This open letter is to fellow Black educators in school leadership and administration.
It’s not easy working in a system that needs to be dismantled. I was inspired to write this open letter to Black administrators and school leaders after hearing the overwhelming number of students, parents, and families who have had horrible experiences in schools and school districts led by Black educators.
As a clear disclaimer, racism does in fact play a clear and present role in the current educational system. Like many systems in America, it was not designed for the success of Black children.
In accepting this realization, I believe we also can embrace the fact that there are Black teachers, educators, school staff members, and yes even Black parents who have also failed Black children.
We all play a role! But above all, I want US to be better for US!
Now, with all of that out of the way, I would like to focus and center this letter on how Black administrators and school leaders can better serve Black children and families.
Be dedicated to ensuring that your team is educating the whole child. This means not implementing punitive discipline policies and procedures that push Black students into the school-to-prison pipeline. This is often masked as the “Joe Clark” approach, using harsh and zero discipline policy guidelines to show that children “students” are controlled; i.e. walking in a straight line, quiet in classrooms and hallways, orderly and obedient.
I would challenge Black administrators and school leaders to be firm on knowing and recognizing if their staff are teaching Black children how to learn or teaching them what the system wants them to know. I believe that many of our children have been left behind teaching what the system demeans approach through high stakes testing-based curriculums and practices.
The most telling sign if a Black administrator or school leader isn’t focused on improving educational outcomes for Black students is if they have not made an investment in family and community engagement standards, programming and partnerships. A racist system shouldn’t make us treat Black parents and students as if we’re the oppressors.
The stories I not only heard from Black parents and students, but also Black teachers who feel and have been harassed, mistreated and underappreciated in Black-led schools are real. It certainly is not a representation of all, but too many Black children and parents had negative experiences in public schools.
We also have to be willing to check those who are not invested in the profession and the advancement of Black children in public education.
We must learn from the sacrifices, struggles and successes of our ancestors.
The Black community has lost touch of the intricate and foundational role that Black teachers have played in advancing our communities educationally, economically, politically, civically and socially.
I’m challenging Black administrators leading schools, district departments or school districts to not forget the history of the system towards and to Black children and people. Most importantly, don’t continue the system’s work or block innovation that will enhance the educational advancement of Black students.
Jason B. Allen was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a 19-year veteran educator and National Organizing Director for the National Parents Union. He has served as a classroom Language Arts, Reading and Special Education teacher, District Administrator, School Administrator, board member and Chair of the Ivy Prep Academy network. Jason earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and Master of Art in Teaching Special Education. He is a member of the American Association of Educators and involved in the Fellowship Advocacy helping to elevate the educator's voice.