If there is one thing that should have been learned over the last twenty or so years, is that throwing money at a problem often exacerbates the very problem one is seeking to solve. This has been the case with the DC Public School System for a very long time. At one point, Washington, DC was spending more dollars per student then any other jurisdiction in the country. And we had nothing to show for it.
For decades, the same problems were prevalent. There were decaying buildings where students were supposed to learn. The management systems was dysfunctional, to say the least. And most important, the test scores were abysmal. Graduation rates were down and drops outs rates were high. That is a contributing factor to the twelve percent population decrease in the District between 1960 and 2000.
No matter which side of the recent mayoral debate you came down on, it is widely agreed upon that outgoing Mayor Adrian Fenty was wise to take over the DC schools and appoint Michelle Rhee as Chancellor of DC Public Schools. Before Rhee took the helms, there were six superintendents in the past decade alone. Before her appointment, there was no real accountability. There was only a circular firing squad. The city had a Mayor, a Council, a Superintendent and a School Board all pointing the finger of blame at one another.
Four years later, things are looking up. Four years later, even though Fenty lost his reelection bid, and Rhee has now resigned, DC students have a fighting chance.
As part of DC Public Education Reform in 2007, the State Board of Education was established. This past November, several new members were elected to the recently recreated school board. One of them is Patrick Mara in Ward 1.
Though he has lived in DC for many years, Patrick Mara is a recent newcomer to the local political scene. Many may recall two years ago, Mr. Mara ran against and defeat long time Councilwoman Carol Schwartz in the Republican primary. Though he lost in the general election for the At-Large seat on the City Council, he didn’t give up. He thought of how he could best serve his adoptive city.
Mr. Mara has served as a mentor at the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Shaw and with the Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund Program. He has tutored DCPS special education students through Project Northstar and is an officer for a non-profit organization focused on promoting global awareness, literacy and meaningful citizenship in DC Public Schools.
On top of these accomplishments, Mr. Mara, while straight, is a very good friend to our community. He was an early supporter of bringing marriage equality to the District.
As our community begins to adopt and have children of their own, the quality of the schools in our neighborhood will become a very deciding factor as to where we buy.
While it is uncertain what leadership the new mayor and a new chancellor will bring to DC schools, Patrick Mara’s leadership will be refreshing and innovative.
Patrick Mara will be sworn in as State Board of Education Member, Ward 1 on Sunday, January 2nd at 1:00pm at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.