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