Sep 16, 2008

It's Hard to Say Goodbye !

Today I was saddened to learn via email that Dr. Marla Oakes, former Executive Director of Special Education died just yesterday. Only several years ago- she returned to our school system in 2006- eager and anxious to take on the task of fixing special education . Many special education related service providers were optimistic about her arrival. Staff were happy to learn that Dr. O had formerly worked in our system as a Speech and Language Pathologist. Many reasoned that she would have a greater understanding of discipline specific issues.

As a WTU Building Representative- I met with Dr. Oakes and our school team monthly during our first year. One thing I remember were the pictures of her family a husband and grown children prominently displayed on her office credenza. Dr. Oakes took time to point them out to us and beamed with pride at the thought of them. From where I sit, Dr. O seemed courageous, conscientious and convicted. She was no doubt a hard worker and spoke her mind freely and matter of factly, offending some with her directness but offering no apologies. Unlike our directors before her- she tackled some issues that others dared not. Today let's pause for just one moment to honor her life of service to special education students. May peace cup Dr. Oakes family gently as they embrace her transition. I bid her adieu and give thanks on behalf of DC's children. Here's a copy of the email from Chancellor Rhee- which was forwarded to DCPS employees today announcing the very sad news of her passing. Posted by Candi. Picture courtesy of

September 16, 2008

To the DCPS Community,

I am sorry to report to you that last night Dr. Marla Oakes—Executive Director of the Office of Early Intervening Supports—died after many years of dedicated work on behalf of children. From her early years of service as a speech pathologist, speech therapist and reading specialist, to her executive director positions with DCPS starting in 2006, her colleagues attest to her lifelong passion for working with students with special education needs, and of her love for her children, Phillip, Danielle and Daphne. We will remember her friendly face and warm spirit, matched by a private strength and unyielding force of conviction and character.

In her most recent work this summer, Dr. Oakes was conducting site visits for the Student Support Teams (SSTs) in schools to bring early intervention services to students. She was a strong advocate for an inclusion model respecting the rights of special education students to learn with their peers. Her work will be felt in the lives of thousands of students long after her passing, and I am grateful for it.

Services will be held by her family for this Saturday in St. Louis, Missouri. I know that many of you worked closely with Dr. Oakes, and as you grieve her passing, I am sorry for the loss of your colleague and friend.


Michelle Rhee


Anonymous said...

I never knew Dr. Oakes, but her passing certainly deserves a comment or two on this blog. May her memory be a blessing.

Anonymous said...

Check out this morning's Washington Post for her death notice. Included is a biogrpaghy with a nice photo.

Candi said...

Thanks for the tip- I added her photo. It really is a stunning picture of Dr. Oakes.

stewbert said...

Dr. Oakes was funny and full of life and was very smart! We'll miss her and her passion for education.

Blessings to her family.

Meghan E. Monroe said...

I was informed by the Dr. Trapp-Dail department chair of Curriculum and Instuction at Howard University that Dr. Oakes had passed away. I had Dr. Oakes as a professor of Special Education while in grad school at Howard and had the opportunity to do a practicum at her school. She was a smart, beautiful woman and will truly be missed

Peace said...

God Bless that GS 94-142 and DR. Oaks ! Sounds like she had a gift from God to share and did ! We won't let you down or the kids with special needs !Thoughts and prayers to family and friends.Americans With Disabilities Act,42 U.S.C.&1291 et seq. That o'l 10% hound dog with fleas NCLB !It's gone as sour as a pig foot in a jar !God Bless !

Anonymous said...

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What would be my next step in becoming a certified reading specialist? I can be reached at
Thank you for your time