City Desk

The Battle of Hardy Middle School: Loose Lips Daily

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT—'Don Peebles Starts Sounding Like a Mayoral Candidate'; 'Pershing Park Case: Sporkin Report Released'; 'Sexual Orientation Hate Crimes Jump In Wards 7, 8'; tweets galore!

Greetings all. At a 'tense and often angry' two-hour meeting Friday evening, DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced to Hardy MS parents that popular principal Patrick Pope will be leaving the post after this year, Bill Turque reports in WaPo. Pope will 'begin planning a new magnet middle school for the performing arts' and will be replaced by Dana Nerenberg, now principal of Hyde-Addison Elementary, who will split time between the nearby campuses. Parents, writes Jonetta Rose Barras, weren't buying it: 'Crazy mad, folks kept checking each other's foreheads to see if "stupid" was written there. Rhee's spin was illogical.' The meeting Friday, and the whole debate over the future of Hardy has been thick with racial tension—something Rhee deemed 'extraordinarily disconcerting.' Said one Hardy teacher, a Rhee supporter, to Turque: 'This is a grave, grave error....This staff will not be here when Mr. Pope is not here.' Barras concludes that if 'she doesn't revise the Hardy plan, Rhee could find herself winning the battle but losing the war.' NC8 has video; Georgetown Metropolitan has audio and a full account—including CM Yvette Alexander saying, 'We've got to get rid of Fenty. And Rhee. And you can quote me on that!'

AFTER THE JUMP—Why test scores sometimes go up but don't stay up; WaPo wants more answers on Vince Gray's home renos; local GOPsters urge Hill partisans to butt out of marriage fight; Sporkin Report is out; another voucher op-ed; IG's office says it saved $180M; senatorial carjacker was cross-dressing

ALSO FROM TURQUE—Why is it so hard to keep school testing gains going year to year? Turque notes: 'Of the seven D.C. public schools that increased proficiency rates by 20 percentage points or more in both reading and math in 2008—Aiton, Hearst, Raymond and Thomas elementary, Winston Educational Campus, Mamie D. Lee and Sharpe Health Center—only Thomas showed growth in 2009....No metric is more widely hailed by Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) as a sign of genuine progress than test scores, which increased across the city in each of the past two years. And none appears more difficult to sustain.' Some answers: 'Educators say several factors contribute to schools losing ground, some rooted in basic statistics. Those with small enrollments—and therefore small testing samples—are more vulnerable to wide score swings....New waves of children arrive each year, often with new sets of learning issues. Key teachers and administrators depart.'

WaPo editorial board keeps the heat on Vincent Gray to provide a more thorough accounting of his home repairs: '[T]he D.C. Council's decision to heed its experts in approving a new lottery contract was a reassuring sign of good government. Too bad, though, that the action came amid new questions being raised about [Gray]'s vote in awarding a lucrative contract to a firm that did work on his house....To be fair to Mr. Gray, the mayor recommended the contract, and the council vote was unanimous. Mr. Gray paid for the work on his house, but there are questions about the lack of permits and whether the firm billed the chairman only after receiving inquiries from the newspaper. It's in the city's interests—and Mr. Gray's—to clear the air.'

ALSO—In Saturday editorial, WaPo urges Archdiocese of Washington to adopt the 'plus-one' solution to the gay marriage/Catholic Charities intransigence. Proposals tying benefits to domestic status rather than spousal status 'are worthy compromises that should allow the Catholic Charities to be within the law without violating church principles....We urge the Archdiocese and the council to come to a resolution that would usher in equality and allow the church to continue contracting with the city to provide the many services on which the District depends.'

Local Republicans are heading to the Hill to tell their partisans to butt out of the District's business, Tim Craig reports in WaPo. 'Robert J. Kabel, the chairman of the D.C. Republican Committee, and Patrick Mara, a rising star in the local GOP, have begun urging party members in Congress not to oppose the D.C. Council's bill to allow gay couples to marry in the District....Local gay rights activists say they are confident that Democratic leaders in Congress will help protect the bill. But the level of GOP opposition in the House and Senate remains murky, which is why Mara and Kabel have begun arranging meetings on Capitol Hill with GOP lawmakers. "We are going to meet and encourage Republicans to just stay out of it," said Kabel, the only openly gay state-level GOP chairman in the country. "Our basic discussion point is, even though this is a federal city, we do have home rule and an elected mayor and council, so just let this process run its course."' Replies Rep. Jason Chaffetz: 'There may be a handful of them....But there also a lot of Democrats in favor of traditional marriage, and that is pretty compelling.'

The Sporkin Report is out! The report on what happened to key evidence in the Pershing Park case is 'not a whitewash,' declares veteran PP reporter Jason Cherkis, finding that the key 'running resume' probably did exist and may have been deliberately destroyed. Judge Stanley Sporkin tells Cherkis: 'There is nobody that didn't talk to me straight....There's inconsistencies. What can I say?' Also Legal Times, which says the 18-page report's 'conclusions are fairly modest.'

In joint WaPo op-ed, Kevin Chavous and Anthony Williams strike back at Rep. Jose Serrano's recently aired voucher arguments: 'As elected leaders from the District who painstakingly negotiated the terms of the three-sector strategy, including the Opportunity Scholarships, it is amusing to hear that it was "foisted" on us. It certainly wasn't foisted on the hundreds of parents who waited in long lines and made great sacrifices for the prospect of having their children attend good schools. Do these parents think the scholarship program was an undemocratic social rider imposed on the city? We think not. And we are not alone. Current D.C. leaders, including Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and a majority of D.C. Council, support allowing new children to enter the program. Serrano and his colleagues in Congress would be acting like second mayors if they killed it.'

Jonathan O'Connell notes at WBJ that there's been some consequences for last week's Don Peebles mayoral chatter: The D.C. Chamber of Commerce has rescinded its offer to have him speak at its Dec. 16 annual meeting, 'lest the chamber appear to endorse him as a candidate. "He would be an excellent draw. He's just a wonderful entrepreneur with a wonderful story," said Chamber President Barbara Lang. "But I am cognizant of the fact that he may announce in the next few days as a candidate for mayor and it would probably be inappropriate."' And Tom Sherwood examines a possible Peebles candidacy for WRC-TV: 'Peebles—who said he'd run a campaign focused on neighborhood improvements—said Fenty can't be successful "if he won't talk to ten of the 13 council members." It could be a lively campaign. If neither Gray nor Peebles make the leap, some city observers say at-large Councilman Kwame Brown, who would not have to give up his council seat, may run against Fenty. It should all shake out in a matter of weeks.'

GW Hatchet profiles distinguished alumnus Vince Gray: 'Today, he is the chairman of the D.C. Council – the city's powerful and influence-wielding legislative body – and a potential candidate for mayor. In an interview with The Hatchet at the Washington Convention Center, he said he is grateful he stuck it out at GW. "I realized after that first year – after that conversation – that if I walked away from this, I'd probably walk away from every tough experience in the future and find some excuse as to why it was okay to do that," Gray said. "And so I didn't, and I know I'm a better person for it."'

Annual report claims that IG's office 'uncovered more than $50 million in waste and $125 million in fraud' is fiscal 2009, Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner. Audit chief Bill DiVello says there are '[s]ome things we'd like to see more aggressive action on, certainly in the contracting area.' And IG auditors have 'issued myriad recommendations, such as establishing internal control procedures over purchase card transactions. But in November, the OUC charged $900 for staff massages, an expense deemed even by Mayor Adrian Fenty to be inappropriate.'

ALSO—Security fixes to New Beginnings Youth Center total almost $1.4M, Neibauer reports in Examiner. That's on top of the $45M spent to build the facility. After a spate of escapes, 'D.C. leaders put the onus on DYRS employees and Tompkins Builders, the center's contractor....In the aftermath of the escapes, Fenty ordered the installation of barb wire on the perimeter and bars on the windows, and Tompkins was "put on notice." But at no point did they say how much the additional work would cost, or who would have to pay for it—Tompkins or taxpayers.' Says union honcho: 'Nothing has really changed in terms of enhancements or security.'

Keely's District Boxing and Youth Center is on the verge of being evicted from its elementary-school digs, Patrick Madden reports for WAMU-FM. Because the nonprofit run by ex-champ Keely Thompson lost its council earmark, it hasn't paid the city in five months. It could be ousted from Meyer ES in Columbia Heights very soon.

WaTimes reports that Capitol Police left Rep. Steny Hoyer's travel plans 'near a curb recently in front of a 7-Eleven convenience store' at 8th and Maryland NE. Besides maps, '[t]he 10 pages of U.S. Capitol Police dignitary protection unit papers also include information on the security systems in place at a hospital along the mapped route in Maryland.' Cap Police says 'that the release of the information never compromised security and that the data, while marked sensitive, is publicly available.' Others differ.

Two-alarm fire guts empty row house on 1300 block of Oak Street NW early Sunday. One firefighter was slightly injured. Dave Statter has video. PoP has pix.

My, what a twist in the Julia Corker carjacking case—one of the two arrested Wednesday night for the crime appears to be transsexual. WaPo identifies the suspects as DeWalden E. Connor, 22, of Capitol Heights and Steven O. Alston, 25, of the 1700 block of Gales Street NE. One of them was dressed as a woman; the story doesn't specify which, but notes that 'Connor has a pending case on charges of soliciting an undercover police officer in October in the 600 block of New York Ave NE. Connor was dressed as a woman and went by the name of Gabrielle when he approached a male officer, the court papers said.' The pair are being extradited to the District. Also WRC-TV, WUSA-TV.

D.C. Circuit rules against District on gun case involving security contractor, report WaPo and Legal Times. Robert L. Ord of Falken Industries and two of his employees were arrested and charged with weapons violations last year for improperly carrying guns, but the charges were dropped. Ord sued in federal court seeking damages, saying the District was trying to run him out of town, but U.S. District Judge John Bates had initially ruled that Ord had no standing to sue; the appeals court ruling means Ord can now proceed with his lawsuit. Says Ord's attorney, Matthew A. LeFande: 'This is a guy who owns a small business and has a wife and a child....It is a difficult economic time, and he perceives he is being railroaded out of this market.'

WaPo covers tough times for local legal-aid organizations: 'The District program dipped into reserves when funds fell from about $2.5 million in fiscal 2008 to just more than $1 million the next year—and a predicted $576,000 this fiscal year. But reserves could not patch the hole, and some District groups have lost funding, said Katia Garrett, executive director of the D.C. Bar Foundation, which awards grants. "We had to make painful decisions," she said.' And the need for help, of course, is up.

Harry Jaffe has a request for POTUS: 'My request is simple—and cheap, compared with the costs of financing two wars, health care overhauls, and bailouts. Peirce Mill, the last of eight grain mills on Rock Creek, is in the midst of a renovation. Work has begun. Friends of Peirce Mill have raised $1 million toward putting the 19th century mill back in operation. But in order to make the wheels turn and the stones grind, they need $500,000 for a pumping system. Surely, amid the billions in stimulus funds, you can find a half-million for Peirce Mill.'

H Street NE shuttle has ceased operations for want of funds, DCist reports. And why.i.hate.dc points out that 'the H Street Shuttle exactly duplicated the X2 Metrobus route, and overlapped a bit with the 90 buses as well. On paper there was no possible justification to spend taxpayer money on this shuttle bus....I'm not about to ask the city to pay for a completely separate Yuppie People Mover just because I'm afraid to ride on the bus with the 'scary' black people. If I don't want to ride on the bus that's already been provided for me, then I'll take a cab.'

Ex-DISB chief Tom Hampton lands on his feet: He's joining Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal (Chavous' firm) 'as a senior adviser in its insurance regulatory practice,' WBJ reports.

WaPo, D.C. Agenda cover activist Phil Attey's priest-outing Web site. ADW response: 'If anyone has a concern about whether a priest is violating their ministry in any way, we would encourage them to let the archdiocese know rather than some Web site.'

Notes from SecEd Arne Duncan's appearance at DC VOICE event last month: 'The secretary's assertion that D.C. Public Schools should serve as a beacon of hope for students across the city and should work to be a model for other districts across the nation received resounding applause. Secretary Duncan noted, however, that there is much work to be done to make this vision a reality and challenged every member in the audience—from the students to the business and community leaders—to get involved in the effort to improve education.'

Pit bull attack in Cleveland Park Sunday afternoon leaves woman critically injured.

Small fire at GU dorm.

WaPo letter writer, from Columbia, says there are ways to express your disapproval for how councilmembers are treating the Catholic Church: 'If you live in the District, contact the council or vote for a different candidate in the next election. If you don't live in the District, vote with your wallet. Find other restaurants to dine at and enjoy the fine arts, museums and sporting events in Virginia or Maryland. Of course, be prepared for the council to blame you for declining tax revenue—unless it learns to take responsibility for its actions.'

It's most definitely hypothermia season again.

Cary Silverman provides a peek inside Franklin School.

More charges in Foggy Bottom drug raid. All are GWU students.

Buy a condo in Congress Heights, get a free Smart Car.

Chavez-Bruce charter school opens new facility.

Lambda Rising, the stalwart gay bookstore, will close after the holidays.

Harry Thomas Jr. is doing his Ward 5 Holiday Open Ward 2 (at JAWB). (incidentally, he's also cross-scheduled with the council holiday party.)

Watch Kwame preen!

It snowed!

Jeanette Michael was laid to rest Saturday. From her WaPo obituary: 'Ms. Michael was the first general counsel to the D.C. Lottery when it was launched in 1982. After serving as Barry's chief of staff in 1998 and 1999, during his final term as mayor, she returned to the lottery as acting director in 2001 and was named executive director in 2002....She left the lottery in 1987 to become deputy director of the D.C. Department of Human Services and later was a supervisory lawyer in the Office of the Corporation Counsel. After working for Barry, she was a consultant to the Greater Washington Urban League before returning to the lottery in 2001. She had battled breast cancer since 2002.'

TOMORROW—Public memorial for Abe Pollin at Verizon Center. Among the slated speakers: Jack Evans, Vincent Gray, and, yes, Adrian Fenty.

TONIGHT—Tommy Wells hands out the Ward 6 Livable Walkables (aka The Brickies). 6:30 p.m. at Eastern Market.

D.C. COUNCIL TODAY—10:30 a.m.: remarks, Northwest One library grand opening, 155 L St. NW.

ADRIAN FENTY TODAY—10:30 a.m.: Committee on Government Operations and the Environment hearing on B18-515 ('Confirmation Amendment Act of 2009'), JAWB 412.

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  • Key

    Maybe you got DC Council and Fenty's agendas mixed up.

  • Woodley Parker

    WaPo hates them some Vince Gray.

  • Ward 5

    Agreed Woodley Parker... but loves some Rhee and Fenty. They rubber stamp and justify everything those two do. It's as if they write for the post themselves... hate that newspaper!

  • john

    The problem here may not be obvious to everyone, but for someone who works in the construction industry, you dont blame the contractor for this. The contractor must build a facility to the exact specifications the owner & architect specify. If the owner/architect wants a detention center to function more like a school than a jail (ie: no barb wire, no bars on windows, and minimal security design), then that is exactly what the contractor must build. THe blame goes to the democrat responsible for designing this mess who wanted a jail without bars or security measures. I understand they want to give these "minor offenders" a second chance, but they ARE offenders and you must design a facility to house such individuals.