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Chancellor Henderson Creates New Parent Cabinet

Monday, March 17, 2014

Chancellor Henderson Creates New Parent Cabinet

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson today announced the names of the 25 parents and DCPS community members serving on the new DCPS Parent Cabinet.

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson today announced the names of the 25 parents and DCPS community members serving on the new DCPS Parent Cabinet. The participating members represent all wards, elementary, middle and high schools and reflect the diversity of the city. Chancellor Henderson will meet monthly with Parent Cabinet members and facilitate conversations regarding program and policy decisions. The first meeting is Wednesday, March 19.

“We rely on parent feedback and insight to help us make important decisions,” said Henderson. “I am hopeful this new Parent Cabinet will deepen our understanding of parent concerns, foster new ideas and thoughtful solutions and inform our parent engagement efforts. Parents are our most important audience as their children are in our care. I am looking forward to having a robust and regular exchange and partnership with this group of leaders and the great work that is to come from these meetings.”

The parents and community members were selected from a pool of more than 200 applications. There are at least three participants from every ward in the city. Chancellor Henderson convenes regular meetings with the cabinet format, including with principals and teachers.

“This is a very important part of our family engagement efforts and will take our work as a district that is committed to parents as partners to the next level. As a DCPS parent, I know theirs is a critical voice to our work,” said Josephine Bias Robinson, chief of the Office of Family and Public Engagement.

The names and bios of Parent Cabinet members are available on the DCPS website and below.

Susan Boa
Ward 1
Children attend:
Eaton ES, HD Cooke ES
Favorite family spot:  Sporting events, National Zoo (“We can hear the lions from our house!”)
In her own words: Having lived in DC for 20 years, the change and excitement, you can feel it in the city. DCPS is a different place than it used to be five or ten years ago, and we chose to send our kids there because we want to be a part of the community we live in and that we love.
Hot topic with parents: Boundaries and the lottery. We live in-boundary for HD Cooke, and there’s much conversation about choosing your local school over a charter or another option. There’s a lot of positive energy but also anxiety… how do you replicate the success of Deal elsewhere? Also, as most people [in our neighborhood] enter the lottery, how do you maintain a sense of community when all the kids on your street are at 15 different schools?

Lt. Angelina Bradley
Ward 8
Child attends:
Stoddert ES
Favorite family spot:  Union Station, Art Jams in Dupont Circle
In her own words: When I moved from San Diego to Bolling Air Force Base, I didn’t know anything about DCPS other than it didn’t have the greatest reputation. I wasn’t excited about it. Then we put my daughter Gabby into Leckie right by the base and it was awesome. I was really impressed. That said, we did the lottery this year because Gabby was having a hard time making friends and we went with Stoddert. Overall, my experience has been very, very positive. Every school has something cool to offer. For example, Leckie ES has a strong music program- my daughter Gabby came home knowing how to read music. Stoddert is focused on the visual arts. Janney has an immersive language program, and so on. I like that even though public schools are held to standards and have to have some uniformity, each school is allowed to have a strong individual area where they excel.
Hot topic with parents: The issues are different since I’m on the Air Force base. Here, it’s “Do we want our kids to be close at Leckie or do we want to move them to a school that’s been at a higher performing level for a while? Is the lottery worth entering if we might move in a few years?” We really struggle with that, because Leckie is a great school. And some people chose a higher ranking school and they weren’t happy with it. It’s a different set of issues for a transient population.

Gary Carleton
Ward 6
Child attends:
Stuart-Hobson MS
Favorite family spot:  Eastern Market, Capitol Hill
In his own words: I started sending my kids to DCPS in the 90s. Back then, we decided it was time to dig in, get serious, and get engaged, as opposed to get lost. When we told people we were sending our kids to DCPS, they were ready to call social services on us or something! But we have sent all three of our children through DCPS. Two have graduated—they both felt very prepared for college—and one is in 8th grade. We’ve always been public school people and we believe the way to make it better is not to leave it but to stay engaged with it.
Hot topic with parents: One issue is the inequality between the east and west, in terms of facilities and course offerings. Another is the feeder system, which often requires parents to take their kids out of good schools in their neighborhood and throw them into schools that feed into better ones. We need to have good schools throughout the city.

Olivia Chase
Ward 5
Child attends:
School Without Walls @Francis-Stevens EC
Favorite family spot:  Corcoran Gallery, Wilson pool
In her own words: I’m a native Washingtonian. My grandmother, my mother, me, my children, and my grandson have gone through, or are in DCPS. I’m excited I’ve lived long enough to have a fifth-generation DCPS graduate. My aunt was a DCPS teacher. My son, Anthony, teaches at the school he graduated from- HD Woodson! I see him teach and I’m so proud he’s my son.
Hot topic with parents: The achievement gap. That’s the bee in my bonnet. During the lottery, I went to select schools that might stand a chance with my precious cargo. I discovered most of the high-performing schools were in Ward 3, and the low-performing ones were in Wards 7 and 8. A light bulb went off. I got sad about it. Then I remembered, to whom much is given, much is required. That’s where my radar is right now. What can I do to help those schools? I want to be a part of the solution.

Lt. Col. Patrick Clowney
Ward 4
Children attend:
JO Wilson ES, McKinley Technology HS
Favorite family spot:  Smithsonian museums, National Archives
In his own words: What excites me the most are the revolutionary changes that are taking place in the city and school system. When you have a leader like the Chancellor who is willing to take on a difficult set of issues, you want to get on board and help that effort.
Hot topic with parents: Parental engagement, particularly with male figures. When you look at parent meetings, whether it’s the PTSA or LSAT, the majority of folks are women. Particularly at the early childhood stage, there’s a strong absence of male figures. Fathers need to be more active in schools.

Craig DeWolfe
Ward 3
Child attends:
Oyster-Adams EC
Favorite family spot:  Beauvoir school’s playground
In his own words: My partner and I are both products of public schools. I am proud of my experience  and I wanted my son Max to have the same experiences and foundation. We specifically moved to the neighborhood around Oyster because it was very important for us, since Max is from Guatemala, to have a connection with the language and culture of his native country.
Hot topic with parents: Clearly the boundaries are an issue. By and large, my friends and Max’s friends’ parents have been very pleased with their school experience so far. But there’s a natural level of anxiety about whether we’ll get that same experience in middle school.

Kevonya Dickens
Ward 8
Children attend:
Ketcham ES, Kramer MS
Favorite family spot:  Anacostia Park, National Zoo, Spy Museum
In her own words: My passion is to see children live empowered and enriched lives by way of a quality education. As a mother of six, my children have achieved high goals—one attends Penn State, two have 4.0 GPAs. I’d like to have the opportunity to share with others the strategies that have helped my children achieve such high goals.
Hot topic with parents: In the schools they now attend, I’d like to see more staff accountability and more creativity in the classroom.

Marcio Duffles
Ward 6
Child attends:
Hardy MS
Favorite family spot:  National Mall
In his own words: We chose to keep both boys in DCPS because we believe in the greater good. We believe in being part of diverse schools. We don’t believe in sitting on the sidelines.
Hot topic with parents: People ask, “You send your kid to DCPS?” And we say, “Well, yeah.” There are outstanding schools and they’re getting better and better. I would put them up against any public or private school in certain counties. There is still work ahead, and a lot can be attributed to socioeconomics, but there are things we can do to address it.

David Galbraith
Ward 2
Child attends:
Hyde-Addison ES
Favorite family spot:  Georgetown waterfront
In his own words: DCPS is a very dynamic environment, and people are coming from all angles who want to make it a great institution. I believe the District now has the potential to compete with the suburbs in attracting and retaining young families without the means to pay for private school and offering all resident children multiple affordable options.
Hot topic with parents: Middle school. Everyone is very happy with Hyde, but they feel like it’s a challenge to send their children to Hardy. To consider it, it would take a strong pitch from the leadership at Hardy, and for parents to not feel like they’re the only ones who will make the choice to go there.

Sirraya Gant
Ward 7
Child attends:
HD Woodson HS
Favorite family spot:  Children’s Museum
In her own words: I am most excited about the students of DCPS—how creative they are, how intelligent they are. The HD Woodson students—they have something special about them. My child has been there for three years and when I see the poetry club or the drama productions, it’s unbelievable because I see every child has a certain talent.
Hot topic with parents: Parental engagement and constant, effective communication between schools and parents. There needs to be more workshops on developing healthy relationships between staff and parents, and understanding that parents are your customers.

Vivian Guerra
Ward 1
Child attends:
Oyster-Adams EC
Favorite family spot:  Rock Creek Park and city playgrounds
In her own words: I’m really excited about seeing the new energy and motivation in the system. I’m a co-chair of a special needs group at Oyster-Adams and every time we call DCPS they’ve been very professional, responsive, and informative. It’s a huge sign of where DCPS is going. I can feel the positive energy.
Hot topic with parents: More support and resources, such as training for special education teachers, and making the teachers feel supported. Also, some children still don’t feel 100 percent comfortable at school. Some are picked on or excluded, so we need to build a strong inclusionary environment at school.

Christena Howell
Ward 2
Child attends:
Ross ES
Favorite family spot:  Stoddert ES playground
In her own words: I’ve been excited by all the families and people I’ve met. For being in a city environment, it actually feels very community-oriented. I see a lot of parents involved in school. There’s a real sense of village around every kid. Coming from a small town, I like how close [Ross] is to the one-house schoolroom in an urban environment.
Hot topic with parents: The issues are two-fold: first, early childhood—younger grades— parents looking for a place for their young child that is safe and nurturing in the public school system, but with a limited number of seats available in the best schools. And on the flip side, where do we go next? Once parents get past first grade, it’s all middle school, middle school, middle school. It’s a big question mark in our community.

Laura Levine
Ward 4
Child attends:
Shepherd ES
Favorite family spot:  Takoma Recreation Center, any baseball field or basketball court
In her own words: DCPS hasn’t always had the best reputation.  Then I started looking at schools for my child, and I realized that everything I had heard about Shepherd, which is near us, was wonderful. And it dawned on me that you can’t judge all the schools just based on what you hear about top- or worst-performing schools. When I discovered I had misread DCPS, I became excited about sharing all the good stuff to other parents.
Hot topic with parents: Communication. Parents get frustrated because they don’t have a clear understanding of what’s going on. I hear a lot about little problems, but I see the underlying problem as this: if parents had better communication and felt like they understood the positive and negative things going on, they would have a different feeling about school.

Rahul Mereand-Sinha
Ward 1
Prospective parent
Favorite family spot (with friends’ children):
Hirshhorn Museum
In his own words: DCPS has incredible talent at its disposal when it comes to reimagining education. Because of the challenges, DCPS has a reform mandate in a way some of the complacent districts don’t. A lot of people want to see the city chart a course to improve education, and that gives DCPS a lot of flexibility. It’s exciting to see it happen and help make it happen.
Hot topic with parents: First, middle schools. People are often satisfied with elementary schools but there’s a lot of uncertainty about middle schools. Second, people are torn between being social-justice aware and being parents that are concerned about their child’s specific needs. They worry their kids will be seen as already having enough, so they won’t get as much attention. They’re not going to be the focus of any of the transformation I just mentioned. Specifically, they are worried about a relatively weak advanced/proficient track for children who might be able to take advantage of it.

Gloria Norman-Okojie
Ward 7
Children attend:
Plummer ES
Favorite family spot:  National Zoo
In her own words: I moved back to DC after living in Maryland for 12 years. I’ve attended DCPS schools and the challenge was sending my children back to DCPS. Then I saw how different it was from when my older children attended. The staff seems to be more concerned with students and families now—they give 110 percent to what they are doing. I want to be a part of that.
Hot topic with parents: Parents and teachers. Teachers are not letting parents know things. Also, not many parents are involved—I only have four active parents in my PTA. I’m also concerned with the level of education of parents.

Sharona Robinson
Ward 7
Children attend:
Randle Highlands ES, Jefferson Academy MS, Ballou HS
Favorite family spot:  Movie theater or bowling alley
In her own words: I am an alum of Ballou and DCPS. I know people have made negative statements about DCPS and my alma mater, but great things have come from both. DCPS has done a great job with my children and I look forward to more to come. I am excited about where we are going.
Hot topic with parents: Parental involvement, even on the elementary school level. There are times when the involvement is very little or non-existent. You can imagine when you get to high school it’s even less.

Dan Rosenthal
Ward 3
Children attend:
Janney ES, Deal MS
Favorite family spot:  Kayaking by the stadium waterfront
In his own words: I’m excited about the community—I’ve been part of it for nine years now. The community is amazing. Teachers are great. I love being at the school—there’s a great family feel. We chose Janney because it’s in the neighborhood and our friends had sent their kids there and they liked it. Also, I’m a public school advocate so in that sense there wasn’t much of a choice.
Hot topic with parents: High school. Five years ago for us, the issue was Deal. Now, it’s Wilson. Do we send them there? It’s always what comes next. The question for many of us is, “Can DCPS serve the entire school life for our kids?”

Andrew Rowe
Ward 4
Child attends:
Powell ES
Favorite family spot:  Natural History Museum
In his own words: My son is in DCPS because he’s able to go to a dual-language school that is close to our home. District-wide, I’m really excited about the growth, the real sense of optimism about DCPS, and the sense that something’s being built here that’s great for our city.
Hot topic with parents: Parent involvement, and how to grow our parent organization so it is a strength of the school and the community. Also, we think about what school to go to next—what’s next for our children?

Leslie Scott
Ward 3
Child attends:
Murch ES
Favorite family spot:  Wilson pool
In her own words:  When we went on our school tours, we were thoroughly impressed by the teachers. The parents were all really happy with the experience too.  I’m excited by the potential of an urban school district with committed families, lots of resources like the Kennedy Center, NASA, the federal government, and a commitment from both local and federal government to the schools. I see a possibility for a world-class system.
Hot topic with parents: Right now we’re talking a lot about renovation at Murch, which has been delayed. Also, I’m interested in finding innovative ways to use technology in and outside the classroom, helping special education programming better serve students and families, and using more effective evaluation methods for teachers and school leaders.

Idella Simpson
Ward 5
Children attend:
Noyes EC, McKinley Technology HS
Favorite family spot:  Natural History Museum (Butterfly exhibit)
In her own words: I am a product of DCPS. I’m also an eternal optimist. I believe you get out of it what you put in. I see what promise the children have—and to walk the halls and see what happens when they discover something new-- it’s so exciting. I’m hoping that if I continue to give myself to the schools, that it will turn out to be a good product.
Hot topic with parents: Lack of parent support. We’re so caught up in our own lives. We forget that the product of these schools will impact us for years to come. I know that my parents, my friends’ parents—they’d nurture you or tell you you’re out of line. I was used to that sense of community but I feel that we’ve moved away from that.

Emily Walton
Ward 8
Child attends:
Hart MS
Favorite family spot:  Anacostia Park, Air and Space Museum
In her own words: I didn’t choose to be a part of DCPS. I needed a place for my daughter to get the services she needed, and public school was the only place she could get them. I wasn’t confident that I was going to be served well, but I have been absolutely blown away by the level of professionalism, the quality of service, the care of the administration, and the culture of the children. And now, I really believe that we are in a position to mirror the renaissance happening in our city with development. I think we can put ourselves on the map.
Hot topic with parents: Reducing class size. We have a needier population and a big classroom gets in the way of learning. I also hope we can have more collaboration among schools, because ward-to-ward, we have a lot to learn from each other.

Aquila Watson
Ward 8
Children attend:
Tyler ES, Hardy MS, Stanton ES, National Collegiate PCS
Favorite family spot:  Air and Space Museum
In her own words: I’m excited about the innovation that’s always happening in DCPS, such as using Common Core—it’s great to have everyone on one accord, and I really like that. I also love the passion of the teachers.
Hot topic with parents: Fairness. I’m trying to get what other students get in other wards, in regards to resources and funding.

Martin Welles
Ward 6
Child attends:
Amidon-Bowen ES
Favorite family spot:  Natural History Museum (Curious Lab)
In his own words: I chose to send my child to Amidon-Bowen because it’s two blocks away. The teachers and principal are fantastic and the building is beautiful. The promise of a good quality education in a world-class city makes me cringe at the thought of living in the suburbs. I can see improvements in my own children’s knowledge base. It’s quite stunning to watch.
Hot topic with parents: The big issue I hear is, “I can’t send my kids to that school because it’s not a good school. Where can I send my kid?” Everyone has a different idea of what makes a good school. Is it test scores? Convenience? Economic, racial, social diversity?  So that’s the angst that parents face. And our goal needs to be to make every school high quality in every neighborhood at every level.

Arthur Yarbrough
Ward 5
Children attend:
Miner ES
Favorite family spot:  Restaurants
In his own words: We are probably the most diverse city in the world. With that, there are so many possibilities for children in the schools. When you have a lot of cultures and perspectives, learning becomes a thing of excitement.
Hot topic with parents: Resources. I know we spend a lot per pupil compared to other cities, but there is more that kids need in order to be successful, such as more technology and books.