equity

Larry Green, 48, and Chanae Jackson-Baker, 39, address the assembled attendants at a meeting to reform a recent racial equity plan by the Alachua County School Board on Monday night at DaySpring Missionary Baptist Church in Gainesville.

 

Chanae Jackson-Baker never had a black teacher until she was in middle school. 

Born and raised in Gainesville, Jackson-Baker, 39, said she’s seen the disparity between white and black students firsthand. Before graduating from Eastside High School in 1997, she said she was often the only black student in classes.

She said that prior to having her first black teacher, Frankie Hill, she had never seen any black women doing anything successful.

“I had no sense of my own identity,” she said. “I was very quiet and afraid to speak up in middle school. I just faded in the background.” 

Representation was one of the issues on the agenda at a meeting Monday night at the DaySpring Missionary Baptist Church, at 1945 NE Eighth Ave., aimed at improving the new equity plan that was put in place in Alachua County Sept. 18. The plan would help bridge the county’s achievement gap between white and black students, which is the widest gap in Florida. 

Out of about 29,500 students in Alachua County, 44 percent are white, 34 percent are African American, 10 percent are Hispanic and 5 percent are Asian. However, 81 percent of the county’s teachers are white, 11 percent as black and 6 percent as Hispanic, according to the equity plan. 

Goals of the plan include the reduction of the achievement gap between black and white students on standardized tests, an increase in graduation rates of black students and greater involvement of black students in advanced courses. 

About 20 parents, teachers and school staff were frustrated that the school board put the plan in place without addressing the concerns of the community, such as more representation for black students, a lack of parental involvement and little mention of students with disabilities, Jackson-Baker, who has one child in public school, said. 

She said the board has shown a resistance to feedback and these meetings are necessary to engage with the community. 

“We don’t want to fight, we want to collaborate,” she said.

Janay Brockington, 30, a teacher in the district, said that she came out to the meeting to see peoples’ ideas for solutions and their opinions on the role of teachers. 

“(I wanted) to see what people actually think we do,” she said. 

The most important thing to do is create an oversight committee for the school board that is proportional to the demographics of students, Jackson-Baker said. This would help improve representation. 

This committee would be made up of teachers, parents and school board members to create a stronger relationship between the board and community and come up with new solutions for the achievement gap, she said. 

“We have a school board that’s not listening,” she said. “We’re not getting creative because we’re too busy blaming each other.” 

A future meeting will be held to create a more solid, strategic plan, Jackson-Baker said. A date and location have yet to be set. 

Tina Certain, an Alachua County school board member-elect, said the plan is a “living document” and can still be changed to address the concerns of the community. 

Certain agreed with the implementation of the committee because she said power is currently retained only by district employees. 

“I don’t want students who look like me to be shortchanged,” Certain said.