We are one step closer to all D.C. school reopening as charters

Yesterday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released the names of those who would serve on the ReOpen DC Advisory Group that is being chaired by former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. There are six co-chairpersons under them that will lead eleven Advisory Group Subcommittees. The one for Education and Childcare is getting a lot of notice.

The government co-chairman of this group is Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn. He will share his duties with community co-chairman Charlene Drew Jarvis and associate committee director Rich Harrington, the associate director Mayor’s Office of Policy at DC Government. The mission of the body is as follows:

“The Committee will work across sectors to recommend strategies to close the digital divide, improve distance learning strategies, re-imagine physical learning environments, evaluate phased entry for summer learning and next school year, as well as new tools or resources needed for reopening all aspects of education in Washington, DC.”

In other words it has a say over every aspect of public education in the nation’s capital.

Most exciting is who is a part of this group and who has been left off. There are eighteen members. Of those, seven are either leaders in our local charter movement or have been tremendous supporters. These include Katherine Bradley, co-founder of CityBridge; Patricia Brantley, CEO Friendship PCS; Ricarda Ganjam, member of the DCPCSB; Sonia Gutierrez, founder of the Carlos Rosario International PCS; LaTonya Henderson, executive director of Cedar Tree Academy PCS; and Victor Reinoso, Deputy Mayor of Education under Mayor Fenty. I could also count Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, as she has worked closely with many of our charter schools.

Not named with these individuals is Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union. Today, the Washington City Paper’s Amanda Michelle Gomez has an article detailing Ms. Davis’ displeasure of being dissed from the list, as apparently she directly asked Ms. Bowser to be a participant.

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” Ms. Gomez quotes Ms. Davis as remarking about the omission.

I called recently for all D.C. schools to become charters once they are permitted to reopen in the image of what happened in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. In the piece I wrote, “In order for these facilities to be as flexible as possible, union membership by all teachers would be suspended indefinitely.” Not having the head of the local teachers’ union as part of the ReOpen DC Advisory Group is a fantastic first step in this direction.

The City Paper reporter also notes that there are no teachers and principals as part of the new organization.

It is possible for some very good things to come out of tragedy. We have the opportunity to do something great here. I have pointed out the terrible societal cost of our stubborn 60-point academic achievement gap. Now for the health and safety of all of those living in the District, let’s take this moment to hammer it closed once and for all.

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