City on a Hill: Jelleff’s field mice

February 4, 2010

Tempers flared, voices were raised, and motives were questioned. Monday’s meeting of Georgetown’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission was like any of their other meetings over contentious issues, except for one thing: no one blamed Georgetown students.

Monday’s debate was over the Jelleff Boys and Girls Club field on S Street, near Safeway. The club’s field, which is owned by the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation, is in rough shape. Fortunately for DPR, the private Maret School has agreed to make a deal. In exchange for priority access to the field on certain times and days, Maret will pay $2.5 million to fix the club’s field and other facilities. That may seem like a high price, but Maret decided it was worth it to avoid sharing with the field’s other main users, the British School of Washington and Stoddert Soccer league. When the British School heard about Maret’s deal with the District, they went where everyone with a grievance in Georgetown goes: the ANC.

Georgetown neighbors usually devote their significant influence to keeping the University in check, interfering with everything from GUTS routes to student housing. That makes it all the more delightful to watch neighbors turning the full weight of their e-mail-writing, resolution-passing, change-opposing powers on one another. As usual, no one is willing to give up without a fight.

“We’re willing to pay a whole lot of money to secure the field usage,” Leslie Morgan Steiner, a Maret alumnus and a member of the school’s board of trustees, said.

The most controversial part of the deal is that Maret purchased priority on weekday afternoons during the school year, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.— leaving the British School’s program with nowhere to go in the afternoon.

“We use the field during the day, every day,” Peter Harding, the British School’s Head of School, said. According to Harding, Maret’s monopoly on the field will interfere with afternoon sports at the British School.

Monday’s Jelleff drama centered on a resolution introduced by curmudgeonly eccentric Charles Eason, an ANC commissioner whose district includes Jelleff. Eason’s resolution criticized DPR and Maret’s behind-the-scenes dealing, and called on both parties to void their agreement. The resolution passed the ANC unanimously. Unfortunately for the British School, the resolution has no legal weight.

Both sides are now tangled up in an unfortunate drama, and neither is getting the treatment it deserves. The British School is getting a raw deal, while Maret is under attack just for entering into an arrangement that would help both the District and itself Don’t feel too sorry for them, though. Instead, enjoy watching our neighbors realize that having an entire community meddle in your affairs isn’t much fun.

Know a way to level the playing field? E-mail Will at


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