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Opening Statement of Councilmember Grosso

Chairperson, Committee on Education
Committee on Education Public Roundtable on
D.C. Public Schools’ plans for Shaw Junior High School Campus and Benjamin Banneker
Academic High School
November 15, 2018

Good morning, I am David Grosso the Chairman of the Committee on Education.
Today’s roundtable is on “The District of Columbia Public Schools’ Plans for Shaw
Junior High School Campus and Benjamin Banneker Academic High School.”

Benjamin Banneker Academic High School has been a great school in the District
of Columbia since its inception in the 1981/1982 School Year. For nearly 40 years,
alumni from Banneker, many who are here to testify today, have represented the
best of DCPS and the District of Columbia.

It has been recognized as a National Blue-Ribbon School and has led the District
in graduation rate, and PARCC proficiency scores multiple times. The principal of
Banneker, Principal Anita Burger, has been a force of stability and excellence,
serving since the mid ‘90s and just a few years ago named Principal of the Year.
The faculty and staff of Banneker has very little year to year turnover. Everything
that is mentioned as a key indicator of a great school, Banneker has.

Another point of Banneker’s legacy is that it proves what is possible. Banneker’s
student population is 99% students of color, 74% girls, and majority economically
disadvantaged. I believe that part of our city’s strategy in addressing the racial
academic achievement gap is expanding the opportunity for students to attend
Banneker. Because of this, I am inclined to support the expansion of Banneker at
the Shaw site.

But I have been very disappointed with the community engagement process, and
the lack of addressing what many in the community feel is a need – and that is
the plan for a middle school in that area of the city. Across the city, DCPS is
moving away from the Education Campus model.

With the opening of the New North Middle School in Ward 4, DCPS is closing the
middle schools in Birghtwood, LaSalle-Backus, Takoma, and Whittier. Because of
the differentiated needs and specialized attention middle school students

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require, I am supportive of this move. Yet I wonder why DCPS would not use this
as an opportunity to reexamine the rational for having a middle school as part of
Cardozo and if it makes sense to have a stand alone middle school as opposed to
one that rests within Cardozo?

I hope that we all can agree that for far too long, our best high school in the city
has gone without a proper modernization and that it is time for that to happen. I
also hope that after today’s hearing, DCPS will come up with a plan to add a
stand alone middle school in the Center City area.

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