Living Our Mission: A Leader’s Journey with Democracy Prep

Have you heard? Democracy Prep is opening our newest Elementary School in the Bronx! Meet DPEE’s founding principal, Katherine Perez! Hear what excites her about this new opportunity, and find out more about these and other opportunities at Democracy Prep!

In many ways, 2021 is a year of beginnings, and this is especially true for our organization. Democracy Prep is starting a new chapter with our newest school in the Bronx: Democracy Prep Endurance Elementary School! While this amazing achievement comes with tremendous responsibility, we are overjoyed to be serving more scholars and giving families access to a high-quality education in their communities. And who better to lead us in this journey than Katherine Perez, who has been with Democracy Prep for over a decade as a teacher, assistant principal AND principal. Having seen the evolution of our organization and navigating various roles in the education space, Katherine is more than ready to lead our newest scholars and staff as founding principal of Democracy Prep Endurance Elementary School.

“I’ve been a part of a really strong founding team and have seen the impact of building a strong community in that founding year. You can really follow your scholars and their families all the way to college. I’m able to see that in real life and that’s powerful.”

When asked about her vision for our new school, she revealed three values that will guide her and her team in ensuring that every scholar can be successful.

• Family
To Katherine, the meaning of family is multifaceted. She states, “When I think about family, I think about our founding team and how we need to be united in our mission of getting all of our kiddos to college and beyond.” Equally important is building strong connections with scholars’ families because “families [must] have a voice in the education of their children and feel that they are a vital part of our school community.”

• Joy
Did you know that the school’s mascot is Unique, The Unicorn? This fun emblem perfectly embodies the environment Katherine wants to create in our school, one in which scholars can be their authentic selves, love learning, and feel successful. And get this: “Joy” is also her daughter’s middle name!

• Scholar Achievement
For scholars to achieve, there must be a balance of high expectations with high supports. At the core of every decision lies the question, “Is this in service of increasing scholar achievement?” The answer will determine appropriate action steps so that scholars have the support they need to meet expectations. This will come in the forms of differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all learners and by collecting data from scholar work on a daily basis. These practices will ensure that meaningful adjustments to instruction are being made and that educators have the greatest impact on scholars.
These three values definitely align with Katherine’s leadership style. She’s all about building relationships with her team, scholars, and families. She sees herself as a coach to teachers, believing that there is a level of trust that goes both ways, which allows these partnerships to yield effective conversations and positive results. She knows that “it’s the adults in the building that make the difference – the community of educators that are united under the same mission of getting scholars to college.” She’s never too busy to be in classrooms and works hard every day to make sure that her teachers feel fully supported. Katherine especially values the connections she makes with scholars’ families, saying “you can’t educate a scholar alone; it really does take a village and to do that, you need to have strong relationships with the scholars you serve.” Educating a scholar isn’t just about the curriculum you teach, it’s also about genuinely understanding where scholars come from and understanding the best ways to support them. This is only possible by strengthening bonds with families through ongoing conversations.

Katherine (center) with her two children, Daniel (left) and Kaitlina (right).

And what she’s also excited about is being in the Bronx! While our charter school network has many campuses in Harlem, many DP families who live in the Bronx have advocated for a high quality education in their own community. With the opening of our first elementary school in the Bronx, families have an excellent choice for their children. Not only this, our scholars will bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences from the rich community that they come from. 

The mission for Endurance Elementary School is to get all of our scholars on the path to college. As someone who taught 2nd Grade at Democracy Prep’s first elementary school in 2011, today Katherine gets to see her kiddos as seniors in high school who are getting ready to go to college! She states, “A lot of times people will say, ‘It’s just kindergarten, college is so far away,’ but we have a real opportunity with Democracy Prep because we’re closing the bridge between elementary, middle, and high school. We’re really going to see our founding class go all the way to college and that’s incredible to me.”As a final question, we asked Katherine what piece of advice she would give to someone who is just beginning their journey as an educator. She responded, “Always remember you’re part of a community of educators. When you’re feeling stuck, look to the people around you for support and collaboration because that’s when we’re most effective.” For many educators, there are moments when we rely on our school community to make sure we feel connected and inspired. It is our scholars, our colleagues, and our leaders who remind us that, at the end of the day, we are all united under one mission to change the world. 

Are you interested in learning more about Democracy Prep Endurance Elementary School and our elementary model? You’re in luck! We’re hosting a webinar on Thursday, January 28th at 5PM EST, featuring Principal Katherine Perez herself! RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/136857639885

Convinced you want to join the DREAM Team? Check out all of our openings at DPEE and other opportunities at Democracy Prep here: democracyprep.org/careers/

For more updates on our new school, follow us on instagram @DPEndurance.Elem and @DemocracyPrep!

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