African Americans and Latinos may have their share of differing opinions or political stances, but one area where both groups readily agree is that racist hatred will not be tolerated at their school.
A recent hate message to former principal Crecia Robinson, a three-time victim of racist messages at Lankershim Elementary School in San Bernardino, raised parental concerns from parents on both sides over the potential for discrimination in the classroom.
Last week, Superintendent Dale Marsden released comments that he would diligently pursue an investigation to bring the race hater to justice.
“Although the letter didn’t directly threaten physical harm to any staff or students, the contents of the letter were disturbing, unacceptable, and sufficiently threatened the climate and culture of Lankershim Elementary School,” said Marsden in a letter to parents posted on the school website.
Over three years ago, Robinson received her first piece of race hate in her mailbox in May 2015 with a message scrawled, “We do not want a black principal here,” and that the team should not have selected her.
A few months later, the San Bernardino Unified School District Affirmative Action Department launched its investigation over a second carefully constructed hate message of cut out and pasted letters, that were copied and posted in the staff room, saying “Thanks nigger for collaborating.”
The person that wrote the hate messages was never identified.
Ms. Robinson has since relocated to another department within the district.
San Bernardino school board member Danny Tillman said he recently visited the school, and attended community meetings where the environment appeared welcoming, and all seemed well.
The last investigation was conducted at the direction of the internal school police. This time around, he said the Board is giving direction and fully dedicating resources to catch the perpetrator.
No matter the cost, he said they are prepared to bring in the best investigators.
“Our [school] police department did an investigation last time, but they don’t do investigations day in and day out,” he said. “You’ve got some folks out there that specialize in investigations. We’ll bring in the best of the best.”
If parents are concerned about the environment of the school, he said the board is also prepared to help them move their children to another school.
“It’s sad that it has to come to that, but I have to make sure that the parents feel comfortable, and at least feel like their kids are in a safe environment. It’s terrible that we can’t identify who the person is,” he said.
Linda Bardere, the spokesperson for the district, said at this time she is not able to release the agency names involved in order to protect the integrity of the investigation.
“The last investigation ended when the team was unable to identify the person responsible,” she said in an email. “The 2018 investigation that was launched on Oct. 2 will include an independent investigator, multiple law enforcement agencies and experts in hate crime investigations.”
Dr. Margaret Hill said the last investigation checked for fingerprints, reviewed surveillance, monitored the school, and was primarily concerned that staff and students were safe. Those protections were in place, but they were unsuccessful in the catch.
This time, she feels the process will be more productive because the superintendent has involved the entire community.
Everyone is watching and listening.
“It’s a small world,” she said. “You never know who might be able to talk to an outsider. When people know who’s involved, and [through] exposure to the community, someone will talk if they think they are not going to get into trouble.”
Having grown up in the segregated South, and as principal for 16 years at San Andreas High School, she’s seen just about every version of racism in existence, but she was also surprised at a recent conversation she heard.
One person commented that they couldn’t believe the racist was teaching Black kids.
“I said, you don’t want them teaching Latinos or white kids. A racist can get their point over to kids without the kids even knowing it,” Dr. Hill said.
The situation is historically familiar, and unnerving, but she said she is just as concerned about how what prejudiced teachers avoid in the classroom that also impacts the kids.
“They’ll cover MLK, Rosa Parks, but I don’t know how many have heard of Frederick Douglas, or how many have heard of Shirley Chisholm,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s not what they’re teaching. It’s what they’re not teaching.”
The Post Salon co-sponsored a community dialogue on schools Sunday, Dec. 9. along with Oakland Public Education Network (OPEN), Educators for Democratic Schools, the New McClymonds Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee of Parents and Education.
Speaking at the meeting were Oakland teachers, parents and community leaders concerned about low teacher salaries, upcoming budget cuts and the threat of closing schools and selling or leasing the campuses to charter schools.
Mike Hutchinson from OPEN said, “There’s only one way to stop this. That’s to organize.” And he presented information to indicate that the district is not really in a deficit. Taylor Wallace explained why the state does not have Black and Latino teachers and called for changing this serious situation. Oakland teacher Megan Bumpus represented the Oakland Education Association and explained the teachers’ struggle with the school district.
Among ideas presented at the Salon was a brief draft program that includes demands on the State of California, which bears much of the responsibility for Oakland’s problems.
While the district may be guilty of misspending, it is the State of California that is responsible for funding and is depriving the public schools of the money they need to serve the needs of Oakland children.
And it is the State that decides who is allowed to teach and creates obstacles that keep some of the best young teachers out of the classroom.
More than 100 teachers, parents and community members attended a community assembly Sunday, Dec. 9 to discuss the fight for a living wage for teachers and other school employees and “for schools our students deserve.” Photo by Ken Epstein.
At the end of the dialogue, participants adopted a motion to hold a press conference at the State Building in January.
Draft of a People’s Program:
1. No public school closings. Closing schools does not save money. It hurts kids and neighborhoods.
2. No sale of public property. A major element of privatization is selling off the legacy of publicly owned property and institutions left to us by earlier generations of Oaklanders.
3. No budget cuts to the schools. California is one of the richest economies in the world. It has a budget surplus, a Democratic majority in the legislature, and the capacity to fully fund schools.
4. End the teacher shortage and the lack of Black, Latino, indigenous and Asian teachers by eliminating such barriers as multiple standardized tests and multiple fees and by reforming the non-elected, unrepresentative State Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
5. Rescind the remainder of the debt imposed on Oakland by the State legislature 15 years ago and spent by state-appointed administrators without input from Oakland residents
6. A living wage for all school employees. A first-year teacher, a custodian, a school secretary should all be able to live in the city where they work, if they wish to do so. That’s a “community school.”
7. End the discrimination against schools below the 580 freeway.
8. FCMAT (Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team) out of Oakland. Democratic control of our school budget and school governance.
9. Open the books of the Ed Fund, which was created by non-elected State Administrators and does not provide transparency.
10. Reduce class sizes, standardized testing, test prep, age-inappropriate expectations, unnecessary bureaucracy, and mid-year consolidations.
Engage parents and teachers in a collaborative recreation of special education and the education of immigrant and emergent bilingual students.
If you have thoughts or comments on this draft program, send an email to Salonpost02@gmail.com
Oakland has long been the birthplace of justice movements. Our collective essence is one of resistance to injustice and persistence in the face of hardship. It’s no wonder that a small group of community members have banded together to create a space of academic healing for our most vulnerable learners.
The Academy for Restorative Education (AFRE) is a new Oakland non-profit whose focus is to close the achievement gap for under performing African-American students, and promote restorative educational practices to teach healthy responses to past educational neglect.
The primary mission of the AFRE is to aid in the development and support of specific, proven and meaningful educational models to improve academic achievement. Many underperforming students in Oakland lack the basic healing spaces and equipment to thrive academically.
After years of navigating a barren and, at times, hostile educational landscape for African-American children in the public school sector, several community members in Oakland joined Dr. Lasha Pierce, the Executive Director of AFRE, and decided to start SILE: School for Innovation, Leadership, and Efficacy. With an eye on closing the opportunity gap for African-American students, they have successfully formulated an innovative, inclusive curriculum rooted in Restorative Education. AFRE plans to join the legacy independent schools in the bay area in providing an educational alternative for African-American students.
The organization’s final 501C(3) designation with the IRS is still pending, but they are carrying on with fundraising, and organizing efforts cannot drag on. All community support is welcomed.
The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019, in a yet-to-be-determined location.
Recruitment for students and families has begun. For more information, to volunteer time or resources, or to enroll a child, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oakland Unified School District senior Gema Quetzal Cardenas has been sworn in as the sole student member of the State Board of Education.
“My goal is to make sure I represent students as they deserve, because sometimes students don’t feel represented. And I want to make sure they get the voice that they need,” she told a local TV station.
Quetzal Cardenas was accompanied by her mother, Karina Najera on Sept. 6 to the swearing in ceremony in Sacramento.
Najera seemed amazed that her daughter’s life has reached this point. “I was also scared. As we were walking here, I felt like she was my baby, like when she was little and started walking. So, this is a new step for her. And I know she’s ready. But as a parent, you always want to keep your baby at home, and I’m just realizing right now that she’s ready for the world.”
The 17-year-old former OUSD Board of Education student member was appointed to the State Board by Governor Jerry Brown in March after an exhaustive application process that included hundreds of other student candidates.
“I’m just a proud East Oakland girl,” Quetzal Cardenas said just before taking the oath of office. She then explained her plans for her year on the Board.
“I really want to focus on curriculum because that’s something that students work with every day.
“You know, it’s something very important because curriculum can change, and it changes the students’ perspective on subjects and potentially their future careers.”
The State Board of Education is a formal body that may be unaccustomed to the kind of activism that is more emblematic of Oakland and OUSD.
Quetzal Cardenas is a prime example of a fearless advocate for what she believes. Her mother says the State Board may not know what’s in store for them with the addition of this “proud East Oakland girl.”
“I don’t think they’re ready for her. This morning, one of them approached her and said, ‘you know, make sure you speak up because some student members, they tend to stay quiet.’ And in my mind, I was like, ‘I don’t think you’re ready for her…’ I don’t think that California is ready for this new member.”
Quetzal Cardenas is receiving internship hours for her service on the state board, all while maintaining a 4.1 GPA. After graduation, she hopes to attend Columbia University in New York City and eventually run for public office.
The Rosie’s Girls Summer Camp made its annual trip to the Chevron Richmond Refinery on Thursday, where members typically tour the facility and participate in a career panel.
But this year, the local middle-school girls did not act as tourists – but rather scientists.
Led by Chevron Bay Area Executive Women’s Group, Women’s in Progress, which regularly holds events aimed at inspiring and mentoring local girls interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), over 30 girls from the Rosie’s Girls summer camp conducted a daylong experiment in learning how to make bio-fuels.
Rosie’s Girls is an annual summer camp offered for free to local youth from low-income families. Like the WWII-era Rosie the Riveters, students in the camp learn skills and career pathways that are considered nontraditional for women, such as welding and carpentry.
At the Richmond Refinery Thursday, their skill base and experience was expanded to include STEM fields.
“We began earlier this morning by talking about what energy is, how one makes bio-fuel, and why we are interested in bio-fuels,” said Stacy Moffitt, community engagement specialist with Chevron Richmond.
They then conducted a related experiment using water bottles, each containing a different combination of substances – water, yeast, milk powder and a lactase tablet – as an introduction into how biofuels are made.
“They’re basically looking at fermentation and seeing what’s happening,” Moffitt said. “Even though milk has sugar, yeast can’t convert that sugar without the lactase tablet, which is a catalyst. Which is what you typically need when you use plant-based material to convert to fuel.”
The students conducted experiments in groups, with each group advised by women who work for Chevron. During the experiment, they made regular observations, and at the end of the day presented their findings to the group. Throughout the experience, the volunteer employees mentor the girls, talk about their futures and offer advice, Moffitt said.
“Rosie’s Girls give girls a wonderful summer opportunity to be ‘hands on’ with lots of cool things,” said Barbara Smith, VP of products and technology or Chevron Oronite. “It was fun today to do science with them, and at the same time talk about their interests and aspirations – and how STEM and college can give them so many great options for the future.”
The Executive Women’s Group has also worked with the Richmond nonprofit Girls Inc. of West Contra Costa County. Last year, the women volunteered to collaborate on technical and leadership projects with 16 of the nonprofit’s young members at the state-of-the-art Fabrication Laboratory at Kennedy High, which was launched with funding by Chevron.
More than 30 girls from the Rosie’s Girls summer camp conducted a daylong experiment at Chevron Richmond Refinery to learn how to make bio-fuels.
Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified School Counselor, children’s mental health is of particular importance to me. I have observed throughout my career many children suffering with mental health disorders that are often not recognized, or diagnosed. Some children simply lack basic social skills. Schools have a unique opportunity to provide mental health services and social and emotional learning (SEL) using the school as a place to obtain these lifelong skills.
According to The American School Counselor Association (ASCA), School Counselors are to help students focus on academic, career, social and emotional development, so they achieve success in school and are prepared to lead fulfilling lives as responsible members of society. Unfortunately, as a former School Counselor, duties may not include working with students in small groups, or providing individual counseling sessions. I served in the following capacities:
English Speaking Other Language (ESOL) Coordinator
Response to Intervention (RTI) Coordinator
Coordinating Parent and Teacher Conferences and
These duties and responsibilities don’t allow for opportunities to work with students who may be struggling with mental health or social and emotional issues. According to the American School Counseling Association (ASCA), during the 2014-2015 school year, the national average for student to School Counselor ratio was 482 to 1. In Florida, the ratio was 485 to 1. The (ASCA) recommends a 250 to 1 ratio. As an Elementary and Middle School Counselor, I was the only counselor assigned to that grade level with a student population of over 500 students. As a result, many students may never see their School Counselor.
Data suggests children who receive SEL perform better academically and demonstrate improved pro-social behaviors. This is not “rocket science.” I presented a proposal several years ago to then Leon County School Superintendent Bill Montford. During our meeting, I told him we expect children to pass a standardized test, but the night before they may have witnessed their mother being beaten or had to get their younger siblings fed and ready for school. You can’t expect them to pass that test. However, if you meet their emotional needs they will perform academically. He agreed, and allowed me the privilege to work with Title I schools as a mental health counselor. The work was challenging at times, but more than rewarding. I worked with students, who were referred by school administrators, teachers and parents, who had behavioral and academic issues. This was a tremendous opportunity for me because I reminded students I wasn’t going to teach them math or reading, but would teach them skills to help them navigate life, in addition to discussing their concerns for seeing me. Some of our group topics included: importance of making good choices, bully and self-esteem and why it was important to treat people the way you wanted to be treated. In one middle school case, a teacher reported, a student was being bullied for repeating outfits. I met with the student and she confided in me that both of her parents had recently lost their jobs and the family was struggling financially. I told her I would, with her permission, speak to the other students in her class about bullying her. I always give students the option of attending these meetings. She stated she wanted to meet with her classmates. During the meeting, she told her classmates about her parents losing their job and explained to them this was the reason she was repeating outfits. I asked the students, what would happen if their parents lost their jobs? One student said “I don’t live with my parents I live with my grandmother.” Another student said “I live with my aunt.” Then another student said “we wouldn’t be able to have the things we have if our parents didn’t work.”
Finally, one student said, “I’m sorry for making fun of your clothes.” Eventually, all of the girls apologized. I reminded students there are always three parties as it relates to bullying, the victim, the bully and the bystanders. I ask them who has the most power some said the bully, some said the victim. I told them the bystander has the most power simply because of their numbers. If you see someone being bullied, stand up and say that’s not right. Several weeks later, the teacher who initially alerted me to the bully issue reported a new male student had arrived and started to bully a student. She reported that the five girls who were initially bullying in class told the young man we don’t bully here and the bullying stopped. I was so proud of those students for using their empathy and the power of numbers as bystanders to stop bullying in their classroom.
This is only one of many examples where I was able to focus on the issue and address the problem using psycho-education. Not only did we end two bullying situations, which could have escalated, but students were taught a life skill, showing empathy for others and making good choices. I always reminded my students we are all leaders and you can lead people the right way or you can choose to lead the wrong way. Again, having mental health professionals in the schools to address mental health disorders, provide consultation to school administrators, teachers and staff and consultation for parents can only help our students. We still need to use School Counselors, however, for their intended purpose of developing their social and emotional skills. Schools provide access and, in many cases, a safe place for students to thrive and grow.
For many students this is an environment that may be more conducive to therapeutic interventions and psycho-education. Moreover, some children may never see a counselor unless it’s in school, due to the cost or transportation associated with seeing a therapist in private practice.
Let’s capitalize on this opportunity by using School Counselors to develop social and emotional skills and bringing in Mental Health Professionals to address disorders.
Kaylor Miles is the Executive Director of the Bethel Family Counseling Center and a Ph.D. Candidate in Educational Leadership at Florida A&M University.
COMPTON — As a foster kid growing up in Compton, Google software engineer Anthony D. Mays felt awkward in social settings, sometimes not believing that he could be an achiever.
Today, after overcoming personal challenges, Mays is encouraging young people that they can be all that they believe they can be.
Mays represented Google at the Compton Unified School District second annual STEAMFest, and found more than a handful of students seeking his advice. A crowd estimated at 8,000 people filled the Dollarhide Community Center for a few hours as they took in the latest technology from the likes of Apple, Boeing, Cemex, Carrot Group, Hacker Fund, Google, Charles Drew University, and other vendors.
Mays said he was more than happy to share what he has learned with students.
“I’m telling the kids that they have an opportunity unlike any other,” Mays said. “They can learn coding, they can learn engineering. They can learn science, medicine and math and apply their art skills. They can do all that stuff.
“They have the tools. They just have to use them and be willing to work hard. If I can spark inspiration in that regard, then I would love to,” he added.
There was a time that Mays didn’t feel he could be successful in anything. It wasn’t until his foster parents went out and bought him a computer that he figured out he could make something of himself.
Mays, who brought that computer to the STEAMFest event, learned to code off that technological instrument. He would later hone his coding skills from mentors that took him under their wings in middle and high school.
That proved to be the foundation Mays needed to jump headfirst into the technology field. That discovery certainly boosted his self-confidence.
“I didn’t feel like I was the smartest growing up,” Mays said. “I didn’t feel like I was the most capable. I struggled. I felt like I was an imposter every time when I went to college and all this other kind of things.
“I know that I may run into kids that are foster kids or going through the process of losing their family or during abuse or whatever that is. I’ve been through those things. So I want to be able to share with the students, ‘Hey, I’ve been there and done this. You can do the same thing. You can do it even better than me. You can go out and start your own business.’”
Part of the showcase at STEAMfest was featuring the art, robotics, science and the technology innovation of Compton students that highlighted photography, artwork and astute craftsmanship.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase what’s going on in Compton Unified School District and to show that parents and the students that the turnaround is real,” Superintendent Darin Brawley said. “It’s really an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, this is the new Compton. These are the things that are happening. Your kids can be exposed to robotics, coding, arts, performing arts, you name it. The sky is the limit in Compton.”
Do districts need state permission to take advantage of new ESSA flexibility to substitute a nationally recognized, college-entrance exam (like the SAT or ACT) instead of the state test for high-school accountability purposes?
The short answer: Yup.
The longer answer: ESSA does indeed allow districts to use a college-entrance test instead of the state test for high school accountability. But the state has to be OK with it. Districts can’t just do this on their own, without the state’s approval.
This guidance, from the U.S. Department of Education, makes that crystal clear: “A state has discretion as to whether it will offer its [local education agencies] this flexibility.”
“Claretta Street” follows the lives of four young African-American girls living in Pacoima as they navigate the turbulent change of the 1960s, coming of age in the decadent and destructive 1980s.
Through the lenses of the young women, the sound and textures of life unfold as the devoted friends provide vivid accounts of one of America’s greatest periods of social change.
This work of historical fiction is the first novel by Pacoima native Colette Barris, who was inspired to write her debut book as a testimony to the struggle and triumph of Africans in America.
“Much is written about the African-American experience, most of which purposely spins black achievements as not much more than snippets of missteps, one depicted (often) as simple and jovial,” Barris said. “While in actuality, the black experience is one of unbelievable intelligence and courage.”
In “Claretta Street,” Barris explores America’s black past without marginalization. The author hopes readers gain “knowledge and appreciation of black female sisterhood and comradery” and “depth and insight of the African-American experience in the development of America further dismantling the mythology of American development.”
“I wanted to bring up the element of sisterhood for young African-American women because they need to know that they have it within them,” Barris said. “It’s in their DNA and they can reach out to one another for support.”The author’s favorite character is Denise, the protagonist, because of her love and appreciation for family and sisterhood.
“Claretta Street” is the first installment of Barris’ trilogy. The second book is set to debut in early 2019.
In addition to being an author, Barris is a science teacher in Los Angeles. She lives in the San Fernando Valley.
“Claretta Street” is available for $19.99 (paperback) and $4.99 (kindle) at bookstores and online on Amazon.com.