- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

Construction workers did not pause yesterday as D.C. schools Superintendent Paul L. Vance led tours of six buildings that will house five "transformation" schools designed to raise the education levels at schools that scored lowest in accomplishments.
Workers, who were painting, installing water fountains and lockers, and refinishing gymnasium and auditorium floors, are on the job 24 hours a day through Labor Day especially at the former Douglass School in Southeast, which will house programs for difficult high school students.
"I expect that our new principals, and the staffs they have selected, will be hard at work all school year so that when we have the one-year tour next summer, we will have documented progress for students," Mr. Vance said.
The superintendent and his staff select the transformation school principals, whose records indicate exceptional accomplishments. The principals then choose the teachers and staffs after interviews and based on their records.
"Thirty-five to 40 percent of our staff will be returning," said Joyce Thompson, an educator with more than 20 years' experience and new principal of Evans Middle School in the 5600 block of East Capitol Street NE.
Entrants through the front, padlocked metal doors are greeted by a sign, "Theme: Children First," and the odor of paint. Light tan colors the walls, and one of three coats of wax has been applied to hallway floors.
New ceiling tiles are in place. Touch-up paint needs to be applied behind restored water fountains. Surveillance cameras at each end of the hallways are in readiness.
Ms. Thompson said 288 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students are scheduled to enter when classes begin Tuesday morning.
This year, boys will be in recreational recess while girls eat lunch in the redecorated cafeteria. Then the boys will eat while the girls recess. Breakfast also will be available.
Much more reconstruction and painting remain to be done at the former Douglass School in the 2600 block of Douglass Avenue SE. It will house Choice Academy for high school students. Its 122 students will include those who have been suspended, expelled and repeatedly disciplined, and the learning disabled for the Prospect Learning Center.
The principal of Choice (Children given Higher Options for Individually Centered Education) is Gary Washington, who will also preside over Choice Academy for middle and junior high students at the former Taft School in the 1800 block of Perry Street NE.
Security officers will be assigned throughout the buildings and surveillance cameras will be in the hallways, offices and other rooms.
This year's other "transformation" schools are: Stanton Elementary, 2700 block of Naylor Road SE; Walker-Jones Elementary, 100 block of L Street NW; and Wilkinson Elementary, 2300 block of Pomeroy Road SE.
The schools were selected because they scored in the lowest 10 percent of all schools in the last five years and showed no hint of progress. Also, the principals and staff were unable to communicate positively with parents and "there was evidence of a negative school climate," officials said.
"There were nine transformation schools last year. We measured them at the end of the year and they all showed great improvement," said assistant Superintendent David Mason, a lifetime D.C. resident, who attended and graduated from the public schools. He heads Division 2 Elementary.
About 30 school administration officials, including Board of Education Vice President William Lockridge, participated in the tour. Three tour groups each spent about two hours at two schools.

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