State superintendent’s office hit for bungling NCLB town halls

Updated: 3:30 p.m.

One important piece of the District’s application for relief from some requirements of No Child Left Behind, due in mid-February, is evidence that it consulted the public on its proposal.

Like other state education agencies, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education “must engage diverse stakeholders and communities in the development of its request,” according to the U.S. Dept. of Education. By that standard, D.C.’s bid for a waiver is off to a wobbly start. A series of six “town halls” set up for mid-November fell apart because of little to no advance notice and dates that competed with a set of DCPS community meetings.

The Nov. 10 town hall for Ward 3 at Oyster-Adams Bilingual drew exactly one person, excluding OSSE staffers and a D.C. State Board of Education member. Notice for the Nov. 15 meeting in Ward 5, canceled with just a few hours notice, according to board member Mark Jones, included the wrong address for the site, Luke C. Moore Academy. Two meetings scheduled for Nov. 21, one at the MLK Central Library (Ward 2) and State Board chambers were also canceled.

Board members said they received only a couple of days notice and that word of the sessions was difficult to find on the OSSE site.

“If you want to have an important meeting, the standard in this town is about two weeks notice,” said board president Ted Trabue. “I believe that we have fallen short of that standard.”

State Superintendent Hosanna Mahaley, who just married, has been out of town on her honeymoon. Board member Mary Lord (Ward 2) said she admires Mahaley but adds: “You can’t find who’s in charge of anything. It’s been a disaster.” She said Mahaley has “been getting colossally bad advice.”

Communications director Marc Caposino acknowledged the problems with the meetings and said a rebooted outreach effort is in the works. He said the agency plans to publish some material about the application in December and then hold new town halls in January.

You can find a copy of OSSE’s “early engagement” plan here.

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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