Two Ward 6 schools that had been ticketed for Ward 7 under the proposed redistricting plan stayed put Thursday due in large part to an 11th-hour assist from former Ward 6 council member Sharon Ambrose. The D.C. Council’s three-member redistricting subcommittee, Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) placed a call to Ambrose the day before Thursday’s meeting on the proposed new map, after days of taking a beating from Hill East residents upset that the new configuration placed Eastern High School and Eliot-Hine Middle School outside the ward line. The two schools are important cogs in a plan to upgrade K-12 public education in Ward 6.
Ambrose said she told the subcommittee members they needed to think again.
“I said I thought that this was going to generate more grief than they would want to handle,” Ambrose said. “You and I both know that ward boundaries do not really affect school boundaries. But perception becomes reality in a lot of situations. It would really be a slap in the face for all these young parents who have committed themselves to the public school system.”
Mendelson — who had dug in deepest on the issue, arguing that population, not the location of schools, drove redistricting — confirmed the conversation Friday. He said one reason the panel reached out to Ambrose, who chaired his 2010 reelection campaign, was that Ward 6 incumbent Tommy Wells had been “absent from discussions on redistricting, essentially taking a pass.” He added that Wells had “incited” Ward 6 residents into pressuring for the change.
Wells, for his part,called Mendelson “a nitpicker” who, “once he gets locked into a position, can be irrational.”
In any event, Mendelson backed off the schools issue after his discussion with Ambrose.