Meet Yael Caplan, Summer ’17 UELIP


By Julia Weigand

DCPS Office: Office of Talent and Culture, Teacher Recruitment and Selection Team
Education: Rising Senior at University of Chicago
Program of Study/Major: Public Policy with a specialization in Education Policy, minor in Comparative Human Development
Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland

Yael Caplan, a public policy undergrad with previous internship experience in the urban school district of Chicago, has developed a keen eye for recognizing the nuances in education policy. At DCPS, Yael’s efforts focus on improving the teacher selection process. Currently, she is refining teacher preference surveys, a data-based initiative that aims to match teachers with their ideal school environments.

“The more I learn about the district, about the different pipelines for hiring and what it means to be a highly effective teacher, the more I understand the data, but, the trickier it gets,” Yael said. Examining data allows Yael to better understand the qualitative components that DCPS should be considering for its teachers during the hiring process. Discussing her project, Yael noted the nuance involved in using data to make robust conclusions, “it is important to step back and think about the questions behind the data,” she said.

Data is a clear interest of Yael’s — she worked with the Research Management Team at the Chicago school district office and is considering writing a thesis about the balance between data collection, and accountability maintenance in education research.

Like many UELIPs, Yael’s interest in education is derived from her experience as a high school tutor; however, it has been her time in Chicago that hardened her interest into a passion.  Immediately following her matriculation to the University of Chicago, Yael began tutoring kindergarten students. Her exposure to the Chicago system stood in stark contrast with the “bubble” of quality schools she had attended while growing up. Yael discovered education in the city has a myriad of problems, many stemming from racial and economic segregation and translating to inequity.

Although Yael recognizes that many schools simply lack the resources they need to succeed, she remains motivated by her belief that, when schools are “done right,” they can be momentous mechanisms of change. To make tangible changes in districts like Chicago and D.C., Yael thinks reform efforts should engage children outside the classroom. Yael emphasized the importance of incorporating academic and health services as well as early childhood education programs in reform efforts, as students benefit from the connectivity between community, family, and classroom.

After college, Yael wants to work for a think tank or research organization that focuses on children’s welfare and education. Longer term, Yael hopes to attend law school to deepen her skill set as an advocate for equity in education


Meet and Greet with Chancellor Antwan Wilson


By Bianca Viazzoli

DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson, known for his signature hat and friendly wave, says he is “committed to making a difference in the lives of young people” and has been for the last 30 years. Chancellor Wilson sat down with the UELIP cohort, and answered all the burning questions we had about all his new initiatives and his journey to DCPS.

One of Chancellor Wilson’s priorities is incorporation Social Emotion Learning into schools. SEL does not hinder rigorous academic standards, but supports them, according to the Chancellor. This is achieved through “baking in” SEL into training and professional development for all of our school staff.

The Chancellor is a strong believer in collaboration. He believes that collaboration is essential for students to have an appreciation for other people, but he also believes this is an essential need for us here in central office.  Chancellor Wilson emphasizes the idea that “excellence cannot be achieved alone.” “There is value in the collaborative approach,” says the Chancellor, “everyone wins.” When comparing other districts, he has been a part of, the Chancellor says one disappointing quality he has witnessed is the disregard of talented employees. The Chancellor says our “greatest resource is people, not money.”

Chancellor Wilson said he urges educators to believe in the students first, and to lead with values. He believes it is DCPS’s responsibility to “put young people in the position to succeed.” He believes that teachers can no longer allow children to hide in the classroom. Teachers encourage students to speak, learn to be social aware, learn how to self-manage, and allow them to see themselves as participants in their learning. According to the Chancellor, students will not be motivated to learn if they don’t understand why they should be motivated.

One of the Chancellor’s philosophies is that educational success “shouldn’t attribute to where you live, your race, or how much money you have.” Chancellor Wilson believes that DCPS is on the rise, and wants to ensure that the changes and shifts that are coming are not meant to make life more difficult, but are coming to make educational success accessible to every student.

Meet Carrie Grace Henderson, Summer ’17 UELIP

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DCPS Office: Office of College and Career Programs
Education: Rising Senior at LSU
Program of Study/Major: Mass Communication and History
Hometown: Orange, Texas

The UELIP program combines my love of D.C. with my desire to learn more about what it takes to provide children with a quality education. Over the summer, my team wants to create a financial aid curriculum for students and parents to help them navigate the financial aid process.

There are so many different forms and deadlines, and the process can seem overwhelming. We want to do everything we can to help DCPS students get through it. The FAFSA, the DC TAG and outside scholarships can all make a huge financial difference, and we don’t want anyone to miss out on college because the financial aid process was too daunting.

I spend most of my day researching best practices for financial aid guidance and compiling that research into PowerPoints and lesson plans to be used in the future. But I also do a lot of support work like data entry. I’ve certainly learned a lot about financial aid. But I’ve had a crash course in distilling loads of information into something people can (and want to) understand! I like knowing that eventually, the work I’m doing now is going to help actual DCPS students afford college.

Meet Tessa Dean, Summer ’17 UELIP


DCPS Office: Office of Chief of Schools, Student Academic and Athletic Support
Education: Rising Senior at Virginia Tech
Program of Study/Major: Psychology and Philosophy; Minor in Integrated Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics
Hometown: McLean, Virginia

I applied for the UELIP program after working with underprivileged children and their families in the DC area. I quickly uncovered that the people I met faced major barriers, most which were too long-standing for me to make an impact, despite my wanting desperately to help. I knew that limited education and negative life experiences were heavily correlated. It was from there that I decided to investigate the education system and learn how to better support less privileged students. I figured that being a part of one of the most innovative and proactive urban schooling districts would be a good place to start, which is how I landed here!

My project consists of analyzing the DCPS Credit Recovery and Twilight programs. These programs allow students to recover credits which are required for graduation eligibility. Right now I am looking at trends over the last few years, investigating successes and failures according to each school involved, and brainstorming ideas for improvement. I am referencing credit recovery programs all over the nation that have been proven successful. I enjoy my project because it allows me to tie in my knowledge on psychology and building trusting relationships, which in turn facilitates student buy in, increasing curriculum retention and graduation rates.

Typically, I am working on a few small projects at once. I like to switch off between tasks, because it allows me to take a step back, and perhaps look at the challenge from a different perspective. I am either emailing other teams about specific data, pulling data from our online database, reading articles about credit recovery, attending meetings, or doing other small tasks here and there. Right now I am working on a data wall, which will creatively showcase all of the data I have been analyzing. My supervisor and I are excited to see the final product.

I have never been gifted in math or science, so when I was giving the daunting tasks of using Excel and pulling data I was overwhelmed. However, I decided to approach the challenge head on, and I am so glad I did! I feel like a more well-rounded individual. It is great to be proficient in one subject, but I feel much more confident in myself knowing that I was able to learn something that I am generally not comfortable with. Although my bubble is comfortable, it is an enriching experience to step outside and see what opportunities there are for me.

Team Highlight with Talent Acquisition

By Bianca Viazzoli

With almost 8,000 school staff occupying the 115 DCPS schools, it’s a wonder how all these talented people make their way here. Ellen Vari and Jay Snead of the Division of Talent Acquisition in the Office of Talent and Culture explained their team’s mission to, “ensure every student has a great teacher and great school leaders,” to the UELIP Cohort.

Ellen, the Coordinator of School Leader Recruitment and Selection explained that there are many steps school leaders take to land their spot in a school. The process starts in December, ends around May or June of the following year, and includes a four-hour long interview. This process tests school leaders’ abilities in a variety of key areas, including managing other people and providing effective instructional feedback to teachers.

As Coordinator of Teacher Recruitment and Selection, Jay has a hand in every step of the process . He deals with a few different types of recruitment, but enjoys regional recruitment the most. Tasked with managing the west coast, Jay travels 3,000 miles to recruit young teachers at various colleges. Although Jay likes meeting with new teachers face to face, he confesses this is not always the most effective way to recruit. His office also uses virtual recruitment, reaching an audience that he may have never reached otherwise.

Visibly excited, Jay explained the ways his office encourages teacher retention such as Chancellor’s Teacher’s Cabinet, Opportunities Newsletter, Retention Emails to Highly Effective Educators, Performance Incentives and Standing Ovation Gala Event, all in hopes of keeping brilliant teachers here at DCPS.

Jay, Ellen, and the rest of their team agreed that the strongest candidates are authentic and display their talents to the best of their abilities. Liz Koons, a UELIP Associate and aspiring teacher said, “this meeting enhanced my desire to teach in DCPS because it shows that they truly care about making sure their students have qualified teachers and making sure that the teachers have a positive work environment.”

Meet Cameron Harrison, Summer ’17 Intern

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By Kyle Hietala

Education: Rising Senior at Woodrow Wilson High School
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

A Senior at Wilson High School, Cam might be the youngest intern in Central Office, but his knack for numbers and business has helped him to thrive. He completes many different tasks around the office on a given day, but he’s usually working with data in Excel, validating receipts and expense reports, or assisting with communications and scheduling for different departments. Cam ended up working in Central Office because of the Finance Academy at his high school. He thinks his internship is good preparation for further education in business or investment banking, two interests he’s excited to pursue full-time in college.

At Wilson High School, Cam founded the Black Student Union, an organization that he created to help students bridge cultural divides and build friendships. “A lot of people only hang out with certain people because they don’t understand the cultures of other people,” Cam observed. “BSU is open to anyone, it was founded to help other students understand black culture and the black community,” he said. One of his favorite events that his group puts on is a karaoke lunch, where, “all kinds of kids–black kids, white kids, Asian kids, Hispanic kids, everyone–come together to listen and sing along to music by black artists.” Indeed, Cam thinks it’s “easier for people to connect when they have an understanding of each other’s backgrounds,” and he’s committed to helping his classmates to form relationships they might not otherwise develop.

“Some black kids at my school don’t always feel comfortable being in AP classes because they’re worried there won’t be other kids who look like them,” he reflected.” This frustrates him, because, “a lot of kids are smart, but they don’t always step out of their comfort zones to take on classes like that,” he said. In his time at Wilson, Cam has balanced a rigorous schedule with a huge time commitment of being the point guard for his school’s basketball team, something that has taught him to manage his own time more effectively.  He hopes that more of his classmates will feel comfortable taking on similar challenges, and he’s grateful to programs like Tenacity Class, an intensive career and etiquette crash-course, for giving him additional confidence to push himself athletically and academically.

As for working in the office, Cam said that the challenge is “finding a balance between just being yourself and being professional.” But Cam is pretty sure that he’s struck that balance. Finding it has been a confidence boost and a confirmation that he’s on the right track to working in business or finance and making a lot of money. He is looking forward to his senior year of high school, applying to Rutgers and Virginia Commonwealth University, and cheering on the Washington Wizards (though he admitted that his favorite basketball player is Kyrie Irving.)


Chief Chat with Scott Barash, General Counsel

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By Kyle Hietala

“I’ve been in DC since 1989, so yes–I’m old,” admitted Scott Barash, the General Counsel for DC Public Schools. Scott’s path to DCPS took many twists and turns, and he never expected to end up practicing education law. (He did, however, rule out a career in tax law, because his “worst grade in law school was in tax law class.”) Scott started his law career by clerking and then working for the Department of Justice, and eventually ended up working for Universal Service Administrative Company. More recently, he worked for the University of the District of Columbia. Scott describes his work with DCPS as “by far the most important job [he’s] had.”

Scott’s work, as he explained to UELIP Associates, falls into three general categories. First, his office handles litigation and compliance issues around Special Education, a subject which prompted many questions from UELIP Associates. Second, his office handles labor and employment law, including collective bargaining with the various Unions that represent District employees. Third, Scott’s office gives general legal guidance to various people and branches of DCPS, around issues such as ethics, appropriation of funds, and Constitutional law. But Scott doesn’t actually go to court on behalf of DCPS; that’s the job of the DC Attorney General, as he explained.

A self-described pragmatist, Scott advised UELIP associates that good attorneys need to be both zealous advocates for their clients and also level-headed and practical advisers. As for his work in DCPS, Scott said that he is focused on “doing whatever is necessary to make sure kids have the best education possible.” He reminded Associates that practicing law in a large urban school district attracts a lot of publicity. “What you do,” he remarked, “is often in the newspaper, for better or for worse.” But Scott thinks that ultimately, that’s how it should be, because when the education and well-being of children is at stake, transparency and accountability serve the common good.