Credit: Andrew Lightman

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Cassandra Pinkney, one of D.C.’s most beloved educators whose career was distinguished by fighting for underserved kids and the resources they need, passed away Friday after unexpected complications from surgery, a friend says. She was 68.

The founder and executive director of Eagle Academy, a public charter school with campuses in Ward 6 and Ward 8, is being remembered by friends and colleagues as a “true leader in innovative, child-centered education,” according to a release from the school, which serves over 900 students from pre-k to third grade.

In a letter At-large Councilmember David Grosso is sending to Pinkney’s family today, the chairman of the D.C. Council’s education committee writes that she “will be forever remembered for the tenacity in which she served youth and families throughout the District of Columbia for over 30 years.” He adds, “She worked tirelessly to ensure that all students received a high-quality education and essential resources for emotional and personal growth.”

The school release notes that Pinkney worked as a special education advocate during the ’90s and “too often came face-to-face with the grim reality that children did not always receive the services they needed in order to succeed.” It continues, “Even when she became Coordinator for Early Childhood Special Education Services for D.C. Public Schools, she was frustrated with the ability to obtain the full range of services these children needed. These kids also deserved to start learning at age three, a critical time to develop a love for learning, just like the kids whose parents could afford private pre-K schooling. As an educator, Ms. Pinkney felt an obligation to no longer accept the status quo that was forcing disadvantaged children to start the race of life a step behind.”

Joe Smith, an educational research professor with whom she founded the school in 2003, says in the release that she “had a passion for creating educational environments in which young children thrive.”