In the recent historic presidential election, the majority of Americans voted to reject the current administration’s racism, oppression, corruption and inhumanity. I am filled with both hope and trepidation. When I decided to apply for the Board vacancy last Spring, I had no idea I would be serving in the midst of a global pandemic. What has been made clear to me these past six months is how this crisis and this federal administration’s mishandling of it have laid bare the inequities that have existed in our schools, community, and nation for too long. And Evanston and Skokie, for all their diversity and liberal values, are not above racism and anti-Blackness, not above opportunity hoarding and maintaining the status quo.
My platform is focused on addressing our current state with transparency and honesty and moving our schools forward to become the safe and welcoming places I know they can be for every child, every day. I am running because I want to do what I can in our corner of the world to push forward rapid progress in dismantling inequity in our school system. I want to help create learning environments where our Black and Brown students are seen and valued, where the whole community fights for resources and quality education for all of our children. I want to help us move from the language of individual demand - "my child needs this; my child deserves that" - to the language of community care - "how can we make our schools work for all of the children in our community no matter their background, identity, ability, or income?" I am driven by the belief that when we build truly inclusive and equitable schools, all our students will thrive. Education shouldn’t be a competitive sport. No one child needs to get to the top on the backs of other children. Especially when resources are tight, we need to lead with our values even when it’s hard.
Learning is an act of vulnerability. It requires the learner to be open and receptive, willing to take risks and make mistakes while trying to master new things. Not surprisingly, then, research has shown that real learning can only happen when students feel safe, physically and emotionally. Again and again, studies have shown that the key to any student’s learning success is being able to develop supportive and trusting relationships with their teachers. They have to know that their teachers care, not just about their academic success, but about them as people. It’s what educator Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade calls “critical hope.” I am glad that Dr. Horton has already devoted resources and personnel to address culture and climate in our schools, and that he has identified specific action steps to create a culture of care. Some of these include the student advisory council, sustained classroom visits by building leaders, and continued professional development opportunities for educators around equity and restorative practices. I support these changes and, if elected, will continue to do so.
If we want students to learn and thrive, we need to believe they can learn, that they deserve to learn, and then support their learning with utmost care and conviction.
Support our most vulnerable student populations as we weather this global pandemic. We are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat. School closures, job loss, housing and food insecurity have disparate impacts on the students of D65. Those who need the most help should get it first.
Ensure the recruitment and hiring of more teachers of color and of diverse genders. Representation is important, and cultural understanding and competency are important for student success. All students benefit from a more diverse teaching staff, but it’s especially important for Black and Brown students to see themselves reflected in their teachers and others in authority.
Ensure that the TWI program serves our emergent bilingual students first and foremost and that those students are fully integrated into the life of their schools.
Review how special education evaluations and services are provided. Now that we have data about the disparities in special education, we can create concrete plans to address them, including continued development of staff and educators.
Ensure that the district provides a rigorous, enriched, differentiated curriculum to all our students, not just a select few.
Finally, and most importantly, create a culture of care that centers students and supports families and educators.
Your support and contributions will enable us to meet our goals and ensure Soo La continues the fight on the D65 schoolboard.