Thoughts on DC Education

Because of some posts I’ve written for the DC Area Mom’s Blog about school and education, the Spouse (aka the Help) decided that private school is in Destructo-kid’s future. Just how far in the future is the question. I’m willing to give public Pre-K and elementary school a chance.

Some time ago there was an ad for a gay dating site in the Shaw metro. I would look at the bear and the dweeb and wonder, who is the customer and who is the product? I ask the same question with DC schools, who is the customer and who is the product? Are kids the customers? Are parents? The more I read it seems more that elected politicians are the customers, and test scores are the product. There are various stakeholders, of which parents are one. But as a parent, I don’t feel like I’m really the customer and my child’s education and development is the product.

Similar to public transit. I’m a rider, not a customer. I know the $2.35 to get me from work to home does not cover the full cost of my ride. That’s covered by the various governments the WMATA system covers. And even then, that fare is really paid by my employer the US Government. If I really were the customer, WMATA would do more about safety and quality.

The Truxton Circle Book Group is reading The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City. There’s a part in there about urban schools I wanted to share:

This explains why, for example, not only have taxes gone up, but things like schools and other basic services have declined so badly in places like California. Traditional primary and secondary education is not important to industries where California is betting its future, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and biotech draw their workers from the best and brightest of the world. The source globally, not locally. Their labor force is largely educated elsewhere. Basic education and investments in poorer neighborhoods has no ROI for those industries.

This sounds horrible to say, but because DC gets its talent from elsewhere, it has little incentive to really invest in the kids of Washington and help them become the accountants, lawyers, and middle class of the future. My incentive to invest in Destructo, is that I’ve seen the Medicare funded nursing homes, and I pray he is kind and well off enough to help mommy & daddy avoid those places. Also I love Destructo, and he’s getting a little less destructive each day. Louder, but less destructive.

Last thought, when I moved to the DC area, the public schools sucked. I dare you to tell me that the DCPS circa 1995-2000 did not suck. Say what you will about Michelle Rhee, but she was a needed shock to the system. My fear is even with the charter and out of boundary options, DC education could go back to sucking. I also have my doubts about funding. Because the city is not dependent on a home grown local workforce, there is little incentive to spend funds wisely to really get the kind of future worker needed. I look at the per-pupil spending and some of the worse performing high schools schools get the most per student funding.

Black Businesses of 1968 Shaw: Delaney’s Pool Room

Okay the only reason why I know this was a black owned business is because of the survey the government conducted right after the April 1968 riots. They asked business and property owners in the riot corridors about their race and those who bothered responding, self reported their race. Or not.

Anyway, John Delaney owned a pool room at 1720 7th Street NW, where a post riot building currently sits. He did not suffer any fire damage. Instead he got a lot of broken glass and some things were stolen. It is unknown if he put “Soul Brother” on his shop to keep it from getting torched.

Delaney’s Pool Room Post Riot Survey by Mm Inshaw on Scribd

I don’t know if I’ll make this a series, like the 1957 Church Surveys, but who knows. My reason for posting this is to show that history is messy. The present is messy. There is no clean narrative where you can say, there were no black businesses in the Shaw ghetto. There were. There were plenty of black owned businesses, and some of them got hit by rioters. Some closed shop, and some, like Delaney thought Shaw was a perfectly fine neighborhood to do business.

Black Home Owners of 1940: Let’s clean up some data

Disclaimer: This has been sitting in drafts for a year. I forgot what was wrong with it. I’m gonna roll the dice and publish it.

 

So I have a goal to create a big ole spreadsheet of all the residents for all the censuses. Buuuuuut I need to clean up the data. The problem with the Census is sometimes I swear some of the enumerators were raging alcoholics who couldn’t find a job doing anything else. The census data is not pure, nor perfect. Sometimes a person’s only appearance is in the census, but sometimes they’ll appear elsewhere. They’ll be men who had to sign up for the draft, or business people or others who appear in city directories, and for owners after 1921 they’ll be in the Recorder of Deeds website.

So I’m going to look at homeowners who’s square or address has a question mark. These people are Clarence Washington of 126 FL Ave NW, Raymond Montgomery of 121 , Rudolph Blake of 137, Joseph Gibson of 136 Bates St NW, Florence Glover of 109 Q St NW, Jerome S. Jenkyns of 1641, John Lattimer of 1464, Roscoe Patrick, and Laura Ford of 1684 3rd St NW.

I located Clarence Washington on Square 551 lot 172. Now the problem is, that lot no longer exists. The Florida Avenue park sits there. It looks like he’s at 126 FL Ave NW, where previously he might have been at 124. It was unclear. Looking at the records, he obtained his property on September 14, 1935 with a 6% loan from National Savings and Trust Company. He appears to have been single at the time of purchase. He and his wife Clara (listed in the 1940 census) sold the house in April 1948.

Raymond Montgomery had purchased a fair amount of property, well at least someone with that name did so. Just looking at square 552 he owned lot 152, and in the current year that lot’s address is 123 P St NW. So not 121 Bates St NW as I had him in my data. Then a widower in February 1938 he bought the property. According to a October 1965 deed selling the house to a Lucille Baskin, Raymond died February 4, 1959 leaving his wife Estella a widow.

Rudolph S. Blake is another popular name for a property holder. Once again just focusing on Truxton Circle I can pin him down to Sq. 552 lot 159 (137 P St NW) starting in 1925 with his wife Ida B. She sells the property in 1948 after Rudolph as died.

Joseph and wife Novella Gibson are a problem. They are associated with property on squares 551 and 552. The documents for 551 appear to be an outlier as it is concerning a party wall between 213 and 215 Q St NW (Sq 551 lots 7 & 8). I believe they probably lived on square 552 on lot 206, currently 136 Bates St NW. February 1926 Joseph and wife “Navalla” obtain 136 Bates with a $2,250 loan at 6% APR with monthly payments of $30. The Gibsons sell in 1965 to Barney and Henrietta Weitz.

It appears widow Florence O. Glover buys 109 Q St NW, which no longer exists, in 1925. By the sale of the property to the DL & W company in 1957, it seems she is dead. A Florence Glover is deceased as mentioned in the deed, but her daughter was also named Florence Glover, so there is confusion there. And there are more than half a dozen Glovers mentioned on the document. Please don’t leave property to more than 2 unmarried (sans spouses) relatives, it’s really confusing.

Jerome and Ellena Jenkyns bought their home 1629 3rd St NW in 1922, if the records are correct. Once again this is another property that no longer exists. The property was sold in 1972 to the Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA) by the heirs. The document listed Jerome dying around about May 24, 1965 and Ellena dying around May 8, 1948.

 

 

Black Home Owners of 1930-1934: Sq 551 Ethel Thomas

I kinda stopped looking at black homeowners when I hit a problem I’ll call the widow Ethel. Ethel Thomas (nee Heywood) was a widow after 1934 when her husband Sanders Thomas passed away. In the 1940 census she was shacked up with some guy she, or someone, told the census was her husband. But there is no record (I could find) that she remarried.

Recently some images of records came available and they really don’t clear up the tale of Ethel, since it occurs around about the time of her husband’s death. I strongly doubt that I will find out who was her mystery man.

Landowner list of Sq 551Square 551, which is bounded by 3rd, Q, 1st, Florida Avenue and R Streets NW, is quite big. Since Destructo-kid has become mobile, very mobile, I’ve had zero time to get back to data clean up. But every so often some new data pops up, and it is just a question of can I do something with it.

If I were free to get around to looking at the owners, I’d look at 1900. That period saw an explosion of growth and building in Truxton Circle, so I could look and see who were the builders building for by looking at the 1902-1903 owners. Then if possible, compare with the census.

1957 Church Survey: Grace Reformed

I know I haven’t posted one of these in a while. But for those of you joining us, this is from a survey of the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which later got broken up into Downtown and Shaw, from 1957. It is like an awesome census of the churches in the area, from the steeple churches that one thinks of when thinking about what a church looks like, to storefront and house churches. There hasn’t been another survey like this since.

Anyway. This time up it is Grace Reformed Church, at 1405 15th St NW. It was a white church in 1957, and the current occupants Christ Reformed Church appears to be a predominately white congregation. In 1957, very few of the members lived in the NW Urban Renewal Area, a majority lived in other parts of NW DC and another chunk lived in the burbs. They were mainly white collar, dare I guess, middle class worshipers.

CS 60 Grace Reformed by Mm Inshaw on Scribd

So a guy died in my house….. in 1882

Private Tom Lawler was a cop. An Irish cop. One Saturday November evening in 1882 he went into work at the Sixth Precinct. But as his shift went on he started complaining of chills and was sent home around 10PM. A doctor was called but an hour later he died.

He probably died in the vicinity of where we sleep now.

Does this freak me out? No.

It’s been 137 frickin years for one. Two, I have the ashes of a dead woman on my bookcase, and I’d really like her not to be there gathering more dust. Nobody wants their mother in law hovering over them. But I digress.

Here is what I know about this former resident. He was captured in the 1880 Census as Thomas Lawlor, then aged 50. He lived with his wife Ellen, then 30 and their two children Mary (19) and Daniel (12). Mary and Danny were 2 of the 4 kids I know of. They were the only white people on that side of square 509E, if Irish immigrants in the 19th century count as such. Prior to living near 4th and Q NW they lived at K & New Jersey Avenue. When he was appointed as a law man in 1867, a letter of recommendation mentioned he had a large family and that he was a good man. His application said that he didn’t drink. Here I shrug, maybe. Because later in his personnel file (early DC cops have personnel files) he was in a home on North Capitol between P and O Sts (Yay, Truxton Circle) where a grocery was kept (whatever that means) when he wasn’t supposed to be there. This also happened in November, 1880. November was not a good month for Tommy the Cop.

Twelve Years Later…. at Big Bear

Big Bear Cafe April 27, 2007

Today, because it’s Friday and because we came up with lame excuses not to go to work, the Help and I are having a day date. We decided to start it off by having breakfast at Big Bear. It was great. I had french toast and a pot of English Breakfast tea as we sat inside with the Washington Post and the ambiance of the place.

I observed a family, where the father saw two separate friends/ acquaintances. He chatted with one, who came over and joked with the man’s elementary aged kids who were out of school for a thing.

Outside there were people. Some sat alone, tapping away at their laptops. Others gathered with a friend or two. And there were two workers fixing the paving thingamabobs.

About twelve years ago I stood in almost the exact space I was sitting at with my spouse. Big Bear in April 2007 was a possibility. I have a couple of pictures from an open house they held back then. The owners invited neighbors in to take a look at the place and nosh. Then, it was just going to be a coffee shop.

While I sat, I was comparing the feel of the place, then and now. Now it has a rhythm and a rep. It has a certain neighborhood vibe. I noticed parents, besides the one I mentioned earlier, with their kids on the way to school, pop in for a coffee. It just felt comfortable. It wasn’t full of promise or possible failure. It was, what it was.

The physical building and space has also changed. The patio is like part of the building, where people can sit (and battle bugs) under a canopy of grape vines behind walls of plants. The walls have art and shelves of booze (they make a good Old Fashioned) that weren’t there before. Oh, and there is a very tiny functional kitchen. The kitchen was very tiny in 2007, but not as functional.

2020 Michelin Guide Bib Gourmands in Shaw

Laotian spaghetti and meat-sauce
Hanumanh

Michelin has their guide out on-line and there are a few Shaw and Shaw adjacent places on the list.

Chercher1334 9th St NW. There are two locations. I’m assuming they are talking about the one in Shaw.

Hanumanh– Normally at 1604 7th St NW but they are undergoing some “unexpected” repairs. So they are on 14th St for now.

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace1612 14th St NW.

Red Hen1822 1st St NW. Not in Shaw but in walking distance from our house, so Shaw adjacent as far as I’m concerned.

Royal501 Florida Ave NW. Another Shaw adjacent place but is actually Shaw adjacent. You can sit out side and look longingly across Florida Ave and see Shaw.

Supra. Georgian food y’all. You can argue that it’s in Mt. Vernon.

Tiger Fork922 Blagden Alley, NW. We keep meaning to go here.

Unconventional_Diner_dish

Unconventional Diner- 1207 9th St NW. Once again we can argue about where this is, Mt. Vernon/Shaw. I’m going to link to their OpenTable page because their website has been hijacked.

and then you will quietly move away

The message I’m hearing is that if you want a high quality public school education for your children, you should move. Quietly. If not quietly, apologize profusely, publicly state your commitment to traditional and neighborhood public schools, maybe mumble something about needing more space, and move to an overwhelmingly middle or upper class neighborhood. There, the minorities are in the minority, other involved parents are in your demographic, and no one is going to make you feel guilty about being a tax paying, college educated homeowner.

Don’t send your kid to a charter

I love charters. They are the thing that kept many people in the city after they had kids. I had neighbors who stayed longer because of charters and moved because of charters (kid #1,#2 or #3 didn’t get in). It stays with you when a family puts their house up for sale soon after the March/ April lottery results come in. And it’s reinforced when I notice families with 2-3 year olds sell or move in late Spring and early summer.

The anti-charter/ pro-DCPS voices are making parents feel bad about charters. Charters aren’t transparent. Charters funnel money and good students/parents away from neighborhood schools. Charters have a powerful lobby. Charters are connected with current/historical segregation. Simply charters are morally suspect and you’re a horrible person if you support them.

And some of that is true. Charters could stand to be more transparent and publish the same data as DCPS schools. With nearly half of DC students attending charters, yup that money isn’t going to DCPS. Involved and conscious parents are going to choose certain schools for their kids. Compared to other pro-traditional schools organizations with older and deeper ties to DC’s political body, the powerfulness of FOCUS is questionable. And even traditional school districts are getting more segregated.

However, I don’t see the anti-charter school push moving parents towards neighborhood schools. Maybe to DCPS schools WOTP (West of the Park- Rock Creek) as one notable blogger has done. And even when some parents decide to take a chance on their neighborhood school, their presence isn’t necessarily welcomed.

Step back, move away from the school

The Post has an article about PTOs, Parent Teacher Organizations and the problems of inclusion with racially mixed parent groups. What the article leaves out is not every DC public and charter school has a PTO. Dunbar doesn’t seem to have an active PTO, nor does Garrison Elementary. It makes it look like this is a DC, East of the Park problem.

So I guess racial harmony exists over in the burbs and WOTP? Because those areas never seem to pop up in gentrification stories, where most of the Washington Post’s readership lives. If involved parents want to avoid this stigma, they should… I dunno, move to the burbs and WOTP?

Private School Snob?

It’s expensive, so move.

There is someone out there to make you feel bad if you choose private schools.

  But Matthew’s kid is still very young and not all private schools are “fancy”.

…. I should write a blog post about all the private predominately black schools in DC. I digress.

I’ll end with this: Can pro-traditional DC public school advocates draw middle class parents to DCPS without sending the message, move to NoVa or parts of Maryland? Yes, DC Charters are the competition, but so are the surrounding jurisdictions of Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery, Charles, and Howard Counties. Not so much PG County Schools. I’ve heard no one come out and say directly they’re moving because of schools. But when you notice people with kids start mysteriously disappearing when their eldest hits a certain age (2-3 or middle school), it’s hard not to conclude, they are moving because of schools.

Truxton Circle Property Owners, 1933

Okay the pages for Squares 507 to 510 East are crap. But the pages for Squares 519-521, 550-555, 614-618 and 668-670 (the NE Truxton) are readable.

What is it?

The National Archives has images of some of their stuff in their catalog. So I pulled out parts that pertained to Truxton Circle, here (for a better image of sq. 507-510E), and here. This is just more evidence for the history of Truxton Circle. If I (or someone else, hint, hint) decide to cross reference this list of property owners with a city directory or the 1930 Census, we could see who were landlords and who were homeowners. All sorts of questions could crop up from the data.

Anyway, here’s the pdf.

Truxton Circle 1933 Property Owners by Mm Inshaw on Scribd