By Jessica Sutter, Ward 6 SBOE Representative
I love school. I’ve loved school since my first day of preschool when I walked in and never looked back to say goodbye to my mom. I’ve loved every school I’ve had the privilege to teach in. I’ve loved when school filled my heart with joy, like when my eighth graders got their letters of acceptance to high schools. I loved school even when it broke my heart after losing a student to gun violence in my first year of teaching.
I have worked in education for the past 20 years and have called Ward 6 my home for more than a decade. I’ve spent time teaching in classrooms in Chicago’s West Side, in East Los Angeles, and in our nation’s capital at the Blue Castle at Eighth and M Streets SE right here in Ward 6 where I taught eighth grade social studies and literature. In my work at DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education, and as a consultant I’ve been lucky enough to visit hundreds of schools and classrooms throughout the District.
During my campaign, I assured voters that I would represent all students in Ward 6 schools, wherever they live, and all students who live in Ward 6, wherever they attend school. I promised to focus on three things:
(1) putting students first in policy decisions,
(2) ensuring the District creates and implements policies that provide equitable educational resources and opportunities for all children to succeed, and
(3) supporting the excellence of current Ward 6 schools and the creation of new school choices that meet the needs of all DC children.
Goals and Opportunities
The SBOE is an incredible opportunity to advocate for policy changes that affect all children in the District. As I begin my four-year term representing Ward 6 on the SBOE, I’ve got a few specific things I’d like to accomplish.
(1) Rich Curriculum – I want to ensure that all of our schools are offering a rich curriculum, including science and social studies, for students at all grade levels. I will work with my colleagues to push for an update to the DC Social Studies standards. I will also seek to publicly share information on the time our local education agencies (LEAs) are dedicating each week to key content areas and what supports they may need to increase content-rich instruction beyond mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA).
(2) Improving Middle Schools – I want to focus on improving middle schools. As a former middle school teacher, this is a topic dear to my heart. Ward 6 is home to 13 schools with middle school programs. Serving the academic and socio-emotional needs of tweens and teens is complex. I will push the SBOE to facilitate cross-sector best practices sharing between DCPS and charter schools with high academic growth scores, excellence in academic achievement and growth of specific student subgroups, and innovative practices in socio-emotional learning and restorative justice practices.
(3) Amplifying Voices – I want to find ways to better amplify the voices of all families connected to Ward 6. I will begin 2019 on a listening tour throughout Ward 6: I will listen to principals and teachers, students, parents and families, and community members about how I can help. I’d like to make sure Ward 6 families and the families of students who go to school in Ward 6 are able to voice concerns to officials who can do something to help. The SBOE has a unique opportunity to elevate diverse voices to the state level.
I am honored to serve the students and families of Ward 6 and I see the next four years as an opportunity for steady progress towards better schools for all District students. I look forward to the work ahead.
**This blog post was adapted from pieces that appeared in HillRag (https://hillrag.com/2018/08/17/running-for-students/, https://hillrag.com/2019/01/11/newly-elected-ward-6-sboe-rep-describes-goals/) and a biography featured in The Southwesterner (http://thesouthwester.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/January-2019.pdf)**