D.C. Mayor's Office Live: Vincent Gray on teacher firings, council changes

Jul 19, 2011

District Mayor Vincent C. Gray will answer your questions in a live chat Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET.

This week, Mayor Gray will discuss recent D.C. teacher firings, the changes made by chairman Kwame R. Brown on the D.C. Council and more.

The mayor will answer the most popular reader-submitted question; go to The Buzz blog to post a question for public voting or to vote on other readers' submissions (You vote by clicking "Recommend" an entry).

Good afternoon and welcome to "D.C. Mayor's Office Live!"

 

I am pleased to join you today to answer your questions relating to education, my administration, and District governance.

 

Thank you, again, for joining and I encourage you to continue contributing your input and questions on issues of importance to you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mayor Vincent C. Gray

How can you justify the decision made by Deputy Mayor Quander and FEMS Chief Ellerbe to post DCFD firefighters who have no law enforcement training, no protection, and no legal arrest authority on street corners in the worst neighborhoods of the city until as late as 4 a.m. in an attempt to reduce crime, allegedly in response to several muggings of youth workers last year? Not only is this dangerous for our firefighters, it is dangerous for the citizens, and legally dangerous for the city. 

Public safety is not solely the responsibility of the Metropolitan Police Department. Every citizen and every District employee has a role in helping our city to be as safe and inviting as possible.

I charged staff with developing a comprehensive safety program for the summer and beyond.

 

The early results are very encouraging. The placement of Fire Fighters at strategic locations is just one component of an overall comprehensive approach for providing safe communities throughout the District. The fire trucks and fire fighters serve as a deterrent to crime and promote a sense of commitment to local neighborhoods.

Your attorney general is suing a D.C. Council member for stolen monies and damages, and you won't ask him to resign ... explain that.

The Attorney General is doing his job. This is a matter under litigation, and it is inappropriate that I speak on it.

 

The member has stepped down from chairing a committee. His Council colleagues have not requested his resignation, apparently awaiting the outcome of this litigation. Moreover, as the litigation continues to unfold, there are avenues to those who elected him.

Mayor Gray, my question has to do with the Walter Reed development. What steps is D.C. taking to avoid delay or disruption like what appears to be going on in NoVa with the Mark Center?

The initial re-use plan for the Walter Reed site was presented at the end of last year. Over the last 6 months, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development has been negotiating with our federal partners regarding the revised boundaries of the space. We are close to seeing final proposed boundaries for the space being unveiled by our federal partners.

The GSA is no longer planning to develop on the space. In June, the State Department announced that it is preparing to construct an international chancery center on the site. However, they did not present any timetables at that time.

 

District executive and legislative branches are working diligently to finalize boundaries and GET the opportunity to redevelop which is different than in NoVa where congressional people have been looking to delay the move.  We all want the move and have an initial plan which needs to be updated with new boundaries in order to move forward.  We are ready to go on the project.

The Local Redevelopment Authority will continue to work with the District and the community to determine how best to put together a plan for this unique space. We look forward to active citizen participation during this new planning process.


Many of the teachers being fired by DCPS had "effective" ratings from master teachers and their principal, but their final scores were low when student scores were added. As a result, the vast majority of teachers being fired are those who teach in the poorest neighborhoods. Doesn't that make it clear that Impact should be revised?

DCPS issued separation notices to 206 DCPS teachers for poor performance. In addition to this, 94 teachers were released due to failure to meet licensing requirements.

Teaching is complex work, which is why DCPS uses multiple measures to assess performance. No single measure determines a teacher's final rating.

 

The school system includes student achievement as one of these measures because the Chancellor and I believe that increasing student learning is the most important goal for a teacher.

 

The IMPACT evaluation is a dynamic process and will continue to be refined.

 

DCPS will continue to hold the line on teacher quality in all communities and around the city to ensure that every last child in the District of Columbia has access to an outstanding teacher.

Do you support removing Tommy Wells from his committee chairmanship?

I served as Council Chairman and recognize that decisions about who chairs committees are reserved for the Chair and his colleagues. I am not aware of a Mayor weighing in on those decisions in the past, thus respecting the separation of powers. Having served on the Council and now as Mayor, I consider it inappropriate to involve myself in that decision.

Why won't the Chancellor consider transferring some the teachers, rated as highly effective, in the Ward 3 to lower performing schools in Wards 7 or 8?

The Chancellor believes, as do I, that teachers are professionals and should be empowered to make their own decisions about where they want to work.

 

At the same time, we both believe passionately in ensuring that students in economically challenged communities receive an outstanding education. This is why DCPS structured its performance-based compensation system, IMPACTplus, to give much larger bonuses and base salary increases to great teachers serving in these schools.

 

It's also why the school system has invested heavily in recruiting and retaining great principals for the schools in these neighborhoods. And it's why DCPS and the District have invested heavily in wraparound services to help the teachers serving our most economically challenged students.

As your storied "200 Day Plan" comes to an end, what are you most proud of? What have been your biggest accomplishments so far?

We have been able to focus on the four priorities that I established from the beginning of my administration.

 

1) Budget - For the first time in four years we have a structurally balanced budget. We will only spend the amount of money that has come in the door and no more.

 

2) Education - We have assembled a strong education team and the recently released DC CAS scores indicate that we are moving in the right direction.


We have placed great emphasis on continuing education reform in DC. For example, the U.S. District Court has determined that the District of Columbia is in compliance with key special education requirements which represents a significant milestone in educating children with disabilities.

 

We have recently launched a truancy reduction project in conjunction with the DC Superior Court in order to increase the number of children going to school each day.

 

3) Jobs and Economic Development - We are creating job opportunities as we break ground on numerous District projects such as CityCenter, 360 H Street Project (New Giant Supermarket and 215 apartments  on the H Street corridor). Progress is being made on Skyland, more in the last six months than has been made in the last six years. Groundbreaking is forthcoming on The Shops at Dakota Crossing (Fort Lincoln retail). New jobs are being created with the arrival of MVM Technologies in Ward 8. We have now published an updated report of our economic development agenda.

 

Finally, we have created meaningful work experiences for 14,126 youth in the District of Columbia Summer Youth Employment Program. The program has been well organized and has operated smoothly.

 

4) Safe Communities - We have developed and implemented a comprehensive public safety strategy which has resulted in a decrease in crime. For example, homicides were down by 50% in June 2011 in comparison to June 2010 and are down overall for the calendar year. We have conducted numerous community walk-throughs with various agencies recognizing that public safety is the responsibility of all agencies of the District government.

Thank you for taking the time to submit questions.

 

I look forward to chatting with you again next time.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mayor Gray

 

 

In This Chat
Mayor Vincent C. Gray
Vincent C. Gray was elected the sixth mayor of Washington, D.C., in November 2010. A District native, Gray served as city councilman from Ward 7 starting in 2004, and was elected city council chairman in 2006.
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