DC residents Beth Schmierer and Kristin Ehrgood felt like every time they turned on the news, all the commentary about Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's efforts to improve the school system were negative. Rather than just gripe to friends, they decided to do something about it.
They started an online petition titled DC School Reform Now. "For too long," the petition says, "the DC Public School system has failed to provide adequate education for DC's students. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee, with the strong support of the DC City Council, have begun to implement these much needed reforms to help DC's students succeed. However, a vocal minority of residents has created the false impression that the citizens of DC are opposed to these reforms."
Ehrgood, 37, who is pregnant and lives in Ward 3, told DC Wire this week that when Rhee first talked about plans to fire under-performing workers in the central office last Fall, she was talking with friends about how to support Rhee's efforts. "Children's interests need to be put ahead of adult [interests] and we brainstormed ways we could support the chancellor as concerned residents."
After a brainstorming lunch, she sent an email to family and friends encouraging them to support Fenty and Rhee's firing legislation that was pending before the council. (The measure eventually passed and Rhee started firing workers last month). The group, made up of residents from various neighborhoods in the city, Ehrgood said, felt momentum around their organizing on the legislation and talked about ways to keep it going. They decided on the website and the petition, which went live on March 12. So far they've collected close to 100 signatures and counting, Ehrgood said.
"We are putting together our thoughts and next steps," Ehrgood told D.C. Wire. "Our first step is getting as many people as possible to sign the petition. We are emailing it, taking it with us to meetings we attend, and generally informing people that it exists. Our follow up steps will be coming shortly."
"We firmly believe in putting the interests of children ahead of the interests of adults. We recognize this is going to mean difficult choices for the chancellor, city council and mayor, yet now is the time."