Thursday, Nov. 9, 1 p.m.

D.C. Schools

Robert C. Bobb, the District's former city administrator, campaigns for school board president at Ben's Chili Bowl in Northwest. D.C. Council members Jim Graham and Jack Evans accompanied him.
Robert C. Bobb, the District's former city administrator, campaigns for school board president at Ben's Chili Bowl in Northwest. D.C. Council members Jim Graham and Jack Evans accompanied him. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

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Robert Bobb
President-elect, D.C. School Board
Thursday, November 9, 2006; 1:00 PM

Robert Bobb , newly elected president of the D.C. Board of Education, was online Thursday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. ET to discuss his plans for the city's schools.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

Read more: Bobb Is Chosen to Lead as Schools Face an Uncertain Future .

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Robert Bobb: Hello, I am Robert Bobb. I would like to thank you for your vote. Please feel free to join me on this live chat from 1 p.m.- 2 p.m. I will be happy to answer any of your questions regarding my desire to improve student outcomes in the District of Columbia.

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Washington, D.C.: Mr. Bobb:

I voted for you because I believe you have the ability to create and implement an immediate plan to renovate the high schools, restore vocational education and renovate and revitalize the athletic programs for D.C. Public High Schools. What is your plan for dealing with these issues immediately? I am a '72 graduate of McKinley High School and I have a daughter who is an '05 honors graduate of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts Visual Arts Dept.

Robert Bobb: We must implement the master facilities plan with the same urgency as if the District had won the Olympic bid. I strongly believe that this plan can be implemented in seven to 10 years. We must aggressively repair existing facilities such as Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Children cannot learn nor participate fully in academic programs when the facilities are falling down around them. The athletic facilities are a disgrace despite the fact that the Board of Education has not activated a private public partnership foundation whose sole purpose is to make our athletic facilities on par with those in surrounding jurisdictions. I will activate that foundation immediately upon my confirmation in January. I will restore vocational and career technical programs system-wide beginning in the Fall of 2007.

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U Street: Congratulations on your election. When I voted for you on Tuesday at Garnett Patterson Middle School, I was shocked by the state of disrepair of the building (cracked paint, rotting wood, graffiti, unmowed grass, beer cans and trash strewn about, dead trees, etc). What will you be doing to provide an appropriate, safe and well-kept learning environment that our children deserve?

Robert Bobb: Thank you for your vote. I bring a sense of urgency to the repair of our existing school facilities. The conditions at Garnett Patterson Middle School as referenced by you is a disgrace which speaks to a lack of urgency on the part of the Board and superintendent. I will visit Garnett Patterson within the next week. I will challenge the school administration to move quickly on these repairs.

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Washington, D.C.: What are your plans, if any, to bring more male involvement and fathers into school and into the education of children.

Robert Bobb: The school system must partner with the Fatherhood Initiative Project, the Concerned Black Men, Mentors Inc., faith-based organizations and others to get more men involved in public education; particularly, when men can serve as role models and mentors to young males.

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Washington, D.C.: The school board along with the DC Education Compact (DCEC), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and funders such as the Cafritz Foundation and World Bank have recently invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure D.C. teachers pursue National Board certification. Can you please discuss how you wish to continue this initiative and help expand it so D.C. students can more quickly achieve the benefits of the project's goal to have 500 newly National Board Certified teachers in D.C. schools in five years?

Robert Bobb: I believe that this is a very important initiative and that this is a very significant partnership that will increase student achievement. I would encourage the Board to continue this initiative and to expand it as quickly as possible to have all teachers in the District certified in less than five years. I am sure my goal may be unrealistic, but we have to set high expectations because there is no issue greater than educating our children with the best teachers and the best schools and with the best support staff. The certification of our teachers is a matter of urgency.

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Logan Circle, D.C.: Mr. Bobb, With a new mayor and a new Congress, what opportunities might there be for changing the governance of DC schools and opening up new possibilities for equity and meaningful reform across the district's schools?

Robert Bobb: I am excited that we have a new mayor and chair of City Council, both of whom have placed public education at the top of their agendas. Dr. Janey's master education plan, although not perfect, is a good roadmap for reforming the school system. We, as the elected representatives, must make sure that there is equity across the system. While the governance structure is an important issue, the most important issue is creating an environment which will improve student outcomes, further creating an environment based on performance and accountability. I look forward to working with the new members of Congress;particularly, those that have oversight over the District ... and in preserving the District's home rule and supporting a vote in the Congress of the United States for our congressman.

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Washington, D.C.: Mayor Fenty wants to take over the school. Does the law allow him to do just that?

Robert Bobb: The law allows for three options. The first option is for the City Council to amend the statute by making the school board an all appointed board. The second option is to change the charter and abolish the elected Board and make the Board an advisory board. This would require City Council's approval, a voter referendum, approval of Congress and the President of the United States. The third option is to go directly to the Congress to change the home rule charter abolishing the school board.

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Capitol Hill, D.C.: Hi Mr. Bobb,

What will you do, if anything, to encourage more middle- and upper-middle class families to attend public schools? How will you go about restoring faith in DCPS among those who have a choice of schools, both public/charter and private? Thank you.

Robert Bobb: My top priority is to move aggressively in implementing the master education plan as well as other proven education models that will improve student achievement; thus creating a high-performing public education system where DCPS is the education of choice. We must move more aggressively to implement meaningful education reforms and we must involve parents in that process to restore their confidence that the system is doing everything humanly possible to educate their children.

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D.C.: How do you feel about a year-round school schedule or other alternative schedules?

Robert Bobb: I will support a year-round school plan that is intellectually thought through, with the budget implications fully developed. I have had experience in managing a city where year-round schooling was the norm; however, in the absence of year-round schooling, I strongly believe that we should have educational programs throughout the summer so that the intellectual agility of all students is maintained and challenged.

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Washington, D.C.: Will you commit to the students of Washington, D.C. and state, for the record, that you will not seek higher elected office in 2008?

Robert Bobb: I am totally committed to the children and the parents of the District of Columbia. In 2008, my term of office is up and I have every intention on seeking re-election.

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Washington, D.C.: What kinds of programs for kids birth-through-5 do you propose and how will they (and you) work with existing programs like the Early Care and Education Administration and Healthy Start? And, why should we have any confidence in the schools' doing this when they struggle with their current portfolio of services?

Robert Bobb:

I believe that it is critical to prepare children for kindergarten from birth through 5 years of age. Further -- it is important that we connect all of those programs that are working with this population to build strong families and strong minds. These types of programs should be community-based and not school-based, but the community should have high standards so that when these children are enrolled in kindergarten they have fully developed cognitive and motor skills and that they are ready to learn. I don't have any confidence that the school system can implement this program, nor should they.

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Washington, D.C.: Thank you for continuing to put this vital conversation into public spheres, like this chat forum!

As a former DCPS teacher and current volunteer, I would like to ask how productive change can happen without united leadership? If the school board president and mayor's office are locked in disagreement about roadmaps and leadership, our kids will continue to receive far less than they should. I want to see one, united plan that all stakeholders have a chance to be in on. I think Superintendent Janey has been one of the best chances to see that happen, and we need to move ahead with united support, funding and priorities, rather than switch plans mid-way. I guess my bottom line is to ask that you and the board work with and not against other major leaders/stakeholders.

Robert Bobb: I agree with you! The leadership of the District, both elected and appointed, must be of one mind regarding the improvements that are necessary to improve the system both inside and outside the classroom. We must work with parents, students, and other stake-holders in the community who are all committed to improving student achievement.

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Mr. Bobb,

I am the parent of a pre-schooler. The nearby elementary school is a significant underachiever, and I will not send my child there. I don't trust charter schools, because of their slight track record, and because I believe that they are taking away resources from the public schools. Intercity transfers to the better elementary schools are minimal and uncertain. Private schools cost a fortune.

I am considering moving out of the city, so that my child can benefit from a better school system.

What can/will you do to help somebody in my position?

Thank you.

Robert Bobb: This is a very hard decision for parents to make. I have had to make very similar decisions in the past. One of the reasons that I ran for president of the school board is to improve every school in every neighborhood. I believe that all children deserve to attend a high performing school in their neighborhood. Please understand that reform will not happen overnight. This is a very serious and urgent matter for parents, our school system, and our city.

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washingtonpost.com: Robert Bobb had to go. Thank you for your questions.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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Viewpoint is a paid discussion. The Washington Post editorial staff was not involved in the moderation.

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