Ward 6 community members and faculty members from Jefferson Academy discuss the issues facing SW schools. (Photo: Meg Brinckman)

On October 1st, DC Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright, Ward 6 BOE Representative Monica Warren-Jones and Ward 2 BOE Representative Mary Lord welcomed parents, grandparents, care-givers, teachers, counselors and other community members to the Amidon-Bowen Multipurpose Room. The program, A Community Conversation, which has been conducted citywide, addresses the question, “How can we make sure that all children in DC have access to a quality education?”  The purpose is to provide input and recommendation on how to provide quality education for all DC children.

The Ward 6 table expressed concerns that parents are not sending their children to our local, neighborhood schools based on perceptions that carry over from the past and often do not represent the situation today. The staff members from Jefferson Academy, which is in its second year of implementing the International Baccalaureate Program for Middle Schools, has begun a program of home visitations to help parents understand the progress and change being made at the school.

The renovation of Amidon-Bowen provides a welcoming environment for students and parents. Jefferson has not yet been upgraded and its “classic school building” appearance does not represent, in the minds of many, the innovative program that is going on inside.

Several examples were given of the support given to the two local schools in Southwest by a wide range of community groups and organizations. Just recently the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, one of the Community Partners, raised money at a FANtastic March II fun walk/run to supply Amidon-Bowen classrooms with special reading materials. Harbour Square, a 4th Street residence, has raised money for uniforms for Amidon-Bowen students. These are only two examples of the continuing support from our SW community.

Amidon-Bowen parents who attended the discussion expressed satisfaction with the performance of teachers and with the “Tools of the Mind” program being implemented in the Early Childhood classrooms. (It was noted that the gains by these students will not begin to show in test scores until they are tested in the 3rd grade.)

Although every school has its unique strengths and needs, the concerns of Ward 6/Southwest parents and community members do not differ greatly from the needs of the rest of the areas in DC. Strong community and parent involvement, welcoming environment, good teachers, diverse opportunities for children, resources and wrap-around services – all are ingredients for quality schools in schools in every part of the District.

By Meg Brinckman,  a longtime contributor to The Southwester on education issues.

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