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 Ryan Tauriainen who has educational experience in every quadrant of the city and was a recent DC Principal of Year awardee.
So, I thought the mayor had control of the schools. What is the State Board of Education?
You are correct. The mayor does have control over public schools in Washington DC, but the State Board of Education does still play a significant role in setting policy and advising the Office of the State Superintendent of Education on a litany of education matters in DC.
If you’re elected, what are your top three goals for your first term in office?
My top three goals are: number one, I am an early childhood expert and I’ve been in Early Childhood Education for many years. One of the jewels of DC is our free public, fully funded early childhood education programs throughout the entire city. However, there is still a lot to be desired in the amount of spaces that we have open for those students and also in the standards for what we expect them to learn by the end of their two Pre-k years. So the first thing I want to do is expand and increase the rigor for early childhood standards.
The second goal that I have is being an open communicator and being really visible in the Ward 4 community. I’m already a person who attends the state board of education meetings. I actually feel like I’ve attended more meetings than some of the current members recently. I also attend PTO meetings at our local public schools and ANC meetings for even the sections of Ward 4 that I do not live in. I want to be able to be a part of those meetings and voice what’s happening at the state board of education meetings so that everyone stays informed and also hear people’s concerns.
And my third goal is actually something that I’ve been hearing a lot as I canvas around Ward 4. It’s tackling the problems that we’re having with residency fraud. We have a lot of our neighbors from Lower Maryland and upper Virginia who are committing residency fraud in order to steal seats, literally, from DC students at some of our most competitive schools such as Duke Ellington, Banneker, and also some of our early childhood classrooms because we have fully funded early childhood and those states do not. I want to really make sure that we strengthen the policies and really enforce them so that our DC tax dollars are being used for DC children.
Why should Ward 4 parents vote for you?
I think there’s a lot of reasons to vote for me. I’ve been in education for over a decade. It’s been my entire career. I’ve never worked outside of a school building my entire life. I’ve been a teacher in DC, in southeast Anacostia. I’ve been an assistant principal in northeast Woodridge and I’ve been a principal both in southwest waterfront and in northwest in Columbia Heights. So literally I’ve been in every quadrant of DC working with students from all over.
But specifically in my leadership, during my principalship and my fourth year being principal, I was DC’s principal of the year as sponsored by the Washington Post, the top principal in the entire metropolitan area. From there I’ve gone onto district leadership. So I have all the skills necessary.
I still work with students and teachers and parents every single day and I’m the only candidate in Ward 4 who still works in public school buildings and I’m the only candidate in ward four who has been a true school leader. Those things are actually missing from our state board of education right now, if you can believe it. There’s not a single member who has been a principal in DC before. That voice needs to be heard because those are the people who are dealing with the policies every day and having to deliver the message of those policies to their teachers. I want to make sure that that voice is represented and I want to represent the Ward 4 that I love.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share about your campaign?
I’d like to share that this is something that I’m fully funding. I’m very independent, I’m doing this mostly on my own. It’s a very small team of just me and a couple of friends, but I hope that with all the people that I meet throughout Ward 4, they really see my passion and my immense knowledge of education and the work ethic that I’m going to put forward when I become the member.
What do you do to relax in the city?
To be honest, my favorite thing to do to relax is actually walk my dog around our fabulous neighborhoods. I live in the Takoma neighborhood of Ward 4… sort of along all the historic homes. And one of my greatest pastimes that I have to do once or twice a day is walking my dog and walking him through Takoma Education Campus and areas like that. Meeting my neighbors. That’s probably my favorite thing to do to really relax after a hard day’s work.