New STEM School in LA?

sx8nspjjrzsr9k3g.jpg

Despite the need for more underrepresented students to be educated in STEM, LAUSD is poised to vote against a new STEM middle and high school.  The school is proposed to be in Los Angeles and is geared toward students of color and female students to better prepare them for top universities.

"While Latino and black students represent 56 percent of total secondary enrollment in California, they only represent 28 percent of those enrolled in a calculus course, which is considered the gateway to university-level STEM degrees."

Read more here

Lynwood High School Basketball Players Test their skills against Pros in Summer League

image1-5.JPG

Lynwood High School junior Carl Lewis recently got to experience something that many sports fans often dream of – the chance to go one-on-one with professional basketball stars and college standouts.

Since July, Lewis and several of Lynwood’s High’s most skilled basketball players have gone toe-to-toe against Real Run Basketball’s top talent, where they practiced ball handling, endurance and passing drills. The Lynwood students then had a chance to put these new skills into practice with weekly matches against various college and professional players.

“It was really fun and helpful,” Lewis said. “The college and professional players came out here to help us become better athletes with better attitudes and it ended up being a great experience.”

Real Run Basketball, founded by former professional basketball player and Lynwood High assistant coach DeAnthony Langston in 1998, teaches high school players about building personal character and good sportsmanlike conduct by providing them with positive support. This is the first year Lynwood High has participated in the Real Run Basketball summer league, thanks to Langston’s new coaching position.

“Real Run Basketball brings some great energy here to Lynwood since we have amazing top 50 college-level players, elite level high school players and even professional overseas players.” Langston said.

The program holds two games per day on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays – which gives Lewis and two other Lynwood High juniors, Tyler Parks and Benjamin Simeran, plenty of time to work with the program’s other participants.

“Hosting this summer league at Lynwood High brings a great deal of positive energy to our campus,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “It’s especially important for our students to meet with the college players since they can encourage them to pursue higher education options.”

Lynwood High basketball coach Jason Crowe called the summer league games a major blessing for the Lynwood High students, giving them the chance to receive academic career advice from college players who attend such institutions as Washington State University, Pepperdine University, USC and Yale University.

“It’s a great opportunity for our students to be able to develop their skills with older, more experienced players,” Crow said. “It gives our student athletes something to aspire to and lets them know what aspects of the game and their lives that they can work on.”

In the past, the program has played host to a range of professional basketball players including Lamond Murray, Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan. Langston said he hopes to have Paul George, an Oklahoma City Thunder small forward, meet with the program’s participants before the current season ends.

As the summer ends, the participants are competing in an elimination tournament to see which of the program’s eight teams will be crowned as this year’s champion.

 

A Knight’s Homecoming: What teachers carry with them when moving sites

original.jpg

By Brenda Citlalicue

About a month ago I received a call that I had been waiting for almost 13 years.  It was an opportunity to interview at my alma mater.  As a teacher who has based her life’s work on ensuring education is equitable, just, and engaging, this call brought my work to the 270 degrees point of the cycle. I’m in that zone where I can come back and make a difference in my hometown and continue to grow my craft as a teacher, leader, and activist; it was an honor to do so.  When I read the email from HR that I landed the position a couple of days later, I was beyond excited, until I realized I had to say goodbye to another group of people. I’ve always said that I would come back and serve in my community; now, it is becoming a reality.

I’ve always seen myself in Lynwood.  I’ve envisioned a classroom, after school groups, running into students and school families at city events and so forth.  I began my teaching career 14 years ago, in a small dual immersion charter school in Long Beach.  I learned and unlearned so much about what it means to build community, construct learning and grow both academically and emotionally.  After eight years, I took some time to reevaluate what the educational system had morphed into.  The charter world was quickly changing, and the traditional school system wasn’t far behind.  As an educator, it was hard to stay away from the classroom.  I looked to come work in my hometown then, but due to the budget crisis, there weren’t any openings, so I ventured out of my comfort zone and sought out another charter, one that aligned with my beliefs out in North East Los Angeles.

Four years ago, I began once again as a new teacher at a new site.  Asking questions, building relationships, growing my craft and pushing myself in my career.  These four years were full of light, laughter, and love.  It is these memories that make my move so much more challenging.  I had great coaches not to mention the team! Our team was set.  The gears were grinding well to ensure the growth of our students was reached.  Realizing the space, I had helped create and the comfort I felt up in North East LA, I was beginning to doubt my decision.  When I broke the news, everyone was sad to see me leave but happy that I would be fulfilling a life/career goal.  What fueled me, even more, was after I was sent out a message letting some friends know about the news, one reply that nudged at my heart the most read, “Welcome home.”  

He was right, HOME. Home is exactly what this place is to me.  The anecdotes, the lessons, the hard times and the growth that I’ve experienced will all work towards aiding in re-establishing myself as that Knight I’ve longed to be, the star that adolescents gaze to for guidance and support.  The warm demander to those that need reminding of what an education can deem for them.  Most importantly proof that even if our path isn’t straight and narrow, perseverance and curiosity can elevate it and build bridges that connect us to our purpose in life.  

I’m not going to lie; it is nerve wracking to come into an unfamiliar establishment. However, my curiosity has been the guiding force in allowing me to persevere and I don’t expect it to change this time around either.  One thing I’ve always done is lead with my heart and wear it on my sleeve.  It reminds me of the impact, struggles and accomplishments, my students and families have faced.  It leaves an imprint that shapes my perspective and fuels my passion for continuing with this work.  Thank you to those Wolves for fueling my passion for this next endeavor!  I can’t wait to see what comes out of this 10-15 years from now.

 

Early Language Learning

635886733694227439632013525_bilingual-image-onilne-900x600.jpg

The Los Angeles Unified School District is offering a dual-language immersion program.  Two languages that will be available for immersion are Korean and Spanish.

“For Spanish-speaking parents, whose child is already required to learn English, keeping their home language is important. And English-speaking parents send their children to learn a second language because they know it is going to help them develop cognitive and decision-making skills. I think we have both in the district, depending on what part of the city.”

Read more here

An Open Letter to the Educators of Charlottesville

By David McGuire

To my fellow educators in Charlottesville, VA, my heart is with you. We do not know why your city was chosen for this tragedy, but let's not harp on the negative.  Let's instead say your city was chosen to be a beacon of hope. The same way that Watts, Ferguson, and Detroit was chosen before you. The events in those cities, tragic as they were, opened our eyes. Now, it is your city’s turn. It is your city that has shone a light on the bigotry and the hatred we are trying to eliminate from our country. 

All weekend, we watched the horror of the events that claimed the life of a woman and two officers. Our hearts ache for their families, who will not have their loved ones anymore. My heart also aches for you, my fellow educators, and how you must now move forward in your schools and classrooms.  

I cannot imagine what it must feel like to experience such a tragedy in my city. I cannot imagine having individuals whose hearts are filled with hate use my city as a rally for their racist agenda. I cannot imagine having individuals chanting racist words marching with tiki torches on a college campus we as educators hope our students will attend one day. I cannot imagine what you are dealing with in your classrooms today in response to the horrific events of this past weekend, but I hope you are dealing with these events in your classrooms. I am sure your students are going to want to discuss what happened. You owe it to them to have the open dialogue. 

To my educators of Charlottesville, it is imperative you address these conversations head on. I say this because it was some school or some educator that failed to educate these white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Now, they have fallen off the path towards peace and hope and are sprinting down a cliff of hatred and violence. I’m not asking you to do something I’m not willing to do; I plan to address this with my students as well.

Our students must understand there is absolutely no place in our country for this type of hatred. Unfortunately, the individual in the White House would not acknowledge these individuals by name, but you must inform your students the cause of this pain and inform them the voices behind this hatred are white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists. Label these individuals and do not allow your students to be confused. This was nothing more than a terror attack on our country. This was not violence by many sides, but violence from one side. Also, let them know the city they call home does not condemn this type of rhetoric or violence. 

We have these conversations with our students to ensure their minds do not become corrupted with this type of hatred. Schools can help eliminate this bigotry and hatred in the minds of many people. This can only happen when we have conversations about it. 

Remember, you can’t be who you don’t see. Our students do not see enough heroes. We need to show them more heroes. Show them the countless individuals who fight and fought for equal rights. Make sure your students do not forget the names of Heather D. Heyer, Lt. H Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates. Their names should be immortalized like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. These heroes lost their life due to the horrific events of the weekend. 

To my educators in Charlottesville, we all stand with you. We will do our part to educate our scholars that this is not America. I know your job is already hard and it just became a little harder. Luckily being a teacher makes you a superhero and teaching is your superpower. Use that superpower, like you do everyday, to educate your students and spread the message of peace and love. 

Sincerely a fellow educator, 

David 

Open Letter to James Alex Fields Jr.

By Florentina Staigers

Dear James,

I resisted my own idea of writing to you, but you are the key to the questions that are circulating in mind: 

How could this have happened? 

How did we find ourselves in such an ugly place in 2017?  

How did you find yourself at this place, as the perpetrator of this horrific event this weekend in Charlottesville?

As a person of color, I know the answer to these questions. I have never doubted the answer.  I know the historic patterns of racism and hatred in this country have not fully played out.  I know they will likely continue for years to come because of the path of destruction that began with its founding.  This is as simple as science—the law of cause and effect (which I call karma) and the law of motion that an object in motion tends to stay in motion.  As a nation, we have been on this trajectory for a long time and we can still see the effects of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, and other forms of institutional racism, and oppression.  It was embedded into the very fabrics and ethos of our nation.  On November 3, 2016, I wasn’t completely surprised. I was disappointed, afraid, disgusted, sad, but not shocked.  I knew what this country has been and what it is, even though I had hoped we could be better. These same feelings have arisen many times throughout my life. They have always been there, sometimes as a gentle ebb; other times, they are like a roaring tidal wave. They have come again and again in the past few years each time I read about another Black man or Black woman shot by police. They visited again this weekend when I read about the events in Charlottesville.

These first two questions are on my mind not because I do not have the answers, but because I think you do not James.  I don’t believe you have any understanding of the horrors that white people have committed against Native Americans and African-Americans.  Assuming you are capable of empathy, I imagine if you truly understood, you would see how the effects of slavery and genocide have continued on throughout the years and how they have left their imprints on the lives and psyche of your fellow brothers and sisters even today.  I fault our culture and our education system for this.  America is too immature in the way we want to move on, grow quickly, and not look back or think too far ahead. We are a teenager of a country, unwilling to look deeply at our actions and their consequences.  

In Germany, there are thousands of cobblestone-sized memorials on the sidewalks throughout the city. They mark where Jews and other Holocaust victims were murdered or taken away, never to be seen again.  There are also numerous larger monuments that express guilt, grief, and sorrow over the Holocaust.  At the former concentration camp Dahau, there is a monument with the words, “Never Again.” These monuments are not just symbolic of an acknowledgment of the wrongs, but of a determination to never repeat them. This is public education.  I can only imagine what they teach in their schools to have each and every student fully understand the horrors of what happened.  Of course, there are still consequences of the past and still hate and Nazism in different forms in Germany, but there are also more opportunities to overcome this hatred as a collective.

I also imagine, James, that you have no concept of the way this ideology of hatred, dehumanization, and inhumanity was instilled in our institutions as well as those monuments you sought to protect at the rally in Charlottesville.  I have listened to Richard Spencer, the alt-right leader from whom you likely seek wisdom and guidance.  He has neither of these. Wisdom is in compassion and compassion comes from understanding. He has neither compassion nor understanding of the marginalization and suffering of communities of color in the U.S.  He is locked in fear and anger that comes from his belief that America is trying to annihilate him and his way of life as a white man, and to force him to give up his identity.  He is so caught in his own fear and his own narrative he’s unable to see that his identity, his whiteness, was a fiction that was created and that must be discarded if we are to move forward together as a nation. At its simplest, white is not about race, but access to wealth.

I’m guessing you feel this fear too James. I was genuinely shocked by a poll that showed Trump supporters believe that average, working-class white Americans are getting less than their fair share and that Black Americans have gotten a bit too much.  Yet, as a woman of color, on a very deep level, I understood this feeling of disempowerment. I have often felt my identity is under attack. It feels like the threat of death. In this mode of thinking, one suffers tremendously. There is no space for joy, love, and compassion. I myself wasted a lot of my life, a lot of my time, energy, and thoughts on feeding this fear and anger when I could have been putting that energy into becoming more fully myself.  For you, the consequences of your lack of understanding and compassion were much higher. You have now taken the life of another, injured others, and wasted your own life in the process. 

What surprises me about Richard Spencer, white nationalists, and so probably you, is that you do not want us to live together, all the races united. White nationalists want to conquer, to dominate, to rule.  I also see that even those who do not directly express this wish in their speech, do so in their actions.  I find this sad because one must be in a state of fear and greed to believe this is necessary. One must see the world in terms of lack instead of abundance. What we often do not discuss is when this nation’s forefathers bought and sold people, the price these white owners paid was their own humanity. In dehumanizing another, one dehumanizes one’s self. Many of our wise elders, including Martin Luther King Jr., have reminded us that, “hate destroys the hater.”  It is sad to see that your path of self-destruction has led to the taking of a beautiful life, a young woman who wanted us to live together united in love and compassion. 

What is also sad to me is that you do not see that you and many others like you are simply pawns.  That these white nationalist groups, Richard Spencer, and even our President are playing upon your fear and anger to achieve their own goals. It’s always about money and power and they do not plan to give you either.  They simply feed your negative emotions and your righteous story for their own benefit.  So while President Trump gives a subtle nod to your side, when he tells the nation, “there is hatred and bigotry ‘on many sides’ you may want to ask yourself, “What are you really achieving by blaming others?  Does it help you get a job? Does it help you pay the hospital bills? Does it help you buy a birthday present for your child?” 

In a very ironic way, Trump is right that there is hate on many sides, but certainly not in the way he has in mind or that you have in mind.  He is right that we all have hate and violence in us. If you look very closely at history and present-day facts, you cannot ignore which groups have been systematically and institutionally privileged and oppressed and how that privilege was gained through genocide, slavery, and other forms of oppression. 

In the end, this is not just a letter to you, James, although you are the most extreme form of this lack of understanding. This is also a letter to all white people who do not understand that although there is hatred and bigotry “on many sides” we need to focus our attention on where it is manifesting with power and strength and the support of our institutions. Maybe then you will understand why we must continue to shout and hold up signs that, “Black Lives Matter.”  To resist injustice is neither hatred nor violence; it is love.

I urge you, and all us, to really look at the roots of the hatred, the roots of this problem we are in today and how we got where we are – how you got where you are.  I am sure if we look with love and compassion we will find the answers to the questions I have posed.  Unfortunately, there is not much hope for us if you and other white people do not awaken to the history and reality, and to the love and compassion that must overcome wealth and greed. No matter our race, each one of us has a responsibility. Each one of us must also look at these roots within us. Then, and only then, will we begin to move forward, to erect monuments that express regret instead of glorification of the past, and to have forms of public education and an education system that teaches our nation, and our nation’s children to do and be better.  

Let's Hear it for the Boys!

Boys Academic Leadership Academy, LAUSD's first all-boys school, is seeking more students to fill it to capacity.  The school represents a strong opportunity to learn in a STEAM environment.

“This school is very different from what has traditionally been offered. It’s not a charter and it’s not a magnet, and people are fed up with those other systems, so they are skeptical.”

Read more here

Lynwood Athletics

Lynwood Unified School District students put their athletic abilities to the test with sprints, long jump and shot put at the California State Games track and field competition on July 15 and 16, which was all made possible through the District’s newly established track and field program.

Washington Elementary students José Valdez and Alexis Galindo each took sixth in the shot put competition, and Marshall Elementary’s Noah Hernandez took fifth in the 400-meter race. Jannin Vilchis (Washington), Daniela Ruvalcaba (Washington) and Juvenal Barajas (Roosevelt Elementary) competed in the 200- and 400-meter races, with Barajas also competing in the long jump.

This is the first year that Lynwood Unified has funded after-school track and field coaches and equipment for all 12 elementary schools, as part of the District’s mission to promote healthy, active lifestyles. Before the program’s launch, just one elementary school had a track and field club.

“Our students’ success at this competition would not have been possible without the District’s funding for coaches, entrance fees, school site equipment and student jerseys,” said Valdemar Quijada, track, and field coach and second-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary.

The competitors earned their spots in the California State Games with stellar performances at a qualifier meet in May and at the Southern California Municipal Athletic Federation Championship meet in June.

“This track and field program supports our District’s goal of providing every opportunity for our students to explore their passions and talents,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “We are proud of our students for competing and for their commitment to leading healthy lives.”

Quijada, along with Washington teacher Esmeralda Perez-Rodas, trained students at the Lynwood High School track two times a week for two hours. He also instructed them on the importance of healthy eating.

Quijada said the District will work to boost the number of competitors for the 2018 Games.

 

UCI Under Fire

Last week, Chancellor Howard Gillman, addressed the current and incoming student body regarding a decision to reverse admission decisions for nearly 500 students after 850 more students than expected planned to enroll. The University of California-Irvine has come under fire after it was reported these admissions decisions were rescinded in part due to over enrollment.

As such, students who would normally be fully admitted to the university had their admissions decisions revoked due to missed deadlines and other "paperwork problems." The reality of this debacle is the decision to withdraw the admission of 500 students had little to do with the academic prowess of students, but had more to do with poor planning on the part of the university.

As of August 1st, 290 students appealed the revocation of their admissions. Of those 290 students, full admission has been offered to 112 students who met at least the minimum admission requirements of A-G completion with a C-grade or better, 3.0 GPA, and no D or F grades during their senior year. Students who appealed their admission decisions after having not met minimum requirements will have their appeals reviewed on a case-by-case basis with the university committing to apprising students to expedited decisions.

Chancellor Gillman had the penned the following statement:

"To the Anteater community:

The stories of our students whose college dreams were crushed by our decision to withdraw admissions to hundreds of students are heartbreaking. And unacceptable.

This process is not working. We are a university recognized for advancing the American Dream, not impeding it. This situation is rocking us to our core because it is fundamentally misaligned with our values.

I must step in and change our direction. Effective immediately, all students who received provisional acceptances into UCI will be fully admitted, except those whose transcripts clearly indicate that they did not meet our academic standards. Those standards are: No Ds or Fs their senior year; a senior-year grade point average of at least 3.0; completion of all A-G requirements outlined by the University of California; and required test scores as indicated on the students’ admission portals.

Even for students whose transcripts show that these requirements were not met, we will establish an expedited process to allow students to make the case for extenuating circumstances, and otherwise will work with students to identify other possible pathways into the university.

We’re trying to understand how we under-estimated the number of students who planned to enroll this fall. We’re also trying to understand why we chose to notify students in an insensitive way or couldn’t answer their telephone calls adequately. I intend to find out so this will never happen again. I directed our internal auditor to review the admissions process and suggest areas for improvement. I plan to have a preliminary report within 60 days.

In closing, the students and their families have my personal, sincerest apology. We should not have treated you this way over a missed deadline.

We will welcome all of our wonderful students who worked so hard to satisfy the requirements for UCI admission, and as we move forward we will do everything we can to earn the trust and loyalty of our community.

Chancellor Howard Gillman"

UCI is committed to expediting the appeal review process as the start of the fall semester is quickly approaching and says it is committed to making this situation right for all students affected.

 

A New School Year – Tips for Teachers

By  Shawnta Barnes

Summer vacations are a time for teachers to relax, attend professional development, and prepare for the upcoming school year.  Summer should also be a time of reflection to identify what changes to make to ensure the upcoming school year is better than the last.  Here are five tips for teachers returning to the classroom this school year.

1. Put your cape away.

Times are hard, and many educators teach students who live in poverty.  Unfortunately, some teachers are not prepared or equipped with the skills to support these students.  They come riding into the classroom on a white horse wearing a cape with lofty dreams of snatching these poor children out of their situations.  They become so overwhelmed with details of their students’ lives, they lose focus.  They lower standards and expectations because their life is hard.  Instead of feeling sorry for students, the best action an educator can take is to improve him/herself as an educator and learn how to teach students using trauma-informed best practices.  An educator with high expectations and a well-managed classroom is an educator who can truly, ‘save the day’ and help change the trajectory of child’s future.

2. Build strong relationships.

The root of most dysfunction in classrooms is poor relationships.  A strong relationship with a child is an important lever a teacher can use to his or her advantage to help a student.  There are students who will be in class with one teacher and have no problems, but once they are with another teacher, there is chaos.  This is because the teacher did not take the time to get to know his or her students and build a safe and positive community in his or her classroom.  When I was teaching in a secondary school, I would have my students participate in classroom connections every week.  These were activities that helped us get to know each other.  It helped my students bond with each other and with me.  When I switched to elementary, I participated in morning meetings, a time for students to gather typically in a circle to have a discussion and share their feelings, in various classrooms.  The teachers who consistently had morning meetings had fewer classroom issues than teachers who did not.

3. Apply professional development.

It is important not to let those fancy binders we receive during professional development collect dust on a shelf or cabinet in our classroom.  When I am attending a professional development (yes, even the mandatory ones I would not have chosen to attend otherwise), I try to identify something I could use in my classroom.  As an educator, it is not only important for our students to grow, but we should also grow as professionals.  We should not be the same teacher we were years ago.

4. Support new and struggling teachers.

Early on in my career, I was only worried about what was taking place within the four walls of my classroom.  I decided I didn’t have time to help other educators.  The reality was I had the wrong attitude.  Helping out your colleagues ultimately helps students in your building, whether that is being willed to listen to concerns, staying after to plan lessons, or giving classroom management suggestions.  Once I shifted my mindset to helping all students, it was easy for me to help my colleagues.

5. Attend school events.

Teachers should attend school events.  Yes, you can abide strictly by the hours of your contract; it is your right.  Depending on the stage of your life, it may be the best balance for your work and personal life.  When I had my twin boys and returned back to work, I rarely attended any extra events unless it was mandatory.  Now, that my boys are older, I make an effort to attend events throughout the school year.  Sometimes, my husband and boys will attend with me.  It shows students you care about them, and it is another opportunity to strengthen your relationship.

This school year is my 12th year as an educator.  I hope once this year ends, I can look back and say I improved as an educator and made a difference.

Perseverance

per·se·ver·ance

noun

Continuing on a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition or previous failure.

I thank God, often, that he allows me to be in the right place at the right time. My love language is service; I feel whole when I can give back, help or support someone, anyone. Yesterday, I went to Starbucks before heading to the gym to work out. I am working on losing 20 pounds, so I went in to buy a protein box before my workout. As I was waiting for my iced tea, one of our former teachers in Lynwood approached me with tears in her eyes. She was sitting with one of her former students who had reached out to her for support.

As she started to break down, she said, "You're Gary Hardie, right?" I said, "Yes!" To which, she replied, "Good, I need your help! I'm with one of my former students. She needs help and I don't know what to do."

She shared with me that her student was kicked out her house today and had no place to go. She asked me if I could refer her to any services. This student had just graduated from one of our high schools this year and had turned 18 a few months ago. I was happy to help any way I could, but this situation was challenging for a couple of reasons.

This student was undocumented and our district offices were closed because it was after hours.  We had no clue who we could call. I reached out to my superintendent, surveyed my network and reached out to people I knew who worked with undocumented students to see if they could help. We found her aunt who agreed to take her in temporarily. We continued to make calls to see what we could do for her going forward.  She needed a safe place until she headed off to college in the fall.

But as I made calls, I could not help but feel helpless like I was just spinning my wheels. "These kids deserve better," I muttered to myself.  I was frustrated it was so hard to find resources. It should not matter what time it is or whether or not a student has social security number. We should be ready and able to respond with support regardless of how a student's situation looks.

Growing up in poverty, our students develop a type of grit that no other experience can build. Our students are born with physical, environmental, and societal disadvantages. Nevertheless, they excel in every arena they are allowed in. This grit pushes them to try and try again after failing because they know the survival of a generation often depends on their successes. Often, when I read about success stories from the inner city, I am bothered by the tone of articles where students making it out of the hood are celebrated because of all of the odds stacked against them. While the success of our students should be widely celebrated often, I am not as shocked as others might be when I hear of these success stories because I expect nothing less from our students. Every kid from the hood can achieve great success if given the opportunities and resources. There is no secret recipe; when our youth's resilience is met with opportunity and resources, greatness ensues.

As resilient as our students are, when they have no place else to turn, they will turn to their educators and the caring adults they trust that made all the difference in their lives. On the one hand, this is a testament to the fact how profound an impact educators have, but also pointed to the glaring need for space where resources are centralized. When students come to us at any age, we have to be ready to support them. If we say we are truly committed to supporting our young people from cradle to career, this means our commitment to their success extends beyond graduation from our high schools.

Our kids can have all the resilience in the world, but it is our job to provide them with the resources and opportunities to put that skill into play; this is especially vital to our most vulnerable population of students, even after they graduate.

I was pleased to wake up to texts stating this student has been supported with resources and temporary housing and is scheduled to meet with district staff next week to ensure this student is supported as she heads off to college this fall.

 

ESSA and Public Review

In a letter to Education Secretary Betsy Devos, US Senator Patty Murray and United States Representative Bobby Scott, expressed their concern with a change to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) concerning public review of each state's ESSA plans. The ranking Democrats on their respective congressional education committees warned the change in policy violates the law and could lead to lack of transparency. This change in policy affects the way in which the US Department of Education responds to discrepancies in state education plans.

In their letter they shared, "We are deeply concerned that this decision will result in inconsistent treatment of state agencies, leading to flawed implementation of our nation's education law and harm our nation's most vulnerable students."

The letter is in reference to the following section of the ESSA:

(5) PUBLIC REVIEW.-- All written communications, feedback, and notifications under this subsection shall be conducted in a manner that is transparent and immediately made available to the public on the Department's website, including-- (A) plans submitted or resubmitted by a State; (B) peer-review guidance, notes, and comments and the names of the peer reviewers (once the peer reviewers have completed their work); (C) State plan determinations by the Secretary, including approvals or disapprovals; and (D) notices and transcripts of hearings under this section.

The US Department of Education says the purpose of these calls is to allow states to address concerns over state plans informally. However, concern from lawmakers stems from the fact that these informal conversations are conducted in a manner that the public is not privy to the information shared on these calls. For many, this is troubling as it may not be known what feedback states have already received in response to their plans so far. As such, congressional education committees may also not have been apprised of these replies.

The letter from Murray and Scott goes on to say, "Changing the rules after the process is already well underway does just the opposite. Doing so is unfair to state agencies and imposes a highly subjective standard in plan review."

Essentially, this handling of ESSA with regard to public review does not allow for a systematic and unbiased approach to communicating concerns and ensuring transparency. Further, this change "limits public knowledge" about ESSA-related agreements between states and the US Department of Education.

 

Inglewood takes a hardline on charter school growth

Inglewood Unified has a record of being tough on charter schools.

The school district has not granted access to any new charters in nearly four years. Grace Hopper STEM Academy was the last charter school approved by the district in 2013.

At the time, newly appointed State Trustee, Don Brann, gave Grace Hopper the district’s seal of approval. Under state takeover, Inglewood’s school board played an advisory role in Brann’s decision. As State Trustee, he ran a one-man board and held full authority to decide the fate of the city’s schools

Since Grace Hopper’s approval, the district’s leadership has changed. Don Brann would eventually resign in September 2015 and pass the torch of leadership to Vincent Matthews. But during his tenure, Brann saw the gradual replacement of the school board in April 2015 when rookie members, Margaret Richards-Bowers,  Melody Ngaue-Tuuholoaki,  Margaret Evans, and D’Artagnan Scorza won the city’s 2015 elections. In 2017, Dionne Faulk joined the board’s ranks replacing Bowers. The two election cycles marked an almost total replacement of board members since the Grace Hopper era. The board’s one veteran member, who joined during the same period as Brann, is Carliss Richardson McGhee


The current school board brings a new vigorous style of leadership to the district and a firmer stance on charter schools. Its members are more protective of its student base, more meticulous in their scrutiny of charter petitions and more keenly aware of the consequences of allowing charter upstarts to operate within the district’s boundaries.

After Grace Hopper, nine new charter schools have applied to open schools in Inglewood. None of those petitions found favor with the school board.

Polaris Charter Academy, a grade 6-12 school slated to open in the 2018-2019 school year, faced the latest brunt of the district’s rejection during this month’s board meeting.

Despite the stated flaws that it found in Polaris’ petition, Inglewood Unified has a bigger reason for blocking Polaris, and really, all charter school growth within its boundaries.

The survival of its district schools depends, in part, on its ability to stem the tide of new charter competitors that arrive on its shores and erode away its student base.

Since the state takeover, the district’s student enrollment has been in steady decline. It has lost an average of 600 students each year, costing the district about $5 million in lost revenue annually.

Worse yet, its enrollment losses have outpaced the local average.  Eight percent of students left Inglewood district schools in the 2016-17 school year as compared to two percent in neighboring LA Unified and one percent in L.A county.

Inglewood’s nine independent charters play some role in its predicament

In contrast to traditional public schools, charter schools have made strong gains in enrollment for almost each year after the state takeover.

Inglewood charters now educate a larger share of the district’s student population than is normal for other districts in the county.

This year, 1 in 3 students who were enrolled in Inglewood Unified attended a charter school. This ratio is noticeably higher than the county average of 1 in 7 students and slightly higher than LA Unified’s ratio of 1 in 4.

Source: Data Quest

The data suggests that Inglewood is losing ground to its charter schools in terms of enrollment.

Restricting charter school growth will not single-handedly reverse the district’s exodus of students. The new State Administrator, Thelma Melendez, who was appointed this month, school board members, and school personnel have a long road ahead before they can convince more parents to make Inglewood Unified their first choice.

The district’s resistance to charter schools will continue to force future petitioners to bypass the district if denied and appeal for authorization with the county or state.

Appeals do not always work in the petitioner's favor, but the gamble may pay off for some charter hopefuls. That was certainly true for Green Dot Public Schools, which will open the doors to Inglewood’s newest charter school, Animo City of Champions, this August. Green Dot successfully appealed to the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) in January 2017 after being denied by Inglewood Unified in December 2016.

Next month, Polaris Charter Academy will follow Green Dot’s lead by appealing to LACOE to overturn Inglewood Unified’s refusal of its recent petition.

 

Thelma Melendez slated as newest chief to rescue Inglewood school’s from troubled past

On July 20th, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson announced that Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana will replace Vincent Matthews as Inglewood Unified’s newest School Administrator.

An administrative virtuoso, Melendez seems to be a natural fit for the tough challenge that the troubled Inglewood school district presents.

In 2012, Inglewood’s school board ceded power to the state after requesting a $50 million emergency loan to avoid bankruptcy. Since then, the board has only served an advisory role to the state. Melendez, as the new state appointed administrator, will hold the full legal power to run the city’s schools.

She may be Inglewood’s best hope for regaining local control of its district. Melendez’s impressive career boasts high-profile posts and prestigious honors. Beginning as a bilingual teacher in Montebello Unified, she climbed the ranks to become a principal in that same district. In 2006, she elevated to Superintendent of Pomona Unified.

She has achieved what few of her peers have, parlaying her local leadership experience into a bid for power on the national stage. In 2009, she joined President Obama’s administration as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. In 2011, she returned to California to secure top positions as Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified, senior advisor to Mayor Garcetti, and department CEO of Los Angeles Unified. Her years of leadership have given her a depth and breadth of knowledge to manage urban school districts and large bureaucratic systems, alike.

Experience alone does not make a great leader. In the case of Inglewood schools, great leaders also need grit and staying power. Over the past five years, the district has been vexed with a lineup of short-term administrators, none of whom were able to make significant progress in repairing the district’s long-term financial health or reverse its declining enrollment.

In a recent interview, Melendez said that she plans to stay with Inglewood schools for four years, which in perspective, is longer than the tenure of any of her predecessors. In that time, she plans to work herself out of a job by helping the district meet the state’s mandated requirements to regain local control.

But Melendez’s job history casts doubt on her pledge to stay beyond two years, which has been the longest term life of the two permanent appointees before her. In fact, her resume shows that she does not stay in one position for long. Her short-term stints paint a picture of a professional who is constantly seeking bigger and better opportunities. When considering Inglewood, all of the pressure that comes with turning around an ailing school district may motivate her to leave more than it entices her to stay.

It’s reasonable to assume that Melendez’s nomadic job patterns may work against her, at least initially, as she attempts to gain the trust of Inglewood’s school board, staff, and community, many of whom have become wary of newcomers. To gain favor with city residents and employees, Melendez will have to demonstrate that she plans to remain in her role until the job of transferring control back to the district is done.

But four years may not be enough time to complete the mountain of tasks that lay before her, especially given the district’s slow rate of progress in meeting state requirements so far.

The state’s financial watchdog, the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), audits Inglewood each year to track its progress toward reaching the five operational goals required by the state as conditions of restoring the district’s authority. The five focus areas include boosting student achievement, balancing the budget, managing a trained staff force, keeping facilities safe, and engaging the community.

The highest score possible is a 10. In 5 years, the district has never earned an average score above 4 in any of the five areas. It needs at least a 6 to show the state that it is seriously implementing FCMAT’s recommendations for recovery.

If Melendez truly wants to depart in four years, with a certificate of completion, her top priority will be accelerating the district’s progress toward meeting state standards.

In a tone of excitement, Melendez recently said, “I am eager to roll up my sleeves and get to work.” But once she hits the ground, her enthusiasm will probably be short-lived. Tough decisions loom on the horizon. The most glaring of which is the issue of preventing the flight of more students. The district forecasts a continued trend of declining enrollment in the 2017-2018 school year, from about 13,000 last year to 12,500. This means that the district must grapple with yet another year of revenue loss despite the growing prevalence of high-need students who rely on its resources.

Hopeful and optimistic, Melendez begins her first day on August 16th, just in time to meet the district’s staff, parents, and community for the beginning of school year on August 22nd.

 

Co-location May Prove Beneficial to Students

Co-location, when a charter and traditional school are housed in the same building, can have positive effects on students according to research conducted by a Temple University professor.  Beth Hawkins, a guest contributor to LA School Report, cites 7 reasons why co-location can help students prosper. 

“Just the presence of an alternative does it. It doesn’t really matter how great that alternative is, it’s just the fact that that alternative is there, it’s in the building and people see it every day.”

Read more here

A New School Year - Tips for Parents

By Shawnta Barnes

Summer vacations are now wrapping up and it’s time for parents to get their children prepared to return to school.  Parents send their children to school to receive a good education, but there are actions parents can take to help promote their children’s success.

Register for school before school starts and update your contact information.

The first day and the first week of school sets the foundation for the school year.  There aren’t any good days of school to miss.  When children miss these days because their parents did not register on time or return from vacation before school begins, they miss an opportunity to bond with their teacher and classmates and learn about the school and their new grade.  If parents don’t have to register because their children are returning to the same school, they should still update contact information.  Parents may miss pertinent information about their children because the contact information no longer works.

Attend back to school events.

Back to school events are an opportunity for parents to hear from the principal, meet teachers and other school staff.  Many schools also have other services available where parents can put money into their children’s breakfast/lunch account, complete paperwork to sign children up for counseling or to sign up for a club.

At these events, schools typically hand out the school’s calendar and share other resources to help parents support their children during the year.

Obtain required supplies.

Children need to have all supplies on the first day of school.  There’s nothing worse than a child feeling ashamed or choosing to act out because he or she is not prepared for success.  Yes, times are hard, but there are options to obtain supplies if parents cannot afford them.  Many community organizations such as churches give away supplies every year.  If parents don’t know who these organizations are, then they should call the school before school begins because most of the time the school will know who those organizations are and get parents connected.

Encourage and prepare your child.

I can never forget the year I heard a parent say on the first day of school to her son, “Don’t be a dummy this year.”  A new year is a new opportunity.  A child’s biggest cheerleader should be in the home.  Parents should talk to their children about the new school year and ask if there are any lingering questions or concerns.  Knowing there is encouragement and support at home goes a long way.

Make a plan to stay involved over the course of the school year.

Occasionally, I would be in the front office when a parent would arrive to pick up a child early.  Then, I would hear the parent say to the secretary, “I don’t know who the teacher is, but I need my child now because I need to go.”  This should never be the case; parents should have a strong relationship with the teacher.  Teachers need support from parents.  Parents should have the parent/teacher conference on their calendars and days marked when they can come in and observe to see how their child is doing.  Volunteering in the classroom or at school events is another way to be involved.  Involvement shows children school is an important place to be.

Student success is not just the school’s responsibility; all stakeholders must work in tandem to ensure our children receive the best education.

 

Green Buses

Lynwood Unified School District will reduce air pollution and save approximately $20,000 annually when it adds two all-electric school buses to its fleet this coming school year thanks to a pair of grants from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the Hybrid and Zero Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Project (HVIP).
 
“We’re excited to be adding environmentally friendly transportation to our District and evolving in a direction that will best serve our community,” LUSD Superintendent Gudiel Crosthwaite said. “These are necessary steps in keeping our District safe for our students.”
 
The eLion Type C buses are expected to arrive this fall, pending the issuance of the nearly $800,00 in grants, but Lynwood Unified staff members received an early preview on July 19 when they rode in an electric bus prototype. The group of about 30 aboard the bus included Lynwood Transportation Department members, representatives from the First Priority GreenFleet bus provider and Ev Connect charging service, along with SCAQMD members.

Capable of accommodating more than 70 passengers each, the eLion buses offer wide 18-inch aisles, roomier than the standard 12-inch space, for comfortable student mobility. The electric motor features a quiet ride. The buses will be capable of traveling 75 miles while fully charged at one of the stations that will be installed at the District’s bus barn.

“We will be operating on a smart charging system that communicates to the bus and the driver and keeps them aware of time, distance and safety features,” Lynwood Director of Maintenance Operations & Transportation Gustavo Gonzalez said. “Our drivers are looking forward to receiving new training and upgrading the transportation of our students.”

The eLion vehicles will save the District fuel and maintenance costs as the electric buses don’t require oil or transmission fluid and offer longer use of brakes. Most importantly, children of the District will be less exposed to smog-forming pollution emitted by diesel buses.

Fifty-one public school districts applied for the SCAQMD grant. Lynwood was one of just 16 to earn the award, which includes $496,000 for the vehicles and $40,000 for charging stations. The HVIP grant will award $260,000.

The District plans to eventually upgrade its entire fleet to electric buses for safer and more energy-efficient travel. 

it takes a village

Teachers aren't the only educators on campus; every adult on school campuses are vital to the educational success and development of our youth. Too often, the unsung heroes of education, janitors, bus drivers, campus safety offices, campus monitors, secretaries, and volunteers, go without being recognized for the vital role they play in the lives of our youth. One of my heroes ran the cafeteria at Washington Elementary School.

My mother raised my sisters and me by herself, so when she left the house in the morning to go to work, we all left the house together. Often, this meant we were among the first students at school in the morning. There wasn't much to do before school started, so I asked if I could volunteer in the cafeteria before school. To a kid who didn't know any better volunteering in the cafeteria was like heaven. I had access to the best of the best of the breakfast selection and had somewhere safe and warm to be.

I volunteered in the cafeteria from 3rd to 5th grade every morning. At the start of my 5th-grade year, my teacher, Mrs. Simmons, hosted a parent meeting where she had a guest speaker make a presentation about the annual American Heritage Tour. This tour would give students in my class an opportunity to visit the 13 original US colonies and come face to face with the history we read about in our textbooks. Of course, I was excited and took the information home to my mother and begged her to let me go. The trip cost $1300, and Lord knows we did not have that money. But she told me if I worked to save and raise the money I could go.

Over that next year, along with my sisters' help, we hosted dinners, dances, bake sales and sold candy. I also had friends and family donate to support. We worked as hard as we could, but on the day before we left, the deadline to turn in all funds and I was called into the office.

My heart shattered as I learned that I was $50 short of my goal. Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart sunk into my stomach.

Mrs. Simmons, Mrs. Jacobs, and Mrs. Thompson were there and all of them teared up when I did. They asked me to call my mom to see what we could do. When I called home, I knew I would get an answer that I did not like. It was only $50, but my mom just didn't have the money. I went back to class heartbroken, being so close but so far.

I was called back to the office a second time. This time, our lunch lady, Linda was in the room as well. I never knew what her last name was, but I remember she told me to call her Linda. As I held my head down crying, Linda walked over to me, dried my tears and held my chin up and looked me in my eyes and said, "Stop crying. Baby, you should know better than that we are going to take care of you. You work hard every morning and serve people with a smile, and you never complain. I even saw those times you made sure those kids who didn't have money had food to eat. We see your mom struggle to raise you and your sisters and we know it's hard, so we are going to help you because you deserve it."

She handed me a check to pay off the balance for my trip and then some, so I had spending money. I ran and hugged her, and she told me that it was my job to make sure I did the same thing for someone else when I had a chance to do so.

That trip changed my life, fueled my thirst for knowledge, sparked my wanderlust and most important, expanded my horizon. I vividly remember visiting the White House and being amazed at the prestige of the building and making it a goal to come back one day. That was a goal that I accomplished last year when I was invited to the White House for a briefing and reception in honor of my work benefiting young boys and men of color. As the president spoke, I sat and reflected about how I had gotten there.

I often wonder what might have happened to me had it not been for Linda caring enough about me to ensure that I did not miss out on a great opportunity. To some, traveling is an opportunity that is taken for granted. In my work, I am often reminded how impactful travel can be - especially leading summer learning programs and having a front row seat to students seeing a beach for the first time when they live only miles away.

Often, kids only believe as far as they can see. If our young people only see what lies within the boundaries of their hometown, that is as far as they will set their goals.  Imagine how impactful it would be if we did a better job at rallying around our youth and providing opportunities for them that expand their horizons, even if we broaden their horizons by taking them to see what is outside of the walls of their city. If what I have accomplished so far can be viewed as success, I have only reached this point because of the caring adults who intentionally gave me opportunities to do so. We have to ensure all students are given the same chance.

 

In Support of Black Girls’ Defiance

By Dr. Connie Wun

Much of mainstream America witnessed the police brutality that took place at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina, in which a Black girl was yanked and physically dragged across her classroom by a school police officer because she refused to give up her phone and leave the classroom. 

#‎AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh has lead to tweets that re-share and expose data on the discipline rates of Black girls in the United States. According to the NAACP and National Women’s Law Center (2014), during the 2011-12 school year, 12 percent of African-American girls, from pre-K through 12th grade, was suspended. This behavioral management and disciplinary mechanisms create environments by which young people learn that they are the problems – the ones that need to be externally and internally managed.

The important thing to recognize is that the punishment of this young Black woman – a girl – occurred long before Deputy Ben Fields entered the classroom. As Black feminists have urged, others must begin to see the ways that the state agencies – including the criminal justice system and educational system – are a part of a larger structure of anti-black misogyny – misogynoir – that enabled the violence. As we become increasingly enraged by the brutalization in this video, we must consider that we should have been angry even before the video presented itself to us.

The Violence of the Criminal Justice System

We should have been enraged when her punishment began with our perpetual reliance upon a criminal justice system that does not protect but punishes Black women and girls, and other women of color – particularly the poor and survivors of intimate violence.

Studies suggest that Black women and girls are more likely to encounter violence than any other racial group in this country. According to Black Women in the US 2014, issued by the Black Women’s Roundtable from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, “In addition to the increased likelihood of becoming a victim of a homicide, Black women also face increased exposure to a wide range of violent crimes. Overall, Black women are more than twice as likely as white women to become a victim of violent crimes (44.5 vs. 19.6 rates per 1,000 persons).”

As Black feminists and other feminists of color have shown, Black women and non-Black women of color are often criminalized and punished for defending themselves against violence. For example, scholars and activists have rallied behind Marissa Alexander against the criminal justice’s dual form of punishment – one that failed to protect her from a partner that abused her and one that criminalized her for defending herself and her children against him.

The Violence of the School Discipline System

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office (2014), 12% of school-aged Black girls across the country have experienced out of school suspensions, compared to 7% for Native American girls, 4% for Latinas, and 2% for white girls. Nineteen percent of Black girls with disabilities have experiences with out of school suspensions. In another study conducted by the African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia University (2014), which examined Black girls’ experiences with school discipline in Boston and New York, 12% of black girls across the city’s public schools had been suspended in 2013 compared to 2% of their white peers. The study also found that ninety percent of girls expelled from New York Schools in 2011-2012 were black, while none of the girls expelled were white. Most of the girls’ offenses were for talking back, “giving attitudes,” or not following directions, which are characterized as “disobedience” or “defiance.”

Black girls (and their male peers) are also being criminalized and punished by school authorities for effectively navigating through the educational system despite the violence. When Black girls demonstrate their abilities to succeed and thrive or expose and resist the structures that insist on subjugating them, they are punished. For example, Deputy Fields arrested Niya Kenny when she was caught questioning and videotaping her classmate’s brutalization. These forms of punishment do not necessarily mean that the girls will end up in prison, but that the school itself is a form of incarceration for them.

In my research on gender, anti-Blackness, and school discipline, Black girls are perpetually punished by administrators, teachers, security, and their peers. Their experiences with punishment are perpetual and mundane. In the case of Spring Valley High School, it seems as though brutality against a Black girl by the police is either expected or commonplace, such that her classmates barely flinched (through fear or numbness) at the sight of their peer being thrown across the classroom. We should have long been enraged about a society that enabled a police officer to treat a Black girl as an inanimate object in front of a room full of people.

The Violence of the Educational System

We should have been enraged when it began with the U.S. educational system, which does more to punish young people, especially Black and other poor non-Black students of color, than to educate them – in ways that they would like to be educated and for more than STEM- based careers. The U.S. history of schooling has been to acculturate and assimilate students into a structure that requires the subjugation of Black people for it to thrive. Currently, Black youth are the ones most inclined to attend schools with surveillance cameras, metal detectors, and police officers. At the same time, in school districts that serve predominantly youth of color, fast-tracked restorative justice and positive behavioral management programs have been implemented to help students to self-manage their behaviors. Neither the school, its agents, nor the entire system that perpetually excuses police officers for killing Black people is implicated or indicted.

In Support of Black Girls

As studies and various surveillance videos, including police dashcams and mobile phones that capture anti-Black brutalities, have exposed, Black women and girls are up against multiple forms of violence. When they resist or defend against these conditions, they are subject to more violence and punishment. It is necessary that we see the behaviors that are being deemed criminal or disobedient as acts of bravery and self-preservation.

Thus, the problem then is not only with Deputy Fields or school discipline. The problem is that we all live within, and many have been complicit in, a structure that is systematically violent against Black women and girls. While many should have been enraged a long time ago, we must heed the imperative of #WhyWeCantWait. The time is now to support Black girls, their rage, and their resistance.

In Search of a Community for my soon-to-be Kindergartener

By Brenda Citlalicue

As a parent aware of and working towards an educational system that is equitable and relevant for our youth, choosing a program for your child is no easy task. We were lucky enough to have a great preschool experience with a model of education that fits our family values.  We are grounded in what we want for our children; a love for learning, a love for self, and a love for mother earth.  Once my daughter turned 4 the task of looking for a program that would best fit for Kinder and beyond began. As I began to speak on my experience I learned that many parents share some of these similar anxiety filled thoughts. The arduous work began to research and be well informed of the comings and goings of potential schools, districts or charter networks.

As first-generation college graduates, my partner and I know that there are cracks in the system, fault-lines that swallowed many of us whole in our educational journey.  We definitely don’t want that for our children and have made thoughtful choices in our lifestyles to ensure they don’t repeat.  My life’s work has been dedicated to ensuring that those circumstances change for all children.  I can’t say that I have found THE answer or the perfect fit, but what I can attest to, as a parent and a community member, is the power in building community and sharing our voice.

In seeking a program for my daughter I had certain ideas in mind. I wanted her to feel a part of a community she can stand tall with an uplift when needed.  I also had my own stigma with traditional schools so charter was a viable option.  There are no charters in my district and after doing some research the only one that truly demonstrated our core values, is 14 Los Angeles traffic-filled miles away.   That option was quickly taken off the table because that commute was not something we were ready to take part in.  So we decided to give traditional school setting a try.  Allowing the idea of building a community to light our path in this very important search.

Being that my daughter is coming from a dual immersion preschool we had the option to continue that in our home district.  Although the dual immersion was appealing, something lacked.  A mixture of the curriculum we saw on the walls, the staff that I observed and the depth of parent awareness of the “why” for their school mission turned me off.  Another option was this romanticized idea of her attending my elementary school. We still reside in my hometown we want to stay rooted, so her attending my elementary school was an option.  My alma mater has changed drastically (demographics, teachers, etc.) and I didn’t feel a connection there anymore.  What did I expect, we are talking about more than 30 years later!  A third option would be the neighborhood school that is approximately 800 feet from my house. As with all the other schools, I scheduled a visit, I interviewed parents and spoke to the students that walked by my house too and from school.  I wanted to see what made them happy, what concerns they had and how they were addressed.  Their voice was key and so was the school’s position in the community.

The deciding factor was when I met the principal.  Turns out that we attended the same high school and graduated the same year.  We share a mentor and have a couple of mutual friends. I saw a familiar face that had experienced the same educational program that I did and came back to make a difference, make it better!  The tour was pleasant; the teachers were warm, the staff looked happy and parents were involved beyond the crosswalk and classroom beautification.  That’s important as a parent, a working parent at that. I walked away feeling like my child would be taken care of while I am a 60-minute drive away for work.  I also walked away knowing that I could hold someone accountable when challenges may arise.  Those are key pieces to building community and strengthening our voices.

As a parent in this educational climate the “what ifs” and “what could be” will riddle our mind and heart endlessly.  The key is that we have to hold a space for those thoughts and feelings to be addressed.  I hope I have found that place.  Not just for the growth of our daughter but for the development of my community as well.  My children will play and share moments with this village and this village will play a hand in their growth and development.  Our voice is an integral part of the school community that we will engage with in the coming years.