‘Jessica on Two Rivers’ by Danny Harris

Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. He launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. You can follow People’s District on Twitter @PeoplesDistrict, and can read his previous columns here.

“As parents, my partner and I were looking for a different kind of educational experience in this city for our kids. It saddens me to see that the trends in education are away from the concept that learning can be great fun and towards solely the acquisition of knowledge. I think that learning should be fun. When you do that for kids, they will want to continue to learn as they grow up.

“While there are lots of strong schools in D.C., we wanted a place with project based learning that related to the real world. Before Two Rivers, there was only one other school in D.C. doing that, Capital City Public Charter School, which was not in this neighborhood.

“We organized a grass-roots effort with other parents to open this school. As they say, it really does take a village. There were a large number of people who gathered and volunteered their time and resources to get this started. It took a lot of time and effort, but we worked together to create this place out of love seven years ago.

“For me, it is a dream come true to be able to help found and run a school that has as its critical components, all the things that I care most about. I have always felt that it is important that kids learn more than just the nuts and bolts. For example, we live in an amazing city and part of our job at the school is to take advantage of those resources when teaching our kids.

“One of my favorite parts of what I do is standing at the door in the morning with the other administrators to greet the kids. It’s important for me because it reminds me of why we are here – to connect with these amazing kids. We want kids to be excited about learning and realize how fun it can be.”

Jessica Wodatch is the Executive Director of Two Rivers Public Charter School.

8 Comment

  • andy

    So what do you do to get a charter school going that’s really one of DC’s stars, like Two Rivers, Cap City, or EL Haynes? There are so many now, but only 6-7 really achieve markedly better results for kids.

    I just very seriously wonder what the formula is.

  • Sounds like they’re basically magnet schools, without being magnet schools in name. I wish we had more true magnet schools in DC, with rigorous applications standards, etc. That would go a long ways to keeping well-educated, affluent new parents from fleeing the city as soon as their child reaches school age.

  • Ms. Wodatch seems like a terrific teacher and educator. I have two kids under three years old. Maybe we won’t move to Silver Spring next year after all.

  • Don’t “well-educated, affluent new parents” send their kids to private school or just live in / move to Ward 3.

    Do you really want “true magnet schools in DC, with rigorous applications standards” on the elementary level?

    When Two Rivers first started I read they ALLEGEDLY tried to lure many active / affluent parents away from the Capitol Hill cluster. Essentially the detractors accused Two River’s founders of starting a private school w/ public funds hoping to exclude less affluent neighborhood kids. However, charter schools have to have open admissions or a lottery system (I believe there is limited founders preference for slots) so I am not sure if the criticisms was legitimate.



    @ Darrell

    “Maybe we won’t move to Silver Spring next year after all.” For high school Silver Spring = Blair HS or BCC HS I have heard Blair has a good magnet program but some gang issues in the general school population but that is a little ways off for you!

  • Two Rivers doesn’t get better test results–they just have a more affluent population than many other public schools (charter and DCPS) in Washington.

    Same thing for Cap City.

    To be crowned a “star” among the charters, you just have to attract some white families. That’s all it takes. The teaching that’s going on isn’t any better than other schools (and in some cases it’s worse) it’s just that the kids are from financially secure families and tend to perform better in the classroom.

    KIPP, with it’s extended day and Saturday classes does better with low income kids, but thus far, middle class families don’t seem to be interested in the style of education KIPP offers up.

  • I totally don’t know about these issues, but this question is based on the comments: Is one reason people start charter school and then (maybe) try to attract white families from out of the area, because they don’t want to send their kids to predominately black schools? Just a question, honestly.

  • That is a factor but I don’t think it is that simple. Parents are primarily concerned about low performing schools, poor facilities and low parental involvement. On this site a few parents have candidly mentioned they are concerned about their child being the lone white child in a class. Parents try to do what is best for their children. Parents can try and turn around a neighborhood school, move, try private school, the out-of-boundary process or start fresh w/ a charter school. The quality of neighborhood schools vary greatly (better schools typically have parents with resources, people w/ resources are usually educated) . Some parents live in Ward 3 and still would not send their kids to DC Public Schools while a parent in Ward 1 might ‘kill’ to get their child in one of the good Ward 3 elementary schools.

  • I’m a parent of a Two Rivers Student. It is a wonderful school with wonderful teachers and administrators. If you want to see what schools can do to create (with a VERY diverse student body) real community, respect, and inquisitive, courageous students: take a tour of Two Rivers. Wednesday morning community meeting will knock your socks off and maybe even bring tears to your eyes. It did me. We feel blessed that through a LOTTERY our child was lucky enough to get a place at Two Rivers three years ago.

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