At the time of the establishment of the new School
Board of Trustees, members of the Financial Control Board presented their views on just how
bad the public school system had become. Here are the statements of the two most concerned
We are here today to take swift
action to begin the process of fixing our broken school system. I want to address my remarks to
the students. When each student was taken to school for the first time, by their parents or
caretakers whom they loved and trusted, they did not expect any harm to come to them by the
strangers with whom they entrusted them. In my professional experience every child I have ever
seen in kindergarten came to school enthusiastic, and with a willingness to learn. They absorb
knowledge like a sponge. But our educational system and stakeholders, this includes me, have
Now let me tell you how.
- We failed to open the
schools on time.
- We failed to provide
you with a safe environment that is conducive to learning.
- We failed to provide
you with books and materials.
- We failed to provide
you a 100 per cent certified teaching force. Having just 70 percent of teachers certified can not
prepare you for a competitive world
- We failed to keep you in
school such that 40 percent who enter 9th grade do not graduate.
- We failed you because
nearly 80 per cent of the fourth graders scored below the basic reading achievement levels on a
state assessment in 1994.
- We failed you because
the actions of the stakeholders, the actions of the adults, have created 80,000 potential victims.
For each additional year you
stay in public schools, you fall further behind,
not because you can't learn, but
because the system does not prepare you
to learn. How is it that in a few
short years children diminish in thought,
behavior, acceptance, self esteem,
test scores and interpersonal skills?
Who is to blame? I, for one, accept
my part of this responsibility. I invite
each of us to stand up now, drive a
stake in the ground, and commit to
this being the last class of
kindergarten children who will ever experience
the horrors I have described today.
This should be the last year we allow
this diminishing return on our most
important asset destroyed.
In our information gathering,
we visited high schools and elementary schools.
As I looked across the playground, I
saw a sea of innocent faces of children
that were filled with hope and a
desire to learn. They had little understanding
of what their futures would be. At
the same time, I want to note that there
are many, many students and
schools that are succeeding. On a visit to
Banneker School yesterday, I saw
once again, the stimulating and challenging
environment that the principal, Mrs.
Adams, her faculty and staff have created for the students. When they couldn't get the toilets
painted, they painted them. They wrote grant proposals to get computers. Mrs. Adams asked a
merchant to donate the carpet on the lab floor. At Miner Elementary School where test scores had
dropped 30 points when another school was combined with it -- Mrs. Tilghman and her staff and
students sell ice cream after school to raise money for the extras the school system can not
provide. They had to dip into the ice cream fund to buy classroom supplies because they didn't
get their budget until three weeks ago
What I just described would
cause some to think I have just described a third world country where there is little or no money
available for education. Who are the real victims of this gross mismanagement and misdirection?
You did not vote in the School Board, hire the Superintendent, certify your teachers, design and
maintain the buildings, or prepare the food. The victims are the students and teachers and
everyone who work directly with the classroom.
So today we pledge to restore
hope in our children from McKinley to Murch,
from H.D. Cooke to Anacostia
High, from Lincoln to the School Without Walls,
everywhere in wards 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,
and 8. As students, you need to know
that the stakeholders have allowed
this educational system to slip away.
We are driving a stake in the ground
today that will benefit each and every
one of you over the long term; it
will help to ensure the educational foundation
to make you competitive,
marketable and be successful in this complex world.
We can not afford to have our
children in the future to be limited, sacrificed,
and have their lives thrown away
because of a lack of management and oversight
by those of us who are entrusted to
be the guardians of those like yourselves who are not able to protect themselves, to represent
themselves and to ensure they get their fair share. We can not afford to allow your children to
come into a world with parents who have no way to take care of them indeed, we are talking
about opportunities for you, and for your children, and for your children's children.
But to make the needed
changes, we will have to rebuild the foundations
of our educational system, which
starts by inspiring hope:
- Hope for students that
they will get the education they need to succeed;
- Hope for teachers that
they will be supported in the classroom and rewarded on the basis of their performance;
- Hope for parents that
the system can and will improve;
- Hope for taxpayers that
operations will be well managed and cost effective ;
- Hope for the business
community that schools will be a drawing card, rather than an obstacle, to economic
Hope is what drives
improvement. And improving the schools and ultimately,
our children's performance is the
best hope for the District's future.
It is important to recognize that
mismanagement is at the heart of the problems of the DC public schools. That means things can
change, the schools can be improved. As Mr. Harlan mentioned a moment ago, other schools, in
Chicago, in Newark, in Seattle, have faced the problems we are experiencing here in the District
-- and they changed the status quo. They have made improvements immediately. Learning
environments got safer, graduation rates began to increase and test scores are climbing. So, there
There are many things that must
be changed right away, and that will help
to return the focus in our schools to
education and to children. For instance,
the D.C. public schools' per pupil
expenditure is 26 percent higher than the national average, yet it is at the bottom of most
standardized measures of educational progress.
At the same time, D.C. schools
spend less on instruction and more on central
administration -- even as enrollment
continues to decline. The schools employ more than twice as many central administrators per
teacher than its peer institutions. This takes resources away from schools, teachers, instructional
support and ultimately, hurts our children.
The Superintendent's office
budget is also swollen beyond comparable districts
and yet the school system lost an
$18.5 million National Science Foundation
grant this year because it failed to
provide appropriate administrative and management support. Clearly, the leadership of our
schools has failed the children.
Effectively managing the D.C.
public schools simply seems beyond the capability
of our current leadership. Even
when it has more central administrators per teacher than peer districts, the schools still cannot
- How many employees
and students it has within the school system;
- Whether teachers are
certified to teach the classes;
- Why personnel records
are incomplete, inadequate, out-of-date, and missing;
- Why 1/3 of all
employees are not at the location assigned to them in their personnel files.
These are just some of the
problems we have found in the schools' personnel management. It clearly shows that there is
little effective control over resources.
It is an understatement to say
that management of resources must be drastically
improved for the sake of our
children. We can not continue to risk their education, and their futures, through the
mismanagement of our schools. That is why we must act today.