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Education Ombudsman

Our Team

Ombudsman for Public Education

Serena M. Hayes was appointed to her role at the January public meeting for a term of five years, beginning on January 22, 2019. Mrs. Hayes, a resident of Ward 5, is a graduate of the Howard University Law School and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology, and anthropology from Washington and Lee University. Ms. Hayes has coached individuals and groups on conflict resolution strategies, and empowered families in developing self-awareness, and in finding and using their voice. She has provided training across the District in conflict management and has provided re-entry mediation services at the DC Jail. She received the 2017 Lorig Charkoudian Volunteer of the Year award for commitment to mediation, for exemplifying quality in the delivery of mediation, and dedication to furthering her mediation skills. Ms. Hayes also facilitated large group discussion for the consent decree issued after the death of Freddie Gray, where listening sessions were held for Baltimoreans to generate criteria that would be used to monitor police conduct and improve the relationship between police and the city residents.

Assistant Ombudsman for Special Education

Jhoselin Beltran Contreras was hired as the Assistant Ombudsman for Special Education in February 2022. She was born and raised in Washington, D.C., to Salvadoran immigrant parents. Jhoselin first found her passion for education as a student in D.C. Public Schools, where she often volunteered as a Chemistry tutor for her peers and earned the Washington Teacher’s Union Scholarship in 2014. She completed her B.S. in Family Science at the University of Maryland in 2018. She later taught as a dual-language educator for two years in D.C. Public Schools, working with students with diverse learning abilities. After completing a fellowship at the State Board of Education, Jhoselin graduated with an M.A. in Educational Transformation from Georgetown University in 2021. Before joining the Office of the Ombudsman, she served as a Research Associate at Synergy Enterprises, where she worked under two federal contracts for the Department of Education. Jhoselin continues to pursue her passion for education by ensuring families understand their educational rights, maximizing healthy communication practices between schools and families, and supporting D.C.’s most vulnerable students. During her off time, she enjoys painting and watching thriller movies. 

Assistant Ombudsman for Public Education

Crystal Williams was hired as an Assistant Ombudsman for Public Education in March 2020. Prior to joining the Office of the Ombudsman, she spent the last 3 years in the nonprivate sector where she worked directly with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Additionally, Crystal worked in case management for students in Ward 8: Wellington Park, and as an internationally contracted Behavior Therapist. She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Crystal is committed to ensuring individuals with differing abilities receive quality education. Recreationally, Crystal enjoys all things outdoors. In her spare time she practices yoga and loves a good plant-based burger.

Assistant Ombudsman for Public Education

Stephanie Arias was initially hired as the Program Associate for the Office of the Ombudsman in May 2019. She was promoted to be an Assistant Ombudsman for Public Education in October 2021. Stephanie spent three years working with multicultural youth from elementary to high school grade levels. Before joining the Office of Ombudsman for Public Education, Stephanie, a DC native, served as a Youth Development Representative for the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. She also served as a Bilingual Case Manager for the Collaborative Solutions for Communities, where she partnered with families and 14 DCPS elementary, middle, and high schools to reduce student truancy by providing support and services to families in need. Stephanie is trained in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy and Family Group Conferencing, and she hopes to utilize these skills when assisting families who contact the Office of the Ombudsman. In addition, Stephanie is passionate about helping students reach their educational goals. Stephanie received her BA in Criminal Justice from Trinity Washington University.

Assistant Ombudsman for Public Education

Toni Criner was hired as an Assistant Ombudsman for Public Education in November 2021. Ms. Criner, a proud resident of Ward 7, is a graduate of Howard University, where she earned her master’s degree in Public Administration. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Tougaloo College. Before joining the Office of the Ombudsman, Ms. Criner dedicated the last seven years to DC Public Schools (DCPS) and students across all 8 Wards as a school leader and central office staff. She facilitated District-wide Professional Developments for DCPS Special Educators and Principals. She also worked with multiple DCPS High Schools to secure technology, internships, and more for low-income students. During the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Ms. Criner worked diligently to support DCPS Opportunity Academies by securing $40,000 from Grosvenor Americas to provide laptops and other needed resources. Additionally, Ms. Criner has served the community as a financial member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. She also served as a District of Columbia Congressional Foster Care Delegate (appointed by National Foster Youth Institute and Congresswoman Karen Bass) and pioneered a White House Initiative supporting Wards 7 & 8 Transitioned Aged-Youth by connecting them to local mental health services. Ms. Criner is exceptionally passionate about connecting youth and their families to resources and helping them build a successful and brighter future. 

Program Associate

Dierra Dupree was hired as the Program Associate for the Office of the Ombudsman in October 2021. Before joining the team, Dierra, a Prince George's County native, worked to increase motivation and engagement within high school students and young adults in the District through her nonprofit. Dierra was a part of a collaborative effort to connect at-risk youth with work experience, teach youth how to make better financial decisions, and empower them to develop self-awareness and use their voices. She provided her services to youth across the District with a primary focus in Ward 5. Dierra is passionate about helping connect families with resources and advocate for themselves. Dierra received her BA in Political Science from Spelman College.

Program Support Specialist

Whitney Jones was hired as the Program Support Specialist for the Office of the Ombudsman in February 2022.  Before joining the office, Whitney spent the past five years as a Case Manager/Family Support Worker for SHOW Up, STAND Out under Catholic Charities, a non-profit organization in Washington, DC.  During this time, Whitney provided support services to families of students in grades  K-8th who experienced barriers to continuous attendance concerns.  Whitney is a North Carolina A&T State University graduate where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.  After graduation, Whitney became the Administrative Assistant for a laboratory preschool for seven years in Greensboro, NC, and decided to further her education, where she earned a certificate in Early Childhood-Administration. Whitney has always loved children and found joy working in the preschool setting.  In addition, Whitney loves to travel, spend time with family, watch Law & Order: SVU, shop, and listen to music.