Yesterday our Ward 1 representative to the State Board of Education, Laura Wilson Phelan, hosted a community meeting to discuss education priorities with residents. The meeting was held at Bloombars on 11th Street and began at 3 p.m.
(Laura talking to neighbors during the meeting)
There were about 15 or so residents at the meeting, including ANC Commissioners Kent Boese (1A08), Rashida Brown (1A10), and Frank Agbro (1D01). The meeting began with Wilson Phelan having each attendee write their most pressing educational concern on a piece of paper, which was then posted so that all could read what everyone had written. Based on these ideas, there were three central themes that arose.
- Organizational and physical challenges,
- Arts and education; and,
- Language immersion education.
After recognizing these areas of interest, the meeting members broke out into separate groups to discuss 1 and 3 year goals within each and then reported back to the whole.
It was a very interesting meeting with a lot of good ideas. Among the topics shared where concerns about disparities between public and charter schools, the need to re-integrate communities with their local public schools, the value of the arts to education, and the need for more language immersion schools and their value to education as a whole.
Along the lines of building stronger community-school relationships, I shared how valuable it is to find opportunities for each group to interact with the other to build a strong community-wide advocacy group for each school. While this can be done by identifying community and school leaders who regularly meet, I believe there is also value in developing shared programs such as community plays, concerts, or festivals where those living in the neighborhood get to experience and share in the successes of local schools and know first hand both the progress and challenges that schools are facing.
While time didn’t allow for drilling deeply into the issues raised, it was an excellent beginning for Wilson Phelan. She set a strong precedent for what I’m sure will be a sustained collaborative approach to finding opportunities to advance education in D.C.