Friday, April 29, 2011

Sam Gilliam piece to be installed in Takoma Metro underpass next week

After a long wait. From an email from Deirdre Ehlen, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities' public art coordinator:

The much-anticipated public art installation by renowned artist Sam Gilliam, From a Model to Rainbow, will be installed next week at the Takoma Metro Underpass. The installation will begin on Monday, May 2nd and will most likely conclude by Wednesday, May 11th. In addition, the Mayor will be attending the unveiling ceremony, which will occur on Saturday, June 11th at 10:00am. Formal invitations and details will follow in the next few weeks regarding the dedication ceremony. Please email Deirdre.Ehlen@dc.gov or call 202-724-5613 if you have any questions. It has been an absolute pleasure working on this project and I hope you share in my excitement!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pro Bono Tropical Foods, 5403 Georgia Avenue, robbed at gunpoint last night



MPD reports that Pro Bono Tropical Foods, located at 5403 Georgia Ave. NW, was robbed at gunpoint yesterday evening:

Pro Bono Groceries reports that at approximately 8:30 p.m., they were robbed at gunpoint. A lone suspect entered into the establishment and announced a robbery, subsequently an undetermined amount of US currency was taken. There were no reported injuries as a result of this robbery. The suspect is described as a black male, 25-30 years of age, 6' 160 pounds, wearing a black jacket and black jeans, armed with a silver hand gun.

Anyone with information relative to the above listed offense is asked to call the Fourth District Detectives Office on 202-715-7506.


An email sent about seven hours later by MPD's James Cullen reports:

The suspect in this robbery was later arrested after the complainant saw him back in the area. Officer Pena made the arrest and charged the suspect with Armed Robbery and possession of marijuana.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Gray's Ward 4 Budget Town Hall is Monday, May 2, 7pm

Heads up:

Mayor Vincent C. Gray
Ward 4 2012 Budget Briefing
When: Monday, May 2, 2011, 7:00pm
Where: Brightwood Elementary School, 1300 Nicholson Street, NW

"Come Listen, Come Learn, Come Voice Your Concerns," said an email from Gray's office. "Come participate in the Shaping of our DC Budget."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

If you haven't voted in the At-Large Council special election today, you should. Here's why.

From DCist's Martin Austermuhle.
  • Your Vote Really Counts: You hear this all the time, but it's probably more true today than ever before. Turnout in special elections has historically ranged from five to 25 percent, and the winner of one of these contests could well be determined by a tiny proportion of votes. Back in 1997, Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large) claimed a win with only 10,818 votes, just over 1,000 more than second-place finisher Arrington Dixon. Only four candidates fought for the seat, and turnout was a meager 7.5 percent. This time around, we've got nine candidates on the ballot, six of them Democrats. Votes are splintering along ideological, demographic, geographic and issue-based lines -- but no one can accurately predict how. Your vote counts. Really.

  • Their Vote Really Counts: As soon as the winner of this Special Election is announced, they'll jump straight into the unforgiving business of debating and amending Mayor Vince Gray's 2012 budget, which slashed funding for many social services and hiked taxes on the city's highest-earners in order to close a $322 million budget gap. The D.C. Council is closely divided between those that want tax increases and those opposed; a single vote could swing the decision either way. Bryan Weaver, Josh Lopez and Alan Page have supported tax hikes in one form or another, while Sekou Biddle, Vincent Orange, Patrick Mara, Dorothy Douglas and Tom Brown have been skeptical. If you feel strongly either way, your vote will count towards making their vote count.

  • You Can Send a Strong Message: Let's be honest -- it hasn't been a particularly good few months in D.C. politics. We've had far too many scandals in far too short a time, and it's easy to see why many residents are becoming more and more cynical about the state of local affairs. Many of the candidates are running on a message of independence, integrity and accountability -- all things that seem to be in short supply these days. Weaver has pledged to clean up how campaign finances are raised, while Mara has emphasized stricter controls on how the government spends its money. Page, Lopez, Mara and Weaver have said that they would be full-time councilmembers, and many of the candidates have said that they would support cutting their own pay (currently at $125,000 a year) and instituting term limits. Voting in this election sends a message that things aren't hunky-dory and that you're not willing to wait until 2014 and the next mayoral contest until things change.

  • This is What Little Democracy We Get: If this were 1972, you wouldn't even get to vote for a member of the D.C. Council, much less a mayor. The 1973 Home Rule Act enshrined what little local democracy we have, allowing residents to actually choose who would govern them. Sure, Congress can overrule it whenever it pleases, but we should cherish an opportunity that District residents 40 years ago didn't even have.
If you don't know your polling place, find it here. Polls are open until 8 p.m. And if you're not registered, you can register on the spot if you bring a proof of DC residence with you (a utility bill will do). And I do encourage you to cast your vote for Bryan Weaver (the link is to an endorsement that outlines almost perfectly why I think Weaver is the best candidate for the job).

Monday, April 25, 2011

New approaches to litter enforcement

I think about litter way more than I would like to. Noting that it's unrealistic to expect a police officer to show up and write a ticket every time someone randomly drops an empty soda can on the sidewalk or fails to pick up after their dog, this poster to the Takoma listserv had a different idea, and I have to say I think she might be onto something.

A crucial step, I think...is to attain wider community compliance -- and buy-in -- by requiring residents and businesses to clear litter from the sidewalks and tree boxes in front of their homes and stores--and issuing warnings and fines if they fail to do so. We require homeowners and businesses to clear their sidewalks of snow for the sake of public health and safety. It is not a big jump to require the same for litter. My guess is that if people participate regularly in cleanup--and it would be a relatively small amount in front of
their homes and businesses--they would catch on pretty fast about not throwing stuff on the ground. By the way, many of us on my block already do this front-of-house cleanup on a regular basis.


Sounds like a variation of the broken windows theory that would place the responsibility for cleanliness on all of us, rather than just on the known litterbugs, or on our police officers. Would non-litterbugs be willing to assume this responsibility? I Googled "litter laws" in an attempt to find out if other large cities in the U.S. have adopted any similar codes, but haven't found anything yet...anyone who can school me, please do so.

Friday, April 22, 2011

MPD's Fourth District institutes litter enforcement pilot project

Litter is a problem in the Fourth District (as it is in many other parts of the city). The amount of trash that blows into my yard from the street is mind-boggling. It makes me want to contact MPD to ask an officer to patrol my block and ticket the culprit(s) under this pilot initiative. From a press release:

Littering Enforcement Pilot Project

On May 1, 2011, MPD will launch a littering enforcement pilot in the Fourth Police District. Throughout May, MPD will issue warnings to violators as we work with community partners to educate the public about littering enforcement. Beginning June 1, 2011, anyone violating the city’s littering law in the Fourth District may be issued an actual ticket or subject to arrest. (D.C. Official Code § 8.801 et seq.)

If an officer sees you intentionally or carelessly dropping rubbish, waste matter, refuse, garbage, trash, debris, dead animals or other discarded materials of every kind and description, on public space, in waterways, or on private property not under your control, you may receive a $75 ticket for littering. Failure to properly respond by following the instructions on the back of the ticket will result in additional penalties.

If you are issued a ticket for littering, you are required to provide an accurate name and address to the officer. If you refuse or fail to provide an accurate name and address, you can be arrested. Upon conviction, you will be fined an additional $100 to $250 by the Superior Court.

While the pilot is in effect, MPD will continue citywide enforcement of the prohibition against disposing, causing, or allowing the disposal of litter from a vehicle upon any public or private property. Litter includes all rubbish, waste matter, refuse, garbage, trash, debris, dead animals, or other discarded materials of every kind and description. If you litter while driving, you may be issued a $100 traffic ticket for littering from a vehicle.

If you have questions, please contact Sergeant Keith DuBeau at 202.345.1007.

Meet the Ward 4 State Board of Education candidates: Bill Quirk

On April 26, Ward 4 residents will elect a new DC State Board of Education (SBoE) representative. In an effort to help my readers get to know the candidates and their stances on the issues, I sent out a short questionnaire to each candidate. I've been posting the responses alphabetically each day this week.

Today: Bill Quirk.

1) What key issues do you see yourself and the DCSBOE focusing on to improve the education of all DC children?

The key issues I would focus on to improve education of all DC children are: 1) To work with the State Board of Education and other components of DC government in order to ensure that the existing educational standards are implemented and adhered to, 2) Effect changes early on so that children are prepared by the time they reach high school, 3) Reduce the high school drop-out rate while preparing students for college.

2) Do you have (a) school-age child(ren)? If so, do they attend DC public schools?

My wife Suzanne and I are expecting our first child – a baby boy – next month! We would like for him to be able to attend high quality DC public schools.

3) What is your opinion on the current responsibilities and limitations of SBoE representatives, and how do you plan to work within the position's limitations?

The DC State Board of Education has limitations because it is not the only participant involved in creating an improved educational system, and nor should it be. What is needed on the DC State Board of Education for Ward 4 is a strong advocate that understands this and recognizes all of the other relevant players and how they can work together in improving our educational system. These include DCPS, the Office of the Chancellor, Charter School organizations such as Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, the various Councilmembers and, most importantly, the residents of the District of Columbia.

4) Many people suggest that we must hold students accountable for their own performance. Do you agree with this statement? If so, how do you propose enforcing student accountability?

Yes, I agree with this statement. The way we hold students accountable for their own performance is that we do not promote them to the next grade until they have mastered the material. The earlier on we can do this, like in first and second grade, the better prepared our children will be to succeed in subsequent grades and in life in general.

5) Considering Phelps, the Career and Technical Education-focused high school, just received deep cuts in the latest round of school budgets, how do you propose we prepare students for life after high school? Do you support introducing more career and technical education into the school system?

I believe that Career and Technical Education-focused high schools can be powerful tools to prepare students for employment if effectively utilized. We must be sure, however, that our Career and Technical Education-focused high schools are preparing students for careers in industries that are growing, such as health care and hospitality, not shrinking, such as construction, because that is where the future jobs will be.

6) The SBoE is responsible for approving the District's state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA (aka No Child Left Behind). Are you familiar with the requirements of the accountability plan? If so, would you approve the District's current plan? If not, what would you change?

Yes, I am familiar with the requirements of the accountability plan. The proposal as a whole is not an unreasonable approach given the challenges to the school system and the urgent need to improve it. As a Member of the DC State Board of Education, I will critically assess the merits of the provisions contained therein in order to ascertain whether they are having the intended outcomes and effects we seek.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Foulger-Pratt releases slight revisions to Large Tract Review of potential Georgia Ave. Walmart site

From the Office of Planning:

"Foulger-Pratt has made some revisions to the LTR submission for 5929 Georgia Avenue, NW (LTR 2011-03.) The revisions are to the automobile entrance from Peabody Street. As revised, the vehicle entrance to the garage is shortened and the fa├žade of the garage level of the building as viewed from the east is modified from brick to white concrete panels."

The changes are outlined in red in the following document:

LTR Revised

Meet the Ward 4 State Board of Education candidates: Andrew Moss

On April 26, Ward 4 residents will elect a new DC State Board of Education (SBoE) representative. In an effort to help my readers get to know the candidates and their stances on the issues, I sent out a short questionnaire to each candidate. I'll run the responses alphabetically each day this week.

Today: Andrew Moss.

1) What key issues do you see yourself and the DCSBOE focusing on to improve the education of all DC children?

There are many key issues that I would focus on if elected to the DC State Board of Education, namely global education, Common Core Standards implementation, and improving graduation requirements. However, I am passionate about workforce readiness and I am a strong advocate for career and technical education programs. We live in a competitive world and our students need to be better prepared to enter the workforce. A high percentage of our youth between the ages of 18 and 24 are unemployed, signifying there is a disconnect between what schools are doing to prepare students to enter the workforce and the actual skills needed in the workplace. It is disheartening that residents of neighboring jurisdictions come into our city to take advantage of employment opportunities while many of our former students lack the basic skills to secure jobs. I would focus on implementing challenging standards and curricula in DC Public and Public Charter Schools that prepare students for the workforce and develop career and technical education programs for Ward 4 schools.

2) Do you have (a) school-age child(ren)? If so, do they attend DC public schools?

At the present time, my son is in nursery school, but he will enter a District of Columbia Public School in September 2012. As a parent, my hope is that we will have options for him in Ward 4 instead of competing for special permission to attend a school outside our neighborhood.

3) What is your opinion on the current responsibilities and limitations of SBoE representatives, and how do you plan to work within the position's limitations?

I think the DC State Board of Education Representative position is only limited when you compare the current state board of education to the former local school board. The state board of education is productive and effective in what they are responsible for. I attended a public meeting in March and I found a lot of innovative ideas for improving education in the District of Columbia and complex issues are still presented to the board to make recommendations to the superintendent of education for improvement. If elected to represent Ward Four, I would work with what falls within the purview of the state board of education and use my background and expertise to contribute to the work of the board to maximize results.

4) Many people suggest that we must hold students accountable for their own performance. Do you agree with this statement? If so, how do you propose enforcing
student accountability?


I believe students are accountable for their own performance when the proper resources are provided for them to excel. Since our public education system doesn’t provide them with standard facilities, a challenging curriculum, and other necessary resources needed to receive a competitive education, we can’t say to students, “You are accountable for your education.” As a result, student accountability can’t be enforced at this time.


5) Considering Phelps, the Career and Technical Education-focused high school, just received deep cuts in the latest round of school budgets, how do you propose we prepare students for life after high school? Do you support introducing more career and technical education into the school system?

It is unfortunate that Phelps High School will likely suffer with budget cuts next school year. I am a strong advocate for career and technical education. Such programs enable students to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to enter the workforce upon earning a high school diploma. Preparing students for life after high school begins with identifying and honing a skill of interest to a student. We should offer more support in District of Columbia Public and Public Charter schools to nurture the budding talents of our students such as culinary arts, cosmetology, and plumbing. Being exposed to these skills early in the education career will only enhance the career choice of a student after high school. I just saw a former student of mine who is now well into adulthood and has built a successful career as a chef in the area. He was exposed to that discipline in a DC Public High School. With Phelps losing money to sustain their career and technical education program, some programs will be eliminated and that will mean less opportunities for our students.


6) The SBoE is responsible for approving the District's state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA (aka No Child Left Behind). Are you familiar with the requirements of the accountability plan? If so, would you approve the District's current plan? If not, what would you change?

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was greatly needed at the time of passage, although it lacked the funding to be successfully implemented. However, there are many requirements under the District of Columbia’s accountability plan that need to be revised and updated to meet the needs of our students at the present time. In order to discuss what I would change, I find it appropriate to layout the benefits NCLB. It has helped the District of Columbia to track the success of schools and to identify the specific needs of failing schools. The law has also mandated qualified teachers in our school district. As a result, the District of Columbia State Board of Education has been instrumental in advising the state superintendent of education on improving the quality of teachers and the requirements for certification. In addition, the NCLB has held each District of Columbia Public and Public Charter School to accountability standards that are measured annually and made public to the parents.

One downside to NCLB is that too much emphasis is placed on test scores and it may put pressure on teachers to gear instruction to standardized tests. It also emphasizes reading, writing and math subjects, which has caused other subjects such as science, social studies and physical education to be neglected. The primary recommendation I would make to improving the District of Columbia No Child Left Behind Accountability Plan would be to increase the emphasis for science due to the importance of technology in today’s society.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

DDOT Bikeshare expansion map shows three potential locations in Ward 4



This new map of Bikeshare's expansion locations includes three sites in Ward 4 that DDOT refers to in the map's key as "Capital Bikeshare Potential Locations". They're marked on the map with a "CB" in black letters inside of a white box. The locations are:
  • 14th and Arkansas
  • Georgia and Upshur
  • 14th/Colorado/Kennedy
The station at Georgia and Upshur was supposed to be open during the first rollout of Bikeshare stations, which began seven months ago, but I believe DDOT is waiting to install that station because there's a lot of Great Streets-related construction going on at that intersection right now. However, the potential sites of 14th and Arkansas and 14th/Colorado/Kennedy are news to me.

UPDATE: DDOT plans to install 25 new stations in the District in the coming months, and they're taking citizens' suggestions for which of the proposed new sites should be rolled out first. Cast your vote for your favorite Ward 4 location(s): DDOT.Bikeshare@dc.gov

Meet the Ward 4 State Board of Education candidates: D. Kamili Anderson

On April 26, Ward 4 residents will elect a new DC State Board of Education (SBoE) representative. In an effort to help my readers get to know the candidates and their stances on the issues, I sent out a short questionnaire to each candidate. I'll run the responses alphabetically each day this week.

Today: D. Kamili Anderson.

1) What key issues do you see yourself and the DCSBOE focusing on to improve the education of all DC children?

Overall, my work with my SBOE colleagues, the Chancellor, the Council, the Mayor, and DC citizens will focus on ensuring that all DCPS students get the best teachers, instruction, and course offerings available. Specifically, I would like to direct the Board’s attention to the following issues:

• Enhancing the scope and quality of DCPS’s general, special, and vocational/technical education instruction, standards, and requirements as the school system transitions to the adoption of the new national Common Core Curriculum.

• Ensuring that our graduation requirements are fair but rigorous so that our public school graduates can become more competitive in today’s and tomorrow’s economies.

• Refocusing special education so that the individualized needs of children with learning and other disabilities can be met within District schools rather than having those programs exported to MD and VA.

• Determining ways for DCPS schools to offer full-day and summer-long programs—to afford students more time on task for instruction and interaction with teachers, mentors, tutors, and others—and to make our public schools more competitive with charter schools that offer such programs.

• Incorporating policies that support parent- and peer-focused solutions to help minimize ongoing DCPS challenges such as dropout, truancy, and bullying.

2) Do you have (a) school-age child(ren)? If so, do they attend DC public schools?

My three children are successful DCPS graduates and I have three school-age grandchildren who attend Ward 4 DCPS schools, from preschool to elementary grade.

3) What is your opinion on the current responsibilities and limitations of SBoE representatives, and how do you plan to work within the position's limitations?

In many ways I believe that the redirecting of the Board’s authority to one of an advisory body that focuses primarily on school system policy- and rule-making as well as standard- and goal-setting presents a real opportunity for SBOE members to advocate for measures that address the concerns of the people they represent. If my experience as an editor and writer working closely with education researchers and policy makers for nearly 30 years is any example, informed advisors can play a very powerful role, especially if they can advocate coherently and consistently.

4) Many people suggest that we must hold students accountable for their own performance. Do you agree with this statement? If so, how do you propose enforcing student accountability?

I can only agree with such sentiments if the students you are referring to are of the developmental age or stage to reasonably be expected to assume responsibility for their performance. (I’m assuming you also mean “school performance” here.)

As students approach their teens, they have, and should be expected to play, increasing roles in disciplining and monitoring not only their own conduct but that of their peers, at school and otherwise. But it does take a village—a whole city—to raise a child, and we all as adults have important, interconnected roles to play in ensuring student accountability. We shouldn’t put responsibility for students’ academic progress solely on the backs of children, nor parents, teachers, or schools. We all share in that, to varying degrees.

5) Considering Phelps, the Career and Technical Education-focused high school, just received deep cuts in the latest round of school budgets, how do you propose we prepare students for life after high school? Do you support introducing more career and technical education into the school system?

Even in a recession, and perhaps precisely because of one, greater—not less—emphasis should be placed on vocational/technical and technology industry-related education, course offerings, and job/internship placement in DCPS high schools and even its middle schools. Given funding cutbacks in these DCPS programs, however, some instructional priorities should be shifted to accommodate urgent job training needs. More focus should also be placed on forging and expanding private and philanthropic sector partnership to support that training. SBOE members like me, who have long advocated to bring more and broader types of business development into commercially underserved neighborhoods, should play an advocacy role in recommending increased voc/tech programming in schools that directly fulfills staffing needs as business development takes hold there. I have worked over the past 11 years with many community- and DC government-led groups to encourage and facilitate smart commercial and business development in Ward 4 neighborhoods. I will bring those insights and capacity to the Board to provide compelling rationales and supports for career and job training that can go hand-in-hand with business growth.

6) The SBoE is responsible for approving the District's state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA (aka No Child Left Behind). Are you familiar with the requirements of the accountability plan? If so, would you approve the District's current plan? If not, what would you change?

For me, the most revealing insights about DCPS’s response to the NCLB accountability mandates come from comparative analysis of the reports compiled by our neighboring systems in Virginia and Maryland. Of course, in scope and breadth, and also resources and autonomy, these two systems and their reportings are virtually “apples” compared to DC’s “oranges.” But comparison of the three (and other reports) led me to a pretty unfortunate conclusion: that the District’s responses to the accountability mandates provide relatively little of the detailed information responding to each of the critical elements required for State accountability systems and way too much recitation of NCLB definitions and assertions.
 
There’s not much contained within the DC report, for example, that responds adequately with specific, detailed information on the performance and status of DCPS schools en masse or individually. (To the system’s credit, however, the information accessed via the links to the DCPS AYP and Report Card data presents individual school data in ways that make intra-District comparison very easy.) Maryland’s report, in addition to presenting its data and discussion as responses to specific questions about compliance areas, provides likewise useful examples of what compliance is or “looks like” (e.g., “Examples [of] Meeting Requirements”) and what it does not look like (e.g., “Examples of Not Meeting Requirements”), which is something many other states do as well. I think this approach makes for a much more (again) useful and relevant document for lay readers and others looking to discern much-needed information for change and improvement purposes. Also, Maryland provides an explanation of the two-pronged approach it takes to ensure and check for the 95% participation rate for schools and LEAs in its state assessments, a method it claims “provides incentives for the inclusion of students in testing along with a fair measure of participation.” DC does not detail its approach. All in all, I would like to see the DCPS/OSSE report more closely compare in scope, detail, and format to those of other states and jurisdictions, of which there are, of course, 50 other examples. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Meet the Ward 4 State Board of Education candidates: Acqunetta Anderson

On April 26, Ward 4 residents will elect a new DC State Board of Education (SBoE) representative. In an effort to help my readers get to know the candidates and their stances on the issues, I sent out a short questionnaire to each candidate. I'll run the responses alphabetically each day this week.

Today: write-in candidate Acqunetta Anderson.

1) What key issues do you see yourself and the DCSBOE focusing on to improve the education of all DC children?

Develop Integrated Studies and Cooperative Learning Standards
Studies should enable our students to reach across traditional disciplines and explore their relationships. History, literature, and art can be interwoven and studied together with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Integrated studies enable subjects
to be investigated using many forms of knowledge, skills, concepts, and expression, as literacy skills are expanded beyond the traditional focus on words and numbers to include graphics, color, music, and motion.

Teachers working together on teams and assisted by professional mentors
Students learn the skills of collaborating, managing emotions, and resolving conflicts in groups. Each member of the student team is responsible for learning the subject matter as well as helping teammates to learn. Cooperative learning develops social and emotional skills, providing a valuable foundation for their lives as workers, family members, and productive citizens.

Improve D.C.P.S. Comprehensive Assessment Standards
The District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) assessment should be expanded beyond simple test scores to instead provide a detailed, continuous profile of our students' strengths and weaknesses. Teachers, parents, and individual students can closely monitor academic progress in teams with parents and other stakeholders, and use the assessment to focus on areas that need improvement. Tests should be an opportunity for our students to learn from their mistakes, retake the test, and improve their scores.

Require Teachers Training
Advise the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and recommend that the OSSE host workshops and training sessions with educators — teaching educators how to write classroom curriculum with activities that comply with the DCPS Standards. The most important role for teachers working together on teams is to coach and guide students through the learning process, giving special attention to nurturing a student's interests and self-confidence. As technology provides more curricula, teachers can spend less time lecturing entire classes and more time mentoring students as individuals and tutoring them in areas in which they need help or seek additional challenges or skills.

Advise the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the D.C. City Council in the following areas to better improve the schools:

a. Reorganize Resources
Resources of time, money, and facilities must be restructured. The school day should allow for more in-depth project work beyond the 45-minute period, including block scheduling of classes two hours or longer for AP Class studies and other specific programs. Schools should not close for a three-month summer vacation, but should remain open for student activities, teacher development, and community use. Through the practice of looping, elementary school teachers stay with a class for two or more years, deepening their relationships with students. When I taught at Brent ES, I looped with my students. It gave me the opportunity to More money in the DCPS should be directed to the classroom rather than the bureaucracy.

b. Parental Involvement
The DCPS has a tremendous amount of unused resources and stakeholders. DCPS use best practices when establishing partnerships with community organizations, including business, higher education, museums, and government agencies, provide critically needed materials, technology, and experiences for students and teachers. Under my leadership at the Benjamin Harrison Society we partnered with the D.C. Department of Employment Services, federal agencies, museums and other stakeholders and developed a STEM curriculum. Our curriculum is used some DCPS schools and in our summer youth program. Some Ward 4 students who participated in our program received four year college scholarships and are currently attending college. Others are working in the private and government sector using Geospatial Information Skills learned in the BHS GIS/STEM Summer Institute under my leadership. Our program exposes students and teachers to the world of work through school-to-career programs and internships.

2) Do you have (a) school-age child(ren)? If so, do they attend DC public schools?

I am the guardian of two 3-year-old toddlers who are looking forward to starting Head Start this fall in DC public schools. They are writing their alphabets (A-G) and some numbers. They are also beginning to draw. Other nieces and nephews who are attending Amidon, Shepherd Park ES, Jefferson and Wilson HS are inspired to teach and to continue to work with disadvantaged youth in Ward 4 and other urban cities.

3) What is your opinion on the current responsibilities and limitations of SBoE representatives, and how do you plan to work within the position's limitations?

The State Board of Education establishes the boundaries of acceptability within which the Superintendent's methods and activities can responsibly be left to the Superintendent. These limiting policies apply to the Superintendent's means rather than ends. I will work within those limitations as well as serve as an advocate for our students and parents.

4) Many people suggest that we must hold students accountable for their own performance. Do you agree with this statement? If so, how do you propose enforcing student accountability?

As an educator, guardian and aunt, I have very high expectations for our children. Students need to be held accountable for their part in the learning process, and they need to realize that not all academics can or should be turned into a game for their entertainment. Although teachers have a responsibility to teach in as interesting a manner as they can, students need to understand that some lessons require work. Parents should be held accountable as well.

5) Considering Phelps, the Career and Technical Education-focused high school, just received deep cuts in the latest round of school budgets, how do you propose we prepare students for life after high school? Do you support introducing more career and technical education into the school system?

Yes. Adult life takes a variety of skills in urban areas. Some skills can be learned at home or at school before leaving high school. Some community programs offer classes or practice settings to help learn skills. The DCPS, the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the D.C. City Council must ensure that all students are given the opportunity to have a quality education. Planning for life after high school and postsecondary education is an integral piece of a quality education. Our students must leave our schools with feelings of hope and opportunity for the future.

6) The SBoE is responsible for approving the District's state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA (aka No Child Left Behind [NCLB]). Are you familiar with the requirements of the accountability plan? If so, would you approve the District's current plan? If not, what would you change?

As an educator and administrator, I believe that every child should be taught by a qualified teacher and that schools should be accountable to the parents of the children they serve.

There are so many escape clauses in the law that it's almost impossible to estimate what DCPS performance will look like from one year to the next. Rules about school accountability, teacher accountability and how federal funds can be spent in our schools all need to be amended under the Title I of the ESEA.

NCLB should hold students and parents more accountable. Bridging the academic gap should not only be viewed by educators and administrators, parents as well have the moral and social obligation to support their childrens' learning. The NCLB has put so much emphasis on high stake testing as a measure of school improvement at the expense of learning for mastery. Mastery of skills has been relegated to the bottom since the implementation of the NCLB. Students are not being taught to be really globally competitive and prepared to go out into the real world as world class learners.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Brightwoodian has hit a landmark

Holy guacamole, I just realized I've been keeping this blog for a year. And in typical "me" fashion, I completely forgot the anniversary (it was April 3), just as I'm lousy at remembering birthdays/anniversaries of any kind (though I prefer to think that I'm just "unconcerned with barometric benchmarky dates, as I'm too busy living in the present, thank you very much"). My first post was entitled Stalled Curtis Chevy development put to interim use, and it was ostensibly about Fenty's reelection campaign taking up shop in the old building, though it contained burning undertones of "when the hell are they finally going to get moving with that project?" Of course, at the time, I was looking forward to a much different development than the one that's currently being planned. What a difference a year makes.

Meet the Ward 4 State Board of Education candidates: An Almquist

On April 26, Ward 4 residents will elect a new DC State Board of Education (SBoE) representative. In an effort to help my readers get to know the candidates and their stances on the issues, I sent out a short questionnaire to each candidate. I'll run the responses alphabetically each day this week.

First up: An Almquist.

1) What key issues do you see yourself and the DCSBOE focusing on to improve the education of all DC children?

Two main issues that are currently affecting our education system are:

a) A sense of urgency – everyone involved in the education of our youth needs to work together towards a goal with a sense of urgency regarding student achievement, success, and outcomes.

b) We need to do a better job in how we hire, train/develop, retain, and reward effective teachers. As a teacher with experience in dozens of schools across DC, I've seen first-hand the impact that teacher quality has on our kids. I've seen excellent educators make great gains with their students, and I've seen struggling educators search for ways to improve their instruction and raise the learning of their students. We need to do a better job of capitalizing on the great teaching talent that we have and helping to replicate that in all classrooms, whether that's by improving our recruiting or the support we offer to teachers. Our youth can't wait any longer for effective instructors, and our teachers deserve support that will help them to reach their maximum potential as educators.

Three other key issues that I see myself and the DCSBOE focusing on is to improve the education of all DC Children by:
a) Being an active and engaged advocate for children, families and educators in the community by working as a team with the current representatives on the SBOE,
b) Making informed decisions that will improve student outcomes and parental involvement,
c) Focus on graduation requirements, vocational curricula and optimal post-secondary outcomes for all students.

I plan to accomplish this with the DCSBOE by:
a) Communicating effectively and listening to community members’ voices,
b) Gathering data, reviewing federal laws, current research, using evidence-based practices, and expert advice to select the best options for students, parents, and families through collaboration, and
c) Putting into action the voices and concerns raised by Ward 4 to make informed decisions and continue an active engagement process to accomplish these goals.

2) Do you have (a) school-age child(ren)? If so, do they attend DC public schools?

No, my husband and I do not have school-aged children. However, I have worked and participated in every middle school and high school throughout DCPS. We are proud that we both attended public schools ourselves and hope that one day our children will be able to do the same and receive an excellent education in the District.

3) What is your opinion on the current responsibilities and limitations of SBoE representatives, and how do you plan to work within the position's limitations?

Since there is Mayoral control over public education, some people will view the SBOE as a “regulatory” position. If elected, I plan to work with the other representatives to maximize our collaborative efforts and make a positive impact on: academic standards, accountability measures, graduation requirements, teacher quality, data reports, student residency requirements, and truancy.

4) Many people suggest that we must hold students accountable for their own performance. Do you agree with this statement? If so, how do you propose enforcing
student accountability?


I agree with this statement to some extent, depending on one’s definition of “age appropriate accountability measures.” For example, a pre-school student cannot be held accountable for his/her attendance since he/she would rely on a guardian or parent for transportation. However, for a middle school or high school students, they can handle more responsibilities and should be held accountable for their performance. One proposal that I’ve successfully incorporated into my former high school classroom was establishing individual student “contracts” with students and their parents/guardians. This enforced student accountability regarding their classwork, attendance, homework, and participation. By signing the contract, parents and students understood and agreed upon the expectations. If students were not performing well, there were natural consequences to their performance.

5) Considering Phelps, the Career and Technical Education-focused high school, just received deep cuts in the latest round of school budgets, how do you propose we prepare students for life after high school? Do you support introducing more career and technical education into the school system?

My proposal for preparing students for post-secondary outcomes is to start planning earlier and effectively starting in middle school and if possible, even earlier. Teachers need to create an immersive learning environments calibrated to teach at each individual child’s needs. The curricula, course materials, classwork, homework, and assessments should be relevant, meaningful and authentic to our students’ post secondary goals whether that’s college or a career.

Although I strongly support career and technical programs, a needs assessment and analysis needs to be conducted prior to making any suggestions for introducing MORE career and technical education in our school system since they currently exist. We need to know which programs are relevant and interesting to our students based on their ability and preferences before making this decision.

6) The SBoE is responsible for approving the District's state accountability plan under Title I of the ESEA (aka No Child Left Behind). Are you familiar with the requirements of the accountability plan? If so, would you approve the District's current plan? If not, what would you change?

Yes, I am familiar with the District’s state accountability plan under Title 1 of the ESEA. As an educator, I have unique insight on the regulations and do not support the requirements under NCLB’s very narrow approach to accountability. There is too much emphasis on standardized test scores; this overemphasis can cause further barriers to educational opportunity. Under the current plan, I would agree with the Civil Rights Leaders (2011) and suggest a recalibration and reauthorization of the ESEA where there is a revision of the law’s accountability structure. Thus permitting “tailored improvements to the unique needs of individual schools, where preserving the necessary federal accountability.”

A recalibration and reauthorization would:
♦ Raise the achievement and graduation rates of low-performing subgroups of students and remove barriers to learning that threaten their potential.
♦ Provide targeted tailored intervention options.
♦ Eliminate “achievement gaps” based upon test scores.

Washington Deli begins regular hours this week



I finally got to check out the new Washington Deli at 5830 Georgia Avenue. The past week was their soft opening, during which they were open only for breakfast and lunch, but Brett the manager informed me that they plan to start keeping their regular hours this week (Monday through Thursday 7am to 8pm; Friday and Saturday 7am to 9pm, and Sunday 7am to 6pm).

Pizza, sandwiches, and subs have been available throughout the soft opening, and the items I've tried have been quite good, but what I'm looking forward to is the institution of their vegan sandwich choices (vegan/veggie menu pictured below), which Brett said should be available this week. Very much looking forward to the Vegan Meatball Parmesan Hero!

The place was pretty crowded when I was in there, an indication of the fact that decent pizza has long been desired by Brightwoodians. Go check it out if you haven't been yet.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Trohv, brought to us by the owners of Red Tree, on the brink of opening



Trohv, Takoma's new furniture-and-whatnot shop, is almost ready to open at 262 Carroll Street NW.

Trohv is owned and run by the same folks who are behind Red Tree in Baltimore's Hampden neighborhood. For those of you who've been wondering why they didn't just call the new store Red Tree, well, that's because they've changed the name of the Baltimore store to Trohv. I spoke to the owner briefly today, and he told me there was logic behind the name changes and that it made total sense (I took his word for that). He said the target opening date for the Takoma location is April 23, one week from this Saturday.

The Northwest Current's guide to the April 26 special election

The Northwest Current has a 13-page voter's guide containing information about the At-Large Council candidates as well as the candidates for Ward 4 State Board of Education, including candidate bios and their answers to lengthy questionnaires. Well worth checking out.

Attention girls: prepare to rock at the Petworth Library

Girls Rock! DC from Lisa Marie Thalhammer on Vimeo.


Girls Rock! DC, the summer camp that teaches girls how to rock, is having an instrument share this Saturday at the Petworth Library. It's a good chance for girls who might not have played guitars and drums to familiarize themselves with the instruments and have fun while doing it (and then go on to ask their parents to sign them up for the full week-long camp this summer).

What: Girls Rock! DC instrument share
When: Saturday, April 16, 1-3 pm
Where: Petworth Neighborhood Library, 4200 Kansas Avenue NW
Who: Girls of all ages

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What we learned at Ward 4's Rediscover the Bus

Tommy Wells held the Ward 4 edition of his Rediscover the Bus listening tour tonight at the Northern Bus Garage's community room. A few things that were discussed:

There's poor east-west connectivity. Trying to remedy this is challenging, but the E2, 3, and 4 lines (aka the Military Road-Crosstown lines) are under study. We'd all like to see them run more effficiently. But east-west connectivity is going to get a big boost because...

A Circulator route that runs between Tenleytown and Silver Spring is being planned. The proposed route runs down Military/Missouri and then north on Georgia to Silver Spring. But alas, it won't be operational til at least 2019.

There are too many stops on certain lines, and because of that it takes forever for the buses to get anywhere. At least one attendee cited this as the reason he rarely rides buses anymore. A WMATA planner (whose name I did not catch) said that the standard amount of bus stops per mile is four, yet many bus routes in Ward 4 have seven or eight stops per mile. It'd be great to start eliminating some stops that are deemed underused, but then again, we've seen that eliminating stops can cause problems too. The 70 line has 59 stops, as opposed to the 79, Georgia Avenue's limited-stop bus, which has 17 stops. Speaking of which...

The limited-stop buses are awesome. Much praise was heard for both the 79 on Georgia and the S9 on 16th Street. I can't even imagine what it must have been like to try to get downtown from Brightwood before those bus lines existed. Plans are to extend the 79's weekday hours til 10 pm and add Saturday service; midday and evening expansion is being planned for the S9.

More changes are in the works. Future plans include a Petworth/Manor Park/Takoma shuttle, an access study for Fort Totten, and the elimination of the K1 line that runs between Takoma and Walter Reed upon Walter Reed's closure.

In non-bus-related transportation news, Wells said that his goal for Capital Bikeshare is to double its fleet within two years, bringing the number of bikes to 2,200, which will allow for expansion into Ward 4.

Ward 4 Transportation Summit tonight - Rediscover the Bus!

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who chairs the City Council's Committee on Public Works and Transportation, has been on a listening tour he's dubbed Rediscover the Bus. His goal is to hear ideas and constructive criticism of our bus system. As Brightwood is Metro-free I know we have a lot of avid bus riders in the neighborhood; here's your chance to tell CM Wells what needs improvement.

What: Ward 4 Transportation Summit & Rediscover the Bus Listening Tour
When: Wednesday, March 13, 6:30-8:00 pm
Where: 4729 14th Street, NW; Metro’s Northern Bus Garage Community room

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Washington Deli is open...sort of

Received a tip from a reader today that the new Washington Deli at 5830 Georgia Avenue, just south of where Georgia intersects with Missouri, is finally open. So I stopped by at around 5:00 pm, but the place was all locked up and the lights were out. I've written to the owner to inquire about when they might start keeping regular hours; I'll update this post when I hear back.

Ward 4 State Board of Ed candidates' forum, Thursday night, Coolidge HS

Late notice, but I just got the announcement myself:

What: Candidate Forum for Ward 4 Board of Education Seat
Where: Coolidge High School Armory, 6315 5th St. NW
(Please Enter from 5th St. at the Frank Williams Center)
When: April 14, 6:30pm -8:00pm

Candidates:
An Almquist
Kamili Anderson
Bill Quirk
Andrew Moss
Moderator: Ted Trabue

Tonight's at-large candidates' forum at the Black Cat: this oughta be good

Quick reminder, there's a big at-large councilmember candidates' forum at the Black Cat tonight. Details below:

When: 7-9 p.m.
Where: The Black Cat, 1811 14th St NW
What: Candidates' Forum/Debate

Sponsored by Washington City Paper, NBC4, and WPFW. Full details here.

You should attend for three reasons:
  1. This is the first at-large candidates' forum (that I know of) that is going to contain a debate element, so if you've attended other forums, expect something different this time around.
  2. Step up and keep the momentum from last night's event going
  3. It's at the Black Cat, the stomping ground of my misguided youth and my former employer (briefly). The bar will be open!* They rarely host events such as this. Go!
* And by that I mean the bar will be serving, I didn't mean "open bar" as in "free drinks for everyone". Now that would be a great candidates' forum!