Serenity Rain Testimony – DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing – February 26, 2019

Serenity Rain

Ward 7 Resident

Parent and LSAT Chair, Anne Beers Elementary School

Testimony on the DC Council Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education

Performance Hearing on the District of Columbia Public Schools

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500


Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Serenity Rain, and I am a parent at Anne Beers Elementary with kids in Pre-K 3, Kindergarten and 3rd grade. I am here today to speak in support of the FoodPrints program as a parent, teacher, LSAT chair, community advocate, and trained social worker.

Two years ago, I began as the community advocate for the Beers Farm Share program and a Foodprints assistant teacher. The FoodPrints program was so compelling to me that last year, I left my job to begin a position as the Lead FoodPrints teacher at Anne Beers.

From my perspective as a parent, Anne Beers students are learning critical thinking, problem solving, team building and essential life skills in FoodPrints. This whole-child approach to education is very important to me and one of main reasons why I choose Anne Beers for my children.

From my perspective as a teacher, I’ve witnessed the impact FoodPrints has on the entire school. Everyone at Beers from the Principal to the Custodial Staff loves FoodPrints and are always eager to see what we are cooking next. We’ve got the whole school loving Kale and saying “Kale Yeah!” and being open to trying new healthy foods. Foodprints is the highlight of everyone’s of the day, and I feel like a celebrity when I push my cooking cart through the school.

From my social worker perspective, FoodPrints is healing. This is especially important at schools in which so many students are impacted by trauma, challenging childhoods, mental, physical and learning disabilities.

I’ve seen how a student experiencing stress is relaxed by digging in the soil, watering a plant, cutting vegetables, or grinding wheat berries into flour. And how students are excited they created something delicious and nutritious together! Just by participating in FoodPrints, children feel a sense of belonging, teamwork, and that they matter.

From my perspective as a community health advocate, FoodPrints and our farm share grants our school community access to fresh produce and healthy eating in a place known as a “food desert” with high rates of obesity and diabetes. Seeing students come to school eating honey buns and donuts for breakfast and having a packed lunch of processed foods and snacks is disheartening. Students are excited to try new healthy foods in FoodPrints because they are part of the process to harvest and cook the food.

Though Foodprints is amazing at our school, we face funding limitations. Currently only students preschool through 1st grade gets the full Foodprints experience. Upper grades participate on a very limited basis and students and teachers – and parents – continually ask if they will be able to participate more frequently. Limited funding is constantly looming over us and it’s a fear year to year whether or not we will be able to continue our FoodPrints program. We hope the city can invest in this program so that all our students can benefit. There is so much research out there that proves that a model like this works, and our students deserves the best we can give them!

Jennifer Mampara Testimony – DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing – February 26, 2019

Jennifer Mampara

FRESHFARM FoodPrints Program Director

Testimony on the DC Council Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education

Performance Hearing on the District of Columbia Public Schools

February 26, 2019

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500

Thank you to the Committee for holding this hearing and listening to community voices on our DC public schools.

I am Jennifer Mampara, the Director of Education at FRESHFARM and manager of the FoodPrints program. We currently partner with 13 DCPS elementary schools across the city to provide regular hands-on food, gardening, and nutrition classes throughout the school year. We have developed curriculum that is aligned with local and national science, math, ELA and health standards, as well as with the DCPS curricular scope and sequence at each grade level and local Environmental Literacy goals.

I am here today to share with the Committee our successes in our long-term partnership with DCPS that helps meet academic goals and the requirements of the DC Healthy Schools Act; provides opportunities for exciting, hands-on learning; and models new ways to engage with academic content for teachers. This has been an incredibly productive and successful partnership that began in 2009 and has resulted in FoodPrints programming that currently serves more than 4,500 DCPS students, 66% of whom are economically disadvantaged. We are reaching about 20% of the DCPS elementary school population at this time, and an additional 18 DC public schools have reached out to us requesting programming for their school communities.

This partnership has also resulted in DCPS school administrators, teachers, parents and students that express tremendous interest in sustained, academically integrated food, nutrition and environmental education at their schools. Year after year, many of our partner school principals choose to direct discretionary funds in their school budgets to contribute to the cost of FoodPrints programming for their schools. Year after year, parent teacher associations dedicate a significant portion of the funds they raise to make this programming possible.

An additional result is a unique and exciting collaboration with the DCPS school meals program in which recipes that students have been studying, cooking and eating during their FoodPrints sessions are prepared from scratch with the support of a chef coach once a week and served in our partner school cafeterias. This project began when the DCPS Food and Nutrition Services Director (Mr. Rob Jaber) noticed that when asking students what they would like to have more of in their school lunches, there were a few outlying schools with students requesting kale salad and apple beet salad instead of pizza and hamburgers. These outliers were students at FoodPrints schools, and since then, Mr. Jaber has been unwavering in his support for sustaining and growing the program.

In order to measure and communicate this success, we partner with researchers at George Mason University and Columbia University. Last spring, one of our evaluators, Dr. Katie Kerstetter, surveyed 150 DCPS administrators and teachers about the value FoodPrints programming brings to their schools and students.

The majority of respondents said that FoodPrints programming is “very important” or “important” (a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale) in providing:

  • Academic Support
  • Family Engagement
  • Nutrition Education and School Gardens Engagement
  • Social and Emotional Learning

This is some of the feedback we have received from classroom teachers:

“FoodPrints allows my students to access our unit themes in new ways. It allows my students to see how our ELA and Math units align to real-life situations.” – Teacher, Tyler

“FoodPrints is designed to  allow students to revisit the concepts and topics from class and to see them from a different perspective.” – Teacher, Francis Stevens

“Families who don’t usually participate are given an opportunity to engage in FoodPrints and feel a part of the community,” – Teacher, Marie Reed

“Many of my students have tried and enjoyed foods they didn’t try before and/or thought they didn’t like previously… FoodPrints perfectly fits early childhood education as it’s all about trying new things and investigating possibilities.” – Teacher, Francis Stevens

“[Through FoodPrints,] students learn to have more independence and how to hold themselves accountable.” – Teacher, Kimball  

“[Through FoodPrints, students are] working collaboratively and working out a plan.” – Teacher, Tyler

“Taking risks and trying new things.” – Teacher, Peabody

“Building the self-confidence to try new things in a safe environment.” – Teacher, School Within School

This is some of the feedback from school principals:

“Our students and families really feel this is an integrated approach to learn about healthy food and nutrition, where food comes from, and how to grow your own food.” 

“It’s critical that this kind of program gets into schools across the city, regardless of the economic status of their neighborhood, and that it is sustained.“  

“{FoodPrints supports] negotiating peer relationships in managing the kitchen, the tools and the garden”

This is some of the feedback from parents:

“FoodPrints has helped create the collaborative, creative environment that fosters growth, curiosity and learning, and it is part of the reason that we continue to be such happy members of our school family.”

“FoodPrints has transformed my daughter’s perception of food and living organisms. As a volunteer, I had a wonderful experience learning to make healthy meals for my family. I can’t wait to participate again!”

“If DC can do one easy, tangible thing to foster a healthy community, supporting this program is it. It requires so little and it teaches so much. I feel incredibly fortunate that my children are getting a great early foundation in healthy living through it. I hope you not only continue to support this program, but commit to robustly expanding FoodPrints so every DC child has access to it. “

At at time when over 30 percent of our youth aged 17-24 are ineligible for military service due to obesity, and 1 in 3 children born today will develop diabetes, food education at an early age is critical. I thank DC Public Schools for supporting the long-running partnership between schools and the FRESHFARM FoodPrints program, and I encourage the Council to recognize the importance of this partnership as a strength of DCPS that deserves ongoing financial support from the city.


CHPSPO Meeting Notes – December 2018 and January 2019

Miner Elementary School – 601 15th Street, NE

January 15, 2019 – 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.


  1. 2019 Performance Oversight and Budget Hearings, Laura Marks and Anne Phelps
  • Budget Presentation. See presentation.
  • Important to make priorities heard by Mayor before it is transmitted to Council (March 20), as agencies are formulating their budget now. Citizen priorities are captured in decisions.
    • Email Jenny Reed (Director, Office of Budget & Performance) , John Falcicchio (Mayor’s Chief of Staff), (see more on slide 19).
    • Look up Mayor’s schedule (
    • Only chairman has scope to re-fund/fund priorities. Typically, this cannot be done at committee level (committees develop recs).
    • Attend hearings:
    • Education-related committee changes:
      • Grosso is chair; Mendelson somewhat co-chairing. Possibly joint hearings for performance and budget – Education; DCPS, DME, OSSE, Library
    • DGS now under Robert White
  • Timing
    • Once Mayor’s budget is transmitted to Council, it will be published on (circa March 20)
    • DCPS has slightly different budget timeline; Council does not engage in school-level budget recommendations on Operating budget. However, Council has some discretion on Capital Budget. (See slide 13)
  • Highlights
    • Of 14.6B, 8B are used locally; education is second largest allocation (18.2%),
    • Of 1.67B Capital budget, DCPS 20.9%
    • DC Public Library – many opportunities for collaboration w/ DCPS, and libraries need adequate budget support
  • Requests:

2. FoodPrints Funding, Jennifer Mampara

  • In 13 schools in all wards but ward 3. In Ward 6: Watkins, Peabody, LT, SWS, Tyler –
  • Funded by OSSE, PTAs, Federal Grants, Private Donors, Indiv School Budgets through contract by DCPS Office of School Nutrition Svcs
  • At the end of the school year, DCPS contract funds will run out, OSSE grants are for kickstarting (not ongoing) programs
  • Requesting from DC Gov, fund existing programs,
  • Letters to Mayor, DME, DCPS advocating for food education programming in schools. High demand
  • Language to include in testimony. See language.

3. Technology Advocacy, Grace Hu

4. Wilson Building Visits, Danica Petroshius

  • Early to mid Feb; refresh on CHPSPO; set agenda
    • ~10 per day + twitter amplifying
  • CHPSPO Strategic Plan
  • STAR Rating

5. Chancellor Selection, Group Discussion

6. It’s time for CHPSPO to change its name (come with ideas for names, new logo, etc.), Group Discussion. Suggestions:

  • Ward 6 Education Council
  • Ward Six Public Schools Parent Organization (WSPSPO)
  • Capital Helpers for Public Schools and Parent Organizing (CHPSPO)
  • Creative Help for Public School and Parent Organizing (CHPSPO)

Next CHPSPO Meeting: February 12, 2019


Capitol Hill Montessori@Logan – 215 G Street, NE, December 18, 2018

December 18, 2018 – 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

  1. Safe Passages Program, Office of the Student Advocate
  • Who is Office of the Student Advocate? See presentation
  • 50% of Ward 6 Requests for Assistance to Student Advocate are re: Safe Passage
  • Parent and Family Go To Guide. See guide.
  • Safe Passage Toolkit
  • Potomac Ave (MPD)
    • MPD Daily juvenile conference call
    • MPD Detail at L’enfant plaza
    • MPD Daily usually start at stadium and l’enfant and follow groups
    • Casual/plain clothes anti-terrorism which focus on Eastern Market and Potomac Ave
    • Fights/violence are priority; fights can turn into robberies
  • MPD Resource Officers focusing on youth advisory council ; suggestions
    • School leaders and school staff present at ‘hot points’ can be a deterrent
    • Lighting the path; stand out on the street between 3-5
    • Advocate for heads of school to join the calls
  • Next Steps: Fulcrum host DME, Office of Student Advocate, MPD, and Potomac Ave community planning around Safe Passage. Contact Tom Kavanaugh

2. LSAT Coordination, Steve Bowen, Payne LSAT

  • What is the best way to coordinate across LSAT members?
    • Mailing list
    • LSAT training in May; alongside with Council budget presentation

3. School Report Card reactions, Group Discussion – Deferred

4. CHPSPO 2019 Strategic Plan Action Items, Danica Petroshius and Suzanne Wells – Deferred

5. Is it time for CHPSPO to change its name?, Group Discussion – Deferred

Next CHPSPO Meeting: January 15, 2019