by Mark Moran
Issues faced by the neighborhood’s public and private schools – as well as UDC and Howard University’s law school – are the focus of a newly formed ANC 3F committee of residents and commissioners. And they are seeking the support, input and guidance of parents, educators and other neighbors.“The schools and universities in [ANC 3F] cover the educational spectrum, including public and private schools and the two universities,” said James Tandaric, a community member who chairs the Schools and Universities Committee. He is also an ESL teacher at the Brightwood campus of City Center Public Charter School. “We want to be a resource to those schools and to the communities they serve.”
The schools committee formed early this year when Tandaric and other members of the Housing and Neighborhood Committee – David Cristeal (ANC 3F01), Alexandria Appah (ANC 3F02) and Tvonne Donovan, a parent and resident – concluded that the Covid-19 pandemic had raised the profile of educational issues for schools, parents and students in a way that was not being adequately addressed within that committee.
Tandaric said the committee will serve as a link between parents, educators and concerned citizens in the community and Mayor Bowser, DC Public Schools, and Council member Mary Cheh. Initial meetings have included Ward 3 State Board of Education representative (and former board president) Ruth Wattenberg. A first order of business for the new group is the mayor’s FY 2022 budget.
Tandaric tells Forest Hills Connection the group is advocating for maintaining or increasing funding for teachers and support staff, given stresses placed on students, families, teachers and school communities by the pandemic. The committee is supporting a draft ANC 3F resolution which calls for the following:
- Increased funding to ensure school student/teacher and paraprofessional ratios remain consistent or greater compared to FY 2021, with particular focus on English language and special needs educators.
- Retention and hiring of additional school psychologists, nurses, and social workers.
- Increased funding for wraparound services, including funding for student and family nutrition services, housing, and before- and after-care programs.
- Funding for safe, well-equipped and weather-appropriate outdoor learning spaces (as called for by the State Board of Education) as well as improved ventilation and other Covid-related infrastructure modifications.
- Passage of and funding for the DC Council’s Internet Equity Amendment Act of 2021 to help address the digital divide.
- And, to ensure safer commutes to schools, approval of and funding for a DDOT Connecticut Avenue concept that includes bike lanes and other traffic calming measures.
The education resolution and a number of other documents are available on the committee’s website.
The new committee is also conducting an ongoing survey of schools and the two universities in ANC 3F to better understand their needs and how the ANC can help them.
Clearly, the needs of UDC and Howard Law and their communities differ from those of parents with school age kids, and Tandaric says much will depend on finalization of the universities’ master plans sometime this year.“Our group is in its infancy,” said Appah. “We want to create a space where people who care about schools and kids’ education can raise their concerns, and we can elevate them to the mayor and DCPS and the city council.”
Appah emphasized that educational issues do not exist in a vacuum but are entwined with a host of other community priorities, including affordable housing and safe, vibrant neighborhoods. And she echoed Tandaric in calling on interested residents to get involved and join the committee.
“We want parents and educators in the community to join us so we know we are carrying the right message about the issues that really matter,” Appah said.
The ANC 3F Schools and Universities Committee meets virtually on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 p.m. For more information, visit the committee webpage and contact James Tandaric at firstname.lastname@example.org.