TRUST & TRANSPARENCY: Too many parents feel disconnected from what’s happening at district headquarters and from the big decisions that affect their children’s educational experiences. This includes feeling left out of principal hiring processes, budget allocations, student assignment decisions, and more. Through ongoing dialogue and “Community Conversations,” I will give all families a seat at the table and a chance to be heard. I will also be readily available via email (Lisa@LisaRiveraSmith.com), and I welcome invitations to attend your organizations’ meetings throughout the Seattle School District. Together, we’ll get the answers we’re looking for and we’ll hold district leaders accountable to families and educators.
SUPPORTING THE WHOLE CHILD: Our children’s educational experiences are about more than academics; our district’s support should be too, and supporting the physical and mental health of our students is vital. This includes serving whole and nutritious foods in our cafeterias; ensuring students spend ample time in their school yards and playgrounds; developing a physical education program that cultivates a love of fitness in our students; and mental health services that are open and accessible to all. We need Family Support Workers in all schools, where they can support families in need and also be a resource of professional development for building staff in improving family engagement. Additionally, I will work to make sure every school has one or more counselors who can help provide the crucial daily support that make students feel safe, listened to and supported through both academic and emotional challenges.
IMPROVING EQUITY & OUTCOMES: Seattle Public Schools has appropriately made ensuring racial and educational equity a priority. Currently, minority, low-income, special ed and ELL (English Language Learners) students are disproportionately represented in advanced learning programs, and disproportionately disciplined within the public school system. I believe that Seattle Schools must do better for these students. Along with universal and more equitable testing for highly capable services, SPS must require all educators be trained in identifying and combating institutional racism and implicit bias. I also believe there should be a ban on in-school suspensions for elementary school children, nor should they be withheld from recess as a form of punishment. Instead, restorative justice should be utilized in all schools, and we should promote collaborative approaches to disciplinary issues. Along with combating institutional racism and implicit bias, I believe we need to address another underlying cause of disproportionate discipline – a lack of cultural understanding and awareness amongst our students and educators. When behaviors or manners exhibited by students of color and non-English-speakers are not fully understood or appreciated, it creates a climate of disregard and contempt, not just from disciplinarians, but also from other students. Instead, we should find ways to appreciate and celebrate the many cultures and traditions of our students, learn about each culture’s history and accomplishments, and hire more teachers and administrators of color. This will be achieved with a robust Ethnic Studies curriculum and intentional recruitment (and retainment) of educators of color, all things I will insist our district deliver on.
INTEGRATING OUR SCHOOLS: Seattle has a painful history of redlining, which sadly has left us with many segregated neighborhoods, and consequently, many segregated schools. I will focus on structuring our boundaries with a lens on equity, while promoting school choice within our public school system, especially in regards to option and alternative schools. But to make those options viable, we’ll need to support families with equitable access and reliable transportation, perhaps working with county and city resources to offer stronger neighborhood-to-neighborhood routes. This issue is larger than any one school and requires a systemic solution.