16 BOCNEWS.com AUGUST 2018 Concerning the Education of Black Students AN OPEN LETTER TO THE DENVER BOARD OF EDUCATION AND THE BLACK COMMUNITY Ihave spent my entire life at school, on the way to school, or examining and talking about what goes on in the schoolhouse. I have viewed changes in the Denver and Colorado educational landscape from multiple lenses. I have a unique perspective as a product of DPS, mother, a former member of the Denver Board of Education, higher education administrator, policy analyst and community cata- lyst. For the sake of clarity and continuity, I want to take a moment to share some observations and acknowledge the contributions and commitment of some key persons who have supported the current efforts to addressed equity in the district. First, there would have been no Bailey Report, African American Education Taskforce (AAETF) or recommendations without the leadership of Tom Boasberg as well as that of Susana Cordova, Allen Smith, Board of Education and the Culture, Equity and Leadership Team (CELT). I want to thank them for their courage in calling out institutional rac- ism as a significant barrier to educational equity in Denver Public Schools. Tom’s leadership has placed equity center stage. It is my hope that as the district seeks new leadership, the continuity and commit- ment to this work will not waver. For the first time in decades, I am participating in and observing ini- tiatives and efforts that give me hope that positive change is possible. There are few school districts across the country that have intentionally taken on the barriers and challenges of institutional racism, and recognized the need for intentionality and tar- geted supports for African American students and educators. For the doubters about this important work, I encourage you to visit the CELT website for updates and consider how you and or your organi- zation might assist with these initiatives. (https:// celt.dpsk12.org/equity/african-american-equity- taskforce/) What I know for sure is that change is hard. Having the difficult conversations about how insti- tutional racism and our implicit biases have con- tributed to hostile work and learning environ- ments, the need for cultural competencies, a more diverse workforce, closing achievement and oppor- tunity gaps is challenging for us all. There is no one answer or secret formula for resolving these complex and interrelated issues. There is going to be resistance and change will not occur over- night. Just look at the state of our nation and the struggle to save democracy. It will take a coordinat- ed, concerted effort by educators, administrators, researchers, elected officials, and policymakers to prioritize equity. What I also know for sure is for there to be any action, positive change, and healing around issues related to race and education, we have to step up as an African American community. We have to show up and speak up. It is easy to point fingers at the school district. It is much harder to determine what we must do as families and community to improve access, achievement, opportunity, equity and accountability for the education of our chil- dren. We must be actively engaged in building better narratives, strengthen- ing policies and conversations that will fundamentally change the state of edu- cation for African American students. This means we cannot wait; the stakes are too high. In today’s land- scape, we are facing a toxic cocktail of poverty, illiteracy, racial disparities and divisions, attacks on civil and voting rights, institutional and sys- temic racism, violence and massive incarceration is sentencing millions of children of color to dead end, power- less, hopeless, and desperate lives. All that we are experiencing to today’s chaotic and confusing land- scape threatens to undermine the past half century of racial and social progress. I don’t know if we have another 30 years to try and figure this out. We can begin by immediately by changing our thinking. We can change the perception that education is an us vs. them thing. We can flood our communities with the message that education is a must; it is a neces- sary step for survival and outweighs everything else. We can refuse to allow our children to settle for mediocrity from themselves, and we can refuse to accept mediocrity from the schools our children attend. We can get involved in the schools and make school sys- tems know they are supported and at the same time monitored, because public schools By Dr. Sharon Baily Continued on Page 21 SCHOOLS