Dr. Elizabeth Primas has faced many difficult and diverse challenges head on.
It’s that direct approach that has helped her to excel as the Director of Literacy and Acceleration at the Friendship Public Charter Schools; her record of excellence is bolstered by a history of achievement in teaching and leadership within D.C. Public Schools, area colleges and universities and national education organizations.
Whether teaching students or coaching peers, she’s always found the right touch.
Now, Dr. Primas is set to take on a new challenge.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a trade group that represents 211 Black-owned media companies, has selected Primas to be the project manager for the new ESSA/NNPA Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant designed for work focused on increasing public awareness about the unique opportunities and challenges of the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The multi-media educational campaign is supported by a three-year, $1.5 million investment from the Gates Foundation.
“Being named project manager is a great honor. I am looking forward to continuing my interest and commitment to assisting in providing quality educational opportunities to ‘my children,’” said Primas. “‘My children’ are all of the children in schools that have been underserved, undereducated, and for all intent and purposes, forgotten about.”
A native Washingtonian, Primas’ list of teaching credentials spans more than two decades and includes stints at the University of the District of Columbia and George Washington University.
She founded two literacy and computer camps for children in Prince George’s County Public Housing and was the DCPS Director of Literacy: Reading and English Language Arts.
Primas said that the ESSA grant award is especially important, because the NNPA remains as relevant today as it was decades ago, long before the newspaper industry changed.
“Media has suffered recently, but the NNPA is made up of community papers — community papers that are still very relevant to the audience they serve,” said Primas. “The Gates Foundation recognized that the African-American newspapers were strategically located and are uniquely qualified to educate the very stakeholders that ESSA is aimed at helping.”
And, that’s where Primas’ vast experience is expected to shine.
Over the years, Primas has received a plethora of honors for outstanding teaching, including Masonic Scottish Rites Elementary Educator Excellence Award; the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award; and the District of Columbia’s Teach of the Year.
A graduate of the D.C. Teacher’s College who holds a master’s degree from Trinity College and a doctorate from George Washington University, Primas has worked with several organizations such as the National Council of Teachers in English and the International Reading Association’s Urban Diversity Commission and coordinated major conferences on contemporary topics in literary and reading.
She’s also a well-known consultant for city schools, textbook companies and the international professional development of teachers.
Primas said that there are several deliverables that have already been identified in the proposal for the ESSA grant that includes providing training seminars, holding or participating in town hall meetings, producing and distributing articles and establishing a website or electronic landing page that will allow the public to access current information relating to the progress of the implementation of the ESSA grant.
“I will also be looking for accountability from all NNPA participants,” Primas said. “That means to me, collecting and archiving articles that demonstrate the efforts nationally. I will be working with the NNPA to assist all members of NNPA in organizing a gathering of the information that needs to be disseminated to the communities. My goal is simply for the NNPA to become a resource for its members, which will allow the individual publications to better serve their communities.”
Primas said the ESSA is primarily focused on closing the achievement gap for minorities.
While each law before it focused on improving education, ESSA allows for the state and local school districts to determine what’s needed for all their students to be successful.
“We’re no longer thinking one size fits all,” she said. “The assessment and accountability can now be locally created. ESSA ends the federal mandate on teacher evaluations and local districts set their own guidelines for teacher accountability.”
Primas continued: “I think it’s also important to note that we must keep our eyes and ears open as there are already talks of trying to dismantle parts of ESSA that specifically speak to civil rights and equality. NNPA must help communicate the opportunities and challenges that affect our community.”