Special educator, disability justice advocate, and education redesign expert
VISION FOR BALTIMORE CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
My vision for education in Baltimore City centers first and foremost on equity. I believe that inequity in education–based on disability status, race, gender identity, language proficiency, and other identity markers–is the most pressing issue faced by the school system. In my vision, there would be no such thing as a “bad school” because ALL of our children would have an excellent education and access to opportunities that allow them to thrive.
My plan to address educational inequity includes the following components:
Work to meaningfully include students with disabilities so that they are fully participating members of the school community. I recently gave a presentation on the benefits of inclusion to Baltimore City’s Trauma-Informed Task Force, which you can view here.
Promote School Board outreach in ways that are culturally responsive and meet our community members where they are. I mean this both literally and figuratively. School Board meetings should be held in the communities where our students and their families live, and they should be conducted in ways that promote participation by the variety of cultures that our students represent. For example, we should not adhere to white dominant rules of engagement, include relationship-building as a key component and purpose of meetings, provide food when possible, and make it easier for folks to give public comment.
Support district-wide training and follow-up coaching around diversity, equity, and inclusion to address implicit bias.
ENDING THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE
Another component of my vision for Baltimore City Schools is one where we end the school-to-prison pipeline. We must shift the way our system views behavior, discipline, and student need. Every time a student is suspended from school, they become more likely to be involved with the juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems. Moreover, a disproportionate amount of students who become involved with the juvenile justice system are Black, live in poverty, or have disabilities.
Thus, my plan to end the school-to-prison pipeline consists of the following components:
We must revise our discipline policies to eliminate the possibility of personal bias from the assigning of consequences to students. In addition, we must enforce those policies. This currently isn’t happening with fidelity in City Schools; we recently revised the Code of Conduct to remove violations that could be subjective in nature from allowing a student to become suspended. However, we still see students receiving “undocumented suspensions” and being removed from classrooms in a way that exacerbates bias.
We must also provide students with the academic and social/ emotional/ behavioral supports necessary to have their needs met, so that they can be in or return to classrooms, participating in instruction. This means fulfilling our staffing ratios for related service providers and making sure that students with service needs have those needs documented on IEPs.
Finally, we must fund supportive services rather than policing students. In looking at the ways in which City Schools has chosen to spend its money intended to promote student safety, it has been punitive rather than restorative. The recent investment in metal detectors is a prime example of this; students across the City have spoken out and explained that not only do the metal detectors make schools feel like prison, but they also have been ineffective in actually preventing violent situations.
EFFECTIVE AND IMPACTFUL IMPLEMENTATION
Finally, in the wake of multiple new funding sources and policy initiatives from the federal and state levels (Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, ESSER funding, etc), my vision involves making sure that our implementation of policies and use of funding is directly connected to increasing equity and improving our students’ quality of life. This includes their life outside of school, such as in the transportation system.
As a key lever to ensure we are using our resources and funds in this way:
I would work to restructure the School Board in a way that amplifies student voice, restores community trust, and promotes meaningful engagement. There are a number of community engagement strategies I have successfully facilitated with other districts that I would bring to Baltimore City’s School Board. Most importantly, I would ensure that students had a voice, no matter which strategy we used to get community input.
I would bring my firsthand knowledge of ways that districts around the country are using their funding and implementing federal and state policy, including my knowledge of what has been most effective.