Permits question halts Whittle School construction: The DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) issued a stop-work order on February 27th because Whittle School did not have a local building permit. Founder Chris Whittle tells the Washington Post that the project doesn’t need one. The school is scheduled to open this September, and the former Intelsat complex is undergoing a $187 million renovation to prepare for a student body of 3- to 18-year-old students, some of them boarders.
After school scandals, a push for data-driven policy: Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh introduced legislation last year that creates an independent research group tasked with gathering and studying data on DC’s public and charter schools. The Council passed the Education Research Practice Partnership Establishment Act on January 24th, Mayor Bowser signed it on January 28th, and it is set to become law on April 10th. The goal: “to support evidence-based ongoing improvement in DC public schools.”
“We have been getting bad information – some of it just false, some of it misleading, some of it incomplete, and we can’t get a handle on what to do if we don’t know what’s happening,” Cheh told the Washington Post in April 2018.
Madame President: Ward 3 voters re-elected Ruth Wattenberg to the DC State Board of Education in November. In January, she was voted in again, as the president of the board. Markus Batchelor, SBOE’s Ward 8 rep, is the vice president. Wattenberg was a strong proponent of the above legislation. She sees setting up such research body as a big step forward for school improvement in DC.
Wattenberg also played a role in…
A new report on overcrowded public schools in NW DC: For two years, they’ve been studying overcrowding – current and potential – at the 15 schools that feed into Wilson High – which then leads to crowding at… Wilson High. Who are “they?” The Wilson High School Feeder Pattern Community Working Group: principals and other school staff and parent representatives from each of those schools, as well as Michael Porcello from Ward 3 Council member Cheh’s office, Brian Doyle of the Ward 3-Wilson Feeder Education Network, and Wattenberg.
The report’s recommendations include:
- The creation of four new public schools. (Read about it in more detail in The DC Line.)
- Building additions and modernizing existing schools
- Using the old Hardy School. Although a consensus of parents in the group felt strongly about this option, DCPS did not engage substantially and did not to commit to pursuing it further.
The old Hardy School is currently being leased by the Lab School. And Mayor Bowser submitted legislation on February 28th that would extend the Lab School’s lease beyond 2023.
The Ward 3-Wilson Feeder Education Network is hosting some high profile government officials at its meetings over the next months. The group hosted Acting Chancellor Lewis Ferebee and Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn on February 11th. Council Chair Phil Mendelson will be the guest of honor at the next meeting this Monday, March 11th at 7 p.m. at the Tenley-Friendship Library.
Support for changing Wilson High School’s name: Since it opened in 1935 to white students only, the public high school in Ward 3 has been named for President Woodrow Wilson. DCist covered the February 12th public forum on changing that.
Most of the panelists – students, teachers, and historical experts – said they support changing the name. The one exception was Wilson biographer and 1957 Wilson graduate John Milton Cooper. Says DCist:
Cooper advised caution on allowing Wilson’s racism to obscure his achievements in other areas or assuming that Wilson prioritized racial division among his issue priorities.
This has been an ongoing conversation at Wilson.
A 2016 op-ed in the school’s student newspaper, the Wilson Beacon, called renaming the school “a vital step in the path to social justice.” During Tuesday’s event, Michelle Bollinger told the audience that her Wilson High history students vote at the end of each year on contenders to replace Woodrow Wilson. Recent victors include gay rights activist Frank Kameny, NAACP luminary Archibald Grimke, and statehood advocate Hilda Mason. Last year’s winner, according to Bollinger? Cool “Disco” Dan.
Wilson Principal Kim Martin was much relieved about the tenor of the discussion, telling DCist afterward, “I didn’t sleep at all last night… I’m going to go home and sleep like a baby tonight.”