The controversy over the use of Central Intelligence Agency employees as tutors in the mathematics and science program at Ballou High School flared up when the D.C. Board of Education held a community meeting in Anacostia last week.
The presence of the tutors was made public by Ballou teachers two weeks ago, but last Wednesday's meeting marked the first time the parents of students at Ballou and other community residents had a chance to discuss the issue with the school board.
Their reaction was mixed:
"I was aware of the program at Ballou. I am very pleased that we have the extra help for our children," said Kethlee Holly, a Ward 8 resident.
"I haven't heard anyone complain about what the children are beign taught: all I hear is that people are concerned about the presence of 'agents' in the school.
"We're not talking about agents. We're talking about technicians who was helping out children," she said. "We're talking about enhacing their education."
Emily Washington, who has lived in Ward 8 fo 12 years and teacher in the math-science program at Ballou said she "had some grave concern about the program."
Washington said that the CIA tutors had been in the building weeks before most of teh teacher own time as volunteers," she said.
Wilbert Williams, who had a daughter in the math-science program, said that he was pleased overall with the program, but asked the board to "find out just how the program got started and what they are actually helping the kids learn."
The discussion of the tutorial program dominiated the meeting - the last community meeting the board will hold this school year.
At the beginning of the meeting, dhairman Julius Hobson Jr. said he supported the tutorial program. But as speaker after speaker got up to ask questions about the program, Hobson agreed that the board needed to know more about it.
Nearly all of the people who addressed the issue - even those who supported the program - asked the school board to determine whether the CIA employees were at the school as part of their official duties or whether they were volunteer tutors on their own time: how many there were; what they were actually teaching; whose permission they had to be in the school, and whether they will be back when school resumes in the fall.
The meeting, which was held at Friendship Elementary School at Livingston Road and South Capitol Street, attracted about 60 people.
Five members of the school board and school superintendent Vincent Reed listened to 15 witnesses, half of whom talked about the tutorial program. The remaining speakers discussed problems dealing with Ward 8 schools or citywide school issues.
Preference was given to the speakers from the ward.
The cummunity meetings have been held regularly since 1972. Each year in October the board begins a round of monthly meetings beginning in Ward 1 and ending in Ward 8 in June, according to Dwight Cropp, executive secretary of the school board.
Theresa Jones, who has a daughter who will be going into kidergarten in the fall, complained that she hasn't been able to get a copy of teh curriculum for kindergarten.
"I've tried every information number for the schools and nobody can tell me how I can get a copy of the kidergarten curriculum.
"I need to know what I can expect my daughter to know by the time she goes into kindergarten and what she is expected to know when she come out.
"And so far, there isn't a soul in the school system who can tell me that," Mrs. Jones said.
She asked Reed if he could get her a copy of the curriculum. After some bantering with her, Reed agreed to obtain a copy and mail it to her.
O.V. Johnson, anothe Ward 8 resident, was concerned about the new housing developments which are being built in the area and the effect they will have on school which he said are filled to capacity now.
He said he was particularly concerned about the proposed building of the 86-unit Southern Hills townhouses at Southern Avenue and Bonino Street SE.
"There are no records to show that anyone from the schools has gone on record with any kind of statement about the effects of new families from those townhouses in the schools in the area," Johnson said.
Johnson urged the board to look into the matter before the city's zoning board approves the construction of the townhouses.
Elethia campbell, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner from 8C, expressed concern about the lack of a school nurse for the 3,000 students enrolled at Ballou.
Particia Brown, and English teacher at Ballou, told the board that three English classes at Ballou have been without regular teachers since January.
"One class has had five different substitute teachers since the first of the year," she said.
"This is just one example of what is happening to the students who don't happen to be getting the special treatment that the students in the math-science program are getting," she said.
Barbara King, president of the Birney Elementary school PTA, said her school has been asking for help with some problems for five years now. Among the things they need are paint for the inside of the building and fencing around the school yard.