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9 D.C. schools targeted for change

(Published July 16, 2001)


Staff Writer

D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Paul L. Vance’s recently announced plan to "transform" nine schools for the upcoming academic year has been met with consternation by some teachers and parents and with a sigh of relief by others.

Informational meetings since the announcement have helped quiet criticism of Vance’s plan, but some parents and teachers are angry that they were left out of the decision-making process to require each school's administrative, instructional and support staff to re-apply for their positions.

"The announcement was sudden," said Lena Brahame, the building representative of the School Advisory Chapter Committee at Turner Elementary, where she has taught for 17 years. "It gave no closure to students or teachers. Some teachers have been there for 20 years."

Schools were chosen for failing to show improvement of test scores after four years of targeted assistance or for negative "school climate." By the time school starts in the fall, these schools will be partially re-staffed and re-organized to create a more supportive learning environment as part of the transformation.

The schools chosen for transformation are Davis, H.D. Cooke, LaSalle, Noyes, Simon and Turner elementary schools, Kramer Middle School, R.H. Terrell Junior High School and Phelps Career Senior High School.

Lawrence Gray, legislative chairman for the D.C. Congress of Parent and Teacher Associations, said that the criteria established by Vance to determine the transformation schools was reasonable and that given the criteria, more than nine schools could have been chosen.

"The transformation was long in coming," Gray said. "The erratic swings show that what the schools were doing just wasn’t working."

Staff from the nine schools had until July 12 to decide if they want to re-apply to work at the school from which they were dismissed. Those applying to work at a transformation school had to submit a letter of reference, a recent performance evaluation and a list of ways that they could "contribute to the success of a transformation school."

Staff are not guaranteed positions in the transformation schools, Vance said. If they are not chosen, they will be placed in a comparable position at another school.

Interim principals have been hired until Vance hires permanent principals for the schools, and a deputy superintendent for school transformation will be appointed to oversee the ongoing process.

All staffing decisions are set to be completed by Aug. 1.

In addition to re-staffing the schools, the schools will be re-structured as well. Planned improvements include:

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator