TLR Staff Report
The Local Reporter is aware of the the number of forums and questionnaires submitted to candidates. TLR posed one question to candidates in order to be respectful of their time.
What do you see as the biggest challenge to our school system that are currently “flying under the radar” and do you have any plans or ideas to address it?
We must redesign core systems to create success for all students by eliminating institutional structures and practices that hamper student learning. Specifically:
- Advocate for increased teacher compensation and supports
- Increase recruitment/retention of teachers of color
- Build welcoming climate which engages families/students of color
- Implement culturally inclusive rigorous curriculum to meet wide range of student abilities
- Build community support to address race issues
- Strengthen accountability systems, communicating progress on success metrics and check points for interventions
Jillian La Serna:
There are many issues that our district will face in the coming years. One issue that should be of concern to us all is how students are tracked into programs and courses. Research shows that access to rigorous and challenging curriculum for all students is a strategy for closing the opportunity gap. We need to look at how students are selected or apply for extra-curricular academic clubs and activities, ensure that all teachers are using instructional strategies that challenge all students, and ensure that all students have access to rigorous curriculum.
My goal is to help EVERY child meet their full potential. I am especially interested in advocating for programs that support those outside of the bell curve. I am running for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board because I want to ensure representation for those most adversely impacted by our achievement gap. In addition to building trust and facilitating more two-way communication between the board and the community, I would specifically advocate for implicit bias and restorative practice training for teachers and administrators to address our disproportionate discipline rates, increase teacher support and incentives to ensure a robust pipeline of talent, and critically evaluate metrics that influence us to see certain students as deficient.
Discipline Rates: I will encourage us to focus on restorative practices and bias training to address inequitable discipline rates – black students in our district are nearly 14 times more likely to receive a short-term suspension or be referred to the court system than white students. Some might suspect this means children of color are acting out more, but recent research conducted by NC State suggests teachers view behavior differently based on the race of the student. Implicit bias training is an investment in our teachers and administrators that can help them see blind spots. Training in restorative practices can also give teachers tools and strategies to use in the classroom, rather than relying on suspensions as a first resource.
Teacher Support: Teachers are our unsung heroes, especially in North Carolina. Our state leads the nation in the number of teachers who earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, yet we are 37th in teacher pay and 29th in per-pupil spending. In a time where recruiting and retaining quality teachers is growing more difficult, I challenge our district to invest more in incentives and classroom support to recruit and retain top talent. Equally as important is the need to apply an equity lens to our hiring to ensure we are filling our teaching pool with highly qualified teachers who can provide quality instruction, equitable access to educational resources, and differentiated teaching methods for those who need them.
Metrics: Our achievement gap conversations have mainly focused on metrics that help us identify deficits in our children’s performance. As a board member, I’d encourage us to adjust our orientation and identify metrics that help us identify and address deficits in the system that’s supposed to serve all of our children. When we measure the learning conditions that foster equitable development, including culturally relevant curriculum, we can better support teachers in executing culturally responsive teaching practices that empower all students to learn and achieve their full potential. Conversely if we focus solely on student deficiencies it becomes easy to blame the student and their community for the disparity. If elected I would advocate for the district to critically look at our system and measure to what extent it’s creating equitable opportunities. And through this approach we can better provide more targeted opportunities for students to thrive.