Mainstream media carries a tradition of depicting Black Americans negatively. Gwinnett County, Georgia is in the midst of a major school board election. It’s major because generations of Black and Brown children in the largest school district in Georgia will be impacted.
Recently, I asked several high school seniors in Gwinnett what’s at stake if residents don’t get out to vote for the school board elections. Simply put, one student stated that their lives are at stake. “It’s just that deep for us.”
There are gaps that must be addressed to ensure a world class system that benefits all students and equitably prepares them for success. We have opportunities to improve our processes and policies to ensure they meet the needs of every student. This is why stakeholders from across Georgia are weighed in on the Gwinnett County School Board election.
The students believe the system will remain the same as it has for 47 years if the right people aren’t elected. The students with the greatest of needs will continue to fall behind because of systemic inequities and injustices. The community has changed, and there is an opportunity to ensure equity and representation (environment, teachers, administration, lessons, resources, etc).
Additionally, we know Black and Brown students have been disproportionately impacted in our school system and voting for people who authentically care and will address these disparities is critical to the future of our diverse community.
The students believe change on the school board will help drive the changes in schools that Black teachers and students want. The seniors shared what they would like to see if all stakeholders’ voices are included on the school board.
I see a more equitable, just, and equal system. I see a system that represents the diversity of the community throughout all levels. I see no disproportionality because of innovative programs, fair practices, and equitable policies & procedures. I see investments in our students and teachers that truly meet their needs so they may ALL be successful.
I see highly impactful programs such as early literacy, before/after school, STEM, art, trade skills training, mentoring, entrepreneurship, multicultural and multilingual learning, diversity representation, ethnic studies, and college/university preparatory programs.
I see a system that is equitable, just, safe, and free. I see a system that inspires, motivates, and gives people hope. I see a system that ensures all of our students may have the opportunity to be prepared for and pursue their dreams.
We need school board members who understand the current needs of the community and who are invested in the improvements of our schools because we are personally impacted. We live in the community and our children are current students in the school system.
Representation is important to Black and Brown students!
One of our panelists, Karen Watkins, for the EdLanta Lifting Black Voices Series Empowering Black Female Leaders, defeated District 1 incumbent Carol Boyce by earning 54,901 votes (58.72% of the votes cast) in the race.
Representation matters because our students and teachers need to be seen, heard, valued, respected, and celebrated. The students indicated that celebrations are also followed up with confrontations from students who don’t value Black and Brown students.
Our school environments should depict the diversity of the community and student population. One Gwinnett School board candidate, Dr. Tarece Johnson had this as part of her platform.
Dr. Johnson was a panelist on our EdLanta Internet Access for All Live Forum. She recently won her race with 100% of the vote against a write in/Independent challenger. Dr Johnson ran on the promise to improve equity and educational outcomes for all students, especially the ones being intentionally failed.
Black students in Gwinnett now feel that having a curriculum that includes them is possible. It should represent true historical facts told from multiple perspectives. Curricula should include authors who represent the diversity of our nation and world. Teaching strategies need to be accessible to all students and need to reflect the demographics of the students in the community. If students can see it, then they can achieve it.
Our EdLanta Student Coalition also wants schools to have Black Student Unions to help uplift cultural inclusion at schools to educate all students, not just Black students. Additionally, to help improve civic engagement, the students want to see student government associations on every level (elementary, middle and high) that also include student voices who aren’t traditionally represented.
Civic engagement even with Gwinnett students is another reason why this school board election is so important. There are three females representing communities and cultures that have never been represented on the Gwinnett school board. This includes Black teachers, Black women, Jews, Afro – Latino and Black parents.
We’re excited about the changes gained in Gwinnett on the school board, through teacher advocacy and student activist through our student coalition.
We will continue the work needed to build an equitable school district for all Georgia students!
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.