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Hardy School Parents Take Protest to D.C. Council

March 16, 2010

Over 100 Hardy Middle School students and parents streamed into a D.C. Council hearing Monday to protest plans to "reform" the high-performing Georgetown school. Students and parents crowded into council chambers to oppose plans by Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee that they called disruptive and destabilizing.

They're “tearing the heart and soul out of the school,” said sixth grader Anglea Marsh. Listening intently, Council Chairman Vincent Gray said he could not understand why Rhee would radically alter one of the leading schools in the city.

Fenty administration plans include transferring out wildly popular principal Patrick Pope, imposing a lottery system for out-of-boundary students, and revising Hardy’s curriculum from one based on arts and music to more “traditional” academic offerings.

Witnesses said that parents aren’t certain where they will enroll their kids this late in the year. Enrollment is down because of the turmoil, which reduces Hardy’s budget. The continued uproar over Hardy’s future is bringing into question what say parents have in decisions impacting their schools. DCPS is now an agency under the direct control of the Mayor. The local board of education – the traditional avenue for parental input – has been dismantled, leaving parents such as Nayada Cowherd nowhere to go, in their view.

“If Rhee decided to close all DCPS schools, there would be no way anyone could stop it,” she said. Gray attempted to fill that void when he urged Fenty in February to meet with Hardy parents, stating that “the school’s current leadership represents the best of the District of Columbia Public schools and should be continued in its current state.” Not debating whether the D.C. Council has authority to reverse personnel or curriculum decisions at Hardy, Gray pledged to the Hardy parents Monday that he would be “their champion,” a role other councilmembers may not be eager to play. Gray has been mentioned as a possible challenger to Mayor Fenty.

Hardy parent William Lewis testified that Hardy had taken its case to each D.C. councilmember, with the exception of Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, whose staff said that he was not able to meet, according to Lewis. Evans, whose district is home to Hardy, declined to attend the hearing.

Photo by bluepicasso.


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Sean Penn Riles Up Washington, Again

March 14, 2010

Sean Penn can't help making news. The actor-activist became the subject of controversy again in Washington this week after describing skeptics of Haiti relief with a curse involving a painful disease. When the Washington Examiner's Yeas & Nays reporter Tara Palmeri asked him about it at an awards ceremony at Washington Hebrew Congregation, the level of discourse descended further.

Penn could learn a few things from friend Rep. Dennis Kucinich, whom he met for dinner at Bistro Bis this week. The Ohio iconoclast manages to provoke debate without using the one-finger salute, verbal or otherwise.

Lest we forget, Haiti officials and others gathered to honor Penn at the Haiti Humanitarian Awards at the Washington Hebrew Congregation.  Pictured with daughter Dylan as they started to leave.

Photos by Neshan H. Naltchayan

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Saving the Economy (One Pair of Shoes at a Time)

March 8, 2010

What better way to celebrate spring than plucking a sassy, sexy, new pair of shoes in Georgetown? In the nick of time comes SimplySoles -- the brand new shoe emporium in Georgetown Park

"Our favorite quote of the season is 'Saving the economy one pair of shoes at a time,'" says founder Kassie Rempel, whose website encourages you to "peek in my closet."

Now you can do even better.

The Mt. Pleasant resident opened a new store in the mall after wanting a store in Columbia Heights. "I thought, Columbia Heights is the up-and-coming place," she said. But high rents and a few crime scares -- plus an aggressive effort by Georgetown Park -- convinced her to bring her collection to the mall on M Street.

The rent was less. Who would have thunk? Because of ongoing litigation over the future of the mall, SimplySoles was only offered a two-year lease, max. "It requires a lot of investment to build out a store with such a short lease," Rempel said.

Such arrangements inevitably hurt the somewhat sleepy cave of shops.

Nonetheless, "It feels right to be in Georgetown," she said.

The store does feel right, filled with bright colors, shapes and temptations that can't be ignored. Bring a credit card. Bring two.

"On a cost-per-wear basis, shoes -- namely those well-crafted and timeless in style -- keep in shape and in fashion," she says. Besides "the perfect black dress, white shirt and flattering pair of jeans -- shoes are the best investment in your wardrobe."

Economic stimulus in Georgetown? Sole mate.

Photos by RJSmith

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Shoe-shaped butter cookies and pink champagne sweetened the opening steps of the new store.

So many shoes, so little time!

SimplySoles founder Kassie Rempel talks with fellow Georgetown Park merchant Lorenzo Caltagirone of Total Party.

Kassie listens to a customer.

Maria McGinley, West End resident, shops in Georgetown with her dog, "Summer."


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