Testimony of Saba Bireda at Confirmation Roundtable
Testimony of Saba Bireda
Nominee for DC Public Charter School Board
Committee on Education Roundtable
The Honorable David Grosso, Chairman
May 19, 2016
Good morning Chairman Grosso and members of the Committee on Education.
My name is Saba Bireda. It is an honor to be nominated by Mayor Muriel Bowser to serve on the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board. Thank you for considering my nomination today.
In 2002, I interviewed for a job as an English teacher at Sousa Middle School in Ward 7. As he offered me the job, the principal at the time, William Lipscomb, said “You will never forget your time here. You will never forget your students.” I am happy to say that Mr. Lipscomb was right.
My students at Sousa were intelligent, curious, and hard-working. But many of my students also faced daily challenges at school and at home that impeded their academic success. My time at Sousa set the career trajectory for the rest of my life and cemented my commitment to improving education for all students, particularly low-income students, in the District and across the nation.
Following my tenure at Sousa, where I received a commendation from the Ward 7 Education Council, I attended Harvard Law School. At Harvard, I dedicated my studies to understanding education law and policy, including the requirements of federal laws such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. I wrote my law school thesis on local policies regarding charter schools, specifically the potential for collaboration between charter and traditional public schools.
I have spent my legal career working to use education law and policy to increase opportunities for disadvantaged students. I have focused much of my work on ensuring schools are ready to serve all students, including students with disabilities, English language learners, and students involved with the juvenile justice system. My work has included developing federal, state, and local policies to support schools in decreasing their reliance on exclusionary discipline and increasing wraparound supports for students.
Outside of my professional work in the education field, I have also gained valuable volunteer experience as a member of the board of the American Youth Policy Forum, a non-profit research and policy organization in Washington. I also served as a mentor at Thurgood Marshall Public Charter High School in Ward 8 for three years. I volunteer with the Stanford University Alumni Association representing Stanford at college fairs in Washington and interviewing area high school students as part of the admissions process.
I now live in Ward 8 with my husband and young son. I appreciate being a part of this dynamic, diverse community that is home to several charter schools, including a new location for DC Prep across the street from our house. I share my neighbors’ desire to have increased access to educational options and look forward to the day when my son is old enough to attend one of the excellent public schools in our ward.
I am excited to serve on the DC Charter School Board because I believe deeply in the power of charters in the District to expand educational opportunities for all students and lead the way in developing innovative practices that can be replicated throughout our city. As you know, public charter school students now make up close to half of all District students and that the number of DC students enrolled in public charter schools continues to increase. This growth is undoubtedly attributed to the success of the DC charter sector in developing and sustaining many excellent educational programs and the sector’s emphasis on serving historically disadvantaged students.
I am eager to be part of a Board that is recognized across the nation for its focus on equity, transparency, and accountability. I believe my professional background and my passion for increasing educational opportunity will help to continue the excellent work of the Board. I would be honored to serve on the board and on behalf of DC students, including the Sousa Eighth Grade Class of 2004 who I have never forgotten.
Thank you, Chairman Grosso, and all the members of the Committee for the opportunity to testify today. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.