We’ve come a long way…

The other night I showed up at the SFUSD Board of Education meeting to recognize the amazing work that district leadership, staff, families and students have accomplished this past year. I am not alone in my praise for the district.

Many prominent leaders in the African-American education community spoke up to thank the district for recent accomplishments and asked for continued support of African-American students and families. Speakers included: Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, Pastor of San Francisco’s Third Baptist Church and the Board Member of the San Francisco NAACP; Virginia Marshall, San Francisco Alliance of Black School Educators: and Diane Grey, executive director of 100% College Prep an amazing organization supporting first-generation Black students in accessing the college dream.

Rev. Dr. Amos Brown

(See the full video from the SFUSD Board of Education meeting here. This is a VERY long board meeting, over six hours to be exact! Go to 1:05:55 in the video to skip to the specific item in the agenda and see the presentation given by Mr. Landon Dickey who heads up the AAALI, the African-American Achievement and Leadership Initiative.) Go to 1:29:30 to see the full public comment on this item.)

But there’s still a long road ahead…

Despite our accolades for the district’s recent achievements, it’s still important to acknowledge the work we’ve yet to do. This work lies not only with our district leadership, but also with site leaders and staff, and in equal measure with community based organizations and parent leaders in our schools.

I am specifically speaking about teachers and parents who spew racist narratives in an effort to undermine district efforts to eliminate racially-biased tracking in our schools via GATE/honors math classes.

I have written about this issue since it originally popped up on my radar via comments on this blog! (scroll down, but be prepared for your stomach to turn) and via parent email groups (specifically Parents for Public Schools, though this type of behavior was by no means limited to their email group.)

When students post stereotypical images of Black culture like the ones posted in Lowell’s library display last spring, and it goes unnoticed by staff… that’s a problem.

IMG_7196

When students have to walk out of a school in order to feel like their concerns are valued and acknowledged… that’s a problem.

To be fair, after the protest led by BSU students, I hear there has been much work done to improve the culture at Lowell. Nonetheless, some serious problems remain.

Notably, the newly elected president of the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) is the very same man who posted these comments (below) on the Parents for Public School (PPS-SF) Listserve in an effort to rationalize why Lowell’s enrollment of Black students is so low (Districtwide, Black students make up 9% of the SFUSD population. At Lowell, Blacks make up only 2% of the student body.):

LowellPTSAPres

(Read more about it and other families working to undermine district efforts to increase equity in this post.) 

Ali Collins Addresses the SFUSD BOE 6.14.2016

Listen to my comments to the Board in the excerpted video clip below.

The redux

Kudos to the district for many amazing accomplishments thus far. I mean it.

Removal of GATE/honors tracking is noteworthy and deserves MUCH praise. It has been a hard fought victory, and district leaders, including Board of Education Commissioners, Superintendent Carranza, the Chief Academic Officer Brent Stephens, the district GATE and Math team and all the way on down, have taken a lot of heat from a small but “connected” group of entitled parents for standing strong on this important policy shift in our education system.

Nonetheless, when families at “elite” schools elect parent leaders who outright blame Black families for the lack of representation in their schools, and who deny racism’s impacts on Black students while invoking it to create a cause for White suffering… I gotta call it out.

I shouldn’t be the only one who is vocal in my opposition to the harmful racist narratives being perpetuated in PTA meetings, teacher lunchrooms, in playgrounds, and on parent email groups throughout the district. Moreover, folks who make these type of comments regularly and publicly SHOULD NOT BE ELECTED to parent leadership positions!!!! It’s time to speak up — all of us. AND THAT INCLUDES TEACHERS AND PARENTS!

Racism is a cancer. It doesn’t go away when we ignore it. It doesn’t go away by being “color blind” or worrying about hurting White folks feelings at the expense of very real suffering of Black and Brown students and families. We ALL need to speak up and push back on the racism in our classrooms, communities and online spaces.

We still have a long way to go. Are you with me?

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Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Thank you for speaking up and staying active and vigilant in your community. This is the kind of work that so many of us on Twitter and other social media platforms praise from afar. But we are not necessarily the ones who are taking the steps that you are – going to district board meetings and calling out problematic leadership to the affected constituency. These are the people of your neighborhood and community, people who likely know you and perhaps work with you. The point is that you are not anonymous there or in your work. Being visible and speaking up take all kinds of courage and this is what blows me away. This also means that you become a target and this is scary, which makes your actions both more critical and risky. I am geographically far away from where you are, but know that I stand with you and your objectives and I am humbled by your example.

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About alimcollins

Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.

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Social Emotional, Social Justice Parenting

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