One site in the D.C. summer youth jobs program had almost double the number of student participants it had requested. Another was assigned students several years older than it had requested. Still other sites complained of a D.C. Department of Employment Services that never returned calls when there were problems.
Those were just some of the concerns discussed yesterday at a meeting of local community groups at All Souls Church in Columbia Heights. Sixty community leaders and students gathered to come up with suggestions for improving next year's program, in the wake of the high-profile meltdown this summer.
"You really can't fix this by firing folks," said Eshauna Smith, director of the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, the group that organized the event.
Instead, Smith said, being better-prepared and more open to community input would do a lot to help the summer jobs program next year. Smith said that her group was working with the Brookings Institute to devise an ideal plan for the summer jobs program.
Some community leaders did have praise for parts of the program.
By Michael Birnbaum
The moves to pay students with debit cards and to use a computerized attendance system "were great decisions," said Joe Davis, director of Youth Engaged for Success, a group that had several dozen students in the summer program. Putting the good ideas into practice was a little more difficult, Davis said. His group abandoned the computerized system mid-way through the summer, going back to the proven pen-and-paper method of turning in time-sheets.
A few city representatives also came to the meeting.
"We look forward to hearing these concerns at council member Schwartz's September committee hearing," said Blair Miles, who works for the Schwawrtz's committee, which oversees the Department of Employment Services.
Representatives from the DC Office of Contracting and Procurement were also present.