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Saturday, December 30, 2006

DON'T LET THE FEDERAL CITY COUNCIL CONTROL OUR CITY!

DON'T LET THE FEDERAL CITY COUNCIL CONTROL OUR CITY! COME TO THESE IMPORTANT EVENTS:Inauguration Day Press Conference to Claim Fenty'sVictory as Our Own SATURDAY, JANUARY 6, 6 pm DC Convention Center, 801Mt. Vernon PlaceThe Federal City Council has pulled the strings ofmayors from Marion Barry to Tony Williams, pushing itsagenda of displacement,gentrification andprivatization. Before even taking office Adrian Fenty has started working behind the scenes with theFCC. We elected Mayor-elect Fenty, not the FCC! Come help us getour people's agenda back on the table!(PLEASE NOTE THE DATE CHANGE FOR THIS EVENT TO MATCHTHE NEW DATE OF FENTY'S INAUGURAL BALL.) "Your Economy Is Hurting Our Community"Thursday, January 25, 6:30 pmBethlehem Baptist Church, 2458 MLK Jr Ave SE (acrossfrom the Anacostia metro station)Teach-In, with speakers from affordable housing,health care, public education, and public libraries onhow the Federal City Council has affected theirparticular struggle, and their demands for the newadministration and practical vision for ourcommunities."No More Golden Rule" Demonstration to protest FCChead Terry Golden's hold on our elected officialsTuesday, February 13, 5:30 pm For the location contact: info@saveourschoolsdc.org or202-521-0377 For more information: www.saveourschoolsdc.org, info@saveourschoolsdc.org, 202-521-0377

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Katrina Factor

by Michael Tisserand -The Nation In September 2005 electoral threats blossomed throughoutpost-flood New Orleans, painted on abandonedrefrigerators and scrawled across boarded windows. Amongthe most prominent was the line that appeared on a NewOrleans grocery store, right by the location whererescuers dropped off survivors from the Lower NinthWard. "Next time we are to vote for somebody who cares,"it read.More than a year later, we now enjoy the fullopportunity to see if that somebody might be a Democrat.Yet early signs are not promising. During the first national campaign since Katrina, few speeches made bycandidates of either party addressed the ongoing struggles of evacuees and the perilous condition of anAmerican city, or the critical issues of race, povertyand the environment that were so horrifically illustrated when the dirty water started rising. Yes, ahandful of midterm campaigners did remind voters aboutjust what happened in New Orleans, among them KeithEllison, elected to the House from Minnesota's FifthDistrict, who promised that the country will no longertolerate "victims of natural disasters being left on therooftops to rot." Ron Dellums, the mayor-elect ofOakland, told a meeting of African-American journaliststhat "Katrina was a metaphor for everything wrong in urban America." But most seemed to follow the scriptthat Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, laid out in an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune.Katrina didn't show up in ads, he acknowledged, but itcame up in conversations on the campaign trail. It's as if this year, Katrina was the subliminal issue. Either that, or it served mainly as cement shoes for thePresident. "It's about Katrina; it's about the conductof the war.... This Administration is marked by gross incompetence," said new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her post election wrap-up chat with The News Hour'sMargaret Warner. For New Orleans, the most dangerous outcome of the midterms would be if voters receive the message thatKatrina was a terrible thing, a Republican blunder, butit's now over. Nothing could be further from the truth.The mental health infrastructure in New Orleans remains shattered, depression is a local epidemic and the suicide rate has officially tripled. Incredibly, someresidents of public housing are still unable to entertheir own homes, while the Department of Housing andUrban Development moves to demolish more than 5,000public housing units. Unchecked insurance costs are preventing others from selling, buying or repairing property. Federal dollars are flowing to corporate bailouts and disaster profiteers, not to affected citizens, revealed an August analysis by CorpWatch, a San Francisco-based organization that previously investigated profiteering in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Stafford Act and other federal regulations are resulting in inhumane living conditions in evacuee shelter parks, including the notorious "Renaissance Village" in the town of Baker, near Baton Rouge, where entertainer Rosie O'Donnell spent the past year battling red tape just to establish a community center for the park's thousands of inhabitants. "Even in prisons, they have running tracks," O'Donnell told Nightline. Another sign that Katrina is an ongoing disaster: Too often the only recourse for flood victims and activist groups is to go to court. In November a federal judge ordered the Bush Administration to continue to provide housing to evacuees, calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency's notification system "Kafkaesque"--only the latest indication that Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff should be sent down the Rumsfeld road for his mishandling of Katrina. Democratic leaders must now loudly make the case for post-Katrina reconstruction they didn't make during the midterms. They should start by immediately launching anindependent accounting of what went wrong with the Army Corps of Engineers' levees. So far, we have had one investigation by the Corps itself, and several independent investigations that seriously challenge the Corps's own reckoning. As Levees.org founder Sandy Rosenthal has pointed out, the real danger is that the Corps's faulty study will become the blueprint for repairs. A year ago, when Nevada's Harry Reid was theSenate minority leader, he stated unequivocally that theDemocratic Party supported Category 5 levee protection."The President seems to have shelved his grand plans for reconstruction," he said in November 2005. Now Reid is in a better place to roll out those plans himself. As the new Congress presses for levee investigation and funding, it should also prioritize restoration of coastal Louisiana's wetlands. Without the wetlands buffer, levees aren't worth the dirt and concrete it takes to build them. An August study by a coalition of national and Louisiana environmental organizations,titled One Year After Katrina: Louisiana Still a Sitting Duck, calls on Congress to convene hearings immediately on the problem of the vanishing American coastline, and to complete all necessary wetlands projects within ten years. Coastline restoration could be partially funded by provisions in the Domenici-Landrieu revenue-sharing measure, which would provide a steady stream of dollars to Louisiana from Gulf oil drilling. (The Dems must insure that this bill is not, however, transformed intoa ticket to expand drilling elsewhere.) In addition, the new majority must heed environmentalists' calls to close the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, the ill-considered shipping channel that helped destroy wetlands and acts as a live wire for hurricane surges.The new Congress should also take on the Stafford Act'srequirements that FEMA-sponsored housing be temporary. Such regulations don't anticipate the massive, long-term displacement of hundreds of thousands of citizens caused by disasters like Katrina. The National Urban LeaguePolicy Institute's report Katrina: One Year Later spellsout other needed reforms, including the rehabbing ofFEMA, flood insurance overhaul and Army Corps reform.Meanwhile, the Children's Defense Fund has proposed aDisaster Relief Medicaid bill to address the healthneeds of families after a disaster. This, too, should bea Democratic issue. Finally, the destruction of public housing in New Orleans must be immediately halted, until the quality of the current and proposed housing, and the effect on exiled New Orleans communities, can be fully considered. More than anything, Democrats must set themselves apart by keeping their promises to Katrina survivors. At anAugust press conference in New Orleans, party leaders pledged that the first 100 hours of the new Congress would include bills to assist New Orleans by streamlining insurance, creating more affordable housing options and restoring the coast. But Pelosi's recentlyreleased "New Direction for America" didn't include one mention of post-Katrina needs. Such omissions offer cold comfort to New Orleanians who wonder if some leaders have stopped thinking of their home as an American city at all. [Michael Tisserand's book Sugarcane Academy: How a NewOrleans Teacher and His Storm-Struck Students Created aSchool to Remember will be published by Harcourt in July2007.]

Monday, December 25, 2006

Beware of China-Africa Economic Ties, Mbeki Warns

Beware of China-Africa Economic Ties, Mbeki Warns By Austine Odo African countries have been warned against a new possible form of colonization resulting from China's heavy investment thrusts into several parts of Africa. South African President, Thabo Mbeki who gave the warning, says Africa must guard against falling into a "colonial relationship" with China. His comments come as fast-growing China is continuing to increase its push for raw materials across Africa. China is currently pushing heavy investments into Africa, many Chinese firms are handling several projects in Nigeria, including those in energy, telecommunications and the railway. But Mr Mbeki was quoted by the BBC yesterday as saying that African nations must strive for their relationship with China to be based on equal trade. Last month, China hosted an Africa summit attended by 50 African leaders including Mr Mbeki. His warning about the risk of a colonial relationship with China was given to a student congress in Cape Town. Mr Mbeki said that if Africa just exported raw materials to China while importing Chinese manufactured goo-ds, the African continent could be "condemned to underdevelopment" . He said that this would simply mean "a replication" of Africa's historical relationship with its former colonial powers. China, which expects annual trade with Africa to total $100bn (£53bn) by 2010, has long said that it wants its growing trade relationship with Africa to equally benefit both sides. In addition to its growing trade with Africa, China has promised $5bn (£2.5bn) in loans and credit for African nations. However, critics have said China is too happy to support repressive African regimes. Mr Mbeki's latest comments appear to be a hardening of his position on the subject. On a recent visit to Beijing he said he understood that the Chinese leadership recognised Africa's concerns about its increasing trade relationship with China, and wanted to help lift the continent out of poverty. (With BBC News)

King Baba Kamau at the Roots Activity Learning Center?

On Saturday, January 6, 2007, from 2:30pm-5:00pm, at
Roots Activity Learning Center, 6222 North Capitol
Street, NW, the friends, Roots family and Community
family of King Baba Kamau will be honoring his legacy,
works, words and deeds through cultural presentations
and spoken words by students and alumni, and a special
guest lecturer.

At the program we will also launch the "Kamau Robinson
Leadership Institute Lecture Series" with the first
speaker, renowned scholar/historian, Runoko Rashidi.
The leadership lectures are tailored specifically for
youth and will be designed to enhance their leadership
skills. They will feature guest speakers, both
individuals and organizations, who will present varied
aspects of leadership development for Black youth. It
will be tailored to Roots Middle School students,
present and alumni, who wish to participate. The Kamau
Robinson Leadership Lecture Series will be free of
charge and will take place once monthly on a Friday,
4:00pm to 5:30 pm at Roots. We will work closely with
the school's administration, particularly the Middle
School teachers, students and parents in presenting
guest lecturers. At the conclusion of each year's
lecture series, each student will receive a
certificate of completion from the Institute.

Several members of the King BaBa Kamau & Queen Mother
James Div. 332 of the UNIA-ACL,, teachers, parents and
ADACI are coordinating the first event on Saturday,
January 6th, 2007.

We welcome your participation and support.

Light refreshments will be served at the conclusion of
the event.

We will also be taking up a goodwill collection, the
proceeds of which will go towards a small honorarium
for the guest lecturer.

For further information, please contact Mama Eurica
Axum (parent) at (202) 230-1086.

Thank you and we look forward to seeing you all on
Saturday, January 6, 2007.

PEACE AND BLESSINGS

Who Is EdBuild?

The following is a letter from a concerned DCPS parent who has kept a watchful eye on policy decisions impacting DC public schools over the years. Ms. Arlotta is the co-founder of Save Our Schools. In her letter to Mayor-elect Fenty, she questions the DCPS Board of Education's decision to give EdBuild, a newly established organization, oversight of the $3 billion fund to , renovate and modernize more than one-hundred crumbling DC public schools. Dear Mr. Fenty: Please turn your attention to the Board of Education tomorrow when contracts given to EdBuild to manage property, renovate buildings and provide teacher training are voted on. This contract was pushed through in the last month with hardly any notice to an organization that has barely been in existence for a year. All of their efforts are predicated on co-location with charter schools, which is extremely problematic, to say the least. While I am sure Neil Albert, as the former Executive Director of EdBuild, has briefed you on this so-called partnership, I find little to be in favor of such an action. A partnership should be just that - a partnership- but in this instance, it looks like we're just paying EdBuild out of our precious modernization funds and not really reaping much in benefit for our city's school children. Please let me know if you are in favor of the EdBuild takeover. Sincerely, Gina Arlotto, DCPS Parent Save Our Schools Co-founder

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Launch of the Save Our (Public) Schools Website

Announcing the Launch of the Save Our Schools Coalition website. Andrew The Save Our Schools (SOS) Coalition website is an incredible toolkit for both DC communities and other cities fighting the privatization of public schools. So, spread the word to all your networks! SOS has forged a powerful alliance with the "Accountablity Alliance," a growing coalition of activists and regular folks working for affordable housing, health care, public education, and public libraries. These organizations have acknowledged that they can no longer afford to work separately--and the mayoral election has provided them with opportunity and a chance to unite around common needs and visions and against a common target (greedy, gentrifying business interests, embodied by Terry Golden and his Federal City Council).

Here's what the coalitions have decided, and what they need to communicate to their growing networks and beyond, "We need to claim Adrian Fenty's victory as our own--his overwhelming landslide was a vote against the business-friendly development and gentrification of the Williams administration. But now that he's in, Adrian seems to be listening to Terry Golden and the Federal City Council....just like Williams and Marion Barry before him. Don't let the Federal City Council snatch away our victory. How much does the DC community knw about Tery Golden??? Let's remind Adrian Fenty why DC voters supported him and demand that he support DC voters and their communities, our children, and our right to a future in DC, (not the likes of Terry Golden, the profiteers and privatizers of public education. How many DC residents are aware that Terry Golden IS the the Federal City Council? How many DC residents are aware of the history of the Federal City Council (FCC) ?? To that end, we are planning three significant, inter-connected actions between now and February that will focus on exposing the Federal City Council's role in rampant gentrificiation, charter proliferation, library closures, etc. engaging and involving more residents in our work, and demanding that Fenty deliver the goods to people who are tired of benefits endlessly deferred.
Listing of major events below also include specific tasks by volunteers so far. We need your help, your neighbor's help, and your grandmother's help---so pass the word and tell folks to help hand out flyers and attend the events below:
#1
What:Innauguration Day Press Conference to Claim Fenty's Victory as Our Own,
When: Tuesday, January, 2, 6 pm
Where: DC Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place
We'll also be handing out "Who's Down with the FCC/You know, Fenty" Fact Sheets and advertising our next action, below
Room, 2548 University Pl NW, 7 pm)
#2
What: "Your Economy Is Hurting Our Community" Teach-In, with speakers from affordable housing, health care, public education, and public libraries on how the F. City Council has affected their particular struggle, and their demands for the new administration and practical vision for our communities
When: Thursday, January 25, 6:30 pm
Where: TBA In addition to a tutorial, this teach-in will build for the next event:
#3
What: "No More Golden Rule" Demonstration outside Terry Golden's Home
When: Tuesday, February 13, 6 pm
Where: 4869 Glenbrook Rd. NW

It is critical to get more folks involved--so please, make some personal phone calls. If you can get to an ANC, Civic Association, or church meeting between now and January 2nd, take flyers, fact sheets, and ask people to join efforts to Save Our Public Schools!

Sandinistas to Eradicate Illiteracy December 21, 2006, Prensa Latina http://www.plenglish.com/article.asp?ID=565180EE-B036-4F77-B058-09F0D0A0F9B2)&language=ENManagua The Sandinista government goal will be to eradicate illiteracy in Nicaragua, and for this purpose will use the Cuban teaching method (Yo Si Puedo), announced here future Education Minister Miguel de Castilla Wednesday. The Educator reported studies are underway to determine how many illiterate people are in the country, and "From those results, we will distribute the work," expressed the official. According to De Castilla, outgoing Education Minister support has not been particularly strong, but the project boosted bythe Popular Education Association Carlos Fonseca Amador will end 2006 with 70,000 people taught in 100 of the 153 Nicaraguan municipalities. He stressed the Cuban teaching method complies with the context of every single region of the country, and is totally apolitical. He also disclosed the promotion and recovery of public schools, which means total guarantee of free education in Nicaragua.

BLOOD DIAMONDS: Big on Carnage, Small on Insight

BLOOD DIAMONDS: Big on carnage, small on insight By Eugene Hawkins From Clarity Press Inc. Edward Zwick's film, Blood Diamonds, shocks the viewer with scenes of senseless carnage and violence, but it offers little insight into the sad and tragic civil war in Sierra Leone. The destitute West African country has endured centuries of enslavement and economic, social and political exploitation by European whites (the Portuguese, the Spanish,the British) and their corrupt local African cohorts in government.When insurrection finally broke out in 1991, the RevolutionaryUnited Front had a valid and just cause. The country's population was locked in poverty and underdevelopment while outsiders pillaged its rich natural resources, aided by the dominant local Lebanese trading community. While therevolutionary movement itself was ultimately corrupted by its ceaseless quest to control the diamond trade and its brutal tactics to achieve political power, the film's simplistic portrayal of the RUF as violent drug-crazed thugs and robot-like child soldiers discounts the legitimacy of the struggle and discredits its participants. Of equal importance and a central contradiction within the film itself is its duplicitous presentation of the so-called Kimberly Process, which seeks to trace raw diamonds from discovery down through the marketing process, in order to certify that they are not so-called "blood diamonds" -- those used to finance and fuel African insurrections. This just happens to correspond nicely to the diamond cartel's efforts to maintain high world prices by restricting supply. The Kimberly Process offers little to the poor and dispossessed majority of Sierra Leoneans and does nothing to respond to their developmental needs. Eugene Harkins is the author of Where Witch Birds Fly, a novel on the civil war in Sierra Leone _____________________________________________ Portside aims to provide material of interestto people on the left that will help them tointerpret the world and to change it.

Blood Diamond: A Film Review

Blood Diamond: A Film Review By Dr. Barbara Ransby, PhD December 21, 2006, Black Commentator http://www.blackcommentator.com/211/211_blood_diamond_ransby_ed_bd.html I went to this film with high expectations. It is touted as apart of the growing genre of socially conscious Hollywoodproductions that have a positive message. In this case themessage is that our frivolous attachment to the world's mostexpensive gems is one that fuels violence and friction indesperate and impoverished African countries like SierraLeone. That good message however, is loudly drowned out by themany bad ones. And the bad messages are not about thediamonds but about the people of Africa. I walked away fromthis movie with the thundering of non-stop explosions andgunfire still ringing in my head but feeling that I had justseen a dressed-up, high tech Tarzan flick with LeonardoDiCaprio as a modern-day Johnny Weissmuller. In scene afterscene the African population serves as backdrop for the mainstory about love and ambition involving two whiteprotagonists, a young liberal reporter (Jennifer Connely) anda tough ruthless diamond smuggler and former mercenary(DiCaprio). In a recent review in the New Yorker, David Denbyactually praised the movie because it did not make westerners(aka whites) feel guilty about the problems of Africa. That'sbecause it blames ruthless bloodthirsty black ‘rebels' whoprey upon helpless, voiceless black peasants.DiCaprio, a bitter racist who clings fondly to good old daysof pre-independence Zimbabwe, where he grew up, is the hero ofthe movie. He calls himself Rhodesian in open defiance ofblack majority rule that came with the end of the Apartheid-like system in Rhodesia (renamed Zimbabwe) in 1980. And in afit of rage he lashes out at his reluctant black collaborator,Djimon Hounsou, as a 'kaffir,' the African equivalent of then-word. His goal in life is to steal, swindle or otherwiseprocure enough diamonds to buy his way out of Africa, a placehe sees as God-forsaken and doomed. When there is no otherway out, he finally redeems himself in a gesture of generosityat the end.Of course, good fictional characters, like real people, arealways complex so I don't have an issue with Danny Archer,DiCaprio's character, and DiCaprio's acting is phenomenal.What is absolutely indefensible, however, is the simplisticone-dimensional portrayal of almost every single blackcharacter. Each and every one is either a blood-thirstymindless killer and pillager or a childlike noble savage andfeeble victim. The talented Hounsou is the later. He is castas hapless, helpless and clueless in the land of his birth.He is a big innocent good guy who would not know whether torun toward or away from the gunfire if DiCaprio did not pullhim in the right direction. OK, he is a rural fisherman soperhaps he would not know how to navigate the city streets ofSierra Leone's capital, but in the rugged terrain of thejungle he is equally naïve and perpetually confused. In aclassic scene that captures the contradictions of the movie,Hounsou puts his and DiCaprio's lives in danger by acting withthe impulse of a two-year old in the face of armed opponents.Moreover, there are no black women in Africa that utter morethan two sentences, either 'help me, help me,' as one is beingkidnapped or a proposition to offer sexual services to the'big white man who is all alone' in the city. There is noblack agency in this film, except for one school master whotries to rehabilitate child soldiers only to be shot by one ofthem five minutes after he appears on screen. Viewers areleft to conclude the age-old racist stereotype that Africa islost without European sympathy, know-how and might.This genre of film advertises itself as something more thanbanal entertainment. It promises to raise awareness andconsciousness about serious problems in the world. At the endof the credits there are a set of statistics that drive homethat the subject of the film is real and serious. Thenarrative and storyline, however, distorts more than itilluminates the real players involved. For every childsoldier and blood-thirsty rebel there are compassionate socialworkers and reformers, intellectuals, writers, and oppositionpoliticians. There are Africans who are tough and tender,savvy and sinister and the whole range of personalities andmotivations that we see in any other group. Among blacks inAfrica, 90% of the continent of sub-Saharan Africa, we seemore diversity than among the handful of whites. Hounsou'scharacter however does not show the intelligence andcreativity that so many Africans have exhibited in response toinhumane conditions. Real people who have fought to savetheir country from violence and internal chaos like humanrights activist FannyAnn Eddy who was tortured and killed in2004 for her outspoken actions on behalf of lesbians, gays andwomen. But that tradition of African self-help and self-determination does not appear in this movie. This producerand director, Edward Zwick could not somehow see beyond theone-dimensional types and simple binaries we have been fedthrough television for generations. After African Queen, TheConstant Gardener, the Interpreter, and now Blood Diamond, andwith the notable exception of Hotel Rwanda, when willHollywood be able to make a movie about Africa that actuallyacknowledges the full humanity of black African people?[BC Editorial Board member Dr. Barbara Ransby, PhD is anHistorian, writer, and longtime political activist. Dr. Ransbyis currently an associate professor at the University ofIllinois at Chicago in the Departments of African AmericanStudies and History.]

Help Save MLK Library

  1. Martin Luther King Memorial Library will not be turned into Condos and Strabucks by outgoing Mayor Tony Williams and lameduck Councilmembers. Without your support and lobby efforts this could not have been possible. This struggle will continue in the new year with the new council but hopefully logic and all positive options will be weighed before jumping to help developer buddies! The DC Council has twice rejected Mayor Anthony Williams proposed legislation to build a new central library at the old Convention Center site. This provides an opportunity to renovate and revitalize the larger and better located Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (MLK) and reinvest money in our neighborhood libraries. We urge Mayor-elect Adrian Fenty, the DC Council, and the DC Public Library Trustees to join us in holding public discussions on rehabilitating MLK.
    PETITION in brief:
    Whereas, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library (MLK) is:
    the only structure dedicated by the District of Columbia to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
    a landmark building, the only Mies van der Rohe structure in the District and his only stand-alone library,
    a building that was left incomplete when first built and can now be updated,
    a building subsequently neglected and allowed to deteriorate,
    a building that can be adapted for the needs of a 21st century library,
    a building that can be restored and redeveloped for less money than a new central library, with savings invested in the neighborhood libraries,
    a building located within 2 blocks of all 5 Metro lines,
    a building for which the public was not allowed to pursue discussions about renovation during “listening sessions” held by the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Libraries.
    Therefore we, the undersigned, petition for public consideration of options to renew MLK as the District’s central library.
    SIGN THE PETITION VIEW THE PETITIONSEE PUBLIC SIGNATURES
    Charter Signatories
    Committee of 100 of the Federal City
    DC Library Renaissance Project
    DC Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia
    Empower DC
    Literary Friends of DC Public Library
    Community Empowerment Operations
    THE PETITION: Whereas, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library (MLK) at 901 G Street, NW, in Washington, DC, is the District’s only memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and has served in that role since it opened in 1972;And whereas, the MLK library is the only example in the world of a library designed by acclaimed master modernist architect Mies van der Rohe;And whereas, it was designed expressly as a library, and the best use of restored buildings has almost always proven to be as originally intended;
    And whereas, the MLK building was never completed to the architect’s specifications; and the MLK building readily lends itself to rehabilitation;
    And whereas, it would cost less to restore, renovate and rehabilitate MLK than to build new according to the Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia;And whereas, MLK’s location within two blocks of all five District Metro lines is optimal for that of a central library that serves the city at large;
    And whereas, the people’s investment in MLK’s location 34 years ago has yielded a busy and prominent crossroads today;
    And whereas, a public discussion of the central library question has not been had because library listening sessions held by the Mayor’s Task Force on Libraries disallowed discussion of MLK in spite of citizen requests to do so;
    And whereas, members of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Libraries were told that a new library on the old convention center site was already decided, when it was not; and council members have been misled by Trustees and Mayor Williams to think that MLK cannot be renovated, when that is not the case;
    And whereas, the last eight years have seen the purposeful neglect of the MLK building by Mayor Williams and his appointed Board of Library Trustees in order to convince the staff and public that the building cannot be fixed instead of stewarding the building as their oath of office required;
    We, the undersigned, join the DC Library Renaissance Project and the Committee of 100 of the Federal City in calling for the preservation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library as the District’s central library, and do hereby call for an open and informed process of public consideration of options for the renovation and renewal of the historic MLK building as a library for the 21st Century.

Volunteers Needed for ANC Swearing-In Ceremony

Volunteers are needed for the ANC Swearing-In Ceremony at the Convention Center on Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 11:00 AM. (Ceremony is at 12:00 Noon)

Attire will be Black and White

Training for Volunteers will be on Saturday, December 30, 2006 at the Convention Center at 10 AM Detail of Room TBA

Call June Robinson, Manager, at the Vincent C. Gray Transition Office (202) 730 - 1515 or on her cell phone at (301) 728-2229

Parent Watch Forum on Mayoral Control with Parent and Community Representatives from Chicago and New York City

Parent Watch Forum on Mayoral Control with Parent and Community Representatives from Chicago and New York City

Mayor-elect Fenty’s interest in taking a greater role in the DC Public schools has sparked considerable controversy. Any change toward mayoral control of the public schools in DC would also be expected to change the way public school facilities are managed, maintained and modernized. Recent discussion at the December 13 Parent Watch Forum at Kelly Miller Middle School provided important insights from parent and community activists in Chicago and New York City who talked about their experiences with increased centralized municipal control of the school system. Parent Watch hopes to have a video of the session posted on the YouTube website soon.

Wanda Hopkins and Julie Woestehoff from Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) in Chicago talked about changes within the Chicago Public School System. After Mayor Daly was given control of the school system a decade ago there was a controversial series of school closings and initial brief upturn in test scores which have since proved disappointingly flat. A twelve page pamphlet titled “School Reform Chicago-Style” outlines PURE’s approach to more effective change and points to the importance of parental involvement and Local School Councils - - elected school governance bodies analogous to LSRTs (Local School Restructuring Teams) within DCPS. Other school districts such as Charlotte-Mecklenburg were suggested as more appropriate models for the District.

Leonie Haimson, a NYC public school parent and founder of Class Size Matters, a non-profit group based in New York City, along with Eugenia Simmons-Taylor and Monica Avuso, parent leaders from District 4 East Harlem and District 28 in Queens, talked about school reform after Mayor Bloomberg took over the public schools four years ago and appointed Joel Klein Chancellor. In her statement “Mayoral Control: Are We Better Off Now?”, Ms. Haimson described New York City’s school reorganization as very swift with a startling lack of either transparency or public input and very little to show in improved test scores or graduation rates.

For more information see http://www.classsizematters.org/washingtontrip.html and www.pureparents.org. Please see www.21csf.org in the Data Shop box for copies of “School Reform Chicago-style” and “Mayoral Control: Are We Better Off Now?”.

The booklet handed out at the Parents Watch meeting included sheets from their web site. Two of the links are:

http://www.pureparents.org/data/files/interactive.pdf Interactive versus didactic instruction

http://www.pureparents.org/data/files/LSCsimproveschools.pdf Local School Councils Improve Schools

New Luke Moore High School Opens

New Luke Moore High School Opens

Congratulations to Principal Reginald Elliot and the students, faculty and staff at Luke C. Moore Academy High School who moved into a modernized and expanded building in mid-October. Luke C. Moore is an historic school originally built in 1891 with additions in 1903 and now, 2006. It is near the Brookland Metro station at 1001 Monroe St., NE.

The new school is more than twice the size of the old one with a media center, cafeteria, auditorium and gymnasium. Where the old school was cramped with 225 students in 26,911 square feet, the modernized Luke Moore is already at capacity with 360 students in 65,530 square feet.

The school was in swing space for three years at the former Evans Middle School on East Capitol St. at the District’s far eastern corner. Enrollment growth during re-location is a testament to the strength of the school’s city-wide alternative education program.

DCPS Capital Improvement Plan and Budget

DCPS Capital Improvement Plan and Budget
(an excert from the 21st Century School newsletter)
DC law requires every city agency to submit a 6 year capital improvement plan/budget, typically referred to as a CIP, each fall. A CIP is essentially meant to be a detailed (i.e., facility-by-facility) 6-yr. capital spending and work plan for implementing an approved and longer range Master Facilities Plan (MFP).

DCPS administration released a truncated FY 2008 – 2013 CIP proposal in late November without specific project budgets. The proposal includes three different timeline options for implementing and completing the above mentioned MFP: 7, 10, or 15 years. The 7-year option appears to be considerably cheaper than the longer options ($2.7 billion, versus $2.9 billion for the 10-year and $3.6 billion for the 15-year), due to inflation and other factors, but it would also present a much greater management challenge for DCPS in terms of procurement, overseeing projects and their quality, and moving students around to accommodate construction. It would also require inordinately large funding allocations from the District for those few years.

The Board of Education held a public hearing on the newly proposed CIP on December 4th, and 21CSF presented testimony. Please visit the 21st Century Schools website at (www.21csf.org) on the publications page for this testimony. Hopefully, a detailed CIP will be available to the public soon. And as with the MFP, the Administration is continuing to revise the CIP.

Better Buildings: Better SchoolsIssue 39 (November/December 2006)
Monthly news on DC Public School facilities from the 21st Century School Fund (21CSF), a Washington DC based, nonprofit - working to build the public will and capacity to improve urban public school facilities. To subscribe/unsubscribe, please email: newsletter@21csf.org

Happy Holidays and thank you for your support of public education!

Contribute to Community Engagement in the Rebuilding of Public Schools in New Orleans Donate

This holiday season, please take a moment to think of the thousands of children in New Orleans and areas affected by Hurricane Katrina that still do not have access to adequate public school buildings.

Out of 124 public school buildings in the city:
32 school buildings sustained minor damages
74 buildings were badly or severely damaged and
18 school buildings were totally destroyed

This past year 21st CSF reached out to parents in New Orleans to see how we might help in rebuilding their public school facilities. Please join us in contributing to a new parent founded not-for-profit in New Orleans that is dedicated to eliminating deplorable shool building conditions for all public school children.

All 2006 contributions to the 21st Century School Fund will support parents working to reopen high quality public schools in New Orleans. To donate, please click above or visit www.21CSF.org

Master Facilities Plan – Update and 21CSF Concerns

The Master Facilities Plan (MFP) outlines how DCPS plans to allocate, use, and improve school buildings, offices, and other facilities to support high-quality teaching and learning in the District, and is also intended to follow the priorities laid out in the 2006 Master Education Plan approved by the Board of Education. The proposed MFP was released to the public this past September, and recommends:
(1) full-scale modernizations or school replacements;
(2) priorities for modernizing high schools and middle schools with most neighborhood elementary schools many years in the future;
(3) reducing DCPS inventory by an additional 2 million sq. ft. of space through closings and consolidations (1 million was eliminated this year); and
(4) four to six prekindergarten-8th grade demonstration schools.

21CSF has a number of concerns with the MFP that has been submitted to the Board of Education for approval:
There is no plan to address the current inadequacies, health and safety or other substandard conditions in schools;
The plan poorly aligns to educational requirements of schools, for example, there is no technology plan, secondary school boundaries are not coordinated with feeder patterns, and there are no educational enhancement priorities except as part of whole school modernization;
The enrollment projections are unsubstantiated;
It is a boiler plate plan, without the creativity that comes with working with local school communities who know their neighborhoods and schools; and
The swing space recommendations are premature and do not reflect individual local school engagement or planning required to make good decisions about project implementation.

Please see our website (www.21csf.org) in the publications section for our testimony.

The Administration is continuing to revise the MFP to reflect feedback, and a new version was to be submitted to the Board on December 18th. Public roundtables on this new version are tentatively scheduled for early January, and the Board will be deliberating at their Committee of the Whole meeting on January 10th.

Scholarship Opportunity for Single Moms

Scholarship Opportunity for Single Moms

If you know someone who may be interested pass it along. A full scholarship for a single mom; housing provided for mom and up to two kids.The Sister Thea Bowman Foundation has four scholarships for African-American single mothers and their child to attend the College of St. Mary in Omaha , Nebraska . The Foundation will grant $30,000.00 over aperiod of four years to the College of St. Mary on behalf of each student. In return the College of St. Mary will match that grant with an additional $24,000.The student must be an African-American single mother who has completed high school. She must be from low income housing. She must be able to gain admission to College of St. Mary . She need not be Catholic. Each student will have an African-American mentor during her course of study at the College of St. Mary . Each student will also have an African-American host family from Omaha who will also serve as mentor. Each mother may take up to two children with her to the College of St. Mary . The cut off age for thechild is nine. Each mother will live in a dorm with other single mothers and their children. This dorm has been especially renovated to accommodate mothers and their children. If interested, please contact Mary Lou Jennings
Executive Director of the Sister Thea Bowman Foundation
marylouj11@aol.

Charter Schools 'Not A Panacea,' report says A decade after their introduction in Florida, charter schools look more like traditional schools than engines of change, an education report said. BY TANIA deLUZURIAGAtdeluzuriaga@ miamiherald. com
Charter schools are filling a unique niche in the state's public school system, but their academic results don't differ much from those of traditional public schools, says a report issued Tuesday by the Florida Department of Education.
''The charter school movement continues to hold great promise for many students,'' says the report, which marks the 10-year anniversary of Florida's charter school movement. ``However, a decade of progress ! makes it clear that charter schools are not a panacea; they are not for everyone.''
More than 330 charter schools have opened across the state since 1996, when the Legislature authorized their creation, including 58 in Miami-Dade County and 48 in Broward County.
Today, Florida ranks third in the nation for number of charter schools operating and second in the nation for number of students enrolled in charter schools -- more than 92,000, and more than half are minorities.
''We said from the very beginning that charter schools would not become a white flight, upper-middle- class option for families to exit the school system,'' said former Education Commissioner Frank Brogan, who is now president of Florida Atlantic University.
ONE OF A KIND
Charter schools are schools that get public funding but are free from many of the other laws that dictate traditional public schools, allowing them to take a one-of-a-kind approach to teaching children.
''The original claims were that charters would be innovators,' ' said Henry Levin, who directs the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education. ``They were supposed to show public schools what to do.''
Though the report touts the opportunity for charter schools to experiment with new teaching methods and organizational structures, very little of that is being done in the real world, said Michael Bell, who oversees charter schools for the Miami-Dade school district.
''I think that what we're seeing is a clone of us,'' he said.
Part of the reason is that people's motives for opening charter schools have changed over time. While many charters sought to provide something different, several districts -- including Miami-Dade -- used charters as a way to alleviate overcrowding.
And with millions of dollars in state funds flowing to charter schools, for-profit companies sprung up to help ''manage'' charter schools, often costing schools hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. For example, Academica, South Florida's largest charter school management company, earns more than $1 million a year for managing schools in Miami-Dade.
When it comes to academic performance, state data show that charter schools and traditional public schools students are achieving at about the same level.
''Little to no difference is found in the average learning gains of charter school students and traditional public school students,'' the report says.
Traditional public school students have outperformed their charter school counterparts on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test since 2001, though the gap has recently narrowed.
''What is clear is that charters are not a revolutionary answer to the problem of lagging test scores, particularly for poor or minority students,'' Levin said.
SOME SUCCESS
But there have been success stories. Liberty City Charter School, with 100 percent minority students and 76 percent from homes below the poverty level, was given an ''A'' grade by the state last year. The knowledge that unsatisfied parents can vote with their feet pushes school officials to provide the best school possible, principal Katrina Wilson-Davis said.
''You know what happens when they don't like it? They walk out,'' she said. ``It forces us to constantly evaluate ourselves. Our livelihood depends on us having a satisfied base.''

Judge Scuttles Mayor's School Takeover Plan

Judge Scuttles Mayor's School Takeover Plan Howard Blume, Times Staff Writer A judge today nullified legislation giving MayorAntonio Villaraigosa substantial authority over theLos Angeles Unified School District, astunning setback to Villaraigosa' s plans -- already inprogress -- to assume direct control of dozens of Los Angeles schools.The mayor, at a news conference this afternoon, saidhe has instructed lawyers for the city to appeal theruling. He said he would also ask that the CaliforniaSupreme Court hear the appeal directly."We will not be set back," Villaraigosa said. He added: "We refuse to be deterred by the forces ofthe status quo." The ruling was a sweeping victory forthe school district and puts in question the mayor'seducation agenda, which was embodied in thelegislationbefore the court.Under Assembly Bill 1381, Villaraigosa would haveratified the hiring and firing of futuresuperintendents through a Council of Mayors that hewould have dominated. And he would have had directauthority over three low-performing high schools andthe elementary and middle schools that feedinto them.Judge Dzintra Janavs found the entire law defectiveand ordered public officials "to refrain fromenforcing or implementing" any part of it." The statute makes drastic changes in the local governance of the LAUSD, giving the mayor a role thatis unprecedented in California," she noted inher ruling, adding that the law "completely deprivesthe LAUSD governing board of any ability to control orinfluence the actions or decisions" in schoolsdirectly under the mayor's control. That was a primary goal of the legislation, but the judge rejected that intent as contrary to theCalifornia Constitution on numerous grounds.Fundamentally, she said, the Constitution forbidstransferring authority over schools to entitiesoutside the public school system. She cited a 1946 constitutional amendment that"specifically removed municipal authority over schooldistricts and appears to reflect thepeople's determination to separate municipal functionsfrom school functions due to the variety of conflictsthat arise between their respective interests." The mayor's side argued that the Legislature had broadauthority to designate the mayor, or anyone else, as avalid education agency to oversee schools. The judge disagreed, siding with the district'slawyers."The mayor of Los Angeles [and] the members of theCouncil of Mayors are not 'authorities' within thepublic school system or 'officers of the publicschools,' " Janavs wrote in a decision issuedmidafternoon. She also concluded that the new law violated the LosAngeles City Charter and the state Constitution byemasculating the school board's authority andby putting Villaraigosa in conflicting managementroles.School district officials were elated with the ruling,but measured in their reaction. "We're anxious to move forward," said district generalcounsel Kevin Reed, who helped argue the case lastweek. "We have believed from the day Mayor Villaraigosa wassworn in that it was important to work with him," Reedsaid. "We always thought this vehicle was the wrongway to do it. We continue to invite and look forwardto a true partnership with him."