download.jpg

Our Founder

Meet Mashea Ashton and read her bio below:

 

Chief Executive Officer & Founder, Digital Pioneers Academy: Mashea Ashton

Mashea Ashton, the founder of Digital Pioneers Academy, brings a long track record of experience and excellence to the endeavor of starting a school. Mashea is deeply committed to changing the narrative about students who live in Ward 7 of Washington, DC. Her family has been in Washington, DC for six generations and her early career started as a special education teacher at Anne Beers elementary in DC. Given this commitment, Mashea formed a unique partnership with Anne Beers elementary school and Washington Leadership Academy (WLA). Anne Beers is a District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) that serves students in grades Pk-5 in Ward 7 and WLA is a new 9th-12th grade public charter school that currently serves students in grade 9. The partnerships have allowed Mashea to spend at least two days a week, working with students, teachers, and parents during and after-school to test the DPA model assumptions. Through these partnerships, Mashea has been able to deeply understanding the school experience and strengths of students who live in Ward 7 in Washington, DC.

She currently serves as an entrepreneur in residence at CityBridge foundation and Education Forward DC, where her full-time focus is to plan and launch Digital Pioneers Academy. Ashton early career began as a teacher at the Beers Elementary School in Ward 7, the same community in which she aspires to open the Digital Pioneers Academy. In the intervening years, Ashton has been at the center of many critical trends in education reform, and she has played a critical role in the expansion of some of the highest quality charter schools in the country.

Ashton is uniquely positioned to design and manage a public charter school in southeast DC. Her entire career has focused on the intersection of equity and innovation. She has experience both running schools and authorizing schools, so she understands the complexity inherent in the school design and accountability process. On top of that, she has family that stretches back six generations in southeast DC, giving her a unique perspective on the needs of the children of Wards 7.

Most recently, Mashea served as the CEO of the Newark Charter School Fund, where she oversaw a $48 million initiative to support the quality growth of charter schools. Under Mashea’s leadership, Newark’s charter sector grew from 8% to an estimated 30% of the children in Newark’s public schools in 2016, while being ranked the second highest performing charter sector in the country, according to Stanford University’s 2015 CREDO study. In that capacity, Mashea was able to observe some of the highest performing charter schools in the country, study the major trends in charter schooling, and incorporate the newest ideas into her own design thinking.

Before leading the Newark Charter School Fund, Mashea served as the executive director for the New York Program, and senior advisor for charter school policy, for New Leaders for New Schools. Mashea has also served as the executive director for Charter Schools for the New York City Department of Education and the national director of recruitment and selection for the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). She began her career as a special education teacher in Williamsburg, VA and Washington, DC.

In addition to her professional roles, Mashea has significant leadership experience in the broader education reform community. Mashea is the vice chair of the board of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and serves on the board of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School in Washington, DC. She previously served as board chair for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the Black Alliance for Educational Options. She has served on several additional non-profit boards, including the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, Newark Trust for Education, National Charter School Resource Center, Achievement First NYC, and Eagle Academy Foundation Advisory Board.

She has been honored as the New Jersey Charter Champion for Advocacy by the New Jersey Charter Schools Association, the First Lady of Charter Schools by Marion P. Thomas Charter School, the Shirley Chisholm Trailblazer by SHE Wins LLC, a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow by the Aspen Institute, and as an Education Award recipient from Leadership Newark.

Mashea is a frequent speaker and panelist for charter school and education reform advocacy organizations around the country. Mashea has a M.Ed. in special education with an emphasis on learning disabilities and emotional disturbance and a B.A. in sociology and elementary education from the College of William and Mary. She and her husband are the proud parents of twins who are kindergarteners. Some of her career administration accomplishments include:

  • Worked with school leadership teams to set rigorous academic goals of at least 20% combined ELA and Math increases annually with ultimate goal to have at least 90% of the students at proficiency

  • Initiated data driven instruction initiative in 8 Newark charter schools to provide schools leadership team with the tools, training, and support to use interim assessments to improve instructional practices

  • Designed school sight visit protocol and rubric to increase focus on teaching and learning and operational and governance excellence for Newark’s charter schools

  • Coordinated the recruitment and placement of 18 school leader candidates in Newark's charter sector from 2009 – 2011

  • Oversaw NCSF’s support of school turnaround efforts at LLACS and UHCS that focused on increasing the capacity of the charter schools’ teachers, leadership teams and boards and in supporting their core teaching and learning programs and governance

Mashea is uniquely positioned to design and manage a public charter school in southeast Washington, DC. Her entire career has focused on the intersection of equity and innovation. She has experience both running schools and authorizing schools, so she understands the complexity inherent in the school design and accountability process. On top of that, she has family that stretches back six generations in Washington, DC, giving her a unique perspective on the needs of the children of Wards 7.