Who Controls Education in Washington State? A critique of the EOGOAC

by the WAESN Legislative Committee

WAESN recently adopted our 10-year Liberation Strategy which includes political advocacy as one of our main foci of work. As such, we’ve been working with various State electeds on legislation that can support K-12 ethnic studies. Increasingly, we’ve become aware of some major barriers to this work. One of them is the EOGOAC. It took us a while to memorize that acronym, but now it’s burned into our psyche. Let’s talk about why in a multi-part series about the history of and current work of the EOGOAC. We’ll start with some basic information, then get to the barriers, and end with some actions you can take to help eliminate those barriers.

The Basics

According to the EOGOAC website, “The Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee (EOGOAC) was created by the 2009 Legislature to continue to address the achievement gap in Washington state.” Keep that date, 2009, in mind while reading this series, because it is a sticking point in a lot of the conversations the EOGOAC has about “gaps” in 2021. 

Here is a table from the EOGOAC website of the current members of the committee:

According to the website, Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self and Fiasili Savusa, of CAPAA, are co-chairs of the committee. Honestly, we are surprised at this claim since both are frequently absent and Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos tends to take up most of the air time in these meetings. We’ll get to that later in the series.

Let’s start by breaking down the acronym.

E is for Educational

The first letter of the EOGOAC stands for education. Like most organizations, committees, etc., claiming to advocate for, or advance, K-12 education, not one member of the EOGOAC is a K-12 educator. Usually, when this is pointed out, Rep. Ortiz-Self is tokenized as the educator (of color) of the group. While Rep. Ortiz-Self does work in K-12 education, she is a counselor, not a classroom educator. This statement is not to discredit the important work she does and her inside knowledge of K-12 institutions. Much of the work done to “close gaps” rests with classroom educators, certificated and classified. For this reason, we believe it’s imperative to have K-12 classroom educators on this committee to inform their work.

O is for Opportunity

RCW 28.A.300.136 is the piece of legislation that instructed the superintendent of public instruction to create the EOGOAC. It cites findings from various studies conducted in 2008 indicating students in “demographic groups” failed to meet standards, were over-represented in disciplinary measures and special education, and under-represented in advanced learning programs and college enrollment. Section 3 of the RCW states that one reason for these disparate findings was a lack of culturally competent “instruction, curriculum, assessment, and professional development.” The only member we are aware of that has K-12 teaching experience is Dr. James Smith, who has a background in business and is a retired professor. We argue that cultural competence is an outdated term and idea that perpetuates whiteness and harms students of color, but more on that later in the series.

G is for Gap

We think, but we can’t be sure, that “demographic groups” is code for students of color. Since the members of the EOGOAC include members of ethnic minority commissions, I think that’s a fair guess. The members of the EOGOAC were prescribed by the RCW. It outlines various representation from the legislature, OSPI, tribal governments, and 4 members from ethnic commissions, one each: African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, and Pacific Islander American. If the EOGOAC is charged with addressing racist gaps in education, then those on the committee should have a demonstrated commitment to anti-racism, but we have witnessed Rep. Tomiko Santos consistently dismiss anti-racism, recently referring to anti-racism as “faddish sound bites.” Additionally, one of the ethnic minority commission representatives, Dr. Renteria Valencia, is the person who called the WAESN executive director a racist when they pointed out the lack of representation of people of color on the OSPI ethnic studies committee. We don’t understand how racist gaps will be closed by people who don’t understand racism and anti-racism.

O is for Oversight and A is for Accountability

We combined these two terms because they both have similar meaning in practice. Overseeing something is managing that thing, making sure it’s functioning properly. Accountability is holding someone or something responsible for their actions. We can’t find anything in the RCW that defines how the EOGOAC is responsible for managing any program, group, or individuals or holding anyone or anything accountable. This is problematic, because the members of this committee have demonstrated a belief that they somehow manage education legislation and seem to believe legislators, proposed legislation, and even members of the public are accountable to them. For example, WAESN was invited to the EOGOAC to present on the work we’re doing with ethnic studies. Rep. Tomiko Santos castigated us for doing work that wasn’t aligned with the OSPI work on ethnic studies. When Amanda Hubbard, WAESN board president, reminded Rep. Tomiko Santos that ethnic studies is by and for the people, Rep. Tomiko Santos responded, “So then you shouldn’t be advocating for its inclusion in the state sanctioned program of basic education.” 

screenshot of Rep. Tomiko Santo’s comment in chat

C is for Committee

The RCW that created the EOGOAC has language that very much defines a committee. According to the RCW, the committee should be searching for and making recommendations for possible legislation to improve the education system for “demographic groups” to close gaps. The RCW provides specific activities the EOGOAC should focus on, including expanding family and community involvement, enhancing the cultural competency of educators and curriculum, and identifying data systems needed to monitor gaps. The RCW, as we read it, sounds like the EOGOAC should be in partnership with a multitude of organizations, but from what we can tell, they’re not. In fact, as stated above, our experience with the EOGOAC has been hostile. We have witnessed parents and community members shut down in meetings. WAESN representatives have been mocked, dismissed, and berated.


Oops, we’ve accidentally hinted at some barriers, but next time we’ll go a little deeper and provide some primary source evidence. In the meantime, we encourage you to check out the EOGOAC website and attend some meetings. Unfortunately, recordings of the meetings aren’t readily available online, but you can request them from Heather Rees: heather.rees@k12.wa.us. The next installation will focus on the body of work of the EOGOAC and the barriers it currently presents to ethnic studies and racial justice in K-12 education.

WAESN Youth Art Contest

In the spring of 2021, WAESN held a youth art contest. Winners were chosen by our Board of Directors, Youth Advisory Board, and the authors of our visual arts curriculum framework. Below are the winners and a runner up. This was one of the most fun things I’ve done as the Executive Director of WAESN. Maybe we’ll make it an annual event!

Winner of K-5 Category

Tigerlily Newman

Age 5

Rising Star Elementary School

“I made hearts for Black Lives Matter. The two colors in the middle are dark and light like our skin. The hearts are us. The colors around are orange, blue, green, and purple. It is everybody’s heart inside them. They have lots of colors in their heart. We care about other people.”

Winner of Middle School Category

Danna V Martinez Leyva

8th Grade

Louisa Boren K8 STEM

My eyes filled with tears as I saw how all the news channels were exploding with cases about anti – Asian attacks . I could not believe what was happening . Nobody has the right to attack someone just because of the color of their skin or ethnicity . I drew and dedicate this drawing for those who have been attacked or have lost their lives due to anti-Asian attacks, and also for those who are USING THEIR VOICE against those who are attacking them.

It’s so sad how nowadays Asian parents have to teach and remind their  children to protect themselves, all because there are people in this world that can’t stand to live in a country with DIVERSITY .

High School Category Winner

Jin Ah Bellefuil

Age 16

Ballard High School

I made this piece to demonstrate the Black Lives Matter movement, especially in the current climate. I pulled influence from Jamaal Barber and his message with his art. He wanted to show the Black experience and reflect what it means to be Black. Although I don’t have personal experience with those topics, I really wanted to continue his message and demonstrate the struggle, as well as the unity, of African Americans.

I chose the styles of collage and drawing, again pulling influence from a series of collages by Jamaal Barber. I wanted to incorporate drawing as well because that is the style I most prefer.

High School Category Runner-Up

Clara Sun

Age 16

The Overlake School

Suffocate

The pressure to live up to the model minority myth of Asian Americans as intelligent, wealthy, and successful can often be stifling. It doesn’t matter whether or not you “fit” the stereotype or not; it leaves all of us feeling lost or trapped. I chose to draw this piece in grayscale so that, like the general perception of Asian Americans in the US lacks dimension and nuance, it lacks the vibrancy and depth that comes with color. I believe it’s especially important now, with the recent rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, to recognize the struggles with racism, hostility, and violence that we’ve faced in the past and continue to face today.

College Category Winner

Jennifer Lundgren

Age 19

Seattle Central College

I took an ethnic studies class last year during my senior year of high school. My teacher helped me think about my racial identity and how to uplift voices in the community. I wrote a paper about environmental justice, indigenous tribes, and red lining in Seattle. I learned more about the importance of native land and became more involved with events hosted by the Duwamish tribe. My ethnic studies class was an enriching experience for me.

The Asian American community is going through a healing process after the shootings in Atlanta. I’m a member at Y-We, a program aimed to uplift women. There was a day of healing at Marra Farms. Students were making artwork to relax themselves. I was inspired by this event and wanted to do a nature themed piece.


Thank you to all of the youth artists who submitted their pieces for consideration! It’s not ethnic studies if it doesn’t include all forms of art!

An Elder Millennial’s Journey to Ethnic Studies and Visual Arts, Part 2.5

By Alex Ng

This multipart journal is where I am documenting my thoughts as I embark on the journey of revising all of my classes from decent Visual Arts curriculum with some Ethnic Studies themes and content integrated throughout, to true Ethnic Studies Visual Arts at all levels: curriculum, pedagogy, and classroom culture.

Part 2.5 is an interlude, focused on teacher preparation and my own journey into the teaching profession.

 “We Have to Go Back!”

Before I can move forward writing about my journey into ethnic studies, we have to go back and unpack a few things. In part 1 of this journal I wrote about my time teaching English as a Foreign Language in South Korea for 2 years through a government funded program that brought native English speakers to the country as guest teachers. This deserves a closer look. 

In the summer of 2019, despite only being a handful of years removed from my time in Korea, I felt the pangs of nostalgia for the country and the life I once lived there. And so I found myself going back to my old stomping grounds for a two week vacation. I revisited my favorite spots in Seoul and spent time catching up with friends in my adopted hometown of Gongju. It was a fine time.

At this point I had completed my master’s in teaching program and had been teaching for Seattle Public Schools for 3 years. While sitting in Bean, my favorite cafe in Gongju, I reflected on my own teacher preparation journey and musings on teacher preparation in general. 

Image description: Bean Cafe in Gongju, South Korea. Interior of a cafe with seats and tables.

How does one prepare to become a teacher? 

There are many different paths to teaching available today. Most districts have a program to guide non-teaching staff through certification and into teaching high needs content areas in their district. Many would-be teachers take the grad school route if they can afford it because it is thought to be more thorough and comes with a higher pay floor once hired. The phrase “master’s in teaching” conjures up academic notions of mastery, competence, and preparation that I think most MiT holders would contest once they’re actually working as a teacher. I certainly did not feel like a master in teaching after graduating from my master’s in teaching program.

So, how does one prepare to become a teacher? 

I think the short answer is: you go teach. 

I think the long answer is: you do whatever makes sense for you, go teach somewhere, reflect on that experience, work in proximity to teaching, take classes, work in schools, read a ton, talk to teachers, reflect some more, and pick the route to certification that makes the most sense for you.

My answer was something like this: work as a tutor at both the University of Washington and Seattle Central Community College while studying at the UW, take courses in education, talk to a handful of my former teachers, spend time observing and volunteering in their classrooms, and think about what I felt I needed to experience and reflect on before deciding on a route to certification. 

Being a rather academic type, I knew that if I decided to become a teacher I would go for a master’s in teaching. I generally did well in school, I loved reading, writing, sitting around coffee shops being pretentious: there is a part of me that was born for higher ed. So, that part I had already figured out. But what I was not, and am not, is made of money. Grad school would be costly, and I wanted to be damn sure teaching was my future before I threw myself into debt in pursuit of it. 

Believing experience would be the best teacher, I researched different programs that would get me into the classroom as soon as possible. There are many programs and employment opportunities in the US that get you into the classroom and in proximity to teaching, but what I saw was that most programs that put you into the role of teacher without actually having a teaching certificate were overseas. 

EPIK (English Program in Korea) would put me into the role of a classroom teacher in public schools, possibly at the grade level of my choice, almost immediately post completion of my bachelor’s degree. The only qualifications were a BA, a TOEFL (Teacher of English as a Foreign Language) certificate, and a clean background check. In theory, the idea of pairing English Language Acquisition with a native English speaker who will teach about English speaking cultures makes sense. Languages should be taught in conjunction with culture, not divorced from it. I graduated with a BA in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts and English Literature, completed an online TOEFL program that purportedly included 80 hours of preparation (which in truth was more like 20 hours of online readings, videos, and quizzes), and managed to keep my record clean. A few short months post-graduation, I landed at Seoul-Incheon International Airport all geared up to teach for the first time.

My approach to teaching as a novice was, frankly, awful. Believing that classroom structure was important (and it totally is!) and carrying with me unexamined notions of what it means to be a teacher (that was a problem!), I too often tried to police my students. Believing it was important to make learning fun and engaging, I tried to “gamify” learning without real intention. Struggling with how to get reluctant students to take the risk of practicing speaking English, I incentivized participation with rewards. So, to repeat the obvious, my approach to teaching was AWFUL

Image description: a standard English classroom in a Korean public middle school: many small, wooden desks in rows with 3 computers in the back and bookshelves with English language books.

The important thing is, I grew. I learned. I got better. I got beat down by the job, by all my bad days, by all my failures. I distinctly remember many bus rides home after school, sitting in the back of the bus, physically exhausted and wondering if this was the right profession for me. For a long time, the answer was: “I don’t know.” But that answer was alright, because that’s why I went to Korea in the first place. 

It took half a year for any semblance of growth to rear its head. One afternoon during lunch I was walking with one of my co-teachers at an all-girls middle school, lamenting to him about how awful a teacher I was. I was going on and on about how things just weren’t working, blah, blah. He stopped me and asked me to think about the start of the year and how bad my teaching was then…his point being, as awful as I felt at that moment, I was even worse at the start of the year, so clearly I’m getting better! And he was right. I was awful at the start of the year, I was still awful at that moment, but I was getting better at the job. 

With great effort, constant reflection, and more failures, things started to turn around. The bus rides home became a little less painful. My lessons, a little less disastrous. By the end of my first year of teaching I knew I was getting better at the job. By the end of my second year, I knew I wanted to keep doing the job. In short, I loved my time in Korea. I loved how it beat me down, challenged me, forced me to grow, and prepared me in most of the ways I was hoping it would, to pursue certification. So I returned to the US to get my master’s in teaching, which I have already written about in past entries in this journal series.

In many ways, I would not have had the teacher preparation journey I reflect so fondly on now had it not been for South Korea’s history and relationship to predominantly English speaking countries like the United States and United Kingdom, the South Korean government’s view of English as a language of economic opportunity and cultural prestige, and the design of the EPIK program to put non-certificated teachers with no experience in front of students with the vague direction to “teach students conversational English.” Without much reflection on it at the time, I benefited from the US’ global militarism and exported cultural dominance. Not only that, but my students in South Korea, all 2000 of them across 2 years and 6 public middle schools, deserved a better teacher. They deserved a more qualified teacher. And I say this knowing I wasn’t the worst among guest English teachers. At minimum, I was there to take teaching seriously. Others used the EPIK program as an all expenses paid opportunity to travel to and throughout Asia. Still, I find myself uneasy with how easy it was for me to put myself in the position of teaching students in a foreign country. I have to sit with this discomfort and own my tiny part in the global exporting of American culture and English as a “prestige” language. There is more to unpack here, but I am no expert on the matter, I just know that it bothers me to this day…

image description: A tiny espresso coffee in a black cup and saucer on a wooden table in Bean Cafe

So, back to my vacation in South Korea as I sat around coffee shops trying to be less pretentious, I realized then and reaffirm now that it doesn’t matter what your journey to teaching is. My journey to teaching was no better or worse than anyone else’s; it was certainly fraught with problematic undertones, and It was what I needed at the time. 

Everyone has their own unique journey to teaching. Would-be-teachers have different questions to weigh, challenges to overcome, things to learn. What truly matters isn’t how you arrived at teaching, it’s what you do in teaching once you’re here.

image description: a bridge spanning over the Geum River in Gongju in the evening just after sunset.

We Pause to Remember the Refugees of Wars This Memorial Day Weekend

Below is a message from Friendly Vang-Johnson, founder of Friendly Hmong Farms, a CSA created during COVID to support Hmong flower farmers whose businesses were shuttered during quarantine.

There will be no flowers this week / weekend as we take time as a nation to reflect and honor the sacrifices of fallen American soldiers. Some of us will celebrate in the “traditional” way with flags or by attending parades. Others might go to the cemetery for quiet prayer. This year, I propose you consider including Hmong soldiers who lives were cut short before they could become Americans in your thoughts, observances, and praxis.

As many of you know, the Hmong diaspora out of southeast Asia came as the direct result of the U.S. operating a clandestine war in Laos, as it simultaneously waged a public war in Vietnam. The C.I.A enlisted Hmong people, including children, to run operations in the Laos, rescuing downed U.S. fighter pilots. When the U.S. disengaged from Vietnam, only a handful of families were immediately taken out of the country, including my own. Most Hmong families, many of them my uncles, aunts, and cousins, were left behind to languish in refugee camps for years, even decades. When my grandmother lived out her last days with dementia a few years ago, her reoccurring daily reality was that we were evacuating and she could not find all her children. As allies of the U.S., it is said that the Hmong suffered causalities 10 times that of American soldiers

If we are to truly respect and honor the sacrifices of those who have been lost in war, we must recognize that war is horrific. We must do all we can, as a community and as a nation, to seek peace and prevent war. To heal from past war and conflict, we must do everything we can to make truth and reconciliation an integral part of our lives.

Here are a few suggestions from my heart: Advocating for ethnic studies in public education, funding culturally relevant mental health services for veterans and refugees(!), and sharing with neighbors and friends what we know about Hmong-American history and the Hmong-American presence in the PNW are all routes for truth and reconciliation. We can also advocate for Hmong to have a fair and equitable chance at accessing public programs, such as USDA’s farmland loan program, because we know the sacrifices made by the Hmong and the how farming has been a lifeline for the Hmong community. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to sign and share this short form for my letter advocating for structural reform of USDA’s farmland loan application process. These actions move us all closer to realizing a vision for America that pays heed to the lives lost, both military and civilian.

As the fields replenish, have a safe and beautiful holiday this weekend. Let us work together so that all who are living through and who have survived war and conflict may also enjoy this opportunity one day, too. 

Be Well, In Community,
Friendly

Petition: Address Racism and White Supremacy in North Thurston Public Schools

EDIT: Success! At the request of the authors of the petition, the petition has been temporarily suspended while they work with the North Thurston School Board, who has responded to all of you who signed the petition! Many thanks for elevating this issue and being catalysts for change!

If you would like to send your own email, please visit the North Thurston School District website for contact information.


This petition is a call to action to address racism and white supremacy in North Thurston Public Schools, Lacey, WA. 

In North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS), a growing group of current and former BIPOC and allied teachers, paraeducators, and staff who have experienced racial abuse from their employer, colleagues, and staff are taking action to hold their district accountable for upholding white supremacy. “We have found little to no support from NTPS leadership, our school board members, and our associations. This district has reinforced cycles of racial harm through its ‘passive progressivism’,” says one NTPS teacher.“There is a strongly worded equity resolution.  Equity teams abound.  Professional development opportunities are riddled with equity training.  Ultimately, the words and gestures are empty and meaningless because there is no accountability measure.” 

NTPS is in its emerging state of equity work. In October, 2020, the NTPS School Board adopted the Equity Resolution, a comprehensive plan to engage the district in equity work including creating a framework for K-12 Ethnic Studies, engaging in anti-racist professional development across the district. On paper, or via the NTPS website, it would seem that NTPS is an equitable district, but NTPS is moving at the pace of white privilege. Grandiose equity statements try to persuade the community that systematic racial issues do not exist in the district and that NTPS is sympathetic to the racism that the NTPS community faces.

  • North Thurston Public Schools is a compassionate community free from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, color, religion, national origin or home country, or other protected class.” (from an email sent 3/19/21 from Superintendent Deb Clemens regarding support for Asian American students and families). 
  • The NTPS mission statement regarding equity also states, “At NTPS we interrupt factors that perpetuate systemic inequities and/or practices that contribute to over and under-representation of any student group compared to peers. We confront the institutional bias that results in predictability of student success or lack thereof, including but not limited to race and ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ability, language and culture.”
  • NTPS states that they stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter on their equity webpage: “The lives of Black, Indigenous and People of Color continue to be significantly impacted by racial abuse, racist policies and anti-black violence. Our district is committed to actively implementing antiracist policies and practices to eliminate the current racial disparities that exist in our district and community.” 

These statements are proclamations without an actively anti-racist practice demonstrated by ALL in NTPS. In practice, the district is checking boxes and hoping they can continue as “normal”. Unfortunately, “normal” means operating comfortably in white supremacy. 

Despite the statements of support, here are the lived experiences of teachers, paras, and staff working in NTPS: 

  • NTPS building administration told BIPOC staff and White allies to stop teaching the Social Justice standards and to wait until other staff “caught up.” 
  • A BIPOC educator was disproportionately interrogated by their principal and grade level team for teaching an asynchronous lesson that included farmworker activists, Dolores Huerta and César Chávez. This lesson was modeled after a district-approved ELA remote-learning coach resource, but this teacher received harassment for implementing the lesson. 
  • Books pertaining to the Civil Rights movement, and gay Civil Rights leader Harvey Milk, were reported missing from a NTPS elementary library. We reported this free-speech issue to the Director of Equity and no further investigation was completed. 
  • A BIPOC staff member was given a fabricated performance review, and was demoted from their position. They advocated for mediation with their principal and they were further retaliated against. 
  • A BIPOC counselor reported that when they were talking to someone at the NTPS district office about hiring more BIPOC staff and how positive it was to be a part of the hiring of more BIPOC staff, the person responded with, “Colored people are taking our jobs.” 
  • Two BIPOC staff from the same building were “moved” from their building by their administrator, so white friends of the administrator could stay in the building. 
  • A BIPOC educator was impacted by “mistakes” on seniority lists made by NTPS Human Resources that negatively affected their career, with no restitution or resolution. 
  • White ally educators teaching lessons that incorporated Social Justice standards were intimidated to stop teaching to the standards. Their names and lessons were shared on conservative groups’ social media, where members harassed them and their work. 
  • A White ally educator critiqued the inaction of their principal regarding equity. An equity committee meeting was arranged by their principal. At the meeting the White ally educator was bullied and harassed by the committee which included staff from every grade level, paraeducators, a school counselors, and their principal. 
  • When speaking to a white administrator about the lack of urgency and action for furthering equity being harmful to our BIPOC staff, students and community, the administrator responded by saying, “we can’t push those who aren’t ready to do this work too hard because that will just push good people away.”
  • A BIPOC staff was bullied and harassed by their White coworker in a classroom in front of students and other teachers. Administrators were notified of this and no action was taken. 
  • A BIPOC coaching staff was notified of a rumor regarding a student. The BIPOC woman coach was the only one interrogated regarding the issue, although other white coaching staff knew about the issue. BIPOC coaching staff was forced to resign from their position. The white staff currently remain in their positions.
  • BIPOC staff continue to be marginalized in their buildings for their advocacy, while the NTPS Director of Equity reports that in their position, they“hold no decision making power to make any changes.” 
  • For too many BIPOC staff, it is evident there is not a plan in place to retain or protect them. For too many of them, the district’s racist actions are directly pushing them out. BIPOC staff feel themselves being pushed out and further marginalized within their work teams, from their Supervisors and from District Leadership.

Student Experience:

  • In November 2020, NTPS Director of Student Achievement grouped White and Asian Students together in one line on an achievement graph while there was another line that indicated levels of achievement for students of color. This grouping of White students and Asian students together excluded Asian students from the category of students of color erasing their experiences and histories.
  • In June 2020, Black Lives Matter signage was removed from a number of schools by the Director of Facilities, Mike Dahl.  District officials acted to conceal evidence and fabricate details of what happened and who was involved.  They initially stated that it was the“maintenance team” that mistakenly took the signage down. The Black Student Union launched their own investigation to uncover the truth.  Through public records requests of emails and security footage, they were able to identify that Dahl was the sole individual to take the signage down. He stated in an email to the principal at one school that the decision to remove the signs was not unilateral. He received clearance to take the signage down from District Cabinet member, Monty Sabin.  NTPS School Board members, Superintendent Debra Clemens, and District leadership minimized the impact of Dahl’s act of anti-Black aggression and have not restored the damage they have caused to the Black community and allies.  Dahl continues to work at the district and has had multiple incidents in which he has harmed staff through his behavior. 
  • In March 2021, students participated in a Zoom event centering BIPOC Wellness and recruitment activities for the Black Student Unions (BSU) of North Thurston High School, River Ridge High Schools, and Timberline High Schools.  The meeting was Zoom-bombed by individuals from other school districts using racially targeted hate-speech.  When turning to the IT department for assistance, the attendant did not treat the matter with urgency or even care.  Advisors needed to do their own footwork to track down email evidence.  When calling the police department, they were told that the event did not constitute a crime and they cited 1st amendment rights of infiltrators when the hate speech was brought up. This type of racial insensitivity is prolific.
  • In April, 2021, an Asian student was physically assaulted at an elementary school by a peer who referenced COVID-19 in the attack. Other experiences of racial abuse were shared at an NTPS BSU meeting aimed at amplifying the voices and lived experiences of Asian students.  An Asian Student Association member recalled that the group received verbal harassment from other students when they first formed their association. Students described peers mocking them in school for speaking languages other than English. They described members of the community verbally abusing them for speaking another language in public. The district’s response to the rise in anti-Asian violence has been largely reactive, passive, and ineffective in supporting our Asian youth through the crisis.

Family Experience:

  • Translated school communication materials in the family’s home language are not regularly sent home. Bilingual and BIPOC staff continually translate materials for ELL families without proper compensation. Many ELL families have expressed that they are unaware or unable to access their child’s Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), report cards, letters home, permission slips, and access to remote learning due to NTPS’lack of readily available translated communication.
  • ELL families reported to a BIPOC educator that they felt left behind when our schools first went remote in Spring 2020. They shared that their previous teachers, who were mostly white, did not reach out to them with lessons or translated materials, nor did they check on their well being during the remote transition during the rise of COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many vulnerable ELL families entered the following school year with widened technology and academic gaps. 
  • A Nisqually parent reports being given a calendar with Pilgrims and Indians on it during elementary student conferences. When she complained to administrators, nothing was done. This same parent was gaslighted and tone policed by district administrators after questioning them on Since Time Immemorial practices. 
  • A parent of a student in the North Thurston Black Student Union reports that racist behavior is common at NTPS. According to one teacher, the parent reported that this was one of many racist experiences toward her daughter in the district dating back to elementary school.“Something has to happen to stop this, says the teacher. She reports that parents want “tangible action instead of empty words.”“[NTPS] is at a point where [they are] saying‘we’ are not racist,’ but where [they are] struggling is with actions of being anti-racist. Parents and students are able to see through the insincerity of these statements, and when they are not backed up by action, they are just empty words.” 

These experiences are a small fraction of the discriminating practices that are employed by NTPS. Staff have endured targeted aggressive behavior, discriminatory practices, fabricated performance evaluations, cyber bullying, domestic terrorist threats, harassment, retaliation, gaslighting, and permanent trauma from those who we are told are here to help us. In their efforts to create spaces where all students feel seen, heard, and validated, NTPS educators, families, and students are further marginalized and targeted.

The following individuals are some of those responsible for perpetuating white supremacy in NTPS:

  • Dr. Deb Clemens, Superintendent since 2016. Salary: $245,378. Has been largely silent around racism in NTPS. Has not defended the Equity Resolution to critics. Does not hold cabinet level staff and school leadership accountable for white supremacist actions.
  • Monty Sabin, Assistant Superintendent of Operations since 2015, Salary: $164,325. Has been unresponsive to allegations of Facilities Management removing Black Lives Matter signage and materials from school properties.
  • Mike Dahl, NTPS Facilities Director: since 2018, Salary $128,202. Removed authorized BLM materials from schools.
  • Troy Oliver, Assistant Superintendent of School Leadership since 2006, Salary: $164,325. Does not hold principals accountable for providing meaningful equity professional development.               
  • Courtney Shrieve, Executive Director of Public Relations since 2006, Salary: $138,720. Disseminates empty statements of district support of BLM and BIPOC communities.                               
  • Charlie Burleigh, Executive Director of Human Resources & Civility Officer since 2018, Salary: $159,193. He and Dawn Long have contributed to the creation of a hostile work environment for BIPOC staff.  The turnover rate for BIPOC staff has increased from approximately 11% in the 2017-2018 school year to 16% in the 2019-2020 school year whereas the turnover rate for White staff is maintained at 11% over those school years. Has gaslighted BIPOC staff when they have filed HR grievances.
  • Heather McCarthy, Mountain View Elementary Principal since 2015, Salary : $132,839. She has bullied, gaslit, threatened, and tone-policed BIPOC and allied staff for their equity and social justice work. There is evidence that she has repeatedly had a hand in pushing BIPOC staff out of Mountain View and replaced them with white staff whom she has personal ties to. She claims to be an ally for social change, but her actions do not support her claim. She controls the culture of the school where the implementation of social justice and equity moves at the pace of her white privilege and white fragility. 
  • The NTPS School Board for not not holding the Superintendent accountable; for not listening to the lived experiences of BIPOC students and families; and for being out of touch with the needs of their community.  They have engaged in tone-policing and have refused to acknowledge the concerns of BIPOC students in public meetings choosing to prioritize their own comfort. They have discriminated against a BIPOC staff member who appealed a wrongful termination decision in which they upheld the decision after only giving her 5 minutes of testimony. They have repeatedly silenced student voices, particularly those of BIPOC students, when they did not allow public comment from BSU members and some allies to be read aloud at a board meeting in April 2020.  They did not have the courage to select an outspoken, bi-racial, LGBTQ+, recent graduate and longtime advocate of student voice at NTPS to serve as an interim board member instead opting to appoint Dr. Jennifer Thomas who failed to address/strategically avoided addressing systemic failures at NTPS on issues like racial trauma and gender inequities.
  • NTPS School Board Members
    • District 1, Gretchen Maliska, Board President, since 2017 
    • District 2, Chuck Namit since 1993
    • District 3, Dr. Jennifer Thomas since 2021 
    • District 4, Graeme Sackrison, Vice President , since 2015 
    • District 5, Dave Newkirk since 2015  

This petition demands that North Thurston Public Schools take the following actions:

  • Establish and enforce policies and procedures that protect BIPOC staff, students, and caregivers from racial abuse;
  • Terminate racial abusers from their positions by end of the 2020-2021 school year;
  • Develop and use candidate questions aligned with equity metrics in hiring practices;
  • Ensure and enforce that the district goal to hire more diverse staff is data driven and shared publicly;
  • Ensure and enforce that district level staffing is as diverse as the population served;
  • Create clear flow charts for BIPOC staff that show whom to contact and what they can do when they experience racial abuse at all levels. With BIPOC staff, revise your civility policies and all other policies to ensure that racial abuse is addressed and that clear guidelines are written on what to do, where to find resources, and whom to rely on for support when racial abuse happens;
  • Expand District Equity Leadership. In addition to the Director of Equity and Languages, hire an Equity Director at the Cabinet level, an Equity Instructional Lead to assist the instructional coaches and administrators in learning how to lead Equity work, and hire an Equity Lead in Restorative Justice; 
  • Disaggregate staff Educational Effectiveness Survey’s (EES) and equity PD feedback to inform strategic planning and district policies towards creating safer spaces for BIPOC staff, students, and communities;
  • Require that hiring committees have BIPOC representation and that these appointees are adequately compensated;
  • Train all District Leaders and Supervisors extensively on the Equity Resolution and require they address and uphold its requirements in all staff meetings;
  • Prioritize hiring BIPOC members in District Leadership positions;
  • Ensure and enforce equitable representation on the NTPS school board; and
  • Remove and replace Superintendent Deb Clemens, Executive Director of Human Resources & Civility Officer, Charles Burleigh, and  Facilities Director, Mike Dahl with candidates who have a strong background in racial equity and have positive experiences and impacts working with diverse populations. 

Given the lived experience of  BIPOC staff, statements of“solidarity”that NTPS publishes are distractions from the truth. The evidenced truth is that BIPOC staff and White allies are victims of these empty statements and inaction. Superintendent Deb Clemens and North Thurston Public Schools have shown they are more concerned about their public image than actually working to interrupt the systemic inequities that currently exist in their institution. They do not confront the institutional bias in their schools, but perpetuate it. Please help disrupt the systemic racism and the hostile working environment that affects NTPS staff, students,  and the communities it serves. Sign the petition and send a message to Superintendent Deb Clemens, the NTPS school board, and  NTPS Cabinet Level Leadership as a call to action against racism and white supremacy in North Thurston Public Schools.

Your Gaze Doesn’t Define Me – The Identities of Mixed-Race People

I decided to write this blog post because I recently came under attack with accusations of being a “racial imposter,” using my “proximity to Brownness” for personal gain. While I can easily dismiss this accusation from someone who doesn’t know me or my work, the accusation has dredged up a lot of the trauma I’ve experienced around navigating a mixed-race identity; never being enough of one and too much of the other. I thought that since I’ve written a bit on this topic, it would be helpful to hear from others about their mixed-race identity, specifically folx who are mixed with European (white) ancestry, like myself. First, I want to share a bit about me and my experiences as a mixed-race person.

Here is a picture of me and my dad. This was taken in late November, long after the melanin Seattle’s summer sun blessed me with had started to fade. My dad is usually darker, too, spending a lot of time in his backyard garden watching his corn grow and feeding his chickens gravel. Our last name, by birth, is Castro. My grandfather, my dad’s dad, was in the Navy during the Zoot Suit Riots in Southern California. This was a time of extreme anti-Mexican, specifically anti-Pachuco, racism and violence. My grandfather tried to protect his children from this violence by helping them assimilate as much as possible, which is why we don’t speak Spanish. When my dad was attending school in Southern California, speaking Spanish in school was illegal anyway.

Growing up in Southern California, surrounded by people who looked like me, there was never a doubt about my identity. I was always seen as, and have always claimed, Mexican-American. Even though my grandfather tried to distance us from that identity by not teaching us the language, we remained part of it because of geography and the culture of the communities we were immersed in. It wasn’t until I was in high school and learned about the Chicano movement from my Mexican-American peers that I started to claim Chicana as an identity. I don’t have proximity to Brownness. I am Brown. Of course, part of being mixed with white is understanding the light skin privilege we may bear. I certainly do receive it, and reflect on it quite frequently. 

This is me and my mom. I think my likeness is closer to my dad, and I don’t really see my mom when I look in the mirror. My mom’s family is so far removed from their ethnic heritage that they had nothing to pass down to me. In fact, I would say their ethnicity is Ozark, the region of the US my maternal grandparents are from. Their sayings and food reflected the Ozark culture more than the German or Dutch they thought they may have descended from. But yes, the DNA my mom provided for me came with undeserved privilege. I work to recognize and challenge that every day.

The same person attacking my character and identity said, “There are such things as white Latinas.” Yes, there are. I’m not one of them. I can trace my ancestry to West-Central Mexico. My people are Nahuatl and Purépecha. And while I don’t claim to be Indigenous with a capital I, I am the descendant of Indigenous American people. I am also the descendant of Spaniards, Nigerians, and Senagambians – all on my dad’s side. Am I light-skinned? Sometimes. Am I white? No. I’m Xicanx – an American of Indigenous Mexican descent, with all of the racial, ethnic, and political connotations that come with that identity. 

Below are some reflections from mixed-race folks on how they identify and why. I am deeply appreciative of the contributors to this piece who were willing to be vulnerable and claim their identity in the ways that they understand them. Tlazocamati.


Chris Colley

He/Him

Dutch/German father. First generation Chinese American Mother

Mixed Race Chinese American

My identity has evolved over time. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, in a predominantly white community, I referred to myself as half Chinese. With family roots in Hawaii (Chinese, not native Hawaiian) we did use the term Hapa while on the Islands or within our Chinese community. That term is loaded, and I personally have struggled with how, or if, to use it. I have two children who are also mixed race, though more white presenting than me. I call them mixed-race Chinese American, too, and it feels inclusive within our family to use the same identity for me and the kids.

Melanie

she/her/hers

Mixed Filipinx

In my mirror, I see my mother: her cheekbones, the warm undertones of my skin, the roundness at the end of my nose. I see my father, too: the red that tinges my otherwise dark hair, my light hue in winter, my height. It’s all there and that’s the point. To claim one would be to deny the other. I am mixed Filipinx. I could slip through the shadows and pretend to be white. Many people prefer it. They point out that I am “white passing.”I reject that term. It infers that white is something to aspire to and evokes duplicitousness – always“passing”but never full, a membership easily revoked depending on who is looking and who is in power. I claim full identity, which is that of a person born in PI who came to the U.S. young, raised by an immigrant and a white American in a school/town where my siblings were the only other kids who were not white; a person enduring microaggressions and the pain of bearing witness to racism’s impact on family members, who lives with polarizing emotions of guilt from benefiting from being light-skinned and the loneliness of not belonging anywhere, of feeling my pain has no place; a person who is learning daily to subvert that guilt, to unravel the unconscious racism and privilege that have root in me and to use privilege to stand in solidarity to undo systems of oppression to fight for me and for others.

Rachelle Horner

She/Her

I am Half Black and Half White

Biracial African American

I Identify as biracial African American because I did not grow up in a biracial household. I grew up in a Black household. My father, who is white, left while my mom was pregnant with me and they were divorced by the time I was born, so I never knew the white side of my family. This is why I include the African American (more often I just say Black) in my identity. It is home, it is family, it is culture. However, I am light-skinned. Out in the world, though people very clearly don’t code me as white, they don’t really know what I am and I get asked the, “What are you?” question a lot. This is one reason I identify as biracial and not only African American or Black. Another reason is I am very aware of the privilege I possess because of my light skin. I would be denying that privilege and the unearned advantages it has provided me in the world if I did not acknowledge that I am biracial and that whiteness, white privilege, and white supremacy have played a role in how the world has treated me differently as a person of color than it has treated my mother, my aunts and uncles, and my grandparents. To deny that privilege as a way to prove my Blackness is white supremacy at work. It is a lie, and it engages in oppression Olympics, ultimately using me to invalidate, and silence Black people who do not get to benefit from the ease with which whiteness paves your way.  I identify as a Biracial African American because, in owning all parts of myself, I better understand how to wield that identity to dismantle institutional racism and not let it be used as a tool for white supremacy.

Shawna Moore

She/Her

African American, Puerto Rican, Filipino and Portuguese. 

I identify as multi-cultural. I was raised to honor and take pride in all the parts of me.

Being raised multi-cultural and not denying any parts of my culture and heritage has shaped the individual I am today. With my Puerto Rican grandmother teaching me that being sun-kissed, curly haired, hip swaying, mango-eating, and family is everything; to my Filipino/Portuguese grandfather born and raised in Hawaii, that family, faith, community, and giving is life; to my Filipino great-grandfather and Portuguese great-grandmother that worked on the Dole plantation, but somehow found love in one another in the middle or inequities and injustices; to my amazing mother who wanted to make sure I could navigate life, because society would see my father’s African American skin before they saw my mind, my heart, my inner beauty, or my passion. People don’t get to decide who I am, or how I represent. I do!!

When Anti-Racism and Anti-Blackness Collide: A Seattle Education Association Story

by Tracy Castro-Gill, Shraddha Shirude, and Sara Lockenvitz

What follows is a story that is, no doubt, playing out in organizations across the globe. It’s a story of what happens when anti-racism and anti-Blackness collide. It’s a story that is trying to be hidden, but we have come together to make it public – as a cautionary tale – for others in the work. Slow down. Look around you. The urgency is real, but moving without reflecting and assessing is how stories like these come to be told. It is written and published with the express permission of Marquita Prinzing.

What is now known as the Center for Racial Equity (CRE) began in 2016 as an NEA Lighthouse Grant. The grant came with no directions on what to do or how to do it, so Seattle Education Association (SEA) leaders, John Donoughy, Phyllis Campano, and Michael Tamayo, were tasked with hiring a project manager to create a racial justice program within SEA. Enter Marquita Prinzing. At the time, Marquita was teaching 4th grade at Dearborn Park Elementary School, and was a veteran, K-5 educator.

As a mixed-race Black woman, Marquita has always been passionate about racial justice in education. This was an opportunity to employ her personal experiences and education in union activism. Marquita was well aware of the tokenizing space she was entering, and that she would have to be strategic if she wanted to make a sustainable, systemic change. Her first goal was to recruit critical educators, educators who already had a deep critical race lens, to be on the plan and design team of this nebulous program she was charged with creating. She did this by hosting listening sessions, and from those sessions emerged the team. The team headed to Montgomery County Education Association in the fall of 2016 to learn from their model. This group consisted of Marquita Prinzing, Michael Tamayo, Reiko Dabney, Tracy Castro-Gill, and Kate Eads. This is where the concept of the Center for Racial Equity was born, including the beginnings of the mission and vision statements. 

From the start, the vision for CRE was to be a place where anti-racist educators, with an emphasis on BIPOC educators, could be a place to grow their anti-racist practice, advocacy, and leadership skills. It was never meant to be a one-stop shop for solutions to racism in Seattle Public Schools (SPS), but, lacking critical racial equity literacy and what it takes to build and sustain a movement, SEA leadership relegated it as such. Neither Marquita, nor her role, were elevated to SEA “leadership.” She was left out of decision-making processes and not invited to strategic meetings. When leadership wanted to boast about their anti-racist efforts, however, they had no qualms about showing off their token program led by the token Black woman they hired.

After a disagreement between Washington Education Association (WEA) and SEA about the legitimacy of Marquita’s position belonging in SEA, SEA leadership determined it would be in their best interest to make the position an elected one, thus securing it from moving into the purview of WEA. Even with this controversy, Marquita won her first election with overwhelming support, and despite this, she had to continue to fight to be considered SEA “leadership.” At one point, during the Campano-Tamayo tenure, Marquita would be brought into “leadership meetings” for the first half to give a report on CRE, but then would be asked to leave when decisions were to be made. Eventually, through strategy and advocacy, Marquita was invited to lead bargaining for racial equity. Her fight to be part of decision-making in the leadership of SEA, however, continues to this day.

One reason SEA leadership may have balked at including Marquita is that Marquita has always made it clear that she does not represent the entire body of SEA members. Educators in Seattle Public Schools (SPS) have a long history of racism, not just against students, but families and fellow educators as well, so much so that SPS came under federal investigation for its severe racial disparities in discipline in 2013, and five years later, in 2018, data indicated the disparities grew. For these reasons, Marquita refuses to represent educators who aren’t 100% behind dismantling racial oppression in SPS. Her role, and the Center itself, are for advancing racial equity alongside those members who are aligned with the mission and vision statements of the Center, not for representing all members of the body. This, of course, upsets the status quo apple cart.

One tactic Marquita used to work toward dismantling oppressive systems was to create an advisory board. This advisory board is not mandated, but was something Marquita felt she needed to be an effective, reflective, and responsive leader. In an attempt to flatten hierarchies and de-silo work across the city, she invited individuals from both inside and outside SEA membership. She included principals, assistant principals, and leaders employed by the City of Seattle. Their purpose has always been to advise Marquita, not advise SEA, and definitely not to make decisions for SEA. Many are, after all, not SEA dues payers.

The recent election cycle ushered in new leadership. Prior to the election, long-time SEA Executive Director, John Donoughy, moved into statewide office at WEA and was replaced by Yvette De La Cruz. Jennifer Matter became SEA president in a contentious runoff election against Jon Greenberg which came down to nine votes. The Vice President role was vacated by Gwendolyn Jimerson after the election, and Matter appointed failed SEA presidential candidate, Uti Hawkins, to the role. Both Uti and Yvette identify as women of color, but that hasn’t improved the working conditions for Marquita. In fact, the marginalization of her work and her role has intensified with the transition of power. 

As this piece is being written, Marquita is on an extended personal leave of absence, partially because of the stress and anti-Blackness she experiences on the job. Immediately prior to her taking a leave in January, she received an email from Uti and Jennifer announcing they planned to convene the CRE advisory board to make changes to the program and bylaws. Marquita explicitly stated that their actions, in doing so, would be an overstep of power. She reminded them that the advisory board serves no role in SEA – or even CRE – decision making. Uti convened the advisory board almost immediately after Marquita took her leave. 

By February, SEA leadership had completed what can only be described as a hostile takeover of CRE, stepping on Marquita’s role as a leader and ignoring concerns raised by CRE members. Jennifer Matter, Uti Hawkins, and Kaitlin Kamalei Brandon used the CRE advisory board to legitimize a vote to place Kaitlin in an Interim Director position, replacing Marquita. This is the part where it needs to be restated that the CRE Advisory Board consists of people who are not SEA members but were allowed to vote on SEA elected leadership decisions. 

The following is a reflection from Sara Lockenvitz, long-time member of CRE and the SEA Board about what transpired during this time.

What became apparent to me at the February Board meeting was how hard Marquita has always had to – and will continue to have to – fight to legitimize her work. Despite following the norm of reporting out to the union Board and other spaces where I witnessed Marquita share and celebrate the good work in, I found it odd (implicitly and explicitly)  that it wasn’t always clear to some what CRE was all about or “doing”. The continuation of having to legitimize her work had to become absolutely crushing and I have to admit none of us could ever have any idea just how much so. How can someone ever really do “enough”?
 
This status quo reporting system sadly overlooks the grassroots efforts of the CRE work that was dependent upon listening to members, especially those most marginalized by the education system.  This I DO know as a flagship CRE coach, learning and growing alongside Marquita – her leadership style is not to dictate the paths I should take as a leader but to rather capitalize on my assets, my passions, and the skills Marquita always saw in me. Her leadership and friendship have meant the world to me.
 
Rather than uplifting and celebrating the strides Marquita has made, it became about how she may be “holding the work hostage” and making her as one person responsible for being a barrier to the important racial equity work. The conversation saddened me as a colleague, CRE partner, but most of all, as a friend.

At an SEA representative assembly in March, members of CRE and other leaders within the union, spoke against hearing a report from Kaitlin, claiming her appointment was illegitimate, an overstep of Jennfier and Uti, and an act of explicit anti-Blackness. Jennifer and Uti gaslit members, used the illegitimate vote of the CRE advisory board as justification for their actions, then accused the dissenters of anti-Blackness. Since this confrontation, Kaitlin has reportedly moved her work out of CRE. It’s not clear if this is a result of reflecting on the comments made at the representative assembly or if it’s an attempt to starve the grassroots CRE of funding and credibility. 

Our hope is the publication of these events will help inform other education associations and organizations looking to implement similar programs. Unless there is a fundamental shift in the structures and leadership of the organization, programs like CRE are doomed to fail – even when BIPOC folks are at the helm. We have witnessed too many BIPOC leaders be burnt out to the point of mental health emergencies. We can’t lose anymore leaders to this re-whiting of anti-racism. If you are planning a program similar to CRE, stop and ask yourself,“Is your anti-racism top-down, urgent, tokenized, and anti-Black?”

SB5044 OPPORTUNITY FOR COMMUNITY ACTION

If you’ve been following our social media, you’ll know we’ve been tracking SB5044 concerning anti-racist professional development. It has passed the Senate and must pass the House by March 26th. We can use the time between now and then to influence important changes to the language of this bill.

May be an image of text that says 'COMMUNITY ACTIONUPDATE Senate Bill 5044 racist professional development members staff SB 5044 has passed the Senate and now House Committee on Education. SB 5044 anti-racist professional development. WAESN callingfor community amendments, upcoming opportunities. WASHINGTON ETHNIC STUDIES] SB 5044'

The WAESN Legislative Subcommittee has read through the bill and has the following concerns/talking points about this bill.

  • Needs a mandate for PD, not just a list of providers.
  • How do we measure the “ongoing” PD? Need an observable metric, like requirements for clock hours/recertification.
  • Needs minimum time/credit/clock hour measurements.
May be an image of text that says 'COMMUNITY ACTIONUPDATE SUPPORT 5044, but demand more accountability! Talking_points: We need this legislation to hold the education system accountable to mandating anti-racist professional development. This includes mandating minimum time/credit/clock hours dedicated to anti-racist professional development for recertification. The approved list of providers created by PESB, EOGOAC, and OSPI must be BIPOC owned and operated. WASHINGTON ETHNIC STUDIES] SB 5044'

The sponsor for this bill is Senator Mona Das. Contact her office and let her know we are grateful for this step, but it misses the mark.
The next opportunity to provide public testimony is Tuesday, March 23rd at 8am. Registration for testimony is not yet open, but watch our social media channels for instructions. In the meantime, you can help WAESN hold members of this group accountable for authentic, community driven anti-racism in K-12 education by clicking on the petition below, calling the legislation hotline: 1-800-562-6000 and leaving a message for your legislator, and preparing written testimony to submit once testimony registration has opened.

[emailpetition id=”4″]

Signing the petition sends an email to all members of the House Education Committee that reads:

I am writing you today in support of SB5044 and in appreciation of the work Senator Das has done to push this important bill forward. This piece of legislation is long overdue. Students of Color have been harmed in our schools for too long by educators that lack the appropriate skills and understanding to meet their needs.

Unfortunately, many districts, board directors, administrators, and educators opt out of professional development and other opportunities to strengthen their practices, including the professional development outlined in this legislation. I am urging you to add an amendment to the bill that provides some measure of accountability, particularly a requirement for in-service educators (educators, for this purpose, is defined as anyone who works in a school setting) to participate in a minimum number of hours per year to maintain their certificated status and/or employment status. Dismantling racial oppression and learning cultural competence cannot be done in the one day set aside in this legislation. It has to be an ongoing commitment. Requiring educators to dedicate at least 20% of their professional development hours to these goals is not an unreasonable ask.

Please also add accountability to the list of providers OSPI must provide to ensure that the providers are organizations owned and operated by BIPOC with expertise in anti-racist professional development for educators. We must value the expertise of the communities most negatively impacted by systemic racial oppression.

Thank you.

Support BIPOC Whistleblowers

Feature image from KUOW

Recently, KUOW published information about the practice of putting children, mostly Black and Brown special education students, in cages. More distressing than the practice is the fact that the practice, itself, is approved by policy in Seattle Public Schools.

The educator who blew the whistle, named in the KUOW piece, is Jackie Flaherty. Jackie is a veteran kindergarten educator and a Black woman. The Executive Director of WAESN, Tracy Castro-Gill, spoke with Jackie recently. Jackie explained that she has always received negative treatment from the principal who resided over this practice, Ed Roos, but that negative treatment and retaliation intensified when she started to push back against harmful student discipline practices, like locking children in cages.

Many in our community are offering support to the families and students being impacted by this practice – and rightly so. For that reason, WAESN, whose members are overwhelmingly educators, is working to provide support for Jackie and other BIPOC whistleblowers. Without them, justice can never be met, and SPS has a horrible track record when it comes to anti-racist educators who blow the whistle on their harmful practices.

Please join WAESN in supporting Jackie and demanding that, in addition to dismantling abusive, racist discipline policies, SPS protect Jackie and other BIPOC educators, who will no longer be silent witnesses to racial trauma in our schools, from retaliation.


Signing the petition below will send a message to all of the school board directors letting them know you demand they change their discipline policy and protect Jackie and other BIPOC whistleblowers from retaliation.

[emailpetition id=”3″]

OSPI Ethnic Studies Failure

Directors and members of WAESN have been participating in and following the work of the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s work on the legally mandated creation of a K-12 model Ethnic Studies Curriculum. WAESN board president, Amanda Hubbard, is an official member of this committee and has witnessed fragile whiteness in both the leadership of this committee and the creation of the framework. WAESN board members have held several meetings with Senator Bob Hasegawa, a sponsor of the ethnic studies legislation, and Superintendent Chris Reykdal to outline our concerns and advocate for a course correction, but we have seen only further backsliding into whitewashing of this important effort.

WAESN board members co-authored a letter to Superintendent Reykdal outlining our concerns and demands for change that could lead to a more authentic, BIPOC-centered model curriculum. If you are interested in supporting our advocacy, there is a petition you can sign that will send a letter to Senator Hasegawa, Superintendent Reykdal, and the OSPI Social Studies lead who facilitates the committee, Jerry Price, and his supervisor, Kathe Taylor, OSPI Assistant Superintendent.


Superintendent Reykdal,

We, the Executive Team and Youth Advisory Board of Washington Ethnic Studies Now (WAESN), are writing to you today to address concerns we have with the Washington State Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee. Our Executive Director, Tracy Castro-Gill, and two of our Board Directors, Amanda Hubbard and Jeff Stone, have been present during several meetings that were very troubling. Tracy and Amanda have raised their concerns regarding the disproportionate representation of white members on the committee and asked that better outreach and recruitment efforts for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of Color) members with experience in Ethnic Studies be conducted. 

The entire process started off in the culture of white supremacy when the lead role was assigned to a white man, Jerry Price, who lacks any expertise or experience in Ethnic Studies and was given the role simply because he’s the social studies lead, which is evidence of the systemic failure to understand that Ethnic Studies was born from the efforts and struggle of groups of Color. Assigning Ethnic Studies to social studies further demonstrates a lack of understanding at OSPI about the scope of Ethnic Studies. Additionally, there is concern that several members of the committee don’t have a basic understanding of anti-racism and/or Ethnic Studies. At least one member has made statements regarding Ethnic Studies epistemological ideology stating that it’s “problematic” and “divisive” and called Tracy a racist for demanding voices of Color be centered in this work. It is disconcerting to us that someone who makes these statements is involved in creating a model Ethnic Studies curriculum for the State, and this is a reflection of the systemic racism that prevents authentic, anti-racist intitiatives from succeeding.

Tracy and Amanda have repeatedly asked for these issues to be addressed in committee meetings, and though Nasue and Jerry conducted one-on-one interviews with all involved, we feel that our concerns were largely unheard and dismissed. At that point, we sent our concerns as WAESN to Jerry. After we initially shared our concerns with Jerry Price, Nasue Nishida, and Kathe Taylor in April, Jerry and Nasue created learning opportunities for members of the committee. Unfortunately, not every member took advantage of the opportunities, including those who need the most help. Tracy had a phone conversation with Kathe, who indicated she would “circle back,” but we have yet to hear from her. Additionally, it is problematic that OSPI is taking time to “train” white members instead of recruiting experienced and highly qualified BIPOC members. This is an example of institutionalized racism where unqualified white educators are privileged over qualified BIPOC educators. Institutionalized racism is also at work when BIPOC experts are expected to teach white committee members instead of being part of decision making. This is the antithesis of the tenets and goals of Ethnic Studies and anti-racism.

We are supporting Tracy and Amanda’s call for better outreach to:

  • BIPOC students 
  • BIPOC families
  • BIPOC educators, including BIPOC Ethnic Studies professors
  • BIPOC CBOs 

who meet these minimum requirements:

  • proven experience in leading discussions on anti-racism and/or Ethnic Studies
  • documented work on creating and/or implementing Ethnic Studies curriculum
  • proven advocacy of Ethnic Studies programs.

WAESN formed to advocate and support Ethnic Studies programs Statewide, and part of that advocacy is protecting the integrity of Ethnic Studies in its creation and implementation. We are available and prepared to assist you in this effort. Our organization has members from across the State of Washington who have created a network of critical, anti-racist educators. Please reach out to us for any assistance you may need.


[emailpetition id=”2″]