In 2007, PERAA (the “Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007”) initiated landmark education reform in the District of Columbia.The Office of Ombudsman for Public Education was established as a central venue for parents to register concerns and resolve disputes. The office was also intended to provide transparency and accountability as the new educational system for DC evolved.
The PERAA law laid out responsibilities for the Office of the Ombudsman, which included
- reaching out to parents and residents; serving as a vehicle for communication;
- receiving complaints and concerns, determining their validity, developing a response to complaints;
- identifying systemic problems; making recommendations based on observed patterns; and
- issuing annual reports.
Despite its essential role, the office was defunded for several years. In 2012, the Council of the District of Columbia recognized the continuing great need and strong community desire for such an entity, and re-established the Ombudsman’s office within the State Board of Education through the “State Board of Education Personnel Authority Amendment Act of 2012.”
Accordingly, the office was re-established and with the appointment of an Ombudsman for Public Education, the office formally re-opened its doors to District of Columbia families on February 26, 2014.
In 2016, the organizing statute authorizing the existence of the office was updated. This "State Board of Education Omnibus Amendment Act of 2016" to stregthen the office's ability to address concerns impartially and independently by formalizing the budget and personnel authority of the Ombudsman.
Ombudsman for Public Education
Serena M. Hayes was appointed to her role at the January public meeting for a term of five years, beginning on January 22, 2019. Mrs. Hayes, a resident of Ward 5, is a graduate of the Howard University Law School and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology, and anthropology from Washington and Lee University. Ms. Hayes has coached individuals and groups on conflict resolution strategies, and empowered families in developing self-awareness, and in finding and using their voice. She has provided training across the District in conflict management and has provided re-entry mediation services at the D.C. Jail. She received the 2017 Lorig Charkoudian Volunteer of the Year award for commitment to mediation, for exemplifying quality in the delivery of mediation, and dedication to furthering her mediation skills. Ms. Hayes also facilitated large group discussion for the consent decree issued after the death of Freddie Gray, where listening sessions were held for Baltimoreans to generate criteria that would be used to monitor police conduct and improve the relationship between police and the city residents.
Assistant Ombudsman for Public Education
Ryvell D. Fitzpatrick was hired as an Assistant Ombudsman for Public Education in August 2018. As a student and a teacher in the Mississippi Delta, he developed a deep passion for the success of the public education system. He has worked with students at every educational level: primary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate. Prior to joining the Office of the Ombudsman, Ryvell served as a Fellow for the Office of the Student Advocate for over a year. He has also worked with the American Civil Liberties Union, Mississippi Center for Justice, and Amara Legal Center. Ryvell received a B.S. in Secondary Education from Mississippi State University and a J.D. from Howard University School of Law.
Kabrillen Jones was hired as an Assistant Ombudsman in January 2020. She is a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (EdM. Education Policy and Management) and earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Spelman College. She is deeply dedicated to serving others and making the world around her a better place. Upon graduation, she continued her commitment to service as a Program Associate for the Walker’s Legacy Foundation. There she established a program for millennial single mothers of color interested in financial literacy and entrepreneurship. She previously served as a Policy Analyst for the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the state education agency for the District. Within this role she sought to ensure the rights of all children from K-12 with a particular focus on special education guidance and regulations.
Stephanie Arias was hired as the Program Associate for the Office of the Ombudsman in May of 2019. Stephanie has spent the last 3 years working with multicultural youth from elementary to high school grade levels. Stephanie is a DC native who, prior to joining the team, served as a Youth Development Representative for the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. She also served as a Bilingual Case Manager for the Collaborative Solutions for Communities, where she partnered with famliies and 14 DCPS elementary, middle, and high schools to reduce/prevent student truancy by providing support and services to families in need. Stephanie was trained in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy and Family Group Conferencing and she hopes to utilize these skills when assisting families whom contact the Office of the Ombudsman. Stephanie is passionate about assisting students reach their educational goals. Stephanie received her B.A. in Criminal Justice from Trinity Washington University.