The development team will consist of three individuals—HR representatives from the Woodson Foundation, the schools, and the NCPIE—who have prepared the following list of potential candidates for consideration.
Victoria Adams is the superintendent of schools for Washington, D.C. She spearheaded the initial communication with the Woodson Foundation and has been building support among teachers and principals. She thinks the schools and the foundation need to have larger roles than the parents and communities. “Of course we want their involvement and support, but as the professionals, we should have more say when it comes to making decisions and implementing programs. We don’t want to shut anyone out, but we have to be realistic about what the parents can do.”
Duane Hardy has been a principal in the Washington area for more than 15 years. He also thinks the schools should have the most power. “We’re the ones who work with these kids every day. I’ve watched class sizes get bigger, and scores and graduation rates go down. Yes, we need to fix this, but these outside groups can’t understand the limitations we’re dealing with. We have the community, the politicians, the taxpayers—everyone watching what we’re doing, everyone thinking they know what’s best. The parents, at least, have more of a stake in this.”
“The most important thing is the kids,” says second-year teacher Ari Kaufman. He is well liked by his students but doesn’t get along well with other faculty members. He’s seen as a “squeaky wheel.” “The schools need change so badly. And how did they get this way? From too little outside involvement.”
Community organizer Mason Dupree doesn’t like the level of bureaucracy either. He worries that the school’s answer to its problems is to throw more money at them. “I know these kids. I grew up in these neighborhoods. My parents knew every single teacher I had. The schools wanted our involvement then. Now all they want is our money. And I wouldn’t mind giving it to them if I thought it would be used responsibly, not spent on raises for people who haven’t shown they can get the job done.”
Meredith Watson, with the Woodson Foundation, agrees the schools have become less focused on the families. A former teacher, she left the field of education after being in the classroom for 6 years. “There is so much waste in the system,” she complains. “Jobs are unnecessarily duplicated, change processes are needlessly convoluted. Unless you’re an insider already, you can’t get anything done. These parents want to be involved. They know their kids best.”
Unlike her NCPIE colleagues, Candace Sharpe thinks the schools are doing the best they can. She is a county social worker, relatively new to the D.C. area. “Parents say they want to be involved but then don’t follow through. We need to step it up, we need to lead the way. Lasting change doesn’t come from the outside, it comes from the home.”
Victor Martinez has been at the Woodson Foundation for 10 years, starting as an intern straight out of college. “It’s sometimes hard to see a situation when you’re in the thick of it,” he explains. “Nobody likes to be told they’re doing something wrong, but sometimes it has to be said. We all know there are flaws in the system. We can’t keep the status quo. It just isn’t cutting it.”