On the morning of Jan. 17, teachers and staff at Garnet-Patterson Middle School in Shaw thought their school remained safe from the dreaded D.C. public schools closure list. Hours later, their outlook changed.
Around 3 p.m., Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham placed a call to Garnet’s principal, Veda Usilton, letting her now that the plan to close Shaw Junior High School and ship its students and a gifted program over to Garnet could be in jeopardy. Schools Chancellor Michele Rhee, he said, was considering a swap: Shut down Garnet, keep Shaw open.
With a few hours to go before Rhee’s 23 simultaneous school-closure hearings—the public’s last chance to testify on the proposal—Graham wanted Garnet to stand up and show some muscle.
“I had advised her that I believed it was important that some support be established in the record,” he says.
That night, after Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans and a variety of other community figures testified on behalf of Shaw, a group of Garnet supporters spoke about how they were blindsided by their school’s potential closure.
“The good people of Shaw have had upwards of three months to gather support from the community. We had three hours. Here at Garnet-Patterson, we need the same time to gather our community members,” said one Garnet teacher.
Toward the end of the meeting, Rhee showed up and confirmed she was considering moving Garnet to the closure list. If the switch were to take place, she added, the Garnet community would get an opportunity for its own hearing.