We’re fully into the holiday season! I hope all of you are able to get some time off to spend with loved ones.
Based on the six survey responses I have received so far, we have several areas to spend our energy advocating for in the coming year. Additionally, it looks like Wednesdays continue to work for the most people, but Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays are also possibilities. I am working to set up a meeting with one of the County Board members (thanks to one of our group members who is facilitating this connection) and I want to make sure as many of our members can attend this meeting as possible.
In case you missed it, the School Board approved the middle school boundary changes last week. There were a few speakers who spoke about the demographic issues, which was heartening, and one of the board members spoke specifically about his intent to create a new proposal and his decision not to move forward with that. It was partially because of a lack of support from his colleagues, and partially because he didn’t want to undermine or circumvent the process of engaging the community about the options before the vote. I found the commentary by the Board members after the community speakers to be quite enlightening.
One of our members worked to create a petition to the school district. I also saw it posted on the local schools FB page where there was some discussion. This is related to a similar discussion at the county-wide PTA about the renewal of the MOU between the school district and the county police department regarding the role of SROs in our schools. The county-wide PTA is recommending that the Virginia state model MOU be followed. The school district is drafting a document to inform students about their rights when interacting with law enforcement on campus.
I saw a story in the Washington Post headlined “Integration in schools boosted by gentrifying.” Thoughts on this? I imagine that if white families continue the trend of displacing families of color that gentrification ceases to be as beneficial to the community. My sense is that gentrification tends to push out lower-income people over time because property values become unaffordable, but I would love to hear from any of you about your thoughts/experiences about how this happens in our community or elsewhere.
As our group and our activism has evolved, I have been focusing more and more on the inequities among the schools within our school district in my own personal efforts. For those of us interested in our educational system (and that seems to be most of you), it makes sense to focus on ways in which we can leverage our voices to make sure that each and every one of our schools has the resources it needs to support its students. Unfortunately, our student population is growing faster than our tax base is growing. It is going to be very important to agitate at the County Board level for improved/increased funding for education as a bigger part of the County budget. Our school district is currently facing a huge deficit in the coming budget.
I wanted to share that I’m officially the working with the county-wide PTA on their grant initiative. If you don’t know, the county-wide PTA meets monthly and represents all of the PTAs in the county. The meetings include reports from a School Board member and the Superintendent. Ideally, each school that is a PTA member sends a representative to these meetings. They have a grant initiative that was started in the last few years to specifically support the goal to provide greater equality and equity in academic experiences and opportunities across schools by enabling those PTAs with sufficient funds to help those schools lacking financial resources. We made six awards this term (applications are reviewed twice a year), which included field trip scholarships so 4th grade students could all go to Jamestown Settlement (something some elementary schools cannot afford to do), and literacy initiatives, including books for classroom libraries and other literacy programming. I plan to get the word out about this initiative more, and feel free to share this with your PTAs. If you have any questions, please let me know.
As I said in my weekly update last week, please let me know anytime if you have relevant events/actions/information to share with the group. This group will be strongest when we share information with each other about our efforts on these issues, allowing collaboration and support.