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ANC Meeting Erupts in Protest Over Jelleff Agreement

Signs reading “Make Jelleff Public,” passionate statements and a resolution created on laptops in front of a packed crowd dominated the Sept. 3 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E. 

Apple Store Moves into Former Carnegie Library

This Saturday, the new Apple Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square will officially open its doors to the public. The Beaux-Arts-style building opened in 1903 as D.C.’s Central Public Library.

All About Politics: Doug Jones, Mayor Bowser and Ballou High

Should Tuesday, Dec. 12, have been a national day of jubilation? Our columnist looks at the election in Alabama and what comes next, as well as at two issues in the District.

G.U. Professor on Leave After Hateful Tweet

In a tweet during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, C. Christine Fair, an associate professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, celebrated the imaginary deaths of Republican senators.

Basketball Only? What Do Georgetowners Really Want at Jelleff?

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E recently organized a 10-question online survey for distribution to Jelleff Recreation Center stakeholders.

EverFi: Leading the Charge in Education Innovation from Georgetown

EverFi’s office is out of place in traditionally buttoned-up Washington. The space is an open floor plan inhabited by young, dressed down employees who have unlimited access to food and beverages in the loft kitchen and don’t hesitate to chat up their amiable CEO Tom Davidson. Unlike most D.C. offices, EverFi has no official vacation policy, no time off policy and no dress code. To top it all off, the company’s focus is on “innovation” and the walls are covered with photos of smiling EverFi team members traveling the world with their bright orange company sweatbands. EverFi would be more at home in Silicon Valley if not for its mission to overhaul the education system by infusing underfunded public schools with private sector funding. That mission starts with EverFi’s education programs, designed to teach students from fourth grade to their senior year in college about life skills ranging from managing personal finances to drinking alcohol responsibly to developing computer code to preventing cyberbullying and sexual assault. In Davidson’s eyes, learning these skills is essential to students’, and therefore, the country’s future. However, tightly stretched school budgets and days dedicated to teaching to common core standards leave little time and funding for these topics that are essential to post-school life. When one takes into account the difficulty of teaching kids these topics and add to that a lack of topical expertise in public schools, the deck is stacked against post-graduate success for students in underfunded schools. EverFi approaches the education system with software solutions that teach students how to maneuver around issues that their lives will revolve around in the real world. The idea sprung from Davidson’s work as a state legislator in Maine in the early 1990s. In that role, he “focused on how technology can change the classroom,” spearheading initiatives to equip students with laptops and wire schools and libraries. After talking extensively with teachers, administrators, students and parents across the country, Davidson found that underfunded schools were not teaching in areas of paramount importance – personal finances, how to get loans, computer coding and engineering. He created EverFi to bring important life lessons to underprivileged schools in an effort to take on some of the country’s “most intractable problems.” The ambitious Davidson jokes that EverFi has established a “political infrastructure” in Iowa and New Hampshire, but when asked about a return to politics, explains that “no one in their right mind would vote for me.” Like executives at other big education technology companies headquartered in D.C., Davidson was drawn to the District. for its pool of bright young talent. He chose to headquarter in Georgetown from a recruitment standpoint, arguing that setting up home base in a “cultural center” is important to 21st-century workers. It doesn’t hurt that the office is a short commute from his Foxhall home. And while some may complain about the lack of public transit in Georgetown, Davidson argues that Capitol Bike Share and the Circulator have changed the game for his workforce and explained that the company reimburses employees to utilize these options. So, how does EverFi’s programming make issues like financial literacy and civic engagement immediate to students who are spending seven or more hours a day at their desks? Simple. EverFi’s programs teach students “in a way that is very connected to how they learn outside the classroom.” The software combines components of gaming with elements of social media to pique students’ interest and keep them working towards in-program badges and rewards. Teachers track student progress through EverFi’s system, allowing them to give more personalized attentions to students that are falling behind on certain topics. Davidson’s kids are too young for EverFi’s programs, but he assures me that once they come of EverFi age, “they’ll be using the programs through college, whether they like it or not.” At colleges and universities all over the country, EverFi’s programs are teaching millions of students about alcohol responsibility and sexual assault prevention during freshman orientation, before many upperclassmen even step foot back on campus. Discussions on these topics, Davidson explains, used to be handled by “RAs [resident assistants] at bad pizza parties, with no way to know whether a student learned about the subject or was even present.” EverFi’s college programs are based on information and data provided to the company by experts at the forefront of these issues. Furthermore, they create accountability by showing administrators exactly who has participated and what they have learned. While news has been abuzz of late about tech companies breaching the privacy of their consumers, Davidson assures me that only teachers have access to the identifying aspects of student data. EverFi makes improvements and updates to its programming based on data that has been stripped of identifying factors automatically by the software. Like many companies dealing in public-private partnerships, EverFi has overcome a number of barriers in bringing their programs to schools across the country. Davidson says that the biggest barrier to EverFi’s entry in certain schools is a “crowded day for teachers who have been asked to do more than they could ever bear” in terms of institutionalized assessments and the reinforcement of the emotional state of kids. “It’s hard to go in and ask them to do one more thing,” Davidson added, arguing that EverFi provides a supplemental netting under public schools’ students without displacing their curriculum. He emphasized that his company’s software is aimed at “empowering teachers” and touted EverFi’s new partnership with the National Education Association Foundation as proof. EverFi has overcome the financial restraints of public schools by reaching out to and partnering with the private sector. The funding model brings companies, foundations and people “with the deepest pockets,” like Tiger Woods, pop singer Pharrell Williams, JPMorgan the NBA, to the table to fund EverFi’s programs for schools and districts they care about. These individuals and entities purchase the software from EverFi and work with the company to deploy the product in a predetermined school or district. However, there is no corporate or other outside involvement in the creation of EverFi’s products. Davidson says that EverFi has and always will be a “consumer-focused company.” He envisions building the model out to erase the disparities in learning that occur between poorer and more well off schools. EverFi has far-reaching partnerships in the area, operating its alcohol responsibility program at Georgetown University, and running its other programs in Fairfax, Arlington, Prince George’s and Montgomery County public schools. Despite being headquartered in the District, EverFi has had trouble making inroads with D.C. City Public Schools. Davidson attributes this to the fact that some “big city districts are like aircraft carriers – they are difficult to turn and engage with sometimes.” However, EverFi’s programs have been deployed at Wilson High, Anacostia Senior High School, Eaton Elementary and a number of area charter schools. EverFi’s programs aren’t just for kids though. In recent years, the company has partnered with banks and groups like the Mortgage Bankers Association to get their financial literacy programs into the hands of adults who need them. Davidson says the company believes in the concept of “education currency,” or the idea that companies and organizations should reward people who take time to gain better information about their finances and learn how to protect themselves from predatory lending. Some companies are already rewarding consumers with lower rates, better terms and lower closing costs because they have completed EverFi’s programs and measurably learned how to be more fiscally responsible. The end game, Davidson explains, is to build out a “very large, international company that is in the business of alleviating big social issues.” He does not want EverFi to be seen as a “socially responsible” or “double bottom line business,” but rather a company that is celebrated for bringing capital to solve the country and world’s biggest problems with education. Private capital has revolutionized industry in America with innovation, so why can’t a similar model work to bring classrooms to the 21st century? That’s the question EverFi is in the process of answering. [gallery ids="101833,139152,139173,139157,139160,139166,139170" nav="thumbs"]

Students Walk Out 19 Years After Columbine (photos)

Students from the District and surrounding towns assembled near the White House April 20 before marching to the Capitol with chants of "Enough is enough" and "Vote them out."

Mayor Names Indianapolis Schools Head D.C. Chancellor 

Lewis D. Ferebee has been serving as Indianapolis superintendent since September of 2013. Following confirmation by the District Council, he is expected to begin work as DCPS chancellor on Jan. 31.

Dave Chappelle Gives Emmy to Ellington School, Gets Key to Washington, D.C.

Dave Chappelle returned to his alma mater, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts on 35th Street, remarking on its reconstruction and giving the...

Playgroup Rivalries

One of the best parts of living in Georgetown is the array of secret lives glimpsed through windows, down pathways, and even underground. In the basements of two churches on the east side of Georgetown bubbles a life of intense industry and social tumult, hurt feelings and life-long friendships. And that goes for the one-year-olds and their parents. Open an ugly brown metal door and step into a world of bright floor mats, busy babies and equally engaged parents and caregivers. This is Blue Igloo, a playgroup for kids ranging from six months to three years. The schedule here runs from “transportation toys and tumbling,” at 9 a.m., to “songs, bubbles, puppets,” an hour later. It all wraps up by lunch, after story time and clean up. Blue Igloo was founded in 2000 in a rebuff to Georgetown’s other playgroup, the 35-year-old Intown. Like the papal schism, the creation of a new gathering place for the pre-pre-school sent waves through a certain section of Georgetown. Which one is better? Where are my friends going? Will all the cool people go to Intown while I am stuck at Blue Igloo? Or vice versa? But as the population that rides in strollers continues to boom, there are plenty of applicants for both playgroups, and, to the outsider, the two groups seem to be almost exactly the same. Blue Igloo is now the morning home to 55 kids and their caregivers. It is mostly moms, though the occasional dad comes by for an hour or two. It is a French, Spanish, English and sign language immersion program, according to the director, Sabria Lounes. And the children learn key skills, even if they don’t necessarily learn them in French. “The kids learn to sit, for snack they sit, and they get into a routine. I have to write recommendation letters for kids for the next schools, and these things matter,” says Lounes, who has been running Blue Igloo since its creation. Gavin, who is two and a half, “gets to interact with other kids, he loves to come here, he loves the singing, he loves the snack most of all,” according to Myrtle Perry, Gavin’s nanny. She says she, too, loves Blue Igloo. “I talk to everybody, all the mothers and the nannies, I look forward to coming here every day.” Two blocks away at Intown, the scene is much the same. One and 2-year-olds buzz around doing animal puzzles and playing with plastic cars. 45 families are enrolled at Intown and, like Blue Igloo, Intown often has a waiting list of families eager to get in. Get over the admissions hurdle and you get an emphasis on child-centered learning. “We’re focused, right now, on sensory materials,” says Mandy Sheffer, Intown’s director. “Soft and hard, finger paints, there’s a lot that goes on behind what we do with the kids every day.” “It is nice to come to a space where the play and structure is thought-out,” says Jacqueline Bourgeois, the mother of 15-month-old Ferdinand. “At home, I don’t know how to do that. I am learning as much as he is.” And therein lies the real success of Georgetown’s busy playgroups. They are places for moms. Moms need the companionship and learning time offered by Intown and Blue Igloo as much as their kids do. They learn when should a kid quit using a pacifier and what other parents feed their kids. They find potty training tricks, tips for getting along with others, and how to create tight bonds. Nobody needs to get out of the house more than a new mother with a little kid. This is a place to go. “I’ve made my closest friends here and it has been a wonderful place for us both to come and socialize,” Intown’s Elizabeth Taylor, the mother of Mac, 16 months, says. “Parents get to talk to other parents,” agrees Annie Lou Berman at Blue Igloo. “We’ve made really great friends here,” she adds, as 2-year-old Teddy scuttles up to see her. “We’re all in the same life stage,” nods Karina Homme, mother of Sebastian, who is 20 months old. There is a certain type of family called to these pre-pre-schools. One mother refers to her playgroup as “the cocktail party set.” Most are from Georgetown, though a few come from as far away as Alexandria. About half the moms work, though on a recent day the nannies outnumbered the parents at both places. The parents have to pony up between $3,000 and $4,000 for block building and snack eating. And Georgetown’s playgroups mostly funnel into the private pre-schools, and from there into the private elementary schools. Of course, there are occasional storms in the world of the bouncy-bounce. Two-year-olds won’t share. Parents try to ditch their “duty days” (dates on which they are required to show up and help out) by sending their nannies instead. And the playgroup admission committees sometimes mess up by letting in imperious parents who can’t seem to get along with anyone, or parents who insist that their bodyguards accompany field trips, or the one child who bites: a serious no-no in little kid land. And then there are the scary parents who really do seem to think Intown leads to Princeton. But they are few. For most of them, Georgetown’s playgroups lead to a sense of community, fast friends, and, most importantly, a place to go on a rainy October morning.