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DCPS Families – Please Complete this Back to School Safety, Tech, and Family Needs Survey

Dear Ward 6 DCPS Families and School Leaders,

Please provide feedback to the ward education councils on your DCPS students’ experiences during the first few weeks of school by completing this survey. The survey includes questions on DCPS health protocols, technology, and family needs. Your answers will inform discussions on how to best meet student needs. 

We hope you will also consider disseminating to your school communities and neighborhood networks. Results will be shared publicly near the end of September.

Survey Link: https://bit.ly/FamilySurveyDCPS

Helpful resources to support social media and paper dissemination HERE

Survey sponsors:
Ward 1 Education Council
Ward 2 Education Council
Ward 3 Wilson Feeder Education Network
Ward 4 Education Alliance
Ward 5 Education Equity Committee
Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization 
Ward 7 Education Council
Ward 8 Education Council

Testimony of Suzanne Wells Bill 24-570 “Schools First in Budgeting Amendment Act of 2021″ Sept 25 2022

Testimony of Suzanne Wells

Committee of the Whole

Bill 24-570 “Schools First in Budgeting Amendment Act of 2021”

September 25, 2022

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.  My name is Suzanne Wells, and I am the president of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO).  The comments I offer are my personal comments.

The Schools First in Budgeting Amendment Act seeks to address the instability schools face in their yearly budgets.  Budget instability is a real and serious problem for DCPS schools, and results in schools not being able to retain staff and/or programming. When families come to expect certain programs or services at a school and they are no longer offered, the loss of these is very troubling. If programming is lost at a by-right school, it can lead in-bound families to look at other schools for similar programming leading to further instability in the system.

While the Schools First in Budgeting Amendment Act goal of creating greater stability in school budgets is a laudable goal, the bill will likely not achieve this goal. More importantly, because the bill does not address the adequacy of school budgets or the city’s decision-making that has led to an oversupply of seats/schools and an unchecked opening of new schools, the bill will not provide the budgets schools need to support their students.

I can’t in good conscience offer suggestions on a bill I believe is so flawed that it will do more harm in the end than good.  This bill, if passed, will dramatically lessen any autonomy DCPS has over its budget.  It will set in stone formulas that might seem good at the moment, but could be not so sound a few years from now.  Fundamental flaws with the bill are that it:

–  does not address how the city will replace the one-time federal and local funding that was placed in the FY23 school budgets to support schools’ pandemic recovery efforts;

– begins presumably with the SY23 budget where a number of schools saw detrimental budget cuts from the new DCPS budgeting model.  This will perpetuate for the future budget problems these schools experienced;

– does not address the use of at-risk funds that are used to supplement school budgets and are not directed to the support of at-risk students; and

– sets an arbitrary central administration/local school budget percentage that would be inflexible for future years even if legitimate reasons justified a different percentage.

Our city spends over $2 billion a year on education.  There’s really no reason that school budgets are inadequate.  However, our school budgets are inadequate because of decisions our elected officials have made in overseeing our city’s education dollars.  DCPS is responsible for providing a by-right public school system.  The Council has approved the opening of too many schools, and this impacts the enrollment at our by-right schools..  Our city’s population is not growing, yet the Council and/or the Mayor have approved, e.g.,:

  • Expanding Banneker in its renovation to grow from a 500  to an 800 student school.  The students coming to Banneker in the coming years will likely be leaving our comprehensive high schools which will see their enrollments and budgets decline.
  • Purchase of the Georgetown Day property and plans to build a new high school in Ward 3 to relieve overcrowding at Jackson-Reed High School.  The overcrowding at Jackson-Reed could have been dealt with at no cost by reducing the out-of-boundary enrollment, and readjusting the Jackson-Reed boundaries.
  • The opening of Bard Early College and Ron Brown College Preparatory High School.

All of these high school opening decisions were made with the goal of increasing choice, and did not consider impacts on feeder patterns within our by-right public school system or the budget impacts at schools losing students.

The Council continues to have blinders on regarding the Public Charter School Board .  Since March of 2020, the PCSB has approved the opening of six new schools.  What we are seeing now is that the PCSB is also approving the expansion of existing charter schools.  For example, Washington Latin has recently purchased property in Ward 4 to expand its middle/high school for another 700 students.  With a declining student population, where will the students come from to fill the seats at these new schools?  They will come from existing charter and DCPS schools further leading to enrollment and budget decline.

            Both the DCPS and PCSB opening of new schools has occurred at a time when the Deputy Mayor for Education estimates there are over 35,000 unfilled seats across both sectors. 

Once these opening and expansion decisions have been made, it is very difficult to turn back the clock, and undo the decisions.  Yet, it is these very decisions that are the major reason the DCPS schools have inadequate budgets. It’s enticing to look for simple answers to complex problems, and that’s what the Schools First in Budgeting Amendment Act is doing.  If the Council wants to meaningfully address inadequate school budgets, it must first stop the continued opening of new schools our students do not need, and find a way to better balance the seats needed with our actual student population.  The Schools First in Budgeting Amendment Act does neither.  The challenges ahead will not be easy to address, but if schools are to get the budgets they need, the Council will have to find the courage to do the difficult work that is required.

Walk & Roll to School Day is Oct 12 – Register, Sign, and Join Us!

Walk and Roll to School Day is Wednesday, October 12. We will be celebrating at Lincoln Park, 7:45-8:15am. Here’s how to celebrate with us:

  1. Register your school here: https://www.walkbiketoschool.org/registration/
  2. Get the word out to your school community! Here’s the flyer: pdf and png
  3. Sign and disseminate the petition “DC School Communities Demand Safe Routes to School” here: https://bit.ly/SafeSchoolRoutesDC 
  4. Join us at Lincoln Park on Weds, October 12, 7:45am-8:15am.

Ward 6 School and Education Updates – September 2022

Dear Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization members,

Below are a few updates (in chronological order…):

1. DC Local School Advisory Team (LSAT) Collective Meeting, Tuesday, September 13

Please share the following message with your LSAT leaders:

Hello DC Education Leaders,

My name is Steve Bowen (Payne Elementary parent) and along with Marion Babcock (School Without Walls parent), and Elizabeth Corinth (School-Within-School parent) we are re-booting the DC Local School Advisory Team (LSAT) Collective. We plan to provide LSAT members from across DC with regular virtual meetings and a website/platform to share best practices for LSAT meetings, learn from subject matter experts in education, and build a coalition for public school advocacy. 

We are hoping that you will forward this to your organizations and current LSAT leaders in your network. Please mark your calendars for 7- 815pm Tuesday 13 Sept for our first meeting of the season. 

In the meantime, please take a moment to complete this brief survey (less than 10 minutes) so we can tailor our meetings to what you need to improve your LSAT. You can also check out the website we are building — this is a work in progress and we will flesh it out in the coming months with additional info and resources.

Detailed agenda and zoom link to follow. Thanks for all you do for DCPS and your communities. 
Steve, Marion, and Elizabeth

2. Ward 6 SBOE Candidates Forum, September 28, 7 pm

W6PSPO will co-sponsor a Ward 6 State Board of Education Candidates Forum on September 28 at 7 pm

Brandon Best and Joshua Wiley are running for the position. The forum will be an opportunity to learn more about the candidates, hear their visions for education in DC, and get your questions answered.  Denise Forte, interim CEO of The Education Trust will moderate the forum.

Date: Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Time: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Location: Virtual, Zoom link provided on registration

RSVP: https://www.mobilize.us/ward6demsdc/event/498054/ 

Submit your questions for the candidates to debate@hillrag.com.Please share the attached flyer about the Ward 6 State Board of Education Candidates Forum with your school communities.

3. Walk and Roll to School Day, Wednesday, October 12, 7:45 am Lincoln Park

Registration is open for Walk and Roll to School Day on October 12.  We’ll meet at Lincoln Park at 7:45 am, and will be done in time for everyone to arrive at school before it starts.  If you haven’t already, please register your schools.  More information to follow!

4. W6PSPO Elections

W6PSPO will hold elections in November.  President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer positions are open.  Please consider how you want to support this organization and its mission 

to promote cooperation among the parent organizations of the public schools in Ward 6 in order to improve the education received by all children attending our schools.  A nomination form will be available soon.

5. September 16 Hearing on Bill 24-570, Schools First in Budgeting Bill

Chairman Mendelson is holding a hearing on September 16 at 1 pm on Bill 24-570, Schools First in Budgeting Bill.  You must sign up by 5 pm on September 14 in order to testify. There is an information session on September 13 at 11 am to learn more about the bill.

6.  W6PSPO Meeting Tuesday, September 20, 7 pm

W6PSPO will meet on Tuesday, September 20 at 7 pm. We will be joined by Gabriella Pino-Moreno from the Facility Planning & Design office who will share with us the planning for the Old Miner building.  Information will be sent soon about how to join the meeting.

7.  Have lunch with members of the D.C. State Board of Education!

The D.C. State Board of Education will host a Back to School event for families from across the District. Come out and participate in our focus group sessions, grab lunch, and speak with members of the State Board directly. The Office of the Student Advocate and the Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education, will be there as well to provide information and answer any concerns you may have. RSVP now to secure your spot, and select which sessions you would like to attend!

Date and time
Saturday, September 24, 2022
10:30 AM – 1:30 PM EDT

Location
Eastern Senior High School
1700 East Capitol Street Northeast
Washington, DC 20002

Please find the descriptions of each breakout session below. Participants will be able to attend three out of the four sessions available.

Accountability and Assessment: The Accountability and Assessment Committee will present and discuss recommended revisions to the DC School Report Card. Participants will share questions and feedback on the DC School Report Card, as well as receive updates on OSSE’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan and upcoming Accountability and Assessment Committee projects.

Board Governance: The Board Governance Committee is seeking engagement on its takeaways from two recent reports focused on improving state-wide education decision-making, communications, and responsiveness to families, educators, students, and wider communities in D.C.

Education Standards: The Education Standards Committee will seek feedback on a draft literacy 2-pager and ask questions about the best and regular processes for future updates to the District’s education standards.

Outreach and Advocacy: The Outreach and Advocacy Committee will present on the ESSA Standards for Parent Engagement and receive feedback from families on how they experience the standards at their schools, including the engagement efforts that are most effective and the areas for engagement that could be expanded upon.

Thanks for reading!!!

Suzanne Wells

Musical, Parade, Summer and Yay Digital Equity DC!

Dear Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization members,

Wanted to share some updates:

1.  4th of July Parade
Many schools march together in the annual Capitol Hill 4th of July parade.  Here is the link to sign up to participate in this year’s parade. 
Registration Form – 2022 Capitol Hill July 4th Parade
The schedule is the same as other years.

  • 9 am – Marchers line up under the highway on 8th and I Streets, SE
  • 10:00 am parade starts promptly with Marine Drum and Bugle corp with others to follow – march North on 8th street
  • ~12 pm parade wraps up at the Eastern Market Metro Plaza. Marcher/crowd disperses

Please contact Christine O’Reilly at ch4thparade@gmail.com with any questions you have about the parade. 

2. Stuart Hobson Musical
On June 10th and June 11th, students at Stuart-Hobson will perform “13, the Musical.”  You can purchase tickets here.

Performance times are:

  • Friday, June 10th at 6:00pm
  • Saturday, June 11th at 2:00pm and 6:00pmThe flyer is attached. 

    Please note the themes in this show are appropriate for “older” elementary school-age and above.

3.  Resilient Summer Handbook
For those of you who are interested, attached is the handbook from the Parenting Resilient Children training that the Center for Inspired Teaching put on for parents last week.

4.  Congratulations to Digital Equity in DC Education and Grace Hu (Amidon Bowen parent) for being recognized by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights with the 2022 Vincent E. Reed Award for their tireless advocacy to close the digital divide and ensure every student in DC has the fools they need to thrive!

5.  Mark your calendars for the June 21 W6PSPO monthly meeting.

Suzanne Wells

Join us for Bike, Roll and Read to School Day – May 4, 7:30am at Lincoln Park!

  1. Register your school here to ensure you are eligible for great giveaways!
  2. Pick a k-12 friendly book to swap
  3. On May 4, buckle your helmet, wear your school gear and bring a book to Lincoln Park! 7:30-8:30am!

Enjoy giveaways, local and national speakers and advocates, and celebrate with your school and neighborhood friends before getting to school ON TIME!

Join STAR Framework input session on Weds, April 27 @ 5:30pm + W6PSPO Updates

W6PSPO Community,

Please join the following feedback session 👇🏽 organized by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education regarding the STAR Framework/DC School Report Card.

Wednesday, April 27, 5:30-6:30pm via Teams (Click Here to Join Meeting)

For context, based on your input, W6PSPO members Suzanne Wells and Dr. Betsy Wolf testified before the DC State Board of Education urging the elimination of the single summative rating and to instead implement a dashboard providing more well-rounded and contextual picture of a school, its academic growth, and climate. Suzanne and Betsy’s testimonies HERE.

Other upcoming events and updates…

  • Bike and Roll and Read to School Day is Wednesday, May 4. Join us at Lincoln Park, 7:30-8:15am. We’ll have lots of terrific guests and giveaways! Be sure to register your school event HERE to be eligible for giveaways. Tag your photos on @w6pspo on IG and Twitter!
  • We’ve heard from several schools about the delays in staff, sub, aftercare, etc clearances and the disruption to hiring, onboarding, and staffing classrooms. We sent a letter to the Mayor and Executive with support from all of the education councils.
  • ICYMI, W6PSPO members testified at several oversight hearings last month. Find our testimonies HERE.

We look forward to seeing you in May!

Letter to DC Gov Executive re Delays in DCPS Clearance Process

April 5, 2022

Mayor Bowser

Deputy Mayor Kihn

Superintendent Grant

Chancellor Ferebee

Dear Mayor Bowser, Deputy Mayor Kihn, Superintendent Grant and Chancellor Ferebee,

We write to ask you to urgently bring the DCPS clearance processes for hires and volunteers up to date, and to ensure an efficient and effective system for quickly clearing staff and volunteers to work in or partner with our schools.

Schools are experiencing long wait times for hires they want and need. Substitutes and volunteers are

waiting months for clearances. This is unacceptable. School communities cannot meet your calls to have every child feel “loved,” and for all children to have the opportunity to recovery from pandemic challenges – academically, socially, emotionally and physically – without adequate, safe adults in our school buildings.

We strongly support the purpose of clearances as one critical piece of the process to help ensure that our system does all it can to keep students and adults in school buildings safe from predators and those who might cause harm of any kind. At the same time, we know that schools are currently struggling to be fully staffed and that volunteers stand ready to help schools in a variety of ways. We should be able to meet all these needs quickly and safely.

Some early responses from DCPS staff to inquiries about these delays place the blame on the new legislation that increased requirements for clearances. This, too, is unacceptable. The School Safety Act became effective in April 2019. Multiple agencies have critical roles in implementing that legislation and we expect the Mayor to ensure that your agencies work together effectively and efficiently. We are coming up on the three-year anniversary of that effective date. Even with pandemic-related delays, the clearance process should have been up and running effectively and efficiently by this school year. Instead, we are forcing additional unnecessary challenges on schools that are stretched thin addressing greater student needs and facing flat or slashed budgets.

We ask that you:

·         Immediately report to the public: the backlog of clearances (hiring, substitutes and volunteers); specifics on the current plan for and status of readiness for full implementation of clearance process including timeline and process; when the clearance process will be fully functional; and how long the new clearance process will take for each person to receive clearances;

·         Place urgency on and prioritize implementation of a fully functional and efficient clearance system; and

·         Provide to each school and the public clear guidelines on how any potential hire or volunteer can most efficiently and effectively access the new system.

Please send responses to Suzanne Wells, President of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization, at m.godec@att.net. Thank you for your consideration.

With appreciation,


Ward 2 Education Council (W2EC)

Ward 3 Education Network (W3EdNet)

Ward 4 Education Alliance
Ward 5 Education Equity Committee (W5ECC)

Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization (W6PSPO)

Ward 7 Education Council (W7EC)
Ward 8 Education Council  

Cc:

SBOE President: Jessica Sutter

Chairman Phil Mendelson

Councilmember Brian Nadeau

Councilmember Brooke Pinto

Councilmember Mary Cheh

Councilmember Janeese Lewis-George

Councilmember Kenyon McDuffie

Councilmember Charles Allen

Councilmember Vincent Gray

Councilmember Trayon White

Councilmember Anita Bonds

Councilmember Elissa Silverman

Councilmember Robert White

Testimony of Sandra Moscoso CoW Budget Oversight on All Ed Agencies – 3 28 2022 

Testimony of Sandra Moscoso

DC Council CoW Budget Oversight Hearing on all education agencies

March 28, 2022, 9:00AM

Good morning Chairman and Councilmembers. I am Sandra Moscoso, Vice President of the Ward 2 Ed Council and Secretary of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization. I’m also an at-large member of School Without Walls’ HS HSA and LSAT.

I am here to express deep concern for the  anticipated impact of DCPS’ budget model on the long-term stability of school operational budgets. 

You have heard from many of us about the lack of transparency throughout the budget model development process. When the FY23 initial budgets were released in February, our collective concerns were realized. The new budget formula has not resolved the chronic underfunding of our public schools.

Many schools saw cuts to their ability to fully fund their programs and current staffing needs. Thomson Elementary, a school where 41% of students are considered ‘at risk’, will lose a classroom teacher, and in spite of having a 46% ELL population, will also lose 1.5 ELL teachers. 

In fact, under the new budget model, five out of eleven* Ward 2 schools face cutting 1 to 4.5 positions. Twelve out of fourteen Ward 6 schools will cut from ½ a position to 6 positions. In FY23, schools can credit mystery ‘one-time’ “stability” or “hold harmless” funds for keeping staffing more or less whole. These funds are considered a mystery because the criteria the Mayor and DCPS use to allocate them are a secret. The one-time funds create an appearance of comfort and stability in the baseline budget, when, in fact, the budget has been supplemented on a one-time basis.

Once those one-time mystery funds are gone in FY24 and beyond, Wards 2 and 6 stand to lose 47 staff or more, if as in past years, budgets do not keep up with rising costs. 

I’d like to thank Chairman Mendelson for introducing bills to help schools to stabilize budgets. As the DC Fiscal Policy Institute put it, our city leaders must “Ensure that schools have enough local, recurring dollars to cover rising costs.” 

I hope we can continue to work on these bills and pass laws to ensure our families are able to rely on predictable programming. Families need predictability and so do staff. Per EmpowerEd, DC has the highest turnover rate in the country with 20-25 % of teachers leaving their schools each year.

We’ve learned this year how difficult it is to replace teachers, and how disruptive vacant positions are to schools and to student mental health and learning. We cannot continue to weather volatile budgets, volatile staffing, and volatile learning environments.

Thank you for holding this hearing and thank you for taking action.

——

*Duke Ellington is not included, as their budget and organizational structure are not yet clear.

Bike and Roll to School Day is May 4, 2022 – Register & Save the Date!

Bike AND ROLL to School Day is coming!

For now, get ready by:

  • Step 1: Mark your Calendar –> May 4, 2022, 7:45-8:15 AM @ Lincoln Park.
  • Step 2: Register your school‘s event (or your participation in the Lincoln Park event) HERE!!
  • Step 3: Tell all your friends about Steps 1 and 2!

Suzanne Wells Testimony – CoW Budget Oversight on All Ed Agencies – 3 28 2022

DC Council COW Budget Oversight Hearing on All Education Agencies
March 28, 2022
Testimony of Suzanne Wells
Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the FY23 DCPS budget. I am Suzanne Wells,  President of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization. I’m also a community member on the Eastern High School LSAT.

What has become clear from our member schools is that most of the schools whose budgets allow them to keep their current staff are only able to do so because of covid recovery funds that were added to school budgets.  The addition of these one-time funds makes it appear our schools are adequately funded, when nothing could be further from the truth.  We are very concerned about the budget cuts that are expected next year when the covid recovery funds are not available. 

Because the schools are not adequately funded we are also seeing schools forced to use their at-risk dollars to maintain their current staff.  The lack of adequate funding doesn’t allow schools to target their at-risk dollars to the students with the most needs, and continues long-standing practices of using at-risk dollars to augment school budgets.

            Our city leaders must work together to ensure schools have adequate local funds that cover rising costs, and provide stability in school staffing from one year to the next.  Our city’s education budget is $2.2 billion dollars to educate approximately 96 ,000 students. It’s past time for the council to look wholistically at the costs for both DCPS and the public charter school sector to find ways to most efficiently use our education dollars.

            The FY23 budget includes funding to build-out the Georgetown Day School property the City purchased in order to alleviate overcrowding at Wilson High School.  DCPS has indicated a portion of the seats at this new high school will be reserved for out-of-boundary and at-risk students; some have reported up to 50% of the seats  (500) will be for out-of-boundary and at-risk students.  While on the surface this might sound like a good idea, there are multiple concerns with this plan.  To reserve these out-of-boundary and at-risk seats assumes this new school in Ward 3 will be more desirable, and families will want to choose it over their in-boundary feeder school.  A shift of up to 500 high school students to a new  high school in Ward 3 by design will reduce the enrollment in our by-right feeder high schools.  Is this what is intended?  The city must continue to strengthen the feeder patterns in all parts of the city instead of opening up new seats in Ward 3 and encouraging families to travel across town for a quality education.  The opening of this new high school will bring the total number of high schools in DC to 38.  This is far more high schools than our city needs, especially in light of declining student population numbers.

            I hope there is a commitment to ensure our families can rely on predictable feeder patterns, programming, and staffing at our schools. Our students deserve nothing less.

            Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

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