Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Washington Teacher: Orr Parents Call "May Day"

The Washington Teacher: Orr Parents Call "May Day":

Orr Parents Call "May Day"

East of the River DC News (Reposted)

But Two Schools of Thought Emerge


Virginia Avniel Spatz

Orr parents protest Orr Principal Niyeka Wilson
 Parents and students demonstrate outside Orr Elementary in Ward 8, May 1
“May Day!” was the call at Orr Elementary School on May 1. Orr parents, concerned about school leadership and facilities, say they'd gone through channels for months before taking to the street. Community members first addressed Principal Niyeka Wilson, followed by the instructional superintendent and DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. They testified to the DC Council and brought concerns directly to Councilmember David Catania, chair of the Education Committee and candidate for mayor.
“We're at the point now where we need the public's help,” says parent Laila Patrick, who helped organize Orr's “May Day,” complete with signs, petitions, and drums. “DCPS and Kaya Henderson and Niyeka Wilson need to face the music.”

Some parents, however, were surprised and disturbed by the focus of the demonstration. Nearly everyone agrees that Orr, one of the last “open plan” schools in the District, is way overdue for modernization. Not everyone agrees about the leadership needed to envision a new facility.

Overdue Modernization
Orr, 2200 Minnesota Avenue, SE, is one of the last unmodernized DCPS schools. “Open plan” designs, without classroom walls, were meant to allow flexibility. But the design also means noise and distractions. Orr continues to suffer these drawbacks, as modernization funds were withdrawn year after year, leading some to believe that the school is secretly slated for closure or repurposing.

“The school community is justifiably frustrated with the continued delay of the modernization, a modernization that is badly needed in the Councilmember's view,” says Catania spokesperson Brendan Williams-Kief. Catania visited the school, following the mayor's defunding of renovations yet again, and is now “exploring ways to ensure that the renovations occur in a timely fashion.”

After protest, $39 million in modernization funds were restored. Allyson Criner Brown, manager of the Tellin' Stories Project which partners with Orr on parent engagement, says her organization expected to begin focusing The Washington Teacher: Orr Parents Call "May Day":