- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2001

D.C. schools Superintendent Paul L. Vance plans to reassign staff, add resources and remake curricula at about 10 of the citys poorest-performing schools, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times.
According to internal memos, Mr. Vance will begin his "Children First Initiative" within two weeks. The plan aims to transform certain schools by reassigning administrative, instructional and support staff while strengthening leadership; redesigning academic programs; improving school facilities; and enhancing instructional resources.
"I came [here a year ago] with a commitment to build on the progress made by this entire school community to improve the quality of education for our students," Mr. Vance wrote in a June 5 letter to school employees. "The Children First Initiative starts with those schools that have been identified as having the greatest potential for improvement."
Mr. Vance also said he intends to focus next on high schools and eventually transform the entire system into an "exemplary" one within five years.
School officials yesterday declined to comment or to discuss details.
School board officials welcomed the plan.
"There is clearly a mandate … that radical changes need to occur to improve performance of the citys worst schools," said board member Tommy Wells, District 3. "This can be done badly and this can be done well. I trust Dr. Vance … to do it well."
While many city and school officials applauded the initiative, others remembered similar attempts failing in the past decade.
"They have to do this right or not do it at all," said Mary Levy, director of the Public Education Project of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. "When they tried this years ago, it just became a game of musical chairs."
Union officials said they support the plan conditionally and their "main concern is that due process be followed [for employees]," said Frank Bolden, who heads the administrators union.
Mr. Bolden said the plan could succeed as long as it includes a strong policy on school discipline and enhanced support for teachers.
Some city officials said Mayor Anthony A. Williams prodding and threats to privatize some schools moved Mr. Vance to act. At a meeting with school officials last month, Mr. Williams said he wants a reform plan in place before the new school year, city sources said.
The mayor said yesterday he supports Mr. Vances plan, acknowledging possible disagreement with the superintendents approach.
"[We] both have the same goal — to improve the quality of education in our city, especially at our lowest-performing schools," Mr. Williams said. "If we want to see real change, we simply must change the way some schools are run."
Mr. Vance has been criticized for moving too slowly to implement reform since being hired last summer. Some officials expressed skepticism about the timing of the initiative because the superintendent is being evaluated for a new contract.
"I dont know why it took him so long to get this into place," said one city leader, who asked not to be named. "He took his time getting his team. Now he probably feels pressure to show hes doing something concrete to justify a new expanded contract."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide