I recently met with the principals of Dunbar High School and Emery Elementary School, both of which are located within 5C-02.
Dunbar principal Dr. Harriet Kargbo and I reached a concensus: the school and the community must work together for the mutual benefit of both. The quality of local schools impacts housing values and kids who aren't in school during classroom hours are not only truant but often end up getting into trouble, such as vandalism.
On the other hand, tutors from the community are needed (please contact me if you are interested in volunteering). Dunbar is being judged solely on the performance of its 10th graders, the only ones taking standardized tests designed to measure achievement by the entire school. SAT scores are lagging behind the national average, which affects college prospects and scholarship opportunities, regardless of what students have actually learned.
A 5c-02 resident is concerned that the recreational facility at Dunbar was closed to the community years ago, leaving the area without an outlet for children. Dr. Kargbo informed me that the facility exclusion was necessary in order to host the school's mandatory JROTC program (children may opt out at the behest of parents). She told me that JROTC is not necessarily about the military, but more about character and leadership.
I told Dr. Kargbo that JROTC was a great program, which probably very few people in the community were aware of, which led me to my next point-- Dunbar needs a website so that both the community and parents can be properly informed. Dr. Kargbo agreed, and a website is in the works. Currently, if one visits http://www.sportscombine.com/ and types in Dunbar, sports information is available but that's it.
Dunbar's most pressing need is something that many of us take for granted in our work life: walls. Dunbar High School is the only high school in D.C. that still has a building with the 1977 experiment of no classroom walls, only partitions. Imagine trying to listen to your teacher lecture on history while another teacher queries students on the other side of a partition about math problems. Dr. Kargbo led on a tour of the facility-- it is a nightmare for students with attention deficit disorder (who incidentally do have the opportunity to transfer to another school, but there is red tape). Dunbar is slated to get walls in 2009.
I also met with Emery Elementary School principal Ronald Taylor within the context of the "audit" of D.C. public schools currently being implemented by the D.C. organization D.C. Voice. The details of the meeting are confidential, but the gist is that Emery's needs are largely being met. Much of Emery's current favorable conditions are a result of Taylor's persistence and Emery's proximity to the DCPS central office.