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Charter Board Partners

Andrea Sparks Brown: Opportunity to Have an Impact

November 08, 2018 | by David Connerty-Marin

Andrea Sparks Brown has 28 years of experience as an educator. She’s been a principal, assistant principal, science teacher, and educational consultant. She’s worked in rural, urban, and suburban schools.

Until recently, she hadn’t done much with public charter schools, and she decided to learn more. Through the Charter Board Partners process and a connection with a current board member, she was interviewed and invited to join the board at Washington Leadership Academy. Soon after, she attended CBP’s Governance Academy.

“I was always interested in how the charter school system worked,” she says. “Being on a board really gives you an opportunity to have impact on how students are going to do in the future. I didn’t realize until today just how much responsibility a board has because I’ve always worked in a traditional public school setting.” In that setting, she says, the policy and accountability come from afar, and are filtered, or “buffered,” through the principal or superintendent.

“A charter school board looks directly at everything and says: ‘I need accountability. I need to understand why you’re doing those things,’ ” she says. “If you have a passion for that, this is a great opportunity for someone to go in and to have an impact on what’s happening with children in the city.”

Even with her years of experience in schools in DC and elsewhere, Andrea was surprised by what she learned about educational inequity in the District during the Governance Academy presentation by Carrie Irvin, CBP’s CEO and Co-Founder. She says: “I went to school at Howard, in one part of the city. When you look at the information and data about wards 7 and 8, the vast differences...it concerns me. I was surprised to hear it was such a drastic difference from one side of the city to another.”

She echoes CBP’s mantra about “asking questions” when describing her first few meetings on her new board: “In looking at programs that come before the board or that the school is interested in, I’m looking at how things truly impact the kids and how it’s going to benefit them. Every time we’ve had to vote on something, they all look at me and laugh because that’s (always) my first question: ‘How are you assessing this? What is the expectation and how will this cost support the advancement of your students? What’s the goal of using this particular program? Why are we going in this direction?’ How is this helping students and how is this going to be something you can maintain long term? Those kinds of critical questions help boards really have an impact on the quality of education in the school.

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