Across south King County OneAmerica is supporting powerful parent leaders and youth to organize to improve responsiveness to the needs of immigrant and refugee communities. We know that individuals most impacted by public education issues are closest to the solutions. We want to ensure that they are centered in the decision-making process and equipped with the tools to create systemic change.
Reshaping Highline School Board
Highline Public Schools (covering White Center, Burien and SeaTac) has 32 K-12 schools, serving approximately 19,000 students. There are over 95 languages spoken throughout the district, with the largest ethnic groups being 38% Hispanic, 22% Caucasian, and 14.7% African American.
In the Highline School District parent leaders sought positions of leadership within their PTA (Parent-Teacher Association), built relationships with the Superintendent, and then set their sights on reshaping the School Board.
The board includes five elected individuals charged with the governance of the school district’s operations and goals. Recently, the fifth seat of the school board was vacated. Parent leaders saw this opportunity to provide bring their insights and knowledge to the appointment process. OneAmerica organizers helped to convene the parents, and facilitate discussions on the role and responsibilities of a school board member. When the District held a community meeting to introduce residents to potential candidates for the open seat, these parents posed questions direct and passionate questions to the candidates. They then met with the current board members, and two weeks later, parents testified at the school board meeting. In March 2018, Fai’zah Bradford was appointed to the open seat, and these parent leaders are ready to hold Bradford and the rest of the School Board accountable to their communities.
Putting Community First in Seattle
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is the largest K-12 system in the state with 103 K-12 schools and a total enrollment of over 53,000 students. There are approximately 154 languages spoken, with over 21% of the students coming from a non-English speaking home. The three largest ethnic groups identified are 47% Caucasian, 15% African American, and 14% Asian. It is estimated that at least 21% of the study body is from a non-English speaking home.
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is currently seeking a new superintendent, the highest ranking employee in the school district. The Seattle School Board expressed their intent to hire someone by the end of March, but OneAmerica alongside parents and other partner organizations called on the School Board to slow down the search process to fully include community input and feedback.
On January 26, 36 community members and education advocates from more than 30 organizations sent an official letter to the Seattle School Board, asking them to slow down or postpone the search for the new superintendent. Parents and community groups expressed frustration that the only attempts to gather community feedback included one town hall meeting on January 18 and an online survey that allowed only two weeks to respond.
A Growing Base Demanding Language Access
Language access – translation, interpretation and cultural competency – is fundamental to strengthening community access in systems like public schools. OneAmerica recently partnered with the Chinese Information & Service Center to engage parents on what they would like to see in a new SPS superintendent. Their answers included resources for English Language Learners, transparency regarding how the district is spending their budget, and ensuring that the superintendent would serve as a liaison between the district and the community.
If you would like to join our movement of community leaders fighting for racial and social equity within public education, please contact Nimco Bulale at email@example.com.