Good afternoon, Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee. My name is Shannon Hodge, and I am the Founding Executive Director of the DC Charter School Alliance, the local non-profit that advocates on behalf of public charter schools to ensure that all students in the District receive the great public education they deserve.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today about the nomination of Dr. Christina Grant to be the State Superintendent of Education for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).
Let me state very clearly up front that we strongly support Dr. Grant’s nomination for this role and we urge the Council to swiftly move her confirmation to a vote so she can focus her full attention on leading the critical work of OSSE. OSSE’s complex work means the agency needs a strong, capable leader at its helm, and we believe Dr. Grant’s experience has prepared her to be that leader.
Over the last couple of months as Acting State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Grant has made strong efforts to engage with school leaders across the District’s entire education community, including charter school leaders. She’s shown that she’s accessible and willing to listen and collaborate with school leaders acting on behalf of their entire school communities, and for that we are grateful. That kind of listening and collaboration is key to OSSE’s work.
OSSE’s Complex Work and the Need for A Strong, Capable Leader
OSSE has perhaps one of the most complex sets of work of any city government agency. OSSE not only oversees the systems that educate all public school students—both traditional and charter—but it does so while the city is still grappling with a pandemic that seemingly throws us a new curveball every week. As we speak, OSSE is playing an integral role in making sure all our schools follow DC Health’s health and safety protocols to provide safe in-person learning.
And while OSSE’s pandemic-related responsibilities may currently be at the forefront of schools’ interactions with the agency, they and we have not lost sight of the many other responsibilities that OSSE is currently carrying out. As a few examples, OSSE:
- administers and oversees federal grant making;
- conducts annual enrollment audits;
- disburses funding to public charter schools;
- creates uniform curriculum standards for teaching;
- trains school staff on key topics that affect teaching and learning in the District’s classrooms; and
- administers critical direct student service programs for students whose disabilities require transportation or specialized schools or programs.
We’re grateful for the leadership Hanseul Kang provided to OSSE for many years, and we believe that kind of long-term, stable leadership will be crucial going forward as we continue to deal with the ongoing pandemic and recover from its devastating impacts. Without a confirmed leader who has the full authority of the position, an organization as complex as OSSE risks delay in important decisions or having tasks fall by the wayside. This is another reason why it’s critical that the Council swiftly confirm Dr. Grant.
Dr. Grant’s Experience Has Prepared Her to Lead OSSE
Dr. Grant’s extensive experience in urban education settings makes her the ideal candidate to lead the agency, especially during this incredibly challenging time. Her prior role as Deputy Executive Director of the New York City Department of Education stands out as the kind of experience needed to lead OSSE’s complex work, particularly in an urban education system.
We’re also pleased with Dr. Grant’s experience as Chief of Charter Schools and Innovation for the School District of Philadelphia, a role that required her to manage a complex organization and work closely with the city’s Superintendent of Education, the President of the Board of Education, and the Mayor’s Chief Education Officer. That kind of collaboration across agencies and legislative bodies is key, as OSSE does not work in a silo. We need someone leading OSSE who has extensive experience with both traditional and charter schools, and is eager to work with other important city stakeholders to ensure that our students are getting the education they deserve. Dr. Grant has that experience.
Equity Must Be at the Center of Everything We Do
Equity must be at the center of everything we do. There is much, much more work to be done to improve education and opportunity for our students most at risk of academic failure, and I believe Dr. Grant shares that vision. In her two decades of experience in multiple urban school districts, she’s always grounded her leadership in the belief that equity must be the foundation on which we transform our public education system for the better. Her work is evidence of a commitment to equity—from overseeing improvement of math and reading scores for marginalized students, to increasing graduation rates in schools serving high percentages of academically at-risk students, to closing a facility for incarcerated students and exploring alternative diversion programs.
As we continue to deal with the consequences of a pandemic that has devastated many communities in our city, focusing our work on equity is more important now than ever. I’m proud to support Dr. Christina Grant to lead OSSE, and I’m looking forward to working together to boldly serve the students who most need a strong, effective, efficient, equity-focused State Superintendent of Education to receive a great public education.
Chairman Mendelson and members of the Council, I urge you to swiftly move Dr. Grant’s confirmation to a vote. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter, and I welcome your questions.