Growing up in a single-mother household, I not only understand, but experienced that it can take a village to make sure children are provided the opportunities to reach their potential. I will relentlessly pursue relationships with local and state government, community leaders, key stakeholders, parents, teachers, the business community and those who feel their voice doesn’t matter to truly re-imagine the future of IPS. Our public-school leaders can’t do this alone and leaders need to make sure that they are listening to the community voice. In order to amplify the voices in our community, I will attend and actively contribute in listening sessions around key issues and participate in any discussion that impacts the future of our children.
There is no one voice that will determine the fate of the public-school model in IPS. Additionally, I believe we must have a strong focus on increasing the direct communication between school administration and Black and Brown parents. If elected, I will work to create a community engagement plan focused on increased communication. I will host regularly scheduled coffee sessions and offer opportunities for one-on-one conversations with parents virtually or in-person. An elected official should be available and accessible to the community in which they serve and that will be one of my top priorities.
Growing up in a single-family household, I began to be creative and innovative in finding ways to support my family. I am not shy in mentioning my “village” of support and one member of that village was the African American Achievers Youth Corp. It was there that I learned how to start my own business. As most children would likely agree, I decided that a candy store would be the perfect business for my 12 year-old self to run.
While the term “financial literacy” wasn’t used then, it is exactly what I received as a volunteer participant in the Gary based program. This program taught me the importance of money management, exceptional customer service and that can-do attitude that serves everyone well.
All children can benefit from learning these skills that have a direct impact on the reading, writing and arithmetic that make up a traditional school day. My mom noticed my math and comprehension improved once I started to become “financially literate”.
It is this holistic approach to academics that I will bring to IPS if elected to serve on the Board. Children today are smart. They can memorize songs, know more about technology than most adults and can pick up dance moves after a 30-second tutorial. Adding grade-appropriate financial literacy to their curriculum can be an essential tool that positively impacts their lives through adulthood.li
I will advocate to bring financial literacy programs so that our children know how to write checks, understand credit, the importance of paying bills on time and how interest works. Setting children up with these life-skills now can help them be better equipped when they are career or college ready.
I applaud Superintendent Johnson and current members of the IPS Board of Commissioners who adopted a racial equity platform late last year. It is the first step in addressing the decades of systemic racism that has historically been a part of our public-school system. In a district where over 80% of the students are Black or Brown, we must address the issues that are holding Black and Brown children back.
The first step is hiring more Black and Brown administrators and teachers. I believe school leaders should represent the students they serve. Students of color are more likely to be successful when they have teachers and school staff that look like them. It is important to the education of Black and Brown children to see themselves in their classroom and school leaders.
Discipline policies must also be looked at through a racial equity lens. We must address the excessive discipline of our Black and Brown children. Overwhelmingly, Black students – especially males, are suspended at disproportionately higher rates than their white counterparts. Black male students are not inherently less well behaved than white children, nor are they overly aggressive children who can’t control themselves. What I do believe is that biases can cause judgements and decisions to be made that can adversely affect students. Before jumping to discipline, we must first examine why the student was acting in a way that would cause them to be disciplined. We must get to the root of the problem to come up with an appropriate solutions-oriented plan of action.
In addition to racial equity, equity in the class room means every student, including students with special education needs, students with disabilities, and students where English is their second language, will have access to all resources they need to be successful and the teachers feel supported to be the best version of themselves for the students.
I will be steadfast in my efforts to ensure that every child receives the education that they need in order to succeed.
Outside of the home, a child’s most important adult in their lives is likely a teacher. As parents and community members we entrust the youngest members of our society to teachers for up to eight hours a day. As a result, IPS must ensure that they attract and retain quality teachers. In order to do that IPS must offer a competitive compensation package, teachers must feel empowered and supported by their school leaders, and we must ensure that teachers and students have the necessary resources in order to be successful.
In addition to hiring the best of the best in education, I will focus on representation. Black and Brown students need to see children who look like them. While over 80% of the student population is children of color, the majority of the teaching staff is white and female. I fully support these teachers and I have no doubt that they love our children as their own and want them to succeed but the district needs to increase the number of Black and Latino teachers.
Additionally, I will ensure that the teaching staff is trained in anti-bias approaches and trauma informed care. Students also need teachers who won’t expect less from them simply because of the color of their skin.