Farewell from Ward 1 Representative Emily Gasoi

It has been an incredible honor and an incredible learning experience to have served on the D.C. State Board of Education over these past four years—three of them through the pandemic. I appreciate the opportunity to share some highlights in this farewell.

In my first year on the State Board, I helped start the Ward 1 Education Council. The timing couldn’t have been more pressing, as 2019 was bookended by contentious fights around the closure of two Ward 1 schools, as well as the struggle over the Mayor’s decision to move Banneker High School to a space that was in the City Comprehensive Plan as a standalone middle school in the feeder for five surrounding elementary schools. Throughout the fights to keep our schools open and to build bridges between the Shaw and Banneker communities, the Ward 1 Education Council provided school communities with a support network, a forum for communication, and a megaphone to make different perspectives heard and, ultimately, to inform policy. I was particularly proud that one of the State Board’s first orders of business in January 2020 after hearing wrenching testimony from students and teachers representing Washington Metropolitan Opportunity Academy, one of the Ward 1 schools being slated for closure, was to unanimously sign a letter to the Mayor and Chancellor urging them to listen to the voices of our city’s most vulnerable students and their champions. 

As I learned more about what makes the Ward 1 education landscape unique, my advocacy agenda came into focus. I helped create an agency fund for providing language interpretation services at all State Board public meetings and public engagements, introduced a resolution with recommendations for improving recruitment and retention of Latinx educators, organized a forum for alternative and adult education programs to share practices, and testified regularly before D.C. Council on behalf of my adult education schools.

During the pandemic, which hit just a few months into my second year on the Board, the essential platform that the State Board provides became clear—testimony from public witnesses increased by over 200 percent throughout 2020–2021. This volume of input from the frontlines of online learning, school reopening attempts, navigating health and safety protocols, and more, allowed the State Board to provide agency and city leaders with informed recommendations for more grounded and equitable reopening policies, including the unanimous letter the State Board sent to the Mayor in November 2020. When it became apparent that families with means were able to provide their children with safe outdoor learning experiences while schools were still closed, I led an effort on the State Board and in the community to advocate for more equitable access to outdoor opportunities citywide. This culminated in the State Board unanimously passing a resolution and signing onto a letter urging the Mayor to provide funding for DC schools to build capacity for outdoor education and lunch. The Mayor’s 2021 budget included $9 million dollars for schools to spend on outdoor education infrastructure.

Finally, one of my first encounters with the D.C. State Board of Education was as a constituent in 2016, testifying at a public meeting about why I thought the Board should vote “no” on the Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s (OSSE) plan to use a star rating on the then new school report card. It was extremely satisfying to work on recommendations for revisions to the current STAR Framework and for the State Board to vote unanimously on a resolution in my final year to move away from a school rating system. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Ward 1 Representative, and I look forward to seeing the intensive work the State Board did to gather expert and constituent input come to fruition in the forthcoming revised DC School Report Card.

Published by DC State Board of Education

The DC State Board of Education is the District's elected voice on educational issues and advocates for a world-class education for D.C. students.

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