Newsletter Archives

Receive future newsletters by signing up now.

Thank you, farewell and congratulations, Emily!

This moment is bittersweet for me. This is my final newsletter as my term ends January 1, 2019. It has been a true privilege to represent the residents of Ward 1 on the State Board of Education. Thank you for your support, your questions and your commitment to DC students through these 4 years.

Through the course of my term, I have worked hard to provide more information and transparency to Ward 1 residents and have especially focused on providing more opportunities for parents and guardians to engage in their children's schools. Whether it was sharing the vision and ideas of Ward 1 elementary school principals with you through my "Meet the Principal" series or leading two city-wide task forces to ensure our graduation requirements enable all students to pursue pathways that best met their needs, I strove to elevate the voices of the families and students who are furthest from opportunity.

While I was campaigning, I shared with a group of voters an experience I had running part of a marathon. A friend of mine had asked me to join her in running it, and so I jumped in at mile 16. I am a 3-mile runner and expected to run just 3 miles. But the experience was too invigorating to stop there. Crowds lined the route and cheered us on. They gave us water. They met our basic needs and more. I ran 9 miles that day and could’ve run for much longer. I shared my vision during my campaign that we, as members of this broader DC community, need to line the streets for our students, for our own children and for others'. We need to do what those strangers did for me that day -- provide the encouragement and support to achieve more than what seems possible.

Through the course of my term, I have come to deeply believe that if we are to close opportunity gaps in our city, we must invest more in relationship-building. It is not enough to provide tools and information without human support. It is not enough to teach and not get to know the families of students. It is not enough to send a report card home without school staff and families sitting together, sharing information, and forming a plan together to support the student. The barriers faced by families who have been marginalized by our system -- whether because of poverty, legal status, skin color or other reason -- extend far beyond information and physical resources. The barriers persist in interpersonal experiences that leave some feeling unwelcome, isolated and unrecognized. We can and we must do better.

Serving on the board has given me the gift of these lessons, and should you wish to stay in touch, please do so through theEmily.Laura.jpeg nonprofit I started (www.kindredcommunities.org) that addresses the heart of the opportunity gap by building relationships between families of different backgrounds. I would welcome hearing your ideas as I continue to serve the students and families of DC through Kindred.

I want to thank Councilmember Brianne Nadeau for being such a selfless partner through these years. We are so fortunate to benefit from your service. I also want to thank Jason Andrean, Callie Kozlak and member-elect Emily Gasoi for running very competitive campaigns to fill this seat. Campaigning is tiring, thankless, unpaid work, and you have given so much of yourselves to improve the education of our students. I am delighted to pass the torch to Emily (see photo on right), an educator and fellow mother, as she takes on this role January 2, 2019. You may reach her at emily.gasoi@dc.gov then. She will be carrying on this newsletter and website. Congratulations, Emily!

Finally, I want to thank my amazing husband, Michael, for supporting me from the moment I considered running all the way through the over 150 community and board meetings over these years. His care for our children and moral support allowed me to give this job my all. And to my daughters, Grace and Lillian, who were just 4 years old when I ran, I hope that when you are old enough to understand all of this, you are proud of your mama.

Adelante!

Laura_signature_formatted.png

 

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Back-to-School 2018

Welcome back to a new school year!

In this newsletter you’ll find highlights of the good things going on in our schools and the latest education news from across the District, including updates on how DC students did on the standardized tests – PARCC – and the search for a new leader of DC Public Schools.

Bancroft_ribbon_front.jpgI’m delighted to share that all Ward 1 DCPS principals returned to their schools this year except at H.D. Cooke Elementary, where I am happy to welcome Principal Ryan Lam. Their hard work is paying off, with our elementary schools boasting some of the greatest test score improvements among schools across the city. See more about this below.

I wanted to highlight an education town hall for Ward 1 coming up on Monday, September 17 at 6:30 pm at Columbia Heights Education Campus hosted by councilmember Brianne Nadeau and including education chairman of the Council David Grosso and me. We’ll answer questions and hear your input on the twin searches going for DCPS chancellor and the Deputy Mayor for Education. I hope to see you there!

Finally, for those who have not yet heard, I am not seeking reelection to another term. Accordingly, this will be my second-to-last newsletter and the last before the election on November 6. I wanted to ensure you knew that three candidates (Jason AndreanCallie Kozlak, Emily Gasoi) are seeking to fill this seat. All three are terrific candidates and merit a close look to see who best matches the experience, voice and issues you would like to see in your next representative to the State Board of Education.

As always, it is my pleasure to serve you. Please reach out with your questions or ideas to laura.wilson.phelan@dc.gov.

Adelante!

Laura_signature_formatted.png

Photo above: City officials join Principal Mola in the ribbon-cutting at Bancroft Elementary!

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Spring 2018

I can imagine that reading the latest newspaper articles on DC school administration may be leading some of you to lose faith in our improving education system. Resignations, undetected residency fraud and misallocated funding for our neediest students have topped the Post's headlines over the past couple of months. We have new District education leadership in Interim Chancellor Amanda Alexander and Interim Deputy Mayor for Education Ahnna Smith, and the mayor announced she will launch a search for a new chancellor after the June primaries. 

MR_chef.pngAmidst these rough patches, I find inspiration in the amazing teacher and principal leadership our city has attracted. The updates below reveal their steadfast focus on making their schools the best environments possible for students. Marie Reed students are entering cooking competitions (see left photo); Columbia Heights Education Campus and Cardozo students are winning full-rides into competitive 4-year colleges (see right photo). Our educators are plowing forward in this difficult environment, and I want to take this opportunity to thank them, and I hope you will, too! Ward 1 school leaders are doing amazing work for our kids.

Your state agencies - the DC State Board of Education and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) - also remain steadfast in our focus on serving the needs of DC students and families. There is a renewed focus on tackling residency fraud to ensure DC education dollars are spent on DC residents. The State Board is wrapping up its work on recommended changes to high school graduation requirements, and OSSE is finalizing its work on designing the look and feel of the new school-level report cards that will go into effect next school year, allowing information about all DC schools to be CHEC_student_scholarship.pngshared more transparently and clearly.

Please click on the links below to learn more about all of these topics, and, as always, please feel free send me a note at laura.wilson.phelan@dc.gov with your thoughts. Of note, this newsletter will be among my last as my term comes to an end, and I will not be seeking re-election. I encourage you to attend candidate forums as the Ward 1 State Board race picks up over the summer and into the fall.

Adelante!

Laura_signature_formatted.png

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Winter 2017

As we close out 2017, I wish you and your loved ones a peaceful New Year and healing for our increasingly troubled world. Check out this brief overview of the education happenings that influence Ward 1 residents. 

In case you missed it, last weekend was EdFest -- an opportunity to meet parents and school leaders from schools across the city in preparation for Dec17_GarrisonElementary52_preview2.jpegselecting schools in the lottery. The school lottery closes for high school students on February 1 and for PK3-Grade 8 on March 1. You may find more details here. The State Board continues to be hard at work on two priority areas: school-level report cards and high school graduation requirements. You many find further details below on our work in these areas. Finally, Chancellor Wilson continues to actively seek community input on DCPS's budget and priorities through monthly community forums. You may find a complete schedule here. The next one close-ish to Ward 1 will be February 6 at 8:45 am at Oyster-Adams (2801 Calvert St NW Campus).  

Best wishes for a lovely holiday!

Warmly,
Laura_signature_formatted.png



(photo above: Garrison students enjoy learning!)

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Fall 2017

Fall 2017

Happy Fall! I hope all of those with school-aged children have had a smooth transition back to school. There are many exciting updates to report from our schools. Nearly all Ward 1 schools saw an increase in PARCC scores this year, with Bruce Monroe at Park View leading the way with 9% and 11% gains in English language arts and math, respectively. (See more below.) Congratulations to our hard-working school principals, students and their families! MR_outside.png

Marie Reed and Garrison reopened on-time with beautifully remodeled buildings. Chancellor Wilson has released his new 5-strategy for DCPS, which places a new emphasis on socio-emotional learning.

I have launched a new task force to review our high school graduation requirements to ensure that they set the standards for subject areas and content most important for our students in preparing for life after high school. The task force application process was historic in that all applications were posted online, together with the criteria. We selected representatives reflective of the demographics of our student body with half either working or living in Wards 7 and 8. See this article in the Washington Post announcing the launch of our task force.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback. Please share them with me at laura.wilson.phelan@dc.gov.


Adelante!
Laura_signature_formatted.png

(photo above: Marie Reed students enjoy their new playground.)

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Summer 2017

Summer 2017

The past quarter has been an exciting one in DC education. Our new chancellor has been visiting many schools and developing DCPS's new strategy. The mayor presented a budget that didn't provide per student funding at a level that kept up with inflation, but the Council countered it and restored funding. Controversy emerged over favoritism in the lottery among DC officials. 

Through this all, our amazing principals and teaching staff have been plugging away to provide students with consistently excellent education. In ourWarchec_car.pngd 1 elementary schools, we bid farewell and extend our gratitude to Principal Dawn Foreman who served at Cleveland and Principal Collin Hill from Garrison. We welcome new principals Anna Krughoff (who was assistant principal at Marie Reed) to Cleveland and Brigham Kiplinger to Garrison!


On the State Board, we recently launched the application process for a citywide task force to review high school graduation requirements, which I will be co-leading with my colleague Markus Batchelor from Ward 8. Stay tuned as we announce selected task force members at the end of the week!

Best wishes to all for a safe and relaxing summer.

Adelante!
Laura_signature_formatted.png

(photo above: The CHEC Team for the 2017 Washington DC Electric Vehicle Grand Prix)

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Spring 2017

Spring 2017

So much has happened since the last newsletter! To begin, many of our Ward 1 schools were recognized for excellence at the District’s Standing Ovation Awards last month. Congratulations to:

  • Anita Berger, Principal of the Year, BannekerScreen_Shot_2017-04-12_at_3.56.11_PM.png
  • Art Mola and the Bancroft team, Excellence by an Academic Leadership Team
  • Katie Larkin, Highly Effective Principal, HD Cooke
  • Bruce Jackson, Highly Effective Assistant Principal, Cardozo
  • Anna Krughoff, Highly Effective Assistant Principal, Marie Reed
  • Bobbie Verdegaal, New Teacher of the Year, Cardozo
  • Sandra Gutierrez, Highly Effective School Staff, Oyster-Adams
  • Imelda Lopez-Diaz, Highly Effective School Staff, Bancroft

Those recognized are selected from amongst their peers across the entire District, and the awards ceremony is held at the Kennedy Center. This is a tremendous honor! Congratulations!

IMG_4688.JPGThe State Board spent the last few months soliciting feedback from residents about the new school accountability framework. I personally led conversations with parents and school personnel from nearly all of our elementary schools. The result was the passage of a new framework for assessing school performance that will begin in school year 2017-18, with the first results to be shared in the fall of 2018. Please find more information below about the details and my vote on this important issue.

The work of sharing information about our schools with the community continues with the launch of discussions related to school report cards. These are different from the accountability framework in that they don't count as part of the official state rating system, but they include very information that many of you have expressed interest in knowing about your schools. Report cards could include whether the school is dual language, what types of extracurricular activities are offered and teacher retention rates. The State Board, together with several partner organizations, will begin a range of community input opportunities. I’ll be sure to share these out as soon as the timeline is developed.

It’s hard to believe that this school year is nearly over! Happy Spring Break to all!

Adelante!

Laura_signature_formatted.png

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Fresh Start 2017


The State Board welcomed three newly elected members earlier this month and set to work on diving into the State Superintendent's recommendations related to the Every Student Succeeds Act. I've included more detail below, but, in short, this is big. If you are someone who cares about how the system holds schools accountable for results, this is a major chance to weigh in. The Board is consideringIMG_4731.JPG questions such as: 

  • How much should test scores count in a school's rating? 
  • Should student proficiency count more, less or the same as how much a student grows academically?
  • What other factors, such as attendance or school climate, should count and how much?

Together with the State Superintendent's office, we will be holding a series of public dialogues throughout the city during the month of February. I will also attend several elementary school PTO meetings during February to get parent input. I will share dates once they are released. Feel free to reach out to me directly with your ideas (laura.wilson.phelan@dc.gov). 

Finally, welcome to our new chancellor Antwan Wilson who starts officially in his role on February 1. And thank you to interim chancellor John Davis for leading so brilliantly over the past several months. The city is indebted for your years of service to our students.

Adelante!

Laura_signature_formatted.png

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Fall news!

Fall News!


I hope all are enjoying the fall and, for those who celebrate, Happy Halloween! Our Ward 1 schools are doing amazing things! Be sure to check out the News from our Schools update below to learn about the creative academic and enrichment initiatives our talented principals are putting in place. OysterNov16-2.png

As always, your input on the critical policy decisions under consideration by the State Board is welcome! Before the end of the year we will vote on new residency requirements for school enrollment as well as shape our recommendations for our new accountability law -- Every Child Succeeds Act. Please reach out with your ideas!

With election season upon us, don't forget to head to the polls! Early voting has started within Ward 1 at Columbia Heights Community Center at 15th and Girard Streets.

Adelante!
Laura_signature_formatted.png

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Back to School!

Back to School!

Welcome back to all students and families who have begun the new year! There are many changes underway with the resignation of Chancellor Henderson (see below) and our own Ward 1 schools Marie_Reed_bus.pngundergoing transitions. Bancroft and Marie Reed students are at transitional campuses as their buildings are modernized, and HD Cooke students are piloting year-round school. 

As you'll see from the updates below, educators worked hard over the summer to ensure students were welcomed and engaged on Day 1 of the new year. All 11 Ward 1 DCPS principals (including our just over-the-border neighbor, Garrison) returned this year, demonstrating their enduring commitment and leadership for our students.

As many of you are aware, DC's standardized exam (PARCC) results  have been released, and, overall, the District's scores improved. I've included an update and links to data below.

I'm looking forward to working with you in the year ahead!

Adelante!
Laura_signature_formatted.png

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Stay Connected Meet The Principal video series