CharterFolk X Vol 11 – Danielle West-Augustin, Stepping Up Even More for Kids and Families During the Pandemic

Good morning, CharterFolk.

Today we’re delighted to recognize Danielle West-Augustin, Chief Academic Officer and Director of Queen City Academy Charter School in Plainfield New Jersey, as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.

As Harry Lee, CEO of the New Jersey Public Charter School Association, describes Danielle’s remarkable leadership:

In terms of showing how the entire charter school community in New Jersey is stepping up to do even more great things for students and communities during a moment of unprecedented challenge, no one is a more stunning example than Danielle West-Augustin.

It starts with what Danielle has been doing to enhance the already great services and supports that kids and families are receiving at Queen City, a widely recognized K-8 charter school that has made it a special emphasis to provide scholars mentors and other role models from the same racial and ethnic backgrounds as the school’s students. Danielle grew up not far from Queen City. She knows the importance of students seeing around them others who help create a positive sense of self. As Danielle describes it:

Mentoring here at QCA is more than just building relationships with scholars. It’s giving scholars an opportunity to see positive role models in front of them, but positive role model that look like they look. So our students of color need to see other people of color who have made it …. When I hear a kid being able to articulate to me why it’s important for him to get good grades because he knows that is going to set him up, or is going to set her up, for future successes, I know we hit the mark.

I hope you might have a few minutes to hear how Danielle and staff and students talk about the mentoring program at Queen City.

Building on that strong foundation of academic success, Danielle and her school community have only stepped up even more during the pandemic. QCA has added social podding programs for both kids and families, and it is providing access to new online learning opportunities, including coding classes, for all students.

In addition, not only has Queen City been providing student meals to to all kids during the week, it has also been providing monthly grocery drops for all families in need.

Through it’s 20 years of operations, Queen City has generated excellent results with its students, regularly helping culminating 8th graders secure tens of thousands of dollars per year in scholarships to attend some of the most sought after boarding schools and other high quality high school options. That success notwithstanding, over 90% of Queen City parents still reported that they preferred that the school would open a high school so that their kids would be able to complete their secondary education with Danielle and her team. So, despite the enormous challenges associated with opening a new school amid a pandemic, the organization has stepped up with plans to open a high school.

Through her entire service at Queen City, Danielle has been strongly committed to participating in charter school movement advocacy efforts and making sure that the voices of her parents and other stakeholders are heard by policy makers. She regularly speaks on behalf of the charter school movement at the state capitol, as she did at this march and demonstration in 2018.

But now, amid all the other challenges happening during the COVID crisis, Danielle is doing even more. Two months ago she accepted a request from the Trustees of the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association that she join their Board, and she has become the Treasurer of the Opportunity Now PAC that is now supporting charter-supportive candidates in New Jersey.

It is all evidence showing how Danielle’s already extraordinary leadership is reaching new heights during the COVID era. It is leadership emblematic of the broader charter school community in New Jersey stepping up at a moment of great need – offering even more services to students and families within their already strong schools, striving to serve even more students as parents look for improved learning opportunities during the pandemic, and investing even more in advocacy efforts positioning New Jersey’s charter school community to have even greater positive impact in the years to come.

It’s why we couldn’t be more pleased than to celebrate Danielle’s extraordinary contributions to our movement by recognizing her here as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.