By: Naomi Shelton, Director of K-12 Advocacy at UNCF (United Negro College Fund)
Equity has been a huge buzzword in the field of education this year. Education advocates and politicians alike have called for an increase in educational equity, but what does the term really mean? Equity is not Equality. Equity creates equality by prioritizing resources to students who need them the most.
For example, think of a typical track meet. There are five runners – each in their own lane. Each runner must run one lap around the track. The first runner to complete the lap, wins the race. Now let’s use this analogy to inform our understanding of equity.
Equality would mean that every runner would start the race at the exact same spot in their lane. However, the track is oval-shaped. If each runner began at the same spot, each runner’s distance to the finish line would be different. The runner in the innermost lane would run a shorter distance than the runner in the outermost lane. Sure, they would both start in the same spot (EQUAL), but the runners in the innermost lanes would have an advantage – in distance – than their counterparts in the outermost lanes.
This is precisely why track meets do not operate this way. Since the track is oval-shaped, each runner begins the race in their own lane, at different, equal distance, spots along the track; ensuring that each runner, runs the exact same distance needed to complete the race.
Now, think of our current public education system in this same context. Students – regardless of race, geography, household makeup – start on the same marker on the track. Some students, like the runner in the outermost lane, have to run harder and faster to get to the finish line. The barrier here is distance. In the real world, barriers include low-income, resource deprived neighborhoods, disabilities that require additional expertise, culturally negligent curriculum, outdated technology, inexperienced teachers or access to critical supportive services.
Meanwhile, the runner in the innermost lane has it a lot easier. They don’t have to run as fast or as hard to get to the finish line because of their initial position in the race. The barriers here are fewer in number. In terms of education, these innermost runners attend schools in affluent neighborhoods with a surplus of resources. These students have the advantage of local tax-based funding formulas, parent lead fundraising efforts and/or private funding, and state-of-the-art technology.
What we need is education reform that promotes fairness. Fairness equals equity. As Debby Irving in her book Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race states, “Equality means giving all students the exact same thing to meet the same expectations. Equity means holding people of differing needs to a single expectation and giving them what they need to achieve it.” In other words, the playing fields need to be leveled. It’s critical that our public educational system undertakes reform – changes so that each student is given what they need to succeed.
Our education system should support students by allocating the most resources to students who are most in need, just as track athletes arrange themselves for fairer competition. The national education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) targets dollars to the highest poverty schools and districts.
Under No Child Left Behind, schools could lose funding if they failed to meet statewide standards. But under ESSA, states cannot reduce funding by more than ten percent from year to year despite school performance. ESSA also attempts to ensure that low-income students are not disproportionally taught by ineffective, inexperienced, and/or out-of-field teachers.
ESSA requires that state and district report cards include the percentage of inexperienced teachers, principals, and other school leaders as well as teachers with emergency credentials, and teachers teaching subjects out of their range of expertise. ESSA also seeks to relieve some teacher angst surrounding evaluation systems by ending the requirement for state teacher evaluation systems to focus significantly on student test scores.
ESSA gives power back to the states to control education policy. Now, members of the community must hold their school leaders and elected officials accountable to implement system-wide and school-specific measures that ensure equity in our schools.
Naomi Shelton has experience in education related community engagement both at the national and local levels and public administration. Currently, she is the Director of K-12 Advocacy at UNCF (United Negro College Fund), the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. There, she focuses on national education initiatives and community engagement efforts to ensure more African-American students are college and career ready. Naomi is currently a member of the DC Public Charter School Board, appointed by Washington, D.C. Mayor, Muriel Bowser. Her passion is educational equity. Follow Naomi on Twitter at @NaomiSheltonDC
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Wilson issued the following statement in response to the College Board:
“As a mother and a former educator, I was extremely disappointed to learn that Kamilah Campbell’s SAT score is being challenged after she showed marked improvement in the second exam. It is my understanding that the first test that she took was a practice round for which she had not prepared. Before taking the second test, however, she spent a significant amount of time studying and took an SAT prep course. Her hard work and diligence paid off and she increased her score by about 300 points.
“The College Board, however, is challenging her score and has suggested that Kamilah may have cheated. It claims to “celebrate when students work hard and improve their scores on the SAT,” yet instead of celebrating Kamilah, it is creating a perception that perhaps she’s done something wrong, which is preventing her from pursuing scholarship opportunities.
“I fully intend to look into this matter, but I am very concerned that this incident may send the wrong message to young people, especially those who need more incentive and support than Kamilah to push themselves to excel in school and pursue higher education.”
Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson is a fourth-term Congresswoman from Florida representing parts of Northern Miami-Dade and Southeast Broward counties. A former state legislator and school principal, she is the founder of the 5000 Role Models for Excellence Project, a mentoring program for young males at risk of dropping out of school. Congresswoman Wilson also founded and chairs the Florida Ports Caucus, a bipartisan taskforce that coordinates federal action in support of Florida’s harbors and waterways. The Florida lawmaker sits on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Education and the Workforce Committee.
It’s indisputable that most students perform better academically when they have parents or adults to help with homework and to be advocates with teachers and principals.
But in many communities, parents who juggle multiple jobs, don’t speak much English, or have low levels of education often don’t have the time or resources to make meaningful connections to their child’s schooling experience.
That’s why some leading-edge districts have made it their job to reach out to families and create more welcoming and accessible ways for parents to be part of their children’s schooling.
In Washoe County, Nev., for example, the school district’s family-engagement work includes organizing home visits by teachers—and training those teachers to make the most of those face-to-face encounters in students’ homes.
In Federal Way, Wash., the leader of family-engagement efforts taps a diverse array of parents to serve on committees or task forces that inform major decision making in the district, including high-level hires.
Still, the specialized field of parent and family engagement has mostly been driven by ambitious leaders at the district level. And even in districts with robust programming, resources to support the work are often tight.
But new and potentially bigger forces are building around the need for schools and educators to forge deeper connections with parents and community members.
Philanthropists—in particular the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation of New York—are championing the flow of more money into family-engagement initiatives, including research to identify what efforts are effective.
And the federal budget has set aside $10 million to help fund efforts by several state education agencies and outside partners to develop strong parent and community programming.
The Every Student Succeeds Act also directs states and districts to develop plans to work with families and surrounding communities—a requirement that has spawned a multistate endeavor to create guidelines and exemplars for schools and districts to follow.
Advocates for building strong ties between schools and families say it’s a major opportunity for a proven, yet underutilized strategy to make schools better.
“There is a lot of excitement, and more of an evolution in where both policymakers and funders feel like they want to increasingly put their money,” said Vito Borrello, the executive director for the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement…
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A few weeks ago when I heard Charleston County School District for the first time had received accreditation I thought, “What the what?”
I was both surprised and concerned. I had never imagined our county school district until then was not accredited. I knew that Charleston County School District has some low performing schools, but it never occurred to me the district was not accredited. I mean, very few things are any good unless it’s accredited. Sure we have some individually challenged schools, but surely the district was accredited, I had just assumed. So hearing that CCSD was just getting accredited for the first time had me flabbergasted.
I remember when I was applying to colleges all those years ago; one of the things I looked at was the school’s accreditation status. I felt like a degree from a non-accredited school wouldn’t mean very much, so accreditation was important. How could it be Charleston County School District was not accredited? So I asked a few questions.
I’m finding that this accreditation business is a very complex issue. The first thing I learned was that although the district as a whole had never been accredited, certain schools – the county’s high schools especially – were. That made sense. High schools had to be accredited otherwise their graduates might not be accepted at institutions of higher learning.
Okay that was a concession, but I still was left wondering how an elite, arrogant community like Charleston County didn’t have an accredited public school district. In one brief exchange with a friend, I asked whether the fact that we received accrediting for the first time was good or bad. My friend answered with an emphatic “good!” I respect my brother Jason’s perspective, but I can’t imagine how being accredited for the first time in its history can be a good thing for a 200-year-old school system. By the way, Charleston County school district is the last Lowcountry school district to receive accreditation. I guess Jason figures better late than never.
Jason and I never got the chance to fully discuss the subject of CCSD accreditation, so I’ve still got a lot of questions I think our community also should be concerned about. First and foremost, just what does being accredited mean? Maybe the folks at South Carolina State University could help. They were facing some real challenges about accreditation.
Like SCSU did as an institution of higher ed, Charleston County School District got its accreditation from one of the foremost accrediting agencies around for education systems– AdvancEd. I looked ‘em up and they apparently can cut the mustard. I was concerned CCSD administrators weren’t just giving us another dog and pony show, hiring some no-name company to take a pay off in exchange for a good rating. But AdvancEd appears to be reputable.
And AdvancEd didn’t just hand over the all-clear without some stipulations! For those of us who have lived here a long time the stipulations seem repetitive – improve governance, classroom culture, school alignment, allocation of resources and community engagement – stuff constituents have complained about for years. AdvancEd gives its accreditation for five-year cycles and will allow the district a few years to make the improvements if it wants to keep the accreditation. I’m anxious to see how that plays out.
At the top of the heap of the stuff that has to be improved is board governance. Charleston County always has had a racist, elitist and self-serving school board. It’s now devolved into a dysfunctional one as well. I’ve seen some back-biting entities – that’s not the nature of the beast, that’s the nature of stupid people! That’s also our fault (voters) because we continue to elect people to the board who don’t serve the interest of the community as a whole. We continue to elect people to Charleston County School Board who serve parochial interests – people who obviously have no understanding of the reality that high tide raises all boats.
I tell people all the time our school system, with all its flaws and inequities, works exactly as it is intended. The system isn’t designed to provide equal education opportunities to all children – and I don’t know where this new cliché about education opportunities depending on zip codes comes from. What does that mean?
Okay, okay, okay. It’s complicated. But you put people in position to achieve certain outcomes. People are spending a lot of money to get elected to the county school board. The first time I heard a guy had spent $50,000 to get elected it blew my mind. Now folks are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get elected. They’re forming slates of candidates. You don’t have to be real bright to realize that means people have agendas and are willing to go all the way to achieve those agendas.
We’re talking about a system that provides billions of dollars to the local economy and facilitates how our community is shaped in many ways. Public education is serious business! It ain’t just about insuring little Johnny learns to read. Lil Johnny doesn’t need to read to push the hamburger button on a cash register at Burger King. And soon they won’t need lil Johnny at all because customers will be placing their own orders! Some kids get a good education in Charleston County because some kids will push hamburger button, others will own the restaurant or design the buttons.
So what about school district accreditation? I’m still a little confused about the why and how it will affect public education in Charleston County. But as I argued with a friend recently, every little bit helps. Accreditation certainly can’t hurt. I think the real issue is will we move beyond getting accredited.
BY NITA SMITH, Executive Director, Friends of the Children
Josh, a salaried, professional mentor through the Friends of the Children program, has been William’s friend since he was in kindergarten. When he first met William, his biological mother had substance abuse issues and had not been present since his birth. His father’s whereabouts were unknown.
William lived with his aunt and uncle for a short time, where he struggled continuously with behavioral issues.
After about a year, William was removed from his aunt’s care and placed back into foster care where he would then experience multiple placements and school changes, which had a profound, noticeable effect on his behavior and school performance.
Throughout all of the transition and trauma in William’s life, his friend Josh remained a consistent presence, always locating him and ensuring that he maintained regular weekly outings and school visits.
William is now in the third grade, and Josh remains a consistent presence in his life. He has been adopted and now attends a new school – his fourth school since starting kindergarten.
Early on, Josh and the adoptive mother formulated a plan to ensure stability and consistency in William’s life as well as continued academic and behavioral progress. William is now actively involved in sports, and his behavior in and out of school continues to show significant improvement.
Josh’s consistency, quality and caring investment in William has resulted in a network of diverse support for his social-emotional development and educational success.
We are facing many challenges with our foster care system in Tampa Bay. Children—particularly older youth—in foster care are slipping through the cracks and not getting the support they need to move beyond their foster care experience. We are now part of the solution.
Friends of the Children—a national network with 14 other locations across the country—has been so successful in Tampa Bay that we are investing in the launch of a new chapter that can now serve more children in foster care in Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Friends of the Children—Tampa Bay selects the most vulnerable children ages four to six from high-poverty schools and the foster care system. Youth are then paired with a long-term, salaried, professional mentor (a friend) who stays with them from kindergarten through graduation – 12 and a half years, no matter what.
Research has shown that the most important factor for building resiliency in children who face the highest risks is a long-term, consistent relationship with a caring adult. Evaluations on youth who complete the Friends of the Children program, compared to youth in foster care without a Friend show that:
Eighty-five percent graduate high school, whereas only 55 percent of youth in foster care graduate high school or obtain a GED diploma.
Ninety-three percent avoid the juvenile justice system, but only 63 percent of youth in foster care avoid incarceration.
Ninety-eight percent avoid early parenting, whereas only 86 percent of youth in foster care avoid early parenting.
This model also makes economic sense. A Harvard Business School Association of Oregon return on investment study found that for every $1 invested in Friends of the Children, the community benefits more than $7 in saved social costs. Helping one child saves the community $900,000.
Separation from a parent is considered an adverse childhood experience which causes childhood trauma. The toxic stress they experience can lead to short-term and long-term mental and physical health problems, academic delays and social-emotional development delays that are hard to counteract.
As a result, children struggle to gain the social-emotional skills needed to thrive and build positive relationships, let alone do well in school. We empower our youth through social-emotional learning to ensure they are equipped with skills to persist in achieving their goals. We also help them build healthy relationships that will serve them well in school and into adulthood.
Moving mentorship out of the volunteer realm is a crucial component to getting the quality, consistency and commitment that children are facing the highest risks need, and it has been remarkably effective with youth in foster care. We also intervene at an early age—and stay for the longhaul—so that we’re able to change a child’s life trajectory, which is much harder to do as they get older.
Friends of the Children has already positively impacted the youth we serve in Tampa Bay, as well as their families. From the grandmother who can be a better parent to her grandson because of behavioral improvements, to the mother who was able to keep her seven children together because a Friend helped the family find housing, we open the door to upward social mobility.
Imagine if we could give every child in the Tampa Bay foster care system a consistent, caring adult who walked alongside them for 12 and a half years, no matter what. It would change the face of our foster care system.
In February 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sued Navient Corporation and two of its subsidiaries for allegedly using shortcuts and deception to illegally cheat 12 million borrowers out of their rights to lower loan repayments. These practices, according to CFPB, led to an additional $4 billion in borrower costs.
Forbearance is only one option available to borrowers repaying their student loans. While other options less costly to borrowers like income-based repayment were available, Navient’s widespread use of forbearance boosted corporate profits by minimizing time spent advising distressed borrowers.
Navient’s profit-enhancing measures came at a great expense to borrowers. For example, three-years of deferment on $30,000 in student loans would cost a borrower an additional $6,742.
A few weeks later and in response to CFPB’s lawsuit, the Education’ Department’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) division audited Navient from March 20-24, 2017, and later produced a report of its findings on May 18, 2017.
But the audit remained secret until late November this year when the investigative expertise of Associated Press, aided by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA), finally led to public disclosure of its devastating findings. Rather than incur the wrath of consumers nationwide, and/or appear to support the CFPB or any of the multiple state attorneys general who also sued Navient, the Education Department never made the critical audit public.
As journalists would say, this story has legs: A Cabinet secretary allowed a federal contractor to act as if a key public agency worked for a private company. Additionally, audit findings hidden for a year from the public today impact 44 million student loan borrowers.
The one encouraging development in this still-unfolding scenario is that a U.S. Senator is still waging an effort to protect consumers. In a November 13th letter this year from Sen. Warren to Navient’s President and CEO, the Massachusetts Senator was justifiably direct.
“This report bolsters allegations that Navient illegally cheated struggling student borrowers out of their rights to lower repayments…This finding is both tragic and infuriating, and the findings appear to validate the allegations that Navient boosted its profits by unfairly steering student borrowers into forbearance when that was often the worst financial option for them.”
My own review of the report’s hidden findings by the audit’s six-member on-site review team uncovered how Navient not only failed to advise student loan borrowers of all available options to repay their loans but believed that its servicing contract with the Department of Education did not require the firm to do so.
A section of the report entitled, ‘Servicer Response’ states in part: “We disagree with 168 of the 228 servicing opportunity determinations (call review and servicing history review)….Nor are we aware of any requirement that borrowers receive all of their repayment options – IDR, deferment and forbearance – on each and every call…If FSA chooses to require all servicers to discuss IDR to all borrowers on all calls or to require all service representatives follow a common call flow, specific requirements should be provided in an approved Change Request.”
That’s a lot of corporate nerve.
Navient is supposed to work for the Department of Education, and by extension, the American people. Further, if Secretary DeVos allows this major contractor to shape what will or will not happen on her watch, what kind of public steward of taxpayer dollars is she?
The FSA findings give even more credence to the earlier CFPB investigation undertaken before filing its Navient lawsuit. CFPB learned that many of the borrowers that incurred excessive charges included military veterans who became disabled during their service to the country. Federal law provides that military veterans whose disabilities were incurred during service to the country are entitled to loan forgiveness.
Navient also holds title to a related and dubious distinction: More consumers filed complaints about Navient than any other student loan servicer. Complainants identified dealing with the servicer or lender as the key issue, compared to nearly half at 34 percent whose problems were based on an inability to pay their loans.
“At every stage of repayment, Navient chose to shortcut and deceive consumers to save on operating costs,” said then-CFPB Director Richard Cordray at the time the lawsuit was filed. “Too many borrowers paid more for their loans because Navient illegally cheated them.”
“Too many Americans are struggling to make their student loan payments every month,” said Whitney Barkley-Denney, a policy counsel specializing in student lending with the Center for Responsible Lending. “While the Department of Education has created programs to help make monthly payments more affordable, those programs only work if servicers are actually helping eligible borrowers access them. Servicers aren’t merely debt collectors – they can be a borrower’s lifeline to financial stability.”
Navient still has a chance to set its record straight. Sen. Warren’s letter requests a written reply to the litany of concerns by December 4.
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. — Leviticus 19:33-34
Every third weekend of October, many thousands of people of faith come together all across America for the National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths celebrations launched by the Children’s Defense Fund to unite congregations across religious traditions to respond to the divine mandate to nurture, protect and advocate for all children.
This year, congregations will focus on faithful sustained action to end child poverty, protect children from gun violence and end the heartless separation of children from their families.
Those who talk about our nation’s cruel treatment of immigrant families will likely lift up the mandate in all great faiths to welcome and care for the foreigner and the stranger. But as people of faith across our country call for us to treat immigrants with compassion, the Trump administration is doing just the opposite. Last week the administration published a proposed change to the federal “public charge” rule that has the potential to plunge millions of children and their immigrant families into poverty, hunger and homelessness.
When individuals apply for lawful permanent residency or entry into the United States, immigration officials consider whether that person is, or is likely to become, reliant on the government — in other words, a “public charge.” The current longstanding federal policy is to consider whether an individual will rely on the government for more than half of their income by examining whether he or she receives cash assistance or will need long-term care benefits. But the unprecedented change proposed by the Trump administration would allow immigration officials to deny green cards and visas to immigrants who use public benefits from an expanded list of programs including non-emergency Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance and the Medicare Part D low income subsidy. This proposal threatens millions of children and their families.
With this change, the administration threatens to shut down legal paths to citizenship for families that use these safety net programs they depend on — and are legally entitled to — to feed their children, put a roof over their heads and keep them healthy. Even people who haven’t used these programs in the past can be denied a green card or visa if there is a suspected risk they are “likely” to use them in the future.
Nearly one in four children in America has at least one immigrant parent, and nearly 90 percent of those children are citizens. By making legal use of safety net programs a “heavily weighted” factor in determining whether an individual qualifies as a public charge, millions of immigrants will be subject to this expanded definition of public charge, which is likely to cause both immigrants and their children to forego crucial benefits such as food assistance, health coverage and safe housing for fear of the consequences.
This is profoundly unjust, immoral, un-American and downright shameful. America is a nation of immigrants (including the first lady and her parents). The words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty call on us to welcome those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But the cruel immigration policies of the Trump administration force families into the shadows, suffocating them with harsh measures meant to punish them for daring to dream of a better life for their children in America.
Foreigners to our land deserve to be treated as our neighbors. Their children deserve to breathe free. But these cruel Trump policies meant to punish adults and deter immigration end up doing huge harm to children. Is this who we are called to be as a nation? We must stand together and in a unified voice reject this radical change to the public charge rule and demand an end to the cruel immigration policies of this administration which continue to victimize children each and every day.
There are three things you can do today to take a stand against this attack on immigrant families and children. First, go to https://protectingimmigrantfamilies.org and submit a comment against the proposed change to the public charge rule. The administration is required by law to review these public comments so now is the time to make your voice heard.
Second, participate in this year’s National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths celebration. There are resources available for leading discussions with children and adults alike about welcoming immigrant families.
Third, look around your own community and take part in local efforts to support immigrant and refugee families who need your help now more than ever. Together we can resist unjust policies and deliver on our nation’s commitment to those who come here seeking a better life.
And those of us who profess Christianity as our faith should remember that baby Jesus was an immigrant in a foreign land. Let us welcome Him in our land today.
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund.
Despite past pledges to shrink or eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, the spending bill that President Donald Trump signed into law provides a small boost to the department’s budget for this fiscal year.
The increase of $581 million for fiscal 2019 brings the Education Department budget to roughly $71.5 billion. It’s the second year in a row Trump has agreed to boost federal education spending—last March, Trump approved spending levels that increased the budget by $2.6 billion for fiscal 2018.
The spending deal for fiscal 2019, signed late last month, includes relatively small increases for Title I (the main federal education program for disadvantaged students), special education, charter schools, career and technical education, and other programs. Although fiscal 2019 began on Oct. 1, the agreement mostly impacts the 2019-20 school year.
In addition to Education Department programs, funding for Head Start—which is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services—now stands at $10.1 billion, a $240 million increase from fiscal 2018. And Preschool Development Grants, also run by HHS, are level-funded at $250 million.
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A spirit of hope and change hovered over the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center in Houston’s historic Third Ward community Thursday, November 15th, as dozens of engaged parents, educators, elected officials and community members were on hand at the Black Parents’ Town Hall Meeting on Educational Excellence, where a lively discussion about the state of education for Black children in the Greater Houston area took place.
Houston Independent School District (HISD) Board President Rhonda Skillern- Jones, Texas Southern University (TSU) student and Forward Times intern Treyvon Waddy, Educator Larry McKinzie, and Community Activist Monica Riley and her daughter Chirelle Riley
The event was made possible by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who partnered with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) to create a three-year, multi-media public awareness campaign focusing on the unique opportunities and challenges of The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESEA) and replaced No Child Left Behind, received bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 10, 2015. The regulations are administered by the U.S. Department of Education and went into effect on January 30, 2017.
Under ESSA, states across the country adhere to more flexible federal regulations that provide for improved elementary and secondary education in the nation’s public schools. The law also ensures that every child, regardless of race, income, background or zip code has the opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.
By raising awareness of ESSA policies, the NNPA, which is a national trade association of approximately 211 Black and women-owned U.S. media companies with a weekly print and digital readership of over 20.1 million Black Americans, seeks to empower parents to advocate for instructional strategies that are in the best interest of their students and communities. In addition, this is a tremendous opportunity to increase support around academic issues that will make a difference in closing the achievement gap and ultimately the wealth gap.
Dr. Elizabeth V. Primas, who serves as the program manager for the NNPA ESSA Public Awareness Campaign and is a life-long educator, was on hand to welcome attendees and talk about ESSA being a tool to help increase the effectiveness of public education in every state, including Texas. Lynette Monroe, who is the program assistant for the NNPA ESSA Public Awareness Campaign, served as the event moderator.
Attendee and parent Johnny Taylor addressing the panelists
The panelists were asked questions regarding several topics, including how the Texas Education Agency funding structure promotes or inhibits equitable school funding, their views on standardized testing overall and specifically African American student performance, effective ways to communicate and foster engagement with African American family members, how to increase community engagement, and things the Texas Education Agency or other entities can do to better prioritize the needs of students who receive special education services.
“You must get engaged in your child’s education to ensure they don’t become a statistic,” said parent and community activist Monica Riley.
Monica was one of the five panelists, along with her daughter Chirelle Riley, who participated in this powerful panel discussion, which also included Houston Independent School District (HISD) Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones, educator Larry McKinzie, and Texas Southern University (TSU) student and Forward Times intern Treyvon Waddy.
Monica, who is the mother of seven girls and a product of the public school system, talked about the passion she developed about education, particularly after having to make tough choices about her children’s educational future. After sending her children to public school, private school and even choosing to home-school them, Monica became an educational advocate in order to tackle the issues she saw that were not being addressed by the school administrators tasked with addressing those issues.
Black Parents’ Town Hall attendees listening to panelists
Chirelle, who is an 18-year-old sophomore at Houston Community College, spoke about her educational experience from a millenials perspective and emphasized the need for school leaders to ensure students are being taught information that can benefit them beyond simply taking a test.
Skillern-Jones spoke about her own experiences dealing with the educational choices for her kids, which is what drove her to run for public office and become a school board trustee and seek to bring about change from within. Skillern-Jones stated that the elected decision makers at the state level have made things difficult for school districts to solve many of the problems African American children face. She remained optimistic, however, that community engagement could change the current state of the educational system in Texas.
“I think that teachers should contact parents in some way on a consistent basis, not just to say your child is doing this well or this what your child did in class that day, because that’s not personal enough,” said Waddy, who is a graduate of HISD and attends TSU. “Teachers should seek to build trust with the parents and seek to know the parents on a first name basis, so they can stay in the loop. I think that will go a long way and would open the door to discuss more personal things that may be affecting the child.”
McKinzie, who is a 24-year-educator, parent of two public school students and a community activist, states that parents must talk to all elected officials and administrators and be an activist for their children. He believes that the charter schools, which are only located in Black and Brown communities, take away the necessary resources from the public schools in those same communities which disparately impacts those schools.
This regional town hall meeting was a follow-up to the National Town Hall which took place on June 26th at the Gethsemane Community Fellowship Church in Norfolk, VA, which was a part of the NNPA’s Annual Conference. This regional town hall meeting was one of several that are taking place across the country, with the focus being on encouraging parents to get involved and stay engaged in their child’s education.
Construction of the new St. Paul’s Hollywood Library branch is underway. Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) and Charleston County Government officials kicked off the construction of the new facility during a groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 30. The 15,000-square foot facility will be located on Highway 165 next to the new Hollywood Town Hall.
The new library will include:
Adult, children and teen areas
An auditorium that can be divided into two meeting rooms (100-person capacity)
A meeting room/makerspace for do-it-yourself (DIY) projects (25-person capacity)
Learning Lab (Computer Instruction Room)
Contemporary Lowcountry Design
The library branch, which is scheduled to open in late 2019, will be part of a larger municipal complex that will include the new Hollywood Town Hall building as well as an aquatics center operated by the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission.
Local residents approved a referendum to build five new libraries, and renovate or upgrade 13 others in November 2014. The first phase of the overall project was designed to solicit community input for the five new library locations. One of CCPL’s top priorities during this process involved obtaining practical information from public library users. The Glick Boehm architectural firm presented their design of the new branch during a community meeting in June 2017. Visit bit.ly/stpaulshollywood to see the design.
Visit www.ccpl.org/construction for monthly status updates and to view updated branch designs presented during past community meetings.