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Black educators discuss education equity ahead of school re-opening this fall

By Joe W. Bowers Jr.| California Black Media

The California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA) held their 13th annual professional development summit May 26 – 28th in San Diego. The theme for this year’s conference was, “Achieving an Equity Driven Education.”

Co-hosted by the San Diego County Office of Education and Moreno Valley Unified School District, the conference was held in-person and virtually. For their safety, in-person participants were required to have been vaccinated or to have tested negative for COVID-19.

According to Dr. Daryl Camp, President, CAAASA and Superintendent, San Lorenzo Unified School District, “CAAASA was one of the last organizations to host an in-person conference in 2020 and will be the first organization to host an in-person conference in 2021.”

CAAASA welcomed about 150 in-person attendees. About 600 other participants joined the conference online. Those attending were education practitioners, including school administrators, teachers, and staff; education researchers; policymakers; and community members inspired and motivated to learn ways to improve the educational experiences and outcomes for African American and other students of color by promoting equity and social justice and improved school climates.

The conference theme, “Achieving an Equity Driven Education” acknowledges the need, “to ensure the next normal will achieve an equity driven education for students,” says Camp. “While the pandemic has presented many challenges, it has also provided an opportunity to re-envision what an equity driven education may look like for underserved students.”

The conference was organized around seven goals: Align strategies that promote access to excellence for boys and girls of color; Utilize Social Emotional Learning (SEL) supports to address the impact of trauma and poverty on learning and academic achievement; Use assessment data (Single Plan for Student Achievement - SPSAs) and Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP) as strategic and equity-driven tools to positively impact academic achievement; Increase meaningful family engagement and identify strategies and resources to improve graduation rates and increase college readiness and access for students of color; Provide strategies to ensure the safety and wellbeing of youth in school and the community, including issues such as violence, social justice concerns, bullying and human trafficking; Address school climate, including student discipline, suspension, expulsion, truancy and chronic absenteeism; and increase awareness about the advantages and values of early childhood education.

The three-day conference was divided into morning and afternoon plenary lectures followed by seminars and workshops. There were six plenary lectures and attendees had access to their choice of fifty-five seminars and workshops that supported the conference goals.

The opening plenary was titled “National Health & Educational Concerns Due to the Impact of COVID-19.” The speakers were Dr. Robert Ross, President and CEO, The California Endowment; Dr. Theopia Jackson, President, Association of Black Psychologists; and Dr. Nana Efua B. Afoh-Manin, founder of myCovidMD. They spoke about depression, anxiety, stress, isolation and the increasing number of Black students contemplating and committing suicide due to impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, among other factors.

The afternoon plenary was “Black Girls Institute: Challenges & Crises Faced by Black Girls in Public Schools & Society.” Participating in an all-female panel were Cara McClellan, Assistant Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Dr. Angela Clark Louque, Professor, California State University San Bernardino; and Dr. Kimberly Hendricks-Brown, Principal On Special Assignment, Fresno Unified School District. They addressed issues related to how girls of color are bearing the brunt of policies and practices that diminish their opportunities and harm their potential. The panel was moderated by Dr. Sonjhia Lowery, Superintendent, Old Adobe Union School District.

On day two, the morning plenary was “Addressing Education and Economic Empowerment for African Americans and Other Communities of Color.” Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13); Marc Morial, President and CEO National Urban League; and Dr. Michael Drake, President, University of California; spoke about the financial wealth gap and the resultant challenges to education and life in the African American and other communities of color. Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, President, California State Board of Education, spoke on the state of education in California, representing Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The afternoon of day two plenary was the “Research Institute Panel Discussion: Achieving An Equity-Driven Education - Post COVID.” This is CAAASA’s annual research institute panel and it was led by Darling-Hammond and Dr. Travis Bristol, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education, Berkeley. The panel provided views on what an equity-driven education looks like once the COVID pandemic ends. Also speaking were Dr. Justin A. Coles, Assistant Professor, Fordham University; Dr. Maria E. Hyler, Director of the Learning Policy Institute’s Washington, DC Office and Ms. Kimberly Young, Ethnic Studies Teacher, Culver City High School.

On day three, the morning plenary session was titled “Shared Educational Inequities, Discrimination, Disparities and Commonalities for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color).” This panel featured members of the BIPOC community, and it addressed common disparities that each community has faced within the educational system. Topics discussed included inequity and discrimination within the school systems.

The Closing Plenary was called “Ensuring, Increasing and Providing Digital Equity in Schools, Homes and Communities.” This panel discussed ways to enhance capabilities to close the divide and ensure that African American and other students of color are able to stay connected and up-to-date. The Digital Divide was brought to the spotlight due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelist included Tony Thurmond, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction; Paul Gothold, Superintendent, San Diego County Office of Education; Toby Boyd, President, California Teacher Association; and Dr. Martinrex Kedziora, Superintendent, Moreno Valley Unified School District. The panel was moderated by Superintendent L. K. Monroe, Alameda County Office of Education.

CAAASA was founded in 1993 but was called the California Association of African American Superintendents. In 2007, it was reorganized and took on its current name. When CAAASA started, there were just 13 African- American school district superintendents out of approximately 1,100 statewide. Today there are 35 district and county superintendents. CAAASA is committed to identifying and addressing the critical issues in education through public policy relative to the status and performance of African-American students in California.

A complete description of the conference workshops and list of presenters can be found at


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