Eboni-Rose Thompson, Candidate DC SBOE Ward 7
Charter Schools vs. DCPS
Ever-increasing enrollments in DCPCS forced the DCPS chancellor to propose closing fifteen DC Public Schools in an effort to manage scarce resources more efficiently. It’s been more than a decade since DC adopted Charter Schools. Name a specific benefit and challenge with both entities? If elected, what goals do you expect to provide?
We need a comprehensive plan with a vision for our public education system. That plan should detail how many schools we have and what programs they provide. Without that, we will continue to have what we have now. We will continue to open more schools, stretch resources, and still have families who say we do not have enough high quality schools. Within that plan both DC Public Schools and DC charter schools can contribute their benefits, and we can mitigate their challenges. DC Public Schools benefits are that they serve all children but they have not been able to educate all children equally, which is why many families in Ward 7 do not attend their neighborhood schools in search of higher quality programs. Charter schools have more flexibility to be innovative but lack transparency in their policies and practices, such as how they handle discipline and spend their money.
If elected, I would work towards the following key accomplishments:
- reclaiming greater power over the public education landscape and decision-making
- the board developing a comprehensive education plan that will ensure every student have a high-quality education no matter where they live
These are both important because they will improve accountability and transparency for schools, families and educators.
According to the CDC Mental Disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, which cause distress and problems getting through the day. Childhood trauma, being one aspect, is prevalent in some poverty to low income households. If elected, what can voters expect from you to improve this dilemma amongst school age children’s mental health?
If elected, I would continue to advocate to increase funding for mental health providers to be placed in schools. As chair of the Ward 7 Education Council, I have testified in front of the DC Council advocating for increases to at-risk and mental health funding, both of which can be used to support positions like school counselors, social workers, and school psychologists. Increasing the number of school based mental health workers is important for the following reasons: 1) their ability to consistently provide care allows clinicians to establish and maintain the relationships needed with families to work towards solutions together; 2) when placed in schools clinicians can support the well-being of the entire school and can work with families, staff and the community more broadly; 3) often it is the most vulnerable that have the most difficulty accessing services due to lack of insurance and placing providers in schools can make sure they are better served.
Preparing Students academically
According to the Non-profit Hechinger Report each year, when they get to campus, more than half a million American college students have to take so-called remedial or developmental education classes to teach them basic math and English skills they should have learned in high school. Main-stream media and written newspaper articles have constantly reported how DC students are ill prepared for college and the workforce after Secondary Graduation. If elected what would be a priority of yours to change this dilemma?
I am a native Washingtonian and product of DCPS and DC Charter Schools. I went on to earn my degree from the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating I returned home to work for DC Public Schools. As a DCPS employee, I was able to serve my neighborhood elementary school, the same elementary school I attended from PreK through 5th grade. I share the SBOE vision that we prepare all students with the skills, knowledge and abilities to lead productive lives as engaged citizens within any community.
My vision for education is all students be prepared to graduate and go on to post-secondary or technical training opportunities that put them on the pathways to fulfilling careers that could pay them a living wage. As a member of the State Board of Education I will continue fighting for academic standards, measures of school quality, and the resources to make this vision a reality. As the Ward 7 SBOE representative, I will push and advocate for us to:
- focus resources on students and communities with the greatest need
- provide transparency in budgeting and decision making
- expand the quantity and quality of programs in our schools.
The Coronavirus pandemic has brought on new challenges in the classroom of learning. In DC textbooks, laptops and school materials are the necessities for a quality learning environment within a classroom setting. The American Academy of Pediatrics, a national association of pediatricians, issued guidance July 1, 2020 advocating for in-person classes in the fall. Remote learning, the academy said, will likely result in severe learning loss and social isolation that can lead to serious emotional and health issues for students. If elected, what improvements would you promote to implement during these challenging times?
This school year is unlike any other we have faced. The decision when to return to schools in-person must be a health and safety decision first and foremost. As a member of the Mayor’s ReOpen DC committee focused on education, I pushed for the city to invest in closing the digital divide so students and their families remain connected to schools. This is especially important so students can connect with their teachers for academic instruction, but they also need the internet and a device to access other services for general health and mental health services.
Additionally, I would promote the city exploring options like learning pods, use of community resources like churches who have space and volunteers that can provide tutoring to students who need additional support, and ensuring special needs children have individualized learning plans that detail how supports will be provided to meet their needs until we can return to in-person instruction.
Finally, in my role as the Ward 7 Education Council Chair, we are advocating to ensure the necessary improvements are made to school facilities like addressing HVAC and ventilation issues to allow educators and students to return in person. I would continue that advocacy.
On July 1, 2020 DCIST reported Teachers in D.C. Public Schools are pushing back against preliminary plans to reopen schools in the fall, arguing the city school system has not adequately addressed health and safety concerns.
Before the pandemic challenges, teachers were being physically and mentally abused in one-on-one personal classroom settings and the students’ behavior has become a big challenge. How do you see yourself being able to address these concerns?
Students of color, with disabilities, and in the foster care system In DC are overwhelmingly and disproportionately suspended and expelled. The Fair Access to School Act, a school discipline bill passed by the DC Council in 2018, pushed schools to incorporate restorative justice practices, but many schools had trouble addressing student behaviors without adequately staff and resources. Before the bill, black children in DC were nearly eight times more likely to be suspended than their white peers. Students cannot learn if they are not in school. When fewer kids are suspended, data shows test scores improve. Addressing the root cause behind each child’s behavior leads to a long-term solution that helps every child in the classroom learn and succeed. This is another reason I will continue to advocate for schools to have the necessary funding for school based mental health resources.