Lillian Perdomo, Candidate for Ward 1 State Board of Education
Continuing the series featuring candidates for Ward 1 State Board of Education is Lillian Perdomo. You can learn more about the candidate at her campaign Web site here or on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter at @yesforlillian
Here are the questions each candidate received along with Lillian’s answers:
Q: Which Ward 1 neighborhood do you live in?
A: I live in Mount Pleasant with my husband, David Chulick, my 16-year-old daughter, Amanda (a DCPS Ward One, Senior High School student), our dog, Oliver, and our cat, Juliet.
Q: How long have you lived in D.C.?
A: I have lived in DC for a total of 28 years; in Ward One for 16 years.
Q: Why did you decide to become a candidate for the Ward 1 Member of the State Board of Education?
A: Aside from my unshakeable belief that our students have a fundamental right to attend quality schools, my decision to run for the DC State Board of Education is driven by a strong conviction that it is morally wrong that so many of our students are not reaching their full potential. I know that Ward One students have immense potential regardless of their background. In addition, I am uniquely qualified to take on this task because of my first-hand long-term knowledge of the school system—both its strengths and weaknesses— as a parent, an educator, and as an advocate on behalf of children and their parents. I also find encouragement in knowing that the majority of us constituents are fed up with the status quo, and that we are at a turning point, for which we all must come together to do what it takes for Better Schools and Student Success.
I experienced firsthand the challenges that our communities face to be assured access to a quality education. My various perspectives include over 25 years of community organizing and advocating for DC children and families, including 9 years as an educational not-for-profit executive, five years as an educator in Ward One public schools, a parent, a PTA co-chair, and now, also, a grandparent of a Pre-K student. This past summer I coordinated the afterschool, Summer Arts Program at Bruce Monroe E. S.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish on the State Board of Education?
A: For over 25 years, through my experience in the schools, I have actively listened to a multiplicity of stakeholders, and have seen programs and strategies come and go. Unfortunately none of these initiatives has been effective in tackling our largest issue, which is the achievement gap for low income minority populations that make up 85% of our student body.
For example, the demographics of Ward One are 47% African American students and 47% Hispanic /Latino students, and according to the DC CAS there has been a drop in reading achievement of 2% for African American students and 6% for English as a Second Language students. To reach their full potential our students must be provided with the fundamental right to attend quality schools. These quality schools must possess the ability to guide our students to become successful lifelong learners through challenging, hands-on instruction that relates to the students’ life experiences. My platform is simple. I plan to press for better schools and stronger communities with my CAN DO strategy:
Community Schools — Provide coordinated services to least-advantaged students and families.
Accountable Schools — Ensure OSSE oversight of federal and local mandates and civil rights requirements for educating high-poverty, special education and English language learner students.
Neighborhood Schools — Assure quality schools closest to where children live.
Dynamic Schools — Create ideal learning environments with more STEAM science, technology, engineering, the arts and math integration.
Opportunity Centers — Secure college and career development assistance for youth.
Q: How does your professional and/or life experience make you a good candidate for the State Board of Education, and how will it help you be a successful Member of the Board?
A: Like virtually every parent and grandparent, I want to ensure equitable access and excellent education for my family. However, I have also lived in the world of the least advantaged, both as a student and a parent. I know what it takes to reach and adequately serve low-income communities that often are isolated and face many challenges because I myself have faced those harsh realities in my own life. As a child in El Salvador, I faced personal, familial, and political turmoil. In the United States, in search of freedoms not awarded in my home country, I survived loneliness, near homelessness, language and cultural barriers, sexual harassment, unpaid child labor, and having to work instead of attending school — while every day dealing with fear for my family’s safety in El Salvador. All of these dreadful experiences give me the understanding of the pain and struggles that many of our DCPS families face every day.
But I also know what it is to triumph. Despite great obstacles, I eventually graduated from high school, overcame domestic violence, and raised my child despite being a single mother in extreme poverty, all the while facing serious health issues. With the support of many good people in DC, I met these challenges and have thrived.
I also understand the importance of education. Even though I was unable to go to college right after graduating from high school in 1986, ten years later, in 1996, I graduated from college with a B.A. in Public Affairs from Trinity University in DC. Education undeniably opened the doors to becoming a life-long learner and to opportunities that my parents never had. Upon graduating, I worked as a Parent Coordinator for the Superintendent of DCPS, provided technical support, and implemented trainings for administrators, staff, and parent leaders, and spearheaded advocacy efforts to support parent involvement in education. In my position as staff member to Committee Chair Schwarz on the Committee on Local, Regional and Federal Affairs, I was responsible for: preparing the Chairperson for Committee hearings and meetings, both at the Council and in Congress; monitoring and drafting legislation; overseeing and recommending budgets for agencies; and analyzing and preparing reports at the Council of the District of Columbia. I made a special effort to ensure that I covered every hearing on education and that the Chairperson would hold a hearing on the issues. I chose to do this work because I wanted to ensure that others had access to the same opportunities I did.
Since then, I have continued to work tirelessly for the community. As a contractor in the U.S. Justice Department, I developed policy recommendations on Violence Against Women Issues. For nearly 10 years, I was a founding board member and first Executive Director of Multicultural Community Services, where I implemented language, youth development, civic engagement and parent involvement programs, for hundreds of parents and youth. In Ward One, I led community integration, by offering interpretation services, interpreter training and coalition building. In all of these aspects of my work, involvement with DC Public Schools and breaking through the isolation of English Language Learners from the English speaking communities were at the forefront of my efforts. The schools were where I could reach both students and parents to work together to improve education as well as the quality of the lives they lived.
I became fascinated by the democratic process and have been involved in national, state and local elections since. I have developed many valuable relationships with the public in Ward One, and with elected and appointed officials throughout DC. Through these relationships, I will work to improve DC Public Schools, foster collaboration with those schools not under the purview of the State Board of Education, and bridge gaps so as to ensure that together we work to provide a quality education for all of our children.
Q: Is this your first bid for elected office? If not, please describe other elected positions you’ve held, briefly note your accomplishments, and describe how the community benefited by your advocacy.
A: I have been elected to the board of the DC Latino Caucus. From there I was elected to represent the DC Latino Caucus before the DC Democratic State Committee. Then, I won election to the Democratic State Committee as an Ex-Officio Member. Through all these positions, I sought to help DC residents least able to help themselves. It is easier for majority groups to get their points across or to represent their issues, but I feel that I have been able to gain the respect of the members of this committees and I am able to get involved with issues that allowed communities that don’t always participate in the democratic process to have a voice and a vote.
Also, I ran unsuccessfully in 2008 for the State Board of Education position and learned many things along the way. For example, I discovered that running for office is a very demanding and time consuming endeavor, and one that I needed to invest lots of time in to be successful. I am currently not doing any consulting work, but concentrating on running a winning campaign. In early 2014, I decided that my family life and my work as a consultant would permit me to follow my passion of running to be able to promote quality education for our Ward One children in the District of Columbia.
In 2012, I was elected to represent DC at the 2014 National Democratic Convention in Charlotte NC. . In that position, I helped assure full Latino participation in the election of President Obama.
Q: Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?
A: I excel at listening, and I am open minded. These skills will be particularly valuable on the DC Board of Education — where collaboration rather than the exercise of power is essential.