02 Oct 2020

Election 2020:

Opinion: Why I’m Voting for Mysiki Valentine for At-Large SBOE

The Hill is Home reached out to Danica Petroshius, a DCPS parent of two and a member of Ward 6 Public School Parents’ Organization, to get her opinion on the At-Large State Board of Education race. Danica is an involved and knowledgeable parent who has written opinion pieces for THIH in the past This is Danica’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect that of all W6PSPO  members.

Danica Petroshius and her family. Photo courtesy of Danica Petroshius.

I’m voting for Mysiki Valentine for At-Large Representative to the State Board of Education (SBOE) and I hope you will, too.

As a DC public school parent, I am deeply grateful for so many things about education in DC public schools: the focus on high standards, the preschool opportunities, the strong school communities and the great educators and school leaders. Our school is a treasured source of learning, boasting a diverse, welcoming community, and educators committed to communicate with and care for every child.

However, I have also been deeply frustrated by the resource and opportunity inequities in our public schools, as well as the lack of transparency and weak accountability in our public system. Our school has been ground zero for major failures within DCPS, such as sexual misconduct, massive building failures and, most recently, a lack of technology and connectivity for during virtual learning. These experiences have made me an“education voter.”

As a parent, I want elected officials who have been in school buildings and who know what it feels like to be part of a dynamic, growing community and, at the same, time know what it’s like to work with a District government that can seem intractable at times. I want elected officials to prioritize engagement with parents and work side-by-side with families on solutions. I want elected officials willing to see our public system through the eyes of families and students and not through eyes of agencies and funders with other agendas.

From a family and student perspective, we travel in and out of buildings in hopes of attending quality, resourced schools with different cultures and curriculum, but we also want to be sure that the rules are the same for health, safety, engagement, transparency and accountability at every public school. I want less influence from outside interest groups who
don’t know our schools and more influence from voices in the schools.

Mysiki Valentine is the right candidate for the job. He grew up in DC and attended both DCPS and DC public charter schools. He later worked in DCPS and DC public charter schools as a teacher, reading specialist and after school coordinator. He has experience working in DC government and then moved on to work for the Fair Budget Coalition. He has the credentials to make education-related decisions for us based on his lived experience in our schools; a strong understanding of how our local political, policy and budget processes work; and a network to draw on for on-the-ground insight.

Mysiki also has the kind of caring, thoughtful approach that appeals to me– an approach grounded in the people of DC and his personal experience. I was touched when he told me that when he was considering running for the SBOE, he first called some of his former students to see what they thought. He is authentic and approachable. He is open about his struggles as a student being bullied and the adults who supported him through it; about his passion for racial equity and LGBTQ rights. He quotes his mom’s smart advice, saying it gives him hope and drive. He is committed to not stopping “until every child has the good school experiences I had and every
child is protected from the bad school experiences I had.” He is a leader and advocate for parents and youth alike. He told me that his top three priorities for our public education system are to:

  • Make lifelong learning an affordable reality for every DC resident. We can’t leave behind the individuals who have been failed by the system while we fix the system for now and the future.
  • Close the digital divide. We should have done 1:1 technology a long time ago, but it’s more critical than ever to do it now. Digital education is the baseline for all we do now and in the future.
  • Rethink how we assess students and schools. We must eliminate high-stakes policies that are hurting black and brown students and find new, evidence-based ways to support and assess the growth of the whole child.

As part of the State Board of Education, this is what Mysiki intends to do in his first 100 days:

  • Launch a community-based campaign to end mayoral control of DC schools. The community has expressed concerns that too much control is in the hands of one person. This has weakened transparency and accountability in our public system. We need power in the hands of the people and more checks and balances overall to ensure equity.
  • Visit schools monthly (virtually or in person) to learn about every school over time. He wants to ensure that his role in the SBOE is grounded by the latest information on what is happening in our schools and hear that directly from educators, families and students.
  • Leverage the research role of the Board to improve efforts to retain and evaluate teachers. While the direct power of the SBOE is limited, he is committed to leveraging every tool it has to help improve critical areas that lead to better outcomes for students. Support for teachers and improving teaching practice is a high leverage point. (Teachers want and need that support, so it is no surprise that he has been endorsed by the Washington Teachers’ Union.)

Mysiki has brave, community-grounded plans for when he is elected. But even before he is elected, he has started leading on behalf of families. He recognizes that too many parents, caregivers and students’ voices are left out of the policy conversation simply because of the poor timing of Council hearings during school hours. Council scheduled a hearing on the “Distance Learning in DCPS and DC Public Charter Schools,” a controversial topic that begs for voices experiencing distance learning firsthand, for 9 a.m. on Friday, October 2nd. Mysiki heard from parents and students about how unfair this is and that this is not the first time public education hearings have been poorly scheduled. He organized a petition to request that Council add dates and times that work for parents, teachers and students. His petition has been signed by over 150 parents and teachers.

He is standing with and for families and educators from the starting block. I can’t wait to see what he will do when he’s in full stride as our next SBOE member. I hope you will join me and many other parents across the city in supporting Mysiki for At-Large representative to the DC State Board of Education.

Danica Petroshius

Ward 6 Resident

Parent of 2 students in DC Public Schools

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