Sherwood's Notebook: Dunbar, on the Rise

It was just a great event Monday when city leaders opened the new, $125 million Dunbar High School near North Capitol Street and New York Avenue.

It’s an airy, glass-and-brick building with soaring ceilings, a new pool and gymnasium, and state-of-the-art classrooms.

Principal Stephen Jackson was almost beside himself with the new school. He managed as best he could in the old, 1970s-era Dunbar next door. In a word, it was a “prison.” It stifled the academic interest of nearly any student or teacher.

“You couldn’t learn in there!,” Jackson told NBC4.

The building was almost windowless, shut off from the community and easily mistaken for a correctional facility. (It shared that horrible resemblance with H.D. Woodson High School in Northeast. There’s a new school there, too.)

Dunbar has a storied history back to 1870 and connections with the first high school for African-Americans. It has a long list of celebrated graduates.

Over the past decade, the District has spent about $2 billion remaking or rebuilding nearly every school in the city. Yes, there have been delays in some neighborhoods, including parts of Northwest.

But it has been a remarkable achievement overall, and Dunbar is now positioned again to give students a heads-up on academics.

“They can all be proud,” said Mayor Vincent Gray, Dunbar Class of 1959.

■ Tony for Jack? Former Mayor Tony Williams hasn’t formally endorsed anyone for mayor, but he has come pretty close.

Mayor Williams, the head of the Federal City Council business group, introduced Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans at an impressive Aug. 9 fundraiser on Nantucket hosted by longtime fundraiser Max Berry. The take? $40,000.

In his comments, Williams said that Evans should be credited with a major role in the city’s economic rebound from its near-bankruptcy days of the 1990s.

Evans told the Notebook that he appreciated the mayor’s kind words and wants the whole city to do well economically should he become mayor.

The Washington Post report said the former mayor’s remarks were notable because Williams has refrained from elective politics as head of the Federal City Council.

■ Gov. McDonnell and Mayor Gray. Across the Potomac, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is having a terrible year with his gifts scandal and monies he and his wife received from a state businessman. The Washington Post had a chilling sentence or two in its latest story, sentences that might make Mayor Gray wince upon reading.

On the timing of the U.S. attorney’s criminal investigation of the McDonnells, The Post wrote: “First, prosecutors generally wish to move as quickly as possible if they think there is evidence of criminal actions by a sitting, still powerful elected official.

“Second, Justice Department guidelines discourage prosecutors from taking action during an election season to avoid the perception that they are trying to influence the outcome.”
Mayor Gray is fast approaching (if not already in) his election season even as his criminal probe hangs over his head.

Just saying.

In Virginia, the speculation is that prosecutors may act by Labor Day rather than interfere with the hot gubernatorial race between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Cuccinelli has received gifts from the same benefactor, and it’s hurting his otherwise strong campaign for governor.

And while we’re on that campaign, here’s what veteran Richmond journalist Jeff Schapiro wrote most recently in The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“It comes down to the enthusiasm gap.

“McAuliffe can close it by driving up turnout with a broad-brush spiel that resonates in the dense, diverse suburbs where Democrats are ascendant. Cuccinelli can capitalize on it by driving down turnout with a narrow missive aimed at the small pools of energetic movement-type voters who dominate the GOP.

“Purple Virginia breaks blue when lots of people vote. Turnouts north of 70 percent comfortably tipped the state twice to Barack Obama. Virginia reverts red when turnout falls to around 40 percent, as it did when Gov. Bob McDonnell led a Republican landslide one year after Obama’s win. Republican voters not only showed up, they did so with gusto.

“Even Democrats concede the Republican advantage on fervency.”

If you want updates on that Old Dominion race, follow Schapiro on Twitter at @RTDSchapiro.

■ Final word. The 50th anniversary March on Washington for Jobs and Justice is this Saturday. There’s lots being written and said about both the progress and lack of progress in civil rights. But if you want to view a little history, tune into NBC4 on Sunday at 10 a.m. NBC is planning to run in its entirety the 1963 “Meet the Press” program on which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. appeared before the big march. The NAACP’s Roy Wilkins also is on the show.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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