Migrant Children

Migrant Children

The pictures. The pictures of children behind fences. The pictures of a room completely overcrowded with children. The pictures of mother’s being separated from their babies.

But the picture I doubt I will ever forget: the picture of a young father along with his baby girl, dead, facedown in a river.

I held my daughter tight, thinking about the lengths I would go to provide her a safe life and environment. I think about my Mother who came to the US, with me in her arms, interrogated by immigration if she married my Father because of the US welfare system. I think of my Brother who struggled in school, got in trouble in his 20’s, was detained by ICE for 2 years, and later deported. But my family is still alive. And for the most part, my family is doing well.

But people don't need my thoughts or tears. They need action. Unfortunately, thousands of people have died trying to cross the US border over many decades. And detention centers have existed for several Presidential terms.


Our immigration policy is a disaster; it is classist and racist.


These policies are affecting the students in our schools and our neighbors. There are more than 200,000 undocumented immigrants in Colorado and "more than 140,000 U.S. citizens in Colorado live with at least one family member who is undocumented."

I believe it is important to remember that the US congress sets the law and our executive branch executes it. Therefore, we must hold our national legislators accountable; ensuring they are pushing for immigration reform.

There are some things we can do as ordinary citizens to promote extraordinary change. I have attached an article I found best highlights these options. I am hoping we will stand together in this fight.

I love the following quote from the linked article above: “This is a long fight, and it’s going to require a lot of attention and a lot of input from people,” Pérez says. “It is not an easy fix and it is going to take all of us to understand and know what kind of values we really want to live in. The more light we can shed, the more beneficial it will be for future efforts.”

Another School Shooting...

Another School Shooting...

I have been in a daze about what happened all day. It is hard to describe how scared I feel during a lockdown or how angered I am after a school shooting.


“In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” ~ Dan Hodges.

After every school shooting, my students undoubtedly ask the same questions and have the same remarks: 'What would you do Ms.- would you save us?' or 'We would need to barricade the door! Or jump out the window!' My archery students often say they would help protect the class.

I have had that same conversation year after year, and it hurts.

Our children are scared and incredibly frustrated that this keeps happening. They should be focused on school learning, not school shootings.

I worry that my daughter will be brought up in a culture of lockdowns and school shootings. I worry about our smallest, most sensitive children that are distraught every time we have a lockdown- or even worse an actual shooting so close to home.

I was in middle school when Columbine happened and sadly so little has changed.

But the biggest question I have been asking myself - as a potential School Board member, what can I do to increase the wellbeing and safety of our children?

We must invest in social-emotional supports for our children. Our teachers are the front line of defense to a student who is struggling. We must allow our teachers to truly build relationships and connect their students- how do we do that?

Our teachers must stay in the profession in order to be effective at building relationships and teaching (students do not trust or open up to you if they know that you will just leave the following year). Yet, too often our teachers either do not stay in DPS or they do not stay in the profession.

I am not a safety or security expert.  Just as I have said that I am tired of vapid slogans about education from people who have never taught a single class, I am also aware that I will need to listen to the advice of experienced professionals regarding school safety.  As a School Board member I will do exactly that.

Platform Item #6: Climate change is the biggest issue our students will face in their lifetimes.

Platform Item #6: Climate change is the biggest issue our students will face in their lifetimes.

Our national politicians pretend that climate change is not happening; the Denver Public Schools can not be as irresponsible.

I will push for solar panels on every school, immediately (through Solar City or an equivalent lease program).

The equipment will be placed in an accessible area so that our science teachers can use it to instruct students.

I realize that our school buildings need many updates and repairs.  That coincides with my desire to, as a School Board member, work with the Denver Planning Board to ensure that the next wave of population here (which will likely be climate refugees from Florida and California) will move to our City, and not the suburbs (please see Platform Goal #2).

Increased population in our cities will provide money for school buildings and infrastructure, which is badly needed.

Solar panels, however, can be leased now, and do not require any outlay of money.  It is a simple matter of switching our supplier of electricity from a coal burning utility to a solar company.  

Together with experienced science teachers and environmentalists, as a School Board member I will work to create a curriculum on energy use – what is energy, where does it come from, where do we use it – so that it will be made available by 2023 for every student before they graduate.

We cannot solve this terrible problem if we continue to ignore it, and worse, not fully understand it.  I will work as a School Board member to change that.

Sources:

“Global Climate Strike: Meet the Teenagers Skipping School to Fight for a Greener Planet”

“There’s still lead in the water at Denver Public Schools. Nobody has to do anything about it.”

Platform Item #5: Reduce the need to test our children & increase social-emotional supports.

Platform Item #5: Reduce the need to test our children & increase social-emotional supports.

Denver Public Schools are graded on a system called the SPF (School Performance Framework).

Principals and schools are incentivized to prepare their students for high stakes standardized testing. Therefore, most teachers are required (and also incentivized) to base their curriculum on a test.

In fact, 70% of a school’s SPF comes from the data of a standardized test. Students, teachers, and principals feel the extreme pressure to do well on these tests - though little data proves that skill and drill learning prepares our students for the future.

There is also significant data to suggest that these tests are culturally biased.

In fact, it is an insidious cycle that low scores are used to justify the closing of many public schools across Denver.

On the other hand, DPS schools are not incentivized to provide social workers or psychologists on their campuses. 0% of a school’s SPF comes from social-emotional supports provided on campus.

As a School Board member, together with school leaders and school social workers, I will work to revise our School Performance Framework so that schools are less incentivized to overtest our children, and more incentivized to provide social-emotional supports.

Sources:

“Why One Harvard Professor Calls American Schools’ Focus on Testing a ‘Charade’”

“Why Standardized Tests Don’t Measure Educational Quality”

Platform Item #4: We should provide career training, especially in the building trades and healthcare, in our High Schools.

Platform Item #4: We should provide career training, especially in the building trades and healthcare, in our High Schools.

Building trades are an honorable and profitable future, and require extensive knowledge of math and science.

The mechanical trades such as plumbing, heating and cooling, and electrical, are very successful.  Minorities especially are vastly underrepresented in these trades. We can change that.

These jobs pay higher wages than most lawyers earn.  They require knowledge that is sometimes provided by our Community Colleges.

However our High Schools can also have electives in science and math that focus on these profitable trades.

Nursing and health care are also excellent fields for our students to enter.

Providing classes in these careers at a High School level allows our students to learn about them before the requirements of adult life take over.

Statistics show that students who take two or three related courses in career training are more likely to graduate from high school on time than students in general education classes.

These programs will provide students with hands-on learning that lets them apply academics to real-world problems while also keeping doors to college open.

As a School Board member I will ask the Trade Unions of the above professions to assist DPS in providing a curriculum for the above.

Sources:

“What is Career and Technical Education, Anyway?”

Platform Item #3: We should not need charter schools.

Platform Item #3: We should not need charter schools.

I will never vote to close a public school so that a charter school may be built in its place.

I also understand that many students now attend charter schools that they like, and it would be disruptive for them to change.  So I will not push to close existing charter schools.

That said, we must fight back to stop the privatization of our public schools.  We would not tolerate the privatization of our police and fire departments. Instead we work everyday to make them responsive to all the citizens of Denver.

The same should be true of our public school system.

The Colorado Revised Statutes Title 22 Education Law is 1,200 pages.  So believe me I understand the temptation of the Administration to simply privatize education and avoid obtuse rules that stretch out over 6 miles if placed end to end.

No school should have to deal with 1,200 pages of mostly obvious and incredibly costly rules.  We should not have to have ‘charter schools’ but rather cut regulatory burden on all schools.

I will work with the appropriate State Legislators to reduce regulations on our schools.  We should have a 5K of regulations, not a 10K.

I also find it particularly disturbing that ‘high compliance’ charter schools always seem to be proposed for minority communities.  

I find it particularly encouraging that we can have an outstanding public school like Denver School of the Arts that doesn’t necessarily follow bureaucratic norms.

Privatizing our public schools is a capitulation, not a solution.  We need to spend the real time necessary and do the hard work necessary to allow all of our schools to be responsive to their students, even if that means reading through 1,200 pages and getting rid of stupid rules (I will bring coffee).

As a School Board member I will do that.

Sources:

State of Colorado Revised Statutes Title 22 Education

“Separate and Still Unequal: Race in America’s Schools”


Platform Item #2: Housing Choice = School Choice

Platform Item #2: Housing Choice = School Choice

We cannot honestly discuss closing the achievement gap between white and non-white students, and ending the closure of public schools in favor of charter schools, without discussing racial integration, racially biased zoning laws, and high housing costs in many Denver neighborhoods.

As a School Board member I will personally work with the Denver Planning Board for ‘missing middle’ multi-family zonings in all Denver neighborhoods, so that all of our residents can afford to live near any DPS school of their choice. I have experience in real estate zoning matters.

Essentially this is a policy of ‘de-gentrification’, where instead of new housing pushing out minorities in previously minority neighborhoods, we will have opportunities for minorities to move to predominantly white neighborhoods.

This is ‘real’ school choice- not being one out of 20 kids who ‘win’ the right to travel 10 miles from a lower middle-class house to a far wealthier area.

Every one of our schools, especially elementary schools, should have a community of teachers and students who reflect the real world. Integration of races and economic classes in our schools is how we will learn to treat each other as friends, not strangers.

Sources:

“Denver’s Residential Neighborhoods— Who Are They For?”

“Zoning Codes— Tools for Segregation or Creating Complete Neighborhoods?”

Platform Item #1: Increase Student Achievement by Increasing Teacher Retention

Platform Item #1: Increase Student Achievement by Increasing Teacher Retention

The primary goal of Denver Public Schools is to provide the best education possible to every student.

As a current teacher I can personally attest that we are facing a crisis in attracting and retaining good teachers. This has also caused one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation between our white and non white students.

We must increase classroom teacher salaries. That is how we can keep experienced, confident teachers of all ethnicities and backgrounds who will provide the best education for our students.

Right now, the average Denver Public School Teacher spends about 2 years in DPS before they leave the district or leave teaching completely.

For the past 10 years, non-teachers have come up with programs to ensure teachers are effective in the classroom. This has brought on LEAP and RELAY- both programs are culturally irresponsible and have done little to increase student achievement but instead have pushed teachers out of the profession.

Our children deserve to have experienced teachers from their community in the classroom.

I will work to build a coalition on the School Board to push for a $5,000 increase in base pay for all classroom teachers and end LEAP and it’s oppressive language. Increasing teacher pay will cost about $25 million dollars. That money will come from cuts in programs that have not proven effective, such as training new teachers every year because the trained ones have left the profession.

Sources:

“The DPS Strike is Settled, But the Underlying Causes of Chronic Under-compensation Remain”

Colorado Statistics

List of jobs that pay more than the average teacher