EDUCATIONAL reform in the District will take a giant leap forward if city leaders agree to transfer operational control of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts to a collaborative project sponsored by the Ellington Fund, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and George Washington University. The Ellington School is already an important academic and artistic resource for the city. The new partnership, with its emphasis on innovative curricula and a new governance structure, should enrich arts education for future Ellington scholars and artists.
Though a public high school, Ellington's academic and artistic programs have already benefited from large sums of private money raised over the years by the private Ellington Fund. This year, however, the school's horizons broadened significantly when the Kennedy Center and GWU agreed to join with the fund to build up the school's programs and mission. The formal investment of human and financial resources by two respected institutions will enable Ellington to create the curricula, mentoring and internship programs--and to assemble the faculty and staff--essential to a world-class arts school.
The partnership cannot become a reality without the support of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, Mayor Williams, his Office of Contracting and Procurement and the D.C. Council. Assuming agreement on the major features of the new school structure, Mrs. Ackerman, the mayor and council should say yes. As envisioned by its planners, Ellington would remain a District public school, would continue to meet or exceed established high school requirements and would be open to all auditioning D.C. students. In exchange, the new school would have autonomy over hiring, finances and curricula and would produce its own governance structure. This new Ellington model is a pilot project in partnership schools. It is the kind of unique educational innovation a reform-minded superintendent, mayor and council should welcome.