Housing Complex

Gray Emphasizes Continuity in First Education Address

In his first speech dedicated to education, Mayor Vince Gray refrained from laying out any dramatic new proposals, instead highlighting the city's recent successes in public education and stressing the need for continuity.

"The plans and proposals I share with you may not send out seismic shockwaves or make big headlines," Gray said this afternoon, "but they will make a real difference to District families and students.

Gray delivered the address at the gymnasium shared by Savoy Elementary School and Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School in Anacostia—a fitting setting for a speech emphasizing that charters and traditional public schools aren't engaged in a "zero-sum game" but can work together. But Gray was forced to shout most of his speech over loud protests from the perennially disruptive group Empower DC.

Before the speech began, a group of children in cheerleaders' outfits organized by Empower DC ran in front of the stage and conducted a series of cheers taunting Gray, including "Shame on Mayor Gray! Don't take public schools away!" The children and the Empower adults continued to heckle Gray after he began speaking, leading Gray staffers to fret over how to quiet them in the absence of a substantial security presence until they were finally escorted out.

Gray appeared slightly flustered by the loud protesters but did not pause his speech or acknowledge the protesters until the end of his address. "We had an affirmation and a reaffirmation of democracy today," he said. "I hope everyone will bring that level of energy to this work."

The mayor laid out three "overarching strategies" for improving education in the city: "to scale up existing pockets of excellence to serve more students," "to strengthen existing schools and programs," and "to simplify the way families access all aspects of our education system." Most of the elaboration of these strategies was a review of policies already in place or plans already announced. The few new proposals, such as allowing public schools to feed into charters or vice versa, weren't exactly earth-shattering after the much more substantial changes implemented by Gray's predecessor Adrian Fenty. Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro says that's intentional: There's a need for continuity rather than one huge overhaul after another.

Catania speaks with children before the speech.

Gray's speech comes two weeks after At-Large D.C. Councilmember (and potential mayoral candidateDavid Catania, who chairs the Council's education committee, introduced seven bills aimed at reforming the education system. Catania sees Gray's proposals as a belated response to his own.

"I look at this as an endorsement of the seven bills I introduced two weeks ago," Catania says of Gray's speech. "This is a lot more timid. It acknowledges the problems my bills address, but the solutions are tepid."

But Catania questions why Gray waited so long to give an education address. "I think it's three years too late," he says. "This seems reactionary. We should have heard this about 900 days ago."

Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith says Gray's ideas have some things in common with Catania's, but thinks Catania's bills contain some problems. "We are still in the process of looking at what's in there," she says of Catania's legislation. "There are pieces we agree with and pieces that we think are duplicative or frankly undermine our efforts."

Photos by Aaron Wiener

  • drez

    Under Fenty, the decades-long decline in public school (traditional DCPS) enrollment was halted and reversed. DCPS posted enrollment gains for the first time in decades.

    Under Gray, enrollment first remained flat, and now has begun to decline.
    This despite the dramatic increase in DC's population.

    At the end of the day, Gray can stress continuity all he wants. But what he cannot or will not do is inspire people to the degree that they are willing to trust their children to DCPS's care. Which is a shame, because without more people from all cultural and economic backgrounds sending their kids to their neighborhood schools DCPS quality, and the public education institution itself, will wither.

  • DC Dude

    Drez,
    You're entitled to your opinions but not your own facts. Enrollments numbers at DCPS are better under Gray than Fenty. DCPS was falling until 2009, and has grown slightly every year since. You Fenty koolaid drinkers are something else. BTW, I did not vote for Gray.

  • noodlez

    THE DOWNTOWN RESIDENT AND GAYTANIA ARE WHATS WRONG WITH THE EDUCATION SYSTEM FOR OUR CHILDREN! WHINING ABOUT NOTHING AND NOT OFFERING UP ANY SOLUTIONS THAT ARE WORTH WHILE AND TO ENCOURAGE LEARNING! THE DCPS SYSTEM HAS BEEN SHOCKED ENOUGH THE PAST DECADE WITH MASS FIRING OF TEACHERS AND TAKING TESTS IN LIEU OF LEARNING SO THE CALMING EFFECT OF CONTINUITY SHOULD BE A GOOD THING.

    DREZ’S STATISTICAL BULL SHIT IS LEAKING METHANE AND IS CREATING HOLES IN HIS ANALYSIS. 1ST OF ALL THOSE FENTY GAINS WERE NOMINAL AT BEST AND COULD BE QUESTIONED UNDER RHEE'S ACCOUNTING METHODS BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW THAT HER SCHEME WAS BASED ON FALSIFYING NUMBERS.

    IM SURE THE RESIDENT OF DOWNTOWN KNOWS DC'S INCREASE IN POPULATION DOES NOT EQUATE TO AN AUTOMATIC INCREASE IN DCPS ENROLLMENT. THE POPULATION BOOM ACCOUNTS TO YOUNG FOLK FLOCKING HERE WHO JUST GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL 4 YEARS AGO NOT READY MADE FAMILIES!

    DREZ IS RIGHT ABOUT ONE THING AND THAT IS UNTIL THE CHARTER SCHOOL (PROFITING OFF OUR CHILDREN) SITUATION COMES INTO BALANCE WITH DCPS THE PUBLIC SCHOOL NUMBERS WILL CONTINUE TO DROP AND QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION WILL WITHER.

    I'M A FIRM BELIEVER IN EDUCATION CURING SOCIAL ILLS. ESPECIALLY IN THE INNER CITY! SO WE NEED TO START GIVING TIME AND TALENT TO HELP OR THE FUTURE OF OUR SOCIETY, CITY AND WAY LIFE WILL ALSO WITHER!

  • Pingback: Morning Links - Loose Lips

  • drez

    @DC Dude-- Your numbers are wrong. Mine are correct. PS- Gray didn't take office until 2010, and enrollment numbers were level last year, and are down the year that ends today.
    This while the overall number of school aged children is rising.

  • drez

    @noodlez
    You should and do know better.

  • Pingback: District Line Daily: The Last Straw? - City Desk

  • Smh

    I skip over anything noodlez post on here. As soon as I see something discriminatory and personal like "gaytania", I immediately ignore the rest of the bullshit he post. Straight like that.

  • noodlez

    @REZ-SLIM YOUR AFFECTION FOR RHEE AND FENTY OOZES OUT OF EVERY EDUCATION RELATED COMMENT AND TOTALLY BLOWS YOUR ARGUMENT BECAUSE EVERYONE KNOWS THEY FAILED DRAMATICALLY!

    YOUR INTENTIONS ARE GOOD! WHICH I DEDUCED FROM YOUR PREVIOUS COMMENTS RELATED TO THIS TOPIC BUT I CANT LET YOU GET AWAY WITH YOUR INSATIABLE DESIRE TO REFLECT EVERY NEGATIVE THING AS MAYOR GRAY'S FAULT!

    YOU SOUND LIKE A REDUMBLICAN BLAMING PRESIDENT OBAMA FOR THE STIMULUS COST TO TAXPAYERS WHEN IN FACT THEIR LEADER IS THE ONE WHO RAN UP MASSIVE DEBT. YOU CAN'T CONTINUALLY BLAME GRAY FOR CLEANING UP FENTY'S MESS!

    ONE CITY!

  • noodlez

    @SMH-YOUR LITTLE BITCHASS WOULDN'T KNOW DISCRIMINATORY OR PERSONAL IF PAULA DEEN WAS TALKING TO YOU!

    STOP YOUR PUNK ASS WHINING! IT DOESN'T MATTER TO ANYONE BUT YOU IF YOU READ MY BULLSHIT I POST! WHAT DOES MATTER IS THE LEVEL OF IGNORANCE YOU ARE DISPLAYING EVERY TIME YOU COMMENT ABOUT HOW YOU DON'T!

    IF YOU DON'T READ MY COMMENTS THEN HOW DO YOU KNOW IT IS BULLSHIT YOU DUMB FUCK?

  • Pingback: Basketball-Playing Robots and Unfairly Amazing Teachers: Henderson Imagines D.C. Schools of the Future - Housing Complex

...