Friday, October 24, 2014

Someone on 11th Street is serious about No Parking signs

No parking, seriously

I spotted this on 11th Street during Columbia Heights Day: it's an interesting collection of No Parking and other signs affixed to a light pole. There's a smattering of signs that look like official city signs, then some others that don't, and one says it's reserved for #1-107" whatever that means.

I wonder what the story is behind it? There's a handicapped symbol and what looks like a handicapped permit on it, so maybe the person who lives there is disabled and needs parking close to their house. If that's the case, I hope it works.

There's also some hand painted signs and I first saw it during Columbia Heights Day, where there were lots of artists and craftspeople, so it could also be some kind of folk art. I was surprised that it hadn't been removed, since it seems to be building on an existing city-placed sign, but it was affixed by sturdy metal fasteners.

Another interesting thing about 11th Street.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Where's all the Halloween decorations in the neighborhood?

Halloween on 13th

Columbia Heights, where's your Halloween spirit? The holiday is only about a week away, but I've seen bery few houses with any decorations up -- even simple stuff like a pumpkin or a spider web.

This is too bad. To me, Halloween is one of the most fun holidays, both for kids and for adults -- you get to dress up, get (or give) candy, and constantly be amused by the variety of costumes. (There are also often awesome parties for us grown-ups as well.)

Walking up to Annie's Ace Hardware this weekend, I spotted this great example near 13th and Kansas, and there are a smattering elsewhere, but there are also whole blocks without a thing on them.

It's not like the decorations aren't available -- Target and CVS both have inexpensive and easy to set up stuff like cobwebs you drape over bushes or fences, foam tombstones, plastic skeletons and the like, and Annie's even had leaf bags that look like Jack-o'-Lanterns. Plus everybody sells pumpkins in all ranges of sizes. I've tried to put up a bit on my place to try to get the neighbors to do it too -- no luck so far.

So let's get on it, folks. I think decorating is fun on its own, but at least do it to amuse some local kids.

It's almost like people don't know it's Halloween.


Do They Know It's Hallowe'en - N.A.P.H.I - The North American Halloween Prevention Initiative from D.A.D.D.Y on Vimeo.


New York Times praises Crane & Turtle, Petworth Citizen, others: "future of DC dining"

Brand new place on Upshur Street, the Petworth Citizen. It's loud. I think that's a good sign for a place that just opened a day or two ago.

It's always nice to hear something good about our area. The New York Times, in a recent article on the DC restaurant scene, singles out Petworth Citizen and Crane and Turtle for praise. The article starts like this:
WASHINGTON — On a scrubby block in a working-class neighborhood east of Rock Creek Park, plopped down among cheap hair salons, a dry cleaner and a sad-looking liquor store, the future of dining in Washington, D.C., has arrived.

On one side of the street is Petworth Citizen & Reading Room, a warm little haunt with schoolhouse-style light fixtures and Art Deco wallpaper, where old-fashioneds, complete with a ground sugar cube, are mixed for $4 at happy hour

On the other is Crane & Turtle, a sewing-box-size Asian-influenced spot where an adventurous bouillabaisse with pan-roasted cobia and a delicate maitake-mushroom tempura dish are cooked by a former sous-chef from the soon-to-close CityZen, one of the city’s most upscale restaurants.
The article's argument is that DC restaurants are getting good and are moving into residential neighborhoods, but that's not exactly accurate: Upshur Street, where those two spots are located, has long been a commercial strip, albeit small. And that's not much different from New York, where restaurants pop up on side streets. A much better example of this would be the new restaurants on 12th Street NE in Brookland like Brookland's Finest, but even that is still a commercial strip.

The article continues with the rest of the New York Times dining bingo -- expense account steakhouses and the like, and mentions places like Rose's Luxury and Little Serow that are definitely not in residential areas -- Barracks Row and the 17th Street strip, respectively. Kapnos, Mike Isabella's Greek spot at 14th and V (again, not residential) is also mentioned in the accompanying photo gallery.

In fact, I was going to make a joke that the article sounds like it belongs on the @NYTOnIt Twitter, but they beat me to it:

That said, it's nice to get a shout out for our area (and the restauranteurs behind Crane & Turtle, Petworth Citizen and Room 11) and of course, the Times did call 11th Street the "Hip Strip" back in 2011 when they wrote about Room 11, Wonderland and BloomBars. I do like Petworth Citizen, and Crane &Turtle sounds awesome, though I haven't had a chance to visit yet.

Photo by Michael K. Wilkinson

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Meet the Board of Education Candidates: Scott Simpson


Elections are coming up November 4th in DC, and one of the races being contested is the Ward 1 representative of the DC State Board of Education. In order to shine some light on a race that doesn't get a lot of press, but is very important to local parents, I'm interviewing the four candidates for the board: David Do, Lillian Perdomo, Laura Wilson Phelan, E. Gail Anderson Holness and Scott Simpson.
So far we've heard from Laura Wilson Phelan and Lillian Perdomo, and David Do -- today is Scott Simpson. E. Gail Anderson Holness didn't respond, so you won't be seeing her answers. My questions are in bold, his answers after.


Why are you running? 

I’m running because it is way past time for a pragmatic civil rights advocate to have a leadership role in setting our city’s educational agenda. Our schools are making progress for some students, but we continue to leave our low-income students, immigrant students, and student with disabilities behind.  

I’m a professional civil rights advocate at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. I fight for educational equity issues at the state and national level that D.C. is lagging behind on, including fair funding and resources for low-income students, special education reform, access to science and math programs for girls, and more equal distribution of qualified teachers. 

Today, these disparities define our education system, and I can be a fresh voice for pragmatic change.

How would you explain the role of the State Board of Education?

The State Board is the only elected leadership our city has to guide and oversee education in our city. When the office is used appropriately, it can be the conscience for our city’s education system. It has oversight and approval responsibilities over our city’s plan to narrow achievement gaps and our policies to reduce truancy, certify teachers, engage parents, set graduation requirements, and much more.  It also houses the Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education and the Chief Student Advocate, which are imperative offices that work directly with schools to ensure they are adequately serving students.  

Are there any major changes you'd propose for the Board itself?

We don’t need sweeping reforms to the State Board; we need tactical, pragmatic, and bold leadership to help it find its voice and assert its role as the elected conscience of our city’s education system. The State Board is a very young office that’s only been in existence for a few years. Electing a policy advocate like me can help the State Board grow into its potential as a leader and equal partner in improving our education system.  

Tell us your thoughts on the redistricting process, both the most recent and how it should be done in the future.

If it were up to me, we would have channeled all of the rancor over school quality into a useful discussion on how to better educate students instead of how we draw the lines. But the administration’s process for reviewing the boundaries exhibited extraordinarily high levels of community engagement, and the results show for Ward One.  

There are a lot of very good things in the boundary review proposal for Ward One.  The boundaries for Bancroft and Oyster-Adams now include more of our students. There will be two newly built middle schools, including a dual language middle school, that Ward One students will attend. And we preserve our feeder patterns into prestigious Deal Middle School and Wilson High School.

We should honor the input of parents that led to this plan by accepting the results and moving on to a discussion of improving educational opportunities at every school.

What's the biggest problem DC schools face?

We continue to exclude our most vulnerable students from the progress in our schools. Our system is still largely defined by its disparities in resources, treatment, and access to opportunities.  Students with disabilities, immigrants, low-income students, and students of color all lag behind in achievement, graduation rates, health, and just about every indicator of progress.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. D.C. can be a leader in addressing the disparities that exist here and across the country. We have the political consensus, the resources, and the talent; what we need is the will and leadership to get us there. That’s what I bring to the table.

How did you get interested in running for the board, and do you have children in DC public schools?

The State Board is the place where a civil rights policy advocate can make a real difference in our city.  Being a parent is certainly not a prerequisite for caring about equality or our schools and, as we’ve seen time and again from education leaders who do not have kids of their own, I know I’m the best candidate to help us move our city forward. I’m the only candidate who has the energy and dedication, the passion, the relationships, and the skills to push for an inclusive education agenda that works for all students.

Where can people go for more information about your campaign?

People can learn about me and my positions on my website at http://www.simpsonforschools.org. People can also call and email me directly at (202) 735-1984 and scott@simpsonforschools.org

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Neighborhood cleanup this Saturday: sign up and meet your neighbors!


I really like neighborhood cleanups -- you get out, get some exercise, make the neighborhood look nicer and meet your neighbors. And there's an opportunity this Saturday for one, organized by Slate Properties real estate agent Alex Khachaturian and the DC Department of Public Works Helping Hand Neighborhood Clean-up Program.

See all the details above -- RSVP to Alex: alex(at)slatepropertiesdc.com

Monday, October 20, 2014

Little Coco's Italian restaurant from El Chucho folks coming to former Rib Pit Lounge at 14th and Randolph



This is awesome. A few months ago, I wrote that the Rib Pit and Rib Pit Lounge at 14th and Randolph were for sale. And now we know the tenant coming to the Lounge space: Little Coco's, an Italian restaurant from Jackie Greenbaum and Gordon Banks, who are behind El Chucho, Bar Charley on 18th Street and Jackie's/Sidecar in Silver Spring.

Talking to the Post, the duo described it as an Italian version of El Chucho, which sounds great to me. It's a small space, about 70 seats total split between inside and outside, and will feature pizza, antipasti and other Italian dishes. Pizzas may include olive-oil poached tuna and artichokes, snails and garlic, and butternut squash with pear and taleggio, a type of Italian cheese. Sounds amazing.

And like El Chucho and their other spots, there will be a good selection of drinks: frozen negronis, shaved ice in warmer months, affordable wine and Italian beer. They're looking at a Spring opening.

I asked Jackie for some more info, and here's what she had to say: 
Yep, will be awesome pizza to start. Entrees and homemade pastas to follow after we get on our feet (another tiny space like Chucho:) the floorplan is very similar to Chucho too with most of the seating on the second floor (part indoor, part outdoor). ETA for opening is spring 
We're really excited about it. Our chef's been working on dough recipes like a madman, coming along really nicely!

Columbia Heights Day recap: good times, great turnout

Big crowd I realized I forgot to write about Columbia Heights Day, which was Sunday, October 11. Despite the rain, there was a really good turnout, even up until the end.

I went by around 4 pm and explored 11th Street, where there were lots of vendors -- local businesses like Room 11 and Paisley Fig, Red Rocks, Meridian Pint; craftspeople and artisans; food vendors from outside the neighborhood and tons of folks running for office. Among others, I saw booths for mayoral candidates David Catania and Muriel Bowser, Board of Education candidates David Do, Laura Wilson Phelan and Scott Simpson, and at-large council candidate Eugene Puryear.

There was also a bouncy castle for kids, a tricycle race for adults officiated by Wonderland co-owner Rose Donna, and a stage at 11th and Kenyon. By the time I arrived, the petting zoo at the Tubman School field had packed up, but there were still lots of people out, which was awesome to see.

Then after it started to wind up, I spent some time on the Wonderland patio while they showed ET on the big screen in the Tubman School field.

In all, a lot of fun. What did you think? Here's a few pictures I snapped.

Meet the Board of Education candidates: David Do


Elections are coming up November 4th in DC, and one of the races being contested is the Ward 1 representative of the DC State Board of Education. In order to shine some light on a race that doesn't get a lot of press, but is very important to local parents, I'm interviewing the four candidates for the board: David Do, Lillian Perdomo, Laura Wilson Phelan, E. Gail Anderson Holness and Scott Simpson. 
So far we've heard from Laura Wilson Phelan and Lillian Perdomo, and today is David Do. My questions are in bold, his answers after.

NCH: Why are you running? 

DD: I decided to run for the Ward 1 Member of the State Board of Education because it was an opportunity to bring my background and life experience to Ward 1 students who are struggling to succeed in our schools. My parents were refugees of the Vietnam War and came to the U.S. with nothing. My family lived in poverty. Today, many of our kids in Ward 1 are still living in poverty. I want to bring that perspective to the board and make sure that every child has access to a good quality education. 

I am also running because of the encouragement and support of our community and neighborhood parents. The encouragement came because of my tireless work and tremendous accomplishments at Bruce Monroe at Park View Elementary, the Park View Recreation Center, and our community as a whole. I will bring the same record of accomplishment and energy to the Board of Education.

Finally, tests like the DC CAS said I was basic or below proficient, the SAT said I should have never went to college, and my first semester of college grades put me on the verge of academic probation. But, I never let the possibility of failure hold me back. What changed in my academic career was a mentor. My introductory economics professor helped me develop my interest in economics. Once I discovered my talent and interest in economics, I exceled tremendously and graduated from college with honors and received the University’s Legacy Award. Tests should never be the end all and be all of education. Tests can help with accessing where our children are and be used a good diagnostic tool to help teachers identify problem areas. On the other hand, high-stakes testing has led to less collaboration and incentivized cheating in our schools. We need reform that everyone can respect.

Finally, I have the experience and results to make sure that we have a strong advocate on the school board. Here are some of the things that I have accomplished:
  • Fought for safety improvements for our school-aged children including a signaled crosswalk for E.L. Haynes Public Charter School on Georgia Avenue.
  • Volunteered at Bruce Monroe @ Park View Elementary for three years and seeing it improve dramatically. In recent months we have seen an influx of new parents and the school has received a lot of praise.
  • Mentored two high-school seniors including a young lady from Ward 1 who will be graduating from Penn State University this spring. I made sure that they had the resources to succeed by providing a variety of workshops to get them prepared for college and employment.
  • Tutored a first-grader who was below reading level at a DC public school and raised him to the appropriate reading level.
  • I currently serve as a teaching assistant at the University of Maryland, College Park. I have taught undergraduate students a course titled, “Planning for an Elderly Community.”
  • Served as Director of Academic Affairs at the University of California, Merced, where I was an advocate for our students. I got the Fellowship and Undergraduate Research Symposium (FURS) Act funded. This program allowed students to present their research across the country. I also funded tutoring services, stress relief events, and dinner programs for students.
I have been an education advocate and would be a strong voice for Ward 1 on the Board of Education.

NCH: How would you explain the role of the State Board of Education?

DD: The Board of Education has a variety of roles in setting state standards for education. How I describe the role of the school board to parents and community members is that it sets the vision for our school system. It works on high school graduation requirements, federal education standards through the Elementary Secondary Education Act, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top, the implementation of education standards like the Common Core State Standards, the types of primary and supplemental education models to use, teacher accreditation and credentialing, parent involvement standards, and many other important functions. The Board provides an overarching vision for our school system. The implementation of this vision will require a strong advocate; I have been an advocate with proven results. I will be the advocate Ward 1 needs on the school board. 

There are also a variety of committees that members are responsible for. I want to be a part of the Parental and Home Engagement Committee on the State Board of Education. It is a committee that I personally feel will best suit my background and experience. There is a lot of research to support the benefits of family engagement in our schools. That is why I will work within my role on the Board of Education to consider all point of views in establishing an effective and implementable plan for parental and home engagement for our schools.

NCH: Are there any major changes you'd propose for the Board itself?

DD: I want to bring my experience working for our local neighborhood school Bruce Monroe @ Park View Elementary to the board. We have seen tremendous improvements when different groups work together to create a collaborative and community approach to improving education. A top-down approach where collaboration was not part of the equation has not worked in the last seven years of corporate education reform. We need to take a different tack to education reform. I will advocate for a more supportive and respectful process that includes all stakeholders.

Moreover, I will also work to bring more democratic control to the Board of Education. I would strongly advocate for the Board to have oversight of the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE). This oversight will bring much needed transparency to OSSE’s operations and give Ward 1 a stronger voice in advocating for education policy.

NCH: Tell us your thoughts on the redistricting process, both the most recent and how it should be done in the future.

DD: The school boundaries have been implemented by Mayor Gray, they will start the next school year. There are both positives and negatives about the plan. The chief positive for our feeder patterns is that there is predictability in where we send our children. Previously, an elementary school would feed into multiple middle and high schools providing unpredictability for parents. The patterns are now predictable. For example, my neighborhood school Bruce Monroe @ Park View Elementary will feed into the proposed new MacFarland Middle School, and then into the new Roosevelt High School. This gives parents the opportunity to know where their children will be attending middle and high school. It will also allow parents to work together to improve the middle and high schools. Previously, the elementary school may have fed into multiple middle and high schools providing very little predictability. Another benefit is that feeder patterns for Bancroft will stay intact. This is the predictability that parents and I have been advocating for. Also, for the first time Oyster-Adams Education Campus will incorporate some neighborhoods of Adams Morgan that should have been party of the school’s boundary for a very long time. This critical issue has been important to neighborhood residents and it is exciting for parents and community members to receive what they have been working towards for many years.

Unfortunately, there have been concerns especially about non-bilingual schools feeding into the Columbia Heights Education Campus where as many as 80% of courses are taught in both English and Spanish. There are concerns that schools like H.D. Cooke which is an IB school will not have prepared our students sufficiently for a bilingual education. 

Overall, the boundary plan is a step in the right direction. But there needs to be more efforts in improving overall school quality including middle and high school. We must also make sure that our minority and impoverished students have the right conditions to succeed but at the same time give all of our students the resources to develop and expand their education, skills, and special talents.

NCH: What's the biggest problem DC schools face?

DD: The biggest problem that we face is the number of our children who are homeless or living below the poverty line. When our children are thinking about where they will sleep and eat they are not thinking about education. When our children are not getting the appropriate medical care they are falling behind. In Ward 1, every one of our traditional elementary schools are Title I schools. This means that in each of our schools we have over 35% of our kids living in poverty. This number is likely to be much higher.

As someone who grew up in poverty I understand that wrap-around medical services, good prenatal care for every woman, nutrition programs, and early intervention programs are all key in improving the overall educational success of our children. 

We have failed to see that poverty aversely affects our most vulnerable students. We must provide a strong social safety for our students and make sure they have the medical services to succeed academically. Non-profits like Mary's Center that work with our public schools are invaluable. Mary's Center provides mobile medical facilities that offers hearing, eye, and dental services for every child. Often times families with less resources are unable to provide this medical care for their children. Mary's Center offers these services free of charge and allows them to address issues earlier so that all children are on the same level playing field when they are learning.  I will work to strengthen these partnerships on the school board. 

DCPS also has a good early intervention program, there have been several parents that I have talked to who have taken advantage of the program. Physicians are trained to recognize cognitive and development issues early on so that the child receives the necessary help from DCPS to catch up with their peers. There have been issues with children transitioning from early intervention to pre-school, this will be something I will look at when elected to the board of education. I am a big proponent of starting from the beginning. If we can fix a problem earlier then we will have fixed chronic issues that may follow a student throughout their education. We must allow our public schools to work with partners to provide the medical and early intervention services so that all of our children can succeed.

We cannot stop there. We also need to make sure that our schools have a rich, balanced, and full curriculum so that all students are challenged academically. I will advocate for reading and math, but also a healthy curriculum that includes world languages, the arts, music, geography, civics, and physical education. This will keep our children interested in our school system and attract families that value these additional programs.  

NCH: How did you get interested in running for the board, and do you have children in DC public schools?

DD: I got interested in running for the board of education because like many of our kids in Ward 1, I lived in poverty. I was an English Language Learner and a daily recipient of free and reduced meals. Many of our kids are still facing poverty today. I was also encouraged to run the campaign by parents who saw my hard work in improving our neighborhood schools, mentoring our children, and fighting for our community. They believe that I would be the right advocate for the school board. 

Despite not having kids in the school system I have volunteered at Bruce Monroe @ Park View Elementary for over three years. I have also mentored children and been an active part of the public education system. I did everything that was necessary to fulfill my duties as a community member and make sure that our neighborhood school was a great learning environment for all children. I have worked in our school system and want to continue working for our schools on the board of education.

NCH: Where can people go for more information about your campaign?

DD: I am running a campaign on accessibility and communication. Anyone can reach me directly by phone at 202-709-9278

You can also email me at david@davidforwardone.com. Please also visit my website at http://www.DavidforWardOne.com

Friday, October 17, 2014

Meet the Board of Education candidates: Lillian Perdomo

Elections are coming up November 4th in DC, and one of the races being contested is the Ward 1 representative of the DC State Board of Education. In order to shine some light on a race that doesn't get a lot of press, but is very important to local parents, I'm interviewing the four candidates for the board: David Do, Lillian Perdomo, Laura Wilson Phelan, E. Gail Anderson Holness and Scott Simpson. 
Yesterday was Laura Wilson Phelan, today is Lillian Perdomo. My questions are in bold, her answers after.
Why are you running?
Aside from my unshakeable belief that our students have a fundamental right to attend quality schools, my decision to run for the DC State Board of Education is driven by a strong conviction that it is morally wrong that so many of our students are not reaching their full potential. I know that Ward One students have immense potential regardless of their background. In addition, I am uniquely qualified to take on this task because of my first-hand long-term knowledge of the school system-both its strengths and weaknesses- as a parent, an educator, and as an advocate on behalf of children and their parents. I also find encouragement in knowing that the majority of us constituents are fed up with the status quo, and that we are at a turning point, for which we all must come together to do what it takes for Better Schools and Student Success.
I experienced firsthand the challenges that our communities face- to be assured access to a quality education. My various perspectives include over 25 years of community organizing and advocating for DC children and families, including 9 years as an educational not-for-profit executive, five years as an educator in Ward One public schools, a parent, a PTA co-chair, and now, also, a grandparent of a Pre-K student. This past summer I coordinated the afterschool, Summer Arts Program at Bruce Monroe E. S.
How would you explain the role of the State Board of Education?
I explain the State Board of Education (SBOE) role as an educational advisor to the State Superintendent of Education, on setting statewide educational standards and state level policies, including those governing special, academic, vocational, charter and other schools; state objectives; and state regulations proposed by the Mayor or the State Superintendent of Education. The SBOE also convenes stakeholders (parents, educators, students, politicians and community) to work together on, community issues, needs, and desires, and advocates for equitable and meaningful practices to meet educational needs of Ward One students. The State Board is also responsible for approving a varied and wide-ranging set of policies that include very straight forward processes, such as approving residency verification rules, to approving statewide educational standards on what students must learn and are able to do in every grade level and in every subject area. SBOE is responsible for approving: high school graduation requirements; teacher licensing and certification rules; policies to foster parental involvement; approval of the categories and format of the District of Columbia's annual "statewide" accountability "report card" that presents the results of federally mandated
student tests; advising the State Superintendent of Education on policy and legislation, if asked to do so. All of this information can be found at www.sboe.dc.gov.
Are there any major changes you would propose to the Board itself?
The oversight responsibilities of the State Board of Education must be strengthened. Federal and State mandates such as Title One, English Language Learning requirements and other areas must be overseen not only by the Board of Education, but by the State Education Agency. In government, I feel strongly, that we must have checks and balances not only for the public schools, but for the public charter schools as well.
Tell us your thoughts on the redistricting process, both the most recent and how it should be done in the future.
The new school boundary plan aims to increase predictability for school acceptance and reduce concentrated areas of lower performing schools in underserved neighborhoods. While the new plan seems to be a more equitable approach to school zoning, it is understandable that parents are unnerved about what the re-zoning means for their children’s education. However, the proposed roll out plan is a phased approached, allowing students 3rd grade and above to remain in their current schools and attend the high schools they were originally intended to attend, as well as their younger siblings. This approach will help families and neighborhoods to adjust over several years to the new boundaries. I look forward to working with Ward One parents to come together in an effort to promote the improvement of all our Ward One schools, so that when their children come of age to be part of the new boundary system, all schools are ready to deliver high quality education to all students attending. The new boundary system is missing a much needed charter and public school coordination of school location.
What’s the biggest problem DC schools face?
Since I am running for Education Board representative for Ward One, I will respond for Ward One. Ward One is comprised of 85% low income minority populations; 47% African American and 47% Hispanic/Latino. The primary issue facing our Ward One students is not achieving proficiency in reading and math skills. The 2014 DC literacy rates, while already low, have fallen since 2009 among both African-American students (from 41% to 39% proficient) and students learning English as a second language (from 47% to 36% proficient). As educators we know that learning takes many forms, therefore we must research and apply educational methodology that appeals to and is effective for those most at risk. We must also provide supportive education programs and wrap around services to help students reach their full potential and assist families to better support their children.
How did you get interested in running for the board, and do you have children in DC public schools?
I have always been interested in education, especially in advocating for the right to attend a quality school for students to receive a quality education. I have over 25 years of community organizing and advocating for DC children and families, including 9 years as an educational not-for-profit executive and five years as an educator in Ward One public schools. This past summer I coordinated the afterschool, Summer Arts Program at Bruce Monroe E. S. I am a parent of a DCPC graduate, a student that attends a DC public school and serve as a PTA co-chair. This fall I became a grandparent of a Pre-K student. Running for State Board Representative for Ward One means that I have an opportunity to work with and advocate for students and families to improve Ward One Schools so that each child, regardless of economic background has access to a quality education and supportive school run programs.
Where can people go to get more information about your campaign?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Check out this music video filmed in Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant

Here's a good music video of a cool song, shot in our area.

The other day, local resident Tony Azios sent me this video he shot mostly in Columbia Heights of the song "The Ghosts Are Dancing" by MOLO, a British band.

There are some places you may recognize in the video, and some you may not, like alleys, rooftop views and more. It's a very well done video and and I really like the song too -- chill and relaxed, sort of like Lykke Li, Junior Boys or Little Dragon.

Check it out:

 
The Ghosts Are Dancing ~ MOLO from Tony Azios on Vimeo.

Here's more from Tony on the video:
- I'm a local aspiring filmmaker, living in Mount Pleasant. I recently graduated with an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University, with a focus on Documentary Production. 
- Most of my video work is in either marketing or documentary, but I've always loved the more liberal, abstract approach to narrative and rich platform for creative visual environments that music video provides. So, wanting to try my hand at a music video, I asked a buddy living in London whose band has seen some recent success there if I could film a video for a song of his that was being released in Europe in May 2014. This video is the result. 
- The idea for the video was to follow the lonely, wandering journey of a living ghost - a young woman alive, but disconnected from the living by her own deep sadness. A solitary, emotional satellite stuck between two worlds, she is lost in the ether of a decrepit ghost town, searching for something she will never find. It's only tangentially related to the song's lyrics (again, I like the music video medium's permissiveness with narrative and linearity), but does attempt to capture the mood and setting I felt the music take me to. 
- Much of it was shot in the Columbia Heights / Mount Pleasant / Lanier Heights area, such as in the alleyway behind Cercilia's Restaurant on the corner of Mount Pleasant Street and Irving Street NW. Much of it was also shot from my Irving Street rooftop, like the time-lapse of the steeple of the National Memorial Baptist Church. 
- This was a collaborative effort in the neighborhood. All four of my Mount Pleasant housemates helped in various talent and production capacities.
The alley scooter shots remind me of Mopedlords, the video series about post-apocalyptic moped gangs my friends shot in the neighborhood a few years ago.

This is also a good time to remind folks of my Bands in the Neighborhood series, where I talk with local musical acts. If you have a neighborhood band, email me! newcolumbiaheights[at]gmail(dot)com!

Meet the Board of Education candidates: Laura Wilson Phelan


Elections are coming up November 4th in DC, and one of the races being contested is the Ward 1 representative of the DC State Board of Education. In order to shine some light on a race that doesn't get a lot of press, but is very important to local parents, I'm interviewing the four candidates for the board: David Do, Lilian Perdomo, Laura Wilson Phelan, E. Gail Anderson Holness and Scott Simpson. 

First up is Laura Wilson Phelan. My questions are in bold, her answers after.

Why are you running? 
As a parent, former teacher, and lifelong education advocate, I understand first-hand the challenges facing our parents, teachers, school leaders and students as we work to create the best possible schools for our children.

I have four-year-old twin daughters, Grace and Lily, who attend DC schools. I understand the anxiety of negotiating the city’s lottery system and the difficult choices parents have to make when choosing the best possible education for their children.

I started my education career as a bilingual middle school teacher in one of our nation’s toughest schools. I have experienced directly the impact of district policies on educational outcomes for students. As a teacher, I often wished my elected officials had been classroom teachers themselves so that they could better understand the actual impact of their decisions on students, teachers and school leadership.

As a lifelong education advocate, I witnessed the incredible progress that occurs when families and teachers partner with one another to help students learn. I have led the start up and growth of an education non-profit that focuses on building leadership in education and helping students get the support they need to be successful in life. Today, I am the chief operating officer of a DC non-profit that coaches teachers and principals on how to create strong relationships with families at 30 schools across the city, including four here in Ward 1.

And as a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Mt. Pleasant and member of the Local School Advisory Team at Bancroft Elementary, I know how to bring communities together to solve problems.

I am running for school board to bring all those experiences together to improve Ward 1 schools. Our schools have made many improvements, but we still have a ways to go to provide an excellent education for all. I have a vision and plan for how to tap the tremendous potential of our families, community members, and educators, working with elected officials to make rapid progress on the issues facing Ward 1 schools.

How would you explain the role of the State Board of Education?

The formal role of the State Board is to advise the State Superintendent of Education on educational matters such as state standards and policies. The board is also responsible for approving state-level policies such as graduation requirements and state academic standards. I believe the representative to the Board from Ward 1, as an elected official related to educational matters, should bring together our community in order to strengthen our schools. I have a plan to do this. Over the past few months, I have been building an alliance of families and community members who want to work to strengthen our public schools. As Board Member, I would bring together these individuals and work with OUR principals on ways that they can contribute meaningfully to schools improvement.

Are there any major changes you'd propose for the Board itself?
Not at this time.

Tell us your thoughts on the redistricting process, both the most recent and how it should be done in the future.

As a parent, I empathize with families who feel that the school boundary plan does not improve their educational options in the city. I recognize that not all Ward 1 families benefit from the new boundary plan, and I commit to working with those families unhappy with the plan to identify strong options for their children. At the same time, I believe that the predictive feeder patterns that the plan presents enables families to invest in their child’s school long before he/she attends it.  As a former teacher and current member of the advisory team at Bancroft, my experience has been that deeper community engagement in our schools plays a significant role in strengthening them. I believe this plan in the longer-term will help improve our schools in Ward 1 and across the city for the following reasons.

  • The plan allows for pre-school aged three- and four-year-old students to attend their in-boundary school by right (not lottery), if the school is Title I, which includes all schools except Oyster-Adams in Ward 1. This change will strengthen in-boundary attendance of neighborhood schools.
  • The plan provides a predictive feeder pattern for all families and provides a dual-language option for families enrolled in dual-language schools, which allows students to master two languages. Studies have shown learning more than one language augments brain activity and learning. 
  • The plan calls for the opening of two new middle schools that will serve Ward 1 families – one at the Shaw Middle School site and one at the MacFarland site – and phases out grades 6-8 programming in elementary schools so that the middle schools have programs focused specifically on the learning needs of this age group.
  • The plan allows for continuation of some out-of-boundary placements, which provides families unsatisfied with their in-boundary option an opportunity to lottery in to another school.
  • The plan enables distribution of “at-risk” students across our traditional and charter school system by designating 25% of available lottery seats to this population. Studies show that when students with significant extra needs make up the entire population of a school ill-equipped to handle such needs, it is very difficult for that school to improve quickly.  However, when schools include students with diverse needs and strengths, the outcomes for all students who attend that school improve.
  • The plan recommends the development of specialized and selective programs in every high school to meet the diverse needs of all of our students.
  • The plan recommends various adjustments to our transit programs to meet the needs of students who ride Metro to school.
What's the biggest problem DC schools face?


Families shouldn’t have to play the lottery for their child to get a quality education in DC. We must increase the supply of schools that meet the needs of all students – both those who struggle and those who are advanced. I will apply my experience as a teacher, community leader and parent to bring our community together to help Ward 1 schools meet the academic and social needs of every child. I will do this by:

  • Working with principals to develop community-based school strategies that set goals for the school and identify the resources to meet them.
  • Applying my experience as a parent and community leader to build an active alliance of community members and parents who give their time and resources to strengthen our schools in alignment with the principal’s plan.
  • Advocating for the hiring of new principals one year before the reopening of Shaw Middle School and MacFarland Middle School. This “planning year” will allow the principals to listen to the ideas of future students and their parents before needing to focus on the daily operations of the schools.
  • Building on promising practices of Deal Middle School, such as offering intensive literacy support for struggling students and diverse extra-curricular activities that help students find their passion, curb truancy, and build their love of learning.
  • Working with principals to organize monthly tours for prospective students and their parents of our elementary, middle and high schools that include visits to classes and the opportunity to talk with school leadership.
  • Working with our education leaders to coordinate DCPS and charter school planning so that charter schools that provide similar offerings as traditional public schools do not open across the street from one another.
  • Creating a Ward 1 Education Council that includes both PTA leadership and the voices of community members.
  • Building on my teaching experience and in collaboration with my colleagues to revisit our high school graduation standards so that they measure what a student has learned instead of the time spent in class.
How did you get interested in running for the board, and do you have children in DC public schools?

I grew up in poverty as one of 13 children. My father instilled in us a sense that we could accomplish anything we set our minds to AND with a strong work ethic. He also ensured that we went to great public schools, which set me up for success in college and later in life.

I am very grateful for the fortune of my upbringing and have devoted my life to ensuring that others whose circumstances are less fortunate have equal opportunities in life.

I started my career as a bilingual middle school teacher in one of our nation’s toughest schools and went on to teach high school in the Peace Corps and adult education to recent immigrants. After earning my master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School, I worked in the executive and legislative branches of our federal government to ensure our tax dollars were well-spent to produce meaningful outcomes for those most in need. I have led the start up and growth of an education non-profit that focuses on building leadership in education and helping students get the support they need to be successful in life. Today, I am the chief operating officer of a DC non-profit that coaches teachers and principals on how to create strong relationships with families at 30 schools across the city, including four here in Ward 1.

Beyond my professional credentials, I have demonstrated my personal investment in our public schools and the Ward 1 community. I served as an ANC commissioner in Mt. Pleasant where I helped secure repairs to a neighborhood alley and improved bike safety. I currently serve on the Local School Advisory Team for Bancroft Elementary and played a leading role in developing a community-driven five-year plan to improve results for students. I also serve on the board of Thrive DC in Ward 1, which serves homeless individuals and families.

I have four-year-old twin daughters, Grace and Lily, who attend DC schools, and I understand the anxiety of negotiating the city’s lottery system and the difficult choices parents have to make when choosing the best possible education for their children.

All of these experiences have provided me with deep knowledge of the needs of children in our schools to make informed policy decisions on the State Board. I understand first-hand the challenges facing our parents, teachers, school leaders and students and will not need to climb a steep learning curve to begin making progress on the issues facing Ward 1 schools. I have seen the need for a unifier of our community around education and have seen the power of what can be accomplished when a community comes together to support a school. I would like to see this type of support across all of our schools as one important way to strengthen them so that all kids receive an excellent education.

Where can people go for more information about your campaign?

I welcome all thoughts and questions. Please see my website:www.lauradcschoolboard.com for further information, and feel free to email me atlauradcschoolboard@gmail.com.