Friday, June 6

DC THURSDAY

RHEE QUIETLY KILLING EASTERN HIGH SCHOOL

HILL RAG On May 15, DCPS abruptly announced that Eastern Senior High School will begin a phase out - reopen process for 2008, leaving many unanswered questions for current students and forcing area eighth-graders to scramble for last-minute alternative high school placements. According to the plan – issued with no prior notice to area middle schools or to the Eastern community – no new ninth-graders will be accepted at Eastern in the fall of 2008. The current program will be phased out over three years, with the tentative plan to leave dwindling classes at Eastern until current ninth-graders graduate, alone in the school, as seniors. Plans call for a more dynamic high school for the Eastern community, beginning in 2011. DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee, believing it 'in the best interest of the current students to finish their education at the Eastern they have come to know,' decided – according to a statement from Jennifer Calloway, assistant press secretary to the chancellor -- to 'wait to introduce the next generation of students to a new model high school.'

The announced plan reflects almost nothing of the months-long restructuring process in which Eastern administrators, faculty, staff , parents, alumni and community members actively participated. It does, however, reflect Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells' expectations of a phase out - reopen strategy for Eastern. . .

At no point in the restructuring process, however, did Rhee or Wells present the phase-out - reopen recommendation for consideration by Eastern's PTA and Local School Restructuring Team, as they actively worked on a restructuring plan. Neither Rhee nor Wells took steps to bring lower school parents and others from Ward 6 into dialogue with those currently involved in the school. In fact, the restructuring process established by the chancellor's office hindered engagement of the two groups, because it was difficult for anyone not already active in a particular school to learn about opportunities for input (many meeting notices were not even posted on the DCPS website, for example.) . . . .

Participants in May's Parent Organization meeting – held just days after the surprise announcement -- were united with the immediate Eastern community in their dismay. 'What kind of high school experience is [the phase out] going to be?'asks Suzanne Wells, who chairs the group. How will a diminishing population support academics, athletics, and activities? 'What kind of message does this send?'. . .

Cathy Reilly, director of Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators, asks, 'Has the chancellor's offi ce considered the impact on families of Eastern's rising ninth-graders, the time and cost of travel, the abrupt change without communication?'. . .

LEE GLAZER - Two recent developments in DCPS Chancellor Michell Rhee's office shed light on the relationship between gentrification and school reform, and make clear that despite her claim of wanting every child to succeed, her efforts may well represent the culmination of the structural readjustment and outright racist and classist policies that have thwarted genuine progressive change in our schools and our neighborhoods for decades. The structural adjustment was encapsulated in Tony Williams's mantra of bringing in 100,000 new residents to a city "open for business." We now hear its echo in Adrian Fenty's desire to make DC a "world class city."

The two outrageous recent developments are the nomination of Frederick "Rick" Hess as an "independent" evaluator of Rhee's reform efforts and the decision to "restructure" Eastern Senior High School by phasing its current community out, one grade at a time, until the building is cleared. At this point, Rhee and elected officials will engage the (mostly white, relatively affluent) families who now live in the neighborhood around Eastern but who do not current attend the school or its feeder junior highs.

Rhee was recently quoted in a local paper, The Hill Rag, as saying that she hasn't planned any improvements for the current students at Eastern, because she believes that they are more "comfortable" with the current programs. The new programs will be developed only after the building is cleared of all those students who Rhee believes just wouldn't be "comfortable" with high quality teachers, a full complement of foreign languages, a clean, modern facility, a fantastic marching band.

Eastern already has a fantastic marching band that's been one of the bright lights in an otherwise pretty grim few years: thanks to John Gibson and other alums and PTA members, the band program has grown and Eastern's enrollment has grown with it. . . but no matter to Rhee and Company, . . .

The nomination of Rick Hess as an evaluator and the restructuring-by-strangulation of Eastern may not seem to be related to each other at first glance. But remember that Rick Hess comes from the American Enterprise Institute, the neo-conservative think tank that brought us Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, which argued that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites and Asians. Rhee is essentially continuing this line of reasoning by shutting the current Eastern community out of her promise to rebuild and revitalize the school . It is part and parcel of the "starving the beast" efforts that have been touted by neo-cons for years and have been eagerly implemented by self-proclaimed liberals in our urban centers.

HOUSING

DC FORECLOSURES 2000-2008

DC LIFE

Happy tenth anniversary to the Ward 8 Farmers Market, located at Alabama Avenue, SE and Martin Luther King Avenue, SE. Writes John Gloster, one of the founders and a former head of the DC Statehood Party, "Ten years ago many stood together to oppose the abandonment of Ward 8 citizens when the only supermarket closed in the poorest ward in the city. We formed a working committee, originally as a project of the DC Statehood Green Party, and brought together members of the community, including many Democrats, ANC commissioners, etc. to tackle the problem. Eventually, we decided to do more than protest, and decided to demonstrate our ability to help solve some of our own problems as a community. Together, we decided to form the Ward 8 Farmers Market. We have invested in equipment, training and staffing which permits us to accept EBT cards (food stamps).

DC VIEWS

DC FISCAL POLICY INSTITUTE, CAPITOL HILL RAG The mayor proposed $40 million in earmarks, and the council raised it to $64 million, covering 150 organizations. That may be just 1 percent of the budget, but it's problematic for many reasons beyond giving money to a favored few and bypassing competition. Earmark recipients may start to rely on DC funds and do less to seek private sector support. Getting an earmark also may make groups less willing to speak out on important policy issues for fear of offending their benefactor.

Another problem is that councilmembers end up spending time protecting their earmarks rather than pushing for a sound comprehensive budget, and a councilmember who fights for his or her earmarks cannot criticize anyone else for their outrageous earmarks. All of this adds up to a poor use of public dollars, a lack of transparency and more cynicism.

The council has acknowledged the need for earmark reform. To their credit, they have adopted some recommendations from their policy office, such as requiring recipients to provide a detailed scope of work and to prove they are in good financial standing. This doesn't solve some of the larger issues, however, and in fact may just make it safer to do more earmarks.

The council should go further and limit the practice. One recommendation from the policy office is to set aside a pot of funds for community-related purposes and establish a formal and competitive grants process. This is based on current practices in Montgomery County, which also has proposals evaluated by a panel of residents and made available to the public. Such a process would inject much-needed transparency into the process and also ensure public dollars are in fact benefiting the community.

MEDIA

City Paper is hurting. In a story in Philadelphia Weekly, editor Erik Wemple is quoted as saying, "We lost half our staff over the past year and a half. At what point does the cutting of resources render us incapable of ever recovering?" The paper's not aone. Other urban weeklies have the same tale: "We have fewer staffers than ever but we're producing more content than ever," says Alison True, editor of Chicago Reader. "We've gone through cataclysmic change. We had to lose some of our longtime staffers last fall. It was very painful.". . . "After years of being asked to do more for less, now we're doing even more with less," says Lee Gardner, the Baltimore CP editor. "It's hard to see the end game.". . . "Classified-the advertising heart and soul of most alt papers-is gone," says media critic Dan Kennedy. "The ads the alts were so good at-‘I need an apartment,' ‘I'm looking for a bass player'-all that's gone to Craigslist.

DCTRV - Dan Snyder plans to put his Redskins on all six of his radio station signals. . . Snyder already owns the three-station Triple X sports talker. On their afternoon "Sports Reporters" program yesterday, WTEM hosts Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin wondered how much they'd be able to criticize the team - or whether they'd even be employed by the station - once Snyder's Red Zebra takes over on 7/1. Czaban, Pollin, and other WTEM hosts, including former Redskins players Rick "Doc" Walker and Brian Mitchell, have often lambasted the team and its owner in recent years. "We're being swallowed up by the big burgundy-and-gold empire," Czaban said on the air, according to the Post. Bruce Gilbert, Red Zebra's chief executive, said that his company would encourage, "within reason," a freewheeling exchange of opinions. "You can't be in the sports radio business without talented talk-show hosts like Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin," Gilbert, a former ESPN Radio executive, told the Post. "You hire people to be opinionated. You want them to be opinionated. If we didn't, why would we buy these stations?"

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