District-Charter Collaboration: Walking the Walk

The dream was that charter schools would be granted autonomy in order to encourage innovation and to collaborate with all schools. But in practice, it’s hard for schools to get outside of their own bubbles and collaborate. In 2016 the NYC Department of Education began its District-Charter Collaborative program (DCC) to facilitate this important work. This panel will explore the lessons learned so far in this initiative as well as the challenges and opportunities for all schools to similarly engage.


Carter Clawson is a Project Director at the Center for Educational Innovation (CEI) where her efforts focus on supporting independent charter schools through grant writing, technical assistance and support for schools' unique instructional and operational programs. Carter has been a leader on CEI's Partnership for Innovation in Compensation for Charter Schools (PICCS) since its inception in 2007, expanding the vision to include talent management and coalescing schools for increased collaboration and shared support from CEI.


Dawn Brooks DeCosta is Principal of Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School (TMALS) in Harlem, NYC. She is a 2015 Marvin Mauer Spotlight Award winner through her work with Yale Institute and the RULER Approach. She is a 2015 cohort Cahn Fellow with Teachers College, Columbia University. Dawn has co-written an article featured in the 2016 volume of the Journal of Folklore and Education named Intersections: Folklore and Museum Education. Dawn is currently a Doctoral Student in the Urban Education Leaders Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. 

Michael Stoll is a Program Facilitator for the District-Charter Collaborative (DCC). As a founding member of the DCC team, Michael has worked with his colleagues to build an initiative that facilitates collaboration between district and charter schools that allows them to benefit from one another, creating a culture of learning, sharing, and cooperation. Prior to joining DCC, Michael was a teacher/coach/coordinator at three different schools in the South Bronx, the Highbridge Green School, The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, and I.S. 162.

Natalie Ferrell is the founder of South Bronx Community Charter School. Previously, she was the Director of School Design for the NYC Department of Education. Natalie has also served as a teacher coach and education consultant both in the US and abroad and has published research on the effects of school choice on student wellbeing. Natalie began her career as a bilingual teacher at a middle school for recently arrived immigrants in Washington Heights, New York and before that was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic. 

Dru Collins is a Facilitator for the District-Charter Collaborative. Dru has spent time in district schools in Texas as a teacher and assistant principal in the Dallas area. Since moving to New York, he has worked in supporting charter schools at the NYC Charter School Center, and as a vice principal at a charter school in East Harlem. Most recently, he was the  principal at the Shield Institute, a nonpublic school in Flushing, where he worked in support of children and adults with developmental disabilities.