“The Best Team in District Government” – Matt’s Top 5 Moments at the State Board

By Matt Repka, Policy Analyst

I first started at the State Board in late 2017. Since then, I’ve been on staff for 28 working sessions, 27 task force meetings, 26 public meetings, three performance oversight hearings, two budget oversight hearings, and one public forum on teacher retention. Throughout this time, the State Board has continued to develop as an institution, expanding its reach to take on important issues of equity in education in the District.

One thing I’ve appreciated about the State Board is its ability to work in collaboration with District’s education institutions on policy matters, including compliance with federal law, while maintaining the independent status that allows it to serve as a conduit for the voices of residents interested in addressing important issues in their school communities.

This is my final week at the State Board, and I’ll really miss the team here. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to support the State Board members in thinking about the most critical challenges in public education. But as a District resident myself, I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with the State Board and hearing about the office’s ongoing projects—this time as a constituent.

Before I go, here’s a reflection on my five favorite things about my State Board tenure:

5. Representing the State Board at EdFEST

Collage of two photos. The left is of Matt standing next to a mascot of Abraham Lincoln in a Washington Nationals jersey. The left photo is of Matt and Alex tabling at EdFEST.
Tabling at EdFEST!

Held each year in December at the DC Armory, EdFEST is the District’s annual school fair. It’s an opportunity for prospective students and families from preschool through high school-age to come out and meet with teachers and leaders from just about every school in the District of Columbia. The State Board, along with many other community-based organizations and government agencies, staffs a table at EdFEST, and in the three times I attended the event as a staff member, I always found it a great opportunity to chat with students and parents, meet teachers and school staff, and even get a picture with a mascot or two.

4. The 2019 Aurora Institute Symposium

Photo of a screen that says "Aurora Institute: Shining a Light on the Future of Learning Symposium 2019"
Aurora Institute Symposium

The Aurora Institute (formerly iNACOL) held its 2019 annual conference in Palm Springs, California. We sent a delegation to the conference in October last year to present on some of the agency’s work around community engagement, which you can read all about in a previous blog post. Weather-related travel delays aside, it was a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to meet and learn from people from all over the world.

3. Advancing the State Board’s research objectives

Ward 4 Representative, Frazier O'Leary, testifying before Council on teacher attrition. He is seated at a table, speaking into a microphone, and is seated next to state superintendent, Hanseul Kang, and DC public schools chancellor, Dr. Lewis Ferebee.
Ward 4 Representative, Frazier O’Leary, testifying before the Council on teacher attrition

In the past few years, the State Board has become more active in commissioning research that investigates topics of interest to the State Board, including research on teacher attrition in 2018 and 2019 that jump-started a discussion in the District on how to improve the retention of teachers at the school, school district, and city level. More projects—on the relevance and use of education standards and access to a well-rounded education—are underway, and I look forward to seeing the results of the State Board’s work soon.

2. Supporting the State Board’s public meetings

A picture of one of the State Board's monthly public meetings. The members of the state board are seated at the dais and members of the public are seated in rows.
One of our monthly public meetings

Every third Wednesday of the month—with few exceptions—the State Board’s public meeting brings public witnesses, expert panelists, and honorees together with the elected representatives. The State Board staff is a small team, and putting together the materials for the meeting so that it can proceed on schedule is a big effort: we handle everything from the assembling the slides displayed on-screen in the room to monitoring and maintaining the microphones for members and witnesses. Though there’s always a lot to do, it was always wonderful to see everyone come together to talk about issues that mattered, and it was tremendously rewarding to be a part of the team that made it happen every month.

1. Completing the work of the ESSA Task Force

A group photo of the ESSA Task Force members at their final meeting. There are fourteen individual standing between the United States flag and the District of Columbia flag.
A group photo of the ESSA Task Force members at their final meeting

When I first started at the State Board, the agency’s ESSA Task Force was less than two months old. As a group of community stakeholders, the task force was assigned a broad but important task—“enhance the involvement and engagement of the community in the development of State Board policy in relation to the Every Student Succeeds Act,” per State Board Resolution SR17-7.

In 2018, Ward 4 Representative Lannette Woodruff resigned her seat on the State Board—and with it, her role as chair of the ESSA Task Force. Ward 7 Representative Karen Williams took over that responsibility, and together, we worked to set an agenda for the group in year two. Working together, we had the opportunity to finish out the work of the task force in 2018 and 2019, including putting together a final report that collected some of the recommendations and observations of the group throughout two years of meetings into a single document. That report was adopted by the State Board and sent on to education policymakers in the District, including the deputy mayor for education and the state superintendent.

This type of meaningful, sustained stakeholder engagement is a model for how the District can bring more voices into the policymaking process to build systems that work on behalf of all its residents. I was very proud to be a part of it, and that’s why it’s here at the top of my list.

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