Renovated School Has the Same Old Name, to the Chagrin of Many

Tonya Vidal Kinlow, schools ombudsman, is behind in her monthly reports.
Tonya Vidal Kinlow, schools ombudsman, is behind in her monthly reports. (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
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By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 21, 2008

Despite an impending reopening Monday in a renovated building, some parents and officials at Hardy Middle School say they are disappointed that the Northwest Washington school will be without a long-sought change: a new name.

For more than a year, the school's PTA has been trying to rename it the Coretta Scott King Middle School of the Arts, in honor of the late civil rights activist and wife of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But the petition, signed by a vast majority of the school's teachers and administrators, never made it to the D.C. Council even though it was spearheaded by Charlotte Brookins-Hudson, who had served as the council's general counsel for 12 years.

Brookins-Hudson said she presented the petition in 2007 to D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). She said he promised to get it through the council but never did. She was then president of the PTA.

Evans's spokesman said the council member did not introduce the measure because Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) "did not feel warm and fuzzy about changing the name." Gray, while admiring King, said he prefers to name city buildings after local residents. He said Evans, however, is free to introduce a measure renaming Hardy for King if he chooses.

"The school will have an arts and music focus. Her whole life centered around education and music," Brookins-Hudson said of King. "She organized freedom concerts to raise money for the civil rights movement. What a great role model for our children. Very few people know who Rose Hardy is."

Besides receiving schoolwide support, the proposal was endorsed unanimously by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2C, Hardy Principal Patrick Pope said.

"We thought everything was a go," Pope said, adding that he had begun thinking about new stationery and new signs for the building. "It's stalled. We haven't gotten answers."

Brookins-Hudson, whose son graduated from Hardy in May, said she initially petitioned School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey in 2006. The proposal, she said, sat around for more than a year, until Michelle A. Rhee took over as schools chancellor. Rhee, she said, told her that only the council has the authority to rename city buildings.

Had the proposal passed, it would have been the latest in a string of name changes for the school.

The original Hardy Elementary School, named for early 20th-century educator Rose Hardy, opened on Foxhall Road 80 years ago. In 1974, it was converted to a middle school. In 1996, Superintendent Franklin Smith closed the Foxhall building and moved the school to its current location at 1819 35th St. NW in Georgetown, the former Carlos Rosario Adult Education Center.

Before 1980, when the council renamed it Carlos Rosario, the facility had been known as Gordon Junior High. Smith closed all adult education programs in 1996, clearing the way for Hardy to move into the building.

Pope said the school will pursue the name change in the fall.

Gripes About Complaint Report

In the past couple of months, education activists have been grumbling that schools ombudsman Tonya Vidal Kinlow has not kept up with the legal requirement to file monthly reports on the complaints she has handled. She didn't post the March, April and May reports on the city's Web site until June, after activist Cherita Whiting complained to the council.

"I don't understand. There's no reason we shouldn't have the reports posted," Whiting said. "It's unacceptable."

Kinlow, who started in the new position in December, said she's trying to develop a better process to ensure that reports will be delivered monthly starting in the fall.

"We want to make sure the information is accurate. I'm willing to hold it and make sure it's right, as opposed to rushing it and having to explain later," Kinlow said.

"We're developing a data-management system that better fits the work that we do."

From December to June, Kinlow said, her office handled 430 complaints. She said the issues she dealt with most frequently were grade and transcript disputes, bullying and fighting, special education, suspensions and expulsions, and communication problems between teachers and parents.

Kinlow said anyone interested in obtaining her assistance should contact her at 202-741-8777 or

Makeover for Charter Web Site

The D.C. Public Charter School Board, which oversees the city's 60 charter schools, is upgrading its Web site in the fall with interactive features. Board spokeswoman Nona Mitchell Richardson said the site,, will have a customized search feature.

"If you wanted to look at high schools in Ward 4 that made AYP [adequate yearly progress on the city's standardized exam], they could search," Richardson said. Users also will be able to search for information such as middle schools with bilingual programs and elementary schools offering performing arts.

The site will include photos of all the schools, a blog, text-only online discussions with board members and videos posted by students.

"We're trying to get more community engagement," Richardson said. "We want it to be two-way instead of one-way."

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