Mayor Muriel Bowser joined District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Antwan Wilson, Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles, Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray (D) and At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds (D) together with special guest Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson at the DCPS Back-to-School Block Party Saturday September 9th.
The event took place outside Ron Brown Community College Prep High School (4800 Meade St. NE), DC’s only all-boys public high school. The second phase of construction on the school was completed last year. Many of the students, called ‘Kings’, were present on stage as well. A member of the Senior class introduced Mayor Bowser.
“The new strategic plan for DC Public Schools directly reflects the hopes and dreams of District residents. Most importantly, it acknowledges that we must prioritize excellence and equity in our schools in order to close the achievement gap and give all students a fair shot at success,” said Bowser.
Bowser launched the new DCPS Strategic Plan at the event, which sets the following goals for the year 2022:
- Double College and Career Readiness: Double the percent of students who are college and career ready and triple the percent of at-risk and students of color who are college and career ready.
- Accelerate Early Literacy: Get 100 percent of K-2 students reading at or above grade level.
- Increase High School Graduation Rate: Reach 85 percent student graduation within four years and 90 percent graduation within four or five years.
- Improve Student Experience: Ensure 100 percent of students feel loved, challenged and prepared.
- Increase Excellent Schools: Achieve 100 percent ratings of schools as high or as improving.
- Increase Enrollment: Increase re-enrollment levels to 90 percent of students and increase DCPS enrolment to 54,000 students.
The plan follows gains made on the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan which included increased high school graduations and enrollment.
Chancellor Antwan Wilson noted that he himself had attended ten different schools and lived in fifteen different houses throughout his public school career.
“Our vision, as highlighted in the new Strategic Plan, is for every school to become a place where all students can meet their full potential,” said Wilson.
Wilson introduced Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, who described the role education has played in his own success. Standing in front of Ron Brown High School, named for Ronald Harman Brown, Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton, he said, “I wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t for a man who pulled me aside and said, Magic, you can be more than just a basketball player. And his name is on this school right here.”
“Ron Brown affected my life like no other man did,” he said.
Johnson, a five time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, for whom he is now President of Basketball Operations, told the Kings that education, coupled with hard work, was the only way to make it.
“You need that piece of paper and then you come back and you give back,” Johnson said, emphasizing that the education of an individual can and should benefit entire communities.
Johnson is the CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, which focuses on creating redevelopment opportunities in underserved urban communities, largely through his chain of movie theaters and Starbucks coffee shops. Johnson owns ten Starbucks coffee shops in Washington, DC.
Johnson said, “If you get an education, then nobody can define who you are [or] what you can become.”
The event included photo opportunities with the Ron Brown mascot, a Lion King, moon bounces and a craft table equipped by the Kennedy Center for the Arts. Several keyboards were provided by DC Keys, who are collaborating with DCPS and the Washington Performing Arts to put the keyboard at the center of elementary school education.
A full meal including chicken, macaroni & cheese and salad was served cafeteria style by DC Central Kitchen and DCPS’s largest food provider SodexoMagic. The latter is a partnership between Sodexco and Magic Food Provisions, owned by Johnson. DC Central Kitchen provides meals for about a dozen Ward 7 schools.