Public Service Spotlight
Chief of Staff for the Charter Schools Accountability and Support Team at NYC Department of Education
Tell us about your current public service work. Can you briefly describe your employment organization and position responsibilities, as well as any relevant volunteer or entrepreneurial activities?
I currently serve as Chief of Staff for the Charter Schools Accountability and Support Team in the NYC Department of Education. I manage several large projects on behalf of the Executive Director of our office, serve as point person for many internal offices and initiatives, manage the analytics team, and serve as thought partner to Executive Director. Our work focuses on charter schools, and at a high level, we are working to structurally change the NYC DOE portfolio of schools by adding more charter schools, hold them accountable and provide operational support.
I also serve on the advisory board for Velo City, a small nonprofit project that is currently fiscally sponsored by Vera Institute of Justice. Velo City engages youth from underserved communities in the fields of planning and design through cycling (two of the co-founders are Wagner alumni).
Please summarize your professional and academic background. What has been a highlight?
I studied Marketing and Spanish at the University of Maryland, after which I joined Teach For America and taught 4th and 5th grades in the Bronx for two years. Wanting to understand large systems and how policy is made, I went to NYU Wagner where I studied MPA-PNP Policy Analysis and was able to take many electives that looked at education policy issues. While at Wagner, I interned with Council Member Robert Jackson who chairs the Education Committee of the New York City Council. I also evaluated after school programs with The After School Corporation and taught education policy issues to high school students in a leadership program at the Coro New York Leadership Center. After Wagner, I went back to the Department of Education (DOE) serving as Special Assistant for two years and became more and more interested in charter schools and their place in education reform. I worked as the founding Operations Manager for the first KIPP elementary school in the city-KIPP Academy Elementary. After two years there, I wondered again how to broaden my impact and saw operations work at the district level as a way to do that. I joined the DOE for a third time as Director of Operations, and was recently transitioned to serve as the Chief of Staff for the Charter Schools Accountability and Support office.
What led you to pursue a master's degree in Public Administration? Why did you decide to study at Wagner?
My two years teaching was a transformational time in my life; I struggled immensely. In addition to my frustration with myself and my level of preparation, I felt incredibly frustrated about understanding how decisions were made in or out of my school, decisions impacting everything from the daily schedule to special education for my kids. I saw many things that I wanted to change but didn't know where to start. After reading about public administration, I thought that this would be the right field. I looked at many masters programs but chose to come to Wagner because I wanted the New York focus and because I contrasted it against many Education Leadership or Education-focused programs and didn't want a skill set that would limit me to education or to just meeting other ""education people."" Education is impacted by so many other issues - poverty, housing, and health (just to name a few) and I wanted to make sure I had opportunities to learn about these formally as well as through meeting people who felt passionate about those issues.
In your current position, how do you use the knowledge and skills that you gained at Wagner? Which skills do you use most frequently?
In my current work, I use the policy analysis skills often. In our work, we are always thinking about new initiatives or change we want to drive. Policy analysis taught me to look at my own proposals and others' through a different lens, to try to predict questions and issues from each stakeholder’s perspective and this helps prepare us with the proposal development and communication strategy. I also use statistics in the sense that there are always studies coming out about charter schools. I need to know how to read these and be a critical consumer and know how I would respond and what other studies I can push advocates to look into.
Reflecting on your academic experience, what Wagner courses, professors, and / or projects had the greatest influence on your professional development? How?
I really enjoyed Education Policy, Economics of Education, Intro to Public Policy. These classes really forced me to look at the many issues in education and develop my own thoughts and ideas in a systematic and thoughtful way, taking my own experiences and published work into account. Outside of professors, courses and projects, I must say that I was a regular at the Office of Career Services and the entire team there had a huge hand in me learning about and successfully landing internships throughout my time at Wagner.
Reflecting on your time outside of the classroom (social events, orientations, trainings, etc.), can you describe one or two key moments at Wagner that impacted your passion for public service?
One moment that sticks out to me was from orientation. We were in a very large group and it was highlighted that a fellow incoming student had already started an international nonprofit organization. I remember feeling very intimidated that someone potentially my same age or younger had had such a huge impact already. This was the first time I felt this way, but certainly not the last! Since Wagner, I have met people my age and younger that have led large divisions, started schools, non-profits, and businesses. Over the course of my two years at Wagner, I learned what my skill set and role can be and this helped me resolve the feeling of intimidation. I may not be the person to have a big new idea, but my skill set is thinking through a big idea and making it operational, making it actually work on the ground. Understanding my strength helps me see how I can partner with amazing people who have big ideas to have a big impact, and not compare myself to them in an unproductive way.
Are there any programs, opportunities or other aspects of the Wagner experience that you wish you had leveraged during your time as a student?
I do wish that I had taken more courses that were offered at Stern that might have helped with some of the financial analysis work that I do now.
How are you involved with the Wagner community as an alumna (i.e. attending events, mentoring students, maintaining connections with other alumni, recruiting at Wagner, etc.)?
As an alumna, I try to attend any education-related events put on by the school or WEPSA, including fundraisers. I keep in touch with many other students that I met while in schools, especially in the education field.
Prospective students have expressed interest in learning how alumni funded their living expenses and education during their time as a Wagner student. If you feel comfortable, would you please tell us how you made it work?
I made it work by 1- getting comfortable with student loans and understanding how this was truly an investment in me and 2- working two part-time internships per semester throughout the 2 years, and full time during the summers. I often rotated my part time work (as often as each semester) so that I could get a sense of different roles and organizations.