Letter to Mayor Bowser from the Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) President and the Local School Advisory Team (LSAT) Chair

How you Can Help--

Read below the letter sent to Mayor Bowser from the Wilson PTSO and LSAT.  

We need everyone - ESPECIALLY those that live outside Ward 3 - to contact your Council Member and urge that Wilson's budget be increased.  Go to the dccouncil.us website, and click through the Councilmember's tab in the upper lefthand side to find your member's office contact information and email.  

Letter to Mayor Bowser

March 23, 2015

Honorable Muriel E. Bowser
Mayor
District of Columbia
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mayor Bowser:

Thank you for your leadership and support for the District's public education system. We are writing to bring your attention to an urgent matter of paramount importance to the Wilson High School community.  On behalf of Wilson's students, teachers, staff and parents we wanted to share our serious concerns over the proposed 2015-16 school year budget for Wilson High School and ask for your help in securing an additional $900,000 so that Wilson can maintain its high quality academic programs and maintain a safe and secure environment for students, teachers and staff in our facility. 

Although Wilson High School is physically located in Ward 3, the school's impact reaches every corner of the city.  Students from every one of DC's twenty-two zip codes attend Wilson.  Forty-four percent of Wilson scholars come from outside of Wilson's catchment area.   As parent leaders at Wilson, it is our highest priority to ensure Wilson has the resources needed to provide an enriching, academically rigorous education for all students in a safe and secure environment.  That is why the Chancellor's proposed budget is such a cause for concern and so perplexing.

Wilson is growing, and the proposed budget exacerbates an existing funding shortfall and imposes additional funding reductions that will impair Wilson's ability to provide a quality education for all students. 

  • Wilson's 2014-15 budget was based on a projected enrollment of 1708 students at a per pupil student allocation of $9267. 
  • Wilson's actual verified enrollment is 1793, resulting in a funding shortfall this year of $788,460. 
  • The proposed 2015-16 budget is $309,600 less than this year's budget, and more importantly, does not include any additional revenue to make up for this year's shortfall.
  • The projected enrollment for 2015-16 of 1878 understates our projected enrollment by at least 85 students.  Recent trends support our view that Wilson's enrollment next year is likely to be much higher than DCPS is projecting

The proposed budget will impair Wilson's ability to implement critically needed academic initiatives intended to close the achievement gap for minority students, improve graduation rates, and increase the number of students attending college. 

Reducing class sizeThe District of Columbia's policy is to limit class size for High School to no more than 25 students.  Wilson's average class size for AP and Honors classes currently is 30, and in some cases, higher.  While we have been able to keep regular classes to 25 and less, the proposed budget cuts will result in much larger class sizes: likely 30 students for regular classes and 35 to 40 students for Honors and AP classes.   Educational research indicates that one of the most effective strategies to improve student performance is reduced class size.  Wilson's  commitment to closing the achievement gap will not be successful without additional funding to add teachers and reduce class sizes.

  • Minority Participation in Advanced Placement (AP) Classes.  Wilson is committed to increasing the number of minority students enrolled in and successfully completing Advanced Placement (AP) courses by 20% next year and improving the retention rate to 95%.  To achieve that goal we must provide students with access to support such as study halls, tutoring, review course and supplemental materials.   Providing the level of support minority students need to be successful in AP Classes will not be possible under the proposed budget.
  • Ninth Grade Academy.  To address a concerning decrease in the promotion rate of 9th graders, Wilson is re-instituting a separate academy to support these students academically, improve promotion rates, and provide assistance in helping our 9th graders make a smooth transition to high school.  As the size of the 9th grade class continues to increase, this program becomes even more vital.  The proposed budget makes allocating resources and staff to the 9th Grade Academy impossible. 
  • College and Career Counseling.  The College and Career Office plays a critical role in helping Wilson students apply to college and secure financial assistance.  As the Wilson graduating classes get larger and more students are applying for college, the role the office plays is critical in providing assistance to scholars - and their families - applying to college.  Many of these students are the first in their family to consider college.  Wilson's College and Career Department has increased the number of acceptances to colleges by 10% over the past four years and has increased the amount of financial assistance Wilson students have received by $10 million over that same four year period. The proposed budget will prevent Wilson from maintaining a full-time dedicated position of College and Career counselor.  Other counselors will have to try to take on these responsibilities in addition to their existing full-time duties counseling students.  

The proposed budget threatens Wilson's ability to ensure acceptable levels of security and safety in the building for students, teachers and staff.

  • Our current verified enrollment of 1793 students well exceeds the original DCPS building census of 1550.  Even under the revised census of 1660, the expected enrollment in 2015-16 will approach 2000 students.  Nevertheless, the proposed budget would, according to Interim Principal Bargeman's calculations, effectively cut Wilson's budget by $1.8 million. 
  • Today, over 1800 students are eating in a common cafeteria intended for 1550 students, and moving through hallways and stairwells to transition to classes intended for 1550 students. 
  • Maintaining order in hallways and common areas; disciplining and counseling students; investigating incidents of violence and theft; and, monitoring exits and metro and bus routes during school hours requires staff.  The proposed budget will force Wilson to eliminate too many of the positions that perform these duties currently and will prevent Wilson from addressing safety and security needs as the student population grows.

The District of Columbia - together with parents, teachers, and administrators - have worked too long and too hard, and invested too much to retreat now by not fully funding our schools.  Clearly Wilson's increasing enrollment is a testament to the growing confidence that parents have in the public school system.  The proposed budget we bring to your attention today threatens to undo all of that work. 

We look forward to hearing from you about how we can work together to find the additional financial resources to address Wilson's budget concerns.

Sincerely,

Kim Bayliss                                                              Jeffrey Kovar
President                                                                 Chairman
Wilson PTSO                                                            Wilson LSAT

cc:
Chancellor Kaya Henderson
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson
Council Member Mary Cheh
Council Member David Grosso
Council Member Kenyan McDuffie
Council Member Elissa Silverman
Council Member Anita Bonds
Council Member Vincent Orange
Council Member Brianne Nadeau
Council Member Charles Allen
Council Member Jack Evans
Council Member Yvette Alexander