With the Empowerhouse dedication and ribbon cutting on Dec. 4, Ward 7 officially became home to Washington, DC’s first passive solar homes. The Empowerhouse project began as an entry in the 2011 Solar Decathlon, expanding to provide two low-cost, energy-efficient homes for DC residents. The Empowerhouse Collaborative includes The New School in New York, the DC Department of Housing and Community Development, Habitat for Humanity, Groundwork Anacostia River DC, and a host of other agencies, nonprofits and private enterprises.
“I’m excited,” neighbor Celestine Grant said after the dedication. “This was a vacant lot for 40 years, and it’s wonderful to see it used now for a great purpose. We should find more areas like this, to put houses that people can afford.”
Lakiya Culley, pictured with family and Collaborative representatives, was certified as the first of two homeowners to occupy the special dwellings. The Culleys are slated to take residence in January.
Gallery added 12/22/12. More on this story in January’s East of the River.
Mayoral control of the DC Public School system is five years old and still awaiting its annual reviews as well as its five-year evaluation. Meanwhile, for those helping Ward 7 consider what works and what doesn’t in planning for new schools and programs — and for those preparing testimony for July 13’s Public Roundtable at the DC Council — below is some background which might prove useful:
Where is Donatelli Development and the promised “Phase 2″ project at Minnesota and Benning NE? Will the project, sometimes called “Park 7,” break ground as scheduled this summer? Is the developer planning to respond to neighborhood queries about the project?
Look for a brief story on the Deputy Mayor for Education’s Community Conversations — occurring in Wards 7 and 8 in August and in Wards 1, 4 and 5 during July — in July’s East of the River (on-line in about ten days). DME says information will be posted to their website next week (that would be week of July 2).
Meanwhile, ANC7A.com is currently in “account suspended” status, so here are the documents about the Community Conversations that were formerly posted there.
Finally, here is a report previously referenced on Ward 7 Connections by a stakeholder who attended a recent Community Conversations planning meeting.
Liz Pecot (ANC 7D05) provides the following notes and links for those interested in learning more about the Illinois Facilities Fund — self-described “nonprofit lender and real estate consultant dedicated to strengthening nonprofits and the communities they serve” — who authored the report suggesting closure/charterizing of dozens of DC public schools and
These notes explore IFF’s history with the Milwaukee Public Schools. This information and some additional background on the Walton Family Fund and its education agenda may prove helpful to those interested in what is proposed for DC schools and/or participating in the Deputy Mayor’s exercise in engagement.
UPDATE, 8/10/12 — “Community Conversations” Set
The DCPS academic year ended on June 14 and, with it, the most straightforward means of communicating with the system’s 45,000 students and their families. It is this moment that the District’s Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) chose, however, for launching its Engagement Initiative to discuss possible school closings.
The closings — 15 east of the river — were recommended five months ago in “Quality Schools: Every Child, Every School, Every Neighborhood,” AKA “The Illinois Facilities Fund Needs Assessment Report” or IFF report.
The DME — and DCPS — has steadfastly refused to discuss the closings before, however. As late as the Ward 8 Education Town Hall held in May, DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson was still telling constituents that the IFF was “just a report, not a plan” and promising plenty of engagement on any possible closings. Even now, information sent to stakeholders by ANC 7A, as part of this initiative, does not mention that “right-sizing” the school system is a key goal.
The IFF study, calling for the closing or charter-izing of dozens of DC public schools, was released on Jan 26. Response was sharply critical, with the exception of funders, the Walton Family Foundation. (If anyone knows of positive expert response to the report, please advise.)
Deputy Mayor De’Shawn Wright said at the time: “This is just the first step in the process. No final decisions will be made until my office, DCPS, PCSB and other school representatives have had a thorough conversation with the community and conducted a comprehensive review of the solutions available to us.”
A few weeks later, Wright reiterated:
To be clear, we have not made any decisions regarding closure, turnaround or school management changes as a result of this study, and we will not make any decisions until we have had a thorough conversation with the public to discuss the best alternatives for improving the quality of education in each of the highest-need communities….
Based on a rigorous, civil and thorough dialogue, we as one city can make thoughtful decisions that continue to build upon the successes of both traditional public schools and charter schools while providing fresh opportunities to those neighborhoods with the greatest need.
For months, stakeholders unsuccessfully petitioned for engagement on the methods and conclusions of the study. Now, with school vacation underway, ANC 7A, one of the organizations charged with arranging “community conversations” for the DME, announced: “In order to give the Ward 7 Community Stakeholders time to get involved and participate, an August meeting was decided on.”
DCPS hired Public Agenda to organize planning meetings in advance of mid-August “community engagement” to consider the future of DC public schools.
At last night’s planning meeting for Ward 7, Elizabeth Pecot (ANC 7D05) learned that City Bridge Foundation is funding the engagement exercise. She provided some background, following the meeting, to the Ward 7 listserve. Here, following up on her initial research, are City Bridge’s current partners:
DC School Reform Now, founded in 2008 with a desire to support new education reforms in the changing climate of public education in the District [i.e., to support the work of Michelle Rhee, then newly appointed Chancellor of DC Public Schools].
New Schools Venture Fund — which funds a number of local charter schools, including Achievement Prep, E.L. Haynes, Kipp, and other charter schools, as well as DC School Reform Now (above) and FOCUS: Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (a charter school organization).
Teach+Plus — an organization focusing on teacher evaluation and related issues
Stand for Children — for details, see, e.g. Chicago Teacher Stands Up to Stand for Children and Wins
Learn Zillion, an enterprise funded by New Ventures (above)
Another “current partner” is “The DC Public Education Fund” which has been working with City Bridge, the Banyan Tree Foundation (more on this foundation to come), and the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, to create the DC Public Education Learning Series.
City Bridge’s Thought Partners, as Ms. Pecot pointed out in her message to Ward 7 last night, include the Walton Family Foundation, which also funded the Illinois Facilities Fund report, released in January 2012, that recommends closing 37 DCPS schools or turning them over to a charter school.