I was afforded the opportunity by D.C. Public Schools to recruit and select a talented team of educators and support staff. Our teachers are experts in their content and extremely hard workers who leave work long after the school day ends. They tutor during after-school Power Hour; they sponsor clubs and coach sports; and they collaborate with one another to analyze data and improve their practice. Our faculty lounges are places of laughter and collegiality. Our administrative team prides itself on open and honest communication, and all staff members have a voice in the school community. My answer is focusing on the adults in the building, because we determine the learning environment of the campus. Our students see that “we do too much” — a D.C. saying that we’ve appropriated into a compliment — and they follow suit.
How are partnerships with organizations such as Companies for Causes impacting your school and students? What other community partnerships does Eastern have? How can members of the YEP-DC community get involved?
Eastern has been truly strengthened by the diverse organizations and individuals who have afforded our students with opportunities that stretch beyond the classroom. Just this summer, Companies for Causes hosted “Easternships” at their local businesses, where students learned valuable lessons around workplace expectations and professionalism. Another esteemed partner, BuildON, provided six of our rising juniors with the experience of a lifetime: a trek to Malawi to build a school in a village that needed one.
These two organizations are extremely generous supporters, but there is opportunity to support Eastern in much smaller ways as well. You can volunteer to tutor during our Power Hour; you can donate through our website; or you can spread the good word about the pride of Capitol Hill by “liking” us on Facebook and sharing our stories. Please contact our coordinator of school affairs at emma(dot)osore(at)dc(dot)gov to get involved.
Eastern has recently been completely renovated, resulting in a beautiful campus with lots of resources for students. What are some of the most exciting resources in your building, and how have students been able to benefit from them?
Students love the greenhouse and garden; they have revitalized that space through generous grants and partnerships. They also spend hours upon hours in our band room, which contribute to the magnificence of the Blue and White Marching Machine. Our EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] Room contains an ambulance where students train for EMT certification in their senior year through the Health and Medical Sciences Academy. Alumni particularly enjoy our Hall of Fame room, where trophies and publications are showcased, some of which are more than 70 years old.
With so many charter schools in the D.C. education landscape, what has your experience been as the leader and reformer of a large public high school? How do you navigate a competitive climate with so many options and still maintain enrollment at your school?
My experience has been that families are a school’s most important champions. Parents speak to one another about whether they are happy with the education that their children are receiving. Our PTSA [Parent-Teacher-Student Association] is awesome, and they openly share their kudos and concerns. Responsiveness and availability ensure that families continue to seek the Eastern community as their high school choice. We are also thrilled to have been authorized as an International Baccalaureate World School (the only comprehensive high school in DCPS with this distinction), as it is a testament to the rigorous college preparatory studies that we are providing to our scholars.
On a personal note, what was it like to transition not only to a new community but also from a central office position to a principalship? What were some of the challenges you faced?
I was a principal in Boston Public Schools before I moved to their central office as chief of staff, so returning to a school setting is honestly a homecoming for me. The biggest challenge that I have faced in D.C. has been my greatest joy: re-launching Eastern with just a ninth grade and adding a grade each year. It creates a constant feeling of building a plane as you’re flying it, but that feeling is truly exhilarating.
Amanda Klein works for an education nonprofit. Her Q&As with local education leaders are a regular Recess feature. Send your suggestions for future interviews to amandalklein(at)gmail(dot)com.