Filming OpenGov Champions: Sandra Moscoso, Washington, DC


I met Sandra Moscoso at TransparencyCamp last year and was immediately impressed by her work opening up D.C. public school data to improve area schools. She is an obvious choice to be this month’s OpenGov Champion.

  During the daytime, Sandra manages an open data portal at the World Bank for the bank’s financial sector, so she is familiar with the usefulness of open data. But it is her work in her local D.C. community that sets her apart. As a mom of two public school students, she is a member of the Capitol Hill Public School Parent Organization (CHPSPO), which looks to improve the local school system by organizing rallies and bake sales, restoring school buildings and talking to city officials. Sandra is often very hands-on in these activities, but her biggest personal mission with CHPSPO has been introducing the use of open government data as a basis in all they do.

As you can see in the video, she and other CHPSPO members were able to collect data to show how the schools that had a full time librarian had better test score results than those who had lost theirs due to budget cuts. The group was able to use that figure as an effective basis for their request to the city to restore funding for librarians. She also recently sent an open letter to Mayor Vincent Gray, asking for public school data she wanted use in an Open Data Day Hackathon in D.C. The city released the data, and even sent a data analyst to the hackathon, too. Who knows if Mayor Gray’s administration would release this data had Sandra not publicly asked for it? Going to Sandra’s home to film the interview felt more like visiting family friends for brunch. Which, in fact, they were preparing as we arrived. Sandra and her husband have a cozy Victorian townhouse in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. We saw some very nice Lego projects and other things created by her smart and sweet kids and heard about how much they love their school.

Sunlight's video team filming at Sandra's home

“I have the best community here in Capitol Hill” Sandra says. She knows most of her neighbors, many of which also actively participate in neighborhood projects and politics. “I want them to stay.” Many D.C. families end up moving to the suburbs in Virginia and Maryland when their kids hit middle school age, as public middle schools in the District have a bad reputation and it’s a vulnerable age for children. She hopes to improve the situation by advocating for better schools, armed with all the open data she can get her hands on and a lot of enthusiasm. Her home was not the only place where we filmed. When I first approached Sandra about filming her for the OpenGov Champion series, she sent me a flurry of links to tons of activities she was doing around town. If you follow her on Twitter, there’s barely a day goes by without her tweeting to D.C. government officials, trying to make them see the usefulness of opening their data and that there are people out there like her who really want to put said data to use.

A case in point was when in 2010 she and a group of other engaged parents drafted a proposal using open DC Public School data as well as data they collected for a new middle schools plan that the then D.C. Public School Chancellor Michelle Rhee approved and implemented (although not perfectly.) Sandra thinks that the most effective change happens at the local level, by people who truly care about what is happening in their own community. That is why having access to local government data is so important, and the more detailed and specific the better: it enables OpenGov Champions like Sandra and many others to be better advocates for their communities.

Our OpenGov Champions are remarkable ordinary people who have done extraordinary things to open up our government. Get inspired by their stories and nominate someone in your community to become an OpenGov Champion.