WASHINGTON, January 24, 2015 – In an earnest effort to make the teaching profession cool and rewarding again, the DC Public Education Fund hosted its Fifth Annual “Standing Ovation” awards gala at Kennedy Center Monday, January 12, 2015. Emceed by Jim Vance, the event showcased the celebrity flair of no less than George Stevens, Jr., producer of the Kennedy Center Honors who helped create the event five years ago.
Nearly 1,400 highly effective educators were feted at this year’s event, including DC’s 2014 Principal of the Year, Janeece Docal, seven outstanding teachers who received $10,000 cash Excellence Awards and thirty additional educators who were recognized with Rubenstein Awards of $5,000 as well as an appearance by Josh Groban, the nerdy Grammy-nominated singer who, alas, performed a medley of forgettable show tunes as the best and brightest principals, teachers and support staff were lauded for their outstanding effort.
“A great educator can change lives and outcomes,” said DC Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “Other districts may talk about their great educators, but DCPS is the only school district in the country who puts on an event like this to show our best educators just how much we appreciate everything they do.”
And thanks to generous corporate support and the leadership of David Rubenstein, Co-Founder of The Carlyle Group, the DC Public Education Fund (DC Ed Fund) was able to raise over a million dollars at the sold out event with the support of major corporate representatives such as this year’s co-chairs: Gina Adams, Corporate Vice President for Government Affairs for FedEx Corporation; Katherine Bradley, President of CityBridge Foundation; and Debra L. Lee, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BET.
The DC Ed Fund is an independent nonprofit formed to mobilize private philanthropy and accelerate student achievement that has raised over $80 million dollars since its inception in 2007. As a tribute to the growth of this event, the number of highly effective teachers has more than doubled over the 600 plus teachers in past years to a record 1,400 during the 2014/2015 school year.
And DCPS seems to be making the biggest impact at the elementary level where the majority of Excellence in Leadership awards winners were recognized. Mayor Muriel Bowser made a special appearance to recognize a school that was on the “under-performing” list and in jeopardy of being closed several years ago – Powell Elementary School. That is, until the leadership of Principal Janeece Docal turned things around in the Ward 4 school, resulting in her award as this year’s Principal of the Year.
Mrs. Docal began her time in school leadership as an Assistant Principal at the Columbia Heights Education Campus, Bell Multicultural Senior High School in northwest Washington, DC, where she was previously an educator for nine years. She is a New Leader for New Schools (cohort 2008) and became the proud principal of Powell Elementary School in July 2009 where her passion for her students, teachers, and community continues to inspire her work.
Mrs. Docal stated the goal she has for her school community: “I want to make sure they feel loved and heard and that Powell is a place of compassionate urgency and joy.” She developed this mindset in her diverse background, which ranges from serving at a Freedom School in Milford, Ohio and abroad in Nicaragua and El Salvador; to co-organizing the Common Futures Forum and Global Meeting of Generations for the non-profit International Development Conference in Washington, DC.
Mrs. Docal noted that she felt humbled to accept this Principal of the Year Award on behalf of the Powell community (students, staff, families, community partners, central office support). “The award truly belongs to them,” she said in accepting the award, adding, “It is a testament to their progress in school reform and turn around.”
She also thanked her supportive and loving family, which will soon be adding another member. She is excitedly awaiting, along with her husband Aser, the arrival of their first child, a daughter, this February 2015, to whom she plans teach the values she has learned from her experience at Powell —compassion, patience, resiliency, perseverance, and love, above all else.
– The DC Public Education Fund contributed material to this article