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East of river residents demand voice in D.C. Public Schools master plan
(Published November 14, 2005)

Staff Writer

About two dozen education activists, led by school board member William Lockridge, have formed a core group to activate under-represented D.C. residents and develop an alternative master education plan for public schools located east of the Anacostia River.

"We are committed to working to help develop a master education plan [for D.C. Public Schools] however, we will not rubber stamp a hidden plan that may have already been masterminded by those seeking to take over so-called 'low-performing' schools," said Lockridge, the elected District IV school board representative of residents in Wards 7 and 8.

Announcement of the effort came Nov. 9 at Patterson Elementary School, before the start of the first of five open houses scheduled by D.C. Public Schools officials to seek public comment on 10 aspects of a master education plan being crafted by Superintendent Clifford Janey.

Lockridge said about 41 percent of all children enrolled in D.C. public schools are among his constituents and that "few, if any" of their families are represented on the D.C. Education Compact planning team that has been assisting the superintendent in developing his much-anticipated master education plan.

Several prominent local educators and former elected school board representatives, as well as two members of the former financial control board's education advisory board, are among the core group that has met during the past three weeks to lay the foundation for their effort.

The group, calling itself District IV Save Our Schools, has issued an open invitation to the community to attend its next meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 15 at Stanton Elementary School, 2701 Naylor Road SE, and subsequent weekly meetings on Tuesday nights.

"We need to make the superintendent see what the parents see are the critical needs of their kids," Lockridge said.

The group, which says it opposes expansion of charter schools and the congressionally imposed school voucher program as drains on the public school system's funding, expects to present its proposals to Superintendent Janey in December. Janey has said he expects to present his master education plan to the Board of Education in January.

Lockridge identified a cluster schools concept, creation of comprehensive community-based education centers and "effective school-based management" as part of the group's vision. The group is calling for emphasis on a phonics-based reading program and intensive reading instruction as a base for improving overall academic achievement.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator