I love school. I’ve loved school since my first day of preschool in Yonkers, NY, when I walked in, saw all the children and ran off to join them, never looking back to say goodbye to my mom. She says I broke her heart, but I had found my place. School and education have been a part of my life ever since. I am channeling my love of school as I run to represent the students and schools of Ward 6 on the DC State Board of Education.
I’ve loved every school I’ve ever been privileged to teach in—from the historic hallways of Holy Innocents School on Chicago’s West Side, to the East Los Angeles basement of the Boys’ & Girls’ Club where I helped found KIPP: LA Prep to the Blue Castle at Eighth and M Streets SE right here in Ward 6 where I taught Eighth grade social studies and literature.
I loved teaching school when it filled my heart with joy. Like when my eighth graders got their letters of acceptance to high schools or when my painfully shy student nailed her opening statement in the Urban Debate League. I even loved school when it broke my heart. When I lost a student to gun violence my first year of teaching, I simultaneously learned the deep pain of loss and the deep gratitude for a community of students who cared for one another in their grief.
In my work at DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education and in my current role as a consultant I’ve been lucky to visit hundreds of schools and classrooms throughout the District. I especially love visiting schools where I see the children I once taught now teaching children in classrooms of their own.
I have worked in education for the past 20 years and have called Ward 6 home for more than a decade. I’m impressed with the changes that have improved our schools in that time. More and more Ward 6 families are staying in DC as their children grow and our school system has seen enrollment increase every year since 2009.
Families have an amazing array of choices – neighborhood schools, Montessori schools, STEM schools – and the data show that Ward 6 families make all kinds of choices for their children. As of last year, one third of Ward 6 children attend their neighborhood in-boundary DCPS school. Almost as many attend another traditional school, such as one that accepts enrollment from throughout the city, an alternative school, an application school or an out-of-boundary school. And two out of every five Ward 6 students attends a public charter school.
I’m glad our families have – and make – so many diverse choices for their children’s education. And I want all families to feel represented by a State Board member who respects their choices and will help work to make sure they can access the kinds of schools they think best fit their children’s needs.
As your representative on the State Board of Education, I will:
- Put students first in policy decisions. Always. I chose “Running for Students” as my campaign slogan because too much attention has been devoted to adult problems within our education system. For every policy vote considered by the SBOE, I will ask “How does this improve opportunities for kids?” If we cannot quickly answer that, we need to get back to the drawing board.
- Ensure that the District provides equal educational resources and equal opportunities to succeed for all children. For example, this could mean significantly increasing the amount of funding distributed to schools serving high percentages of at-risk students or giving weighted preference in the MySchool DC lottery to students designated “at-risk.”
- Support the excellence of existing Ward 6 schools and the creation of new choices of schools and programs that meet the needs of District children. Our middle and high schools need resources and support to provide rigorous course offerings, a variety of electives and plenty of extracurricular opportunities for all of our students to explore. District students and families also deserve real choices in the kinds of schools and programs that meet their needs and interests. We must ask students and families what kinds of new programs they would like and work to expand access to popular programs with long waiting lists, such as Pre-K3 programs and language immersion programs.
Our State Board of Education has an incredible opportunity to advocate for policy changes that affect all children in the District. It would be an honor to serve the students and families of Ward 6 in strengthening our system of schools so that it truly works for all children.
Jessica Sutter lives near Lincoln Park and is running to represent Ward 6 on the State Board of Education. You can learn more about her campaign and stance on education policy issues at www.jessicasutter.org.