Fenty's Plan to Overhaul Schools Echoes Janey's

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is scheduled to testify today at the D.C. Council's seventh and final public hearing on his plan to gain control over the D.C. public school system.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is scheduled to testify today at the D.C. Council's seventh and final public hearing on his plan to gain control over the D.C. public school system. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)
By David Nakamura and V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, seeking to gain control of the city's school system, has drafted a 31-page plan for education improvements that offers few new initiatives and instead stresses the need to speed up restructuring measures already being implemented by Superintendent Clifford B. Janey.

As part of his campaign to win direct authority over the struggling, 55,000-student system, Fenty (D) also would impose stiffer accountability measures on the administrators charged with carrying out restructuring. His report is intended to answer critics who have said he has offered no specifics about what he would do if awarded control.

A draft of the report, obtained by The Washington Post, largely echoes the school system's Master Education Plan. Following that document as a guide, Fenty promises to beef up reading and math programs in kindergarten through eighth grade, expand Advanced Placement and vocational education in high schools and create incentive pay for teachers in troubled schools, offering bonuses for those who perform well.

Fenty's report comes as he prepares to testify today at the D.C. Council's seventh and final public hearing on his proposal to reduce the power of the Board of Education and require the superintendent to report to the mayor and council.

Where he does offer new ideas, Fenty focuses primarily on trying to change the culture of a school system that is often criticized for being unresponsive into one that is service-oriented and customer-focused.

The mayor proposes creating training academies to increase parental involvement in the schools, redesigning the school system's Web site to make it more user-friendly and implementing an accountability system called SchoolStat that judges administrators on a range of performance-tracking measures. Fenty has implemented a similar CapStat program for his agency directors.

Last week, Fenty gave the council a 10-page plan to restructure the school system's special education program, promising to expand the placement of disabled children in regular classes, bring special education into compliance with court rulings and cut transportation costs. Those initiatives also were closely aligned with the school system's Master Education Plan.

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) was reviewing Fenty's report yesterday afternoon and said he was not ready to comment on the document. However, Gray said he expects Fenty to address today what he would do if the council approves his legislation.

"No one expects him to have every detail completed," said Gray, who tentatively plans to hold a council vote in early April. "But there needs to be sufficient information so people have a comfort level that this is going to be different than what we've seen."

Fenty's spokeswoman, Carrie Brooks, said the mayor would not comment on his plans until today's council hearing. But administration officials noted that Fenty has said all along that his takeover effort is designed to speed up changes, including those being implemented by Janey.

Fenty's school governance restructuring plan, opposed by the school board and a collection of school activists, was set to pick up an endorsement from the Washington Teachers' Union this morning, union officials said yesterday.

Janey declined to comment yesterday on Fenty's latest plans. But school board member Jeff Smith (District 1) said the mayor's reliance on the Master Education Plan shows that the school board is doing credible work.

"This credits Dr. Janey and the Board of Education on the work we've done," Smith said.

Among the new initiatives, Fenty hopes to implement the parent academies in the fall, with the school system offering courses for parents to help them get more involved in the schools. Fenty has talked admiringly about a similar model created by Miami-Dade schools chief Rudolph F. Crew, with whom Fenty has talked several times.

Fenty also proposes to conduct an audit using "secret shoppers" to determine baseline standards for the responsiveness and services in schools, measuring how parents are treated and how their inquiries are handled by school staffs.

Council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large), who has not taken a position on Fenty's restructuring plan, said yesterday evening that he is encouraged by Fenty's latest proposals.

"I think it's a phenomenal step forward," Brown said. "There are clearly details about what we going to do that answer questions people have been asking."

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