School officials certainly make a show of being willing to ask; they even appear to listen. At a public hearing about the proposed closing of River Terrace back in November, DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said, “if every community had this level of engagement, DCPS would be the best school district in the country.” So why should Kaya Henderson, who clearly knows how important parental and community involvement is in the success of a school, be perfectly willing to close down schools with very active school communities such as Bruce Monroe and River Terrace? How is it possible, that these communities are simply ignored by the government that’s supposed to represent them? Answering the why would force me into speculations about racism and classism among DC elected and appointed officials, but Empower DC education organizer Daniel del Pielago has some clear ideas about how communities get left out of the decision making process. According to del Pielago:
- Key decision makers do not engage in meaningful dialog with their constituency, do not return emails, calls and requests to meet.
- Elected officials cancel meetings and do not deliver on commitments they make when you are finally able to meet with them.
- Government officials (and the developers who support them) “wait out” parents and other community members as community interest and action wanes.
- Ultimately, decisions are made and presented with no input from the community that will be affected.
Clear examples of this are demonstrated in a brochure that he and a number of River Terrace Elementary school families have been sharing with the rest of the community, which I’ve posted below for your consideration.
River Terrace: This Is Our Moment of Truth
Save River Terrace Elementary School
Closing our school harms our students, disrespects our parents and assaults our community. If we truly love our school and our neighborhood, now is the time to show it. Know the facts and let’s stand up for ourselves.
Throughout the year, we’ve been reaching out to keep everyone informed of this attack on our community. We’ve contacted our elected officials and decision makers through calls and emails, clearly demonstrating our support for River Terrace Elementary and for keeping it open. We’ve asked for meetings with the Chancellor and other public officials. with only two exceptions, we were ignored.
River Terrace Elementary Timeline of Events
- DCPS issues a letter stating their intention to close River Terrace Elementary School at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.
- River Terrace parents meet with Special Assistant to the Chancellor of DC Public Schools Margery Anne Yeager.
- Over 100 River Terrace community members meet with Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander and Chancellor Kaya Henderson at a public hearing to voice their unanimous support for keeping the school open.
- The River Terrace Elementary Support Committee visits council members and the community writes letters in supprt of the school.
- River Terrace community members and allies give testimony at the Ward 7 State of the Schools Public Hearing.
- DCPS issues a letter stating that River Terrace Elementary has been given a year’s reprieve to build enrollment.
- River Terrace Elementary Support Committee meets with the Cluster 1 Educational Superintendent Barbara Adderly.
- River Terrace Elementary Support Committee gives testimony at Mayor Vincent Gray’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Hearing for DCPS.
- River Terrace Elementary Support Committee holds an enrollment fair.
- River Terrace Elementary Support Committee reaches out to council members for support to keep the school open.
- Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander cancels a meeting with the River Terrace Elementary Support Committee.
- At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelsohn offers support to the school community.
- River Terrace Elementary Support Committee meets with Varick AME Church and the River Terrace Alumni Committee.
- River Terrace Elementary Support Committee collects signature of support at the River Terrace Reunion Picnic.
- River Terrace Elementary Support Committee meets with Councilmember Alexander who commits to arranging a meeting between them and Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
- River Terrace Elementary Support Committee continues to follow up with Councilmember Alexander about her committment to set up a meeting with Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
- River Terrace Elementary Support Committee meets with Councilmember Alexander and Chancellor Kaya Henderson. Henderson announces that River Terrace Elementary will close in June 2012 and the decision is final.
We can still save our school but we need to take ACTION NOW! We have tried to call on the support of elected officials and the chancellor of DCPS. Now our focus meeds to b on Mayor Vincent Gray. Our education system is under mayoral control, so he has the power to keep our beloved school open. Please contact the mayor and let him know:
- River Terrace parent and Community members have been left out of the decision making process. We do not accept the decision to close the school.
- The decision to transfer our children to Nevel Thomas Elementary School is unacceptable. The walk from the River Terrace community to Nevel Thomas is dangerous and the academic performance at Nevel Thomas is no better than River Terrace.
- River Terrace Elementary is the heart of our community. We need it to remain open for our children and the community that has supported this school for generations.
- We demand that you, as our mayor and a fellow Ward 7 resident, work with the River Terrace Community to keep our beloved school open.
Mayor’s Phone: (202) 727-6300
River Terrace Support Committee
True reform of DCPS will only start when the District government and school officials do something that hasn’t been done in my living memory–heed the wishes of the communities that they represent and support schools in Wards 7 & 8 with the same rigor as they support the traditional public schools in the wealthier wards west of the Anacostia. For that to happen, Mayor Gray will have to hear from more than the River Terrace Community because let’s face it, if a community is not wealthy and the majority of its residents are black (as is the case in River Terrace) or brown (as is the case at Bruce Monroe) District government will neither hear their concerns nor heed their demands. If you care about DCPS call the Mayor. Tell him, if he really wants to make Washington, DC One City as he so often claims, he can start by keeping River Terrace open.
To help fight the closure of any more DC public schools, Empower DC will be doing outreach to the schools at risk of closure with a priority focus on Wards 7 and 8. Empower DC is calling for volunteers to help with outreach to these schools in the next couple of weeks. An outreach planning meeting is scheduled for:
Tuesday February 21, 2012 @ 6:30 PM
Empower DC – 1419 V Street NW
If you are interested and available please follow this link and fill out the brief survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TQMR63W or contact Daniel del Pielago at 202-234-9119 ext. 104 or via email at Daniel@empowerdc.org