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.