Maret's partnership with DPR & Jelleff

"Maret is committed to being a good neighbor and partner and to ensuring that Jelleff remains an asset not only to Maret but to the overall community.”  Head of School Marjo Talbott

Maret’s Partnership with DPR at Jelleff Field

OVERVIEW

  • In 2010, the DC Department of Parks & Recreation granted Maret School preferred permitting for the use of the playing field at the Jelleff Recreation Center in Georgetown, on limited dates and for limited hours. In return, Maret invested $2.4M in improvements to the field and the swimming pool.
  • In August 2019, the District signed a 9-year extension of that agreement.
  • Some who opposed Maret’s partnership circulated a misleading petition asking the City to rescind the signed contract extension. In the wake of the negative campaign that ensued, the DC Council’s Committee on Recreation and Youth Affairs conducted an Oversight Roundtable on October 21, 2019 to receive public testimony for and against the extension.
  • Public testimony and Councilmember remarks at the Roundtable acknowledged that Maret has acted in good faith, lived up to its commitments, and provided the community with one of the City’s finest multisport athletic facilities.
  • Consensus was reached at the Roundtable that the overarching problem—which exacerbated the conflict at Jelleff—is a general dearth of available, improved green spaces for all residents across the City.
  • Maret remains willing to support DPR and other stakeholders in considering how best to address the lack of recreation and playing space for the City’s students and communities, including through improvements at other nearby underutilized properties.

Background

In 2008, facing financial distress, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington decided to raise money by selling some of its valuable properties. Large developers were interested in buying the Jelleff Club site in Upper Georgetown with an eye to building townhouses. Club leadership approached Maret School about a partnership that would:

(a) preserve this important recreational resource for the benefit of all DC residents, and
(b) improve the facilities, which were badly run-down and not designed for maximum utility.

Maret then began to look for the funds necessary to undertake this partnership and design the outdoor space.

The District of Columbia intervened instead and purchased Jelleff and two other Club-owned sites for $20M. The privately-owned Jelleff Club then became the publicly-owned Jelleff Recreation Center. The District immediately began negotiations with Maret to create a partnership to improve and maintain the underutilized Jelleff playing field.

In January of 2010, the District accepted Maret’s proposal for a 10-year agreement with a clear and straightforward option to extend this partnership for 9 more years, until 2029. Maret then undertook—at its sole expense—to construct a new and expanded regulation-size multisport field; rebuild the swimming pool (not used by Maret); add fencing for safety; and install lighting to create extended hours of play. Maret also provides routine upkeep of the field. In exchange, the Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) grants Maret limited priority permitting during 10 weeks in both the fall and spring.  Maret’s usage amounts to approximately 10% of total available field hours.

Transparency

In the spring of 2019, in anticipation of exercising its clear right to request a 9-year extension, Maret arranged consultative meetings with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington (which continues to operate an aftercare program at Jelleff); ANC 2E Commissioners Elizabeth Miller and Kishan Putta; neighboring Dumbarton Oaks; and other neighbors. The School discussed its history with Jelleff, its commitment to maintaining Jelleff as a valuable community resource, and its intention to seek the extension. Maret also discussed ways in which it could work with the community to bring online other nearby fields, including the Duke Ellington field, to support the recreational needs of District children.

On May 6, Maret participated in a public meeting, held by DPR at the Georgetown Public Library, to hear people’s views on the proposed extension. After these public consultations, and consistent with the 2009 Use Easement and Maintenance Agreement, Maret submitted its formal written request for an extension in July. The City responded within the required 30 days by granting Maret’s request; the formal extension was signed by all parties in August. As part of the extension approval, Maret agreed at its own expense to replace the existing artificial turf multisport field, upgrade the fencing, and contribute toward the renovation costs of the Jelleff clubhouse—saving taxpayers $950,000. Maret also remains responsible for providing routine maintenance of the field for the additional 9 years.

Objections to Maret-DPR Arrangements at Jelleff

Given that the extension request was publicly announced with ample opportunity for public input, Maret was surprised and disappointed that, at the end of August 2019, the two ANC Commissioners mentioned above and some parent groups circulated a petition asking the City to rescind the signed contract. Maret believes the petition was misleading and based on a lack of understanding of the arrangements between Maret and DPR.  The petition was followed by an unfortunate negative campaign that mischaracterized Maret’s partnership with DPR, impugned the School’s integrity, and ignored Maret’s strong commitment to community partnerships across the District.

This campaign culminated in the October 21, 2019 Public Oversight Roundtable, convened by the DC Council’s Committee on Recreation and Youth Affairs, at which Maret had the opportunity to set the record straight about the nature of the original and extended arrangements for the Jelleff facilities and the benefits to both the community and Maret of the partnership with DPR. At its core, the Jelleff partnership is about improving and enhancing public infrastructure so that as many people as possible, young and old, can enjoy and share the Jelleff field and pool. Testimony made it clear that Maret has acted in good faith, lived up to its commitments, and provided the community with one of the city’s finest multisport athletic facilities.

Maret's Commitment to Our Community

Maret’s Mission Statement focuses on the importance of community. As a result, the School has developed longstanding relationships with dozens of organizations in the District. For example, for 20 years Maret has hosted the six-week Horizons enrichment program on its campus, benefitting 130 public school students this summer alone. In addition, Maret offers its field and gyms to outside community groups (including DC Stoddert Soccer, MPD Soccer, and Boys & Girls Club Basketball) for over 1500 hours annually. Substantive Service Learning programs for students in Kindergarten through 9th Grade partner with (among others) Martha’s Table, Anacostia River Project, and Mazique Early Childhood Program. Maret’s student body includes 411 District residents from all eight Wards. 48% of our students identify as students of color and 24% of all students receive need-based financial aid.

Maret, by investing and committing to Jelleff, has been given the opportunity to create a vital asset that benefits the entire community. We are proud of our success in developing and maintaining a first-rate athletic facility with regulation-size fields for soccer, lacrosse, and baseball.

The Facts

  • The original contract with DPR was structured and entered into transparently and in accordance with DPR regulations.
  • Maret went beyond its contractual commitments, including rebuilding the pool and installing lighting, to benefit everyone in the community.
  • DPR is the permitting agency for Jelleff Recreation Center. Maret does not decide who has access to the Jelleff.
  • Maret uses Jelleff field much less than other users and makes its own campus facilities available to hundreds of other students throughout the year.
  • Jelleff Field is now a multisport regulation-size, quality facility for high school sports and other community leagues, such as Stoddert Soccer. Middle school sports programs do not require regulation-size fields.
  • Councilmembers at the Roundtable confirmed that Maret did nothing wrong by entering into the extension and indeed is a good partner and community member.  
  • At the Roundtable, Councilmembers, DPR, as well as representatives from Maret and Hardy Middle School explored the possibility of renovating the Duke Ellington space into a quality field and facility for Hardy’s athletic program.
  • Roundtable discussions also examined how other available green spaces in DC might be improved to create sufficient fields to meet the needs of all of the City’s users, including public, charter, and private schools as well as other community leagues and organizations.
  • At the Roundtable, a consensus was reached that the overarching problem that exacerbated the conflict at Jelleff is a general dearth of available, improved green spaces for all residents across the City.
  • Maret remains willing to support DPR and other stakeholders in considering how best to address the lack of recreation and playing space for the City’s students and communities, including through improvements at other nearby underutilized properties.

2009–2010 Agreement

In 2009, Maret and the District entered into a contract that created a partnership regarding the Jelleff Recreation Center. Under this agreement, at its sole expense:

  • Maret relocated the playing field per a project design approved by DPR. This created a multi-use field of regulation size suitable for soccer, lacrosse, and baseball. An artificial turf surface with appropriate drainage was selected to maximize the available hours of field use.
  • Maret demolished the old swimming pool and rebuilt the pool at a different location on-site as approved by DPR. Maret does not use the pool; it is available only for community use.
  • Maret installed field lighting that significantly expands the number of hours of available field use, especially in the fall and spring seasons when the days are shorter.
  • Maret installed fencing (to keep batted, thrown, and kicked balls on site).
  • After the completion of these renovation, Maret continually performs maintenance on the field.

To date, over the life of the agreement, Maret has spent more than $2.4 million on renovations—a significant amount District taxpayers did not have to spend in order to provide residents with a first-class playing field and swimming pool.

Maret does not have exclusive use of the field (and does not use the swimming pool or the clubhouse). Rather, it has preferred permitting for field use during specified date ranges and specified hours on those dates.

  • Maret has preferred permitting and uses Jelleff field only two hours a day after school for 10 weeks in the fall and in the spring. Thus, this leaves the school day, evenings and weekends for other schools and many community groups to receive permitting for approximately 90% of the overall availability.
  • When Maret originally negotiated its agreement with the District, it sought a 20-year contract. The District, however, believed that it could not enter into a contract in excess of 10 years. Therefore, a compromise was reached for a 10-years agreement, with a written provision to apply for a 9-year extension so long as Maret lived up to all of its obligations, which Maret has done.

2020-2029 Extension Agreement

As was stipulated in the 2009 Use and Easement Agreement:

6. Extension of the Term. In the event Grantee desires to extend the Term for an additional period of no more than nine (9) years (the “Renewal Term”), Grantee shall request such extension by giving written notice (“Extension Request”) to the District not earlier than three hundred sixty-five (365) days or later than one hundred eighty (180) days prior to the expiration of the initial Term. Within thirty (30) days following the District’s receipt of the Extension Request, the District shall advise Grantee in writing whether it consents to such Renewal Term, which consent may be withheld or conditioned in the sole discretion of the District.

And in the companion document Memorandum of Agreement:

III. TERM:

The term of this Agreement (the “Term”) shall commence on the date hereof (the “Commencement Date”) and expire on June 29, 2020 (the “Expiration Date”).

This Agreement shall be coterminous with the Easement, so that (i) in the event the Easement terminates or is terminated for any reason, this Agreement shall automatically terminate without further action or notice, and (ii) in the event the Term (as defined in the Easement) is extended or renewed, the Term of this Agreement shall be automatically extended or renewed for the same period of time without further action or notice.

Maret followed this protocol and sent a letter to DPR on July 1, 2019 to ask for the extension. Maret further committed to replace the turf field at its own expense in order to keep the Jelleff field safe and available to the public, which will cost approximately $500,000. Maret will also make improvements to the fencing per a project design to be approved by DPR, costing approximately $200,000. In addition, Maret will support the renovation to the Jelleff Recreation Center building up to $250,000.

DPR accepted our request, and a new set of agreements were executed in late July and early August.

Public Statements in Support of Jelleff

DC Department of Parks & Recreation Director Delano Hunter

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The following is a statement from DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Director Delano Hunter on Jelleff Field and the Maret School Agreement:

“We are constantly working to improve our fields and facilities to meet the growing demands from District residents. We are proud to move forward investments that minimize costs to District tax payers and help Washington, DC remain the #1 parks system in the country.  We will continue working with the community to ensure all residents enjoy these renovations for years to come."

Background:

  • Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has reached an extended agreement with the Maret School to invest nearly $1 million in private funds to support the renovation of Jelleff Recreation Center in Ward 2.  
  • Maret will invest $700,000 to replace the artificial turf on the field, which has reached the end of its lifespan, as well as repair the surrounding fencing. Maret will continue to provide maintenance of the field and Maret will also support the renovation of the Jelleff Recreation Center up to $250,000.
  • The DPR agreement extends a 10 year partnership for another 9 years with Maret, which previously invested $2.4 million for improvements to the field, pool and facilities at Jelleff.
  • District students and residents will have priority access to the field 80 hours per week, while Maret will retain access to the field for approximately 15 hours per week in the fall and spring seasons.
  • DPR is working with DC Public Schools (DCPS) to meet increasing athletic field needs in the vicinity of the Jelleff Recreation Center.
  • For more information and updates on the District’s $7 million Jelleff Recreation Center renovation project click here.
  • Mayor Bowser and the District government have committed $339 million for DPR capital investments over the next 6 years to ensure DC’s parks and recreation facilities remain #1 in the country and continue to be the place “Where Fun Happens.

Bancroft Elementary School Principal Arthur Mola

Download Statement

September 3, 2019

As the principal of Bancroft Elementary, a DCPS Title 1 school in the Columbia Heights-Mt. Pleasant communities, I have witnessed firsthand for seven years Maret’s unwavering and unconditional commitment as they give of their resources and time to provide my students with free, enriching learning experiences and activities. For 20 years, through Horizons Greater Washington, Maret has been investing into the futures of children from under-resourced circumstances all throughout the District of Columbia. Horizons at Maret has served hundreds of Title 1 students from Bancroft and other public schools, where they receive rich academic instruction in literacy and STEM-based disciplines, while attending yearlong weekend programming and a six-week summer camp on their campus.

In light of the recent attention Maret has received for securing use of a DPR-run facility at Jelleff, it is hard to imagine arguments aimed at pitting public and private school children against each other, when for over two decades Maret School has demonstrated their commitment to over a thousand DC public school students. Evidenced by its mission of being an inclusive organization, I, a Latino parent, DC resident, and male educator of color, found it necessary to have my own child apply and become a vested member of their school community.

In addition to the lifelong memories that Bancroft students develop through Horizons, the impact on their lives would fill the pages of countless biographies. Children not only come back from this program celebrating the fun they had as elementary and middle school students, telling stories about learning how to swim, ride a bike, or build a rocket, they return in high school as camp counselors en route to successful college experiences. Writing and reading about them would be satisfying enough; however, nothing compares to the in-person testimonies of former Bancroft students at annual banquets as each one credits their success to an experience they had at a Maret-hosted program.

Maret is also having an immediate impact on Bancroft’s astounding success in standardized testing outcomes. Since its inception five years ago, PARCC testing in DC has become the measure and rating system for determining a public school's ranking, of which five stars is the gold standard. Bancroft Elementary is one of only two Title 1 public schools in the District to receive a four-star rating or higher, and after this year’s double-digit increases in both reading and math, it looks to become a five-star school, not only as the result of students’ proficiency scores, but by nearly eliminating the achievement gap among its socio-economically disadvantaged subgroups, which represents 100% of the students’ demographics that attend the Horizons program at Maret. It would be short-sighted to think that this partnership did not have a direct impact on these results.

These are but a few highlights of ways that Maret impacts communities outside of its immediate area, an example of its selfless commitment to all children in DC, not just its own. Furthermore, none of this is possible without Maret opening its doors to other organizations and investing in the renovation and upkeep of city-run facilities so that thousands of its residents can enjoy quality outdoor experiences.

Arthur Mola, Principal
Bancroft Elementary School

"Washington Post" Letter to the Editor by Alumnus David Opong-Wadee

Washington Post Letters to the Editor
September 9, 2019

Which kids should get to use the Jelleff field in D.C.?

Growing up in Columbia Heights when resources were much more limited, I attended public school (Thaddeus Stevens) and private school (Maret). I am dismayed now watching some people needlessly pit kids in these two systems against each other in a dispute over the playing field at Jelleff Recreation Center in Georgetown.

While at Stevens, I benefited from after-school enrichment through the Higher Achievement program; at Maret, I received significant financial aid, including a Paul Berry Scholarship. I might not have gone on to attend college and law school if it were not for such generous, harmonized public and private support.

Maret helps kids like me. For 20 years, it has hosted the six-week Horizons enrichment program on their campus, which I have volunteered with; 130 public school students benefited just this summer. Maret also makes its gyms available to community organizations such as D.C. Stoddert Soccer. Moreover, I believe there wouldn’t be an athletic field at Jelleff today if Maret hadn’t stepped forward to invest in partnership with the District.

We can all do better by finding ways to work together, setting a positive example for our children on how to deal with limited resources.  

David Opong-Wadee, Washington

"Washington Post" Letter to the Editor by Maret Parent Glenn Williamson

Washington Post Letters to the Editor
September 13, 2019

Any investment in a D.C. field is a win for youths

My experience with visiting the field at Jelleff Recreation Center has been different from the one noted by Elizabeth H. Miller in her Sept. 8 Local Opinions essay, “D.C. is playing for the wrong team.” Jelleff is in near-constant use by youths of all ages, sizes and colors. Even before one game has finished, the next teams are warming up on the sidelines, eager to get onto the field.

What made this possible was the construction of an artificial turf field designed to accommodate multiple youth sports. The $2.5 million cost of these improvements was paid by Maret School in exchange for its ability to use the field for several hours each day for an initial term and an option to extend the term if conditions were met. Maret has agreed to resurface the artificial turf, which has become worn down by extensive use.

The essay set up an us-them conflict between private and public schools, using the Wilson High School baseball team as one example. However, Wilson’s baseball teams play a significant part of their games against private school teams. These players come from families with a wide range of incomes, and many live outside Ward 3. There is no us-them dynamic.

The District should invest in more all-weather multipurpose fields, using public dollars when possible and tapping into private resources in creative ways to expand the availability and use of limited fields. Partnerships such as the one at Jelleff add playable hours to make the pie bigger and create more options, not fewer, for youth sports.

Glenn Williamson, Washington

History of the Jelleff Partnership