Leading the Charge for Social Justice and Shaping the Education Agenda Through Policymaking were the topics of two Town Halls held by the CUBE Steering Committee on Thursday.
The first town hall, School Boards Leading the Charge for Social Justice and Addressing Critical Issues, was moderated by Michelle McKissack, CUBE Secretary, who serves on Tennessee’s Shelby County School Board.
The panelists were Juanita Jordan, steering committee member, and a board member with the Prairie Hills School District 144, Illinois; Courtney Graves, steering committee member and Missouri’s Ferguson Florissant School Board member, Marques Ivey, steering committee member and Colorado’s Aurora Public Schools board member; and Erika Mitchell, CUBE Vice Chair and member of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education.
The panelists discussed their perspectives on social justice and the critical race theory controversies. Graves said that the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson was the impetus for her running for school board, where she could use her power to do the most good. Her board formed partnerships with community organizations to work on social justice issues, including an equity resolution. “The work is every day,” she said.
McKissack asked the panelists for their perspective on critical race theory?
It’s about knowing our history, Graves said. School board members need to make sure that classroom curriculum is updated.
Mitchell reminded the audience that school boards oversee the curriculum. That is where the school board’s power is. “That’s what we can control.”
The second town hall was Driving Education and Shaping the Education Agenda Through Policymaking. The moderator was Yasmin Succar Wagner, steering committee member and Texas’ Austin Independent School District board member. Panelists were Ty G. Jones, steering committee member and Texas’ Lancaster Independent School Board member; Ray Freeman, steering committee member and Ohio’s Warrensville Heights City Schools board member; Jamie L. Devine, steering committee member and South Carolina’s Richland One School Board member; and Jacinto Ramos Jr., CUBE Immediate Past Chair and member of Texas’ Fort Worth Independent School District board.
Moderator Wagner pointed out that policy is the school board’s superpower, and within policy, institutional racism can be addressed. She asked the panelists how their boards have used policy to address social justice issues.
The Fort Worth school board became a data-savvy board, said Ramos. He suggested that all boards need a framework of governance. “When I got on board, it was the wild, wild west.”
Wagner asked the panelists how they were navigating the waters when state policies and local control conflict.
There hasn’t been much pushback on mask mandates in his district, said Jones, which is a 96 percent African American/Hispanic district. “Our outcomes allow parents to believe in us,” he said.