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Katherine Novinski: Helping students with a plan for success

Katherine Novinski grew up in a family of educators and knew she wanted to be involved in changing the face of education in the world. And while that passion took her abroad in college, she later landed in our Nation’s capital.

Explain what led you to care deeply about educational equity. What personal values, experiences or beliefs inform this?

Since I was young, I have had a profound interest in education as a means to equity, peace and justice. I knew I was privileged because of the high-quality education that many members of my family had received, so I decided I wanted to teach.

When I learned that per pupil funding can be allocated based on ZIP code in high school, I became passionate about not just teaching, but impacting education from a policy standpoint. I studied public policy in college and spent my time working to improve access to girls’ education internationally. After graduating, I taught high school in Baltimore because I wanted to focus on improving educational equity here in the U.S.

How has LEE helped you in your mission to end educational inequity?

LEE has connected me with so many passionate former educators engaged in this work at the policy level. During the National Policy and Advocacy Workshop last fall, I met many other LEE members who are now leveraging their experience in the classroom to affect policy. The opportunity to collaborate with peers helped me in my transition to my current role at DC Public Schools (DCPS).

LEE also provided career coaching. I had an excellent career coach and her support and advice were essential in helping me decide to take the DCPS position.  

I have also had the fortune of attending LEE events in the DC area and have met many other LEE members whose work now overlaps with mine.

Tell us about your current role. What’s a typical day like? What is the impact you’re having on educational equity?

In my current role at DCPS, I work with school-based staff to ensure that career-bound students are connected to post-secondary training programs and employment opportunities. This is to help ensure every senior has a plan after graduation.

We recently implemented a career coach program to support these seniors and held a hiring fair in May where graduating seniors interviewed for jobs and internships.

My team also runs the DCPS Career Ready Internship Program. Currently, we have more than 750 students interning with organizations aligned to their industry interest. That includes everything from engineering to IT to hospitality.

I love that I still interact directly with school-based staff and, many weeks, with students. I believe that the work we are doing is essential to achieving educational equity because we have the ability to change students’ trajectories. This program allows them to build their professional network and ensures graduating seniors have a plan, even if their direct pathway may not be college.

What is your vision for ending educational inequity in the U.S.?

I believe that we cannot achieve educational equity without empowering communities, which is why I have committed myself to empowering the students. Even though I have transitioned to working at the district level, I consistently seek feedback from school-based staff and students when creating program plans.

We also have to work to dismantle institutional racism if we really want to reach educational equity. In my long-term vision, we have a country with more neighborhoods and schools that are diverse both socio-economically and racially; I believe that we will create stronger citizens and improve educational outcomes if more people grow up and are educated in diverse communities.

What do you see as your role in achieving this vision?

I believe my role is to help empower students by providing them with access to opportunities. I like working at the district level because we work with all of the high schools, so I still feel my work impacting students and schools.

At the same time, I have a voice in policy that is created and implemented at the district level. I strive to keep my “teacher hat” on to make sure we are putting students’ interests first and providing equitable access to opportunities across schools. I also aim to be conscious of my own privilege and to educate others who are not aware of their privilege.