Dear JCPS Board of Education,
In February, I wrote to you as a parent of a Maupin student with my concerns about the possible impacts of an audit on Maupin Elementary after being placed into “priority status”. My original concerns, quoted below this letter in many ways have not changed. The only thing that has become clear since that time is that the District continues to take actions that will lead to the end of the Catalpa model at Maupin unless you take action to forge a different path.
From early on in the implementation of this program, the leadership of the school and district have continuously reneged on promises, degraded the integrity of the Waldorf model, and made unilateral decisions that silenced the voices of teachers and parents at the school and in the Parkland neighborhood and have brought us to this precipice point. While I could write you a long letter describing the ways my family has dreamed of having access to Waldorf education for our children and would never have the economic access to attend a Waldorf school outside of a public school system (something that is true), today, even though my family will be affected by this decision, the reality is that as a family with many underserved privileges that come with white skin and being perceived as “middle-class”, I know that my family will ultimately be okay whatever decision is made. However, this is exactly this reason that I am writing to you today. The reality is that families in West Louisville who bear the brunt and the burden of racial injustice in this community will be harmed by the removal of the Waldorf program at Maupin.
It should be acknowledged that in the beginning of this program, neighborhood families, as I understand it, were skeptical that Waldorf was right for their community (and made me hesitant to choose this magnet for my child), but over the two years that this program has begun to sink its roots into the community, neighborhood parents have shared the many ways they have come value the Waldorf approach to education. If these families were not given a voice the process of bringing the disruption of a new model to their school two years ago, we absolutely owe them the opportunity to be major contributors to the process now.
During a parent meeting at Maupin in February, Principal, Maria Holmes expressed that she felt that Waldorf was not providing equitable education for many students whose unstable life situations caused them to leave the school and need to integrate into a different educational setting. While I appreciated and agreed with this concern, I have ultimately come to disagree with the conclusion that Waldorf-type education would necessarily lead to this imbalance. Because here’s the reality: education will never be able to educate away poverty, and systemic racism. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I don’t believe there is any program or system that can actually wipe out the affects of poverty, racism, and trauma that educators are tasked with “educating out of the classroom”. Maupin did not “fail” because Waldorf creates inequitable ways of educating. Frankly, I believe It failed because the district and principal, consciously or not, did not believe that it could succeed with black children. They actually reinforced the stereotype that they could have addressed by providing the kinds of supports that begin to address inequity: access to health care and mental health services, family supports, access to jobs and job training for parents, supporting programs for home ownership and economic development, etc.. But these are big problems that are seen outside of the scope of education—these are the challenges of dismantling systemic Racism with a capital R. The Kentucky Department of Education and indeed, JCPS have shown and time and time again that they don’t see the need to do that and would prefer to fall back on blaming teachers, parents and students for their failures as measured by standardized tests measuring unstandardized lives.
So right now, I see that the board actually has two choices. 1.) The board can vote to support a system that ultimately always chooses to protect itself. I get it: KDE is sort of driving this bus right now; so, choosing not to go along with the district’s plan is going to be incredibly challenging. It will be a fight. OR 2.) You can decide to make a choice that values the input of community stakeholders who have the most to gain or lose by this decision and you can demand a leadership chain (including finding a new superintendent immediately) that is willing to do whatever is needed to tackle the BIG R issues that get in the way of education. And if the Waldorf model stays at Maupin, the school and TEACHERS MUST be given absolute support to fully implement the model at every level of the school.
Thank you for considering this perspective. I hope you will hear the families of West Louisville.