Friday, April 4

DC FRIDAY

THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC SCHOOLS

CAROLYN STEPTOE, DC WATCH - My local District Commissioner posted a meeting announcement on our neighborhood listserv (Brookland) on the second round of upcoming 'school reuse community meetings' by the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education. Similar to the twenty-three school closing meetings It is clear these 'community meetings' are a sham and a farce.

A few days before the first round of simultaneous 'school reuse community meetings'were held on March 20 and March 24, the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education's office issued a Request for Qualification to local charter schools.

This RFQ extends the 'first right of offer'specifically to charter schools that seek to lease school space in the buildings slated for closure by DCPS and the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education. The deadline to receive charter school bids is April 4, and the selection announcement will be made April 14 by ODME. To my knowledge, the issuance of this RFQ was never mentioned by any ODME representatives at any of the simultaneous meetings. Three meetings were held on March 20 and two meetings were held on March 24. All meetings were titled: 'School Re-use Community Meetings: An opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas about how local school buildings should be reused.' Citizens were under the impression that their voices would be heard prior to the administration's decisions about public school building use.

WASH POST Student leaders at Wilson High School in Northwest Washington said they will intensify their campaign to establish their Wilson Peace Initiative to address violence on campus. Angelica Gregory, the student body president, said she and others are working on two fronts: They are trying to get their peers to support their idea of sending teams of students and teachers into the hallways to report fights to security guards and trying to get Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to drop her decision confining them to their classrooms during lunch hour. . . Alexis Chaney, 17, also a senior, said she was among students who met with Rhee Friday about the peace initiative. Chaney said she and other students were upset that Rhee moved on the lunch policy without their input. Chaney's remarks echoed complaints expressed in recent months by parents and teachers that she did not allow them to have a big enough say in reform plans that will affect their children at 23 schools she plans to close and 27 more that will undergo a dramatic academic overhaul. But in this case, the students may score a victory. Rhee's spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said in today's Post that Rhee "would definitely consider incorporating aspects of their proposal into the final plan."

UNION CITY - Hundreds of experienced DC teachers - tired of battling declining working conditions and School Chancellor Michelle Rhee's controversial initiatives - may soon be leaving in droves to take advantage of a proposed early-retirement program, Washington Teachers Union Local 6 President George Parker told V. Dion Haynes of the Washington Post. "Parker and others said veteran teachers are particularly upset at Rhee over plans to close 23 under-enrolled schools and to overhaul 27 schools whose students have repeatedly failed to make federal academic targets," Haynes reports. "Many say that she has left teachers and parents largely out of the planning." Teachers also fear that the recent firing of 98 central office employees - the result of school reform legislation that took away the rights of central office workers - might impact the union and the new contract and claim Rhee "has made disparaging remarks about veteran teachers," Haynes reports.

DC EXAMINER Enrollment in D.C.'s public schools has declined for a seventh consecutive year while the number of students in charter schools has increased. According to an audit released by the Office of the State Superintendent, about 49,400 students were enrolled in the city's public schools for the 2007-2008 school year. That's the first time enrollment has dipped below 50,000. Last year, enrollment in the public school system was certified at more than 55,000. Meanwhile, charter schools saw an increase to nearly 22,000 students this year. That's the first time enrollment has topped 20,000.

THE DC STATEHOOD GREEN PARTY is backing a bill to prevent District government from disposing public properties without reasonable legal hurdles and public oversight. . . "We need to rebuild, repair, and reopen our public schools, not dump them to make way for condos for the benefit of wealthy developers and other powerful lobbies.," said Green Steering committee member Jana Zara.

KPW, CONCERNED4DCPS - Something is wrong with this picture. The District closes D.C. schools because of enrollment and finances. Catholic schools are going to convert to D.C. charter schools because of finances. Yet, my neighborhood schools have to close. Catholic schools are good and I don't have a problem with them. However, eyebrows are raised when our neighborhood schools are closed and these schools just come in. Will they be able to convert back to Catholic schools when finances improve or do they remain public charter schools forever? Do they rent their property from the Catholic school system from taxpayer money? Does their property become part of the DC inventory or remain part of theirs? Do they save or gain money in the meantime? Do they move into closed DC school buildings? What's the chancellor and administration to govern with so many charter and so few traditional schools?

PUBLIC SCHOOL LISTSERVS

MARC BOBELY, CONCERNED 4 DCPS - Here is a list of the main citywide e-mail listservs for DCPS school advocates:

CONCERNED4DCPS or send an e-mail to Writer4605@msn.com

SAVEOURSCHOOLS or saveourschoolsdc@ yahoogroups.com

SCHOOL MODERNIZATION CAMPAIGN DCPS smc-subscribe@modernizations.org Andrea Rosen (rosena@georgetown.edu); Lisa Schamess (lisaschamess@gmail.com); Marc Borbely (borbely@fixourschools.net) 355

COALITION FOR DEMOCRACY IN EDUCATION DEMOCRACY AND DCPS Send an e-mail to cde-subscribe@democracyineducation.net Marc Borbely (borbely@fixourschools.net) 91

DC SCHOOL ADVOCATES Send an e-mail to sodonnell@21csf.org or nhuvendick@21csf.org Sean O'Donnell (sodonnell@21csf.org); Nancy Huvendick (nhuvendick@21csf.org)


MAYOR & COUNCIL FIGHT OVER NAT'S TICKETS

BRUCE JOHNSON, WUSA - DC Mayor Adrian Fenty on Wednesday afternoon wouldn't call it a fight; but acknowledged he and the Council are fighting over the roughly forty tickets inside two luxury suites at the new Nationals Ball Park. Sources say Fenty is controlling the tickets and refusing to give half of them and a luxury suite to Council Chairman Vincent Gray and his colleagues. "It's all new. we're still looking into it" said the Mayor. Gray attended a meeting on the matter Friday with Deputy Mayor Neal Albert representing the administration. There was no resolution.

Sources tell me that in retaliation, the Chairman on Tuesday, removed three bills from the legislative consent agenda that the Mayor was counting on in order to award government contracts valued at more than a million dollars.

It's not just the new Ball park that makes these tickets "priceless". Last year when the Nats were playing at RFK stadium which the city owns, the elected leaders received 140 tickets for every home game. . . roughly three and a half times the number they get at the new ball park.

The Mayor and Council members pass most of those tickets on to political supporters, family, youth and senior groups.


THE BRIBE THAT DARES NOT SAY ITS NAME

IT SHOULD BE - and in fact may be - illegal for the mayor and city council to take free tickets from the Nationals in return for having voted to spend over $600 million on a stadium. If, instead of tickets, the pols had received cash from the team owner, the US Attorney would be on their case, but for reasons that nobody ever bothers to explain it's okay to take the payoff in tickets. Can you imagine the mayor or city councilmembers attempting to argue in court that the prospect of free tickets had nothing to do with their vote. Fergetaboutit.


DC SHORTS

DOROTHY BRIZILL, DCWATCH.COM At Tuesday's legislative session of the city council, Councilmember David Catania introduced the Healthy DC Act of 2008 . . . This week, Catania grew extremely testy when asked specific questions about the legislation. However, DC residents should insist that the council hold a series of public hearings on the proposal, looking into questions that need to be asked and answered, including: 1) did the District engage in a competitive process prior to selecting CareFirst Blue Cross/Blue Shield as the sole health insurance provider for the program? 2) How will the District government administer the program, and at what cost? 3) How will the program be funded? 4) What will the insurance premium costs be to District residents? 5) Can the District government require all DC residents to maintain and "certify" to the government that they have health insurance coverage? 6) Should the District government be allowed to fine and prosecute a District resident who fails to purchase health insurance? 7) How will the District assure that only city residents are eligible for the program? 8) What is the timetable for implementation? 9) Have any other jurisdictions adopted such a compulsory, mandatory health insurance requirement?

HEALTHCARE NOW There are only two ways to pay for a national healthcare system - either single payer, getting much better care and spending billions of dollars less -or the much more costly plans of the think tanks and the candidates - continuing and expanding the billions of dollars of profits to the insurance companies. Under the current economic crisis, we cannot expect that Congress will continue to increase taxes to pay, "Individual Mandate" forces everybody to further enrich the insurance companies for policies that many people cannot afford and that must be subsidized by the taxpayers. Some form of individual mandate is supported by both Obama and Clinton as the new plan for the United States and has failed over and over again in states where it has been tried.

GARY IMHOFF, DC WATCH Mayor Fenty and Destination DC, the jazzed-up name for the Washington, DC, Convention and Tourism Corporation, announced the new "branding" for our city, this year's new slogan for the permanent campaign to encourage tourism: "Create Your Own Power Trip." I've been thinking about this all day, since the slogan was leaked early on last night's evening news. I've been working diligently on what to say about this slogan. I've tried hard. But I give up. "Create Your Own Power Trip" is beyond my poor powers to parody or satirize. I can imagine that power trip slogans were very appealing to the upper levels of the Fenty administration. It's their style, and I can hear now the cheers that went up in the mayor's bullpen when power trip branding was announced. But who else is this supposed to appeal to? And are Washingtonians going to have to put up with the kind of tourists that would be attracted by a "power trip" campaign? Look, I'm not being paid anywhere near what Destination DC undoubtedly gave the consultants who came up with this turkey - I'm not being paid at all - and I can come up with two better campaigns right off the top of my head: 1) "You gotta see the monuments once in your life. Get it over with." 2) "The museums are free, and the kids won't be nearly as bored as you expect." Use either of them and tourism will get a big boost; use them both together and we'll double our numbers. And we'll get friendly, cheerful, down-home, middle-American families who'll be easy to live with, instead of the annoying yuppies who'll be attracted by fantasies of rubbing shoulders with power brokers and going on power trips in DC.

WTOP A children's rights lawyer says D.C.'s child welfare agency is in crisis after thousands of new reports flooded the agency in recent months. Marcia Robinson Lowry is the executive director of Children's Rights. Lowry testified in court that the surge in calls has created a dangerous situation that might prompt legal action to send the child welfare agency back into court receivership. A spokeswoman for the agency says calls have increased 600 percent since Banita Jacks was arrested in January after her four daughters were found dead inside her southeast Washington home.

UNION CITY Area supermarket workers overwhelmingly approved a new 4-year contract. Nearly 10,000 Safeway and Giant workers - members of UFCW Local 400 - turned out for the vote at the DC Armory on a contract proposal that maintained pension benefits and no co-pay on healthcare benefits, as well as guaranteeing that Safeway and Giant will cover any increases in healthcare costs. Pay raises over the life of the contract for those at the top of the wage scale - which includes 70% of the current workers - will total $2.82 an hour.

JIM GRAHAM says the Central Union Mission is gong to be relocated near Union Station.


DC SCENE

WASH POST For many years, D.C. police officer Quintin Peterson stuck to the facts, writing news releases and informing the public about grisly crimes across the city. But then he became a published novelist and poet, tweaking the truth and using his imagination to bring fictional crime stories to life. "I pull from the job; a lot of my stories will take elements from three separate incidents," said Peterson, who has been assigned to the public information office for 22 years. "I borrow from those and come up with unique characters. Every character has to have a mole, something that makes them distinct." He has self-published several novels and a book of poetry and was one of several writers whose short stories were picked for the 2006 crime-fiction anthology "D.C. Noir," edited by famed D.C. crime novelist George Pelecanos. "He's the only D.C. police officer I know who is also a writer," Pelecanos said. "Not too many people are writing fiction." Pelecanos said he liked Peterson's short story, "Cold as Ice," about a man who witnesses a homicide in the Congress Heights neighborhood. Pelecanos also said he thought it was an important balance for the book, which included a piece from a man in prison. "It was good to have both," Pelecanos said. Peterson, 52, has become the department's outreach to the land of police fantasy, acting as a liaison for the movie and TV industry. As a script consultant and technical adviser, he helps films accurately depict D.C. police.


READER COMMENTS

NAMING SAFEWAYS

- In the mid '80s or thereabouts, as traditional supermarkets were trying to get a little more cosmopolitan by introducing gourmet grocery departments, the Safeway in Merrifield on Route 29 re-branded itself as the "International Safeway" -- which my smart-assed pals and I began referring to as the "Interstellar Safeway" after a track by Rockville techno-tunester Rupert Chappelle. - Mike

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