The Wayfinder Foundation has officially launched it's Community Activist Fellowship program!

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The Blog Team of One Public Education is excited to announce that our parent organization, Wayfinder Foundation, has officially launched our Community Activist Fellowship program! Wayfinder is a new national foundation that invests in women activists, supporting their fight to both end poverty and create thriving communities for children.

We are thrilled to announce that Los Angeles has been selected as one of two cities to participate in the first round of the application process! This Fellowship has been set up to support individual activists in order to build their skills and capacity as community leaders.

So, we are calling all warrior women – take advantage of this opportunity and take your activism to the next level! As advocates we know the real story of wanting to do more for your community but not having enough resources to take our activism to the next level.

We think our Chief Program Officer said it best:

“Wayfinder seeks to eliminate needless suffering caused by poverty, and to raise communities where families are economically secure and children have what they need to thrive,” said Angela Jones Hackley, Chief Program Officer, Wayfinder Foundation. “This Fellowship program will allow us to invest in women activists who are too often overlooked by traditional philanthropy.”

Specifically, we are looking for:

  • Women, 18 and older, who is directly impacted by the issues they seek to resolve.  
  • Reside in LA or Indianapolis.
  • Have an income that is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL).
  • Are directly affected by, and/or have significant direct experience with the issues, policies, practices, and/or systems that is the focus of your activism efforts.
  • Have the drive, passion, commitment and tenacity to improve her community through activism.
  • Want to utilize the power of communications through storytelling, blogging and community led campaigns to move her agenda.
  • Have a lack of access to traditional funding opportunities, or lack easy access to existing opportunities for leadership development.

More information on the LOI process can be found on the Wayfinder website. Spread the word about this great opportunity!

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in Schools: Steps to Transformation

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By Jada Monica Drew, MS

The core of inequity is engulfed in fear and ignorance. We are socialized to avoid conversations about race, politics, and money. Yet, these topics are what makes our country vibrant in its diversity of people, perspective, place of origin and access to wealth. Talk more about these topics! In the United States of America, school systems, whether private or public, are facing the reality of changing demographics and are asking the question, “What do we do?” That’s easy; create an environment where all students, faculty, and staff are successful. “How do we do it?” That’s the harder question to answer.

Many education models are moving in the direction of more diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) frameworks or curriculum that is culturally responsive. However, the reality is DEI efforts and initiatives are add-ons. Add-ons are extra to-dos added to your scope of work. No one likes more work. Teachers, administrators, and staff are busy with meetings, grading, coordinating, and making sure children are learning. If people do not feel like add-ons are immediately applicable to their work, they may not support DEI initiatives. You must find common links, access points, and time within the normal operations of your school calendar.

Note: Diversity, equity, & inclusion are all different, yet connectors on the continuum of ensuring belonging and equal opportunity.

Steps to Transformation

DEI has been advertised as a must to change or transform organizations because the population of the United States is changing, but teachers, principals, staff, parents, and board members are tired of talking about the problems diversity brings. Diversity was once a word that brought positivity and hope. Now it represents politically correct language patrol and nervous feelings prohibiting focus and fully engaged people ready to give their all. In tackling the task of creating equity, we need everyone at their best. How do we do this? There are four preliminary steps we encourage organizations to take to transform schools and communities. Each step looks differently at each institution. 

  1. Analyze how you are collecting and examining data; qualitative and qualitative. 
  2. Develop interpersonal skills through story-telling and story-listening. 
  3. Create innovative solutions with the help of the students with fun tools. 
  4. Accept non-closure and discomfort as indicators of growth.

Step 1: Analyze how you are collecting and examining data: qualitative and qualitative

The Social Designs formula is Historic Truth telling + Building Relationships + Creative Action = Social Justice. In order to build equity within an organization you must assess the history of how data has been collected and aggregated.  Make sure there is a system in place to gather demographic information based on race, gender, and other determinants at every entry point possible. This data will help you to develop a historic and current picture of the impact of your work across lines of difference. Gathering qualitative information from people within the school, alumni, and community supporters is important as well to help you think critically about next steps.

Step 2: Develop interpersonal skills through story-telling and story listening

Many adults lack the soft skill of high emotional intelligence when it comes to being okay with being wrong. Yes, this happens in schools too. This is ironic because the purpose of school is to explore, think critically, and test ideas. Yet, when we get "diversity" wrong, some react as if it is the worst thing in the world. Grace has to be extended to each other when embarking on areas of diversity and inclusion.  We all make mistakes, but we have built an unforgiving culture in diversity.  We have all mispronounced someone’s name or used the wrong pronoun or even said statements others may deem disrespectful.  Our goal is to help people understand the power of ownership and forgiveness. Leaders sometimes lack the character traits of accountability and compassion which hinders communal growth and mutual awareness building. Each meeting, orientation, and professional development opportunity can include intentional and challenging questions, prompts, queries, or activities to push your staff to share with one another. Be intentional about each person sharing equally and build relationships by telling stories of culture, challenge, and success. A great activity to use for this is the Culture Wheel.

Step 3: Include students in the process “The Spill Over Effect”

When we practice, we are more confident to practice in the classroom. Teachers we work with duplicate the tools and activities we teach during professional development training sessions into classroom practices and curriculum. In many cases, students are more excited and engaged to discuss difficult topics and to celebrate each other. As you are going through the process of learning more about DEI, add the same activities to your curriculum. You can do it!  Teachers we’ve worked with have incorporated activities such as: Dialogue Principle Practice, the Culture Wheel, and Differentiating DEI to their lesson plans for elementary, middle, and high school students. In turn, students have been given the opportunity to then lead conversations and activities with peers and other teachers.

Step 4: Accept non-closure and discomfort as indicators of growth

The same way we are encouraged to visit the doctor for routine checks or the grocery store to restock our refrigerators, DEI work is continuous and ever evolving.  When you feel uncomfortable, this is the time to step into your growing edge. Pull on the notion of critically challenging perspectives and opinions in dialogue and debate form. Dialogue creates opportunities of deep learning, while debating helps us to sharpen our ability to test facts. Dialogue helps us to appreciate experiences and invites mistakes, while debating pushes our research skills a step further. The more questions you leave a DEI session with, the better.  There is no ending solution for diversity, equity, and inclusion. However, there are policies and practices to examine and shift to create as much fairness as possible.  

Now what?

You have the skills to start or continue your journey to setting an environment of equity becoming the new normal. Set SMART goals and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Reach out to other schools to engage in masterminds and solution incubators. Connect with local economic hubs to align with investing in the vitality of your community’s economic future.  We need to think outside of the box to find solutions.

Lynwood Alumni installed as University President

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Michael Tidwell, the newly installed president of the University of Texas at Tyler, still muses on the lessons he learned as a Lynwood Knight, especially from Donald Jones, the school’s former accounting teacher.

Tidwell considers Jones, a mentor since even though he was never enrolled in his classes, Jones still took the time to provide him with guidance about his future.

“Mr. Jones was always so intentional about helping us students think about our future and helping us understand that where we are today is not necessarily where we would be tomorrow,” Tidwell said. “He never let us rest on our laurels, and he constantly pushed us to think bigger and better.”

Tidwell is a product of the Lynwood Unified School District, having attended Abbott Elementary School and Hosler Middle School before graduating from Lynwood High in 1991. He even met his wife, Karen, in his high school biology class.

Tidwell said that after several years of working in the private sector, he realized he wanted a career in education – inspired by the amazing help he received from Lynwood Unified teachers. His career has included roles as an administrator and professor at Clayton State University, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and Eastern Michigan University. He joined the University of Texas at Tyler in October.

He holds a bachelor’s in communications from Ball State University as well as a master’s in communication and a Ph.D. in organizational studies for management, communication, and educational leadership from Washington State University.

Tidwell was also known for his athletic prowess, playing on the Lynwood High basketball team for two years and volleyball team for four years. He said he developed strong bonds with his coaches, who encouraged him and other players to use their athletic skills as a means of obtaining a college education.

Lynwood High Athletic Director Bill McGinis, who coached volleyball and sophomore basketball while Tidwell attended the school, said he knew Tidwell’s strong work ethic and positive attitude would take him far. McGinis said that Tidwell’s legacy would encourage future generations of Lynwood High students.

“He was an amazing student; I’m very proud to have known him,” McGinis said. “Michael is a great role model for our students since his accomplishments show them that someone who comes from their background can achieve so much. He’s a shining example of what our students can do when they put their minds to a task.”

Tidwell said his goal as president of the University of Texas at Tyler is to be as accessible and encouraging to students as the Lynwood staff was for him. He said he hopes to be a role model for Lynwood Unified students.

“We are very proud to have our alumni Michael Tidwell serving as president of such a prestigious school and to know that he still uses the lessons and advice that his teachers gave him all those years ago,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said.

Intervening Amidst Student Fears

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KIPP LA schools are getting extra training to help their students deal with trauma.  Because of fears that students bring to school with them regarding a myriad of issues, KIPP teachers are preparing to help their students excel in class.

“We are hearing a lot from our counselors having students coming to school crying or having anxiety, worrying about coming home and their family is not there, so teachers said they needed to teach their students to identify those feelings and express them to prevent negative outcomes.”

Read more here

Honoring A king

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The best way to honor our ancestors and those who are no longer with us is to embody their best and most admirable traits. This Monday, as we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we should do so by embodying his dreams and continuing his work toward ensuring justice for all. Dr. King is someone I have admired since learning about him as a child.

Dr. King made an indelible impact on the world through his commitment to service to others. We can also do this by keeping in mind the fact that we lift ourselves highest when we uplift others.

He combatted hate with purposeful and intentional acts of love. 

He demonstrated empathy to the plight of people of all walks of life as he sought first to understand the ways in which we are more drawn together by our commonalities than our difference. We can do this by seeking to listen and understand as much as we want to be heard and understood.

Study and education were at the forefront of his work and success as he graduated high school early and attained the highest graduate degree possible. We can maintain this focus by ensuring educational excellence, equity and opportunity for all kids and making sure their zip code is not a threat to their futures.

He defied negative public opinion, discrimination, and racism with unshakable persistence in the face of the threat of harm and death. We can continue to do this by staying the course even when it is not popular, by standing up for what is right and equitable, even if we must stand alone and by denouncing any practice, speech, person or policy that seeks to undermine democracy and inclusion.

Dr. King had a dream that we have not yet realized. But as the right leaders emerge and continue the fight for equity, justice, access, and equality, we move ever closer to doing so. The life and legacy of Dr. King lives on through those of us who have picked up the torch where he laid it down.

In his final speech before his assassination, he spoke of having been to the mountaintop but hinted that he might not get there with us but assured us that we can and will get there. As I listened to that speech, I could not help but wonder what he might have known as his fate had been already decided. Whatever he knew, his words were intentional and pointed, serving as a call to action for those of us who would we left behind to continue his work. We should see his words and service as light to the path ahead and his life as being the leg of the relay he was chosen to run. It's our turn now to continue the race and keep the fight and faith. We honor him and all of our ancestors as we work to make sure that we are all free at last.

 

600 Role Models

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What does it look like when the community responds to the needs of its children? 600 men show up when a school asks for 50.

Many boys across the nation leave homes with absentee fathers and go to school in search of positive male influence and role models. For the most part, they can navigate without their fathers unscathed. Many of them struggle and fail the pivotal transition from boyhood to manhood. But many of them muster up all of their grit to thrive. Though they may struggle, many of them defy the odds stacked against them and the statistics that are often used to predict their demise. They excel academically, socially, developmentally and in sports. However, due to no fault of their own, there is one area where they often all fail; having a father or father figure show up to events.

Like many young men, no matter how many great role models I have had, I always noticed the absence of my father. Even now as an adult, the void of his absence is noticeable. In, fact, I have never attended an event as a youth that was designed to bring fathers and sons together. The first time I attended such an event, was as an adult.

Last week, I read a story that moved me to tears because I could only imagine what it must have felt like to be one of the students present and witness the tremendous outpouring of support.

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Billy Earl Dade Middle School planned "Breakfast with Dads," and when over 150 students signed up, there was concern that many of them would show up to the event and there would not be enough fathers or male role models at the event. As the event approached, still not many fathers had signed up. One of the event organizers, Kristina Chaade Dove, took to social media to put out a call for at least 50 men to serve as mentors for just one hour.

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When the event arrived, over 600 men showed up. These men spent time with over 150 young men, teaching them how to tie ties, having meaningful dialogue and committing to being a presence in their lives.

Stephanie Drenka, blogger and photographer from Dallas, recapped the event, "Back in December, the team ran into some difficulty when planning their annual “Breakfast with Dads” event. Dade’s community liaison Ellyn Favors mentioned that student participation was low due to young men not having a father/father-figure available to attend the event. Kristina decided to post a call for volunteers on Facebook in the hope of finding 50 male mentors to accompany the middle schoolers…

The unexpected influx of interest led the team to move the event from the cafeteria into the gymnasium so they could house more guests. Kristina engaged the community again in getting volunteers to help with setup and check-in. Team members from Big Thought, the Office of Cultural Affairs, and even Kristina’s personal friends showed up alongside the male mentors to make the event possible…

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I will never forget witnessing the young students surrounded by supportive community members. There were so many volunteers, that at times I saw young men huddled in the center of 4-5 mentors. The look of awe- even disbelief- in students’ eyes as they made their way through the crowd of “Dads” was astonishing.

Jamil “, The Tie Man” Tucker, led the auditorium in a hands-on icebreaker activity. He spoke of learning how to tie a tie as a rite of passage some young men never experience. Mentors handed out ties to the eager students and helped them perfect their half-Windsor knot.

The sight of a necktie may forever bring a tear to my eye."

Leading up to the event, Donald Parish, Jr., who organized the event said, "When a young person sees someone other than their teacher take an interest in them, it inspires them. That's what we want to see happen." Often, students who are in the greatest need of caring adults get them in the form of teachers. The problem is, their teachers seldom get the credit they deserve. Students know their teachers care about them, most of them, to some degree. But this realization comes with the idea that they are paid to do so. Their view is that teachers care because it's their job to care.

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When young people encounter those who show they care when they don't have to, it hits home. So the impact this event must have had on those 150 boys who were in the room with 600 men who cared about them enough to donate their time, expertise and wisdom to show they care is coupled with an immeasurable positive impact.

As an educational leader in my community, I am often in search of ideas to bring home to our schools. Most of them come in the form of working to address the needs of Gary Hardie at 15 years old growing up in Lynwood. Its safe to say, this "Breakfast with Dads" event is one that I hope to borrow and bring to Lynwood. I hope we will see the same response as Billy Earl Dade Middle School did as 600 men mobilized to build a village around 150 young men who needed their time, influence, guidance and love.

 

LAUSD Superintendent to Retire

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Michelle King, currently LAUSD Superintendent, will retire at the end of June.  King is the first African American woman to hold the position with LAUSD.

“I am very thankful for the outpouring of support I have received from the entire LA Unified family, our community partners, and my colleagues across the nation. As I aggressively fight this illness, I ask that you continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers.”

Read more here

“Their time is up”

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Sunday night, Oprah Winfrey became the first black woman to accept the Golden Globes' Cecil B. Demille Award. Receiving the award, she chose to serve notice to men who abuse their power, speaking to the women in the room and those watching, "Their time is up; their time is up!"

“Ah! Thank you. Thank you all. O.K., O.K. Thank you, Reese. In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee, watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: “The winner is Sidney Poitier.” Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black. And I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. And I’ve tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl — a kid watching from the cheap seats, as my mom came through the door bone-tired from cleaning other people’s houses. All I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in “Lilies of the Field”: “Amen, amen. Amen, amen.” In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.
It is an honor, and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them, and also with the incredible men and women who inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson, who took a chance on me for “A.M. Chicago”; Quincy Jones, who saw me on that show and said to Steven Spielberg, “Yes, she is Sophia in ‘The Color Purple’”; Gayle, who’s been the definition of what a friend is; and Stedman, who’s been my rock — just a few to name. I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, because we all know that the press is under siege these days.
But we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before, as we try to navigate these complicated times. Which brings me to this: What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all of the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell. This year we became the story. But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics or workplace.
So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault, because they — like my mother — had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers; they are working in factories and they work in restaurants, and they’re in academia and engineering and medicine and science; they’re part of the world of tech and politics and business; they’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.
And there’s someone else: Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and a mother. She was just walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road, coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the N.A.A.C.P., where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice, but justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died 10 days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. And for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up!
And I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth — like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented — goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’s heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery. And it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, “Me too.” And every man — every man — who chooses to listen. In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave: to say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome. And I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning — even during our darkest nights.
So I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘Me too,’ again. Thank you.”

It is essential, for every woman that has ever uttered the phrase, "Me too," that we stop, listen, validate their experiences and hold perpetrators accountable. Doing so is crucial as women take their rightful places in all areas, fields, any place where men who have abused their power to hold opportunity, access, justice, and industry hostage in exchange for sexual favors and subservience; this is all the more vital as our children watch.

It does not matter that men can also say, "Me too." We cannot let the experiences of men, no matter how relative, drown out the voices of women harmed by men whom power and lust have corrupted. In this and many areas, women of all ages, especially our young girls deserve better than this status quo as they venture into uncharted waters, breaking into fields, leadership positions, and industries that have been dominated by men.

They have to know their dreams are valid and they can use their talents and abilities to reach every height and goal they pursue.  They have to know they will be paid the same salary for doing the same work men do and their voices matters as much as their male counterparts. They have to know they don't have to change how they dress to be taken seriously or be respected. They have to know they can make decisions about their bodies and their health without being impeded by men who set policy to benefit themselves. They have to know they are capable and strong all by themselves and realize they were not born with any limitations because of their gender.

I want the same thing I want for all women and young girls as I want for my daughter, the ability to dream, live, work, love, and attain happiness as freely as men who have access to money and power. As she often does, Oprah eloquently captured this message in her remarks, using her platform to send a message of hope.

 

CDE to Host Ethnic Studies Webinar

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The California Department of Education will host a webinar tomorrow, January 9, 2018, at 3:00 pm to gather public input on the 2020 Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.

Questions to be posed to those joining the call will include:

1. What kinds of course outlines should be included in the model curriculum?

What are the essential components of effective ethnic studies pedagogy?

3. What are some of the current challenges educators are encountering while teaching ethnic studies?

4. How can the model curriculum best support districts, administrators and teachers that are considering offering ethnic studies courses at their schools?

AB2016 (Alejo) was passed to ensure all California high school students have an opportunity to learn about their own or another culture's history and the importance in shaping the state's past, present and future. This webinar, is a vital part of the process in guaranteeing public input from educators and community leaders are at the forefront of any planned curriculum.

 Click here for more information 

 

Dear H&M, you need a black board member

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Is this what you think of black boys?

If you were to look in my closet, you'd find that more than half of my clothes come from one store, H&M. In fact, I wore my favorite H&M shirt to church on Sunday. If I had seen this offensive ad on the company's website, I definitely would have decided to change my shirt.

There is no way anyone can convince me that someone, anyone, involved in this photoshoot or approval of this ad did not know that having a young black boy wear a hoodie that says, "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle," is wrong. Black people have been compared to apes and monkeys as a way to demean and dehumanize us; to do this to a young black boy is assault. There might be people who think anyone who thinks this ad is offensive is being too sensitive, but there are images, words, and phrases that are offensive and insensitive to every race of people. This picture is immediately offensive so how someone could miss its negative context is beyond me.

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To those who feel like people of color make a big deal out of nothing, when we point out how many boards of directors lack people of color, this ad is the perfect example of why diversity is essential to ensuring accountability because representation matters. It matters to our efforts to ensure business practice and institutions are culturally competent and working to dismantle institutionalized and systemic racism in all forms. It matters to the context of conversations like these when we must call companies to task for policies and practices that are ignorant, insensitive and promote racist tactics and ideals. Too often, our concerns are not considered because our voices are not heard. Since we don't have a seat at their table where our voices will be heard, H&M must hear our outrage.

I hope others join me in refusing to spend another dime at H&M until this ad is taken down, an apology is issued, and steps are taken to add diversity to their board of directors. To support H&M before we see these outcomes is complicity.

 

Energy Convertors Rising: A Call to Action for Education and Community Leaders

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Energy Convertors is an Oakland-based boutique organization focused on improving public education by utilizing the authentic voices of students. So far, the student fellows have published over 40 original pieces and the reception has been great. However, rather than just having people read and repost our published articles, we want leaders to take action. Our 15 fellows are presenting real issues they face daily and it is our hope that leaders rally around these articles. We are looking for education and community leaders to partner with us to address these issues head on in partnership with our student leaders.

Our work has been split into three phases. Phase 1 is displaying our fellows’ authentic voice. You can see some of that work below. The fellows wrote about their experiences which is often quite intimate and revealing into the student experience of education today. Phase 2 is the research phase. This is where our fellows learn more about the broader education themes that naturally arose through their writing. The fellows go beyond feelings and emotion and work to become experts on the topics that have trended from their writing. For instance, this is where a student writing about interactions with a teacher learns about teacher quality through research. Finally, Phase 3 is where each fellow begins to lead change on their own. They take their authentic experience, coupled with their research and make an impact that spans across hundreds of students.

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Here’s the call to action for all of you amazing education and community leaders. We ask that you take up a few of the issues that these fellows have raised and directly address it. Respond in a blog or video. Bring it up in your staff meetings. Present them at your community forums. Education is the one industry that does not obsess over how the end-user (in this case, the student) is responding to the product. We don’t need to speculate on the experience of students when the Energy Convertors Fellows are pouring their experiences out to you directly. These fellows don’t want a pat on the head, they want you to use all of your smarts to alleviate the issues they’ve brought to your attention and if you can’t fix it, then at least support them with the resources and access to spark the change on their own. 

Our goal for the next school year (2018-19) is to more than double the fellowship and build out stipended partnerships with teachers to help us expand our reach with students. 

Our fellows have covered a variety of topics including:

Teacher Quality

I want to Learn, Not Just Memorize

The Goal for my Education isn’t to be Well-Behaved

Adult-Made Chaos in my School

Mental Health

I Can Still See it

The Memories make me Black Out

Just Trying to Figure it Out

Student Engagement & Motivations

A Message to Parents from a Student doing her Best

My Mother Fuels My Passion for Equity

Gentrification

A Student’s Take on Gentrification

Women’s Rights in School and Beyond

Let Girls Learn

Womanhood and High School

Reflections of a Muslim Girl Growing Up in Oakland Unified

LGBTQ Issues

My Experience as a Trans Student

The Prolonged Process of Coming Out as Nonbinary at School

The Internal Toll of Being Misgendered

Student Home & Community Life

Where are the Lights?

Don’t Forget to Dream

General Equity Issues

America Allows its Islamaphobia to Control their Perception on Muslims

America: Land of the Thieves, Home of the Slaves

To get involved directly, please email me at charles@energyconvertors.org. 

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This article was first posted on Huffington Post

Bureaucracy Hinders Parental Support

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Excessive paperwork and filing fees are hindering parents from fully participating in extracurricular activities in LAUSD.  Though rules and regulations are needed to ensure student safety, there are fears that the stringent rules will push parents away.

“The actions of the district this fall are just killing any kind of parent involvement in the schools. I’ve never seen it this bad.”

Read more here

‘Tis the Season

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By Sherece Williams

Whether you celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus, Kwanza, or don’t celebrate at all, I’m sure this break is much needed.  The kids are tired. The teachers are tired.  It’s time for a break from it all.  I can’t express how I’m looking forward to this much needed time off.   

Winter break is time intended to do just that break.  A break from the normal everyday hustle and bustle.  It is not however a break from some of the daily routines you should have established with your kids.   If you don’t have reading as part of your routine, this upcoming break is a good time to begin.

Daily, some time should be spent reading. Break  is an excellent time to do some recreational reading.  Instead of the teacher assigned reading, children can choose what they want to read. Parents can also make use of this time to catch up on something they planned on reading.

Children imitate their parents.  If your child sees you reading, they will want to read as well.  I remember as a child my mom used to read magazines a lot.  She’d pick up various magazines at the grocery checkout and regularly I’d see her spend time reading magazines.  Sometimes she’d cut things out and post to the board or refrigerator in the kitchen.  If it was exercises, they would be taped in the bathroom or she’d get inspired to change the living room furniture around.  Whatever the nature of the read, I’d see her reading on a regular basis.  

I think I was in the third grade, when we received a flyer for a children’s magazine named Highlights. I went home with the flyer and begged my mom to pay for my subscription…and she did! The magazine was put out monthly. I’d receive the magazine in the mail with my name on it.  I LOVED this magazine.  I would read it from cover to cover.  The teacher would allow us to bring the magazine to school and we could read them in class during our independent reading time.  Needless to say everybody didn’t get the subscription so I felt privileged to have my own to bring to school.  I could do the puzzles in the book and color any pictures because it was mine.  I’d cut stuff out and hang it in my room.  I would read this magazine entirely.  Then,  I’d save them so once I was done reading everything in the current magazine, I’d go back to old ones from prior months to read them again.   

I say this all to say, a part of my excitement about having my own magazine was that I was able to do just like my momma was doing.  I had my own to read.  Being that this magazine was catered to young readers, it was concerning things I wanted to read about and/or that I found interesting.  Today I still read magazines. My time is limited but I try to set aside time to read them especially if a cover topic catches my eye.  One of my favorites is Women’s Health.  There’s always something I need to know in it.  

We have to set examples for our kids.  We not only have to tell them but we need to show them what’s important.  Good reading skills are a key factor in education.  You need to be able to read and comprehend in every subject. I hear parents say all the time, “My child struggles in reading but she’s better a math.”  Well, guess what?  It won’t be for long! After simple addition and subtraction math becomes much more complex and involves lots more reading.  I am a math person.  Math makes sense to me.  1+1 is always 2, but in reading,“a” isn’t always “a” and that’s crazy to me.  However, I learned how to decipher sounds to read.  

We usually don’t like what we find difficult.  Reading and comprehending is a skill we need and use all of our lives. Reading is not something that you shouldn’t  avoid learning, so you have to keep at until you get it.  No if, ands or buts about it. Why not try other methods to appeal to your child intrest in getting them to read?  Introduce reading for leisure.  

During this break, take your child to a bookstore or library and allow them to choose a book they might like.  Talk to them about it, not quiz them, just casually have conversation about whatever they are reading. As they read more, they will become better at it.  I know some are thinking, I have younger kids which means I have to read with them and that’s a chore. It’s winter break, what else are you doing?  Reading with your smaller children 5-10 minutes daily is sufficient. As they get older of course you need to increase the reading time as they read on their own.  Eventually, you won’t have to tell them to read.  I can’t stress enough how important reading is to a child’s educations.  Once they become good readers, every aspect of school will improve.  

If reading regularly is not something you do already, take time over the break to start.  This is an excellent habit to form with your child.  I promise you won’t regret it.  Try it!

Lynwood QuestBridge Scholar

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Firebaugh High School senior Kimberly Wenceslao still remembers her first college visit to an East Coast campus three years ago when the unfamiliarity of a new environment left her in tears.

Wenceslao, who had rarely journeyed beyond her Lynwood community, said she was overwhelmed by culture shock. But she was also determined to see what the world had to offer, and would soon visit new colleges each summer as a part of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program, including Princeton, Skidmore College and Dartmouth College.

Wenceslao’s ambition recently paid off in a big way as she was accepted to her dream school, Yale University.

“Yale is an opportunity that I would’ve never imagined I would have when I was growing up,” Wenceslao said. “It means the world to me, and also to the community around me because it shows all of us that we can reach our dreams.”

Wenceslao will attend Yale through a QuestBridge scholarship, which will cover her full cost of attendance for all four years, as well as books and travel expenses. QuestBridge scholars are typically in the top 5 to 10 percent of their graduating classes and score 1310 or better on their SAT or PSAT.

Wenceslao, a first-generation college student, is determined to forge a path for her peers and younger sister.

“We are extremely proud of Kimberly and are excited to see what the future has in store for her,” LUSD Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “Kimberly is a role model for our District and a reminder to all of us that we can accomplish anything when we work together.”

An I.B. student with a 4.38 GPA, Wenceslao is a well-rounded student who plays varsity tennis and is a part of the Firebaugh theater program. She plans to major in psychology but said she may ultimately pursue law to follow her passion for advocacy.

Wenceslao credits the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Program for helping to expand her world. She visited the Nation’s Capital building last summer where she engaged in healthy debates, and took a biomedical class at Yale, where she fell in love with the culture and was impressed to find an authentic taco stand within the community.

 

Five Ways to Advocate for your child's Education

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As a parent, I want nothing but the best for Lailah's educational experience. I want to ensure that she has access to all of the opportunities, rigor and supports she needs to uncover her passions, ability, and grow into the best version of herself. Unfortunately, our system of education was not built to meet her needs. As we endeavor to change the system, there are things, we, as parents, have to do to ensure our kids' needs are met. I drafted a quick list for parents with the following question in mind:

What do you need to do to advocate for your child to be successful in a system that was not designed to meet their needs?

Be Visible

Your presence makes a difference in the lives of your students and for the teachers that need your support. Further, being visible allows you to see first-hand how schools operate and to assess the needs of your children based on your first-hand knowledge. We know that many parents don't have the opportunity to be present at schools because of work and other obligations. But when and if parents can be present, they should take advantage of the opportunity and do so, even if just to observe.

Be Engaged

Being a fly on the wall has its benefits, but there is an even more significant benefit in playing an active role in your child's education. There are numerous opportunities to join the PTA/PTO or be a part of an advisory committee or school site council. Most, if not all schools offer parents opportunities to volunteer at events, during pick-up and drop off, and on field trips or other school-sponsored activities. The most influential and informed parents are often the most engaged.

Be Inquisitive

Never let what you don't know get in the way of your advocacy. Too often parents feel less inclined to be engaged for fear of what they do not know. The most brilliant people among us are also the most inquisitive. Ask to see data and the narrative that accompanies it. If there is something you don't know or are unclear about, ask questions, demand answers and do your research. Parents asking questions is one of the best ways to ensure accountability.

Be Heard

Key to being heard is voicing your concerns and expressing your ideas. One of the most missed opportunities for parent advocacy and engagement is during the LCAP process. Schools are required by law to seek and include parent voice when crafting the LCAP. That computer lab you've been asking for is made real by adding it to the LCAP. That is just one way you ensure you claim your seat at the table. When surveys come home, take them seriously and follow up on what you share.

Be An Advocate

As a parent, you must be a champion for the specific needs of your children. No two children are alike, and they will differ in ability, the experiences they have and their needs. So, ensuring those particular needs are met is vital to your child's success. As you advocate for your children, you are doing the same for all kids.

Education is the single most important civil rights and humanitarian issue of all time. Our current system of schooling lacks equity, access, and opportunity for all students. The system itself is not flawed; it is not broken; it was built to function the way it is. It's working very well, but it is not serving the needs of our community. Systemic change is needed to combat a system wrought with injustice. That systemic change in education and communities is more often than not spurred on by visible, engaged, inquisitive, vocal parent advocates. At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for your kids. With that said, if you have to sit in the office until you get what your child needs, do just that.

 

Charter School Affiliate Turns up the Heat on L.A. Politicians

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United Parents and Students (UPAS), a spinoff of Green Dot Public Schools, continued to gain steady influence among Los Angeles politicians as the host of its fourth annual day of action.

On Saturday, December 2, the newly-independent nonprofit organized its signature political gathering at L.A. Trade Tech College and themed the event, “Forward LA: A Day for Justice.”

The community-based organization packed its event’s roster with a star line-up of city officials who were on the hot seat to tell the 1,000 youth and parents in attendance exactly where they stood on trending political issues.

UPAS’ political agenda for 2017 included carryovers from previous years such as safe and clean streets, food deserts, homelessness, and affordable housing. New to its platform, though, were issues of growing relevance to the city and the nation that focused on immigrant rights and marijuana regulation.

The lawmakers at the event were as diverse as the topics on which they spoke. Among the guests were LAUSD Board President, Monica Garcia; rookie LAUSD Board Member, Nick Melvoin, City Councilman Jose Huizar and City Councilman Curren Price.

The liveliest speech came from Garcia who lauded Green Dot and UPAS for their civic activism. Namely, for registering over 4,000 parents and students to vote in 2017, up from 2,000 in 2016 and for setting a model of excellence for other district schools to follow. In her speech, Garcia boomed, “You are amazing, you have created more graduations, more jobs, [and] more people coming together to be the best we can be.”

Another impassioned speech came from Councilman Huizar against the White House’s move to scale back immigrant rights. He praised our nation’s diversity and made clear that California would stand up for immigrants. Huizar declared, “We celebrate our diversity, we don’t ban it, we don’t deport it and we sure as hell don’t wall it up.”

Although its political platform may change from year to year, UPAS stands committed to empowering parents and students to improve their school communities and its new independence does not seem to be slowing it down.

Earlier this year, UPAS left the legal umbrella of its parent organization, Green Dot – which runs one of the city’s largest charter school networks – to stand on its own feet.

The political machine that it has built since it began in 2014 continues to add new victories to its belt.

In this year alone, UPAS has doubled its voter registration of parents and youth, won concessions from county agencies to place traffic signs in front of its schools to improve student safety, and expanded its organizing efforts to train schools in Minnesota, Texas, Michigan and Georgia.

UPAS’ successful forays into politics are being watched closely by other charter school networks like Alliance College Ready, Camino Nuevo, Magnolia and KIPP – most of whom were guest delegations at the event – as they look to build their own brand of parent and student unions.

 

OF COURSE, IT MUST BE SEGREGATION WHEN THE PARENTS WHO CHOOSE ARE BLACK AND BROWN

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By Kimberly Smith and Trish Dziko, National Charter Collaborative

We’ve spent the past week trying to decipher the motivations behind the recent Associated Press article that claims charter schools are encouraging segregation solely by the fact that many educate underserved Black and Brown children. The articles – which appeared in localized versions in Albany, Detroit and Columbus – claim that while four percent of district schools enrolled a student body that is 99 percent students of color in 2014 – 2015, 17 percent of charters did as well.

To begin, charter schools are public schools that are free and open to all students. Despite overwhelming parent demand, charter schools still represent six percent of all public schools nationwide. The suggestion that charter schools are responsible for the lack of diversity in America’s public schools is flattering given our small scale but absurd.  

When did it become “segregation” to choose to invest in children who are living in poverty so they can have a fighting chance in the world? If charter schools are perpetuating segregation, then so are community health centers, inner city YMCA programs and homeless shelter food lines – all who serve predominantly Black and Brown people. It is utterly ridiculous to call efforts to support Black and Brown children segregation. The only reason these types of services are necessary is to counter the long list of injustices and inequalities inflicted on people of color. Our organization, the National Charter Collaborative, represents over 400 Black and Brown charter school leaders -- many of whom have dedicated their lives to educating underserved Black and Brown children, which, unfortunately is necessary because society has a habit of leaving children of color behind.

Public charter schools are here to give parents a choice on where to send their child to school -- the same choice an affluent suburban white parent is afforded. The same critics who slam school choice often have the privilege of living in high-quality school districts, have the ability to move closer to a higher performing school, chose private schools or homeschool their children. The wealthy exercise school choice all the time. It’s only when these conversations extend to giving parents with fewer resources more options that it becomes a debate.

To suggest that charter schools that locate in low-income neighborhoods to give parents choice are perpetuating segregation is just a veiled attempt to undermine the idea of school choice. Segregation is a purposeful and willful effort to separate individuals. At its worst, it creates a socio-economic chasm between white and Black, rich and poor. While the charter sector is not void of racial issues and tensions, the notion that charter schools are driving segregation is baseless. The real culprit is a society that creates a manifest destiny for impoverished children of color by denying their parents the right to choose a high-quality education – be it public charter or public district. Stop blaming the symptom and focus on the virus that caused the disease.

This article was first posted on http://www.k12dc.education

Talking race with kids

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Kids can get their first glimpses of stereotypes from the news and other media. Is your child seeing that certain races are mostly seen as poor, or involved in crime, while others are always experts or professionals?

The news has always been a public forum for debates about race. Even when the news isn’t specifically focused on the topic of race, it can send important messages about different cultures. Kids have a way of picking up on these subtle cues from the media.

Discuss race with your children, especially when you see generalizations and stereotypes. Look to balance what your child sees in the news with a dose of reality. If your son says he sees a particular race being arrested on the news all the time, explain to him that even though those particular people may have committed crimes, that doesn’t mean their particular race should be associated with crime. The truth is crimes are committed by people of all different colors and the news tends to report on crimes disproportionately by race.

A good way to start a conversation on race is by speaking with your child about what respect means and how to be respectful of all people regardless of race, religion, age or any other characteristic. Make sure your child knows not to limit herself based on what she thinks people feel about her race or background.

For more information on discussing race, diversity and tolerance, visit www.tolerance.org.

This article was first posted on childrennow.org

From Survivor to educator

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Today is my mother, Mary Jane Wilson's, birthday. She was born on December 8, 1950, in Moorehead, Mississippi. My mother is a lifelong educator, having taught 5th grade, preschool and she recently retired from being a YMCA childcare provider.

I write this piece in honor of my mom because of one lesson she taught me which has been at the core of my beliefs as an educator and a man. In general, my work as an educator is driven by the experiences I have had as a child. In part, I do the work that I do to give back what was given to me, but also to correct what was wrong in my childhood.

Our parents are our first teachers. My mom was my first teacher in every sense of the word. She was my preschool teacher at Ham Park's Charles Drew Head Start Program. The foundational lessons I had for my education came from her at school and home. On the weekends, when I got in trouble, she had me stay inside and practice my numbers and alphabet in print and cursive. When she checked my homework and saw that it was sloppy, she'd erase the whole thing and make me start again, even if just one part was not neat. When my grades came, and they weren't the best, she'd tell me I did okay but reminded me that I could do better; she said this for A's or F's. My penmanship, understanding of consequences, attention to detail and pursuit of excellence all stem from those lessons.

But one of the most influential lessons I learned from my mom was what she did after she divorced my dad. My mother is a domestic violence survivor. My dad was verbally and physically abusive. He had a hair-trigger temper, and it seemed as if the sun shining the wrong way could set him off. Fearing for my safety and hers, my mother hid her pregnancy from my father for seven months. At times, everyone at home just did our best to stay out of his way for fear of setting him off. One night, things reached a tipping point that changed the makeup of our family and lead to a pivotal moment in my life. Thank You Mrs. Beaver The last time my dad lived with us, I was six years old.

As a domestic violence survivor, my mom volunteered countless hours for the Los Angeles YWCA where she would support and counsel battered women. The YWCA mission: "We create real change. YWCA works every day to eliminate racism and empower women. Through advocacy and local programming, we create real change for women, families, and communities." I remember tagging along with her to these meetings where she would talk to women for a while; while she spoke to them, I often played with their kids. At that age, I didn't understand where we were going or why we were going; I just wanted to tag along.

My mother empowered women to do what is best for them and their children and she found them resources and a safe haven to do so. How powerful is it when survivors breed more survivors and pass along wisdom that is vital to their healing? It wasn't until I became an adult and looked back on those days that I found meaning in them. My mother used her experiences to help and support others just as I do as I work to support students in Lynwood schools and wherever I have influence.

Mom, today and every day I honor you and the legacy you have built. You have done an excellent job raising all of us on your own. There were many days you went hungry so that we could eat. You went to work daily and came home with barely enough energy to put food on the table for us to eat. You went to bed to do it all over again the next day. You taught us to hold our heads up high no matter how things might have been. You pushed all of us to go after our dreams and never once cast a shadow of doubt on them no matter how lofty they were. And most importantly, you taught us to be safe, stay prayerful, believe in God and do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. When I wanted to give up, you pushed me to press on, and I thank you for that. I thank you for going to noonday prayer every day when you were carrying me in your womb to pray that I would be a great man. Every award I receive, every accolade I am given, every life I touch, I do so in your honor. If I am half the educator and parent you are, Lailah will be beyond blessed.

Thank you for all you do, I hope I make you proud. I love you and pray that God continues to smile on you. Happy Birthday!