Scores of education advocates crowded into a conference room at Judiciary Square on Wednesday to help Mayor-elect Muriel E. Bowser shape her to-do list for improving public education in the District.
Career training, adult literacy programs, school modernizations and improved discipline policies were among the priorities that parents, school leaders and community activists shared during the four-hour forum hosted by Bowser’s education transition committee.
“I’m here because when Mayor-elect Bowser released her education plan, there was no mention of adult education,” said Liam Ball, a teacher at Community College Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Ward 8 that offers career and job training. He requested more investment in programs to help adults with few high school credits or marketable skills. “Every month, more and more Washingtonians are left behind the incredible progress the city is making,” he said.
Lissa Rosenthal-Yoffe, director of the D.C. Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative, said she came to thank the mayor for her campaign pledge to support arts education.
More than 120 people signed up to speak; about half actually testified. The District’s mayor has unusual control over education in the city, and speakers had three minutes to make their pitches to the two co-chairs of Bowser’s education committee: Michela English, president and chief executive of Fight for Children; and Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University.
Some speakers recommended increasing “community schools” that offer more social services for families and children on-site. A Montessori school leader advocated for expanding Montessori programs citywide, and a Ward 7 parent asked for investment in language immersion programs east of the Anacostia River.
Some advocates asked for changes to discipline policies, including more restorative justice programs and District-wide regulations governing how and why students can be disciplined.
“We still get calls from parents of elementary kids who are up for expulsion,” said Timothy Riveria of Advocates for Justice and Education Inc.
A spokesman from the National Black Child Development Institute requested more investments in early childhood education starting with infants and toddlers. And a spokeswoman from Asian American Lead, another advocacy group, said that the needs of Asian Americans students often go unnoticed in the city.
Some speakers asked for more collaboration between charter and traditional public schools, particularly when it comes to locating new school programs and facilities.
Nancy Huvendick, the D.C. program director from the 21st Century School Fund, urged the incoming mayor to create a more transparent process for determining which schools will be renovated. She noted that although about half the schools have been modernized, the other half are only partially finished or have not been touched.
Terry Goings, a member of the alumni association at Coolidge High School, said the Northwest school is the last comprehensive high school to be modernized. He said that the school has rotated through eight principals since 2002 and that he wished the new leader could have a three-year contract to bring some stability.
The comments are to be assembled and given to the broader transition committee, which will prepare recommendations for the new mayor.
Other forums conducted by the mayor-elect’s transition teams during the past week include Health, Human Services and Homelessness; Housing; Education; Economic Development and Jobs; Arts and the Creative Economy; Open and Good Government and Full Democracy; and Transportation, Environment, Sustainability & Infrastructure.