Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania I attended my neighborhood elementary and middle schools. However, when I got to high school, my mother did not want me to attend the high school in my jurisdiction. Because school choice did not exist at the time, my mother used my grandmother’s address to enroll me in a school with a better reputation. I guess that was my first exposure to the idea of school choice.
When it came time to enroll my daughter in school, I became aware of the choice movement here in DC. At the time, I was working for a non-profit organization that supported charter schools and was placed at Friendship’s Woodridge campus as a mental health specialist. I was very impressed with the vision, mission, and instruction at Woodridge, so at age three I enrolled my daughter there… And she’s been in a Friendship school ever since.
I became an advocate quite by accident, I think. As both a Friendship school leader and a Friendship parent, I was uniquely positioned to listen to both parents and staff members about their concerns. When I joined Friendship’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC), I realized that I was hearing the same concerns shared by my colleagues about student academic success, behaviors, and more. Wanting to get more involved, I offered to start facilitating trainings on those topics for the parents at my school. Encouraged by the informational power parents were starting to exhibit, I was then asked to offer these trainings to other parents in Friendship’s school network – and the rest is history.
In the last 13 years, I’ve been the PAC President and PAC Secretary, a member of Friendship’s district PAC, the parent representative to Friendship’s Board of Trustees, the Ward 8 representative for My School DC’s Parent Advisory Council, and a member of PAVE’s Ward 8 Parent Leaders in Education (PLE) Board. My involvement in these organizations has led me to learn how to best encourage and support parent voice in my school, the schools of my friends’ children, and schools across the city.
Not all policymakers and city leaders have a parent’s real “boots on the ground” type of experience in their day to day world, and therefore, what looks good on paper, doesn’t always translate into good practice. It’s urgent that school leaders and city leaders not just hear us as parents, but LISTEN to us. We have something to say and only WE know the change we want to see in this world for our children.
By Anise Walker, Ward 8 PAVE PLE Board Member