Advocacy begins with listening

Jun 14, 2020

I am honored to step into the role of executive director of the DC Charter School Alliance, a new c3 advocacy organization that builds on the hard work of the school leaders, educators, families, students, and city leaders who have worked tirelessly to build DC’s robust charter sector. 

As I reflect on my time as a high school guidance counselor, co-founder and leader of a charter school, and lawyer, I know that now is the time to listen to and lift the voices of our community. 

Advocacy for the DC Charter School Alliance will begin with listening to our stakeholders and what they tell us about the needs of our students, families, schools, and communities, all rooted in the idea that families and students who want school options to pursue real opportunities in life can do so.

We want to hear directly from students and families — both the students and families who have chosen charter schools and the students and families who have not chosen charter schools — on what they need from our city’s schools.

All families want to secure a good education for their children, and that good education should be based on how a family defines what makes a school a great fit for them. For too long, we have told families what a good school is or what school to attend, but it’s families who know what works for their children, what their children need from a school to be successful, and, when a school experience did not work, why that experience did not work.

Families should be celebrated for making their choices for their children.

As I step into this role, I’m thrilled to support the charter school leaders in this city who are opening, expanding, and leading schools of choice throughout DC. I know that every school leader thinks about their students every day and in every decision. I did when I led Kingsman Academy Public Charter School for the last five years. 

The work of being a school leader is about speaking up for what our young people need to live a better life after high school graduation. I bring that same goal to my work at the DC Charter School Alliance, and I look forward to asking questions of our school leaders and continuing to learn from them.

As a membership organization, our advocacy agenda will be based on amplifying the voices of the charter school leaders who know what their schools need to thrive and live up to their missions. School leaders are the powerful connection between our community and city leaders, and I will partner with them to improve our schools. That starts with the launch of our Membership Council, which steers the organization’s key policy priorities and ensures that the organization is aligned to the needs of our diverse schools. 

We will work to secure what our families and schools need. Even as hope seems distant between the global pandemic that has hit our Black community hardest and ongoing racism that has brought protests to our streets, we must continue to fight for our students and schools. Even in the midst of great uncertainty, we must remember that education will help our young people achieve the lives they want to see. We must work to ensure that providing a real choice in education can help every DC family attend the school that will prepare their children for success in life.

I look forward to working with you, hearing from you, and amplifying the needs and stories of our community.

In solidarity,

Shannon Hodge

Founding Executive Director

DC Charter School Alliance