Being an Ally
I’ve seen how our education system perpetuates built-in discrimination that benefits white children and disadvantages students of color, and I know that the consequences of graduating without a good education are unequal. The school-to-prison pipeline is real, as are the lifelong economic impacts for students of color who aren’t being taught the skills they’ll need for college or work.
When I was a classroom teacher, I saw how students were passed along from grade to grade without mastering basic skills like literacy, and I saw how they struggled to engage with a curriculum that didn’t meet their needs--so I designed classroom activities that met students where they were, taught real-world skills, and reflected their culture and experiences.
In my work on education policy, I saw how students of color often attend under-resourced schools that are plagued by high teacher turnover and that employ zero-tolerance, drill-and-practice approaches to learning. Some of the actions I took included:
Right now, in my work with CCPTA, I’ve drafted recommendations for APS and the School Board suggesting improvements to the boundary change process, including outlining more specific metrics and data the community should be receiving on how boundary changes would impact students in low-income families. Additionally, I'm working on efforts to increase inclusion and representation of immigrant families in the CCPTA and school PTAs: last fall I created a flyer with statistics and suggestions for school PTAs to consider and implement, and right now I am connecting our CCPTA with the National PTA so that we can learn from the national organization's grant-funded pilot projects with PTA units and immigrant families across the country.
Fixing the inequities in education is big and urgent work. I believe it will take all of us working together--those who have lived experience of injustice and those who can act as committed allies.
I want to speak plainly here and acknowledge those in the community who are worried that electing a white candidate might slow down or even undo progress towards equity in our schools. I agree that we need leaders with lived experience as people of color. I can’t bring that to the work--but I can bring a commitment to seek out and value that experience. I can earn your trust as a person who will listen carefully, use my deep knowledge of K-12 education to develop ideas and solutions, and then get things done.
I also know there are those in the community who hear “focus on equity” and worry that this means that all of the school system’s attention and resources will be directed to “other kids” and not their own. I want this group to consider a few things.
Good public policy doesn’t come from labeling any set of kids on a one-dimensional basis, such as skin color, test scores, or free and reduced meal status. In our schools we have “twice exceptional” students who are gifted and also receiving special education services. We have students of all races and classes who are excelling in vector calculus, and we have students of all races and classes who are living with so much trauma and economic instability that their academic potential is unrealized. Our goal has to be supporting every student--including yours-- with what they need, or else we’ve wasted everyone’s time, money, and potential.
I want us to believe that we can do this--support every student with what they need. I think it would be a mistake to assume that we have to do battle with each other to compete for scarce resources, even when budgets are tight. If that were true, it would mean accepting the idea that our schools can only serve certain kinds of kids--and that’s an idea that doesn’t belong in Arlington and doesn’t live up to the mission and promise of public education.