The Chalkbeat team is about to get a tiny bit bigger. Next week, we’ll welcome Matt Barnum to our team as our first-ever national reporter. He’ll focus on telling stories about the people, organizations, policy trends, and research findings that cut across our locations.

Bringing Matt on board expands an experiment we launched last summer, when we moved our New York editor, Sarah Darville, to become our first-ever national editor.

Chalkbeat is dedicated to local coverage of local communities. But from the beginning, we’ve also wanted to bring local communities together: to share lessons, challenges, and stories.

Under Sarah’s leadership, our nascent national team has told trend stories across place — like our package on how students, teachers, and schools across the country responded to Donald Trump’s election, or a series of stories about undocumented teachers. And we’ve elevated voices from research and the field whose work affects all of Chalkbeat’s communities.

Matt will extend that work, building on his background as a teacher-turned-policy-wonk-turned-journalist. We’re thrilled to have him.

Here’s the message we shared with our team last week about Matt:

For the last two years, Matt has been covering education policy and politics for The 74, with a special focus on research and data. Before landing at The 74, Matt worked in education policy, as the New York policy director for Educators for Excellence, and taught middle school English through Teach For America in Colorado.

Throughout our interview process, Matt stood out as smart, curious, open-minded, and connected to our mission. He came to journalism only recently. But while he’s served as an education advocate in past roles, Matt’s personal mission is to inject research and facts into education debates, not to advocate for any particular agenda. We think he’s done this with his work so far, and we’re excited to give him a platform to do more.

Many of us have already used Matt’s reporting about new research and education trends and his flashcards on policy issues to inform our own reporting. Check out these recent stories for examples of Matt’s engaging writing about wonky topics — and see his fascinating Twitter feed for additional context about many issues we cover, including the teacher placement conundrum in Tennessee that was the subject of our most-read story last week.

At Chalkbeat, Matt will be covering research findings, trends that cut across our locations, and national education policy news. (He’s ready: Read some of his past coverage of Betsy DeVos and private school choice initiatives.) In addition to writing stories, Matt will also work with all of our journalists to make sure our stories reflect a strong understanding of current research and the debate around it.

Matt will start May 8, so you’ll get to meet him at our retreat in early June. He’ll be based in our New York office. (Indy folks, he’s also coming your way mid-May to cover the American Federation for Children conference.) Please welcome Matt at his shiny new email address, mbarnum@chalkbeat.org.

Help us show Matt how awesome Chalkbeat’s readers are by saying hi on Twitter or at his brand-new Chalkbeat email account.