M.M. Washington Is Only High School Targeted for Closing

Teachers Cite School’s Strengths and Improvements

Although Thursday’s snowfall hindered evening commutes for many District of Columbia residents, nearly 20 people gathered at Eastern High School a hearing on the proposed closing of M.M. Washington High School and Special Education Center. The 45-minute hearing was led by Phyllis Harris, the chair of DCPS Special Education; Clara Cantey, the assistant chair; and Monika Taylor, the principal of Eastern Senior High School. “Here we are celebrating Martin Luther King and 40 years later, equal education is still being denied,” said Darlene Babil, M.M. Washington High’s PTA president.

Babil, an opponent of the school’s closing, was one of only three speakers who showed up of the 11 names called to give testimonies.

The hearings, which took place in 22 other locations Thursday evening, are in response to Mayor Adrian Fenty and DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s reorganization and rightsizing plan to provide more “rigorous” educational opportunities and productive environments for the students of under-enrolled schools. M.M. Washington Senior High School is the only high school scheduled to close.

Katie Markham, a ninth grade science teacher at M.M. Washington, expressed employee grievances and stress that are now shared with educators at 22 other DCPS schools.

“I want to work to keep it open,” Markham said of her school. “I would love to keep teaching. But like so many other teachers in the area right now, I don’t know where I’ll go.”

Markham also noted the improvement of student test scores in the past three years, citing a 10 percent increase in math proficiency among students.

Dale Lubkeman, a teachers’ union representative, praised M.M. Washington’s student organizations although the status of most of the programs are in jeopardy.

“The cheerleaders do exceptionally well, the poetry club is growing and effective in creating a productive environment for the students, and we are working to organize a double dutch program,” Lubkeman said. “You don’t reward progress by closing a school down.”

Like Markham, Lubkeman also expressed employment concerns. “It’s the last thing I want to do,” he said, “but if no one is listening then I guess I need to begin looking for another school.”