Payne Elementary School (Photo via D.C. Public Schools)A Hill East school is set to have a new principal for the 2016-2017 school year, D.C. Public Schools announced yesterday.

Veteran educator Stephanie Byrd is slated to take the helm of Payne Elementary School this fall. She will replace interim principal Annie Mair, who has led the school since Vielka Scott-Marcus stepped down last summer.

Byrd, a District native, has worked in D.C. schools for 20 years. Throughout her career, Byrd has taught students of various ages and has served as an academic dean and an assistant principal.

She most recently served at Woodson High School and J.O. Wilson Elementary School through the DCPS Mary Jane Patterson Fellowship for Aspiring Principals program.

Her bachelor’s degree is in psychology from Howard University and her master’s degree is in curriculum and instruction from The George Washington University.

Photo via D.C. Public Schools


By Natalie Gross

Lena King stared into a handheld mirror, watching carefully as cosmetologist Crystal Corbie used a soft brush to blend the colors along her cheek.

It was King’s first time wearing makeup, and she wasn’t sure whether she would like it. She just knew she wanted to look beautiful because she was going to her first high school prom.

King is a 17-year-old senior at Eastern Senior High School. She has braces, likes to read books and frequently weaves movie references into casual conversation. She has a remarkable knack for reading facial expressions and remembering people’s names.

If you ask her about school, she gushes about her teachers and says, “I’m learning to be a responsible adult.”

King was one of about 80 students and young adults with special needs who attended a prom hosted by Waterfront Church DC at Nationals Park on Friday, Feb. 12. The Navy Yard congregation received a grant from the Tim Tebow Foundation to throw the Night to Shine bash, one of more than 200 proms for people with special needs happening simultaneously around the world.

Volunteers came from as far as Texas for the event, which included limousine rides and a red carpet entrance with paparazzi for guests and their caregivers. Later in the evening, all guests – many from D.C. Public Schools and the local chapter of Young Life, a non-denominational Christian group for teens and adolescents – were crowned kings and queens of the prom.

As students danced the “Macarena,” formed conga lines and got “low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low,” to Flo-Rida’s popular hit, many parents, teachers and volunteers joined in. Others stood by taking in the scene – the meaning of songs like “Firework” and “What Makes You Beautiful” not lost on them.

Ricki Perry stood near the dance floor, beaming as she watched King and four of her other students move with the music. Perry leads a class of nine students with autism at Eastern, teaching them life skills in addition to academics.

“I’m always really emotional when I see this,” Perry said. Students with autism thrive on routines, she said, but these students had embraced a situation with no predictability. Some had even navigated an unfamiliar Metro route to get there.

Zillah Wesley, a social worker at Dunbar High School, was thankful for Night to Shine’s focus on people with special needs. Though hesitant at first, two seniors she works with, Angel Blake and Brandon Johnson, decided to attend.

“I think that it’s extremely important for all children to feel like they’re important and that they come to events like this. They get to dress up, get to get in the limousine, they get wonderful food,” she said. “I feel it’s really helped their self esteem a lot.”

King, too, got a boost of self-confidence Friday. With all eyes on her back in the hair and makeup room, she flashed a big smile. “I look nice!”

With that, she declared herself a “makeup person” and changed into her navy blue dress, eager to show off her new look on the red carpet – and to her crush.

To her, it was all like something out of a Julia Roberts film.


Mayor Bowser at a press conference (Photo via Twitter/ Mayor Muriel Bowser)Capitol Hill area residents can start parking their cars along snow emergency routes tomorrow evening, Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press conference this morning.

The snow emergency that was initiated on Friday morning is set to end at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Bowser said.

Those who parked along snow emergency routes during the snow emergency and were towed can pick up their cars, but the Department of Public Works warns that they might have to dig them out of the impound lot.

Bowser also announced that DC Public Schools have been cleared and will be ready for classes to start tomorrow.

The District government will also begin issuing fines to businesses that have not cleared sidewalks in front of their properties. A new law this year allows the Department of Public Works to fine homeowners and business owners who do not remove snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to their property.

However, Bowser said that given the severity of the recent storm, fines will not be issued to homeowners or residential properties.

D.C. Public Schools and government offices will all be open tomorrow. The D.C. Public Charter School Board is updating the status of charter schools throughout the District online.

Though the District government will be open, trash collection will still be on hold until Thursday at the earliest. DPW announced that it will attempt to reach every regular route with pickup scheduled for Thursday or Friday. Regular trash collection service will resume on Monday.

Photo via Twitter/ Mayor Muriel Bowser

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Morning Rundown


Public School Students Create Exhibits Exploring Neighborhood History — Story of Our Schools, a program that first launched at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, brings public school students closer to the history of their neighborhoods through research projects and field trips. [DCist]

Hampton Inn Opens in Navy Yard — Hampton Inn and Suites opened to guests on Thursday at 1265 1st Street SE. [JDLand]

Bike Lane Between NoMa, Union Station Named Sixth Best Bike Lane in the Country — The protected bike lane along 1st Street NE, which runs from the Metropolitan Branch Train in NoMa to Union Station, was named one of the best bike lanes in the nation by cycling advocacy organization People for Bikes. [Washington Post]


edfest-2015-logo-1441727946Parents will have a chance to learn about more than 200 schools in the District tomorrow at a free education fair at the D.C. Armory.

EdFEST 2015 is hosted by My School D.C., an organization that partners with D.C. Public Schools and most District charter schools that operates the District’s school lottery system. The free fair will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will feature public and public charter schools from Pre-K through high school. It is the only citywide public school fair in the District.

Representatives from each school will be on hand to talk with parents. Meanwhile, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the D.C. Library will have activities for kids of all ages.

The Department of Health will also be administering immunizations and flu shots at the fair.

Catherine Peretti, executive director of My School D.C., also added that My School D.C. employees will be on hand to answer parent questions about the school lottery application for placement in preferred schools.

My School D.C. applications for the 2016-17 school year will begin on Monday and end on Feb. 1 for High schools and March 1 for elementary and middle schools.

About 4,500 families attended last year’s fair, Peretti said.

“We have some really wonderful school options in the District, so our families are lucky in that way and we are glad to give our schools the opportunity to tell their story,” she said.

The D.C. Armory is located at 2001 East Capitol St. SE and parking will be free throughout the event.



Giving Tuesday (Photo via’ve made it through Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, but the post-Thanksgiving holidays aren’t over yet. Today is Giving Tuesday, a day started in 2012 to give those who spent the past four days shopping a chance to give some of the money they saved to causes and charities they care about. And this year is shaping up to be the biggest Giving Tuesday ever, with NPR declaring this year that the quasi-holiday has officially become ‘a thing.’

For those looking to support causes in their own neighborhoods, there are plenty of options in the Capitol Hill area. The Greater Washington Catalogue for Philanthropy has a full, vetted list of area charities raising money this month on their website. Here are some local charities and organizations raising money today:

Anacostia Watershed Society

The Anacostia Watershed Society organizes cleanup and conservation efforts with the goal of making the Anacostia River swimmable and fishable. Funds raised go toward supplies to remove trash and tours of the river given to local students.

Reach for College!

Reach for College! helps disadvantaged high school students across the district apply and prepare for higher education. In the Capitol Hill area, Reach for College! works with students at Eastern High School and Cesar Chavez PCS.


The Shaw-based STRIVE DC works with hard-to-employ adults in Wards 5, 6, 7 and 8 to give them the education, skills and confidence they need to find a job. Funds raised will go toward three-week job-training programs for adults and two-year follow-up services for those who have secured a job.

Open Arms Housing

Open Arms Housing operates a home in NoMa where formerly homeless women live together in apartments where they can feel a sense of security and community. The organization also offers voluntary mental health and substance abuse services to its residents.

Homeless Children’s Playtime Project

The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project makes sure that homeless children still have a chance to be kids by offering safe places where they can play, interact and work on homework. The project works within D.C. General Homeless shelter and other shelters across the city.

Family and Youth Initiative

Based in Navy Yard, the Family and Youth Initiative pairs teens in foster care with caring adult role models and mentors. Donations provide anything from birthday cards for teens in foster care who otherwise would not receive anything to events where teens can meet families considering adoption.

Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop

Free Minds runs the literary journal The Untold Story of the Real Me: Young Voices from Prison. The group works with incarcerated youth, including those at the DC Jail in Hill East, to help them express themselves and connect with others through writing. The group also provides copies of inmates’ writing to local schools.

Everybody Wins! DC

Everybody Wins! operates literacy and mentoring programs in low-income public elementary schools throughout the District including Amidon-Bowen, Ludlow-Taylor, Tyler, J.O. Wilson, Maury and Miner elementary schools in the Capitol Hill area.

Capitol Hill Arts Workshop

CHAW offers arts education and opportunities for children and adults around the Capitol Hill area. Donations will be used to cover art class tuition for those who otherwise would not be able to afford it and supplies for arts classes.


BEST Kids offers mentorship and peer bonding events for foster children in the District. Mentors are helped by experts in psychiatry, education, legal advocacy and behavior management and help children set and reach goals for themselves.

Barracks Row Main Street

Barracks Row Main Street is a nonprofit organization that supports businesses along 8th Street SE and hosts events in the area. The money raised during Giving Tuesday will go toward planting spring flowers, other seasonal decorations and other public space improvements along the street.

Photo via


Watkins Elementary School

Students at 10 Capitol Hill-area Elementary and Middle schools scored above the District average in math and English according to test results from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers released today.

Students across the District took the PARCC tests to determine how well schools are preparing students for college and careers. Earlier today, Mayor Muriel Bowser released the results of test scores for grades 3-8. On average, 25 percent of students between grades 3 and 8 scored at “On track for college and career readiness” in math and 24 percent were on track in English.

However, multiple elementary and middle schools in the Capitol Hill area scored above the District average. Brent Elementary led area schools in both math and English, with 57 percent of students considered on track in math and 68 percent in English.

The other local schools that exceeded the District average in both math and English are:

  • School Within School
  • Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School
  • Maury Elementary School
  • Watkins Elementary School
  • Two Rivers Public Charter School

The following schools scored above average in math only:

  • Tyler Elementary School
  • J.O. Wilson Elementary School
  • Chamberlain Middle School (Friendship PCS)

Capitol Hill Montessori School at Logan scored above average in English but not math.

Catharine Bellinger, the Director of the D.C. chapter of Democrats for Education Reform touted Ludlow-Taylor and Tyler elementary schools as schools that performed well despite having a high number of economically disadvantaged students in a statement about the scores.

Bellinger said that students at these schools are “beating the odds” and said DFER “commend the teachers and leaders working every day in these schools to prepare their students to succeed, not just on tests, but as life-long learners and critical thinkers.”


Jefferson Academy Middle SchoolStarting at a new school can be hard for kids and parents. As parents start gearing up for school enrollment season in the Spring, several Capitol Hill area schools are holding open houses. These open houses will give parents a chance to check out their kids’ prospective new schools and meet some of the teachers and other parents.

Here is a rundown of all the school open houses happening later this week and in the next couple months:

Watkins Elementary School
420 12th St. SE
Open: Nov. 18, 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Stuart-Hobson Middle School
410 E St. NE
Open: Nov. 19, 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Van Ness Elementary School
1150 5th St. SE
Open: Nov. 19, 9-10 a.m.

Miner Elementary School
601 15th St. NE
Open: Nov. 19, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Dec. 8, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Jan. 14, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Feb. 18, 9:30-10:30 a.m.

Jefferson Academy Middle School
801 7th  St. SW
Open: Nov. 20, 9:30-11 a.m.

Brent Elementary School
301 North Carolina Ave. SE
Open: Nov. 23, 9-10:30 a.m.

Maury Elementary School
1250 Constitution Ave. NE
Open: Nov. 30, 9-10:30 a.m.

Capitol Hill Day School (PreK-8th grade)
210 South Carolina Ave. SE
Open: Dec. 8, 9-11 a.m.
Tours also available on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Schedule a morning tour by emailing [email protected]

Ludlow Taylor Elementary School
659 G St. NE
Open: Dec. 10, 9:30 a.m.
Jan. 14, 9:30 a.m.
Feb 11, 9:30 a.m.

School Within School
920 F St. NE
Open: Jan. 14, 6-7:30 p.m.
Feb. 20, 9-10:30 a.m.

Eastern High School
1700 East Capitol St. NE
There are currently no open houses scheduled, but families can make appointments to tour the school at [email protected]



Pope Francis

Road closures, transit changes and extra security are set to arrive in the Capitol Hill area this week when Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the District.

Locals near Capitol Hill are expected to feel the effects of the pope’s visit most strongly on Thursday, when he is slated to speak to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol.

Here’s how his trip will affect the Capitol Hill area:

U.S. Capitol Visit

  • A ticketed event is scheduled to view a live video feed of the pope’s 10 a.m. address to Congress from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Attendees also might catch a glimpse of Francis outside, but should check the list of prohibited items.
  • No public, non-ticketed viewing areas are available on the U.S. Capitol grounds or the National Mall.
  • The U.S. Capitol will close to the public at 5 p.m. Tuesday and remain closed for the duration of the pope’s visit.

Street Closures

  • All streets within a three-block radius of the U.S. Capitol will be closed from midnight to noon on Thursday.
  • Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 3rd and 1st streets NW and Maryland Avenue SW between 1st and 3rd streets SW will both be closed from 5 p.m. Wednesday to 4 p.m. Thursday.
  • Louisiana Avenue NW between Columbus Circle and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington Avenue SW between South Capitol Street and Independence Avenue SW, and East Capitol Street between 2nd and 1st streets SE and NE will be closed between midnight and 4 p.m. Thursday.


  • Metro will increase service during afternoons and evenings. Metro does not have the capacity to increase service during rush hours and expects trains to be very crowded at those times.
  • Bicycles and large coolers won’t be allowed on Metro trains Wednesday or Thursday.
  • Bags, packages and containers may be searched at Metro stations.
  • There is no scheduled track work on any lines during the pope’s visit.
  • Updated information will be made available online.


  • D3 bus will not operate on Wednesday or Thursday.
  • X2 will not go further downtown than Gallery Place from 10:30 p.m. Tuesday to 2 p.m. Thursday.
  • 30N and 30S will not run between Foggy Bottom and Federal Triangle from 10:30 p.m. Tuesday to 2 p.m. Wednesday.
  • 32 and 36 only will operate from Southeast to 12th Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW from 10:30 p.m. Tuesday to 2 p.m. Wednesday.
  • 39 only will operate between Naylor Road and 6th Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW.
  • A9, P17, P19 and W13 only will run between Southeast D.C. and L’Enfant Plaza.
  • X1 only will operate between Benning Road NE and 6th Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW.

D.C. Circulator

  • The National Mall route will not operate at all on Wednesday or Thursday.
  • Buses on the Union Station-Navy Yard route will detour to avoid road closures near the Capitol. Buses going to Navy Yard will take Massachusetts Avenue NW to 4th Street NW to Pennsylvania Avenue SW, where it will resume its normal route. Buses going to Union Station will take Pennsylvania Avenue SW to 6th Street SW to Massachusetts Avenue NW, where it will resume its normal route.
  • Buses on the Georgetown-Union Station, Potomac Avenue-Skyland and Union Station-Navy Yard routes will all operate every 15 minutes from noon to the end of the day Wednesday.

Public Works

  • Street sweeping has been suspended on Wednesday and Thursday on the 200 block of East Capitol Street and the 200 to 300 blocks of Massachusetts Avenue NE.
  • All other parking restrictions and street sweeping schedules will be enforced as usual.


  • D.C. public schools all will be open for the entirety of the Pope’s visit. But school officials warn that road closures and crowds may affect transportation to and from school and said parents can contact the Parent Resource Center at 202-576-5000 for transportation-related questions during the pope’s visit.
  • Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy will close Wednesday.
  • Center City Public Charter Schools won’t hold classes Wednesday.

Miner Elementary School (Photo via DCPS)Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen and D.C. State Board of Education member Joe Weedon will attend the monthly ANC 6A meeting tomorrow night to participate in a public forum on education in northeast Capitol Hill.

The forum will take place at Miner Elementary School at 601 15th St. NE at 7 p.m. Thursday. Representatives from Miner, Eliot-Hine Middle School, Maury Elementary School, School Within School and Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School will also participate in the forum.

“This is a great opportunity for our schools to share about their programs and areas that we as a community can assist them,” ANC 6A chairman Phil Toomajian said in a Facebook post about the event. “It’s also a great opportunity for community members to learn more about your neighborhood schools and to learn how you can support them and get involved in them now.”

The forum is expected to last a little more than an hour according to the meeting agenda.

Photo via DCPS


(Updated at 1:50 p.m. Tuesday) Van Ness Elementary School in Navy Yard officially welcomed kindergarten and Pre-K students inside today after it shut down almost a decade ago.

This group of children will be the first students to go through the school at 1150 5th St. SE since nearby building demolition and construction led to its closure in 2006. The school currently offers Pre-K through kindergarten classes, and plans to add a grade every year until it reaches 5th grade.

Outside, most of the building, including the main entrance, is still fenced off as renovations continue. The playground behind the school also is still under construction, but is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.

Councilman Charles Allen of Ward 6 and ANC 6D commissioner Meredith Fascett joined the Van Ness Parent Group for a kickoff celebration in front of the school as students arrived for their first full day. Former ANC 6D commissioner David Garber, who is now running for an at-large spot on the D.C. Council, was also at the event.

Cynthia Robinson-Rivers, the new principal at Van Ness, said the school will have a creative focus, with a particular emphasis on experiential learning.

“We’re focused on building a compassionate, nurturing and welcoming environment for our students and our families,” she said.

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Morning Rundown


Streetcar Might Open Soon — Managers of the D.C. streetcar say the streetcar line along the H Street corridor is opening very soon. [WAMU]

Man Accused of Anti-Gay Attack in Navy Yard Sentenced — A man accused of attacking a man he believed to be gay at the Navy Yard Metro station in March was sentenced to one year in jail. Raheem Sills, 20, avoided hate crime charges by accepting a plea bargain. [Washington Blade]

Bison Steaks, Corn Tortellini Coming Tomorrow to Barracks Row — Garrison from chef Rob Weland will open tomorrow at 524 8th St. SE with bison steaks and corn tortellini. [UrbanDaddy]

No Such Thing as Free Education — A guaranteed spot in Capitol Hill public elementary schools will run you at least $550,000. Home ownership in school district boundaries’ is more expensive than lower-ranked schools in the far eastern part of D.C., but less expensive than tier-one schools in Northwest. [Hill Now]


District, Measured map (Image via District, Measured)The cost of admission into some the city’s better ranked elementary schools may require the purchase of a Capitol Hill-area house that is about $550,000 or more, according to a new report.

District, Measured released a series of interactive maps today that compare public elementary schools’ testing scores to sale prices of three-bedroom homes in the schools’ boundaries during the past year.

Children of homeowners within a D.C. public school’s boundary lines are guaranteed admission in the school.

Amidon-Bowen in Southwest and Walker Jones on the Hill cost the least to attend, with median home prices near both school sitting at $550,000. They also are among some of the lower ranking schools in the District, although not as low as less expensive schools in the far eastern and southern parts of the District.

Capitol Hill’s most expensive school is also the most-sought public elementary school in the District. Brent Elementary has a wait list 880 names long and holds a median home price of $922,500.

Ludlow-Taylor is the highest ranked Capitol Hill school and the only one on the Hill to be receive a top-tier rating. Median home prices of $797,500 make it the least expensive top-tier elementary school in the city. Other top-tier schools lie in the far northwestern part of D.C. with homes that cost between $819,000 and $1.4 million.

Most Hill elementary are either second-ranked or second-to-last ranked. It costs at least $690,000 to live near a second-rank school. Hill residents need to spend more than $700,000 to avoid lower-tier schools.

Van Ness and Peabody elementary schools were not included in the provided data.

Image via District, Measured

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Vielka Scott-Marcus (Photo via Pennington)(Updated at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday) The principal of Payne Elementary School is stepping down despite a campaign by parents to keep her at the helm of the Hill East school.

Vielka Scott-Marcus is slated to leave her job as principal this summer on her own accord, said Payne parents, who met with her and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson Friday. Walter Pennington, one of the parents at the meeting, started a petition earlier this month to keep her at the 1445 C St. SE school, fearing the decision to leave was not her own.

In a letter to parents Friday, Scott-Marcus said she will help ensure a smooth transition to the next principal, whom Henderson has yet to name.

“Payne’s current and future students will continue to be embraced not only by the staff of Payne but ultimately its leadership,” she said. “I will continue to honor the community and the established relationships as my dedication remains to the children of the District of Columbia.”

Scott-Marcus added in an email that her “next steps are uncertain” after she leaves Payne.

At the meeting last week, she indicated to parents that she wanted to “continue on a journey of personal and professional growth,” according to an email update from parents. The DCPS chancellor also said she was open to having Scott-Marcus at the head of Payne, if the principal wanted the job.

“As much as it pains us to do so, we must respectfully recommend to the Payne community at this time that we cease calling for Principal Scott-Marcus to be reinstated, wish her all the best in her future endeavors and begin to move forward — with DCPS — in the search for a new champion for Payne,” the email update from parents said. “We hope that process can be as inclusive and transparent as possible, and we will work with DCPS to determine the most effective means for DCPS to engage directly with the larger community regarding next steps.”

Photo via Pennington


Vielka Scott-Marcus (Photo via Pennington)

Payne Elementary School parents are demanding the reinstatement of their principal, who wasn’t reappointed for the 2015-2016 school year.

Vielka Scott-Marcus this summer is slated to step down as the principal of the Hill East school, which she has led since 2008. D.C. Public Schools has yet to announce who will succeed her at the 1445 C St. SE school.

A petition started earlier this month to keep Scott-Marcus as principal has garnered more than 1,000 backers. Payne parent Walter Pennington, who started the petition, said Scott-Marcus is a “beloved” member of the school’s community.

“We felt the job she is doing is a tremendous one,” said Pennington, who has two children at the school.

A DCPS spokesman didn’t have an immediate comment.

DCPS has yet to say publicly what led to her dismissal. But Pennington said problems with Payne’s test scores are to blame.

Although he acknowledged that the scores have “room to improve,” Pennington praised Scott-Marcus for diversifying a school that had very few students who weren’t black when she started as principal.

“She’s done a good job of unifying and making it a diverse community,” he said.

Pennington and other parents will hold a town hall meeting tomorrow at Payne to “demand that [DCPS] Chancellor [Kaya] Henderson seek greater public input and provide more transparency regarding decisions that impact children in DC public schools,” according to a news release.

The meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m., is expected to draw more than 100 parents and students.

Photo via Pennington


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