By ANC Commissioners Elizabeth Miller (2E07) and Kishan Putta (2E01)
On Wednesday, September 11, we met with Mayor Muriel Bowser, Deputy Mayor Paul Kihn, Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter, and our fellow commissioner Joe Gibbons (2E02). We wanted to give you this update.
We gave her the community's petition signed by over 2,300 DC residents and explained why our constituents feel so hurt and ignored by the Jelleff deal. Those feeling this way are not anti-private schools, and many are private school parents and alumni. They simply want to see sharing of the high-demand hours—which are a scarce public resource.
We explained that our constituents tell us that the immediate afterschool hours (3:30–5:30pm) are the ones that matter most to families—they are the most in-demand hours—and this deal gives just one school all those most important hours for another decade. We told her that residents have been saying for years that different schools should share hours more fairly.
We told her that the original deal said "consent may be withheld or conditioned in the sole discretion of the District," and DPR had acknowledged that since many things have changed in the last decade in DC and in the area, they were open to changing the afterschool hours allocation—and that is what residents wanted. We explained that, for over 9 months, we have asked DPR for transparency, but in the end, residents feel that they made the decision without a transparent process, and ignored the pleas of so many children and parents at so many other schools.
We explained that every day, over 100 kids in the free Jelleff afterschool program cannot play on the reserved field and have to hang out in the basement or watch the school athletes instead of getting any outdoor physical activity themselves.
We reiterated that this deal is not just bad precedent for other public facilities, but also a terrible lesson for our children. We should be teaching them that sharing high-demand public resources is important and that all children deserve to share them. Public private partnerships can work, but not when they are exclusive rights to all of the most high-demand hours for 20 years. How do we explain that to our kids?
The Mayor’s Response/Our Reaction
Mayor Bowser said that she would instruct her agencies to take another look at the deal.
She said she would consider increasing funding for the Jelleff Rec Center building renovation—something we have been asking for for the last year. We told her that while that funding is welcomed, residents continue to tell us that another decade of one-school-only on the field afterschool was not acceptable to our community or to the nine other schools that requested to share some non-exclusive afterschool access.
She said that she is interested in DPR taking over management of Duke Ellington Field. We told her that, for many months, we and other civic leaders have been asking DPR to come before our community to explain their plans—but they have resisted doing so. We told her they must have a robust community consultation process (like DDOT and other agencies often do) and discuss all the options fairly and openly—before making any decisions on that field. And we told her what many constituents have told us: just because the city may have plans for Ellington Field (that they have not shared, despite our repeated requests), that does not change their desire for the Jelleff deal to be reopened for other schools and for the children of the Jelleff afterschool program to have outdoor space.
We mentioned that the chair of the DC Council committee overseeing DPR, Trayon White, is on our side and plans to hold a hearing into this issue. Other councilmembers including CMs Silverman and Cheh have also asked for this and for rescinding the deal. White's office says that the city could/should pay for any field renovations itself and does not need to give away exclusivity. Mary Cheh's letter says, "I cannot understand why the District would agree to renew that agreement when doing so denies students from the neighborhood access for 9 more years."
We mentioned that 3 ANCS have passed resolutions asking to reopen the deal and that there is a letter that has been signed by over a half-dozen different PTAs/PTOs of elementary, middle, and high schools, including Hardy MS and School Without Walls.
Lastly, we told the Mayor that, as our city grows, DC needs to work with the community transparently to devise a better plan and process for how to share scarce public resources without having “turf battles” every time. That is why we called for transparency from the start. We wish they had listened, and we hope it is not too late. We will push onward.
We stand ready to work with all leaders and stakeholders to achieve better fairness and sharing of our public facilities.
Please sign up to testify at the DC Council hearing. If you click here to sign up to join our coalition, we will notify you and you can also input your written testimony in case you cannot appear in person.
Please share the petition.
Please keep emailing/calling the Mayor, AG, and Council. Click here for our Action Flier!
Please write letters to editors of your local blogs and publications. Contact us for guidance.