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2021 Reflections: Don't Quit. Keep Going.

Teacher in front of classroom

Just when we thought 2020 was a year for the history books, here comes Q1 2021 saying, “hold my beer.”

In January, Georgia helped flip the United States Senate, which led to an insurrection the following day.

February is Black History Month…and also the month when the former President’s second impeachment trial began. He was acquitted (again) and remains free, along with the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor.

March is Women’s History Month… and also the month when eight people were murdered in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian Women. The following week a Black Woman State Representative in Georgia was arrested and charged with two felonies for knocking on the governor’s door. The nature of her disposition was deemed “threatening,” although it remains unclear whether they are referring to the tote she was carrying, the high heels she was wearing, or her skin.

April has begun with the trial of the police officer who murdered George Floyd. I don’t know about you, but for the sake of my mental health, I’ve been unable to watch.

And that’s just a recap of a few current events.

Our scholars are here, witnessing all of it.

As for school governance, while some districts are reopening, others are re-closing. While some are preparing for summer school, others are preparing for graduations. My year began alongside a group of local school board members urging our governor to include teachers as essential workers in the first round of vaccine distributions. The governor responded after our Superintendents followed suit and said that “it’s a simple math problem… vaccine doses don’t appear out of thin air.” Weeks later, the governor finally did the right thing by moving teachers up on the priority list. Shortly thereafter, my district, Clayton County Public Schools, was the first in Georgia to open its own in-house vaccination facility for teachers and staff.

As our nation continues to heal and condemn all forms of violence, including white supremacy, domestic terrorism, hate crimes, misogyny, voter suppression, and healthcare injustice, we educators have no choice but to continue to confront and dismantle these affronts to our scholars’ future.

As school board members, we have the unique opportunity to directly combat the ignorance and misinformation that leads to these types of crimes. We have a chance to help mold minds by exposing students in a way that helps develop their social-emotional awareness, their appreciation for the world, and their respect for the beautifully diverse communities that exist throughout.

As our schools, scholars, families, communities, and world move into the post-pandemic era, it is my fervent hope that we avoid the past-comforts of our previous norms by not “returning to normal.” This won’t be easy, but we must do all we can while we can.

That’s why it’s critical for anti-racist school board members to:

  • Lead with courage and example by saying and doing hard things (CCPS recently passed its own Black Lives Matter Resolution)
  • Govern through an anti-racist framework so that your efforts are undergirded by rationale and evidence (check out our Anti-Racist Rubric for guidance)
  • Share the mic by allowing seldom-heard voices to share your platform. Is there a student on your school board?
  • Evolve by demonstrating that it’s okay to change your mind after learning new information or entering a new era. (Clayton County Public Schools were initially scheduled to reopen during the fall of 2021. With our own vaccine distribution clinic, CCPS will reopen for Elementary scholars this month!)
  • Analyze your curriculum alongside scholars and educators who are most proximate to the pain. Check out New Jersey’s Amistad Act.
  • Be a strong fiscal steward by removing barriers of entry for marginalized groups in procurement, and ensure resources are properly allocated to the aforementioned marginalized groups.

With a pandemic of lost wages, lost time, lost minds, and over half a million lost souls, we must acknowledge our neighbors’ pain and suffering. At the same time, let’s remember that there is always something we can do and much to look forward to. Don’t quit. Keep Going.

Yours in service and solidarity,

Jasmine Bowles and the team at School Board Partners