Last week at the July monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board, past chairman Dr. Darren Woodruff received the organization’s Exceptional Service Award. This was Dr. Woodruff’s last meeting as his term has come to an end. He has served on the DC PCSB for ten years in the role of board member, vice chairman and chairman. While he was head of the board, I interviewed Dr. Woodruff on three separate occasions. I found him to be exceptionally kind, transparent, and passionately enthusiastic about a charter school movement that now teaches 43,340 pupils or 47.5 percent of all public school students in the nation’s capital. The following are the remarks that Scott Pearson, DC PCSB executive director, offered when presenting Dr. Woodruff with his award.
DC PCSB’s award for exceptional service recognizes individuals who through volunteer effort, have made substantial contributions over a sustained period of time to DC PCSB, and by doing so, have made it possible for students in the District of Columbia to access quality educational choices.
In recognition of and appreciation for his significant contributions to DC PCSB, we present Darren, with our highest award. Indeed, it would be difficult to imagine an individual more deserving of this award. Darren served as Vice Chairman of the board from 2013 – 2015 and chairman of the Board from 2015 – 2018 and contributed 10 years of tireless service to the Board.
Darren’s impact on this board has been profound. Since Darren joined the Board, public charter school enrollment has grown from 25,732 students to 43,340 students. More importantly, overall public school enrollment has climbed by 20,400 students. Indeed, the turnaround of a 50-year slide in enrollment almost perfectly coincides with Darren’s arrival on this board. There is no question in my mind that he deserves some of the credit for this.
But more than numbers, Darren was committed to quality. Darren brought to this board the perspective and personal commitment that comes from having children in our schools. He knew what he expected for his children, and wanted nothing less for all of the families of Washington DC. It was during Darren’s tenure that we launched the performance management framework, raising the bar for quality. And Darren never flinched from closing low-performing schools when necessary, the toughest but most essential role of an authorizer.
Darren’s legacy on this board will always be centered on his commitment to equity. Bringing his research and professional background in special education and the impact of poverty on school-age children, Darren led this board to redouble its focus on disparities in performance and discipline rates along race and income lines. With expulsions down 80% and suspensions down by half, the DC charter sector is a considerably more humane and inclusive place thanks to Darren.
Finally, board service is a lot more than attending these monthly meetings. Staff is constantly asking board members to meet with school leaders, attend graduations, represent us at events. Darren always said yes. He worked incredibly hard for this Board and the schools and students we represent. And he always did that work with a personal gentleness that was a model for us all. In ten years of difficult, contentious issues, Darren never raised his voice, never showed rancor, and treated all with respect. We couldn’t have asked for more in a board member.