By Sarah Arrington, Policy Fellow
I started my policy fellowship with the State Board in September 2019. Since my first day, I have grown professionally and as an advocate for equitable education. Through supporting the State Board’s public meetings I’ve learned the importance of elevating the community’s voice in all aspects of public education. Through conducting and synthesizing research on the issues raised by community members I’ve learned what it means to put in the work to create change. And through the support of my team, I’ve learned what it feels like to be surrounded by people who are fierce advocates for the community that they serve.
I will miss my team and working for the State Board and I will always be grateful for the opportunities and guidance they have given me over the past year. Here are some of my favorite moments from my time at the State Board:
- Coffee outings
On days when we had long meetings ahead of us, the staff would walk to a coffee shop nearby to fuel up on caffeine. Well, actually I am not a huge caffeine fan as my coworkers will tell you, but those outings were great opportunities to bond with my coworkers and to prepare for the State Board’s public meetings. We went to different coffee shops including Starbucks and Compass Coffee, but my favorite was our outing to Sharetea to get bubble tea. It was experiences like these that infused joy into the culture of our office.
2. School visits
Each month, the State Board and staff took trips to local schools to engage with the school’s community. These trips are some of my favorite memories because they allowed me to interact with the people whom I serve through my work. The visits were an opportunity to hear directly from the community about the work schools do to support students and the challenges they might be facing. One of the most memorable school visits was to the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, an all-boys school in Ward 7. We were able to talk to students about the programs and support their school provides them as well as their plans for the future. It was clear that cared deeply for their school and their community. The school visits reminded me of the hard work that schools put in to help their students succeed.
When COVID-19 struck and we were forced to start working from home, the State Board quickly came up with a new plan to ensure that community voices were still heard during this unprecedented time. The result of the plan was to hold our first ever Instagram Live event, which we called #LunchTimeLive. For the first #LunchTimeLive, we invited students and teachers to join Social Studies Standards Committee Chair and Ward 6 Representative, Jessica Sutter, to discuss their experiences with social studies in the District. The event gave us great insight into the community’s thoughts about the social studies standards and what the State Board should be doing to change them. The event also showed me how dynamic the State Board is when it comes to shifting its work and procedures to better serve the community.
4. Office potlucks
Office potlucks were one of my favorite memories because they brought the office together to share a meal and decompress from work. They allowed us to build deeper relationships with one another that translated into a more effective and supportive working environment. While I am definitely not a cook, it was exciting to bring in a different dish according to that potluck’s theme. My favorite office lunch was when we celebrated Lunar New Year. We ordered from a local Chinese restaurant and chowed down on some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had.
5. Supporting the State Board’s public meetings
The public meetings were where a lot of the action occurred at the State Board. These monthly events included expert panelists and passionate public witnesses who testified about the challenges that District residents face and potential solutions that the State Board should consider. The public meetings were also where the State Board adopted its resolutions and honored various groups and people. Most importantly, the public meetings allowed the State Board to connect with and elevate community voice within public education. Supporting these meetings gave me great insight into the State Board’s commitment to the community and what it means to work in the field of education policy.