All school board members are also members of WSSDA. We hope that shining a spotlight on individual school directors will contribute to a sense of community and connectedness among WSSDA’s members. These “director spotlights” are also a way to share knowledge and reveal the variety of backgrounds and perspectives among school directors.
Besides being a father, teacher and husband, my passion is helping those surviving homelessness and living through poverty. My dedication is to my nonprofit, the Foundation for Homeless and Poverty Management, which supports men, women and children with programs to help people toward sustainability and get off the streets. My personal experience with homelessness has given me an understanding of what is needed and what is wrong with the way homeless people are dealt with and treated.
I love reading the Direct newsmagazine and seeing what other school boards are doing in our state. I also pay close attention to the National School Board Association to see what school districts in other cities are doing. However, most of the time, it comes from the students. I get emails from students and their parents, or I run into them and have conversations about their thoughts, concerns, and what they believe should and shouldn’t be in our district. That helps me to research and look at their ideas to see what may have merit. I also use my lived experiences as a black child in the public school system of New York City. I bring that lens to many decisions on the school board.
One of my biggest concerns is representation for students of color. When I met with the president of our school board and our superintendent, I made it clear that I would be the voice of all students but especially our students of color. I expressed that it would be my goal to increase the number of teachers and staff of color in our district while addressing some of the concerns that our students of color experience. What I love about my district is that everyone agreed that my viewpoints and suggestions would be a great addition to helping our district become better at serving all of our students.
I learned to develop a thick skin and hold my emotions. I have come to realize that many parents, students and staff are passionate about what they are going through, what they experience, and how our decisions, as a board, may affect them personally. I also realize that the root of some hateful statements made to school board directors, written or verbally, is people’s passion for what they are talking about. We have to respect and understand that no matter how harsh, mean-spirited or even hateful their emails or comments may be, it’s coming from a place of pure truth in their reality. To them, they are advocating for what they believe is a problem or issue that can be easily solved. Right or wrong, you have to respect their willingness to express their feelings and fight for what they believe in.
Director Jackson’s spotlight originally appeared in the spring issue of WSSDA Direct.