Discussion with Global Education

dcglobal ed program
An embassy adoption program. Photo courtesy of DCPS Global Education. 

By Julia Thompson

The Global Education Brown Bag provided UELIP Associates with the opportunity to learn about and to get involved with international education. Jillian Flood, the Coordinator for the Global Education program, was happy to share her team’s newest initiatives with UELIPs.

100% of elementary schools in DCPS offer world language courses, some of which include Arabic, German, and Spanish. These courses are implemented into global education programs. These programs include the Embassy Adoption Program, International Food Days, and Study Abroad. All programs, in Flood’s words, work to create “active world citizens”  through international experiences.

Teachers can get involved as well by becoming Global Fellows, which is a leadership role that allows educators of any subject to integrate international experiences into the classroom curriculum. Global Fellows also become ambassadors and recruiters for DC Public School’s  global programs, helping to select student for study abroad trips.

In The Embassy Adoption Program, embassies partner with DC schools and allow students to have opportunities in leadership roles. Canadian leader Justin Trudeau met with an elementary class last year during his diplomatic visit. Programs like Mini United Nations give students the chance to represent various countries and discuss and debate global issues.

On International Food Days, 50,000 students from across the DCPS area are served breakfast, lunch and dinner from all over the world, accompanied by posters illustrating the global meals and their country of origin.

Study Abroad includes students from various DCPS schools, who are able to travel free of charge. For some students, this is a chance to travel for the first time–and travel at all, not just out of the country. Students apply to the program and are placed in places that align with the world language they currently study.

More information  about DCPS Global Education can be found at https://dcpsglobaled.org/.


Chief Chat with John Davis, Chief of Schools


By Bianca Viazzoli

“Thank you for spending your summer with DCPS,” John Davis, The Chief of Schools at DCPS said to the UELIP cohort, “your energy and passion are greatly appreciated.” After professing his disdain for talking about himself, John kindly gave his time to share his professional journey with this summer’s UELIPs.

John started out as an engineer. While coaching basketball after work, he decided it was time for a career switch. John decided to join Teach for America where he worked toward his teaching certification. John said he saw himself get “better and better” and found it “eye opening to see great teachers teach.” By his fifth year, he had earned the title of “Teacher of the Year” in his school, a title he is very proud of. By his sixth year, John admits he was “a little burnt out,” so he decided to take an opportunity to teach struggling young men in Kenya.

When he returned to the United States, John taught in Baltimore City Schools, and after two years he decided to join the Baltimore City Principal Internship Program. At that point, Baltimore City was in the process of breaking down their large schools into smaller ones. This allowed John to start as Principal in a brand-new school called New Era Academy.  John confessed it was “wonderful to start a new culture,” but the experience was just as difficult as it was memorable.

It was after his experience in Baltimore City that he was asked to join DCPS. “I never imagined working in Central Office,” John admitted, and he found it “daunting” after fifteen years in the classroom. John has a had a long journey at DCPS in the last ten years, but he now finds himself in the role of Chief of Schools. The Office of the Chief of Schools is made up of the Superintendents, School Turnaround, Student Wellness, Academic Planning and Support, and College and Career.

John played a major role in the implementation of extended year school. “The way we do school now is the same as how we did school then,” John claims, “It needs re-imagining.” The way his team decided to re-imagine the classroom is breaking up the nine-week summer vacation and spreading it across the whole year, allowing more time in the classroom in hopes of reducing summer learning loss. John said frankly, “I don’t care where you live, this is best for all kids.”

With many years of experience, John offered the UELIP cohort some advice and observations he has gathered along the way.  “Principals,” John said, “are leaders among leaders.” Although they are asked to do a lot, they cannot do it all. Delegation is important, so principals are able to better support other leaders to do their job. He urges aspiring principals to be “out and about to have a pulse of the school.” The best principals, in John’s opinion, must be visible to build a strong school culture and community.

As John moves on to Baltimore City schools, he says there isn’t much he is worried about. He is proud to have had a hand in the hiring of almost all DCPS principals, and hopes to gain similar relationships in his new position. Although it is hard, John claims that leading schools is ‘the work’ and he can’t see himself doing anything else.

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.

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.”

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.

Panel Discussion with DCPS Teachers

By Kyle Hietala

UELIP Associates had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion with Fellows of the Teachers Central to Leadership team (TCTL). The panelists included Dr. Anthony Marshall, Kamel Igoudjil, Madra Harden, Morgan Hammers, and Rebecca Oppenheim, all of whom are teachers in the District. These teachers were carefully selected for the TCTL because of their diversity in experiences and their interest in working closely with Central Office. They spoke briefly about their projects as Fellows, but spoke most extensively about their experiences as teachers, as many UELIP Associates intend to pursue a career in the classroom.

Dr. Anthony Marshall noted that the joy in teaching came from his ability to “make a difference,” though he advised Associates that sometimes “you’re not able to reach everyone, and you might not always get the respect you deserve.” To go into teaching, Anthony expressed that young people must “love working with kids more than anything else, and that having a passion for working with kids is what gives teachers staying power.” Rebecca and Madra echoed this sentiment, and noted that patience and keeping one’s attitude positive are crucial to succeeding as a young teacher.

Kamel expressed gratitude for the freedom that DCPS allows him in creating his curriculum, something he advised aspiring teachers to consider when they think about the contexts in which they want to teach. Morgan added that collaboration, receiving feedback, and watching other people teach is valuable in improving one’s skills as a teacher, especially in the early years. And all panelists reminded Associates to take plenty of time for themselves, too. On living in Washington DC, Anthony concluded, “I get the best of both worlds; I get to work hard in a challenging, rewarding place, and play hard, too.”

UELIP Lunch Social

By Julia Thompson

Thursday, June 29th, 2017 marked the first ever summer UELIP lunch event for this year, organized by the Social Events Committee. Upon arrival, interns were greeted with cookies, fruit, and conversation.  Members of the Social Events Committee gave icebreaker questions to start conversations, such as “What school are you from? What would you like to do in DC before the summer is over?” Why did you become a UELIP?” and “What is your project?” UELIPs also socialized with each other in a (platonic) ‘speed-dating’ activity. The icebreaker questions were also part of the conversation. This time, though, it revolved around topics outside of work, such as hobbies, favorite food, role models, music, and favorite TV shows. The last question to wrap up the event was, “What would be your theme song?”