Update, 4:25 p.m.: Witnesses who planned to testify at a 4:30 p.m. hearing on community schools plan to instead march on D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown's office, after the chairman's staff canceled the roundtable with less than three hours' notice.
Jeff Smith, executive director of D.C. Voice, said parents and students have begun arriving at the Wilson Building, and more students are arriving as their school day ends.
"We're meeting them down there, waiting for other kids joining us from Ward 7, and parents," Smith said. "At 4:30, we hope to have enough people to march up to Kwame Brown's office."
Karen Sibert, the chairman's deputy chief of staff, said Kwame Brown will meet with the witnesses if they come to his office.
"We welcome them here. The chairman fully supports the bill, and is desirous of a comprehensive hearing on the matter," Sibert said. "Unfortunately, that can't happen without the participation of government witnesses."
Smith said At-large Councilman Michael Brown, who introduced the bill, tried to salvage the hearing. Kwame Brown's office canceled when the mayor's witnesses were unable to attend; Smith said Brown was trying to make it a hearing of just community members, with government witnesses testifying at later date, but did not succeed.
While prior school hearings have been similarly split, Sibert said the chairman preferred to have both camps of witnesses testify together.
D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown's office canceled a hearing on a bill to create "community schools" in at-risk neighborhoods Wednesday, less than three hours before the roundtable was scheduled to begin.
Karen Sibert, deputy chief of staff for the chairman, said that the hearing on the Community Schools Incentive Amendment Act was canceled because the mayor's witnesses were unavailable.
"It has not been rescheduled as yet, but official notice of the new date for the hearing will be circulated at a later date," Sibert wrote in an email.
"A later date" isn't flying with D.C. Voice. The nonprofit, which focuses on involving the community in school reform, was none-too-pleased that the hearing was canceled on such short notice, and executive director Jeff Smith told The Washington Examiner that he — and the 35 other witnesses the group recruited — may head down to the Wilson Building anyway.
"If it's true that they just found out about this, the chairman should have a big gap in his schedule from 4:30 p.m. to about 7:30 p.m., and we'd like some of that agenda time," Smith said.
His organization did the bulk of the research that started the legislation, originally introduced by At-large Councilman Michael Brown in 2010, and co-sponsored in 2011 with Kwame Brown, Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas, Jr., Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham, and then-At-large Councilman Sekou Biddle.
The council wanted to hear the bill, introduced in January, by the end of the year, Kwame Brown said Tuesday.
The act seeks to establish at least five "community schools" in poor neighborhoods. Using grants of up to $200,000 per year, the schools would establish after-hours initiatives like adult-education courses and health clinics.
Smith said his dozens of witnesses are ready to go. Kids have been excitedly memorizing their testimony for days, and because they're in class, don't yet know that the hearing was canceled — they're expecting shuttles to pick them up at 4 p.m.
National experts, grandparents, teachers and principals are also lined up, Smith said. The National Council of Negro Women sent him written testimony at 11:45 p.m. Tuesday after holding a special meeting to develop their stance.
"That's the kind of work people have put in to make sure this is not simply a dog-and-pony show, as we often unfortunately see in that building... It's disrepectful to this process and people to cancel like this," Smith said.
Check back with The Washington Examiner for updates.