Allen Lew, who is charged with fixing the school buildings and facilities bureaucracy, is being as blunt as possible without coming off as profane: “The current system is paralyzed. DCPS is unable to get out of its own way.” How right he is.
Picture this. In October 1998, D.C. officials broke ground on a new convention center because the old one had become too small for a city that attracts conventions large and small. So, they broke ground in 1998 and the new convention opened its doors in 2003.
Consider this, too. In May 2006 — after well-publicized debates and shouting matches — D.C. officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new baseball stadium. Contractors are moving quickly; they have to. The city has promised the owners and fans that the new stadium will be ready for opening day in April 2008.
Compare those projects to these: Parents pushed a decade ago to rebuild Randle Highlands, an elementary school off Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Randle Highlands was supposed to be completed in 2003. Now the date is August 2008. Work at Hardy Middle School off of Wisconsin Avenue NW began in 2005 and was scheduled to be completed in December. All the while, Hardy students have no home school since they are shuttled crosstown on a daily basis to school that should have closed ages ago. Cost overruns for those and other school projects are in the tens of millions of dollars. And here’s another example. Wait. There’s not enough space on this page to list all the boondoggles and cost overruns.
Suffice it to say, the city built a convention in five years and a baseball stadium in less than two. Mr. Lew oversaw both projects. Now he’s trying to shape up the school facilities mess, and the council shouldn’t stand in his way.