Benjamin Persett is the Director of the Washington, DC region of Education Pioneers. In this role, Ben supports partners in meeting their strategic talent needs and ensures that fellows have a powerful and transformative experience in Washington DC’s dynamic education sector.
Ben comes to Education Pioneers compelled to improve educational outcomes for all students in the District of Columbia by developing and inspiring present and future leaders. Ben joins EP after working with the District of Columbia Public Schools for nearly seven years. During that time, he led efforts to reform special education policy and to improve the educational outcomes of students with disabilities across the District. During his time at DCPS, Ben served as a compliance specialist, policy coordinator, and supervisor in the Office of Specialized Instruction, leading initiatives that have substantially improved relationships between schools and families and DCPS’ capacity to serve its students with disabilities. Prior to working for DCPS, Ben managed start-up operations for Teach For America's Connecticut region.
Ben holds a Master's degree in Political Science from the University of Connecticut and a Master's of Arts in Teaching from Boston University's Graduate School of Education. He spends his free time running or travelling with his dog, Emma, whom he adopted from the Humane Society. He loves coming to work each day with a team completely committed to improving the outcomes of our kids and transforming the education sector into one led by the best, the brightest, and the most talented leaders and managers.
5 Questions for Ben:
1| What is your favorite school memory?
As a kid, I loved school and have many powerful memories that shaped my commitment to public service and public education. One of my favorite memories came my senior year of high school when I participated in Connecticut Youth and Government and Youth In Law. We spent the semester learning about the legislative and legal process, researching laws and policy, and drafting legislation. The experience culminated in a two day experience at the state capital where nearly 250 students from across the state convened to debate their bills on the house floor of the state capital. This experience catalyzed my commitment to public interest and exposed me to how public policy can be a vehicle for social justice.
2| Why do you work at EP and what do you love about it?
I work at EP because I believe that we need the smartest, most innovative minds to transform our public education system to equitably serve all students. Having served as a district operator for more than six years before coming to EP, I know firsthand how import it is to have talent solving the biggest problems facing our schools and students. I’m inspired by the work every day because I know that EP is connecting outstanding individuals to organizations committed to transforming the lives of our students. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to make the connections between our truly remarkable Fellows and the organizations with whom we partner.
3| What has been your most memorable moment working in education?
I worked under Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson’s administrations in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and over those seven years, there was never a shortage of urgent, inspiring, and important work. I came into DCPS to work almost exclusively on navigating the District out of a 18 year class action lawsuit filed on behalf of our students with disabilities. When I came into the District special education was struggling under a barrage of due process complaints and unimplemented hearing decisions. My team and I worked tirelessly to improve the quality of programs, earn the trust of parents, and support our schools in serving our most marginalized populations equitability. On December 16, 2014 I stood alongside DCPS leadership as US Judge Friedman officially dismissed the Blackman-Jones class action lawsuit. It was a proud moment to be there knowing that the hard work of many dedicated, creative, and innovative individuals (including EP Alumni and Fellows), can transform education and make a positive difference in the lives of an entire class of students.
4| What’s your favorite EP tradition or memory?
I love watching our Fellows engage with their first day of workshops as we unpack the opportunity gap and equity in our schools. It’s exciting to see a group of passionate, driven, and curious leaders build a cohesive cohort while grappling with some very difficult and personally challenging topics. I’ve never been disappointed when it comes to seeing Fellows dial in, unpack their own biases, and dive into learning to equip themselves with the tools to be stewards of equity and change agents in their roles with our Partners.
5| What’s your favorite place to bring visitors?
There is so much history and culture in DC that I’m hard pressed to pick one favorite place. I love to play tourist with visitors and that usually includes a trip to some of our museums and a stop at the steps of Lincoln Memorial. I try to end the day at POV on the roof of the W in downtown DC. It’s one of the best vantage points in the city to be able to see the entire mall and monuments. It reminds me how beautiful and awe-inspiring DC is.