20, 2012, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.


1) DCPS School Closing Announcement (Cathy Reilly, SHAPPE, and Daniel del Pielago (Empower DC)


    • Dec 5 – Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 Community Discussion on DCPS Proposed Consolidation and Reorganization, 6 – 8 p.m @ Brightwood Education Campus (1300 Nicholson St, NW)
    • What does this mean to us (Ward 6 families) in the future?
    • Engage DCPS online – post ideas on how to save money here.


    • Need to formulate collective vision of how to fix the schools
    • When Hine and Eliot merged 5 years ago, combined population was +600, now Hine is ~300 total. Consolidation has proven to show decreased enrollment.
    • No plan in place to enrich combined campuses programmatically.
    • Valuable to attend a neighborhood school. Publicly funded, but privately run schools don’t fit into a neighborhood system.
    • Teachers union not a strong voice; engage other unions?
    • What impact has Basis had on the DCPS middle schools? (Latin, Two Rivers)
    • Review data à http://dc.gov/DCPS/Files/downloads/COMMUNITY/CR/DCPS-School-Data-Snapshot-November-19-2012.pdf
    • 40% of families affected in this closing were affected in 2008 closing
    • A lot of other places DCPS could save $ in lieu of closing schools – Teacher bonus, IMPACT evaluation, vendor relations (food services)
    • What does an all charter system look like?
    • Two pronged approach: Retention of families + Market to new families

2) Class of 20xx (Drew Golin, Maury parent)


    • Recruit captains/teams at each school by grade (public, private, charter – raising a community)


    • Captains/Teams at each school by grade (public, private, charter – raising a community)
    • Own listservs for the class
    • Meetings
    • Start getting involved in the HS – raise funds for music program, donate to bake sales, attend events
    • ‘experts’ to think about
    • Hill Rag letter
    • 3rd grade playgroup: 1/3 of parents whose children had been to multiple schools.
    • Summer concert series with Eastern HS band.
    • Attend Eastern HS games http://www.maxpreps.com/high-schools/eastern-ramblers-(washington,dc)/basketball/schedule.htm

3) Title IX and sports for girls in DC (Valarie Hogan, National Women’s Law Center fellow)


    • Circulate link to flyer and survey – engage MS and High Schools, coaches, parents, teachers – elem are covered but small.
    • Meeting Dec 3, 6:30PM to give more info, discuss next steps @ Crolin Morrings, 1101 Pennsylvania Ave., NW


    • Center has been in talks w/ DCPS for years and possibly ready to file a complaint. Another complaint has been filed – focus is on opportunities, not on spending.
    • Charters have not been tracked, in process of understand DC’s responsibility around charters and equity vis a vis sports

4) Learn about IB Middle Years @ Atlas and Living Room Chats update


    •  Next IB education night – Jan 22 at Westminster Presbyterian in SW , 6PM
    • Stuart Hobson has first Tuesday visits
    • Dec 2 Moth school information night 2-5PM.  CHPSPO will attend.

5) DCPS Library Task Force update

    • Continues to meet: recommendations out by mid-December, a lot of support for staffing librarians at all schools, collection development
    • Where are books going w/ all closures? (Almost of all schools being closed don’t have librarians)…

Next CHPSPO Meeting:  December 18, 2012

Upcoming Events:

  • December 2:  Girls on the Run 5K – 2PM @ Anacostia Park. Cheer on Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, J.O. Wilson, Ludlow-Taylor, Maury, and Tyler or register to run in the 5K
  • December 2:  Hill School Information Night– 2-5PM @ Capitol Hill Day School
  • December 3:  Title IX Sports for Girls Next Steps – 6:30PM @ Crolin Morrings, 1101 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
  • December 5:  Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 Community Discussion on DCPS Proposed Consolidation and Reorganization, 6 – 8 p.m.
  • January 22:  Next IB education night – at Westminster Presbyterian in SW , 6PM

School Closures and Libraries – by Peter Macpherson

Dear Council Members:

Tomorrow is going to be the beginning of  a torturous dialogue for the District of Columbia. Chancellor Henderson is going to present a list of schools she will be propose be closed. And I fear that the chancellor will attempt to create a nexus between the closures and presence of librarians in the schools. The argument is quite simple: the only way to afford librarians is through the savings generated by school closings. Not only is this a dishonest argument–one the chancellor has made before–but unchallenged is a very damaging one as well. It requires us to accept the notion that libraries exist far from the crucial core activities of a school. This is not true. In fact the evidence screams defiantly that the opposite is the case. Libraries are essential to virtually every feature of a school’s mission.

Study after study–sixty since 1965–have shown that presence of libraries and credentialed librarians have a dramatic impact on literacy development and overall student performance.  A study done in Colorado and released this year examined staffing levels in school libraries in 2005 and then revisited those same sites in 2011. Those schools that had been able to retain a librarian during those years or gained one had significantly better reading scores. Those that had a librarian but then lost the position saw their scores deteriorate. And those that did not have librarians at all saw poorer reading achievement. And recent studies in states such as Pennsylvania produced similar results.  In the 2010-11 academic year the Hampton, South Carolina School District was a beneficiary of a grant from the United States Department of Education designed to use libraries for literacy development and improve reading skills.  The grant funneled money into the district for library collection development, technology acquisition and staffing with certified library media specialist. A team of evaluators selected by the education department selected to review the results of the grant reported, “Students in the third, fifth and seventh grades in Hampton School District I had a significant increase in reading MAP scores from the fall of 2010 to the spring of 2011.”

And the most successful urban school district in the United States, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, have comprehensive school library programs. That’s the case in Austin, Texas, Hillsborough County, Florida, Jefferson County, Kentucky and Charlotte, North Carolina. In Anchorage, Alaska, a school district of comparable size to DCPS that is racially, ethnically and socieo-econominally diverse , has a librarian in all of its schools. Though not a perfect school district it has better reading scores than ours.

In the five years of mayoral control of the schools DCPS has had the ability to ability to have properly-resourced, well-staffed libraries and has consistently chosen a different path. The last superintendent, Clifford Janey, instituted a requirement that all schools have a librarian. Upon arrival Michelle Rhee kept the requirement in place but gave virtually any school that asked an exemption. The cuts the chancellor made in school librarian positions back in the spring accelerated a decline in the school libraries underway since 2007. There has been no direct, consistent funding for school library materials since that time. And though DCPS has a line in its budget for library and media services, in the past two fiscal years most of the money has been spent on things completely unrelated to libraries. This information came to light as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request.  It paid for such things as building maintenance, HVAC repairs, a strategic plan for the DCPS Office of Community and Family Engagement done by a San Francisco-based consultant. The chancellor and her team have made repeated representations to the council that they were asking for money that would be spent on school libraries. But there was never any plan in place for how to spend that money. Instead it became or was intended to be a piggybank available for robbing at will.

Claiming poverty is a pernicious and frequently used argument made by the chancellor and her top lieutenants to justify both the dearth of librarians and the paucity of materials in school libraries. But that argument collapses in the face of even modest scrutiny. Mary Levy, a longtime DCPS budget observer and trusted council adviser, indicated back in the spring that money was being sequestered in budget line by the school system for unknown purposes. More than that we have a school system that can hardly be called underfunded when it’s over $800 million this fiscal year for 46,000 student s. Anne Arundel County, Maryland has 76,300 students that it educates with a budget that is only $177,127,300 more than ours. And it has well-resourced libraries and librarians in every school. The City of Falls Church, Virginia, with 2,200 students in four schools is in a similar situation and it has a budget of $37,603,600. The United States Department of Defense Education Activity has 84,803 students in schools worldwide. The current fiscal year has it operating with $1.44 billion and it has good libraries and librarians in every school.  These are school systems with lower per-pupil spending than DCPS. Looking around the country at state capitals one sees a far greater commitment to school libraries. Helena, Montana has librarians in every school as does Jefferson City, Missouri and Olympia, Washington.

Bismarck, North Dakota has a librarian and aide in every school. In fact this city of 16,000 has a comparable number of library staff working in its schools as does DCPS!

Clearly good school libraries are not beyond us in economic terms. Our school system’s leadership has made a choice, a bad choice, in not investing in school libraries. And the cost of their indifference toward them is borne by students and taxpayer. Students are being deprived of a critically-need pedagogic tool and taxpayers risk having to pay for a modernization that parents do not embrace because the schools are incomplete. In spite of the fact that Anacostia High School just opened after a $62 million modernization, its new library does not have a single book. The old collection was lost and the chancellor says there is no money to buy a new one. When H.D. Woodson High School students returned to their brand-new $110 million building, they came into a structure with a library containing 450 volumes. That figure should be 10,000. Again, most of its collection had been lost during construction and, again, the chancellor says there is no money to bolster its collection. And Eastern High School, which was the beneficiary of a $74 million modernization, had half its collection lost during storage at Shaw at Garnet-Patterson Middle School. The average age of the books in Eastern’s small library is 1980.

School libraries do not depend on school closures. Rather they require a both a recognition of their importance and the competence to administer properly. We have one of the worst school library programs of any large school district in the United States. Many of the schools are either bereft of books or librarians or both. And that is by choice. The council has the ability to fix this situation. I hope it will urge the chairman to hold a hearing Councilman Evans’ bill requiring a librarian in every school. And I hope it will embrace a more fulsome solution to the school library crisis. We have a $140 million budget surplus. The hole that the school libraries are in is of such a depth that it’s hard to imagine the chancellor ever committing the resources from her budget to adequately dig them out. They need a $23 million school library-version of the Manhattan Project. Right now they are literally on the verge of extinction. We have far fewer librarians than we did in 2000. We have a smaller number of students served by a library media center than in 1954, according to figures from the National Center for Education Statistics.

I’ve attached a link to a proposal that was printed in The Washington Post. It outlines how such a sum would be spent.



Peter MacPherson

To: pmendelson@dccouncil.us,jevans@dccouncil.us,mcheh@dccouncil.us,jgraham@dccouncil.us,kmcduffie@dccouncil.us,Yvette Alexander <yalexander@dccouncil.us>,Marion Barry <mbarry@dccouncil.us>,vorange@dccouncil.us,David Catania <dcatania@dccouncil.us>,mbrown@dccouncil.us,mbowser@dccouncil.us,Tommy Wells <twells@dccouncil.us>

CC: Vincent Gray <vincent.gray@dc.gov>,Kaya Henderson <kaya.henderson@dc.gov>,Lisa Ruda <lisa.ruda@dc.gov>,Josephine Robinson <josephine.robinson@dc.gov>,Carey Wright <carey.wright@dc.gov>,Bonnie Cain <bcain@dccouncil.us>,Charles Allen <CAllen@DCCOUNCIL.US>,Kevin Stogner <kstogner@dccouncil.us>,Allen Lew <Allen.Lew@dc.gov>,Peter Webber <peter.weber@dc.gov>,Jennifer Leonard <jennifer.leonard@dc.gov>,jwillingham@dccouncil.us,kpesante@dccouncil.us,lfoster@dccouncil.us,jmeyers@dccouncil.us, twatson@dccouncil.us,jclementssmith@dccouncil.us,jholland@dccouncil.us,rhawkins@dccouncil.us,cwoodland@dccouncil.us, elloyd@dccouncil.us,mlong@dccouncil.us,jhutchinson@dccouncil.us,bwilliamskief@dccouncil.us,abellanca@dccouncil.us, dmeadows@dccouncil.us,dtolliver@dccouncil.us,mwynn@dccouncil.us,browne@washpost.com,straussv@dccouncil.us, jonetta@jonettarosebarras.com

Save School Libraries Protest on Friday, October 19 – Wilson Building



Can’t make the Rally? What else can you do to help Save School Libraries?

  • Read this fact sheet –> Library Facts Handout 9-19 and reach out to the Mayor Gray, your Councilmember and Chancellor Henderson.
  • Support Council Member Jack Evans’ bill to restore DCPS funding for librarians, art and music teachers.
  • Encourage local leaders to support this effort, like ANC6B’s Resolution.
  • Sign the online petition.
  • Tell the world you support our DC Public School Librarians. ‘Like’ CHPSPO on Facebook, follow @CHPSPO on Twitter, tweet #SaveSchoolLibraries. Keep up with updates via http://chpspo.org



Barracks Row #SaveSchoolLibraries pop-up library – thank you!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our mini pop-up library on Saturday in support of DCPS Librarians. We met dozens of school and community librarians from DC and all over the country, children of librarians, and of course, supporters of librarians. In a short period of time, we gave away dozens of books, raised over $650 towards continued advocacy and media buy for #SaveSchoolLibraries, and added over 100 signatures to the petition to restore DCPS budget for librarians.

Special thanks to ANC6B Commissioner Brian Pate for organizing the event, ANC6D Commissioner David Garber for pitching in and volunteering, and to Restauranteur Xavier Cervera for donating $1500 in restaurant gift certificates (Lolas, Molly Malone’s, Senarts, Hawk N Dove and more!) that went towards a silent auction to help us raise funds.

As always, it takes a village. Thanks to the volunteers (adults and kids) who made this happen. Enjoy these photos of the event.

What can you do to help Save School Libraries?

  • Read this fact sheet –> Library Facts Handout 9-19 and reach out to the Mayor Gray, your Councilmember and Chancellor Henderson.
  • Support Council Member Jack Evans’ bill to restore DCPS funding for librarians, art and music teachers.
  • Encourage local leaders to support this effort, like ANC6B’s Resolution.
  • Sign the online petition.
  • Tell the world you support our DC Public School Librarians. ‘Like’ CHPSPO on Facebook, follow @CHPSPO on Twitter, tweet #SaveSchoolLibraries. Keep up with updates via http://chpspo.org


Join Save School Libraries Pop-Up Library at Barracks Row Fall Festival on Sep 22!

CHPSPO is joining forces with Commissioner Brian Pate to organize a booth at the Barracks Row Fall Festival  (on Saturday, September 22) in support of DC Public School librarians and libraries.

Stop by the booth between 1-4PM for a mini Pop-Up Library and book swap (a small scale version of last week’s). Thanks to Barracks Row business owners (thank you Xavier Cervera), we’ll offer refreshments, too!

If you have books to donate to the pop-up library, please drop them off at 109 13th St., SE between Wednesday and Friday of this week (there will be a box under the steps) or bring them to the festival on Saturday.

What can you do to help Save School Libraries?

  • Read this fact sheet –> Library Facts Handout 9-19 and reach out to the Mayor Gray, your Councilmember and Chancellor Henderson.
  • Encourage local leaders to support this effort, like ANC6B’s Resolution.
  • Sign the online petition (or stop by our booth on Saturday to sign the paper version).
  • Tell the world you support our DC Public School Librarians. ‘Like’ CHPSPO on Facebook, follow @CHPSPO on Twitter, tweet #SaveSchoolLibraries. Keep up with updates via http://chpspo.org
  • Stop by the booth to show your support, pick up or drop off a book! – Want to volunteer at the booth? Contact sandramoscosomills@gmail.com.

Save School Libraries Pop Up Library at H St Fest a Success!

Thanks to everyone who came out to the H Street Festival this weekend where we had over 2000 books and collected 601 handwritten signatures!

The Pop-up library at  Toki Underground restaurant was fantastic: people perused books, read some and always left with a free, new book. Toki’s owner Eric and ANC Commissioner David Garber (whose own mother is a librarian) were super supportive! See photos here.

Didn’t make it? No worries, you can support this effort by signing the petition and by reaching out to DC leaders and asking them to save school libraries. Read this fact sheet for more information –> Library Facts Handout 9-19.