Oh, Virginia and More Letter Writing

Hi Friends!
Happy February! This Black History Month, make an effort to expand your knowledge beyond the famous few black historical figures who are remembered and/or look deeper than the often whitewashed legacies of those famous people. Here are two great resources — The Root and Good Black News.
The news about Governor Northam has been unsettling to say the least. Make sure you’re listening to the voices of people of color (who are not all unified on this) to guide your understanding of the impact this revelation has had on them. And listen to the underlying messages in what many of Northam’s (white) defenders are saying — many of them are upholding a white supremacist society when they excuse what he did as “just dressing up in costumes for fun,” for example. The local Unitarian church is hosting “An Activist Listening Session” with female activists of color to respond to the situation this Friday, February 8.
I attended the school district’s Desegregation event on Monday evening and I was very encouraged by the remarks by the local NAACP chapter president and the Chair of the County Board because they were both very clear that there is still work to be done and that everyone in our community has a role to play in doing that work. The County Board Chair even specifically mentioned groups of parents coming together to address inequities — he may have been thinking about us! It was also very encouraging to see familiar faces — a good sign that we’re making relevant connections to others working on these issues.
Black Lives Matter shared a toolkit for white people around #TalkAbout Trayvon. “White communities are used to consciously and unconsciously maintaining the racist policies and practices that led to Trayvon’s death — and, as white people, we must speak out against those policies and practices. When we remain silent and on the sidelines, we are complicit in maintaining these unjust systems. Our work is to get more white people who support us to take action toward racial justice — and to change the hearts and minds of those white people who are not yet with us.” THIS is why I started this group.
How are your school board equity letters coming? I have heard from a few who are working on them already — thank you! I also wanted to share some additional information and resources:
(1) I came across the Free/Reduced lunch numbers from October 2018. This is clear data about the disparities and segregation in Arlington.
(2) More information related to advocating for supporting principals.
(3) More information was requested about school planning factors. The district website has the details for each fiscal year. It should be noted that “equity” is used in the description of how these factors are implemented, but when you look at the actual process, it is based almost solely on the number of students. That is equality, not equity. A few staff positions (ESOL/HILT and Bilingual Resource Assistants, for example) are based on the number of English learner students.
Free/Reduced lunch is referenced in the document a few times:
(A) For a Elementary School Testing Coordinator, which says “Provide a 0.5 coordinator to 11 elementary schools with the highest free and reduced lunch percentage.”
(B) For Elementary School Reading Skills — “An additional 0.5 reading skills teacher is given for those schools that have free and reduced lunch percentage greater than 60%.”
(C) In Middle Schools, it is only referenced for the Basic Skills Improvement Program Teacher — “An additional 0.4 teacher position is given for those schools that have 25–40% Free and Reduced Lunch. An additional 0.8 teacher position is given for those schools that have 41% or more Free and Reduced Lunch.”
(D) In High Schools, it is only referenced in relation to SOLs.
The school district is making a clear connection — provide more resources for students who quality for Free/Reduced lunch with the sole purpose of improving state test scores. This is not in line with “Whole Child” and this is not equitable. The schools should be educating every student to succeed in life, not focusing on testing outcomes.
And here’s a cool organization I learned about — the Vera Institute of Justice — which recently released a study of arrest distributions and has wonderful data and graphics about the US justice system.
Keep pushing.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

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