Not Your Typical Government Bureaucracy

By Junior Associate: Kristiana Kim

DCPS is a whirlwind of new initiatives, pilot programs, and change. As someone so aptly put it, DCPS feels more like a startup than your typical governmental bureaucracy. The work culture is vibrant, employees are innovative and ridiculously well-educated, and every person believes wholeheartedly in the mission of DCPS. Every person is driven by a sense of purpose and urgency.

Just to give an example of the type of dedication employees have here at the Central Office have, I want to talk a little about my supervisor Mary Balla. Mary and I work on the Teacher Recruitment and Selection team which, as the title suggests, focuses on recruiting and then selecting the most qualified and competent teacher candidates for DCPS schools. The DCPS teacher selection model strikes a good balance between standardizing new teacher quality across the district and maintaining the autonomy of individual schools and principals. While our team screens candidates into an “approved pool” by requiring them to submit a basic application, essays, and video audition, and to undergo a phone interview and background check, principals are still the ultimate hiring managers for their school. They have their pick of any of the candidates who entered the approved pool and even of candidates who did not undergo our screening process, and they—not Central Office employees—select the teachers for hire. Continue reading “Not Your Typical Government Bureaucracy”


The Civil Rights Issue of Our Generation: Equal Educational Opportunity

By Junior Associate: Grace Lee

Education reform is the civil rights issue of our generation. Only 9 percent[1] of students from the lowest income quartile in the United States will complete college. To address this issue, President Obama spoke at the White House Summit on College Opportunity [2] about the need to expand college accessibility for low-income minority students and claimed,” The premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in our American story.  And we don’t promise equal outcomes; we’ve strived to deliver equal opportunity — the idea that success does not depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit. ”

The idea that we must provide equal opportunity to all students received a wide-range of support at The White House Summit, which concluded with over 100 new commitments[3] made by college and university presidents and leaders of businesses and nonprofits to expand college opportunity.

Passionate about educational justice and community engagement, I directed a conference at Claremont McKenna College in February 2014 for low-income high school students on leadership and college preparation. I recruited students through contacting local high schools in low-income and high-minority areas, asking for nominations of students who possess excellent leadership potential and passion but lack the resources and support to grow as leaders and prepare for college. Continue reading “The Civil Rights Issue of Our Generation: Equal Educational Opportunity”

Meet Kristiana Kim

Junior Associate Kristiana Kim
Junior Associate Kristiana Kim

Hometown: Temecula, California
School: Scripps College
Major: Science and Management
Minor: Music
UELIP Outreach Committee Project: Kristiana led the bulletin board decorating project. She also updates and redesigns the UELIP Blog, and hopes to tackle updating the UELIP website before she leaves
DCPS Office: Office of Human Capital, Teacher Recruitment & Selection
Project: Kristiana works with Mary Balla to help principals fill teacher vacancies with the most qualified candidates. She emails resumes to principals, updates the resume pool, fingerprinting, and drug-testing results, and assists her team with any tasks that need an extra hand. Continue reading “Meet Kristiana Kim”

Meet James Tandaric

Junior Associate James Tandaric
Junior Associate James Tandaric

Hometown: Downers Grove, Illinois
School: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Majors: Economics and Political Science
Minor: Leadership Studies
UELIP Outreach Committee Project: James is one of the chairs for the UELIP Outreach Committee. He plans and leads the meetings with Avani. He also plans the Professional Development events: a social media workshop, a DISC assessment, and a Microsoft Outlook training session.
DCPS Office: Office of Human Capital, Strategic Staffing Team
Project: James’s supervisor is Tammy Whyte. James is an Orientation and Hiring Associate and the Person of Contact for Onboarding Sessions, which are orientation sessions for new hires for this upcoming academic year. Continue reading “Meet James Tandaric”

A letter to the future DCPS student

By Junior Associate: Madeline Soskin

We’re working for you.

When you are a student in 2017, you will be able to read, proficiently. You will be proficient in math, no matter what school you will attend. You will graduate, regardless of race or native language. You will not have to test your luck in a lottery to go to a better school, for you, future DCPS student, already attend the best. 40/40 schools will be a struggle of the past, and though you may not like the uniform you wear or the fact that you have to take math class, you will enjoy school, future DCPS student, because we are working for you.

By “we”, I mean all of us. Of course, you can start at the top- thank Arne Duncan for his commitment to you. Thank Chancellor Henderson- for making you laugh and work harder, thank her for seeing that you needed her to “go beyond z”, for setting goals that required uncomfortable conversations and sweeping elephants out of the room, rather than under the rug.

By “we”, I mean the Chiefs. Future DCPS student, you have a strong team of Chiefs working for you. From Jason Kamras’ motivating stories to Dr. Beers’ incredible balancing act, you are lucky with Chancellor Henderson’s draft choices. Thank them, when you can. Continue reading “A letter to the future DCPS student”

6 Things Every UELIP Should Know

By Junior Associate: Natalie Hall

The past eight weeks I’ve been here have been filled with many lessons and challenges. I could write for days about what I’ve learned thus far, but here’s a quick summary:

  1. In education, change happens slowly, and seeing the effects of those changes is even slower. This is true of both high level and low level changes.
  2. Always say “thank you”. One day, my supervisor was kind enough to set up a meeting for me with one of his contacts in another office. I only met with that contact for about 15 minutes, but I think sending a short “thank you” email afterwards showed that I genuinely appreciated their time.
  3. Never think that you’re above the “intern-y” tasks. The UELIP internship advertises itself as giving interns substantial work—and it does! But that does not mean that on the days that your team is swamped and needs you to go make a hundred copies, that you’re not adding value. Remember that if they didn’t have a UELIP, one of them would be doing it themselves. Go into those tasks with positivity, and trust me, your team will be all the more appreciative.
  4. Take advantage of the Continue reading “6 Things Every UELIP Should Know”

Meet Paige Del Rio

Senior Associate Paige Del Rio
Senior Associate Paige Del Rio

Hometown: Sacramento, California
School: University of California, Davis
Major: Sociology Cultural Anthropology
DCPS Office: Office of Human Capital, Teacher Effectiveness Strategy
Project: Paige works with Gillian Page and Hannah Lauber to execute several pilot programs for teacher leadership: the Teachers Central to Leadership Fellowship, New Teacher Orientation, and the Teacher Leadership Innovation (TLI) pilot. For her project, she is focusing on researching creative scheduling opportunities for teacher leaders. Thanks to the Department of Education’s TIF funding, DCPS has been able to pilot three different teacher leadership programs; DCPS needs to find a way to make the programs economically sustainable while maintaining their impact after the funding runs out. Continue reading “Meet Paige Del Rio”