One of Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s charges from Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) was to begin to resetting the school system’s relationship with parents and other stakeholders, many of whom felt frozen out by her predecessor Michelle A. Rhee.
With the school year drawing to a close and her D.C. Council confirmation as permanent chancellor expected sometime next month, Henderson is trying to strike a new tone. This week, she rolled out the “Hopes and Dreams” initiative, asking residents to discuss, write or text their ideas about what the future should like in DCPS . It’s part of an effort to put together a new five-year strategic plan, supplanting the one conceived with minimal public participation in 2008.
DCPS has engaged a consultant, Dan Katzir, a former Broad Foundation executive and former chief operating officer for Teach for America, to help shape the final product. He’s being paid by contributions from Broad, through the D.C. Public Education Fund. But Henderson said that “Hopes and Dreams” is not something out of a consultant’s playbook, but an idea that came from her leadership team.
“As we talked to parents all over the city about what they wanted to see in DCPS and for their students, we realized that our stakeholders have far more in common than most realize,” she said in an e-mail this week. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to show how united we are by capturing and publicizing our collective hopes and dreams. We also want to use the hopes and dreams to create a shared vision for DCPS that can guide our strategic plan and hopefully point our collective and individual work towards a common goal.” She’s hoping to collect 20,000 responses by June 30.
Henderson is tasking her own people to think more seriously about the future. Last week, she assembled her high school principals for a conversation on what their schools would look like if they were able to “blow them up” and completely reinvent them. No word yet on what they came up with.
The Hopes and Dreams on-line survey is also tilted to thinking big. The first question asks “the three most urgent issues” in your school or ward. The remaining queries ask respondents “to share about the schools of your dreams.”
“Imagine that we are going in a time machine off into the future. The year is now 2025 and all of the issues you wrote - and any others you didn’t write - are now resolved. We have been wildly successful in our efforts to make our schools great. Our schools are the pride of the nation, and we are the highest performing urban school district in the country. Our children are thriving. You are visiting your school, your child’s school, or a school that you know.
“What’s it like? What do you see? What does it feel like? What’s happening in the classrooms? What’s it like for teachers, principals, staff working for DCPS?”
I’d like to hear from you on these questions also. If you’d like to share how you responded to DCPS, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate if it’s okay to use your name.