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Coloring Crayons Last Friday morning, Ashley Juhans stood like a docent in front of a hallway mural in the Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy. Motioning toward the left side of the 10-foot painting, the student focused on a green house decorated with dollar signs. “That’s because in Cleveland Park they don’t look poor—they look rich,” she explained. Created by Chavez ninth-graders participating in a project that examines the issue of race as expressed in three D.C. neighborhoods, the mural reflects their conclusions about life in Anacostia, Columbia Heights, and Cleveland Park. Columbia Heights, applauded by students as a model of cultural diversity, is represented by fiery pictures of the 1968 riots, colorful row houses, and a pair of hands breaking chains. The students also produced NPR-style radio documentaries. “I do not see any Asian or Caucasian people,” remarked one correspondent as she exited the Metro at the Anacostia station. In the end, though, the students remained optimistic about race relations in 21st-century D.C. “God meant for there to be more than one race,” said one student. “Because if there was one race, it would be pretty boring.”
Magnetic Appeal At a press conference last week, D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) administrators officially unveiled the new Paul Middle School for Technology, Arts, Mathematics, and Science Magnet Program. It’s the latest maneuver in the chess match between DCPS and the parents and administrators of Paul—who want to convert the Ward 4 school into a charter school (“Dropping Out,” 10/22/99). By opting out of the system and forming a charter, Paul teachers and administrators think they would finally leave behind the shackles of onerous DCPS rules. But, after Paul’s charter proposal was OK’d by the D.C. Public Charter School Board last fall, DCPS countered by promising Paul a “cutting-edge” high-tech program “for both in-boundary students and students attending elementary schools that currently feed into Paul.” Charter supporters fear that the new “magnet” program, which is designed to attract students from all over the city, undermines their movement even more. “How duplicitous is that?” asked charter advocate Robert Cane. “We’re not calling it a magnet program,” Superintendent Arlene Ackerman responded. When a reporter pointed out the word’s prominence in a DCPS brochure touting the new program, however, Ackerman parsed and punted. “I’m thinking of [‘magnet’] not in the purest sense,” she said.