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Paul L. Vance
Q & A With Paul L. Vance

Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2000, 10:30 a.m. EDT

When Arlene Ackerman announced that she was leaving the superintendent's job in the District, the committee charged with replacing her unanimously settled on her replacement: Paul L. Vance, who spent the eight years running Montgomery County schools before retiring in 1999.

In his new role, Vance is responsible for 70,000 students. The school system faces a range of problems, from low student achievement to deteriorating buildings. Vance has said he will work on those problems and some others, including transportation for special-education students and improving Stanford 9 test scores.

For more information, visit the D.C. Schools News page.

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: Welcome, Superintendent Vance. Thank you for joining us.

Northwest: You've stated that you don't intend to stay on as superintendent for the long term. Do you think that hurts students, to not have consistent leadership for more than a year or two at a time?

Paul L. Vance: My original contract with the Control Board states that I will be here no less than one year and no more than two years. That is what I agreed to do. I feel that is a moral obligation on my part. I have made a covenant with my employers and with the citizens of the District of Columbia. Another reason that I feel it is a matter of honor to observe that agreement is that I would not want anyone to feel or conclude that any of my actions were an effort to extend my tenure here. Thank you.


Paul L. Vance: Yes, there are many teen parents in the DC Public Schools. How many there are and where they are has not been determined. A major concern of mine is that we must provide the support those young parents require to be able to attend high school and to graduate. I will work feverishly to make certain there are funds available to have child care/parenting centers where the need exists. I would suggest that teen parents get in touch with Human Services and with the counselors in there high schools for assistance. Thank you.

Washington, DC: What are your plans for the Hearst School at 37th and Tilden NW? It has survived two threatened closures and considerable turmoil, and about 80% of its students are out of boundary. A number of Hearst parents are active in the new Capital City Charter. I live in the Hearst district, and am considering sending my child there in fall 2001, but its future seems very shaky. In addition, there is great uncertainly about where childen go for 4th grade (Hearst ends at grade 3). Many of my neighbors have moved to Maryland when their children reached school age because they were unable to enroll their childen out of boundary at Janney or Murch (two schools that are physically closer to us than is Hearst.)Others have opted for private schools. What advice can you offer?

Paul L. Vance: I have heard much about the Hearst School. All of it, quite complimentary. I am not familiar with the threatened closures and subsequent turmoil. However, the parents who have children attending Hearst are certainly proud of their school and very supportive of it. It is impossible for me at this time to make a commitment as to its future, however, it is unreasonable to expect me to close a highly successful school that has a high level of parental participation and support. I look forward to my initial visit to Hearst and my conversations with the principal, teachers and parents. My advice is, please hang in there! Thank you.

Takoma Park, MD: I've heard many reports about how DC schools are looking for committed, qualified teachers. Yet when I visited your website I found little information about how to apply or which positions where available. A call to your human resources office was even less informative -- I got transferred to a voicemail box that wasn't taking any messages. Are there still teaching positions available now? How can one apply for a teaching position and how long does the process take?

Paul L. Vance: Please, immediately call the Superintendent's office 202/442-5008. We will register you from the Superintendent's office for a position in DCPS. We have been very successful this year in recruiting outstanding, committed, qualified teachers. But I assure you, we are always on the lookout for more. We did have our teacher recruitment flyer on the website. I will contact Human Resources and our Information Technology offices immediately to correct this situation. I look forward to hearing from you today. Thank you.

Washington, DC: What is the policy that is in place for playground security, during the day when students are in school and utilizing the playgrounds? I am specifically speaking of elementary schools.

Paul L. Vance: Safety and security are at the top of my list of priorities. It is our plan to have one security officer in each elementary school. That officer's responsibility along with principals, teachers, instructional assistants and classroom aides will have the primary responsibility of assuring the safety of every child that attends that school and plays on that playground. I assure you that this plan will work. If this is not the case at your child's elementary school, please call our Director of Security, Mr. Patrick Fiel at 202/576-6962. He will correct the situation. Thank you.

Washington, DC: Will you provide time during the week that will allow parents to take a class to help students with their homework?

Will there be computer-software that will assist student in their performance, and will their be tutorial program before/after school time?

How can parents feel comfortable about the safety awareness of their child during school?

How sure are you about the fact of summer school will enhance the performance of those students that did not perform well during the school year?

Paul L. Vance: There are several units in DCPS that are working collaboratively to develop a schedule of classes for parents designed to help them with homework, test taking, discipline, classroom management. The offices of Staff Development, Parent Affairs, Educational Accountability are just a few of the units that will be working together and collaboratively with the University of the District of Columbia to develop these classes for parents.

We are currently testing computer software which is designed to assist students in their academic performance. However, before we implement any of these programs citywide, we will have to be assured that the results will be academically productive for our students.

Yes, there will be mentoring and tutoring programs at the local schools before and after school. Please consult with your principal as to the availability of these services for your child.

The Division of Academic Services is working with George Washington University conducting assessments on the benefits of our summer program. When their assessments are completed, I will publicly share this information. George Washington University conducted a study after the summer of 1998. Their study indicated that children participating in the summer program did benefit and did make gains as a consequence of their participation. The McKenzie Group is preparing a report based on their study of summer school 1999 currently. When this report is available, it will be made public.

As to the question on safety, please refer to my previous answer.

Washington, DC: Before I make this comment I should let you know, I am a product of catholic schools. That being said, it bothers me that there is so much emphasis on crumbling schools. Honestly, so what? Every school I attended had crumbling facilities or no facilities at all compared to my brother's public school. The emphasis should be on teachers, solid academic programs, and parental involvment. Way down the list should be the facilities themselves. Thanks and best of luck this year.

Paul L. Vance: The District of Columbia's school system must have state-of-the-art facilities. Architectural design and planning in our city schools has not kept up with the changing demands of what constitutes a world-class education. Our schools must be equipped to have enhanced technology initiatives. Our schools must accommodate the laws concerning handicapped students and staff. Given the increasing high incidence of asthma with students, we must be certain that our HVAC systems are modernized and are clear of bacteria and other contaminants. The rather expensive matter of adhering to federal guidelines on asbestos abatement is a reality for us. While I agree that qualified teachers, dedicated administrators and involved parents are the keys to a successful education for every child in our school system, the physical environment in which we educate our children is likewise, most important. We must educate our children in a physically or aesthically attractive facility with all of the mandated regulations complied with. Thank you.

washingtonpost.com: Thank you, Dr. Vance, for joining us today.

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