2013 PFIG Recipient Chelsea Stokes
College of Arts & Sciences
Political & Social Thought Major
2015 Graduation Year
Internship: District of Columbia Public Schools
Notes on the first week
I began my internship at the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) in a whirlwind of activity. Assigned to the School Opening Team as a UELIP (Urban Education Leader Intern Program) in the Office of the Chief of Staff, I specifically work with Residency and Enrollment. While other offices were winding down due to the end of the school year, my team was ramping up for the upcoming school year. Historically, DCPS have always begun the school year rocky. Less than ten years ago, schools opened for classes without teachers, principals, and textbooks in place; this resulted in valuable instructional time wasted. This summer proves to be one of the most challenging as numerous schools are under large-scale modernizations and nine schools are consolidated. The School Opening Teams coordinate communication and actions between every office to ensure everything is in place— facilities ready, teachers and administrators hired, security in place, schedules for students, etc. This coordination was most evident during my first week. My second day in the office was spent in working group meetings about student enrollment projections, class schedules, facilities, technology, transportation, and textbooks. The working groups concluded with a School Stat meeting the next day. A School Stat consists of all of the Chiefs from respective offices, as well as the Chancellor. A School Stat allows the Chancellor to be debriefed on the progress of school opening and settle any conflicts while leadership is present.
During this School Stat, Chancellor Henderson repeatedly questioned the number of students enrolled in the district, as she examined the data by grade level, school, and even neighborhoods. After the School Stat, everyone could feel the Chancellor’s disappointment in the enrollment numbers. I soon realized, that the enrollment office views students in the district, like the infamous Pokémon cards in which you ‘have to get them all’. Each year DC Public Schools competes with Public Charter Schools to register as many students in order to receive funding. Tax dollars always follows the students and the school that they attend. So much work and effort goes into enrolling the students into a complex system to ensure that every student is residency verified. With the approach of the school year, I soon learned my chief responsibility in the UELIP was to coordinate the communication between registrars at all the schools, monitor student records at closing schools, and transition new hires in the office as well as new registrars in schools.
My personal project during my internship was to detail what the residency experience would entail and create timelines and process for student enrollment. This project allowed me to work directly with registrars by making school visits. School visits were probably one of my favorite things about my internship. I could spend my entire day reviewing school enrollment numbers but never fully understand the data. After visiting school facilities, speaking with principals, teachers, and registrars I began to recognize that the district consolidated two schools in rival neighborhoods. In addition to my own responsibilities, I also supervised two high school interns as part of a program that allows DCPS students to receive some of their community service hours necessary for graduation by working in Central Office. My two high school interns gave me a student perspective when dealing with certain schools that often go unnoticed. They were especially helpful as I coordinated the over 120 plus registrars for preparing of the school year.
One of my challenging tasks was communicating information between the Residency and Enrollment Office and registrars. In general, communication between Central Office to schools and Central Office to parents was abysmal. It was never communicated to parents that for the first time the District will provide busing for all students to go to summer school. To no surprise all the buses for the first day of summer school were empty and less students than projected were enrolled in summer school. The goal of my personal project was to create an easier and uniform system of communication between the Residency and Enrollment Office and registrars through weekly conference calls, tracking when registrars read emails, and creating enrollment guides to troubleshoot common issues.
My time as part of the School Opening Team in DC Public Schools allowed me to directly touch every office. As the School Opening team prepares for a new year they are centrally responsible for coordinating the efforts of various departments—the hiring of new teachers, procurement of textbooks, transition of matriculating student files. My internship supervisor imparted me with these wise words on my last day, “If you have learned anything during this internship just know that people can always identity problems, but you will get paid for being able to address these problems with solutions.” I felt that this advice was a mindset of thinking that I could take not only in in other professional settings, but additionally in extracurricular or academic settings. Too often problems are identified within departments and brought to the attention of superiors. However, no solution to address these problems in timely manner is then taken. The School Opening Team repeatedly forecast and tackled problems that arose through dispatching the necessary personal, equipment, or funding.
The last days cumulated in the realization of one of the projects I was working on throughout the internship. I primarily worked with registrars on school enrollment and thus coordinated the Operations Academy. The Operations Academy is a training session for all business managers, registrars, and technology coordinators about new things for the upcoming years and actions necessary to receive certain federal grants. I created all of the logistics for scheduling the days’ events including speakers, accommodations for disabled members, and ordering the food. Working firsthand with business managers, registrars, and technology coordinators I saw the connection between education and business.
Just like any other industry education is business. Each student can be assigned a dollar amount depending on their learning needs. With the competing charter school system in the District, time and money need to be spent branding and marketing themselves to the customers—parents. Within the school district, specific school leadership has created a brand for their school as a place that will provide a world-class education. DCPS needs to create an overall positive brand for its schools and individually sell schools to parents in order to increase their enrollment numbers.