Laura Wilson Phelan: Candidate for the Ward 1 State Board of Education

Lillian Perdomo, Candidate for Ward 1 State Board of Education (image from campaign Web site)

Laura Wilson Phelan, Candidate for Ward 1 State Board of Education (image from campaign Web site)

The fourth in this series featuring candidates for Ward 1 State Board of Education is Laura Wilson Phelan. You can learn more about Phelan at her campaign Web site here or follow her on Twitter at @LWilsonPhelan

Here are the questions each candidate received along with Laura’s answers:

Q: Which Ward 1 neighborhood do you live in?

A: My husband, Michael, and I live in Mt. Pleasant with our twin four-year-old daughters, Grace and Lily.

Q: How long have you lived in D.C.?

A: I have lived in DC for 11 years.

Q: Why did you decide to become a candidate for the Ward 1 Member of the State Board of Education?

A: As a parent, former teacher, and lifelong education advocate, I understand first-hand the challenges facing our parents, teachers, school leaders and students as we work to create the best possible schools for our children.

I have four-year-old twin daughters, Grace and Lily, who attend DC schools. I understand the anxiety of negotiating the city’s lottery system and the difficult choices parents have to make when choosing the best possible education their children.

I started my education career as a bilingual middle school teacher in one of our nation’s toughest schools. I have experienced directly the impact of district policies on educational outcomes for students. As a teacher, I often wished my elected officials had been classroom teachers themselves so that they could better understand the actual impact of their decisions on students, teachers and school leadership.

As a lifelong education advocate, I witnessed the incredible progress that occurs when families and teachers partner with one another to help students learn.   I have led the start up and growth of an education non-profit that focuses on building leadership in education and helping students get the support they need to be successful in life. Today, I am the chief operating officer of a DC non-profit that coaches teachers and principals on how to create strong relationships with families at 30 schools across the city, including four here in Ward 1.

And as a former elected official in Mt. Pleasant, I know how to bring communities together to solve problems.

Now, I am running for school board to bring all those experiences together to improve Ward 1 schools. Our schools have made many improvements, but we still have a ways to go to reach the goal of an excellent education for all.   I have a vision and plan for how to tap the tremendous potential of our families, community members, educators, and elected officials to make rapid progress on the issues facing Ward 1 schools.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish on the State Board of Education?

A: I have personally knocked on over 1,000 doors across the Ward, and my campaign team has knocked on close to 8,000 doors at the time of writing this. I have listened to the concerns and ideas of voters and incorporated their thoughts into my vision.

My ultimate goal as a member of the State Board of Education is to generate measurable progress in ensuring Ward 1 schools meet the academic and social needs of every child. I will have considered my time on the State Board successful if the following is true at the end of my four-year term:

  1. Ward 1 elementary schools improve their results so that children are reading, writing and performing math on grade-level with at least 15% performing above grade-level.
  2. Ward 1 is home to cutting-edge middle school and high schools to which all parents are excited to send their children.
  3. Parents have clearer, well-rounded measures for judging a school’s performance beyond test results, such as teacher turnover and family engagement.
  4. The District has more accurate ways of measuring the progress of students enrolled in bilingual schools, where the emphasis is on reading and writing fluency in two languages.
  5. Families, community members, and school principals are organized and working together on tasks that lead to better academic and social outcomes for all children in our schools.

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: I grew up in poverty as one of 13 children. My father instilled in us a sense that we could accomplish anything we set our minds to with a strong work ethic. He also ensured that we went to great public schools, which set me up for success in college and later in life.

I am very grateful for the fortune of my upbringing and have devoted my life to ensuring that others whose circumstances are less fortunate have equal opportunities in life.

I started my career as a bilingual middle school teacher in one of our nation’s toughest schools and went on to teach high school in the Peace Corps and adult education to recent immigrants. After earning my master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School, I worked in the executive and legislative branches of our federal government to ensure our tax dollars were well-spent to produce meaningful outcomes for those most in need. I have led the start up and growth of an education non-profit that focuses on building leadership in education and helping students get the support they need to be successful in life. Today, I am the chief operating officer of a DC non-profit that coaches teachers and principals on how to create strong relationships with families at 30 schools across the city, including four here in Ward 1.

Beyond my professional credentials, I have demonstrated my personal investment in our public schools and the Ward 1 community. I served as an ANC commissioner in Mt. Pleasant where I helped secure repairs to a neighborhood alley and improved bike safety. I currently serve on the Local School Advisory Team for Bancroft Elementary and played a leading role in developing a community-driven five-year plan to improve results for students. I also serve on the board of Thrive DC in Ward 1, which serves homeless individuals and families.

I have four-year-old twin daughters, Grace and Lily, who attend DC schools, and I understand the anxiety of negotiating the city’s lottery system and the difficult choices parents have to make when choosing the best possible education their children.

All of these experiences have provided me with deep knowledge of the needs of children in our schools to make informed policy decisions on the State Board. I understand first-hand the challenges facing our parents, teachers, school leaders and students and will not need to climb a steep learning curve to begin making progress on the issues facing Ward 1 schools.

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 previously served as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, representing single member district 1D in Mt. Pleasant from 2010 to 2012. As Commissioner, I played a supporting role in completing the rehabilitation of the Mt. Pleasant Library, strengthening the customer base of our local businesses through outdoor seating, and supporting constituents in their individual neighborhood’s needs. I also played a leading role in getting repairs made to an alley and improving bike safety. I developed a newsletter for residents that I regularly distributed to keep them informed of ANC activities. The community benefited from my efforts through an improved library facility, safer and cleaner alley ways, and safer biking on Mt. Pleasant Street. The community also benefited by my advocacy in cutting through red tape, getting them answers to their questions, and receiving pro-active communications about matters relevant to their community.

Q: Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

A: I believe in possibilities and the potential of our children. I am an avid listener, responsive, and committed to improving our schools. I am a practitioner of collaboration who believes that we, as a community, are part of the solution to improving our schools, and that together we will create the change we want to see. I have begun the work of bringing us together already by building “The Coalition” – an alliance of parents and community members who have committed to helping to improve our schools. I have also met with principals, PTA presidents, and community leaders to hear their ideas and brainstorm solutions about the challenges facing our schools. If you have ideas about what can be done to improve our schools, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. My email address is lauradcschoolboard (at) gmail.com. You may learn more about me on my website, www.lauradcschoolboard.com. Thank you!

Explore posts in the same categories: Elections

Tags: , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: