Memory Lane- John Cook School now Mundo Verde at dusk

Memory lane is the series where I go through my old photos of the Truxton Circle (or Shaw) neighborhood and reflect.

The John Cook School is the building that Mundo Verde PCS now occupies. When the photos were taken in 2007, I believe the school had recently closed, but the city kept the lights on.

Taken November 29, 2007. John Cook School.
Taken November 29, 2007. John Cook School.
Taken November 29, 2007. John Cook School.
Taken November 29, 2007. Boys entrance to John Cook School.
Taken November 29, 2007. Girls entrance for Cook school.
Taken November 29, 2007 at dusk. John Cook School.
Taken on November 29, 2007. Corner of John Cook School at dusk.




School desegregation resegregation problem

This was written in 2019 and sat in my drafts. I’ve edited a little bit.

There was a post sitting in my drafts called “Let’s Resegregate Shaw.” It was sitting there so I can get the sarcasm out of my system. Then a cooler head prevailed and I deleted it altogether.

The DC school lottery results have been out for a while which resulted in a fair number of education opinion and data reports. What bugs me is that it seems the authors don’t acknowledge the peculiarities of the District of Columbia and how whatevertheory they have that may apply to Anywhere, USA doesn’t necessarily work here.

Chocolate City and a Craptastic Education

So after desegregation in District of Columbia schools after the Bolling v Sharpe case in the 50s, there was white flight (followed by black flight but we don’t talk about that..shhhh). The result was a overwhelmingly African American public school system, reflecting the majority minority city DC had become. In the last census, Blacks did not make up the majority, but was still the largest racial group in the city.

When I arrived in the DC area in the mid 1990s, DC schools had a poor reputation. The sign that everything, including the kitchen was being thrown at the problem was when General Julius W. Becton Jr., a man with no previous background in the field of Education, was named School Superintendent in 1996. DC had some of the highest per pupil spending but the worst outcomes. Gen. Becton resigned, quit, headed for the hills, after 16 months on the job. I don’t know when the public schools went downhill, all I know is it was broken when I got here.

Addendum from 2023:

It appeared to me when I wrote this that the schools were resegregating. I couldn’t help but notice that white parents who remained in the District of Columbia flocked to certain charter schools if they didn’t live west of the park (Rock Creek) where white students were the majority.

I did a review of Shaw schools in 2021 and with the exception of KIPP the academics of many of the public and charter schools were unimpressive. And, with the exception of charter school Munde Verde, they were pretty segregated, being majority Black with so few white students their PARCC scores hardly registered.

Children/ students are not the property or products of the state. Parents are making decisions and making the effort to put their children in this or that school. So there is a limit of what the DC government can do to attempt to integrate/desegregate DC schools. We may disagree with parents’ decisions to have their children sent halfway across the city to some random charter instead of their neighborhood public school. Or parents who purposefully moved into the Deal Middle School boundary area with crowding out other students from other areas and fighting any change in that boundary.

Armstrong Became A Functional School Again

Earlier I looked at Langston which, as far I know, is still a husk of a building. Langston was a school where African American children learned and played. But despite being on the Register of Historic Places, it is still a decaying structure. Armstrong was also on the Register and it was delivered back to the land of the living and in the 2023-2024 school year be a place where African American children learn and play.

Armstrong Manual Training School. Under renovation. Taken October 14, 2007

The school underwent renovation in 2007 to turn it into a charter school. The man heading up the effort was Kent Amos, who is still alive. He was operating a profitable looking non-profit and was able to funnel about $24 million dollars into turning a decaying building to transform it into a functioning school.

Armstrong Technical High School Ruins
Armstrong HS, view from P and 1st St NW taken 6/26/2007

In 2009 neighbors complained that the CAPCS charter school was renting out the building to the Metropolitan Baptist Church and turning the field on 1st Street NW into a parking lot.  Yes, that parking lot got sneaked on.

View of Armstrong Parking Lot from Dunbar High School window. Taken April 2018.

There were problems with the CAPCS school and it’s founder. In 2015 Jennie Niles, the Deputy Mayor for Education issued a letter saying:

Dear CAPCS Parents and Guardians,

This morning, the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board (PCSB), an independent board, voted to revoke the charter for Community Academy Public Charter School (CAPCS). While the vote will undoubtedly cause angst for the 1,600 CAPCS students and their families, the District of Columbia is ready to make sure that the needs of the students are met for the 2015-16 school year.

At the request of Mayor Bowser, I developed a plan in collaboration with Friendship Public Charter Schools, DC Bilingual Public Charter School, and the Chancellor of DC Public Schools to provide as much continuity as possible for CAPCS students and families.

Armstrong Campus (1400 First Street, NW): Friendship Public Charter School will assume operations beginning next school year (2015-16) for all 523 students……

After that Armstrong has been operating as a regular old charter school. I’m happy it is a building that is being used and maintained.

Armstrong Technical High School, March 1942. Photo by Marjorie Collins.


This Was Once A Functional School- Langston School

Among the Library of Congress photographs were photographs of the John Mercer Langston School, which sits on the unit block of P St NW in Truxton Circle. I discovered photographs of the Langston School among the several photographs that photojournalist Marjory Collins took in March 1942. However, like the Slater School, it was not labeled. Thank goodness these schools are located so close to each other that this slice of Truxton Circle history has been captured.

Langston School taken March 1942

Collins, it seems was aiming to focus on the woman in the hat, not so much the school building.

[Untitled photo, possibly related to: Washington, D.C. Schoolteacher] Library of Congress
It was part of a series of photos of a school teacher. As the teacher seemed to live in a whole other part of town a goes unnamed, just like the school, I’m not particularly interested in following her story.

Langston Elementary was a functional school. It had students and teachers and staff. But now it is just an empty historic building:

Abandoned Langston School on P St NW.

The images below are from 2007. The building has been better secured in the past 16 years.

Western side of the Langston School on P St NW.
Langston School taken May 30, 2007
Rear of Langston? May 30, 2007
Broken Windows, Langston School. Taken May 30, 2007

Slater School 1942

I happened to have found this photograph in the Library of Congress’ collection. It was listed as a Negro elementary school. When I took a closer look I saw the name of the school on the building.

Slater School. Kids playing on P St NW. 1942.

I am amazed seeing children playing on P Street as if it was an extension of the playground. P Street actually doesn’t look that wide in this photo. Things were different in 1942, when this was taken by Marjory Collins the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information photographer who took the photograph.

I found a similar view from 2008.

Unit block of P Street NW taken January 8, 2008

The school was in poor shape then.

Slater School on the unit block of P St NW ca. 2008

St. Augustine is Seeking Applicants for this coming academic year

Two weeks ago I got an email from the Black Student Fund. I’m now getting around to sharing it with you.

I’ve written about St. Augustine Catholic School before, and the academics for African American students is pretty good, as it is a predominately African American school.
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Black Student Fund | 3636 16th Street NW, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20010

The tuition is fairly affordable, however, there are other costs involved with catholic school in addition to tuition. Uniforms, parent associations, mandatory volunteer hours, before and after care, fundraisers, and lunch.


Piecing Together Lost Truxton Circle or What the what am I looking at? Pt 5

In the previous postings for parts 1-4 we looked at buildings south and north of the Dunbar High School field in 1942. Now let’s look west.

Just to orient you, here is a USGS aerial map from 1951.

And now a look on the west (left) end of the field.

Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information photograph collection (Library of Congress), ca 1942

Those buildings no longer exist. It is now just part of the Dunbar track. I wonder it that taller 3 story detached building was the old Twinings school?

Memory Lane: Dunbar

Dunbar High School taken December 20, 2005

It was an ugly building.

It looked like a prison.

I’m glad it is gone.

Piecing Together Lost Truxton Circle or What the what am I looking at? Pt 4

This is more of a continuation of part 3.

Untitled photo, possibly related to: Washington, D.C. Military unit in Armstrong Technical High School which is trained by the regular Army, a tradition in all Washington schools. Library of Congress. 1942.

We are looking north from the Dunbar High School field. We see the bleachers. We do not see Armstrong in the background which means we see more buildings that no longer exist on the 200 block of O St NW.

Below, more of the same.

Swinging to the other end of the bleachers looking along O Street, we see another part of the field with female Dunbar students.

Review girl cadets at Dunbar High School. 1942.

Here we clearly see Armstrong High School in the background.

Piecing Together Lost Truxton Circle or What the what am I looking at? Pt 2

Continuing on from Part 1….

Look at this photo taken in 1942.

Military unit in Armstrong Technical High School being trained by an U.S. Army lieutenant. Library of Congress.

Now same day in March 1942, same event.

Washington, D.C. Military unit in Armstrong Technical High School being trained by a U.S. Army lieutenant. LOC

Behind them appears to be the National Homeopathic Hospital. Below is a photo of the hospital from 1910.

National Homeopathic Hospital, ca. 1910

You can see the front of the hospital in the top photograph. In the second photo you can see part of the old Dunbar High School building. Despite it being an event for Armstrong High School boys, it appears they are on Dunbar’s campus.

Below is an aerial photo from 1951 or 1952 taken by the US Geological Survey. Keeping in mind where the two tallish buildings of the hospital sat, and the corner of old Dunbar, you can see where the boys were parading.