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A First-of-Its-Kind Fellowship Supports Black and Latina Women to Run For School Boards, Drive Local Policy Change

January 9, 2024– As seen historically in districts across the country, newly elected school board leader Katherine Cabral, was motivated to address the representation gap that exists within her local school board in Chelsea, MA – a commitment she describes as creating “mirrors and windows” that reflect for students a sense of belonging in leadership roles and confidence in their own ability to hold positions of power.

Katherine is among the participants in a first-of-its-kind fellowship, created by School Board Partners in collaboration with Wayfinder Foundation, designed to drive diversity among school board leaders and address the gap between elected Black and Brown leaders and their white counterparts. As candidates across the country geared up for the 2023 school board elections, the Women of Color School Board Fellowship aims to elevate and support Black and Latina women with the skills, tools, and network to help them become effective board members, advocate for policies that improve student outcomes, and create schools that are truly equitable for all students.

The need to fill the gap in diverse leadership is at a critical moment. Last year, School Board Partners’ report “Empty Seats at Powerful Tables: The State of School Boards in America” found that school boards are still disproportionately white compared to the communities they serve, especially school board leadership.

Ethan Ashley, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of School Board Partners, explains that the goal for the Women of Color School Board Fellowship is to “empower women of color to run for school board and give them the tools and mentorship to be successful. We’re so proud that 80% of our fellows were recently elected to their local elected school board and 100% of fellows are planning to run in 2024 and beyond.”

The 2023 Women of Color program had four fellows who claimed victory to serve on the school boards in districts across the country – they include: Brooke Roper of Hopkins, MN, Jennifer Stewart of Voorhees, NJ, Katherine Cabral of Chelsea, MA, and Kendra Mapp of Cincinnati, OH.

With a background as a climate environment justice advocate, Brooke will be advocating for sustainability measures to create more environmentally conscious schools, such as pushing for electric buses, as well as pursuing higher academic standards to promote stronger student outcomes. In connection to this work, Brooke will also be promoting racial equity and social justice initiatives within schools to promote inclusivity.

As a mother to four children attending schools in her district, fellow and newly elected school Jennifer felt motivated to further racial diversity among her school board and help shape and advocate for culturally competent district policies – particularly around discipline and test score disparity. “If you see an issue or problem, you stand up and get involved. You help create the change you want to see,” she says. She committed to working toward diverse representation to help combat the self-limiting beliefs that challenge many students.

And for the newly elected Kendra, her candidacy platform and priorities moving forward center around ensuring students and staff feel safe, secure, and valued. After losing her brother Stephen unexpectedly in 2006, she made a personal pledge to effect change through policy and to promote community health and healing through education and holistic wellness. “We want and need to establish a culture of wellness, because I believe that’s the foundation to actually supporting academic outcomes,” she explained.

The Women of Color School Board Fellowship will provide these leaders and others with the support and tools necessary to design policies that reflect the needs of their districts and students.

Ethan shared that School Board Partners looks forward to “future partnerships with the Wayfinder Foundation to build on these wins by having more women of color who care deeply about racial equity in these seats of power.”

Below is a full list of the 2023 Fellows who represent 14 states across the country:

  • Kijana Mitchell - Montgomery, AL
  • Nicole Miller - Tempe, AZ
  • Didi Watts - Los Angeles, CA
  • Karla Griego - Los Angeles, CA
  • Maribel Obreque - Glenwood Springs, CO
  • Christina Victor - Orlando, FL
  • Laura Judge - Marietta, GA
  • Tarece Johnson-Morgan - Lawrenceville, GA
  • Katherine Cabral - Chelsea, MA
  • Brooke Roper - Hopkins, MN
  • Roxanne Draughn - Saint Paul, MN
  • Sahara Jones - Brooklyn Center, MN
  • Thelma Thompson-Hubbard - Grenada, MS
  • Tracy Miller - Jackson, MS
  • Gia Claybrooks - Charlotte, NC
  • Jennifer Stewart - Voorhees, NJ
  • Kendra Mapp - Cincinnati, OH
  • Nuria Diallo Padro - San Antonio, TX
  • Anissa Bowden - Virginia Beach, VA
  • Shonda Harris-Muhammed - Richmond, VA