2017 DC Charter Conference

Washington District of Columbia

Feb 16, 2017



Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS) to host first-ever

DC Charter Conference 

More than 300 charter school leaders and supporters in attendance


More than 300 public charter school leaders and stakeholders from the majority of the city’s 118 campuses will attend the first ever District of Columbia (DC) Charter Schools Conference on February 16, 2017 at the FHI 360 Conference Center.  Hosted by Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), the conference will be the largest gathering in the history of the DC public charter school movement that will provide an opportunity to discuss and reflect upon the last 20 years of the movement, and more importantly, discuss what the future might hold for the sector that now educates 46% of the city’s public school children.


“FOCUS is hosting this conference as part of an honest, thought-provoking conversation about the state of the District’s charter schools and how to improve upon the sector that serves 42,000 students with a diverse set of needs,” stated Irene Holtzman, Executive Director of FOCUS. The conference will welcome representatives from DC’s public charter school leaders, board members, teachers, advocates, and stakeholders.


The conference will begin with a keynote address from Dr. Howard Fuller, co-founder of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and Distinguished Professor and Founder of the Institute of Transformational Learning, Marquette University.


As the principal advocate for DC’s public charter schools, FOCUS continues its principal work of defending autonomy, fighting for equity, and ensuring that all children are treated fairly by the District government. However recently, FOCUS has added other critical areas that need to be addressed.


“FOCUS must also be an agent of change to promote racial equity and inclusion. With all of the divisions that exist in our country, our city, and our neighborhoods, the conference sessions will build on conversations that are beginning to take place more often in the city’s education sector,” added Holtzman. “We look forward to a productive day of discussion and sharing.”

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Amber Schlick

Strategy and Policy Manager, E.L. Haynes PCS

Bio: E.L. Haynes PCS Amber Schlick is currently the Strategy and Policy Manager at E.L. Haynes PCS, where she oversees all aspects of accountability for the implementation of the school’s VISION 2020 Strategic Plan. Prior to joining Haynes, Amber worked for the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education managing all federal compliance reporting under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act. She holds a Bachelors of Social Work from Florida State University and has lived in the District since 2011.

Jeanne Allen

Founder & CEO, The Center for Education Reform

Bio: Center for Education Reform Jeanne Allen has been on the front lines of education policy development and innovation for more than 30 years. She served for five years at the Department of Education during the Reagan Administration, where she was responsible for policy development and implementation in the areas of student financial aid, accreditation, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Following her government service, she served for six at the Heritage Foundation, where she developed the organizations education policy program and also launched Town Hall, one of the earliest online social networks. In 1993, she left Heritage to found the Center for Education Reform, which quickly became one of the most influential organizations in the education field dedicated to developing and promoting innovative reforms in schools throughout the nation. CER was an early advocate for school choice, and played an important role in the creation and development of the charter school movement. Twenty-three years after its founding, CER remains a leader in a wide variety of efforts to innovate and improve education at all levels, and across all learning venues. Jeanne is its CEO.

Jessica Peters

Associate Director of Personalized Learning, KIPP DC

Bio: KIPP DC Jessica Peters saw firsthand the impact technology could have on students while teaching high school math in the Arkansas Delta with a class set of iPads. Students’ heightened focus and interest while working on a device in her math classes showed her that technology really can be a game changer both for engagement and the ability to personalize content to student needs. When she moved on to Achievement First in Connecticut, teaching middle school math with Chromebooks allowed her to personalize learning even further and let students practice math on their level. Her passion for educational technology led her to KIPP DC as an Instructional Technology Coach and now the Associate Director of Personalized Learning. Jessica has a BA in International Relations from Boston University and MA in Peace Education from European Peace University.

Joseph Workman

Education Account Specialist, Centric Business systems

Bio: Centric Business Systems Originally from NC. W&M Graduate. Moved to Northern, VA in 2012. Work in the greater DMV area with a focus on helping schools integrate the latest in technology into their classrooms and workforce. Married for 7 years with 2 children, ages 5 and 2. Passionate about people, education, technology and helping raise up leaders. Also a musician, avid rock climber and outdoor enthusiast.

Lauren Marar

Data and Assessment Associate, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School

Bio: E.L. Haynes

Claude Aska

Generation Schools Network

Bio: Generation Schools Network Claude brings to Generation Schools Network a significant wealth of experience in education, youth development and nonprofit leadership. Prior to joining GSN, Claude served as consultant on Membership Engagement for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA), where he led the successful launch of a national skills-based volunteer program that was the result of a partnership with JPMorgan Chase. Prior to CBMA, Claude co-directed the start-up and development of two New Century High schools, where he developed a New York City-wide internship program. Claude has also directed grant writing activities at Youthline America for the OneVote initiative, which was designed to inspire high school seniors to become civically engaged in their communities, and to register and vote in all local and national elections. Claude has a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business from Baruch College, CUNY; and a Master of Arts in Modern Poetry from The City College, CUNY.

Delicia Gunn

Havtech, Inc

Bio: HAVTECH Delicia Gunn serves as Havtech, Inc.’s K-12 Vertical Market Leader. Her education includes a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University. Delicia began her career nearly 20 years ago with a consulting engineering firm based in Washington, DC. From there Delicia expanded her skills to include construction management, environmental and geotechnical engineering. In 2004, as president of a small engineering firm, Delicia acquired marketing and business development skills that she currently utilizes as Havtech’s vertical market leader to assist building owners with HVAC investment plans, direct purchasing, staff training and continuing education.

Giselle Pole

Thurgood Marshall Academy

Bio: Thurgood Marshall Academy PCS Giselle Pole is the Director of Development & Strategic Partnerships at Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School, where she manages the school’s fundraising and communications efforts. She has more than 10 years of nonprofit experience in various fundraising capacities with organizations including Washington National Cathedral, United Cerebral Palsy, and the Bishop John T Walker School for Boys, and currently serves as a board member with For Love of Children. Giselle received a B.A. in Communications from Elon University, and an M.P.A. with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from George Mason University.

Cherrelle Swain

Development, FOCUS

Bio: Fellow

Larry Jerome


Bio: KIPP DC Larry has been working at KIPP DC since August 2012, currently as the Data Architect. A native of Chicago, he decided he would make DC his home after a post-college internship on the Hill. While in graduate school at the University of Maryland Baltimore, Larry worked on a study investigating the factors affecting graduation of low-income and minority students in STEM majors. That experience inspired him to apply for a position as data specialist at KIPP DC. When he is not neck deep in data, Larry likes to try every new restaurant in DC, travel to exotic places, and watch the Cubs.

Christon Harris

Bio: Generation Schools Network Christon is a New York native who has spent the last decade endeavoring to bolster and enrich the lives of young, disadvantaged people of color in urban areas. His professional and personal efforts reinforce each other. His early experience designing curriculum aimed to help students succeed in college is useful in his current volunteer roles for two mentoring programs supporting young men of color: The Sankofa Project and the Bronx Brotherhood Project. In this capacity, he follows high school senior boys through their college graduation and beyond, helping them with topics from financial literacy to cultural competence and blackness. Before GSN, he ran a print and online magazine for six years and utilized this magazine writing and design expertise to teach high school students for two years. He then managed a college access and success program for first-generation college goers in New York City for five years. Christon was a lead unit facilitator for the Leadership Academy, Harlem Children’s Zone and has been a strong college success counselor. He was recently chosen as a Social Innovation Fellow for StartingBloc, a fellowship for burgeoning change agents and social entrepreneurs. Christon has a BS in Communication and a double minor in Business and Nutrition from Cornell University and a certificate in project management from Baruch.

Jack McCarthy

Board President, AppleTree Early Learning PCS

Joseph Khoury

VP of Preconstruction, MCN Build

Bio: MCN Build

Aaron Parrot

Bio: MySchool DC On staff from day one of the My School DC lottery managing the collection of applications, aggregation and analysis of data, and dissemination of demand reports to participating schools. Prepares and runs the My School DC lottery for over 20,000 applicants to DC Schools. Manages data controlled through the centralized waitlist management system connecting over 200 schools and over 35,000 applicants with real time offers and status updates. Manages the design and operation of the My School DC School Finder – our Geographic search tool that assists families with finding school options.

Abigail Smith

Bio: Abigail Smith has spent her entire career focused on improving quality, equity, and access in public education. She currently works as an independent consultant, supporting a range of education-focused organizations in advancing their missions through strategic planning, organizational development, and program design. Racial justice is a particular focus of her work, both professionally and personally. From 2012-14 Smith served as Deputy Mayor for Education in the District of Columbia. Under her leadership, the office of the Deputy Mayor launched a common application and lottery for charter and district public schools, undertook the first comprehensive revision of student assignment policies and school boundaries in over 40 years, opened the District's first Youth Re-Engagement Center, and oversaw the process for awarding former DCPS buildings to public charter schools. Smith previously served as the Chief of Transformation Management for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), overseeing a diverse portfolio during a time of significant positive change for the school district. She spent the first 12 years of her career with Teach For America, beginning as a first grade teacher in Weldon, North Carolina.

Alex Shawe

Bio: Turner Impact

Amanda Borden

Bio: EdFuel Amanda is a Partner at EdFuel. Amanda teamed up with Tatiana to incubate the DC School Leader Lab, partnering with DC charter schools to develop their leadership benches. Prior to EdFuel, Amanda was part of KIPP DC’s senior leadership team overseeing the Communications & Marketing, Talent and Data teams, partnerships, advocacy and strategic projects for the largest charter network in DC. Amanda came to KIPP DC from Success Academy Charter Schools in New York, a network of high-performing charter schools, where she was the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Instructional Development. Before moving to education reform, she worked in brand management, innovation, and strategy for Diageo. She started her career in strategy consulting and investment banking. Amanda graduated from Washington University, holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania and a Masters in Education Leadership from the Broad Residency in Urban Education.

Amber Nothern

Bio: Thomas B. Fordham Institute Amber Northern is senior vice president for research at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she supervises the Institute’s studies and research staff. She has published in the areas of educational accountability, principal leadership, teacher quality, and academic standards, among others. Prior to joining Fordham, she served as senior study director at Westat. In that role, she provided evaluation services for various federal, state, and local education agencies, as well as oversaw multiple research studies involving reading instruction, math and science partnerships, performance-based pay, and more. Her work and commentary has been featured in various print and broadcast media, including Fox News, HuffPost Live, NPR, National Review, and Education Next. Northern serves on the Board of Trustees for Somerset Prep, a charter school in Washington, D.C. She holds a Ph.D. in education policy and evaluation from the University of Virginia, and a M.S. in secondary education from Old Dominion University. She started her career as a high school teacher.

Amy Holland

Bio: Blackbaud K-12 Amy is a strategic thinker and business driver with over 25 years of experience including education technology, business development, marketing, fundraising, consulting, and thought leadership. Over the last 10 years, Amy has been instrumental in bringing education technology solutions to the charter school sector, many focused on enrollment best practices and financial health. She has also served as a Development Director, successfully leading fundraising campaigns and board strategic planning sessions. Amy is a recognized thought leader in the charter technology market, and has presented at numerous conferences, collaborated on white papers, and moderated panel discussions with charter leaders. She currently works on the Blackbaud K12 team, bringing industry leading solutions to the charter market.

Andrew Kirkland

Bio: City Arts + Prep PCS Andrew joined the charter school community four years ago as the Chief Operating Officer and now Acting Executive Director of City Arts & Prep Public Charter School. He joined the movement after dedicating over 15 years to Boys and Girls Clubs of America leading procurement, risk management, fleet & facilities, compliance, legal, professional development, internal communications, and Human resources. Andrew has worked across the United States and on Military installations abroad ensuring America's young people have access to quality education and out-of-school time programs.

Anna Walker

Bio: Nonprofit Management Consultant Anna Walker has over 25 years experience in nonprofit management, including grant writing, project development, program evaluation, and strategic planning. She has worked in executive leadership capacities and as a consultant for nonprofit organizations throughout the South and has served as the Grants Coordinator for City Arts & Prep Public Charter School in Washington, DC. She has been a frequent grant review panelist for the Humanities Council of Washington, DC and for the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and is a member of the Development Committee for Mosaic Theater, an organization providing socially relevant dramatic performances for the DC community. Anna obtained a master’s degree in public policy and program evaluation from Vanderbilt University. She is a member of the national Grants Professional Association (GPA), as well as the GPA National Capital Area Chapter where she serves as secretary on the Board of Directors. Anna has presented numerous grant writing workshops throughout the US, including the 2016 AmeriCorps All Member Conference through Serve DC of the Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism. Deeply infatuated with writing, Anna also engages in playwriting and crafting contemplative essays.

Brian Colon

Bio: BAIRD Brian Colon is Managing Director and Manager of Baird’s National Charter School Finance Group and has more than 30 years of experience in public finance. Brian has been at the forefront of structuring facility financings for charter schools since 2003. He has structured and completed over 150 charter school financings, providing over $2.8 billion in funding for charter school capital projects nationwide. These financings have been accomplished utilizing tax-exempt and taxable bond issues, New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC), Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs), and other long-term financing sources. As a national leader in charter school financing, Brian has considerable experience assessing a school’s/CMO’s financing needs and accessing a variety of financing sources to provide appropriate solutions. Additionally, Brian is a frequent presenter at various charter school conferences, providing on-going education regarding charter school financing strategies.

Battle Battle

Bio: Swell Fundraising Brooke is the founder of Swell Fundraising, a software solution for nonprofit organizations that helps manage and leverage fundraising events. She started Swell in 2012 after serving on several nonprofit boards and experiencing, first-hand, the hard work and opportunity presented by fundraising events. From the beginning, Brooke wanted to use technology to expand the reach of an event and developed the original “Smart Party” application. The original application connected online donors with real-time guests via peer to peer sharing and brought in hundreds of new donors to the nonprofit. The software application evolved significantly over the next year, a few more clients joined and in 2014 Brooke won funding from Alabama Launchpad. Swell currently serves nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. with a suite of applications that enable guests to reach friends and have fun raising funds while attending a fundraiser. Strategically, the company helps nonprofits raise more revenue but while acquiring new donors through the event.

Bryan Patten

Bio: EdOps Bryan Patten is Managing Director of EdOps. He has been involved with D.C. charters since 2004, when he served as a Board member and later as CFO of Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools. During his five-year tenure as CFO at Chavez, the school transitioned from a single campus to a CMO-structure and increased its enrollment five-fold while achieving financial surpluses and clean financial audits in all years. In 2009, Bryan co-founded EdOps, which has since grown to serve over 40 schools in D.C., Maryland, and Missouri. Bryan has a BA in Economics from Yale University and an MBA and Masters in Education from Stanford University.

Caroline Mwendwa-Baker

Bio: Two Rivers PCS Born in Ethiopia but originally from Tanzania, Caroline has lived in the United States for over 22 years. She came to the United States as a teenager and settled in the Metropolitan area. She attended George Washington University where she received her B.S. in Exercise Science. She then began volunteering at an inclusion school because of her love of working with children. She fell in love with education and pursued an educational degree. She earned her M.A. in Special Education from Catholic University of America and a M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University. Over the past 12 years, Caroline has worked as an inclusive educator, mentor teacher, instructional coach, and education consultant in the area of teacher training and development. Caroline is now the principal of Two Rivers' 4th Street elementary campus.

Carrie Irvin

Bio: Charter Board Partners CEO and Co-Founder of Charter Board Partners, Carrie Chimerine Irvin, has an extensive background in education policy and school reform, focusing on preK-12 education for economically disadvantaged students and communities. In 2013, Carrie delivered a TEDx talk about Charter Board Partners' innovative work to improve the quality of public education. In addition, CBP's work has been featured in Education Week, Education Next, The Washington Post, and NPR. Previously, Carrie was a consultant for Education Resource Strategies, a nonprofit that works with urban districts to help them redirect resources to improve student achievement; held a leadership position at New American Schools; held positions as a policy researcher and analyst at Policy Studies Associates, and taught eighth grade at the American School in Japan. Carrie is a Pahara-Aspen Institute Education Fellow, a prestigious and selective program designed to "strengthen and sustain diverse, high potential leaders who are reimagining public education.” She recently chaired the Board of Trustees of the National Child Research Center, a model preschool in Washington, DC. She holds a master's degree in education policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and a bachelor's degree from Brown University. Carrie lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and two daughters.

Colleen Paletta

Bio: Goodwill Excel Academy PCS Colleen Paletta serves as Goodwill of Greater Washington’s Vice President of Workforce Development. In this capacity, Colleen is responsible for the planning, management, and evaluation of all job training and employment programs which includes maintenance of Goodwill’s CARF accreditation, development of strategic partnerships and collaborations, and expansion of Goodwill’s training centers and campuses.Colleen brings over 10 years of education and non-profit experience to Goodwill. Before assuming leadership of the workforce development division in 2006, Colleen served as the Community Collaboration Coordinator of Goodwill’s affiliate WORC (Workforce Organizations for Regional Collaboration). Prior to her role at WORC, Colleen held a fellowship at Anacostia High School’s Law and Public Service Academy in Washington D.C. and served as a high school teacher and Director of Community Services at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, Illinois. Colleen holds a Masters in Public Administration from The George Washington University and a Bachelors in History, Theology, and Faith, Peace and Justice studies from Boston College.

Congressman Luke Messer

Bio: United States House of Representatives Luke Messer is the Congressman for Indiana's 6th Congressional District, a large 19-county region stretching from Delaware County at the top, to Jefferson and Switzerland Counties along the beautiful Ohio River. In 2012, Luke was elected the House Republican Policy Chair - the Conference's 5th ranking leadership position. He was recently re-elected to serve as Policy Chair in the 115th Congress. He also serves on the House Financial Services and House Education & Workforce committees where he works on issues ranging from K-12 education to banking reform. Luke also founded the Congressional School Choice Caucus, which now has 25 members. Prior to Congress, Luke Messer served as an Indiana State Legislator, led a not-for-profit as President and CEO, and gained business experience as a partner in two law firms. Luke graduated summa cum laude & Phi Beta Kappa from Wabash College and earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University where he served on the Law Review.

Debbie Lister

Bio: Charter Board Partners Senior Governance Consultant Debbie comes to Charter Board Partners with over two decades of experience in the nonprofit sector. She most recently served as the DC Director for Education Pioneers where she led the successful growth and implementation of transformative Education Pioneers Fellowship programs in the DC Metro area with school districts, charter schools, and nonprofits. Debbie was Senior Vice President of Partner Engagement at America's Promise Alliance and prior to that role, she was a Program Manager at the CityBridge Foundation. Debbie holds a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Florida and a master’s from American University. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer working on nonprofit development in Lithuania and was an active member of the board of Septima Clark Public Charter School in DC.

Dennis Baxter

Bio: Hawthorne Hemlock

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