Friday, March 13, 2009

MFP Manipulations

Here is a timeline based on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and other sources. It shows that, throughout 2008, DCPS was planning to move Janney up near the front of the modernization queue based on "right-sizing" initiatives, but that in the final days before the release of the September draft Master Facilities Plan (MFP), political intervention pushed Janney's addition to the very end of the modernization line, despite a protest from DCPS's facilities expert.

In July, after Mayor Fenty announced his decision to pursue a public-private partnership for the site, Allison Feeney wrote an email to CM Mary Cheh, offering advice regarding how to pressure the community into accepting a deal it clearly did not want. Cheh forwarded Feeney's note to Deputy Mayor Albert, adding her own endorsement of the strategy. Subsequent events seem to indicate that DMPED followed this advice -- including manipulating DCPS's modernization queue to suggest that the only way for Janney to ensure that its facilities would be addressed in a timely manner would be to consent to ceding part of its campus to private development.

In the March 2009 revised draft MFP, the Fenty Administration seems to have adopted that position. Now the question is before the Council. Will it reject the notion that which schools get what facilities when may be a function of the market value of their campuses? A Council hearing on the MFP, currently scheduled for March 26th (during DCPS's Spring Break!), may prove decisive.

The documents on which this timeline is based can be found at

September 2006 – Superintendent Clifford Janey submits his Master Facilities Plan draft to the DC Board of Education. In this plan, where the order of the modernization queue is determined primarily on the basis of the condition of a school’s existing facilities, Tenleytown’s Bernard T. Janney Elementary is near the end of the line (#104), despite the fact that it is one of the most overcrowded schools in the District and there is a lengthy wait list for out-of-boundary students seeking admission.

January 23, 2008 – As part of its “right-sizing” effort, DCPS anticipates accelerating Janney’s modernization. [Anthony DeGuzman email to Eric Lerum]

March 6 – Bev Sklover announces at a Community Meeting that she has spoken with the consultant working on the MFP who told her that, as a result of the school closures, Janney’s modernization will be moved up to 2010.

March 31 – Consultant’s draft Master Facilities Plan places Janney near the head of the modernization queue. In this document, Janney is #8 in line for modernization (the line does not include the 11 modernization projects already in progress). Janney’s renovation and addition is scheduled to begin in FY2010 and be completed by FY2012. The document makes no reference to PPP discussions and, judging from the timeline and budget figures, it does not assume that there will be a PPP at this site.

July 10 -- Despite overwhelming community opposition, Mayor Fenty announces that he's going forward with a PPP for the Tenley Library/Janney School site and has chosen LCOR as the private partner.

July 12 – Janney parent/SIT member Allison Feeney writes to Councilmember Mary Cheh suggesting that the only way to gain community support for the PPP is to ensure that there is no other way for Janney to get moved up in the modernization queue. If Janney is #8 without a PPP, Feeney points out, then no one will support a PPP. CM Cheh forwards Feeney's email to DM Albert, expressing her hope that Albert “will co-ordinate with those responsible and pursue” Feeney’s suggestions.

September 2-4 – As the final touches are being put on the draft MFP in anticipation of its public release, Anthony DeGuzman and Eric Lerum agree that Janney’s addition should take place in 2010 with renovations to follow in 2012 or 2013 depending on budget pressures. Lerum informs Chris Dunlavey (the consultant preparing the draft MFP) of this decision, emphasizing the order (addition before renovations) as well as the timeline.

September 8 – After a high-level meeting, Dunlavey circulates a new draft of the MFP, indicating that the “Changes include…shifting Janney addition out to 2014.”

September 9 -- DeGuzman questions this change: “why has the addition been moved to 2014? Schools with lesser space needs have leapfrogged them. This contradicts the guiding principles.” Dunlavey responds that it was made “per DME” (Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso).

September 10 – The draft MFP is released with Janney’s addition at the very end of the line (2014) and scheduled to take place after Janney’s renovations.

October 10 and 24 -- ANC 3E Commissioner Anne Sullivan and the Janney SIT and PTA submit testimony to the DC Council contesting Janney's position in the MFP queue, and citing some of the documents mentioned above. For the text of that testimony, go to

November 25 -- Andrew Smiles reports to the Janney SIT that Anthony DeGuzman has told the Facilities Committee that Janney was likely to be moved up in the queue regardless of whether the PPP went forward. He adds that "The Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by the ANC meant downtown got called on Janney students’ needs not being prioritized in the MFP placement according to guiding principles of DCPS assessments."

January 30, 2009 -- Chancellor Rhee and DMPED officials meet with the Janney SIT. Rhee suggests that the only way to move the school's modernation up from 2014 is with the PPP.

March 3-- OPEFM submits a revised MFP schedule to the Council. In this schedule, Janney's addition is restored to its original slot in 2010, only now a footnote states "Janney schedule is predicated upon a successful partnership between a private development company and the District of Columbia with respect to the redevelopment of the former Tenley/Friendship library site." Interestingly, another section of the MFP contains the same scheduling information without the footnote.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

PPP 101

Here's a short introduction to the proposed public-private development project in Tenleytown. It is designed to describe the deal and to explain why so many community groups are opposed to it. The description of the project is based on the most recent site plan available (dated January 21, 2009). This page will be updated as new/different/additional information is made public.

If there is a public-private project (PPP) at this site, what would the private developer (LCOR) build?

A mixed-use building with 165 rental apartments (13 priced as workforce) and the public library on the bottom floor(s) as well as a 200+ car garage. District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) will pay for the construction of the library.

The building’s footprint covers the entire library lot as well as 11,000 SF of the soccer field above ground. The garage will continue underground for another 60 feet, with excavation ending about 30 feet from Janney’s historic building.

LCOR will not be building any facilities for Janney Elementary School.

Why is this project objectionable?

1. IT WILL FURTHER DELAY THE LIBRARY: Negotiations have already delayed the reconstruction of our library by nine months. The deal itself would delay its re-opening by at least an additional two years because it will require a radical redesign of the library and a series of new/independent regulatory approvals including environmental impact assessments. LCOR will also have to get construction financing for the private residential component before the library can be built. By contrast, DCPL’s stand-alone design is fully-funded and already approved. Without a PPP, we could have our library back by fall of 2010. If the LCOR deal were to go through, and all goes well, it would be 2013 before we have a full-service neighborhood library again. Our library has already been closed for more than four full years.

2. THE ONLY THING JANNEY GETS OUT OF THIS DEAL IS A SMALLER CAMPUS: Allowing private development on Janney’s campus will deprive the school of land needed for its expansion. DCPS’s modernization plan for Janney will relieve overcrowding and expand the school’s student population to 550. To do this, Janney’s interior space needs to double. Exterior facilities (a multipurpose playing field and various age-differentiated hard and soft scape playspaces) need to be preserved and expanded as well to serve a larger student body. By depriving Janney school of the use of its most versatile campus land, the LCOR deal virtually guarantees that the exterior facilities that DCPS’s own educational specifications mandate for a campus this size cannot be provided. The 11,000 SF it will consume above ground is significant – it’s equivalent in size to the footprint of the new wing. And the land above the underground garage is largely lost to campus planners as well – it can’t be built upon and it will no longer be large enough for a playing field. Janney’s SIT opposes this public-private project, which would shrink the school’s campus without providing more or better facilities, and which now risks delaying the school’s modernization. In a recent poll, Janney parents were opposed to the project by a margin of over 5:1.

3. THE PPP WILL HOLD OUR PUBLIC FACILITIES HOSTAGE TO THE VAGARIES OF CAPITAL AND HOUSING MARKETS: DCPL has the money in hand to build our library. LCOR does not have the money in hand to build its apartment building. If the two projects are combined, nothing gets built unless/until LCOR gets financing. DCPS has the bond authority necessary to raise the money to modernize Janney and it is eligible for additional stimulus funding targeted for school construction. But until the LCOR project is completed (or cancelled), DCPS can’t move forward on Janney’s addition. In these economic times, public financing is oriented toward getting things built as quickly as possible, whereas privately-financed projects are being delayed, postponed, or abandoned.

4. ALLOWING PRIVATE DEVELOPMENT ON THIS SITE LIMITS FUTURE USES OF THIS PUBLIC LAND: The construction of a nine-story multi-million dollar apartment building would prohibit any major expansion or reconfiguration of the library to meet future needs. Nor could the library ever be relocated and its land added to Janney’s campus to meet the school’s needs. Nor could complementary public facilities (e.g. a teen center) be co-located at this site.

5. ADDING 165 APARTMENTS AND A 200+ CAR GARAGE AT THIS LOCATION WILL OVERBURDEN THE SITE, ADD TRAFFIC AT AN ALREADY PROBLEMATIC INTERSECTION, AND POSE A VARIETY OF SECURITY AND SAFETY ISSUES. We already have 700 schoolchildren on this block (at Janney and St. Ann’s), moving between schools, playgrounds, and the library. Their safety is the community's paramount responsibility. There's no shortage of underdeveloped privately-owned land along upper Wisconsin Avenue. And housing built on those sites wouldn't compromise our school and library facilities.

What’s the financial benefit to the City?
A one-time payment that is unlikely to do more than cover the cost of providing school and library parking , subsidize the workforce units, and provide some compensation for losses associated with delay and redesign of the library. DCPL will still be paying for the construction of the library; DCPS will still be paying for the construction and renovation of the school’s facilities. There’s no free school or free library in this deal.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

ANC and PTA/SIT testimony on Janney's place in the MFP queue

Note that this testimony was presented before all of the FOIA documents used in the timeline were obtained. And see the postscript/response at the end of the two documents.

Vincent C. Gray, Chairman
"The Facilities Plan for District of Columbia Public Schools"
October 10, 2008

Testimony of Anne C. Sullivan, ANC 3E05

My name is Anne Sullivan, and I have lived in DC for 25 years. For fifteen years, I was a parent of children in DC’s public schools. For decades, most DCPS parents had little hope in the governments’ ability or desire to modernize and expand the public school facilities, let alone make basic repairs and perform necessary maintenance work. Now there is a new agency with an outstanding leader, Allen Lew, for school facilities, and a new promise from the government in the form of the DCPS Master Facilities Plan to repair, upgrade, modernize, expand and maintain schools on an abbreviated timeline.

While the plan is long on ambition, it is short on details. Still, the document is an attempt to provide efficient and fair plans to modernize schools according to the four core educational priorities set by Chancellor Rhee. Embedded in principle number three is the priority to appropriately expand schools with evidence of overcrowding and waiting lists. This is good, because just as there is a sense of urgency to upgrade schools recently configured to receive an influx of new students, so should there be a sense of urgency for schools that are grossly overcrowded, expected to grow even larger, and have a long waiting list of students. This makes sense in the context of the principle to accommodate emerging/existing feeder patterns, enrollment trends and school clusters.

In general, it is easy to follow the modernization queue of schools according to this priority, but there is one glaring exception: Janney Elementary School. Janney was in the #8 spot in line with a planned modernization and expansion scheduled in 2010 to 2012 (?), according to a March 31, 2008 consultant’s draft of the modernization queue. However, Janney has now been moved to near the end of the queue, with a 2013 -2014 time frame for the construction needed to accommodate a burgeoning student population. There is only one other school that comes close to the 133% overcapacity that Janney experiences, and that school (Burrville Elementary, at 132%) is scheduled for a 2010 modernization and expansion. The question must be asked: Why has an overcrowded, blue-ribbon award winning school with a waiting list of 155 students been kicked to the end of the line while schools with little or no overcrowding have been moved up ahead of Janney?

The answer is a political one.

The Ward 3 Council Member, the former Janney principal, and a group of Janney Elementary School parents started advocating for a land sale of part of Janney’s campus and development rights above the site of the planned Tenley-Friendship Library branch back in the beginning of 2007. The motivation for the school group was to force the modernization and expansion of the school ahead in the line. The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development issued an RFP for the site in October of 2007, and three developers’ proposals were shown to the community in February of 2008. It was obvious to all community stakeholders that none of the proposals would be acceptable; all three would result in Janney’s campus being too small to accommodate the needed expansion and the needed P.E. playing field. For those who were concerned with the library plans, it was distressing to note that the land sale and subsequent development would delay the new library by at least two years and cause millions of dollars in costs associated with that delay.

In spite of nearly unanimous rejection of the proposals, Mayor Fenty, with the Ward 3Council Member standing at his side in support, issued a press release on July 10, 2008, announcing the selection of LCOR as the development partner for the site.

Shortly thereafter, the Ward 3 Council Member forwarded a letter to Deputy Mayor Albert from a Janney parent outlining concerns that if Janney was scheduled for a modernization and expansion in 2010 without a land sale, then surely the community would opt out of the proposed land sale. This was of great enough concern to both the Janney parent and the Council Member to urge the Deputy Mayor to make sure that the land sale was perceived as the ticket to moving Janney ahead in the queue.

I believe there were two possible reasons that the newly announced modernization queue put Janney back at the end of the line: either the political decision was made to put it there to force community acceptance of the land sale to move Janney back toward the front, or Allen Lew has wisely realized that any land sale and associated Planned Unit Development (PUD) will take years to finalize, and that Janney needed to be moved back to accommodate that reality.

In either case, it is unfair that the current and future students of Janney Elementary School have to postpone having a modernized and expanded learning environment because of the desire to accommodate a large residential building on their campus.

I urge the Council, Mayor, Chancellor and Executive Director Allen Y. Lew to immediately halt all plans for any type of land sale on Janney Elementary School’s campus and to move the school forward to its rightful position in the modernization queue. I believe that fairness should trump politics.

Written Testimony submitted to the Council on October 24, 2008

by the Janney Elementary School PTA and SIT

We are deeply appreciative of this opportunity to share thoughts and concerns from the community and families of Janney Elementary School with the DC Council Members through this written testimony. We hope that our information and comments will be considered in the process of completing an effective plan for improving and expanding the school buildings serving our DC Public School students and communities.

This is a critical time as the proposed Master Facilities Plan is considered by the Council Members. Thanks in larger part to your ongoing commitment to improving the DCPS system, Janney Elementary School has greatly benefitted in the last few years. The Blitz efforts have markedly improved our classrooms and common spaces, and the budget has supported critically important educational and service program improvements at our school. The commitment of over $1 billion for facilities improvements, expansions, and additions will help address a serious backlog and take a true giant step towards providing the school facilities essential to effective learning and a brighter future for ALL DC Public School students. Your commitment – time, attention, and funding – is recognized and greatly appreciated by our school community.

As to the Master Facilities Plan as proposed, our testimony focuses on four areas. These include:

  • Appreciation for the priority given to meeting DCPS’ needs for facilities upgrades and improvements;
  • Recognition of the guiding education-based principles behind a strategic MFP;
  • Understanding of the need to address years of deferred facilities maintenance at far too many elementary schools;
  • Requesting appropriate consideration be extended to elementary school
    overcrowding in amending the MFP.

First, we applaud the commitment the Council and other city leaders are considering toward dedicating $1.3 billion to projects that would “place all DC children in dramatically improved buildings by 2014.” That is an acceleration over prior plans, and places priority on addressing chronic and critical needs across all corners of our city.

Second, we appreciate the guiding principals behind the MFP. The large and complex assignment to be tackled through the Master Facilities Plan certainly necessitates a carefully constructed set of principles and priorities to be consistently and accurately applied. As we reviewed the details of the proposed MFP, we saw evidence of the considerable work entailed in its development.

Third, we understand the prioritization of modernization of elementary school classrooms and other instructional space. Years of deferred (no) maintenance at far too many buildings have left some in shockingly poor repair. At Janney Elementary, our basic facilities are in reasonably good repair. But this is a basic problem affecting many other elementary schools, and their students and families deserve prompt action.

Fourth, we ask for due consideration to overcrowding conditions at schools that have suffered and continue to grapple with severe overcrowding and lack of sufficient and appropriate facilities. The four “Guiding Principles” developed by the DC Public School Chancellor’s office included: (1) Modernize/enhance Classrooms; (2) Ensure Building Support Programs; (3) Accommodate Emerging/Existing Feeder Patterns, Enrollment Trends and School Clusters: and (4) Leverage the School as a Community Asset.

We ask the Council’s help in ensuring an important question is addressed by those responsible for the MFP and the implementation of the construction plan. Were these principles consistently and rigorously applied, using accurate information, in the development of the list of project priorities and schedules included in the MFP?

The information and level of detail provided in the MFP make it a challenge to assess if the four principles have been followed in the cases of severely overcrowded schools. Within DCPS, overcrowding is a less common challenge than schools with facility capacities that exceed their current or projected enrollment. While overcrowding may be less common, it is certainly injurious to the learning environment and performance of students. Yet the MFP gives limited consideration to addressing overcrowding in some elementary schools.

Janney Elementary School is a great school with a growing problem. Our building was constructed in 1925 with few upgrades and no additions since that date. The facility is limited, but enrollment is large and growing. Consider these facts based on DCPS data:

  • With a capacity of 364 students, Janney enrollment has breached 500 and will grow to 550.
  • We already have five classrooms in trailers.
  • Janney Elementary has the second highest utilization rate of all elementary schools in the system at 133%. Oyster School, a new building, has the only utilization rate higher than Janney’s;
  • At Janney, there are 90 square feet per student – far below the 140 square foot standard. Our enrollment places us as the third worst elementary school on this standard.
  • Our Multipurpose Room is too small to serve as either a cafeteria, gym, or auditorium – yet it shoulders all three duties.
  • A single set of boys and girls bathrooms on the first floor of a three story building is inadequate for the nearly 500 students. It is nearly impossible to keep the bathrooms clean and supplied with towels, soap and toilet paper. With 64 adults on the Janney staff there is often a queue for the single toilet in the staff lounge. The lack of adequate bathroom facilities is a serious health and sanitation issue.
  • The building is not compliant with Americans with Disability Act accessibility standards.

As the Council, Mayor, DCPS, and Office of Public Education Facilities Management continue to consider revising the MFP as proposed, we ask consideration of and response to three questions:

Have the pressures of constant, continued, and growing overcrowding been given due consideration in the MFP? As we review the MFP details, our concern centers on the delay of Janney School’s expansion to 2014 -- at the end of a long line for improvements. Janney would receive “modernization” focused in improving the appearance and functionality of classroom and other instructional space in 2013. We certainly appreciate that Janney is in the MFP in 2014 for an addition to address our space crunch. But instructional quality at Janney and all of our students are affected on a daily basis by the highest utilization rates, lowest space allotment/student, and substandard facilities found across the elementary schools. Janney School’s placement seems to be the result in part of inconsistent application of the four guiding principles established by the DCPS Chancellor’s Office. In our parents’ discussion at the public meetings on the MFP with OPEFM officials, it has become clear that overcrowding was not given due consideration in the establishment of the priorities and schedule for projects.

Will the MFP be amended to provide accurate and current information on all DCPS Schools? How will corrections be considered in revising the priorities and schedule set in the MFP? There were errors of fact in the MFP details on Janney Elementary School.

These included:

  • The MFP lists Janney as having a Gym, Auditorium, and Multipurpose Room. We have a single room that serves – inadequately – all three purposes. For example, our students are divided into three groups and have just 20 minutes for lunch each noon hour for sitting and eating their lunches. Indoor gym class scheduling is a challenge. And school assemblies overtax the available space on a regular basis.
  • With over 500 students in a building with a capacity for only 364, we have relied for years on trailers for additional space. The School Profile in the MFP indicates we have 1 Expansion (Portable). We have three trailers and they are fully utilized as 5 classroom spaces.
  • The School Profile in the MFP is inaccurate in the class configuration at Janney. We have been able to accommodate only 1 Pre-K class to date due to a lack of classrooms. The School Profile indicates 2 Pre-School, 4 Pre-Kindergarten, and 4 Kindergarten classes at Janney. Due to a lack of classroom spaces, we have 1 Pre-K and 3 Kindergarten Classrooms. Because of classroom space limits, Janney School cannot meet the DCPS and Council goal of offering Pre-K to our community. The Profile also lists 4 Art Rooms, 2 Media Centers, 1 Home Economics Room, and 1 Science Lab. We have a single Art Room made from a converted classroom space. We have a modest library which includes a computer lab. The 2 Media Centers, 1 Home Economics, and 1 Science lab listed in the School Profile do not exist at Janney.

Clearly, there are evident problems with the Janney Elementary School data used in the MFP. It may be possible that comparable errors have been made with other schools. Is there an opportunity to correct the data used in setting the MFP? And if so, how will corrections be factored in to revising the MFP’s priorities and schedules?

Can OPEFM consider trading the classroom modernization scheduled for 2013 in order to expedite the expansion scheduled for 2014? Janney Elementary School has invested in maintenance and our community has put both funds and people power in to maintaining and improving the grounds and classroom conditions. Given the pressure of overcrowding, an expansion at an earlier date may be preferable over classroom modernization to be followed by expansion.

In conclusion, we strongly believe the four guiding principles must be consistently applied in setting the MFP. To date, the Plan seems not to adequately recognize the constant pressure of severe overcrowding at some elementary schools. Specifically, we see a compelling case for moving forward to an earlier date the expansion so greatly needed by Janney Elementary School. The school has been and is projected to continue to face severe overcrowding throughout the next five years. Our existing facilities rated at a capacity of 364 students are stretched to the breaking point by our current enrollment of over 500 pupils. Long before this revised MFP was released, in May 2007, a small group of concerned parents collected over 300 signatures of Janney Parents and other community members on a petition calling for the Council and Mayor to support an addition at our school at the earliest possible date. Those 300 signers were added in only a week’s effort. It is a tangible sign of the abiding community interest in and support for the actions we again request through this testimony.

On behalf of the Janney Elementary School community – the students, the PTA, and the SIT – thanks again to the Council Members for making education reform and facilities improvements among the highest priorities in our city. We hope the MFP will be revised, the Janney expansion will be scheduled earlier, and the final plan will meet with your approval and support.

original available in pdf format at:

And a postscript:

SIT Minutes Nov 25, 2008 Facilities Committee

Andrew noted that according to Anthony DeGuzman at DCPS Janney’s place in the MFP is likely to be advanced, regardless of the outcome of the PPP. But no promises or stipulations were officially made. The Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by the ANC meant downtown got called on Janney students’ needs not being prioritized in the MFP placement according to guiding principles of DCPS assessments.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

In Which Chancellor Rhee joins DM Albert's Extortion Ring?

From the Janney School website:

January 2009

On January 30, the SIT met with Chancellor Rhee, members of her staff, Eric Scott (DMPED) and Matt Troy (DMPED) to discuss Janney's position in the draft Master Facilities Plan and the proposed PPP. Chancellor Rhee stated that Janney is slated to begin expansion in 2014 if a PPP is not approved. She also confirmed that expansion would begin earlier if a PPP is approved. Her office could not provide a firm date for expansion if a PPP is approved, but confirmed that expansion under a PPP could begin as early as 2010, as the SIT has reported in prior updates. The Chancellor summarized what she sees as compelling reasons to favor a PPP but said she would make a decision only after she receives community feedback on the latest LCOR proposal.

Here are the SIT's minutes from the meeting:

SIT Meeting with Chancellor Michelle Rhee, January 30, 2009

DCPS: Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Eric Lerum, Anthony DeGuzman; SIT: Tawana Franklin, Karen Langford, Andrew Smiles, Shellie Wood, Dr Karen Crews, Kirk Rankin, Marijke Gero, Karen Martin, Malin Kerwin, Mary Osterman, Jane Malhotra; PTA: Lucy Smiles

Chancellor Rhee began by apologizing. After the meeting with the 2007-08 SIT one year ago, she felt that the group was interested in exploring a PPP as long as the main concerns – preserving green space for Janney, and ensuring that Janney would benefit from the deal – would be addressed. She felt it would be okay to push for the project with that in mind. She must look across all of DC to prioritize facility needs. Janney would get extra money, and the student population would grow, so the PPP appeared to be a win-win. Although she lost direct communication with the SIT, she always told the mayor that if the school doesn’t get out of it what they need, it’s a no-go.

Through DMPED, lots of frustrating things occurred. She saw specific emails about green space, but didn’t realize there was a lack of good information.

It is her belief that we can come up with a situation that will benefit the school. The most recent proposal – with an increase of green space, moving up the timeline for Janney in the MFP, and additional money that the PPP will put toward the renovation of outdoor facilities – in her view, makes sense. Much went wrong in the process. Other interests were driving things. She and the mayor never wavered on the fact that this would not go through unless the school would benefit from it.

She said that the best next steps need to be determined, and she will chart a course to ensure that she is fully aware of what is going on.

Kirk Rankin thanked the Chancellor for taking the time to meet with the SIT. He noted that last year was a different time and group. That the rationale of getting advanced in the queue has changed. That the Janney community is now confident that Alan Lew and Chancellor Rhee would get Janney’s facility needs addressed without need to give up land. The PPP appears to be more of a land sale. How much would we give up? When we get rebuilt is what’s important. Through FOIA’d documents, there appears to have been political manipulation showing Janney had been scheduled for a 2010 renovation but it was moved later to the end of the queue to make a PPP more attractive. Janney is a high-achieving, overcrowded school that needs to be expanded.

Chancellor Rhee noted that the only official documents released have Janney in 2014. If we move with the PPP, the timeline will move up. Drafts go back and forth all the time.

Kirk said the draft reflects informed decisions made be people such as Anthony deGuzman, her own assistant, who believed that, based on the guiding principles of the MFP, Janney’s needs should be addressed soon.

Chancellor Rhee responded that every school feels that way. Her first focus is on classroom environment and by that standard, Janney’s issues are not the top priority. There are schools in Ward 8 with deplorable conditions. Many schools have demountables. She understands that Janney is bursting at the seams but some schools’ conditions are incredibly bad. She does not play in the politics of it and that is not how she makes her decisions.

Kirk agreed that many school’s facility problems are great, but that Janney’s peculiar needs are around capacity. Chancellor Rhee said she understood that Janney SIT would by definition be advocating for our school’s needs. Kirk asked where is Janney in the MFP now. Chancellor Rhee answered that her goal is to combine all that needs to happen citywide, and that Janney’s place in the MFP queue would be dependent on the PPP.

Kirk clarified that if there is no PPP, Janney would be modernized and expanded beginning in 2014. Chancellor Rhee confirmed this but noted that she does not know the details. Andrew Smiles brought up the MFP guiding principles, suggesting that Janney’s needs should be addressed based on the merits of our case. Chancellor Rhee responded that Janney’s expansion/modernization without the PPP would be slated for last on the list. That the guiding principles first focus on classrooms, and that having demountables is not considered a negative classroom experience. That demountables are beautiful compared to some of the classrooms in buildings across the city.

One person confirmed that she was aware that Janney has just one set of bathrooms on the first floor for the 500 students. That there is just one adult toilet for the staff. Again, Kirk noted that capacity is our issue, not condition.

Chancellor Rhee said that expansion of schools is not a priority. We have to choose. The mayor and Alan Lew want the former 20-year MFP compressed so that all schools across the city would have needs addressed in the next five years.

Kirk responded that the Janney community, the only population that conceivably benefits from the plan, opposes it by a margin of five to one, and would prefer to wait until 2014 and not have any part in a PPP. No one in the community, execept for the few hardy souls that DMPED meets with, supports this plan. The library has been hung out to dry, and they are mad at us for the delays caused by entertaining this project for the last five years. This is extremely divisive in the neighborhood. The broader community has looked repeatedly at the concepts, the Janney community has looked at all the plans, and we are not interested, we are willing to take a pass. He asked the Chancellor if she will listen to us.

Chancellor Rhee said she has to look at the facts and weigh in. She’ll have to make a decision. With the current plan it appears that there would be increased green space, the modernizing of the school’s outdoor facilities (which Janney would not get if it waited until 2014), and everything would happen earlier.

Andrew remarked that no one saw 2014 as getting anything less. Lucy Smiles noted that we want the library and the school’s public space preserved. We have to consider what we want the space to look like in 100 years. Chancellor Rhee noted that she is looking at the proposal from the school’s purview so she is focused on that point of view. Lucy affirmed that the building of a nice library of great value to the community. Jane Malhotra said that the library is an educational asset to the community as well, and the lack of it for five years has had a negative impact not only on access to knowledge for the kids at Janney, but on the students at Deal and Wilson as well, where school libraries are sorely lacking.

Shellie Wood noted that one year ago when the SIT met with the Chancellor, there was a nice sentiment about the project. People were open about looking at the possibility. But plans eroded. There is a huge trust issue. Wrong numbers were used to make it appear that we were getting more green space in the proposal.

Chancellor Rhee responded that she wanted the back and forth dialog on what was being proposed. She said she has to look at what is currently being proposed. We won’t move forward til we all look at it.

Kirk asked the Chancellor how much money is being generated from the sale of the land.

She said she didn’t know. She asked Anthony DeGuzman, and he said they would need to ask the DMPED people who were waiting outside the conference room.

Kirk asked if she had not seen a term sheet. Chancellor Rhee said there are certain things she knows. She doesn’t know how much money is coming through the deal, but there is an upside of moving forward with a PPP vs. a delay if we didn’t.

Kirk asked about the status of the library. That Neil Albert’s letter says that the library has to be integrated into the structure. This would mean a delay to the library 18-20 months post PUD approval. This consideration should be in the Chancellor’s analysis, as five years has been the wait already. Chancellor Rhee said this was helpful to know.

Kirk confirmed that the Janney community will be engaged in the design process with or without a PPP. Chancellor Rhee agreed but that the plans could look different. Kirk asked what is the scale of the Janney addition and what is the status on the educational specifications. DeGuzman said they want to move quickly with the Ed Specs. Lucy emphasized to the Chancellor that the community is overwhelmingly against this.

Kirk asked about the process for dispossessing land and that this would need council approval and that would require Councilmember Cheh’s support. Chancellor Rhee said that how the council operates can be unclear and that, while it would require council approval, she and the Mayor have placed a focus on education that the council recognizes.

Lucy noted that the library and the school will be impacted by a large building right there. Dr. Crews stated that Oyster teachers had problems with not enough teacher parking in the garage when more teachers were added. What would happen if Janney added another 20 teachers after the project?

Chancellor Rhee said she doesn’t care about the development aspect of the deal. She is willing to fight with DMPED to make sure the school’s needs are addressed first.

Additional DC staff joined the meeting:
Sam Yeung (OPFM), Tony Robinson (OPFM), Eric Scott (DMPED), Matt Troy (DMPED)

DeGuzman notes that the ed specs call for a 35-40,000 sq ft addition for Janney.

Chancellor Rhee asked if the latest plans have been seen. Eric Scott said they are now up on their website. Chancellor Rhee said she wants to have the proposal. Doesn’t want anyone in the school community to think it’s the end all and be all. There is a process to resolve problems. The plans may look glossy and thus appear decided but they are not. DeGuzman noted that the plans have suffered more from a lack of glossy.

E. Scott noted that there have been many iterations of the plan. He said they sought community feedback. The changes they have made are a result of community feedback. At some point they will reach a stopping point.

Chancellor Rhee responded that there is a natural progression of back and forth but the impression has been that there’s not been much opportunity for input. Andrew Smiles asked about the term sheet – as a DC tax payer, how much would be put into the city coffers from this deal?

Matt Troy asked if he meant how much would be given to DCPS. He said it changes as the building plans change, and the market is getting worse. There has been a major downshift even since two weeks earlier. The original proposal using to justify – or not justify, but measure – what would come to Janney, has changed. It is now a 165 unit building. They are looking at somewhere between $5-7 million. Nobody is lending anymore.

Andrew Smiles said say it was seven million. Is some used to move Janney up in the queue, and some for outdoor enhancements and renovations? E. Scott said it would not be earmarked for any specific use. Jane asked about the library part of the mixed use site – what about the legislation saying revenue from library property/air rights must be used for library purposes? Troy responded that he has read the entire legislation and that, because the property also includes school land, the funds do not have to be directed to DCPL specifically but to any public benefit.

Kirk asked when the term sheet would be confirmed. Troy said there would be a readjusted capital appraisal today or tomorrow. Developing the term sheet had been slow as it has taken a back seat to the time DMPED has been spending on collecting community outreach. (Laughter and brow-raising from some SIT members.) Troy continued that they expect a term sheet in mid-February.

Chancellor Rhee thanked everyone for coming. Malin asked to make one more comment: that the SIT is looking out for the best interests of the school, and that it is not the building that makes Janney, but the community of people inside it that make Janney vibrant. And the majority of this community – six to one – do not want this PPP.

Chancellor Rhee said she understood. But she believes that Janney parents were responding this way more due to a widespread lack of understanding of what has gone on. It is based on fear of what may have been going on. Folks should understand what took place and where we are now.

Karen Martin asked what is the time line moving forward, so that we can get back to our community with some next steps. Chancellor Rhee said that the SIT, DeGuzman and E. Scott should agree on a timeline to get information out there, and clarify misperceptions of what’s out there and why. DeGuzman said he would set up a follow up meeting with the SIT, DCPS, DMPED and OPFM. Jane asked if DCPL shouldn’t be included. DeGuzman said he would check with the chancellor. Karen and Andrew asked when is DMPED’s community meeting to present the final plan. Dates will be scheduled around Janney availability but sometime in mid-February. Kirk asked if Chancellor Rhee would allow the people who wrote the FOIA’d emails to meet with the SIT to explain what happened, including the conctractor Dunleavy. She said yes.

Original PDF posted at

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Latest LCOR Site Plans (dated January 21st)

Variations on a theme. More trimming of edges and rearranging heights to retain SF while preserving "green space." The cynical/fictional garage entrance/exit onto Wisconsin Avenue remains. And the new addition is that the apartment building's courtyard opens onto Janney. What's that about? Seems like a bad idea for both the school and the residents.

Here are the links:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Janney Parents endorse SIT's decision to withdraw support for a PPP

The results of the SIT's poll of Janney parents are in. By a 5:1 margin, respondents approved of the SIT's decision to oppose the LCOR deal.

Here's the report from the January 27th edition of the Janney PTA Newsletter:

"The SIT Corner:

Thanks to all who responded to the PPP survey which went home last Wednesday. We debated the survey within the SIT and it took a while to finalize the langauge and prepare it for distribution. We apologize for the short turn around time. The preliminary results are that of those repsonding, 61 support the SIT's position, 12 oppose, and 2 offered comments alone.

We did not expect unanimity of responses and we understand that there are some within the community who may not agree with us. To those of you who do not support the SIT's position, please stay engaged and feel free to talk with us as events devlop. Please remember that the SIT is committed to Janney's future, and while some of us may disagree, we all share a common desire to help Janney be the best school it can be.

We do not have a firm date for a community meeting yet but we expect it to occur sometime in early February. We will certainly let you know as soon as it is scheduled. In the meantime we will continue to advocate for modernization and an addition to Janney as soon as possible. Thanks again and, as always, we welcome your comments.

Kirk Rankin
Chair, Janney School Improvement Team"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Two months later, Neil Albert finally responds...

Last October, Council Members Mary Cheh and Kwame Brown asked Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Neil Albert to pull the plug on what they called the "fatally flawed" LCOR deal for a mixed-use residential project at the Tenley Library/Janney Elementary site. The text of that letter is available here: The two CMs requested a reply by November 7th, but Albert blew them off -- although he did go to the media with his "damn the Council, full speed ahead!" message.

Now, two months later, he's given them the courtesy of a direct response. Here it is:

[[click image to enlarge]]