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School Board Members of Color Caucus offers convention workshop

 By CONNIE POTTER

Very few school board members across Oregon are persons of color, but OSBA’s new School Board Members of Color Caucus hopes to change that. The caucus held a workshop at OSBA’s Annual Convention.

The group wants to encourage more citizens of color to run for local school board seats, said Carlos Castañeda, a Gladstone School Board member and caucus president.

“We need more voices,” he said. “We have to be heard.”

Donna Tyner, a Beaverton School Board member and caucus vice president, said the group is being started to add “a needed perspective to the conversation.”

Goals are to:

  • To promote quality education for all students, focusing on the needs of students of color
  • To promote positive relationships among school board members of color, their communities, political leaders and OSBA
  • To promote positive representation of board members of color to OSBA
  • To encourage citizens of color to run for local school board seats

With Oregon’s increasingly diverse student population, it’s important that school boards reflect that diversity, Tyner said. Otherwise, boards face these challenges:

  • How can you govern a population you know little about?
  • How do you create a board that truly represents the community?

Statewide, students of color comprise 36.4 percent of Oregon’s K-12 enrollment. But only about 10 percent of teachers and administrators are persons of color. Statistics are hard to come by, but few school board members statewide are persons of color.

“We want to build confidence in parents that we all can play a part in the education of our kids,” Castañeda said.

One role of the caucus will be to encourage people of color to “take those baby steps” and get involved in their schools, he said. Helping in a classroom or joining parent-teacher organizations is a good start toward considering running for school board.

“If we are invisible, we are always going to be invisible,” said Castañeda. “We need to step out of our comfort zone and do something.”

That can be a leap for many parents who are fearful of how they will be received, said Francisco Acosta, a board member with Multnomah ESD and OSBA.

“When I got started, I was afraid to speak up,” he said. “You gradually learn.”

Districts should view everything they do through an equity lens, Tyner said. The caucus encourages every district to adopt an equity policy as a way to demonstrate commitment to providing equal outcomes for all students, even if that means differentiating resource allocation.

Other recommendations for school boards:

  • Demand school systems examine root causes behind student performance
  • Set clear expectations through goals and measurements
  • Monitor system performance
  • Use work sessions to learn about equity-centered approaches and solutions

We don’t want to create conflicts,” Tyner said. “We want to figure out how we can work together to better understand each other.”

Francisco Acosta and Donna Tyner join the discussion during OSBA’s new School Board Members of Color Caucus workshop at OSBA’s Annual Convention.