Real estate broker; president, D.C. Board of Education, chairman of Finance Committee; founder and former executive director, D.C. Street Academy; former board chairman, McKendree United Methodist Church; former chairman, United Methodist Commission on Housing; lay speaker, United Methodist Church; board member, McKendree Day Care Center; former board member, Shiloh Family Life Center; board member, WETA TV; has served as consultant to universities on public education.
1. At a retreat in April, the Board of Education and the administration produced 170 recommendations to improve secondary schools. Our primary recommendation was to improve the caliber of secondary school principals by creating a Principal Training Academy to train principals and provide help for those having difficulties. A Secondary School Improvement Program was instituted to improve the curriculum; review and update the competencies required for graduation; provide more counseling for students; address problems of drug abuse, teen-age pregnancy and truancy; make repairs and improvements to school buildings and grounds; provide current textbooks; ensure adequate resource materials; offer a well-rounded program of extracurricular activities and improve the academic atmosphere at every secondary school in the city. We have already begun to see increases in standardized scores at Jefferson, Kelly Miller, Browne and Evans junior high schools and at Coolidge, Anacostia and McKinley high schools.
2. I do not believe economic background is a barrier to learning. A student from any economic background can excel and compete academically. The factors that bear on a person's ability to learn include the expectations one has of the benefits of learning, the environment in which a person lives, learns and works, and the degree to which a person's natural abilities are challenged, stimulated and developed. Our system must make every effort to expose students from low-income backgrounds to opportunities available in our society. Throughout history, persons from low economic status have risen to middle- and upper-income status through hard work, drive and tenacity. I believe many public school students will live better lives as a result of better preparation in our schools. In competing against children from other backgrounds, students must develop a strong self-image and confidence to compete and attempt what they have not tried before. I believe our system is capable of developing this self-confidence.
3. The most important factor in improving the school system at this time is leadership. Without it, our entire school system will flounder in meaningless debate. Positive leadership is necessary to move from where we are to where we wish to be. Second, our school system needs strong management. The resources we have at our disposal must be managed properly so that our personnel can maximize their ability to teach and our students' opportunity to learn. Third, the school system can be improved most rapidly through its personnel. There is no substitute for a teacher who is dedicated, energetic and committed. Good teachers, principals and other personnel must be identified, recruited and retained if we are to build upon a strong foundation.