AJE has been working hard to make sure that the DC Council knows what we have learned from working with nearly 800 families last fiscal year. Our Executive Director Rochanda Hiligh-Thomas, and staff members Maria Blaeuer, Stacey Eunnae and Chioma Oruh all testified during the recent oversight hearings. We value the opportunity to share what we know, and elevate the voices and experiences of the families we work with. However, we also know that the voices of our parents are more powerful than our second-hand stories ever could be. If you ever want to testify as a parent, AJE will support you, and we can help you write your testimony, prepare and practice.
Rochanda Hiligh-Thomas testified at OSSE’s oversight hearing on Tuesday, February 27th about two areas that require urgent and purposeful work of OSSE: Transportation, and LEA Capacity Challenges. She encouraged OSSE to set policies that ensure LEA compliance with IDEA and its implementing regulations, especially to implement regulations protecting students who might be in interim alternative placement. Our Director of Programs and Outreach Maria Blaeuer testified about PCSB at their oversight hearing on Friday, February 15th. Her testimony supported increased transparency in the charter sector, and discussed three areas where the Council and other stakeholders can collaborate to improve how the PCSB does its work and how the charter sector in DC operates. These three area of concerns are – Gaps in Governance, Capacity Challenges and School Discipline. Maria highlighted the lack of oversight of the use of restraint and seclusion in the charter sector. Like Rochanda, Maria also talked about interim alternative placements.
On February 21st, Senior Staff Attorney Stacey Eunnae testified about 3 ways DCPS could improve, and asked that the Council encourage DCPS to
- make compliance with civil rights laws, including special education laws, a priority and performance metric in all of its schools, not just some.
- take responsibility for their role in addressing the violence that stems from neighborhood beefs, sports rivalries and unequal treatment.
- fundamentally change how they engage and communicate with students’ families.
Stacey Eunnae’s testimony also highlighted how improbably few students with disabilities attend DCPS’ selective and/or high performing high schools and the inadequacy of DCPS’ internal grievance system. Other witnesses that day also shared concerns about DCPS’ internal grievance system. AJE Parent Support Specialist Chioma Oruh also testified – twice! She made sure that the Council knew the hardships parents experience when OSSE – Department of Transportation busses are late, or don’t show up at all. She also made sure that the Council knew what she and her children experience in a DCPS self-contained classroom, and she shared the stories of other families who AJE talked to.
Budget hearings coming up in April, and you can find the schedule here, and you can sign up there too. If you ever want to testify as a parent, AJE will support you, and we can help you write your testimony. If you are unable to testify at a hearing and want to, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. The record typically closes 10 business days after each hearing. Written statements can be emailed to Ashley Strange, Committee Assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the following address:Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Education 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Suite 116 Washington, DC 20004