This message was sent via email to Board Member James Craig on Dec. 1, 2020, ahead of the Work Session on the Student Assignment Plan proposal discussion.
Good evening, James,
I wanted to reach out as your constituent, first to congratulate you on the tremendous strides toward equity and racial justice that the district is making under the collective leadership of you, Dr. Pollio and the rest of the board. I also wanted to express my support for the proposed changes to the student assignment plan, as well as some additional requests for consideration.
From the reconfiguring of the map and the addition of a close-to-home “no-application required” school choice for West Louisville students, to putting an end to push outs from our traditional schools and to resetting diversity targets, these changes are to be heralded and will no doubt improve situations and outcomes for many of our district’s most underserved students. We must continue to pursue them as urgently as possible.
My overarching concern with the proposal is that these changes still don’t go far enough, still lack “the notches in a new belt,” if you will, and as a result, still have potential to backslide and/or cause unintended harm. I know neither of us want that, which is why I wanted to continue bringing feedback and concerns from the community.
First, the district was very responsive to the earlier demands that were brought forward by the Coalition for the People’s Agenda, which is why we were pleased to extend our support for the tax increase (congratulations, again!). These demands still resonate as we move forward with the implementation of the student assignment plan. As a reminder they were “EARN”, or:
- Evaluation and presentation of inequities in current plan, in its entirety. We have seen great efforts being made here and I was moved by the public forum that was held. However, this needs to be ongoing, intentional and more community driven. We would like to talk with you in the future about what that looks like going forward.
- Anti-racist budget (divest from policing, testing, harmful curriculum; invest in counselors, smaller classes, recruitment/retention).
- Resolution in support of the Coalition for the People’s Agenda and the movement for Black Lives. (Board Member Shull has offered to take the lead on this and the Kentucky Alliance Education Committee will consult. I hope you will support or even consider co-sponsoring it with him.)
- No wholesale return to in-person schooling until it’s safe (safe from policing, racist teachers, and COVID). Would like to update you on some examples of how the internal investigations process broke down, and suggest a form of intervention/restorative practices with teachers who exhibit harmful behaviors.
As my board member, I would like to ask you to see if you can determine if there is any feasibility to implementing the following “emergency provisions” with the proposed changes expected to be voted on at the next board meeting. You see, these are barriers that have prevented, and continue to prevent, some of the proposed changes from happening organically, and the coalition believes that removing them prior to the start of the 2021-2022 school year would allow the district to ease into some of the proposed changes, and also right some of these identified wrongs even sooner :
- “Dual resides for everyone!” Not just West Louisville students, but all students could automatically have Shawnee as one of their two choices. Simply providing dual resides for West Louisville students risks further resegregation, but offering that option to families outside of West Louisville might set the stage for “flipping the script” for further voluntary integration in the future. “More carrot, less stick.”
- “Ban the box!” Remove the application barrier for families that do not have a resides school that is close to home while we wait for the dual resides plan to be fully implemented across all grade levels (and even now while learning is virtual). This is a barrier that disproportionately impacts black, brown and poor families and now that it has been identified, it should be removed without any additional study necessary. It, in effect, allows the district to baby-step into the dual resides plan, accomplishing the same end result, but during this interim could still leave the decision-making ability up to the school’s principal. It would simply allow impacted students to apply, when in the past, they needed a 2.0 GPA and no behavior or discipline issues. For our West Louisville families, these are hurdles that were likely exacerbated by the discriminatory system in the first place.
- “Guaranteed curriculum.” Please research Marzano’s guaranteed viable curriculum to explore if this concept can be incorporated into the above implementation of dual resides, hubs or any other emergency situations as we try to mitigate the remainder of this school year without gaps widening any more than they already are.
I do hope there will be a way for the public to submit 3 minute videos or join the zoom meeting on the evening the board intends to vote on such a historic decision. During this extraordinary time we are living in, in the midst of a pandemic and as ground zero participants in the movement for Black Lives (with Breonna Taylor and many other victims of police brutality and corruption being JCPS graduates), and on this day our mayor declared racism a public health crisis, I am proud to bear witness to one of the nation’s leading urban school districts also leading the way. Let’s continue to be a shining example of how to deconstruct and dismantle structural racism in public education.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Co-founder, Dear JCPS
Co-founder, Save Our Schools KY
Charter Member, Network for Public Education
2014 Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parental Leadership (GCIPL) Fellow
Board Member, Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
Chair, Coalition for the People’s Agenda Education Committee Decision-Making Council
“Printed in-house using volunteer labor.”