Ed Reformer: Nakita Packer


Unleashing Potential: How Nakita Packer is Revolutionizing Special Education in DC

By Minetre Martin, DFER D.C.

Meet Nakita Henderson Packer, a driving force at Bridges Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Nakita’s decision to become an Education Reform Champion was driven by her belief in the transformative power of inclusive education. She has redefined special education with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. Promoting diverse student engagement, her UDL-guided program has driven an impressive 9.1% rise in PARCC test scores, even during the global pandemic.

Nakita’s success has been evident in many of her students’ successful transition from a special education class setting into a general classroom setting. Bridges PCS was acknowledged for Nakita’s work with the Bold Performance School Award, solidifying their innovative influence in special education. The significance of this award is best described by a statement from EmpowerK12:

“This year’s Bold Performance Schools have 2022 PARCC proficiency rates that were an average of 9.1 percentage points better than other Bold-eligible schools, and their 2022 PARCC 4+ proficiency rates were 2.6 percentage points better than the pre-pandemic average for schools serving similar demographics.”

Now, thanks to her tireless training and mentorship, her colleagues at Bridges PCS have embraced the UDL framework as well.

Her strides haven’t just captured local attention. In 2022, Nakita and Bridges PCS were invited to participate at the prestigious Elevate Conference, a premier professional development event for Pre-K – 2nd Grade Educators. They shared their success with the UDL framework, further extending their influence and sharing their innovative approach with educators from across the country.

Outside her professional life, Nakita balances passion and personal time, reminding us that harmony in life is achievable. Nakita’s work is a testament to the transformative power of inclusive education, setting a new standard for special education.

Ed Reformer: Christine Miller


The Journey of an Ed Reform Champion

By Kyle Myers, DFER D.C.

Christine Miller has been dedicated to her community work for over 10 years. She is a proud mother, former ANC1 commissioner, and an outstanding education advocate for our students here in the District. She began her advocacy after noticing her child’s Pre-K school had limited options for enrichment activities as opposed to other schools with robust menus for students to choose from. This motivated Christine to take a stand and advocate for equal access and quality of service for all of our children in the District. The more she continued this work, the more familiar she became with the broader spectrum of what families need, even beyond school activities.

During my recent interview, Christine shared:

“This city faces the glaring challenge of persistent disparities between different groups of students along racial and socioeconomic lines but also with its failures to meet the diverse needs of our students with disabilities. We know that there are areas of this city with schools that are doing just fine, it’s time to double down on those areas where we know we have failed our children, families, and communities for generations. We need to stop acting surprised when we see dramatic gaps in test scores and outcomes between those communities in which families and children struggle against external stressors and generational disinvestments compared with those with vastly greater amounts of resources both in schools and at home. Supporting our kids should not begin and end at the doors of our school buildings, we have to do better in how we support parents, caregivers, and entire communities.”

This was a true testament to how deeply she cares and understands the needs of students and families. One of her greatest highlights has been making connections and creating her own extensive network of people by building relationships to attack these issues head-on. Being an Education Reform Champion has amplified her connections and helped to expand the scope of her advocacy. Christine has championed DFER D.C.’s priorities and is deeply dedicated to our mission.

Christine also shared:

“One priority that resonates is resource equity, especially as we are working to ensure access to quality education for all students and creating an equitable system that provides every child with the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their socio-economic background, ethnicity, or ability. Yes to investing in schools but also YES to investing in families and communities with a more holistic approach to education. It is not just about academic achievement but also about nurturing the social, emotional, and physical well-being of students.”

Christine believes that successful outcomes have to look beyond the four walls of a school. Success includes the whole child, the whole family, and the whole community. The continued patterns of failure need to be unlearned and addressed head-on by new approaches.

Thank you, Christine, for your tireless leadership and dedication to equitable education for all of D.C.’s public school students! 

DFER DC Welcomes Cesar Toledo as Deputy Director

News & Press

DFER DC Welcomes Cesar Toledo as Deputy Director

WASHINGTON (April 5, 2023) — Democrats for Education Reform DC (DFER D.C.) announced today that Cesar Toledo will serve as the organization’s Deputy Director. Cesar will support DFER D.C., its partner Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA), and its affiliate Education Reform Now D.C. (ERN D.C).

Cesar is committed to ensuring that every student, particularly our most marginalized students, reach their full potential,” said Jessica Giles, Executive Director for DFER D.C. “He has a wealth of experience successfully executing issue-based campaigns and helping elect leaders who will make a transformational change for their communities.” 

Giles continued, “I am especially excited for his leadership during pandemic recovery because he will advance education reform in new and innovative ways to benefit all our students, families, and educators in the District.”

Cesar identifies as a queer Latino changemaker with a decade of experience centered on advancing equity and social justice. Cesar most recently served as the Political Director for the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, where he designed and spearheaded the organization’s most successful and historic electoral programs. He is recognized as a national LGBTQ+ advocate, having trained and helped elect hundreds of candidates up and down the ballot across the country. 

Before joining the movement for equality, Cesar executed multiple issue-based campaigns for various organizations focused on social impact, democracy, and immigration reform. Cesar began his career in education advocacy, serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer at a primary school in East Africa. He later got his start in politics canvassing for local candidates in California and interning for then-Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. He is a proud University of California, Riverside alum and a Ward 6 resident.

“Being raised by immigrant parents, I understand firsthand how crucial a high-quality public education is in breaking the cycle of poverty and enabling upward social mobility,” said Cesar Toledo, Deputy Director of DFER DC.

“After years of spearheading political and social impact campaigns, I’m excited to utilize those skills to build a pipeline of education champions in the District. I look forward to advancing an education reform agenda that justly and equitably serves all students, especially students of color,” said Toledo.  


About Democrats for Education Reform D.C. 

Democrats for Education Reform D.C. is dedicated to eliminating racial inequity and discrimination in D.C.’s public education system by supporting leaders who champion student-centered policies. More information can be found on our website at www.dferdc.org.

DFER DC Statement on the Mayor’s Proposed FY2024 Budget

News & Press

WASHINGTON (March 23, 2023) — In response to Mayor Bowser’s proposed Fiscal year 2024 Budget, Jessica Giles, Executive Director of Democrats for Education Reform D.C. (DFER D.C.), released the following statement:

“We applaud Mayor Muriel Bowser for funding all of DFER D.C.’s FY 2024 budget priorities, including:

  • 5.05% increase to the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula foundation;
  • 3.1% increase to the public charter school facilities allotment;
  • Salary increases and retroactive payments for D.C. public charter school teachers; and
  • Investments in school-based behavioral health, Out of School Time, safe passage, restorative justice, and High-Impact Tutoring programming,” Giles stated.

Giles continued, “We are concerned, however, that the proposed budget does not include increased investments that will ensure all K-5th grade educators are trained in structured literacy, all high school students have access to dual enrollment opportunities who want them, and all public charter school educators receive salary increases and retroactive payments.”

“We need increased investments in these areas for several reasons. Only 26% of students performed at or above the NAEP Proficiency level in 2022, compared to 30% in 2019. Only 8 out of 100 9th-grade students will now complete postsecondary within six years of high school graduation compared to 14 pre-pandemic. And, as proposed, D.C. public charter schools do not receive equivalent funding to D.C. Public Schools to support their students and educators,” Giles said.

“In the coming weeks, we will continue to work with all our elected officials to ensure the FY 2024 budget is just and equitable,” Giles said.

Read our full priorities here. For questions, contact: dferdc@dfer.org.

About Democrats for Education Reform D.C.

DFER D.C. is dedicated to eliminating racial inequity and discrimination in the D.C. public education system by supporting leaders who champion student-centered policies. More information can be found on our website at www.dferdc.org.