It's time to stop shortchanging our teachers.
For decades, teachers have been leaving the field in droves, and the COVID-19 Pandemic has only exacerbated the issue. Inflation is skyrocketing and the district continues to refuse standard cost of living adjustments, but continue to increase classroom sizes. Teachers already endure low wages for life-consuming work, unpaid hours outside of the classroom, and out-of-pocket expenses to provide their students an engaging learning environment. Denying fair wage adjustments is unacceptable and cannot continue.
If we want our students to have a world class education, we have to not only retain our best teachers, but attract talented educators. Our teachers must receive the wages, benefits, and administrative support that allow them to not just survive, but thrive. We must proactively build cost of living adjustments into our educators' pay scales, instead of forcing our teachers into the undignified position of fighting and begging to be able to afford to continue supporting our children.
Embed social emotional learning in the classroom
The culture of violence and bullying among our students has rocked our district, and punitive discipline doesn't address the roots of the issue. Additionally, anti-LGBTQ+ bullying has become commonplace among our children. It's time for a new approach.
Embedding social-emotional learning in the classroom is the first step in developing a healthier culture among our students. Providing the tools to engage with empathy and express emotional needs prevents misunderstandings, allows students to give each other space for resolution, and teaches that our differences are to be celebrated.
School to Prison Pipeline
Practice restorative justice and early intervention
Our children are in school to learn, and learning how to participate meaningfully in the world is a part of that process. When we remove students from a learning environment, we eliminate opportunities for growth. When we incorporate policing into our schools, we criminalize children before they've had the chance to learn how to self-manage. We can't build a thriving community when its very future - our children - are treated as criminals.
In a district where black students already disproportionately face suspension, we have a responsibility to stop the school to prison pipeline at its mouth. Our children need trauma-informed, solutions-based support, and restorative justice practices to not only repair past harm, but prevent future harm.
Engage & elevate community voices
Elected officials are representatives of the community, and the school board cannot effectively do its job when the community is excluded, under-informed, and left out of the conversation. We must institute parliamentary procedures (meeting rules) that not only encourage community involvement, but ensure that the board and community both are fully-informed (without meetings that stretch late into the night!).
AESD's Board of Trustees should be a community partner, and we need more than campus visits - through cafecitos, community listening sessions, and regular reminders of upcoming board meetings, we will make the AESD Board of Trustees more representative of our families, kids, and teachers.
Many of our students are either the children of immigrants or are immigrants themselves, and as the daughter of a Salvadoran immigrant myself, I recognize the fear and trauma of a fluctuating political landscape in which my family's place in our community becomes tenuous. I have felt the hurt and loss of family member deportation, being separated from my brother when I was only in high school. I wouldn't wish this devastation on anyone.
Our students deserve to feel safe on campus, and their parents deserve to feel safe when they pick up and drop off their kids. In my capacity as an AESD trustee, I will work to ensure that our schools are safe zones where families can be assured that they are not at risk of ICE or immigration authority interference.
Safe bodily autonomy starts with a firm understanding of consent, what parts of our body are private, and even such simple basics like the real names of our body parts. When we provide the vocabulary of consent, our children are better able to communicate their boundaries and identify harmful behavior, and we as parents are better able to protect them.
Furthermore, as an elementary school district, we are a support system for kids whose bodies are in the beginning and midst of significant change. We have a pivotal role in reducing the shame, fear, stigma, bullying, and misunderstandings that come along with it. This starts with age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education.
The best tool to reduce teen pregnancies, teen sexual activity, and abortions in general is age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education. When people understand not only what constitutes consent and safety, they are likelier to exercise that knowledge, and even abstain from sexual activity for longer than peers who have not received the same education. (Source)
The best offense is a good defense, and equipping our children with a thorough understanding of their bodies and their right to keep their body private is one of the most important tools we can impart.
LGBTQ+ kids are at the greatest risk of self-harm, drug abuse, depression, and suicide, but these risks drop significantly when LGBTQ+ youth are in accepting, validating environments. As a member of the LGBTQ community (bi/pansexual), I recognize the importance of feeling safe, accepted, and included in educational, professional, and community spaces.
We as a community need to come together to dispel the damaging myths that harm the LGBTQ kids who are just as deserving of an education as any other child. I fully support developing campus clubs or organizations that encourage allyship, and provide understanding for kids who feel marginalized and unsafe in the face of homophobic & transphobic bullying.