CharterFolk Chat with Danielle West-Augustin, CharterFolk of the Year for 2021

Good morning, CharterFolk.

Today it is my distinct pleasure to bring you a CharterFolk Chat with our CharterFolk of the Year, Danielle West-Augustin, Executive Director of Queen City Academy Charter School in Plainfield, New Jersey.

This is a conversation I have been meaning to host for months, but my unexpected trip to Colombia in June set me back a little ways. Special thanks to Danielle for her flexibility and patience as we were finally able to set up a discussion that I found both very enjoyable and illuminating.

Readers will remember that Danielle was chosen by CharterFolk subscribers as our CharterFolk of the Year in June. That followed up the CharterFolk X post about Danielle that we published in October. While those posts have provided general background about Danielle and Queen City Academy, today’s conversation allowed us to go into depth, uncovering Danielle’s thoughts on the following topics:

  • At the 1:30 mark, Danielle shares what her feelings were when she learned that she had been chosen as CharterFolk of the Year, and what the distinction has meant both for her and for the broader Queen City Academy organization.
  • At the 5:00 mark, Danielle describes what her work life is like right now as she simultaneously helps her school provide in-person instruction during the continuing pandemic while managing the opening of a new school and shifting her personal responsibilities as her leadership team grows.
  • At ten minutes, Danielle details the additional advocacy responsibilities that she and the Queen City Academy community are taking on in support of the broader charter school movement.
  • At sixteen minutes, Danielle offers advice to other charter school leaders about how they might be able manage the load of responsibilities that are being heaped on them during these highly challenging times.
  • At 23:50, Danielle talks about her work on the board of the New Jersey Public Charter School Association and shares why she believes the organization has been able to make so much progress in recent years under the leadership of CEO Harry Lee.
  • At 28:20, Danielle comments about the political nature of education work, and celebrates the fact that many of her colleagues are stepping into political involvement in a way that is strengthening the broader sector of New Jersey charter schools.
  • At 33:20, Danielle shares how she thinks she personally erred and she sees our movement more broadly erring in how we are not sufficiently engaging our teachers and other staff about the political realities that confront our schools.
  • At 41:10 Danielle gives some suggestions for how the CharterFolk organization could become even more supportive of leaders like herself in the future.
  • At 47:45, Danielle wraps up the interview offering one last piece of encouragement to the “closet politicos” in charterland to step out and get more involved in advocacy.

It was a very fun conversation. I hope you all find time to enjoy it in its entirety or perhaps skip to the parts that you’re most interested in. You can also listen to it here as a podcast.

A last thanks to Danielle for being part of this interview and for being such an inspiring leader who it has been our honor to recognize here at CharterFolk.