Why are you running for school board?
Do you realize that one out of five students can read the newspaper for comprehension? Only one out of seven students can pass the math portion of a college entrance exam or trades test. What I want is for our students to come out of MPS with a chance at earning a life-sustainable wage. We currently have over 17,300 opportunity youth — youth between the ages of 16-24 that are not in school and/or not working. This is unacceptable.
I am not a politician. I am an MPS graduate, MPS Parent of four, former MPS teacher and a mother. I am determined to fight for an equitable education for all our students, especially our Black and Brown students. Uniting the voices of students, parents and teachers so that everyone is heard, and collaborating is my mission. Learn more at Blueprint4Change.com.
What in your background or makeup especially qualifies you for this seat?
As an MPS parent, educator and community advocate, I am a unique representation of over half of MPS’ student demographic. Three of my children attend MPS. I have a teacher’s lens. A certified reading specialist, I decipher data and determine a student’s equitable course of action. I see the connection required for K-16 education and the trades. I am a businesswoman and I serve on MATC’s District Board, which makes me familiar with proposals, budgets, projections and community expectations.
As a parent I understand the struggles of students not being heard and looked down upon as if they have nothing to offer. I see firsthand the struggles of my children and their friends during their school year. I have felt what [it] is like to not be welcomed in a school. I know what it feels like to be talked down to from teachers and administration. I know I am not the only parent with these issues. So, I want to be your voice until you can tell your story with your voices.
As a former educator, I see the need for additional resources in the classroom. I know what it is like to be told to stay on curriculum when the majority cannot even read or comprehend that curriculum. I know what it is like to spend more time than is accounted for in our pay to make sure our students’ needs are met. I know what it is like to listen to heartbreaking stories from our students regarding home life, work and hopelessness, and feel helpless. I know what it is like to teach a class of 30+ students that has computer-based lessons with 8 working computers. I know what it is like to be in a classroom with 36 children, 18 with special needs and little to no assistance. I know what it is like to make sure you have breakfast, snacks and hygiene kits for students so that they can learn. I know what it is like to work at the same base pay for years.
What are the most important issues facing the board — and your district in particular? What do you think should be done about these issues?
There are two important issues facing the board. The most spoken about is the COVID-19 pandemic. The second is the ongoing failure to close the achievement gap. For many years our public-school system has been failing our children, specifically Black and Hispanic children, which is over 78% of the student populations. There have been many excuses made as to why our children have been seen but not heard. Parents that had the means have moved to other districts for better educational options, leaving those without options in the district or choosing nonpublic options.
Understanding that it is not easy to pivot a large district, we can take several steps. Take best practices from all schools that are closing the student achievement gap. Establish what equitable changes can occur on the class level. Establish education plans for each student. Use the data from STAR to know where students require the most support. Look at what occurs in nearby schools and districts with the similar demographics and what their intervention consists of.
On a school and classroom level, establish individualized education plans for each student. This may take a bit of work on the front end, but it will be an equitable solution for the 80% of MPS students struggling with reading and the 85% struggling with math. Use the data from the CBA (classroom-based assessments) like STAR to discern where exactly that student requires the most support. Students receive the STAR test fall, winter and spring. Students can be separated into three categories: on target/proficient; on the bubble/basic meaning they can go either way; or significantly below grade level. This can be the basis for the 30-minute intervention plan groups per the MPS academic plan.
Other districts have classroom parents as well as paraprofessionals. Why not establish a parent who serves as the liaison between students, parents, and teachers? The classroom parent or community member can enlist help from other members of the community to work with small groups on reading and math skills on specific days. Parents can assist with word parts, prefixes and suffixes, sight works, chunking of words, basic math facts, story problem comprehension, grouping and factoring. The sky’s the limit. Community intervention will free up the teacher and provide them resources necessary to be successful. The district equitable solution is all hands on deck.
As a board, MPS should spend more time on academic progress. This helps with establishing policy and curriculum guidelines. Each board meeting, a district could create a summary of progress made toward equity and inclusion in relation to closing the achievement gap. Or, one to two schools from each district can discuss their progress. That would be eight to 16 schools reporting per meeting. Either way we need to hear about the progress. We are in the business of educating children.
My recommendations for MPS to improve student achievement and close the identified achievement gap is simply to involve the community, students and parents in executing the equitable plan. They have the resources that are needed to motivate the student. Students are resilient and will overcome most obstacles, provided an equitable chance. The community is filled with volunteers, artists, subject matter experts; even the chambers of commerce are just waiting for the ask.
Are you satisfied with the district’s efforts to address disproportionate disciplining of Black male students as described in the Office of Civil Rights report? Would you want to change the district’s approach to this issue if elected?
Absolutely not. The report is proof that these offenses occurred but there are no direct steps that have been taken. We need a board, a superintendent and administrators that commit publicly to equity and inclusion. There needs to be acknowledgement that systematic racism exists and contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline and to disproportionately suspending Black males. Also, special education students are not receiving their proper interventions. Create a specific plan of action for the district to follow. By embracing racial equity, in policy, practice and procedure in MPS, it’ll be the first step to the equity for students.
Second, create strategic community partnerships. These partnerships can be the district’s equity and inclusion advisory committee. If CBOs are already doing the work, allow them to assist with implementation and strategies. While MPS has some of the smartest people in the city, we all need a fresh look at the situation.
Third, we need to examine a department dedicated only to equity and inclusion. They must have the department head be extremely knowledgeable about equity and inclusion. The equity and inclusion department will build upon the “guidebook” presented to the board in April. This department should ascertain specific language that details the inequities faced by students, parents, and teachers.
Fourth, we should look at the data and determine what is working and [what] has not been working. District data is used to predict future student outcomes. We need the data to show the whole picture of why students are failing, not just the surface data. The data derived should be looked at and analyzed for what intervention is required for various outcomes. This data will allow MPS to make the most informed decisions on policy and future curriculum.
If one looks at the district makeup, 78% of the population is Black and Hispanic. In the past 15 years there has been a steady decline of teachers of color. The racial makeup of MPS teachers: white, 70%; 16% Black; 9% Hispanic; and 2% Asian. In addition to hiring more Black and Brown teachers, we need more bilingual teachers. We need a plan that thoroughly examines the hiring and retention of Black and Brown teachers. I recommend equity and bias training for educators. We cannot rely upon surface data. We need to dig deeper.
Fifth, we need to take the previous grant work off the shelf and commit to using it with sustainable practices. The district needs to formally adopt an equity and inclusion policy that aligns with the student achievement of Black, Brown, [English Language Learners], and special education students. The overall strategy needs to align with MPS hiring and budgeting practices aligning with instruction. An equity lens should be used to analyze student outcomes, professional development, and a financial allocation review.
Do you agree with MPS’ decision to keep most students in all-virtual instruction until April? If not, how would your plan be different?
The current MPS Board and administration have tools, data and research at their disposal. I would not make a recommendation without seeing their data. What I will say is that my daughter who attends an MPS charter is back to in-person school. The parents were provided a choice of in-school or virtual. The virtual space was limited. There was a plan. Their plan is expressly and continuously relayed to the parents and students. The plan includes drop-off and pickup for students as well as entrance and exit plans. While I understand that this is on a much smaller scale, perhaps we can utilize some best practices in the MPS phase in plan.