Paul’s Top 5 Moments at SBOE

SBOE Staff 2019

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

So many firsts. My first government job. My first time working with politicians. My first time running multiple social media accounts and a blog. In October 2016, I stepped into a position that did not exist before. Excited, yet intimidated, I relished the opportunity to develop the role into what it is today. Much thanks goes to our Executive Director John-Paul Hayworth, our tremendous staff, and our passionate Board members for trusting me with this role and allowing me to make it my own. As I finish up my final week serving as public affairs specialist for the DC State Board of Education, here are a few moments I won’t soon forget.

1. #SBOESelfieTours

SBOE Selfie Tour 2017

As a staff member, I loved getting out into the community and visiting District public schools as often as possible. This helped keep my ears to the ground and helped to connect the education policies we were working on with the realities of children attending school. Whether it was Back-to-School events, school tours, education events, or student representative swearing-ins, I always felt honored I was able to capture these moments as they happened. In spring 2017, we embarked on the first #SBOESelfieTour, a public engagement campaign where staff and Board members visited a variety of schools over a one or two-day period to help promote specific policy issues or campaigns. During these quarterly tours, we dropped off flyers and materials about our open applications for student representative and Student Advisory Committee, applications to join our High School Graduation Requirements and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) task forces, and back-to-school information on the work of the State Board, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Office of the Student Advocate. The ultimate bonding experience for staff, these outings proved to be a great way for us to connect with the schools we served.

2. Going Live

#DCGradReqs Task Force Meeting 2017

Running a livestream for every public meeting, working session, and task force over the last three years was thrilling, challenging, and nerve-wracking all at the same time. Every conversation, debate, vote, public testimony, and ceremonial resolution was captured live via our Periscope or FacebookLive feed. I wouldn’t call myself an expert videographer or photographer, but I managed to hone my craft as time went on. The toughest parts were when the WiFi or phone connection would drop or when I needed to inconspicuously capture substantive conversations at our task force meetings. Our dedicated group of viewers always keep me on my toes in the chat box, never really leaving me a moment to relax. But, I loved engaging with them in real time to help make their viewing experience valuable.

3. ESSA Community Engagement

ESSA Community Meeting 2017

In February 2017, the State Board partnered with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to co-host community meetings in all eight wards of the District. Members engaged with the public on the draft Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to find out what community members wanted DC to include in its final accountability plan. With a smaller staff back then, John-Paul and I traveled around to schools in the District with translation equipment, projectors, printed materials, and a projector screen to ensure these events went off smoothly. It was a sprint that month, with three meetings per week for four weeks straight in the evenings. But, it was worth it! It was a great way for me to learn the unique challenges and concerns of residents in every part of this city early on in my time at SBOE.

4. Spotlight on Teacher Retention

Teacher Retention Forum 2018

In May 2018, SBOE contracted with local education researcher and data analyst Mary Levy to produce a report on teacher and principal retention in the District of Columbia. In October last year, we released the commissioned report along with three recommendations. The report found that teacher turnover at the DCPS system level is roughly 19 percent, and average annual teacher turnover at the school level in both traditional public schools and charter schools has consistently been about 25 percent. The report also found that turnover in DCPS neighborhood schools is highest in Wards 5 and 8, but that charter school turnover rates are largely the same regardless of location. The impact of this report has been wide-ranging, and the State Board has continued to analyze this issue in 2019. Through community forums, expert panels, and engagement with teachers and administrators throughout the District, we have deepened our knowledge on this issue. The SBOE is poised to continue the conversation in the new school year and I am grateful to have been a part of these efforts to shine a light on such an important issue.

5. Launching the SBOE Blog

When I started my role, I wanted to create a way for us to connect more with the community. I felt that SBOE needed a way for Board members and staff to share their views on specific education policy issues. I also wanted a space for us to publish information, feedback, and takeaways from key events. Thus, this blog was born in December 2016. With the breadth of communications and media relations functions I performed over the years, it was a challenge at times to carve out time each month to get content posted. But, with the help of our dedicated staff, we’ve managed to post a few blogs each month. It’s been a great outlet for us to get our voice across in a unique way.

  • SBOE SelfieTour 2017
  • EdFest 2017
  • SBOE SelfieTour 2018
  • DCPS Pride 2019
  • Langley Elementary Tour 2019
  • SBOE Staff August 2019
  • Staff Nats Game 2017
  • SBOE Excel Academy Visit 2018
  • SBOE Staff May 2019

Together, we’ve worked hard to communicate the message of the State Board through meetings, task force sessions, selfie tours, press releases, community newsletters, media responses, and countless community events. With a focus on transparency, we streamed every public meeting, working session, and task force meeting live on Periscope and FacebookLive. With the help of staff and our dedicated fellows, we’ve been able to expand our social media presence – adding an Instagram and LinkedIn account and maximizing our Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube pages.

And now, I am fully ready to take on a new professional challenge! I am staying in DC, so I’ll be close. From time to time, I may pull up a SBOE meeting on Periscope to catch the latest on the work of the State Board. It will be a nice change to be on the other side, watching as an interested and supportive District resident. I can’t wait to see what’s next for SBOE.

Dayja Burton and Alex O’Sullivan to Serve as Student Representatives

2019-20 Student Representatives

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

Earlier this summer, the State Board of Education was thrilled to announce the selection of Dayja Burton, a rising senior at McKinley Technology High School, and Alex O’Sullivan, a rising sophomore at BASIS DC PCS, as Student Representatives for the 2019–20 school year. For the length of their term, these outstanding students will join our nine elected State Board members in policy discussions and community engagement efforts, bringing the voice of students directly to decision makers. With their direct experience in the classroom, student representatives provide a unique voice during policy discussions and offer a vital perspective on teacher retention, education standards, and our state accountability system.

Dayja Burton is a McKinley Technology Zelinger award winner, a recipient of the Perseverance Award, and a member of the Principal’s Honor Roll and National Honor Society. Alex O’Sullivan is a member of Youth and Government, co-founder and president of his school’s poetry club, and a volunteer tutor at his local elementary school. As Student Representatives, Burton and O’Sullivan will also co-chair the 2019–20 Student Advisory Committee (SAC), a volunteer group of students from District high schools in both D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and the public charter sector.

The State Board began an open application process for both the Student Representative positions and the SAC in March, receiving 40 applicants from both traditional public and public charter school students. The SBOE sought students who were passionate about serving their community, as these individuals bring a vital voice to the education policy-making process in the District.

The SAC serves as the voice of students in the State Board’s work. They are consulted on issues of policy before the Board. The SAC meets at least once per month. Each year, the Committee sends the SBOE a report on a matter of importance to District students, providing recommended next steps. If rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors are interested in joining the Student Advisory Committee, contact us at sboe@dc.gov. For more information, please visit sboe.dc.gov/studentvoices.

Strawberries & Salad Greens Day

Strawberries & Salad Greens Day 2019

By: Ashley MacLeay, At-Large Representative, and Alexander Jue, Policy Analyst

Earlier this month, we had the chance to visit Aiton Elementary School in Ward 7 and Murch Elementary School in Ward 3 for their Strawberries & Salad Greens Day festivities. Since 2011, the Health & Wellness Division at OSSE has sponsored this city-wide event as a way to showcase locally grown produce in school meals.

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Aiton Elementary School partnered with DC Central Kitchen to teach students about different fruits and vegetables that could be grown in the District. Students were able to touch and taste local fruits and vegetables like cherry tomatoes and cucumbers grown from a truck garden. In addition, the students learned proper knife techniques and cut strawberries, kale, and carrots. They mixed the ingredients together with a strawberry vinaigrette dressing to create a fresh summer strawberry salad that everyone enjoyed.

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A First Fridays Visit to DC Bilingual Public Charter School

By: Caitlin Peng, Policy Fellow

On June 7, I had the opportunity to tour DC Bilingual (DCB) Public Charter School as a part of First Fridays, a series of monthly tours that spotlights top-performing D.C public charter schools. Not only was this my first time participating in a First Fridays tour, but also my first time stepping foot into a public charter school. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but by the end of the tour, I experienced a snapshot of a public charter school where a strong sense of community permeated throughout the hallways and classrooms.

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Thanks for the Ride!

Staff Selfie Tour April 2019

By: Sara Gopalkrishna, Policy Fellow

Thanks for the ride, SBOE! As a DCPS parent and a doctoral student of education policy, these last five months as a Policy Fellow at the DC State Board of Education have been illuminating and fun. I have come to understand the structure of educational governance in the District and learned a lot about the people who operate within it. (One day, I’ll diagram it for you!) I was given to the time and task of listening to and watching City Council testimony on education issues and offices, and, of course, SBOE meetings. I had the opportunity to participate in First Friday tours of DC charter schools and peek into some high schools on an SBOE selfie tour to recruit high school students to serve as Student Representatives and members of the State Board Student Advisory Committee. The staff provided opportunities for me to explore DC student data, write memos, contribute blog posts, and ask a lot of questions!

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Castle on the Hill- Our Visit to Cardozo Education Campus

Cardozo Visit May 2019

By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist

Last week, Cardozo High School Assistant Principal Matthew Kennedy and his leadership team welcomed State Board members Ruth Wattenberg (Ward 3 / President), Ashley MacLeay (At-Large), Emily Gasoi (Ward 1), and some of my SBOE staff colleagues for a school tour and lively education policy discussion at one of Ward 1’s education campuses. Cardozo Education Campus is essentially three schools in one, with a middle school, mainstream/traditional high school, and an International Academy for English language learners in one building. The historic “Castle on the Hill” campus serves students from grades 6–12 at this neighborhood DCPS school in the District’s northwest neighborhood of Columbia Heights.

During the first portion of the visit, we sat down with Assistant Principal Matthew Kennedy to learn more about the unique programs offered at this combined middle/high school. In addition, State Board members engaged in a discussion with school leaders and teachers on different ways to measure academic growth during high school. Academic growth, the progress a student makes over a particular time period, is one of the indicators used by the District in its STAR Framework and in its school report card. This visit was timely as the State Board looks forward to a proposal from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) related to a high school growth measure next month.

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A “First Friday” at Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS – East End

By Sara Gopalkrishna, Policy Fellow

No one should ever turn down an opportunity to tour a pre-K classroom in DC. Lucky for me, an opportunity was presented to me. As part of the First Fridays tour of DC charter schools, Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Charter School welcomed us to their new East End campus. Stokes PCS is known in the city as providing dual-language instruction for elementary school students. They offer Spanish-English and French-English elementary school classrooms. Linda Moore founded the school in 1998 and named it after her mother. After moving from its first location in Mt. Pleasant to 16th Street NW, the first campus eventually found its home in Brookland.

With the Brookland campus in such high demand—that it seemed that only siblings could enroll—it was time to expand after 20 years. With careful and deliberate planning, the Stokes team planned and opened its second campus in fall 2018, enrolling 135 pre-K and kindergarten students. Tucked in the eastern-most corner of the city in Ward 7, Stokes East End is the only bilingual elementary school east of the river. The school shares a building with Maya Angelou PCS, a high school. The two schools strategically share the gym, the cafeteria, and other resources such that the young scholars and older ones are kept separate, using shared spaces at different times of the day.

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A Letter from the Chief Student Advocate – Faith Gibson Hubbard

Dear Colleagues, Partners, and Friends,

After four years, I am leaving my role as Chief Student Advocate for the District of Columbia.

In May 2015, I opened the doors of the Office of the Student Advocate and became the first Chief Student Advocate for the District of Columbia. This experience has been life-changing for me. In our work, we support families in navigating the complexity of public education in the District and work to demystify our city systems in order to remove barriers and provide access for families. We partner with families and other education stakeholders to identify problems and work toward solutions. We work diligently to equip families with the information, resources, and tools they need to be their own best advocates. We collaborate with agencies, offices, and other partners to advocate and work toward the best possible outcomes for students. I am so proud of the great work we’ve accomplished during my tenure, and I am excited about the great work on the horizon.

As we all work for a more inclusive and equitable system, I ask that you continue to direct people to the great resources and support the Office of the Student Advocate has to offer. During this time of transition, I am confident that the work of the office will continue at a high level and deepen in its reach and scope.  I have a phenomenal staff who live and breathe this work in the same way that I do.  The vision of the office is not mine alone – it is ours – and I know, without a doubt, they will continue to do great things under the leadership of Dan Davis, who currently serves as my deputy.  Dan’s career in this space spans over 12 years, and he has served as my deputy for almost three of those years. He is an amazing servant leader and will continue our work as the interim Chief Student Advocate.

I wholeheartedly believe students and families are the foundation of a quality public education system and the catalyst moving us forward to the prosperity everyone in our city deserves to experience. As Chief Student Advocate, I have been fortunate enough to witness families activate the power they inherently possess. We must recognize and value the voice, access, and power of families as it is what will continue to move our great city forward. My departure is bittersweet, but I am excited to continue my service to District families and communities as the first Executive Director of Thrive by Five DC. I look forward to our paths crossing again in my new capacity.

I am humbled to have served as the first Chief Student Advocate, and I thank you all for your partnership in this work.

Warmly,

Faith Gibson Hubbard
Outgoing Chief Student Advocate for Office of the Student Advocate

#SBOESelfieTour to Promote Student Voice

By Lanita Logan, Staff Assistant

Last Friday, two SBOE staff members and I went on a #SBOESelfieTour to promote and highlight the work of the State Board’s two student representatives and the Student Advisory Committee (SAC). Student voice is extremely important to SBOE and has been integral to our work since the State Board’s inception. Our student representatives participate in all SBOE activities and the SAC serves as the voice of District students in the State Board’s work.

During this #SBOESelfieTour, we visited five different high schools to pass out flyers and information on the application process for school year 2019–20 student representatives and SAC members (application here). All applicants must be a District resident and a rising sophomore, junior, or senior in either a traditional public (DCPS) or public charter high school.

The first high school on the list was Ward 8’s National Collegiate Preparatory  and the experience there was very interesting. Then we traveled to Ward 7 and The SEED School—and, I must say, that was a very good experience, as the staff there were very open to passing out our information to their students. We also visited Friendship Collegiate Academy and Cesar Chavez Parkside High School (where we took a selfie picture under a beautiful cherry blossom tree). Our last stop was Ward 5’s Washington Leadership Academy. The energy and excitement at each school was great to see! We look forward to reviewing all the student’s applications.

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A “First Friday” at Digital Pioneers Academy

By Sara Gopalkrishna, Policy Fellow

I had the opportunity to visit Digital Pioneers Academy (DPA) as part of First Fridays—a series of monthly learning tours that spotlight D.C. charter schools. The description “digital pioneer” aptly describes this school. The public charter middle school is the first-ever computer science focused middle school in the District. Deliberately grounded in Ward 7, Mashea Ashton, the school’s founder, and her staff are rounding the corner on the inaugural year of the school, alongside the 120 sixth-grade scholars, mostly local to the Hillcrest community, where the school resides.

With a 1-to-1 ratio of computers to students and with teachers and students using technology tools with ease, everyone in this school is a pioneer. Students at DPA have a 55-minute computer science class every day, but they use their computers all day long. This is striking when, nationally, only 31 percent of seventh and eighth graders use a computer at school every day. [1]

The school adopted the RePublic model for computer science curriculum and instruction, after researching its use in Tennessee charter schools. The approach allows teachers with strong pedagogy and the willingness to learn new content the opportunity to learn computer science material independently and step-by-step, while staying ahead of their students. The 10- and 11-year old students have used Scratch to explore game development, are currently using CodePen to script and view web pages they are developing, and will start programming with JavaScript soon.

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