D.C. School Closings: The Hearings
Somewhere out there, some people don't like the idea of closing 23 D.C. public schools. But they didn't show up in any great numbers for tonight's 23 simultaneous hearings--the big finale in a weeks-long process of vetting Chancellor Michelle Rhee's proposed list of schools to be shuttered.
To be sure, some schools on the list have their defenders, and some of them brought their vehement and even compelling cases to the attention of a huge battalion of schools administrators who supervised hearings all around the city Thursday evening. But at most of the hearings, hardly anyone bothered to come out--and weather was no factor. By the time the hearings started, the weak winter event had turned into a light drizzle.
(10 PM UPDATE: School system spokesman Mafara Hobson reports that a total of 411 people attended the 23 hearings, an average of fewer than 20 people per school closing. In fact, the turnout was far less balanced than that, with a few dozen folks showing up at some schools and hardly anyone at others.)
At Garnet-Patterson Middle School in what some would consider Shaw and others would say is Columbia Heights--this matters because the two communities have been reduced to dueling over which gets to keep its middle school--the school officials and elected politicians outnumbered the community activists who signed up to speak on behalf of saving Shaw Middle School. If there were any actual Shaw parents or students on hand, I couldn't find them and they didn't speak in the first 80 minutes of the hearing.
The hearings, hailed by Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty as proof of their flexibility and openness to public opinion and denounced by council member Marion Barry and a small band of opponents for being part of a "divide and conquer" strategy, demonstrated that whatever opposition there is to the closings is very much limited to people who want to save their neighborhood schools. Not a single speaker at the three schools I visited objected to the idea that a good many schools ought to be closed. Just not theirs.
At Garnet-Patterson, the hearing was held in the school's depressing, dim auditorium, where a man named Archie Childs walked in, sat down and leaned back, only to collapse into the aisle behind him, victim of one of the dozens of broken seats in the room. Metal supports protrude from broken and twisted seat bottoms, floor boards are missing, the sound system was virtually useless, and in the front of the room, a single sign sought to inspire D.C. students with this message:
"Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.--Winston Churchill"
I kid you not. That's what passes for educational inspiration in one of the D.C. schools that's not on the closings list.
They cannot close these places fast enough.
Which ones they close is another question, and Rhee hinted earlier in the week that there will be changes in the final list, in part because of the effective protests mounted by parents at a few of the schools officially listed as doomed.
Clearly, the system's inept efforts to zone kids into schools not in their own neighborhood has left many people wishing they could use schools where they actually live. Supporters of Shaw, for example, repeatedly noted that it is unfair to say that their school must close for underenrollment when many local students have been assigned to attend Francis Junior High, clear across town in the West End. And then there's the violence issue:
"Have you thought about the turf issues that exist between these two communities?" asked Marvin Coote, executive director of New Community for Children, warning that bad blood between teens in Shaw and Columbia Heights makes combining Shaw Middle with Garnet-Patterson Middle a dangerous idea.
Rhee said this week that she will take such concerns into account, working with police and community groups to smooth tensions and neighborhood beefs, but that she will not refrain from shutting down buildings because of turf battles.
"I hope this process is not perfunctory," said Ibrahim Mumin, a longtime Shaw activist and member of the Shaw Middle School Hall of Fame whose adult children attended Shaw Middle back when it was a junior high school. "I have to believe that this is still an open issue."
The scene at Garnet- Patterson, even though the room was 90 percent empty, was much more lively than at many of the other hearings. At Cleveland and Truesdell elementary schools, for example, so few people showed up that the hearings ended and the buildings were closed up in well under an hour.
Rhee hasn't said when she'll announce the final closings list, but it's likely to be in the next few weeks, as the process for parents to select and enroll in out of boundary schools begins in late February.
Lots more on all this Friday at noon in a special edition of Potomac Confidential, the chat right here on the big site. Please join me.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Ed | January 17, 2008 9:24 PM
Posted by: LongTimeRez | January 17, 2008 9:24 PM
Posted by: xxx1 | January 17, 2008 9:45 PM
Posted by: johng1 | January 17, 2008 9:58 PM
Posted by: johng1 | January 17, 2008 10:07 PM
Posted by: dcteacherchic | January 17, 2008 10:14 PM
Posted by: Rashid | January 17, 2008 10:20 PM
Posted by: Marc Borbely | January 17, 2008 10:33 PM
Posted by: Mary Lou | January 17, 2008 10:57 PM
Posted by: Jim | January 17, 2008 11:16 PM
Posted by: DCer | January 17, 2008 11:20 PM
Posted by: Dennis Moore | January 18, 2008 12:05 AM
Posted by: Native Washingtonian | January 18, 2008 3:36 AM
Posted by: csdiego | January 18, 2008 5:56 AM
Posted by: DCPS parent | January 18, 2008 6:44 AM
Posted by: CH Dad | January 18, 2008 8:52 AM
Posted by: IMGoph | January 18, 2008 9:38 AM
Posted by: Shaw Jr. Supporter | January 18, 2008 10:30 AM
Posted by: DCPS teacher | January 18, 2008 10:44 AM
Posted by: Shaw Supporter2 | January 18, 2008 10:45 AM
Posted by: 4TheKids | January 18, 2008 11:13 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | January 18, 2008 11:20 AM
Posted by: David Pauk | January 18, 2008 12:50 PM
Posted by: Common Sense | January 18, 2008 3:44 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | January 18, 2008 4:53 PM
Posted by: DCPS Teacher-Native Washingtonian | January 19, 2008 9:22 AM
Posted by: Asphalt | January 19, 2008 5:53 PM
Posted by: Anna | January 20, 2008 9:02 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | January 20, 2008 7:08 PM
Posted by: What do you mean? | January 20, 2008 9:54 PM
Posted by: Anonymous | January 21, 2008 11:27 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | January 21, 2008 11:28 AM
Posted by: School kid | January 24, 2008 6:09 PM
Posted by: robert | January 27, 2008 7:27 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.