City Desk

Fenty Mum on Kids’ DCPS Schooling

This morning, the Washington Post reported that at least one of Mayor Adrian Fenty's twin sons attended class at Lafayette Elementary School this morning—thus, it seems, making good on a vintage campaign promise from Fenty to have his kids attend D.C. Public Schools.

Yet Fenty, strangely, did not go out of his way to advertise that fact at a press conference early this morning. In fact, Hizzoner was quite terse in addressing questions about his kids, saying he would not discuss the matter out of respect for their "private life." This evening, mayoral spokesperson Mafara Hobson doubled down on her boss' silence, releasing this statement: "This morning Mayor Fenty and his wife, Michelle, officially enrolled their boys in DC Public Schools. Out of respect for the boys' privacy, he has declined to comment further."

But the fact is that his desire for privacy is caught up in a sticky political situation: Lafayette isn't the Fenty family's neighborhood school—that would be the somewhat lower performing West Elementary, at 14th and Farragut Streets NW. And the question is, how did the Fenty kids come to be enrolled at high-achieving Lafayette, across Rock Creek Park?

The Hobson comment above came in response to a request from LL for an accounting of the process by which the Fenty kid(s) ended up enrolled at Lafayette.

To be sure, there is a process: Plenty of District parents every year enter a lottery to get their kids out of poorly performing neighborhood schools and into better schools that are often across town—especially those, like Lafayette, that are west of Rock Creek Park. This involves identifying as many as five potential schools, filling out an application early in the year, submitting the paperwork, and crossing your fingers. The process is highly competitive, with few slots available in the most desirable schools for transfer students (including Lafayette).

Fenty very well could have entered that lottery and won. The chances, however, are slim. It is unclear whether Lafayette even accepted any transfer students this year.

Another transfer possibility exists if a student has special needs. In that case, each student has an "individualized education plan" which spells out what those needs are. DCPS then places the student in a location appropriate to those needs. More dramatic cases that DCPS is not equipped to handle are famously placed in private facilities at public expense.

There is one additional option: Chancellor Michelle Rhee, pursuant to an emergency rulemaking published in January, has the power to allow a transfer when it "would be in the best interests of the student" and "would promote the overall interests of the school system."

Make no mistake: In the absence of an explanation from Fenty, the questions and theories are already flying. And they will continue to fly among a constituency that Fenty is counting on for political support: parents in demand of better schools.

If Fenty did in fact have his kids placed in non-neighborhood schools through extraordinary means, not only would such a move have the lousy appearance of taking unfair advantage of his office, it would hardly constitute a signal of confidence to the hundreds of parents thinking about taking a chance on their local DCPS school—as recent advertisements have suggested they do.

"Go public and get a great free education," the ads urge. But what if you're not the mayor?

Iris Toyer, a DCPS parent and schools activist who helped draft the out-of-boundary lottery process as part of a 2003 task force, says that Fenty's silence thus far is telling: "If he went though the process, I would say, 'Yes, I did.' To me, by not saying anything, you are making a statement."

Toyer points out that much as Fenty might insists that this is about his children, and thus off limits as a matter of public concern, this really isn't about the kids: "The question is," she says, "did the mayor get special treatment because he was the mayor?"

"I understand not wanting to talk the children," she adds, "but what they want to talk about is the process. Did you follow the same process?"

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  • Fister

    The Mayor would be digging his political grave if there was someone out there who was a viable opponent.

  • Truth Hurts

    Not defending Fenty here, but generally I think society ought to lay off minor kids of elected officials. Full disclosure: I'm a parent of minor kids.

  • Leave This One Alone

    Be happy and let this one go! Do it for the kids and know that if he spoke to if he was in the lottery or not it might lead to confirmation of where the kids are attending school and this is so not an issue. Ms. Toyer- The MAYOR getting special treatment because he is MAYOR? Everyone in a high ranking position gets special treatment in some way and it might have been warranted in this case.

  • Chris

    Yeah! Leave him alone! He's a politician who deserves special treatment. He's an elite member of society and his kids deserve a better education than your kids. Everyone in a high ranking position gets special treatment in some way and it is warranted in this case. His kids are special and yours are not. Period.

    Full disclosure: I am not a parent of minor kids and make less money than the mayor. And have less power than him. But still naively believe because we are residents of Washington DC that we should be treated equally.


    Many tax paying residents followed the process, missed work etc....why should he not have to do the same???
    Also what if he didn't follow the process and his kids bumped some other children whose family DID follow the process.

  • DC Native

    This is typical Fenty. He bends the rules in order to accomodate his need, with no sign of public obligation to his office. Then when questioned about it, acts like a deer caught in the headlights and uses his tool Nickles to write him a free pass. This is Bull. No one is picking on his kids or putting a spotlight on them. They are merely calling attention to the fact that the Mayor, once again, used his office and influence to curtail the rules of a society he's supposed to govern. If we should take our cues from our leaders, then hell, this would be an even more frucked up place to live in. Let me see who's gonna tell me to leave the City now...

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  • dcblackdaddy

    Children of Fenty are pawns for this dudes collapses and the elite in him will get a free pass unitl he is voted out of office or resigns ASAP.
    Fenty the Fucky is a shucky ducky.

  • Jamie

    I'm the first one to call out Fenty on BS, but seriously? Get a life on this one.

    Do you really expect that Mayor to send his kids to school at whatever awful school is in his neighborhood?

    He's the mayor. We should be glad he's even sending them to DC public school at all. He's not a regular citizen. He has a security entourage. He's the damn mayor. I suppose you're one of those people who will criticize Obama for the same? Get real.

    There are hundreds of things to get up in arms about as far as Fenty goes. This is not one of them.

  • Summer

    Lets face it..I think it is true that yes mayor Fenty probably did get special treatment. Whether they are children of political figures or not all DCPS childern deserve equal treatment in the lottery system, and that is simply the point some concernced parents are trying to express.

    I believe in protecting the privacy of all minor children, however,the concern is Fenty's actions and DCPS allowing him to get special treatment. By Mayor Fenty explaining how he got his children so quickly into a difficult out of boundary school is not violating his children's privacy. It appears this is just many of his avoiding tactics to not answer quesions from the media and residents..."Mayor Fenty, Did you use the lottery system to get your children into this school?" It is a simple yes or no answer that we will probably never get a straight answer on.

    I also think there are more important issues regarding..mayor fenty that need more attention.
    Not showing up such as Red Line Metro train victims funerals?

  • James

    This parent of a young child in an expensive (to me) neighborhood with bad schools is infuriated. Fix them so your kids can go to a good public school, Adrian....don't skirt the lottery system. Will DC continue to be only for the very rich, the childless, and those without the economic ability to move? The quality of the schools hold the answer. This is a horrible example of using executive privilege for your own personal gain, Adrian.

  • Marc

    How about doing a little reporting?

    You say, "It is unclear whether Lafayette even accepted any transfer students this year." Have you tried making a few phone calls? I'm guessing this info is publicly available.

    I'm not a huge Fenty fan, but I think this is a non-issue, for the following reasons:

    1) Lafayette actually did add a 4th grade class this year, which would immediately open up about 25 new slots

    2) From what I understand, there is much higher demand from out-of-boundary applicants for the lower grades - kindergarten, etc. The numbers go down as you go up in grade

    3) If the Fentys had moved from their predominantly African-American neighborhood in Crestwood to Chevy Chase, which I'm sure they have the means to do if they wish, he'd no doubt be accused by some of moving to a white neighborhood

    4) He's the freakin' mayor. He ought to be able to send his kids to whatever public school he wants. Sorry, this isn't a Marxist country where we all need to make sure we have the exact same limited opportunities. If you want to send your kid to Lafayette, then go run for mayor and win. Otherwise shut up. Life isn't fair.

    5) A lot of these people complaining about lack of fairness act like they themselves have no control over where they live or what school their kid goes to. If you want to send your kid to Lafayette badly enough, then make the changes in your own life that would make that happen, or accept responsibility for the choices you made in the past that are preventing that from happening. Find a way to move into a neighborhood with a better elementary school. Cancel your $100/month cell phone and $100/month+ cable bill if necessary, get a 2nd job, stay married so you're in a dual-income household, sell your car and use public transportation. Run for mayor and win! Otherwise, stop complaining. The Lafayette neighborhood is largely filled with hard-working, dual-income, two-parent households with dedicated parents who get involved in their kids' lives and education and won't accept an inferior school for their children.

  • Marc

    I want to self-correct something in my earlier post - it doesn't look like another 4th grade class was added, I was wrong about that.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    In your typical kingdom, the king does what he wants. In your typical democracy with equal opportunity & equal treatment of all before the law, no one gets special treatment.

    DC is not a democracy & does not have equal treatment of all before the law. Hence, it is not surprising that the people in power - call them kings or commissars, a dictator is a dictator is a dictator - do whatever the fuck they want. Accordingly, mayors and city council members do whatever the fuck they want, & the people who live here either are too ignorant or apathetic to do anything or are like Marc, basically royalists who support any kind of dictator.

    Either we have equal treatment of ALL citizens or we don't. If we don't, then it's not a true democracy.

  • DC Native

    Jamie and Marc aren't considering the deeper implications of what this means. Think about what he's claim to have done with the DCPS system. All of the Bull, residents of the District have to take from this egomaniac, all the claims of great things he's done for the City, yet he can't even send his kids to a typical DC public school. All of the monies expended on some cause that was suppose to be the equalizer for kids in the City, yet he has so little faith in it himself, that he chooses to use his position and power to overstep the normal rules and send his kids to a school that probably did not need any of the changes Supreme Chancellor Rhee put into place. Get real people, this is a scandal because it hits at the heart of Fenty's platform. He's a hypocrite...

  • Marc

    Angry Al - it's already nowhere near a "true democracy" based on your definition - there is no such thing as equal treatment of all citizens - and I would argue this is one of the least important examples of that. I am glad that at least now we have a mayor where the biggest controversies are which public school he sends his kids to, and who is driving his car, rather than which drugs he is addicted to, how many extramarital affairs he's having, and how alienating and racially divisive he is and whether or not he has paid his income taxes for X years in a row. So, perhaps my perceptions have been shaped by a lowering of expectations based on past mayors. DC residents can express themselves and practice democracy in the next mayoral election.

  • James


    Your #5 is one of the most obnoxious and presumptuous things I have ever read. I'm sure you know what homes cost around there (rents or mortgages), as you defend it like you live there. Cancelling cell phone and cable bills, selling cars, isn't going to get your average middle or upper middle class person into that district. It's either DC or back to the Midwest for us. Those are the changes we are going to make to get us into a good school district, Marc. But, we'd actually like to stay in DC.

  • Seriously

    To Marc: I have to agree w/James. Your #5 is obnoxious. Do you not realize that Lafayette is NOT in the mayor's zone? Are you saying that he needs to cancel his cell phone and cable bills as well and move to that boundary? It was his family's choice to move to a neighborhood w/a failing school. If he weren't the mayor...where would his kids be?

  • Marc

    In response "Seriously" - They'd be in a private school. Would that make you like him more? See #3.

  • Leona

    Full Disclosure - I have children in both DCPS and the private sector. Everyday I see kids and their parents working way too hard in DCPS to get into out of bound schools to offer more to their kids. It's not an easy process. And getting into one of the TOP Blue Ribbon schools, like Lafayette, is considered a real prize. Sadly because not all DCPS schools are equal.

    Simply put -Shame on you Mr. Fenty for pulling rank that so many of your constituents cannot do. Maybe it's time for a little class action lawsuit to open up the entire out of bound process - one more time - in the hope of truly keeping it fair and equitable for all.

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  • Tess

    First of all, I hope that Mr. Fenty did not get special treatment, but he probably did. Whether you are the President or the mayor, your kids will get treated better than the average kid. That being said, I went to underperforming schools all my life and graduated from a prestigious university. I also know kids who went to highly ranked schools all their life and are qualified for only flipping hamburgers. Going to a disadvantaged school does not condemn you to mediocrity nor does attending a better school guarantee you future success. It all depends on the amount of work that the child is willing to put into their future. Going to a crappy elementary school is not the end of the world.

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