As a part of our local Ward 4 election coverage, we had conversations with three of the four candidates who are running for the Ward 4 seat on the State Board of Education. The new member will be determined by a special election on December 4th. Previous Ward 4 member Lannette Woodruff stepped down from the position in July. In this chat, we meet Elani Lawrence who has an array of experience in and outside of the classroom.
So, I thought the mayor had control of the schools. What is the State Board of Education?
That’s a great question. The State Board of Education is an independent agency in DC government to advise the state superintendent on policy issues. For example, setting graduation requirements, the new state accountability plan, the new DC schools report card that will be coming out for the first time this December.
If you’re elected, what are your top three goals for your first term in office?
What’s really important for me is making sure that we have equity in our DC schools. We know that there’s an achievement gap with our students and it’s really important for me that we’re putting policies in place that help to alleviate that. So that would be one. The second is, as a parent of children who are in schools myself, it’s really important to make sure that we’re creating policies with our families and not just for them. So making sure that parent voices are at the forefront of these policy conversations. Third is that we need to support our educators. We just had a report come out that shows that educator turnover in the District is higher than some other urban areas, including New York and Chicago. We need to take a look at why that’s happening because this report didn’t give us those answers and work to support our teachers to make sure that we’re keeping our high quality talent in our schools.
Why should Ward 4 parents vote for you?
I am a DC native and very proud to be so. I’m also a DCPS graduate myself. I have a very strong desire to give back to the community that’s given so much to me. I am an educator with 22 years of experience in education, so I feel like I have important information to share, as well as, as stated before, being a parent myself and having children in elementary and middle schools here in DC. So I have personal skin in the game.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share about your campaign?
We are running a grassroots campaign, just working to get the message out that people like myself who are career educators, parents, informed, community members really want to work on the State Board of Education to serve the community. So I’m here to serve all families. That includes families’ voices that aren’t always included in these conversations: our at risk populations, our English Language Learners, our students with special needs. I want to be a champion for all students in the District. And so I believe that I’m the best choice for the state board of Education for Ward 4.
What do you do to relax in the city?
You might see me running around the neighborhood. I am a runner. It’s a passion that I have. Just a way to relax and also just to exercise. I have run seven marathons in the past, including New York City and the Marine Corps marathon here. In addition to that, reading, spending time with my family, which is really important to me. And I’m blessed to have not only my nuclear family but also my parents and my brother also here within the District, so we get to see them frequently.