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


Stacks photo via Rural Dogs RescueA dog found near Payne Elementary School has found a foster home.

The dog, who was affectionately named “Mr. Puppy” by the woman who found him tied to a fence on the 1400 block of D St. SE earlier this week, is now currently with Rural Dog Rescue, an organization that matches pets with their forever homes.

And here’s a twist: “Mr. Puppy” isn’t actually the dog’s name, according to Angela Neis, Rural Dog’s foster coordinator. It’s Stacks.

“I may get overlooked at the shelter because I look a little bit like a pit bull mix, due to the unfortunate reputation this breed receives but I am a very friendly boy and get along well with other dogs,” an adoption listing for Stacks reads.

Though Stacks still needs to be neutered and receive some vaccinations, Neis said he’ll be up for adoption in the first part of May. Those interested in adopting Stacks must contact Rural Dogs Rescue to fill out an application.

Photo via Rural Dogs Rescue


Mr. Puppy photo via Congressional Cemetery

An abandoned puppy was found near the Payne Elementary School, according to a newsletter sent out by the Congressional Cemetery yesterday evening.

One of the cemetery’s K9 Corps volunteers apparently discovered the young dog tied to a fence on the 1400 block of D St. SE.

“A gentleman came to claim him and explained that one of his neighbors no longer wanted or is able to take care of the puppy and left him at another neighbor’s house,” the volunteer wrote to the cemetery. “She has been taking care of him but cannot keep him.” Now, the volunteer says the puppy, named Mr. Puppy for the time being, “needs a forever home.”

Mr. Puppy is a brindle Pit mix, about 6-7 months old, and very sweet and friendly.  He appears to be in good health. His eyes are runny.  We can assume that he had never received medical treatment, so probably will need puppy shots and maybe deworming (usual puppy stuff).

If you want to adopt or help Mr. Puppy, email us and we’ll put you in touch with someone in the know.

Photo via Congressional Cemetery newsletter


Reach Inc books (Photo via Facebook/ Reach, Inc.)

Reach Incorporated, a program that hires teenagers to be elementary school reading tutors, will release four children’s books written by local high school students on Thursday.

The books were written by teams of three teenagers, all of which included students from Eastern High School. They will be officially released at a book launch party from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery at 702 8th St. NW. The four new titles will bring the total number of books created through the program to 13.

Reach Incorporated Executive Director Mark Hecker said that the books have all been popular among the elementary students in the tutoring program.

Hecker attributes some of that success to the fact that the teenagers can tell stories that local elementary school students can relate to, but which are not often the subjects of children’s books. Past topics have been growing up in a shelter and dealing with the death of parents.

“Our teenagers are willing to dig into issues that generally don’t get broached in children’s literature,” Hecker said. “But they are issues that the kids we work with deal with all the time.”

Hecker said the tutoring program currently reaches about 125 elementary school students throughout the District, including several students at Payne Elementary School in Hill East. This year, Reach Incorporated won the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize for its tutoring program.

The groups of teens spent about six weeks writing the books over the summer. Hecker said that although Reach Incorporated emphasizes the need for more diverse characters in children’s literature, the stories are entirely created by the high school students.

“The teenagers become very thoughtful about not only what story they want to tell, but how they want people to connect to the book,” he said.

Reach Incorporated also holds book readings at elementary schools, where students get a chance to meet the authors.

“In many cases, we set up the readings at the authors’ former elementary schools and kids ask questions about writing books too,” Hecker said. “It gives them something to aspire to in a really cool way.”

Hecker said he also hopes the readings and books help change perceptions of teenagers in the area.

“There’s a lot of media attention given to teenagers in this town but it’s mostly negative,” he said. “A lot of people really appreciate that our teens are out there giving back to their community.”

Tickets for the book launch party are available online in addition to opportunities to donate copies of the books to local elementary schools.

Photo via Facebook/ Reach, Inc.


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


Stuart-Hobson Middle School (Photo via DCPS)One Capitol Hill school is set to have more than $7 million cut from its budget, while two others will get financial boosts.

Mayor Muriel Bowser seeks to reallocate nearly $49.5 million in 2015 capital funds for D.C. Public Schools, documents published by The Washington Post show.

The budget changes will help the school system meet its overall goals, Bowser said in a letter to D.C. Council.

“The reprogramming of [the] capital funds budget is to support the cost of school modernizations, phased modernizations and small capital projects,” Bowser said.

A cut of $7,275,800 is planned for Watkins Elementary School (420 12th St. SE), the documents show. Repairs will be made to the school’s heating system in financial year 2015, but construction will be postponed, with planning and design completed this year. Funds for construction will be requested for FY 2016-2021, according to the documents.

Stuart-Hobson Middle School (410 E. St. NE) is slated to get an additional $4,775,000. The boost is needed because of “cost escalation, informed market conditions, unforeseen conditions and scope of work alignment,” the documents say. The work will be done in FY 2015 and 2016.

And Payne Elementary School (1445 C St. SE) is set to see a boost of $9 million. The funds will go toward classrooms, an elevator, a playground and a connector that will bridge two wings of the building, the documents say.

D.C. Council has until early next month to review the plan. Meetings on the Watkins renovation will be held tonight (Monday) and Jan. 29.

Photo via DCPS


Payne Elementary School (Photo via DC Public Schools)Despite support from Mayor Vincent Gray, funding for renovations at Payne Elementary School is in danger.

Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander told Hill Now she will introduce a resolution on Tuesday to oppose Gray’s request to allocate $9 million to modernizing the school. She wants D.C. to instead devote funds to building a new middle school in her district, Ward 7.

“I would love to see Payne and Stanton [a Ward 8 school also included in the request] get what they’re looking for, but I won’t let that happen on the backs of Ward 7 students,” Alexander said.

Payne, located at 1445 C St. SE, was slated to receive money to complete its modernization this year, but the money was cut from the budget, as The Washington Post reported.

In a letter to the Council, parents described a “tale of two schools,” with only half of Payne’s classrooms modernized. The school doesn’t have an elevator or sufficient ramps for disabled students and parents, the letter says.

“We strongly believe that improving the learning environment of current Payne students now is a more critical need than funding construction of a new building that is still only in the planning stages,” the letter says.

Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

Photo via D.C. Public Schools

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