Dear Shepherd Families,
Welcome to school year 2019-20! I am so excited to serve as the Interim Principal at Shepherd and am grateful to the families and community members whom I have already met for their warm welcome and invaluable assistance this summer. For the last five years, I served as the Chief Academic Officer at E.L. Haynes PCS. Prior to that, I worked as teacher educator and curriculum developer for Urban Teacher and Capital Teachers Residency programs. Over the course of my career, I have taught fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth, eleventh and twelfth grades and worked as an elementary, middle and high school principal. I trained to be a principal at Francis Junior High School and earned my M.A. and Ed.D at The George Washington University. I am thrilled to be back in a traditional public school system. All three of my children attended DCPS schools.
Throughout my career, increasing equity and building connections among students, their families and school have motivated my work. When I started my career, tracking dominated schools, particularly at the secondary level. Students in different tracks had distinctly different educational experiences with students in the “lower” tracks receiving less or zero access to the high status material that would provide them success in college and beyond. I requested schedules that allowed me to teach the “highest” and “lowest” tracks in a large high school, and I taught them the same content.
When I moved to a junior high school in our district, I recommended all of my 8th graders for the college preparatory track. I knew what they were facing in the high school. The “college prep” track was theirs to lose, and I did not want a single one of them to feel like they were not capable of doing the work. I did not want anyone to look at them as kids who could not go to college and should not even try.
For me then and now, the onus was on the adults in the building to structure students’ success, not their failure, to believe that all students can learn and that it was their responsibility to ensure that they did. Tracking and other adult-made structures limit opportunities that should be boundless because of school, not in spite of it.
When I was in my Master’s program, I worked with a group to design a school that was grounded in the findings from JAMA’s National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. We focused on the key finding that adolescents were less likely to engage in risk behaviors if they felt a connection to a family member; in the absence of a family member, students could feel connected to school. Our group strove to build a school with which students could connect — through caring relationships with adults and one another, meaningful learning activities and extracurricular activities that helped them discover their talents and passions. I continued this work in practice through professional development with Flamboyan and the Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University. All of my experience as an educator and parent has taught me that families are a school’s best partners.
When I consider the priorities for Shepherd this year, I want students to feel like they can do anything, that we expect the best from them as a matter of course, and that they and their community are reflected in their work. I want students to take chances, to support one another, to want to come to school and have fun while they are here. I hope we all have the best year yet. I feel so fortunate to be able to work in such a special community in the District and believe that there is nothing that we can’t do on behalf of our students. Please know that my door is open, and I welcome your input and feedback.
We have some very talented additions to our community. Please see the staff updates below to learn more about our new staff. For the past month, Mrs. Rottman, our new Assistant Principal, has been preparing for the opening of school with me. She comes to us from Janney Elementary School where she worked as the Instructional Coach for Mathematics. You will have the opportunity to meet her before the start of school at either play date or Beautification Day.
In addition to new staff, please note that Mrs. Harvey graciously agreed to join the 4th grade team, and Mrs. Zepeda will move from 4th grade to ELL.
Social Emotional Learning
Our student achievement data is outstanding. I am so impressed with the number of students who are above grade level in our community. What a strong foundation for the coming year!
As one of its strategic priorities, DCPS is committed to educating the whole child and providing rigorous, joyful and inclusive academic and social emotional learning experiences to ensure that all students are college and career ready. During meetings with various staff members this summer and through the hiring process, we discovered that there are a number of teachers trained in Responsive Classroom. Responsive Classroom is a student-centered, social and emotional learning approach to teaching and discipline. It is comprised of a set of research, and evidence-based practices designed to create safe, joyful, and engaging classroom and school communities for both students and teachers. To learn more, please visit: https://www.responsiveclassroom.org.
During school year 2019-20, we will implement a Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting and Closing Circle in Grades PK-5. The PTA has graciously purchased Morning Meetings for our homeroom teachers. We will also be holding monthly All School Meetings on Friday mornings. Please join us in the Multipurpose Room for the first one on Friday, September 13th!
Although construction on the new gymnasium was supposed to have started in June, groundbreaking is now scheduled for September 6th. On August 1, DPR and DGS hosted a community meeting at Shepherd, and Mrs. Rottman and I were in attendance. The project will provide Shepherd with a new gymnasium, kitchen and cafeteria. It will also provide easier access to the field and its adjacent playground.
The community asked DPR and DGS sensible questions about security, safety and conditions during construction. The portion of the playground currently unused by the parking lot will be cleared, and temporary basketball hoops will be installed.
Currently, we have exclusive access to the DPR field and playground during the school day until 3:30 when its use will be “unpermitted.” DCPS, parents and I feel this is an untenable situation for Star Achievers and are insisting the exclusive use be extended to 6:00pm. You will hear more updates from me as this project progresses.
Our arrival and dismissal procedures will be altered because of the construction — parents will have to enter the building through the main entrance for arrival and dismissal. The sidewalk on the north side of Jonquil (the side closest to the school) will be closed.
In addition, we are revising our emergency procedures. Carlton Gerald, Program Specialist/Emergency Planning & Guidance will be at Shepherd this week providing guidance to Mrs. Rottman and me.
For the past six weeks, our custodial crew has been deep cleaning and decluttering our building. For sanitary reasons, we are limiting the areas where food may be consumed at school. This year, PK3 and PK4 will have their own lunchroom on the first floor; they can also use that room for parties and special events. Upper grades will continue to use the cafeteria for lunch and the room adjacent to the cafeteria for parties and special events. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Mr. Mack, Ms. Scott and Mrs. Rottman worked diligently on the class schedule to create a simpler rotation with a more condensed lunch and recess window so students are not eating as early or as late as they had been in the past. Mrs. Rottman is creating a calendar that will be posted on the PTA website for each grade to indicate when and what special your student is experiencing on which days.
You will receive an email with your student’s class assignment/teacher by Friday, August 16th.
We are in the process of revising our Family Handbook. It will be posted on the Shepherd PTA website by Friday, August 16th. Paper copies will also be available in the Main Office.
Shepherd Elementary is a uniform school. Students are expected to wear every day to school:
A Shepherd Elementary spirit t-shirt OR a white shirt (no logo or decoration) and
Navy blue bottoms
You are free to buy uniform clothing at any store you choose. The PTA will be selling Shepherd Elementary Spirit t-shirts at play dates on 8/11 and 8/22 and the first day of school.
The supply list can be found soon at the PTA website: https://www.shepherd-elementary.org/parents/parent-teacher-association-pta/
The entrance to the school building opens at 8:20 am.
All students enter the building through the Main Entrance at 14th and Kalmia Streets.
Parents will walk Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students to their classrooms.
1st-3rd grade students report to the multi-purpose room.
4th-5th grade students report to the lower field at the gate on Kalmia Street NW where staff will be there to supervise them starting at 8:20. Students arriving before 8:20 am must have a parent or guardian with them.
Teachers begin picking up students at 8:35 a.m. in order for instruction to begin by 8:45 am.
Students are late after 8:45 am.
The doors to the building open at 3:15 pm for dismissal.
Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students are picked up from their classrooms.
First through fifth grade students who walk home or are picked up in the school by someone will be dismissed from the multi-purpose room.
Carpool students are released from the 14th Street entrance.
Students enrolled in Star Achievers After care program are picked up from their classroom for grades PK-2 by after school staff. 3rd-5th graders will report to the cafeteria for after school.
Students must have all of their books and belongings, as they will not be allowed to return to the building (or classrooms) following dismissal.
Students who have not been picked up by 3:25 pm will be taken to the main office.
Star Achievers Before and After Care Program
Online registration for our before and after care program has already started! Please register at sesstarachievers.com. Programs for K-5 begin on Monday, August 26th — our first day of school. PK 3 and PK 4 after care programs begin on Thursday, August 29th. Please note that the first day of school for PK students is Thursday, August 29th.
Please understand that for safety reasons all students must either report to our Star Achievers after care program or leave the building at 3:15 pm, the end of our school day. It is our responsibility to ensure that students are properly supervised, and school supervision ends at 3:15 pm. Star Achievers does have a drop in rate of $40/per day if a commitment arises and you cannot arrive on time to pick up your child. Children cannot wait in the atrium for late pick up. Thank you for your cooperation on this important safety issue.
Other Important Announcements
To sign up to receive our weekly PTA bulletin, visit the Shepherd school website and click on the A to Z Connect link to register. The PTA sends out a weekly PTA Bulletin email and the School Admin team sends out a weekly Mustang email.
Make sure to “like” our Facebook page — Shepherd Elementary School DC — to receive notification of events, updates and reminders.
Don’t forget to sign up for DCPS emails. If you do not receive communication from the Principal or child’s teacher, please see Ms. Brooks to confirm that information is correct in DCPS Shepherd student/parent database.
Sunday, 8/11 Play date/lower playground 10:00 am-noon
Thursday, 8/22 Open House/Play date — Shepherd 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
Saturday, 8/24 Beautification Day/School Supply Drive 9:00am-12:00pm
Wednesday, 9/11 Back to School Night 6:00-8:00 pm
Friday, 9/13 All School Meeting 8:45 am
Wednesday, 9/18 First PTA Meeting 6:30 pm
Dr. Persephone Brown, School Psychologist
Dr. Brown has been working in DC public schools since 2009, and she has also taught third grade. Dr. Brown earned her B.S. and her Ph.D. from Howard University and has extensive training in Response to Intervention, Restorative Practices and Social-Emotional Learning. She is excited to work with Shepherd students, teachers and families.
Margie Edwards-Haygood, Kindergarten
Ms. Edwards-Haygood is entering her ninth year as an elementary school teacher. Most recently, she taught 2nd grade and PK at the Langley School in McLean, Virginia. Ms. Edwards-Haygood has a B.A. from the University of Louisville and a M.A. in Elementary Education from Bellarmine University. She has served in the United States Army Reserves.
Juan Carlos Hernandez, Spanish
Mr. Hernandez comes to Shepherd from Centro Colombo Americano in Cartagena, Columbia here he worked as an ESL teacher. Mr. Hernandez is entering his ninth year of teaching and holds a B.A. from Nova Southeastern University and a Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language from Universidad Internacional Iberoamericana. He is an accomplished musician and songwriter and is excited to use music to teach Spanish to Shepherd students.
Joseph Irvin, Custodian
Mr. Irvin trained to be a custodian through a program offered through DCPS. Prior to joining the Shepherd community, he worked at Starbucks in a managerial role.
Neshawn Lesesne, Business Manager
Ms. Lesesne started with DCPS in January 2019 as Manager of Strategy & Logistics at C.W. Harris Elementary School. Prior to that, she was a Financial Advisor at Capital One Bank for three years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management fro Bowie State University and is looking forward to working with the Shepherd community
Anna Maria Pereira, Music
Ms. Pereira is entering her sixth year of teaching and comes to us from Montgomery County where she has worked in public and parochial schools. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Catholic University and is excited to coordinate student performances this year.
Pache Rogers, SPED
Jamila Romero, 4th grade
Ms. Romero has taught within DC Public Schools for over ten years. As a Highly Effective Teacher, LEAP Leader, and Rubenstein Award Recipient, her goal is to utilize her educational experiences to effectively lead the 4th-grade math students to academic and socio-emotional success while enabling them to become the future leaders of tomorrow. She is a native of Southern California and has obtained undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Southern California, a Master’s in Elementary Education from George Mason University as well as a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from George Washington University.
Larin Rottman, Assistant Principal
Previously, Mrs. Rottman served as the Mathematics Instructional Coach at Janney Elementary School and the Early Childhood Instructional Coach at John Eaton Elementary School. For eleven years, she taught elementary school grade levels in McKinney, Texas, KIPP DC, and District of Columbia Public Schools. Larin earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Oklahoma and her Master’s Degree in Public School Building Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Zuri Saxton, 1st grade
Ms. Saxton will gradate from John Hopkins with a M.S. in Early Childhood Education and Special Education in May, 2020; her undergraduate degree from Temple University is in in Early Education. Her teaching residency was in kindergarten at Takoma Park Elementary School, and she has experience in kindergarten, 2nd and 4th grades in Philadelphia public schools.
Tanganyika Smith, Pre-Kindergarten Paraprofessional
Ms. Smith is entering her twelfth year in early childhood education. Before joining our staff, Ms. Smith was a Lead Teacher at the First Baptist Church of Clarendon. Prior to that role, she served as the Lead Teacher at Happy Home Learning Center. She has an A.A. in Early Childhood Education from the University of the District of Columbia.
Dr. Angela Stephens, Special Education/LEA Representative
Dr. Angela Stephens is embarking on her 22nd year in DCPS with continued love and admiration for the children and the teaching and learning processes. She has worked in the settings of elementary, middle and high school in the capacities of General Education Teacher, Special Education Teacher, Instructional Coach and Special Education Coordinator.
Sabria Trotter, Kindergarten
Ms. Trotter earned her teaching certification through the Center for Inspired Teaching. Her teaching residency was at Capital City Public Charter School where she served as a PK and 1st grade teacher. Before studying to become a teacher, Ms. Trotter worked as a PK-K Literacy Tutor for The Literacy Lab and as a Research Assistant at the Carnegie Melon University Infant Language and Learning Lab. She earned her B.A. at Carnegie Mellon University.
Krista White, Pre-Kindergarten Paraprofessional
A graduate of Shepherd Elementary, Ms. White currently lives in Shepherd Park. She is an active community member who has volunteered extensively with the Girl Scouts of America and Jack & Jill of America. She formerly worked at Elimu Learning Center.
Whew! Thank you for bearing with me and braving it through that long opening correspondence. Please know that I am happy to discuss any and all of the information that I have provided. I know we will have a great year. The commitment, talent, intelligence and experience of our faculty are beyond compare. I am really looking forward to working with you on behalf of our students. They will be at the center of all of our work together, and I can’t wait to greet all of you on the 26th. Please enjoy these remaining weeks of summer, and I will see you soon.