Monday, July 14

DC MONDAY

LOCAL ARTISTS FEATURED AT SMITHSONIAN

A new exhibition has opened at the Smithsonian American Art Museum with works by Washington, D.C.-based artists, Leon Berkowitz, Gene Davis, Thomas Downing, Sam Gilliam, Fel Hines, Jacob Kainen, Howard Mehring, Paul Reed and Alma Thomas. . . Artist and stripe-meister Gene Davis (1920-1985) was a bit of a character. DC native all the way, born and raised, a graduate of University of Maryland, he began his career as a journalist and after a stint at some out-of-town newspapers settled in as a sports writer for the Washington Daily News. "I was born here," he said, "and wild horses could not drag me away."

That was all before he began painting his stripes. Davis painted miles and miles of stripes. He painted a parking lot in Philadelphia with 31,464 square feet, all in stripes. . . Davis, who frequently played poker with Harry S Truman, once collected a jar of "dirty air" from the sidewalk in front of the White House - and then removed it to the country. He produced, in 1971, a work of art that reads more like a New Yorker cartoon, "The Artist's Fingerprints, Except for One, Which Belongs to Someone Else." He even gave away 50 of his paintings to random members of the public. And he may have lent credence to one of the modern art world's harshest condemnations when he exhibited his works of art alongside that of an 8-year-old. As Washington Post critic Paul Richard explains in his Davis' obituary: "When asked by irritated fans why he deigned to do such things, Davis like to quote from memory a line from Emerson, who'd said that on the lintel of his doorway he would inscribe the one word. . . "Whim."

DC SHORTS

HANDGUNS

Mark Segraves of WTOP Radio has an interesting column on the problems would-be gun owners in DC face. For example: "Since there are no gun stores in the District of Columbia, residents wishing to own a gun will have to buy them in another state. But, you won't be able to transport the gun back into the District. It will have to be shipped to a federally licensed gun dealer in the city. There are only six federal firearms licensees in the District. WTOP contacted all six, and found only one is considering facilitating the transfers of handguns once the law changes. . . Other issues: What types of handguns will be allowed? Will ballistic fingerprinting of some type be required? What type of background checks will be required? Will training be required? Will you be able to transport your handgun to a shooting range? Will trigger locks be required? Will you be able to keep the gun loaded? Will the gun have to be kept in a locked safe? Where will guns stores be allowed to open? Will the city allow gun ranges to open? How much will a gun permit cost? Will gun owners be required to re-register their guns every year?

BASEBALL

Ed Delaney, DC Watch "DC officials said they plan to hire a special lawyer to handle what they expect to be prolonged arbitration over the ballpark, which was built with tax dollars." So the cap-busting ballpark-related deal with Venable LLP wasn't enough, as now there are more agreements with law firms in the offing of unknown cost and scope to cover "prolonged" arbitration and who knows what else against the private business entity for which the city broke the bank and saddled itself with massive debt in building the cut-rate greenhouse and insisting in keeping it at the cost-bloated current site. Before the hiring, the public and the full council need to be consulted, since the Venable deal was so bad that even Vincent Gray admitted that "I have frankly not seen ever in my service a contract more poorly administered than this one."

When Mark Plotkin asked Fenty about the Nats scrap, the mayor became almost unintelligible: "I'm not disappointed, disturbed or surprised. . . I'm the mayor of the District of Columbia and I've watched a lot of big development deals happen. This is the biggest one that's ever happened in the city, and I think, to be honest with you, if all the t's were crossed and all the i's were dotted this soon after being complete, we'd be living in some fantasy world. Every development project has issues that remain unresolved this far in, and I think on our side the deputy mayor is doing a fantastic job. On their side, I think the Lerners are very sincere in what they believe are their rights and obligations and we'll come to an agreement as soon as possible. . . I'm not into every detail of it, and I don't know how much is accurate. What I do know is like in most major agreements there are some issues that are unresolved. It would be almost impossible to see this as glass half-empty. This is a very full glass, with the stadium being finished on time and so many District residents and residents from around the area having such a great time at the stadium and it being such an impetus for future economic development in the area, especially along the Anacostia."

Remarked David Nakamura of the Post, "Seems Fenty (D) has taken a go-along, get-along approach to the deal since taking office, even though his anti-baseball stance as council member struck a populist cord that many say helped him win the mayor's office. It should not go unremarked that the Lerners have laid the groundwork with the mayor, hosting a fund-raiser for his handpicked Ward 4 successor, Muriel Bowser, when she was running to replace him."

Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts, Wash Post Night after night, hundreds of those primo, $300-a-game seats behind home plate have been empty at Nationals Park. After our colleague Paul Farhi wrote about all that embarrassingly empty acreage, Army Lt. Col. Luke Knittig had a nifty suggestion: Why not fill those seats by giving them away to uniformed military personnel, he wrote in a letter to The Post. . . The Nats mulled. Two months later, spokeswoman Chartese Burnett told Farhi that the organization has begun working with National Naval Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center to give tickets to service members and hospital personnel. . . So, how many of those seats will our folks in uniform be filling every night? Burnett didn't know offhand, but said she'd find out. A few minutes later, her answer: "We've allotted between six and 10 tickets per game." Oh. Well, it's a start.

The National Stadium's workers have voted to unionize, joining Local 25 of Unite Here Food Service Division. Contact negotiations begin later this month.

PUBLIC SPACES

Once again, with the new Tenley-Friendship library, a community icon will be hidden in a high-rise building. If you want children to read, you have to show more respect for books than treating them like so much Starbucks Coffee. We are waiting for Fenty to order all churches to be embedded in high-rise office buildings if they wish to retain their tax exempt status.

SCHOOLS

Wonder when the DC school system will come up a standardized test for some of the really important things in life like wisdom, wisely using the data you're always being tested on, foresight, cooperation, leadership and survival. The current obsession with testing verges on the pathological, witness this from a Post story: "One principal established a 10th-grade academy to provide intensive preparation for students taking the test. Another introduced a Saturday "Kickball Quiz Bowl," offering Ipods and movie passes to students who correctly answered sample test questions. And one constantly apprised students of their pre-test scores, hoping to make them responsible for improvement." That's not education; that's a treatable illness.

Besides, if you want kids to learn, then the adults around them better have their facts straight. For example, the media has been full of information on improvements in test scores over the past year. Going back to 2002, however, the reading test scores indicate that the year being used as a comparison and the previous year were anomalies. Scores improved from 2002 to 2005 in both reading and math for elementary schools. Then they collapsed. The much touted 2008 results are still behind the 2005 figures for elementary reading and math, abut the same in secondary school math, and substantially improved in secondary school reading. And remember these earlier tests were taken without quiz bowls, free Ipods or movies, which, incidentally, will be the case when they tested on something by an employer in the future.

The only jobs we can think of where the Ipod-movie pass model would be useful would be mayor or member of the city council, where you learn to do whatever your contributors want.

William Jordan The rising test scores are an indicator that we may have major trouble on our hands. First, we don't know if test scores have really risen just because the numbers seem to indicate that they have.. A rise in DCPS test scores could be achieved just by moving students around especially from public schools to charters schools and back again. Or by a strategy of identifying students who were a scoring a few points from proficient and steering resources to move them a few points across the line.

Guy Brandenberg I have spent most of today trying to tally the data from the DC Department of Education website. I simply tallied how many "Yes" and "No" marks there were for each school, public and charter, that I could find data for. I know this might not be the most sophisticated way of counting the data, but remember that under NCLB, for a school to make AYP and not be sanctioned, it has to be perfect. By that, I mean that every single tallied subgroup has to make whatever the cutoff score is. So I just counted whether the subgroups that were counted for each school, were awarded a "YES" or a "NO" by the department of education. The results are that the public schools wildly outperformed the charter schools. Here is the summary:

Nearly half (41%) of all DC Public Schools appear to have made AYP either last year or this year, or both. Only 27%, a bit more than a quarter, of the charter schools did the same.

65 public schools, or 47% of the total, improved (that is, got fewer "NOs" than last year. only 11 charter schools, or 20% of them, improved compared to last year.)

POLICE

The Partnership for Civil Justice has filed a class action lawsuit seeking an injunction against the Metropolitan Police Department's "Neighborhood Safety Zone" checkpoint program. . . The lawsuit asserts that the roadblock program is an unconstitutional suspicionless seizure of persons traveling on public roadways in the District of Columbia. The lawsuit also challenges the District's use of these mass civil rights violations to collect and aggregate data on the movements, activities and associations of law abiding residents and visitors to the District and seeks expungement of this information. "People want their children to be able to walk the streets in their neighborhood in a safe and secure environment. The District's military-style roadblock system was deployed, in part, to give the appearance that the government is addressing this deeply felt need. But it is neither constitutional, nor effective. There is an urgent need to tackle the problems of violence, street crime, unemployment and education. This roadblock does not address any of them," states the Class Action Complaint.

DEMOCRACY

From 1988 to 2004, the national Democratic platform included a call for DC statehood. It got knocked out last time and probably will again, thanks to the efforts of supporters of phony self-government - i.e. a token vote in the House - such as the taxpayer subsidized DC Vote. DC Vote's motto ought to be: "DC: America's Last Colony. . . And Proud of It"

MONEY

David Nakamura, Washington Post D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi called on government leaders to rein in their borrowing on Wall Street, a warning that, if heeded, eventually could limit the city's ability to pay for major redevelopment projects proposed for the Southwest waterfront and at Poplar Point along the Anacostia River. In his annual debt letter to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and the D.C. Council, Gandhi heightened previous alarms that the city is at risk of spending too much to repay its economic development bonds. He recommends the council adopt legislation limiting debt service to 12 percent of the city's overall expenditures. The District's current debt service payments eat up 9.7 percent of its budget, rising to 11.8 percent by 2010, Gandhi said. By law, the city can spend up to 17 percent. But Wall Street analysts think that is too high, Gandhi said, because the city would have less money to pay for critical everyday services.

FURTHERMORE . . . .

DC Examiner - Takoma Park, home of the nuclear-free zone, has found a new foe in foie gras. City Council members passed a resolution last week opposing the production and sale of the fatty delicacy made from the livers of force-fed ducks and geese. The pricey treat is made through a controversial process that involves sticking tubes down the throats of ducks and geese to feed them large quantities of grain, causing their livers to swell. Foie gras production has been banned in some countries and will be illegal in California in 2012. "My mother was French, and I've eaten a bit of foie gras in my life," City Councilman Dan Robinson said. "As I was educated about the process, I won't eat it again; it is inhumane, and I am glad to take that stand."

Wash Post A former Metro station manager, arrested after she allegedly offered to arrange sex for an undercover police officer, agreed to attend a court-approved diversion program for prostitutes. . . Transit police launched the investigation in May after receiving a complaint about a station manager who was advertising trips to Brazil with "possible sexual undertones," according to charging papers. Police obtained a flier promoting the trips that named Waters as the travel representative. A month later, an undercover transit officer posing as an out-of- town businessman approached [Sharon] Waters at the Dupont Circle Station, and the two talked about the Brazil trip, as well as other sexual possibilities in the Washington area, the charging papers said. The officer followed up with phone calls, in which Waters allegedly offered to introduce him to another Metro employee who would have sex with him for money.In a June 11 meeting, Waters had the co-worker, [Pamela] Goins, paged over the Metro subway intercom, police said. Waters, Goins and the undercover officer then met in the Connecticut Avenue area of the Farragut North Station. During the meeting, Goins allegedly grabbed the officer's crotch and made several references to sexual acts she wanted to perform, saying she would meet the man for $200. No activity took place.

DC VIEWS

THE JANNEY - TENLEY DEVELOPMENT

Sue Hemberger, Friendship Heights Why did Mayor Fenty fail to publicize his decision to select LCOR as a development partner for the Janney School - Tenley-Friendship library site? Why did he change the day and time of that announcement as soon as he discovered that residents knew of the event and planned to attend? And why did Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who was standing by Fenty's side , also neglect to inform the community that such an announcement had been scheduled? The short answer: both knew that this decision would be greeted with outrage rather than applause. Here's why: 1) it means that the reopening of our branch library (whose design had just been completed and whose construction was slated to begin next fall) will once again be delayed for at least two more years. 2) It means that instead of athletic facilities, there will be apartments on Janney's soccer field and that the exterior facilities (playgrounds and a multipurpose sports field for physical education) DCPS's educational specifications mandate for an elementary school campus of 550 students will not be provided as the school's capacity is expanded and its facilities modernized. 3) It means that the mayor ignored both the community's wishes and his own promise not to go forward with a public-private project unless the there was strong support for one. It also means that Deputy Mayor Neil Albert reneged on his oft-repeated commitment that the community would see the proposal chosen by the selection panel and have a chance to comment upon it. . .

It's time for this scofflaw administration to be reigned in. This isn't a feudal monarchy where the sovereign can dispose of public land as he sees fit as long as he can induce the local lord to stand loyally by his side. It's a democracy in which the rule of law is supposed to govern the decision making and in which elected officials (both the mayor and the council) have a fiduciary duty to protect public assets which are owned by the public, not by the (temporary) head of state. The deal Fenty wants to strike with LCOR is a disaster from a public facilities standpoint. Tenleytown will get less attractive facilities, later, and at greater public expense, than we would have if the government had proceeded with separate publicly funded modernizations of both school and library, using the capital funds already budgeted for the two projects (rather than turning those funds over to LCOR).

STICKING UP FOR DR SIEBENS

Sarah Cox-Shrader, Woodrow Wilson High School '09 I am proud to be a student at Wilson. Wilson is one of the best high schools in the DCPS system, with many dedicated teachers and motivated students. I will not deny that Wilson has its problems, for example the facilities, which are at times perhaps sub-standard. However, I would argue that the physical state of our building is the least of our problems, in the face of those teachers and staff who are less than dedicated and effective, and the academic discrepancy between different student demographics.

A lot of students truly thrive at Wilson, but an appalling number fall through the cracks, a fact that is unacceptable, yet sadly undeniable. The fact that these discrepancies too often fall along socio-economic and racial lines leads to some of the sticky racial politics at my school. It would be untrue to speak of Wilson without acknowledging these issues, as difficult as they may be.

This coming year, my senior year, will be marked by a great deal of change at Wilson, due mostly to the effects of the restructuring process that is underway. On the one hand, I recognize the necessity of restructuring as a way to satisfy the stipulations of the federal No Child Left Behind law. On the other hand, I see restructuring as an opportunity for the Wilson community to come together to try to fix some of our problems.

Our school is much more than just a building where teachers teach and students absorb information. We have dedicated teachers, devoted parents, and enthusiastic students who together comprise a community that knows the school inside and out, knows its strengths and weaknesses, knows what works and what doesn't. . .

Hanna Mahon, senior at Wilson High School While restructuring sounds like a great step in the right direction, we believe that its implementation at Wilson contradicts its alleged purpose. The specific case that we want to discuss is that of the unjust and perplexing "displacement" of Dr. Arthur Siebens, Wilson's legendary Biology teacher of 18 years.

Upon hearing that Dr. Siebens was not asked to return, we posed the question that continues to vex all of us students, parents, teachers, community members, and even Dr. Siebens himself: Why?

I first posed this question to Dr. Siebens, and after a month, all he has been told is that he "doesn't fit in". This justification is both troubling and nebulous. Declaring that someone "doesn't fit in" should not be a standard for improving Wilson and other DC Public Schools

I next took my confusion to the administration. I received this reply from the Chancellor: "I appreciate you taking the time to write to me, Hanna. I'm going to touch base with the people who are leading this tomorrow to get more information." I am still unsure as to whom she contacted, but I decided to move on and find a way to get a real answer.

It was then that I received an email from a Wilson parent, John Lawrence. I thought that with this email I would finally understand why one of my favorite teachers had suddenly been removed, as Mr. Lawrence himself was the Democratic staff director of the House committee that wrote the federal No Child Left Behind law. As it turned out, Mr. Lawrence was just as perplexed as I was, if not more. Wrote Lawrence to Chancellor Rhee: "I cannot understand the decision to terminate this gifted and popular instructor; what's more, from my conversation with Dr. Siebens, he is unaware of any specific rationale for his dismissal. Such actions by DCPS are inconsistent with sound education administration, and certainly have no relationship whatsoever to the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act."

So, if the dismissal of Dr. Siebens could not be properly explained by Dr. Siebens himself, by the Chancellor in charge of the restructuring process, or by a man who helped write the restructuring law, where could I find this information?. . .

It seems to me that instead of ridding Wilson of incredible teachers like Dr. Siebens, we should retain them and have them work on the culturally responsive teaching that the Wilson restructuring plan itself recommends. In this manner, students would benefit from both great teachers and restructuring. To toss him aside is to forget that at the end of the day schools are all about teaching.

Yes, Wilson's priorities are changing., but do not remove Dr. Arthur Siebens for reasons that do not relate to his teaching. Do not leave this fantastic teacher behind as Wilson moves on to face these big changes; let's take him with us. We'll need him.

1 Comments:

At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contrary to the repeated postings by Sue Hamberger on several blogs and listservers, there is overwhelming support withing the greater Tenley-Friendship area for the proposed Public-Private-Partnership on the Tenley Library/Janney Elementary site.

At a minimum, the plans ought to be reviewed and commented on by the community before the likes of Ms. Hamberger and the ANC shoot it down.

ANC 3E Chair Amy McVey sent out a series of paranoid rants about this before any plans were unveiled (they still haven't been unveiled).

So much for going into this with an open mind.

This is why no one in the Wilson Building takes this ANC seriously.

 

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