Students speak on DC schools, SBOE roles 8/15/19

Before DC students head back to school later this month, Education Town Hall was privileged to have in studio three DC public school students serving in a variety of roles both at their schools as well as with the DC State Board of Education (SBOE).

Show begins at 6:20 mark on this recording —

Valerie, Shayla, Alex, Maya, Thomas

Shayla Dell is a rising sophomore at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, studying vocal music, and has participated in classical singing competitions. As a student advocate, Ms. Dell has served on the student government association at Duke as well as the DCPS chancellor’s student cabinet and is a continuing member of the student advisory committee of the DC SBOE. (The student advisory committee is consulted by the state board on issues of policy before the board.)

Maya Gray is a rising senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic high school and a returning member of the SBOE’s student advisory committee. Having attended both DC public and charter schools, Ms. Gray has worked as a teen aide with DC Public Library, served as a member of the National Building Museum’s teen council, and completed internships with DC government agencies. She is also involved in a variety of sports and looks forward to a career in either architecture or veterinary medicine.

Alex O’Sullivan is a rising sophomore at BASIS DC. He is one of two student representatives serving on the DC State Board of Education for school year 2019-20 and enjoys politics, sports, and journalism when he’s not tutoring students at DCPS’s Amidon-Bowen elementary. Alex is both a member of the advisory committee as well as a nonvoting member of the state board. In the latter role, he thus co-chairs the advisory committee with Dayja Burton for SY19-20 (see

In a wide-ranging discussion in studio on the August 15 local show, these students shared their priorities for our schools–and what they have done and would change.

For instance, the SBOE student advisory committee recently completed a final report (see here: that focused on teacher retention and equity. The 30 member students of the SBOE advisory committee will continue to focus on those areas this school year—and are actively looking for yet more students to join their monthly meetings to advise the state board on a variety of topics of concern. (If interested, please email

The students also talked about the problems associated with inequity in our schools; how our high schools are ranked; and chronic underfunding, as well as the need for more vocational training, safe environments, and “passion” in both teachers and students. They emphasized that all students want to succeed–but that hurdles to that success exist at many levels in our city, including in families, communities, and the schools themselves.

As one solution, the students proposed to include many more student voices in all education policies in DC, alongside more transparency in our schools with both parents and students. — V. Jablow

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