D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson recently released a strategic plan for the next five years for the District of Columbia’s public school system that aims to double the number of students who are college ready, increase reading levels and increase the number of students who graduate within four years among other things.

D.C. Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson recently introduced a plan to improve D.C. public schools over the next five years. (Courtesy photo)

On Sept. 9, the District’s public school system (DCPS) hosted a “Back to School Block Party” in front of the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in the Deanwood neighborhood of Northeast D.C. One of the purposes of the party was to announce the new strategic plan, Capital Commitment 2017-2022, that was crafted by Wilson and supported by Bowser.

“The new strategic plan for D.C. public schools directly reflects the hopes and dreams of District residents,” Bowser said. “Most importantly, it acknowledges that we must prioritize excellence and equity in our school in order to close the achievement gap and give all students a fair shot at success. Our city should be proud of how far DCPS has come over the past decade. We have become the fastest improving urban school district in the country, and with this plan, we will continue to build on our progress.”

Attending the announcement were D.C. Council members Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Deputy Mayor for Education Jenny Niles and NBA Hall of Famer and multi-millionaire entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr.

Brown High School is the District’s only public all-boys institution and its principal, Benjamin Williams, was on stage with the mayoral party along with selected students.

The plan aims to double the percent of students who are college and career ready; increase to 100 percent the students in grades K-2 who read at or above grade level; have 85 percent of students graduate within four years and 90 percent of students re-enroll in DCPS.

Wilson told the crowd of about 300 at the block party that the school system is “striving to become a district of both excellence and equity.”

“We want all of our children to feel loved and challenged,” the chancellor told the AFRO. “We want them to know that they matter and their families matter.”

Wilson said a child should be able to succeed in any school in the city “regardless of zip code.” He said that his plan is to empower principals to implement effective programs and give them the latitude to manage them without the interference from the school system’s central office and engage city agencies in the educational process.

There were 30 booths at the block party that represented organizations such as the Washington Wizards, the Washington football team, Whitman-Walker AIDS clinic, the DCIAA (the school system’s athletic league), and DCTAG, a program for college-bound District students. Johnson’s company, Sodexo Magic, served lunch to the crowd.

Johnson was introduced by Wilson, who said the pro basketball star was his idol as a youngster. Johnson said he appreciated Wilson talking about his pro career, but made a point to the young people in the audience. “The man this school is named after, Ron Brown, told me once ‘you can be more than just a ballplayer,’” he said. “Ron Brown was my hero. I grew up poor but I didn’t have poor dreams.”

Johnson has a net worth of $600 million according to the website, The Richest, owning Magic Johnson Theaters in Largo, Md. and 10 Starbucks in the Washington metropolitan area, among other holdings.

The announcement of the strategic plan came on the heels of more good news for Bowser and Wilson. The Washington Teachers’ Union ratified the negotiated contract between it and the District government on Sept. 8 by a 97 percent positive vote. “While having gone five years without a contract failed to demonstrate the appreciation we have for our teachers, this contract fulfills our commitment to the teachers that we entrust with our children,” the Bowser said. “Now, we look to the D.C. Council to act swiftly to adopt this contract to signal that we are all in for kids.”