Good Reads: Communities, Schools, Race

At different times over the last three months, the three items listed below have challenged and charged me around the idea of community and how those most impacted by the work in public education – students and families – are so often not a part of how that work gets done.

The public education space is a challenging and complex place to work. Whether you are a teacher, school leader, board member, union representative, funder or innovator, it feels like ideology and adult prerogative too often rule over what actually happens to students and families in our public schools.

We can do better. These challenges won’t be fixed overnight, but that does not mean we should not start working on them tonight. Getting good information and understanding a range of perspectives is a good place to begin.

Stanford Social Innovation Review – "Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever)," by Melody Barnes and Paul Schmitz – Spring 2016

    “We define a top-down approach as one in which elected officials, philanthropists, and leaders of other large institutions launch and implement programs and services without the full engagement of community leaders and intended beneficiaries.” (authors, page 3)
    "Doing to us, not with us, is a recipe for failure . . . This work takes patient urgency . . . If you aren’t patient, you only get illusory change. Lasting change is not possible without community.” (Howard Fuller, page 6)

TEDxMemphis presentation "School's Rebirth," by Derwin Sisnett, co-founder and CEO of Gestalt Community Schools – September 2015

    “There’s a Turkish proverb that says, ‘When the axe came to the forest, some of the trees said, at least the handle is one of us.’”
    “Just because some of us are the exception, doesn’t make it the rule.”

Education Post – "How  an Elite Education Reform Conference Felt More Like a #BlackLivesMatter Rally," by Marilyn Anderson Rhames – May, 2016

    “The session topics themselves set the stage for rich, painfully honest dialogue about race and class power dynamics."
    “It acknowledged that the education reform agenda cannot be called a ‘movement’ until those most harmed by inequality are leading it.”


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Aaron North

Aaron North is vice president of Education at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, North served as the founding executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association (MCPSA). Before leading the startup effort at MCPSA, North worked in Minnesota as a charter school sponsor, school resource center director, and in the Minnesota Department of Education's Office of Choice and Innovation. He also served as secretary for an urban elementary charter school board in Minneapolis.