Wildcat News: Welcome to 2021-22 | Staff Changes | Specials & More

Hello, Payne Community.

The PTSA would like to welcome all families to the new school year. To echo Principal Byrd from parent orientation: The PTSA also is looking forward to a successful school year where we work together to keep our kids, teachers, and the whole Payne community safe. 

PTSA leaders will be handing out pretzels and coffee to families on the first day of school (and again Thursday for PK3 and PK4 families). Please stop by, say hello, and sign up for the PTSA. 



If you attended the parent orientation, you heard Principal Byrd and Assistant Principal Eskay discuss the myriad steps of keeping the school Covid-safe, keeping students distanced and keeping everyone healthy. 

But there’s another plan underway to keep kids on grade level … or above. New this year, every grade from Kindergarten through fifth will have an assigned “interventionist” on staff whose job will be to help work with students to stay on track with their studies. 

“It’s one way we’re preparing to help students who have been out of school for two years,” Principal Byrd told the PTSA. “Any student who may have any difficulty entering into school and being on grade level will fall into this system.” 

These positions are in addition to the math and literacy coaches (one each) that Payne has on staff. 

Interventionists (see list of new staff positions below) will be used in areas such as small-group reading or for one-on-one work, depending on the needs of the students. They will work closely with teachers. 

Despite time lost due to the pandemic, students will come in being taught grade-level material, Eskay said, noting that the goal is to focus on acceleration and not remediation. 



Payne has made a number of staff moves and new hires for the 2021-22 school year. The staff directory has been updated online. Here’s an overview: 

  • Steven Eskay, formerly the manager of specialized instruction, is now Assistant Principal of Intervention. He will be leading efforts to keep students on track in their studies, lead special education, and oversee operations.
  • Christina Mitchell, formerly the fourth grade math teacher, is promoted to instructional math coach. 
  • As a budget measure, fifth grade now has just one teacher, Christopher Bergfalk. But Payne was able to retain Urlkia Randolph on staff as a 4th and 5th grade interventionist. 
  • George Walton, a longtime Payne staffer, is an interventionist and inclusion teacher focused on third grade. 
  • Payne staffer Ashley Van Norden will now be an interventionist/special education teacher for 2nd grade. 
  • Angela Gore-Curry will be the first grade interventionist and a reading specialist. 
  • Payne staffer Rakecia Hanna will be the Kindergarten interventionist. 
  • Janae Perry has moved from second grade math teacher to third grade math teacher. 
  • Maria Flanders is the new second grade math teacher. 
  • Christina Hanson is the new Behavior and Education Support teacher for grades third through fifth.
  • New hire Solomon Tackie is the new fourth grade math teacher. 
  • Monica Fletcher is the new intermediate deaf and hard of hearing teacher.
  • Marion McDowell (formerly Ms. Fox) is now teaching PK4. Christian Allen is now teaching PK3. And Denise Patterson is the new Kindergarten teacher. 
  • Erika Hackett, formerly Payne’s third grade math teacher, will be a new science teacher, focused on grades PK3 through 3rd. 
  • And finally, Juanita Stokes will be retiring this fall. A search is underway for a new PK3 teacher. 



Payne is not changing its lineup of specials for the 2021-22 school year. They are: physical education, art, science, library, and Spanish. 

Similar to last year, students will take one special at a time, as an extended block. Unlike last year, there will be no repeats, and each special will span seven to eight weeks. Mr. Eskay told the PTSA the block approach provides a more “immersive experience” for the student.

Science is unique in that every class will get additional lessons, outside of the special. This is possible with two science teachers: Doug Creef, focusing on the upper grades and Erika Hackett focusing on lower grades, with some overlap. 

“The main message is everyone is going to get science in addition to their specials,” Mr. Eskay said. 


PAYNE MOMS HAPPY HOUR. Please join fellow Payne moms for a Happy Hour at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 2 at The Roost. Payne will have a reserved outdoor space. (Dads, stay tuned. Plans for our own exceptional happy hour is in the works.)



The Chesapeake Bay Trust notified Payne on Wednesday that the school will receive nearly $5,000 to fund field trips and conservation projects for the 2021-22 school year::

  • The PK3 and PK4 classes will visit the Aquatic Resources Education Center (AREC). 
  • Kindergarten classes will attend a field trip on Roosevelt Island.
  • First grade classes will travel to Kingman Island. 
  • Third grade classes will attend a field trip with Anacostia Riverkeeper Explorers.
  • Fourth grade classes will tour the DC Water headquarters and finish up with lunch at Yards Park to observe the Anacostia River and the effects of river pollution.
  • The fifth grade class will attend the Living Classrooms Shipboard Education Field Trip.

(Note: Second graders will get an Anacostia Watershed field trip through a separate program.)

The grant money will also fund “bayscaping” at the school. Bayscaping is a landscaping practice that replaces grass with plants native to the Chesapeake Bay region. Read more here



You may have noticed that new cedar beds have been installed behind Payne. These beds are the future site of a new garden space behind the school as part of the school’s new FoodPrints program. Once launched, every class will meet with the FoodPrints teachers once a month to learn about growing and preparing healthy foods. 


DCPS requires parents who volunteer at school — including chaperoning field trips or volunteering in the classroom — to pass a background check. And there’s good news: The process is much less cumbersome than it has been in past years; TB screening questions replace the need for a TB test. There are two parts: 

(1) Fill out the DCPS Clearance Application here: https://dcps.dc.gov/page/volunteer-our-schools

(2) After you fill out the form, you will receive instructions on being fingerprinted, which is done at the UPS Store at Eastern Market and other nearby businesses.If you are a potential volunteer with an active secret or top-secret federal security clearance, you should complete the Federal Security Clearance Verification letter in lieu of being fingerprinted with DCPS. Send The original signed verification form and a copy of a state issued photo ID to dcps.clearance@k12.dc.gov.


FALL FESTIVAL VOLUNTEERS. With the return to school, the PTSA is hoping this year will mean a return of some of the school’s biggest events and fundraisers. A volunteer team is being formed to help plan a fun and safe Fall Festival for this school year. Please email Alison Mitchell: alison.mitchell@gmail.com



Is there anything parents can do at home to support teachers? Teachers say: Before the first day of school, review with your kids the right way to wear their masks. Go over with them the importance of wearing their mask over their nose. 

Use These 6 Expert Tips To Find The Best Masks For Your Kids

Key takeaways: 

  • Get your kids masks that are comfortable.
  • Make sure your kids’ masks fit well over their nose and down to their chin. Look for masks with adjustable ear loops, adjustable nose pieces and a layer for a filter.
  • Pack an extra mask in their backpack.



Non-Payne students will be called off of the waitlist for the Payne Saturday Arts Academy starting Wednesday, Sept. 1. If you haven’t registered yet, there’s still time to secure your spot before Aug. 31. You can register here: https://forms.gle/x7TtW3rwaTW6GZXS8

Classes with room for PK3 and PK4:

  • 9 a.m.: Circle Time Music
  • 10 a.m.-noon: Robots & More Club and Circle Time Music

Kindergarten to second grade: 

  • 9 a.m.: Drums
  • 9 a.m.: Piano (NEW: second class has been added) 
  • 9 a.m.: Violin (NEW: class has been added) 
  • 10 a.m.: Tae Kwon Do
  • 11 a.m.: Piano
  • 11 a.m.: Robots & More Club
  • 11 a.m.: Sports Clinic

Third to fifth grade:

  • 9 a.m.: Robots & More Club
  • 9 a.m.: Violin
  • 9 a.m.: Sports Clinic
  • 10 a.m.: Tae Kwon Do
  • 10 a.m.: Drums
  • 11 a.m.: Piano

Have you registered for Saturday classes but your plans have changed? Please reach out ASAP to free up spots for children on the wait list.


PAYNE SWAG YEAR ROUND. Payne now has a CafePress site to purchase shirts, totes, mugs, even rugged iPhone cases to show your Payne pride. There are no order minimums, and you can have your items shipped directly to your home. Items arrive in about 7-10 business days. Happy shopping: http://www.cafepress.com/payneelementary



Aug. 30: Payne First Day of School, Grades K-5: Payne Countdown Calendar

Sept. 2: First Day for PK3 and PK4 

Sept. 2: Payne Moms Happy Hour, 7 p.m., The Roost

Sept. 6: No school

Payne Wildcat News: Saturday Arts Update | Gardening Lab | Uniform Swap & Swag

Hello, Payne Wildcats.

Hope you are enjoying a fun and safe summer break. We’re just a few weeks from the first day of school and there are a number of updates to share. 



Registration for the Payne Saturday Arts Academy has started strong. So far, 113 Payne students are signed up for extracurricular Saturday classes at the school this fall. That means more than one-third of the whole school is signed up. 

Click here to complete the registration form: https://forms.gle/x7TtW3rwaTW6GZXS8

Enrollment is on a first come, first served basis, and some of the most popular classes are filling up. However, plenty of seats remain overall, and there’s still time to secure your child’s spot in some amazing classes.  

Your child can choose from classes in:  

  • Piano 
  • Violin
  • Drums
  • Tae Kwon Do (limited spots remain)
  • Outdoor Sports Clinics
  • Robots & More Clubs (limited spots remain)
  • Preschool Circle Time Music 
  • Theater (waitlist only for all grades)

Suggested tuition amounts are listed in the registration form, but no child will be turned away based on ability to pay. The early registration deadline is Aug. 17. Classes begin Saturday, Sept. 11. 

Reach out to Payne parents Jessica Coomes, Andria Thomas and Kate Kaufman if you have any questions: jessicamcoomes@yahoo.com, andria.thomas@gmail.com, katebkaufman@gmail.com.



Wildcats will receive hands-on lessons in gardening and cooking this school year as the FoodPrints program arrives at our school. Educators will get students excited about growing, preparing, and enjoying fresh, local whole foods — and bring science, math and social studies to life. Every class will meet with the FoodPrints Teachers once a month.

Payne has received a $2,500 Capitol Hill Community Foundation grant to support building a new garden space. This fall the former garden space off of 14th Street behind the school will get new cedar beds designed for small hands. Funds will support a water irrigation system and an outdoor classroom. There will be more updates on FoodPrints as school approaches.


FALL FESTIVAL VOLUNTEERS. With the return to school, the PTSA is hoping this year will mean a return of some of the school’s biggest events and fundraisers. A volunteer team is being formed to help plan a fun and safe Fall Festival. Please email Alison Mitchell: alison.mitchell@gmail.com


UNIFORM SWAP IN THE WORKS. After 18 months of remote learning, our kids all grew — right out of their barely worn uniforms. Do you have gently used uniforms to unload? Are you in need of some bigger sizes? The PTSA is mulling a back-to-school uniform swap. Interested? Please fill out this short survey

A reminder of the uniform plan for next year. Uniforms Monday-Thursday, Friday is Student Choice (Bold! Remember, no flip flops and shirt messages must be child friendly.): 


PAYNE SWAG YEAR ROUND. Payne now has a CafePress site to purchase shirts, totes, mugs, even rugged iPhone cases to show your Payne pride. There are no order minimums, and you can have your items shipped directly to your home. Items arrive in about 7-10 business days. Happy shopping: http://www.cafepress.com/payneelementary



DC Public Schools is hosting a series of seminars for grownups to prepare for the upcoming school year. The Parent University schedule: 

  • July 22: 5:30 p.m., Caring For Our Youngest Learners: Reopening Our Pre-K Classrooms
  • Aug. 10: 5:30 p.m., Getting My Child Ready For School This Year; What Will DCPS Look and Feel Like?
  • Aug. 17: 5:30 p.m.., Supporting Our Students: Accelerating Learning In And Out Of The Classroom
  • Aug. 19: 5:30 p.m., Mentally Preparing Myself And My Child For The New School Year

RSVP: www.bit.ly/dcpsrecover



Our friends at Reading Partners, who assist our students with growing reading skills, are looking for full-time, in-school AmeriCorps positions. Please help get the word out. Application details:




Wednesday, Aug. 11: 5 p.m., Walk Through Wednesday. Come inside, see Payne classrooms, hear about fall programming.

Friday, Aug. 13: 4 p.m., Summer Soiree at School Auditorium, drink lemonade, mix and mingle.

Aug. 18: Noon, Walk through Wednesday at Payne. 

Aug. 25: 5 p.m., PK3 and PK4 playdate at Payne for kids and parents

Aug. 30: Payne First Day of School, Grades K-5: Payne Countdown Calendar

Sept. 2: First Day for PK3 and PK4