Dear St. Louis Public Schools Board of Education,
As parents, educators, aunts, uncles, SLPS alumni, and disruptors of the status quo, we are clear about the kind of future all of our children deserve. Because of that clarity, because of our fierce and unwavering love for our children and our communities, we are also clear when we see behaviors, power dynamics, and practices that don’t serve the best interests of a future where Black and Brown children are free and thriving.
The plan that was presented to the Board of Education on Tuesday, December 1st was neglectful. The district has a responsibility to protect and nurture our children, support the wellbeing of our educators, and also consider the stability of neighborhoods that have been victim to decades of racialized disinvestment.
On Sunday night, December 6th, the WEPOWER community gathered. Together, we reviewed Dr. Adams’s plan, processed the incredibly harmful implications of its advancement, and analyzed the data of the schools recommended for closure and the schools recommended to receive the displaced students. In response to the data, we dropped one-word reactions in the Zoom chat: disgusting, unacceptable, enraged, sad, painful, overwhelmed, angry, and the list went on. The one-word reactions can never fully articulate the palpable rage and pain we felt in that moment and still feel right now. This pain will fuel our collective action for as long as it takes to create the conditions necessary for our children to be well and safe and thriving as learners.
- The average reading proficiency of the schools recommended for closure is 9.10%.
- The average reading proficiency of the schools recommended to receive students from the proposed list of schools to be closed is 7.09%. That’s 16.01% below the city’s average (which, at 23.1%, is also dismal).
What message does this send to our children, to us as parents, educators, and neighbors in the places these schools call home? The message is clear and offensive: Black children don’t matter, Black educators, don’t matter, Black communities don’t matter, Black futures don’t matter. In a year like 2020, this message has been reinforced everywhere we turn: on the news, in hospitals, at our jobs and former jobs, on the streets, and in schools. But, we refute it. We refuse to accept this message as the narrative of our journey.
As a campaign of community members who will be directly impacted by the SLPS school closure and consolidation plan, What’s Next SLPS is calling on the St. Louis Public Schools Board of Education to take immediate action. We offer a clear path to move forward together, from the preservation of the status quo and solutions that center buildings and costs towards an unflinching process to create a radically different K12 public education system that believes in the freedom of Black and Brown children. The path we offer is community-led and research-driven. The path we offer has key solutions for immediate policy changes and implementation, and also calls for a commitment to bold, swift regional-level change.
Between deep listening campaigns facilitated by both WEPOWER’s What’s Next SLPS Campaign leaders and Emerging Wisdom consulting firm, over 1,000 Saint Louis Public Schools stakeholders were engaged to help ensure the community’s voice informed the district’s approach to school closures. What’s Next SLPS then engaged in researching national best practices. However, few to none of the community-driven and research-based recommendations were reflected in the plan Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams revealed on December 1st. (Check out our memo, results from WEPOWER's What's Next SLPS community listening, case studies, and findings from Emerging Wisdom to learn more).
St. Louis Public Schools Board of Education, we call on you to join us today by addressing the calls to action below. (Review a more detailed version of our Calls to Action here: bit.ly/wnslpspolicydetails.)
By Friday, December 11th, we are calling on the St. Louis Public Schools Board of Education to formally announce the postponement of any official vote on school closures and consolidations until the following Calls to Action have been met:
- Call to Action 1: Enact the What’s Next SLPS policy that reflects research-based and community-based solutions that prevent a pattern of harmful approaches to closures and consolidations that disproportionately impact students, families, and communities of color. (By 12/15/2020)
- Call to Action 2: Publicly publish a What’s Next SLPS policy progress report that explains how each approach and action in the current SLPS school closure and consolidation plan aligns to or does not align to the What’s Next SLPS policy and the recommendations outlined in the report developed by Emerging Wisdom, both reflective of community-based and research-based solutions. (By 12/15/2020)
- Call to Action 3: Confirm dates for two community listening forums to be hosted in 2021 after the public release of a What’s Next SLPS policy progress report. (By 12/15/2020)
- Call to Action 4: Enact the Better Budgets, Better Schools policy to especially ensure transparency for how dollars from budgets of schools that have been close are spent to support student academic achievement and wellbeing and educator wellbeing. Release a detailed budget for how the approximately $22 million from the 11 schools proposed for closures and consolidations will be spent in the future. (By 12/15/2020)
By Spring Break 2021, we are calling on the St. Louis Public Schools Board of Education to publicly announce support for community-based organizations to radically reimagine how the public K12 education system works (a call to action from the Ferguson Commission report) to begin to center the wellbeing, academic achievement, and future of Black and Brown children and prevents us from ever having to confront a moment like this again.
We are hopeful that immediate and robust discussion with the What’s Next SLPS campaign and our partners, including Dutchtown South Community Corporation, 4theVille, and Invest STL, will lead to collaboration and a shared commitment to these policy priorities.
Together, we can and we must co-create what’s next for SLPS.
The leaders and supporters of What’s Next SLPS, a WEPOWER campaign
Concerned SLPS stakeholder? Sign on in support of our What’s Next SLPS Calls to Action and send a letter straight to the board here: bit.ly/wnslpscallstoactionletter.