Remarks by Danica Petroshius – WTU Hearing and Rally on DCPS Reopening Plan

Remarks by Danica Petroshius

DCPS Parent

WTU Rally

October 23, 2020

Good afternoon. My name is Danica Petroshius and I am a parent of two children at a DCPS school that serves students from every Ward, with the highest percentage of students residing in Wards 5-8. We are a strong school community built on: 

  • Community created by our families and educators now and those that came before us;
  • our diversity; and
  • our willingness to work together on solutions.

Building community and trust in schools is hard, daily work – but it is the secret sauce that keeps our schools moving forward and improving.

The Mayor’s plan fails us. It breaks a critical formula for public school success – it tries to divide communities instead of bringing them together. The Council has followed suit by denying parents and educators the opportunity to testify on the record about our concerns.

I stand here today on behalf of parents across our city that support our teachers.

Families have different needs and perspectives on when and how schools should reopen. I respect and appreciate all of those perspectives. But I have overwhelmingly heard that despite our different needs and perspectives, parents want to first and foremost support our teachers because:

We value communities where teachers and parents work together.

We value rich academic learning that happens because of our teachers.

We value the relationships our students and teachers have created that build the social, emotional well-being that our students need – more now than ever.

We value the additional supports that every adult in our school buildings provide for our students from our custodians to counselors to librarians to social workers to classroom assistants to coaches to our school leaders.

We value the need for mental health supports in our schools – a need that has only gotten more acute during the pandemic.

We value full transparency of standards and evidence of the highest protocols of health and safety.

We value equity – and that includes more creativity than the current binary solutions offered. We know that this limited notion of in-person or virtual will not meet the needs of students where virtual is not working, but families are also at high risk of COVID.

And we value the health and safety of every adult, child and family in our schools.

City leadership failed to deliver on every point. Just last night, the Chancellor sent an email to parents that purposefully tries to mislead parents into thinking that teachers are bought into this plan.

Let’s be clear: at no point does it say the magic words: “We have come to an agreement with our teachers on how to move forward.”

City leaders do not share our values by trying to mislead us and leave teachers out of decision-making.

City leaders do not share our values by trying to pit families against educators.

City leaders do not share our values by prioritizing disruption over relationships.

City leaders do not share our values by prioritizing rushed solutions over solutions that will meet the needs of our students.

City leaders do not share our values by prioritizing secrecy and spin over transparency and evidence.

The lack of shared values is speaking louder to parents than the rhetoric by DCPS and the Mayor.

Parents feel the disruption, the silence instead of asking parents what they need, and the lack of teacher engagement baked into this half-baked plan.

When you don’t co-create with teachers, you lose parent trust.

City leaders should develop a plan that is co-developed with teachers, minimizes disruption to what is working now, and responds to real information about what every family needs – especially those where both in-person and virtual do not work well.

Finally, let’s be real. This has happened before and it’s happening again only with more dire consequences. Too often, families and schools are left carrying the burden of bad decision-making. It is us who will fix this for you, again and again, whether you ask us or not. We will not walk away from our children and we will not walk away from our schools. We remain here, right here, waiting and fixing, for you to hear us and care.

Thank you.


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