Push from Ambrose helps pull schools back to Ward 6

May 27, 2011

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.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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