Recommendations to DCPS Chief of Schools

Posted on: November 18th, 2013 by Jennifer Boulanger

Recommendations to DCPS Chief of Schools John Davis

Dear Mr. Davis,

In January of 2013, DCPS decided to merge Francis-Stevens Educational Campus (FS) with School Without Walls High School (SWWHS), a decision that was made following the proposal to close FS. To address concerns the SWWHS community raised, DCPS leadership charged Jennifer Smith with facilitating a working group made up of members of the FS and SWWHS community to explore the feasibility and implementation of the merger.

The group examined a number of decisions around the merger, including location of high school students at FS, shared governance, merged budgets and enrollment levels at SWWHS.

Through our research, discussions and analysis we have reached consensus around the following:

1)     We recommend no students from SWWHS take classes at FS, after considering the challenges for students, teachers, staff and administrators in having high school students taking classes at FS. We specifically considered proposed plans to use available space at FS for students in the junior class, although we believe it to be applicable to any subset of students.  We found, however, that every scenario considered provided little to no student benefits and instead caused significant inefficiencies and challenges that unnecessarily constrain student academic opportunities.

2)     We now understand that the budgets will be split starting in the next budget year.  We agree with this decision and it is consistent with our recommendation.

3)     We concluded that shared leadership and shared key administrative functions do not work well, at least in the current environment. With a high school approaching 600 students, and an educational campus experiencing major transformation, each school needs its own dedicated leadership.

4)     On enrollment, we recommend that SWWHS plan should address the ideal size of SWWHS – including a potential increase in enrollment – in a way that takes into consideration alternatives to the current schedule, options for space at GW, and the impact on comprehensive high schools. The plan for FS should address thoughtful growth, student and teacher retention, and overall school programming.

In our work over the last months, we see the commitment and dedication of the two communities. We also see positive results emerging at the FS campus, including increased enrollment, a strengthened teacher core, and instances of greater parent and community involvement. We do believe that a “sister school” relationship could work and be of benefit to both schools. A commitment to encouraging high school students to lend their services through tutoring, internships and potentially more could benefit students at both campuses. Having leadership at FS that improves educational opportunities for its students is a good thing.

We thank you for the opportunity to provide you with recommendations regarding the proposed merger and appreciate your thoughtful consideration of them.

Sincerely,

Carlton Ackerman          Rebecca James             Erin Martin                   Tim Ryan

Jean Boland                   Linwood Jolly               Tom Martin                   Kristin Schrauth

Kiehl Christie                 Ed Lazere                     Melissa Mehring            Chris Sondreal