CharterFolk X Vol 24 – Daniela Anello, Bringing the Power of Literal and Figurative Bilingualism to All We Do in Charter Schools


Good morning, CharterFolk.

Today it is our honor to recognize Daniela Anello, Executive Director of DC Bilingual Charter School, as CharterFolk Extraordinaire.

Anyone who knows the charter school world understands that our school leaders have to speak the language of excellence across multiple priorities at once. Daniela is that extraordinary leader who models for us all how bringing a spirit of biliingualism to the challenges before our movement positions us to have even greater impact on behalf of the kids and families we serve.

It’s a way of looking at the world that grew out of her experience as a youngster living and attending schools in both the United States and her native Chile. Settling in her teenage years in a community 30 miles north of New York City, Daniela experienced firsthand how a welcoming public school drawing together families from a wide variety of backgrounds can prepare all students for great trajectories in life.

Daniela and Her Parents

It only made sense that Daniela would commit herself to making that kind of educational opportunity available to more students. After getting her undergraduate degree, she became a public school teacher in Boston and went on to receive an advanced degree at Columbia where she studied literacy instruction and developed a deep passion for bilingual education.

When she moved to DC, it was natural that she would be attracted to DC Bilingual …

… a charter school whose mission has always been to serve students and families from a wide range of backgrounds. But at the moment that Daniela came onboard, DC Bilingual was facing a moment of monumental challenge. As Daniela shared in an interview with Parents Have Choice Kids Win:

We were in crisis mode, recognizing that if we didn’t turn the academics around the charter would be closed.  We literally cleaned house. I spent the entire summer writing literacy curriculum as an instructional coach, and became the principal’s right hand person in helping to set up the systems we needed to strengthen the hiring process, teacher coaching, and professional development experiences.

Through Daniela’s extraordinary leadership, DC Bilingual was able to improve its academic program greatly, soon becoming recognized to be among the highest performing public schools in all of DC.

Daniela’s contribution during that pivotal period in DC Bilingual’s history illustrates the literal and figurative bilingualism she brings to all she does for our movement. It starts, of course, with being entirely comfortable speaking the languages and understanding deeply the cultures of the community that she serves, while at the same time knowing the language of public education and organizational leadership. It also means being able to take on instructional challenges that are sometimes thought to be at odds with one another – maintaining a deep commitment to bilingual education while at the same time demonstrating that high levels of academic results across all areas of the curriculum can be achieved.

In 2015, Daniela was named the Head of School at DC Bilingual. Since then she has proven herself able again and again to excel on multiple priorities where other leaders often find it necessary to choose just one. That has included speaking the language of continuous improvement for the services that DC Bilingual provides to its existing students while at the same time articulating the importance of quality growth so that even more families can be served.

(Presented, of course, in both English and Spanish.)

It has meant demonstrating fluency regarding the unique potential that charter schools have to improve opportunity for our society’s most historically underserved students …

So how does being a charter school make DC Bilingual different and how might charter schools serve the unique needs of Native students? There is no silver bullet in any school to solve all of a community’s challenges, but when school leader Daniela Anello sat down to speak with the Tribal leaders, three key themes emerged: [Sovereignty, Autonomy and Cultural Affirmation].

while at the same time celebrating the efforts being made by all dedicated teachers in public education, like this great moment when Daniela shared how moved she was to hear about the efforts of an incredible teacher working within a traditional public school in DC.

First of all I just want to say that Amy sounds like such an extraordinary teacher that I was like … oh! … I hope that every single one of our teachers feels that way too and talks like that about the relationships that they have with families and students. It’s just so lovely to see.

It’s also means speaking the language of perpetual focus on the specific needs of DC Bilingual while at the same time developing fluency on advocacy matters affecting many other schools, whether that is making a compelling case on a specific issue like Daniela did here …

… or serving on the board of key advocacy organizations …

… so that they evolve to provide stronger, more united advocacy for the DC charter school movement more broadly, as Daniela did here.

Finally, Daniela is as compelling a leader as can be found in Charterland describing the extraordinary opportunity that all leaders working in charter schools have to make a difference for our highest need kids while at the same time serving as an ambassador (as she recently did in comments shared with the Charter School Collaborative) for the idea that some crucial contributions can only come from Latino leaders and other leaders of color working in charter schools.

I would love to see that the advocates of charter schools see the amazing opportunities that charter schools bring and have for serving the most vulnerable populations of students even more deeply than many of the public district schools are able to serve kids. We need to raise awareness about the potential that many of our schools have, especially the schools that are led by school leaders of color.

Daniela’s extraordinary leadership provides a stunning example for us all, showing how both figurative and literal bilingualism brought to the national charter school movement can be a special octane providing our schools the possibility to achieve unprecedented heights on behalf of the millions of kids and families we serve.

It’s why we couldn’t be more thrilled than to recognize Daniela Anello today as the very definition of CharterFolk Extraordinaire.