Failing Our Kids In DC  

So, there’s talk in the news about the recent moves in DC concerning DC Public education and the firing of District employees, teachers, and now principals. In the past, Rhee, the school’s chancellor, had offered buyouts to teachers, it does not appear that principals will receive the same treatment because they are on year-to-year contracts. Which to me sounds “at-will,” yuk.

As I read about the firings of principals, something caught my eye in the Post

Recruiting and retaining high-quality principals have been longtime challenges in the school system. In 2005, then-Superintendent Clifford B. Janey said 25 to 40 percent of the system's 140 principals "are not the caliber they need to be."

My child is a product of DC public and I wasn’t going to let her continue down that path. She’s now on scholarship at a private school in the district and she LOVES it. Going to a DC Public school made her feel bad about herself, left her suicidal, had her in therapy, and saw this bright usually happy child avoiding homework and reading in class instead of learning. She went to an elementary school where her principal was beaten by two fourth graders so badly that he was hospitalized with broken ribs and a broken arm. Principals who take on the worst schools, like Anacostia High School, PR Harris and Green Elementary are then asked to turn around a school with little to no parent interaction, where kids are virtually warehoused, waiting to enter the workforce with no ability to do pretty much anything.

My kid was lucky. I had the determination to be involved in the PTOs and PTAs, the open houses conferences and it didn’t help. I couldn’t get her out of the hell she was in, so with no other choice, she went to a charter school. I became even more involved in the school, volunteering, PTO work, you name it, I did it. And even then, it still wasn’t enough. There were 28 to 30 kids in each classroom and my kid was getting almost no additional assistance with math or science which had been her favorite subjects, so on she moved to another charter school. This one worked better. It had smaller class sizes but no science program. For 8th grade, she went back to DCPS and there she was placed with the worst kids. Kids with criminal records, an inability to read, poor math skills and worse, with behavior issues so severe that she was constantly bullied, threatened and pushed around until she finally just completely closed off into the world of books where everything could be perfect.

So, when her high school accepted her and offered a scholarship, we jumped at it. The scholarship was contingent on her ability to perform after the 1st semester. Coming from DCPS and the charter school system, she was behind in English and only at grade level for Math, so she needed to be able to play catch up and if it didn’t work, there was always Woodrow Wilson High School.

But for the thousands of kids in DCPS, I can’t help but wonder what is achieved through the changes that Fenty and Rhee are now undertaking with DCPS. I just don’t think any of it will work. It won’t work because it seems more political than centered in making learning environments for kids. Take how the Principals not being renewed found out:

A form letter over Rhee's signature went out to the principals identified for firing yesterday afternoon. It was to be followed by a series of one-on-one meetings between the principals and instructional superintendents, their immediate supervisors, said Rhee's spokeswoman, Mafara Hobson.

If you treat your employees like yesterday’s news, exactly why would we think that you’d be out there for the kids?

DCPS has a lot of issues. From violence to behavior, to simply teaching and learning, but all of this can be turned around, I just don’t think it’s going to happen with Fenty and Rhee. I think it takes making the schools as important a part of the community with events and gatherings. If school isn’t community, then you lose out on so much community building that should be taking place. The real issue isn’t with failing schools, it’s with failing communities. So, when are we going to start helping each other?

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