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Family Leadership and Advocacy in School Reopening Decisions

Family Leadership and Advocacy in School Reopening Decisions

Date of the Event: July 30, 2020 | Maya Martin Cadogan, Nicole Johnson-Douglas, Dr. Karmen Rouland, and Mariela Puentes
mother reading to son Show Notes:

In this webinar we were  joined by Maya Martin Cadogan, Founder and Executive Director of DC PAVE, and PAVE Parent, Nicole Johnson-Douglas. DC PAVE is an organization dedicated to involving children and families in crafting a vision for education in DC. Our guests discussed how families can partner with leaders in creating school reopening plans that are responsive to their needs. They provided listeners with strategies for making their voices heard and for creating partnerships that ensure the safety, socio-emotional well-being, and academic learning of all children. This webinar also featured the Question Corner with Karmen Rouland, CAFE Program Manager, and Mariela Puentes, CAFE Program Associate, answering your questions regarding “pandemic pods” and what they mean for equity.

Nikevia Thomas:  Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the Family Table. Please pull up a chair as we learn how families can make their voices heard and work with school teams to make reopening plan successful. I am Nikevia Thomas the ALIVE the program director for MAEC and I will be moderating our time together this afternoon.

We are pleased to be joined by Maya Martin. Oh, I’m going to mess it up again, Cadogan, founder and executive director of DC PAVE. And PAV...

Nikevia Thomas:  Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the Family Table. Please pull up a chair as we learn how families can make their voices heard and work with school teams to make reopening plan successful. I am Nikevia Thomas the ALIVE the program director for MAEC and I will be moderating our time together this afternoon.

We are pleased to be joined by Maya Martin. Oh, I’m going to mess it up again, Cadogan, founder and executive director of DC PAVE. And PAVE parent Nicole Johnson-Douglas. DC PAVE is an organization dedicated to involving children and families and crafting a vision for education in DC.

Our guests will discuss how families can partner with school leaders in creating schools, reopening plans that are responsive to their needs. They will provide listeners strategies for making their voices heard and for creating partnerships that ensure the safety and social, emotional wellbeing and academic learning for all children.

I would pass it over to my colleague Mariela

Mariela Puentes: thank you Nikevia and welcome everyone. I’m Mariela Puentes  I’m the program associate for CAFE, the Collaborative Action for Family Engagement. We’re glad that you joined us for today’s webinar. The Family Table is a collaboration between CAFE, the Maryland state Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Today, we’re continuing on to the second webinar of a three part webinars series focused on school reopenings. We hope that these webinars will help families navigate the current climate and gain information, tools, and strategies to decide what is best for them and their children. And that families will work to make their voices heard and build coalitions with school teams to ensure successful school reopening plans for all children.

Nikevia Thomas: So for our Family Table today we will have our welcomes and introductions. We will get into the heart of everything with family leadership and advocacy with Maya Martin Cadogan  and Nicole Johnson-Douglas. And then we’ll have the question corner with Dr. Karmen Rouland and Mariella Puentes. And then we will wrap up with surveys and upcoming webinars.

So a couple of things logistically to consider when we’re, as we go on today. When you have a question to ask, please use the Q and A section of our zoom panel. It’s I think it’s at the bottom, you will see a bar that says Q and A. You just select that and ask your question and we will answer it when it’s time.

We also invite you to use the chat or Facebook comments to add comments that you may have. If you are in Facebook, if you are viewing from Facebook, if you have a question there you can ask there, and one of the associates will get it to us so that we can answer it.

So let’s test out the chat box with a question. How are you keeping cool in the summer heat? Today it’s 93 where I am in Maryland. So I want to know how is everybody keeping cool in the summer heat?

Staying in the office, yeah, that’s smart. Drinking lots of water. Pool and air conditioning. Lucky. Staying inside. Lots of fans, central AC. Wow it’s 116 in Arizona, you know, when I was in Arizona, that’s the only time I got sunburned. The only time.

Cool basement, bubbly water, yes. Iced tea, keeping the blind close. That definitely keeps the heat out. Staying home. It’s 90 in Boston. That’s  really hot cause there’s humidity that comes with that as well.

Great. Thank you all so much. And now Mariela

Mariela Puentes: Sure. So little bit about, MAEC, if you go to the next slide. We’re an educational nonprofit in Bethesda, Maryland, founded in 1991, dedicated to increasing access to a high quality education for culturally, linguistically and economically diverse learners. Our vision is a day when all students have equitable opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels.

And MAEC’s mission is to promote excellence and equity in education to achieve social justice. Next slide please. CAFE, the Collaborative Action for Family Engagement center is a project of MAEC. We apply an equity lens to family engagement by building relationships among schools, parents, and community organizations. We improve the development and academic achievement of all students. And we also serve as a state family engagement center for Maryland and Pennsylvania. And we are excited to be joined today, by our two speakers. So I’ll turn it back to Nikevia.

Nikevia Thomas: Sorry. [chuckles] Without further, do you? I would like to present leaders of DC PAVE.

Maya Martin Cadogan: Thank you, Nikevia. Good afternoon, everybody. My name is Maya Martin Cadogan, and I’m the founder and executive director of PAVE. A little bit about myself, I am a sixth generation Washingtonian, so I came back to DC actually after having done an academic internship with Karmen Rouland, Dr. Karmen Rouland here in DC, with an organization called Ed Pioneers. I was a school leader in DC for seven years. And then I wound up founding PAVE because I felt that there needed to be more parent voice in the system. Right? So the idea was to make sure that parents could be partners and leaders and creating the vision for education, not just being impacted by the decisions that other people were making for them and their children.

And so I’m really excited to be here with you today, along with one of our amazing parent leaders, Nicole Johnson-Douglas, and I’m going to turn it over to Nicole to be able to introduce herself to you.

Nicole Johnson-Douglas: Hello everyone. I’m Nicole Johnson-Douglas and I am, like Maya, a native Washingtonian. I am a fifth generation Washingtonian, and I actually have the privilege of living in the same house, and raising my kids in the same house that I was born and raised in.

I have four amazing children, two which were gifted to me. They are 20 and he’s gainfully employed, graduate of DC public schools and then an 18 year old, that is a 2020 graduate of a charter school here in DC, E.L Haynes. And then I have my precious six and seven year old Ray and Reagan, that attend I Dream public charter school here in Washington, DC. And I’ve been a part of PAVE now for the past three years. And it’s been an excellent opportunity for me to not just advocate for my own children, but for all children in the District of Columbia.

Maya Martin Cadogan: Thank you, Nicole. And I’m excited to do this first part of the presentation, to tell you a little bit about PAVE. But I’m most excited for you all to be able to ask questions of Nicole. While you’ve gotten to hear her introduction, what she can’t put into words, but I can is the kind of fierce mama that she is. And the ways in what she shows up in so many spaces of power with our mayor, our deputy mayor, our council members, our chairman of the council, our state board of education members. And she advocates, not just for Ray and Reagan and her children, but for every single child in our city. And that is the beauty and the power of parent leadership. So Nikevia, if we can go to the first slide of the presentation, that would be great.

So today we’re going to really talk about something that is so critical to making sure that our system is reflective of all the needs and concerns of all of its people. And that’s that parent voice equals parent power. And that you can’t do this work as an education leader inside of any of our state systems or as a leader of any of our schools, without making sure that parents are engaged in the work that we’re doing. And making sure parents actually are identifying the solutions that they see seek for the challenges that we have, and that has become no more apparent than during Coronavirus, I think we’ve seen, especially lately in terms of the conversations around reopening some of the concerns that a number of families have and wanting to make sure that their voices are heard. And what I’m excited to share with you today is about the work that DC PAVE parent leaders have done in order to make sure that our city is centered and the needs and concerns of our families. And that our families are identifying the kinds of policy solutions that they want to see our city’s elected officials and policymakers put into effect.

So Nikevia, if you can go to the next slide. A little bit about PAVE, we were founded in April of 2016, as I shared, I was a founder of one, but I founded the organization with a board of directors of eight parent leaders from across our city. Four were from East of the Anacostia River, which is often a dividing line in our city. And every city or state has one, a highway or a river or some kind of geographic component that divides those, many of those who have in our States and our cities from those who don’t. And so it was important that we really reflect the needs and concerns of every single family, even families, especially families who had often not felt like they had a voice in our system.

So our board of directors was made up only of parents, and those four parents from East of the river, we’re joined by four parents from West of the Anacostia River. But they were majority black and brown. They were families who were native Washingtonians like Nicole and myself and families who were new to the city. But the importance was that there were families who when you brought, when they brought together their voices reflected the diversity of our students who are in our public education system, both DCPS, which is our traditional public schools and our public charter sector.

What we believed as we founded this organization, and what was important to parents who actually wrote our mission and vision, was that there were three components of doing this work well, if we’re actually going to get to a place where parent voice really does equal apparent power. And that was where we were connecting, informing and empowering parent leaders to give them a voice and a choice in the vision for education in our city. The connecting was about them building relationship with each other. Many of our families felt like they didn’t have the kind of networks with other families in their communities that they needed in order to bring together their voices for greater change in our system. They also wanted to be informed about policy. They didn’t want it to be here policy decision makers were constantly imagining what the system could look like because they didn’t actually know how all of the parts of the system work together.

And the last piece is that they wanted avenues to amplify their voices, where they could do testimonies and they could meet with elected officials and they could sit in the rooms where it happens, as we say. And we’ve heard Hamilton say, the play and I hope people have had a chance to watch that. But that was really important because oftentimes the people who get to reimagine what the work looks like and who gets to vision forward, not just in terms of reacting to where we are now but where we want to go, were not our parents in our city. And so they wanted to be partners and leaders in developing a diversity of safe, nurturing, and great schools for every child and every ward and community. Meaning that they both wanted to amplify their voices, but they also wanted to work with the system in order to think about what those solutions look like.

And when they talked about safe, nurturing and great schools, there were a number of values that were important to families that we establish and root ourselves in as an organization. The first was around high quality schools and the information that families need to make the decisions for their children. The second was around adequate and equitable funding because so much of what happens is dependent upon the kinds of resources our schools have. The third was a safe, healthy, and welcoming school environment. So, which has become even more critical, in COVID, the kinds of nurses and physical safety and set up of our buildings. The fourth was around families having access to out of school time and summer school programs, because we know that the only part of learning does not happen during the school day, but it’s in all the ways that our kids learn how to put their learning into action and build relationships with their peers. And the last part was about having the resources that they needed to support their children at home and in school. And much of that looks like the additional kinds of resources that children who have special needs or gifted children are going to need in order to be able to meet their needs.

And so in that work, we really believe that parent voice is power. And that’s the way in which we structure all of our work at PAVE. Next slide.

And when we look at that, in terms of how all of this gets up to the making that change and that vision, there are two main activities that we focus on. The first is that parents at the bottom of that ladder are demonstrating their power by driving policy as leaders in the education sector. And so when you hear from Nicole today, and I have to share that Nicole is an amazing policy decision maker, right. She knows policy in and out, as do all of the parents at PAVE because it’s important that our parent leaders can make decisions for themselves. We’re not telling them what to do or what to think. We actually are driving every decision we make at the organization based upon what they believe about the information that we put in front of them, that’s unbiased and what they want to do with it to see change for their children.

The second part of that was that parents like Nicole wanted to be partners with policymakers and school leaders so that they would value parent voice and see how it can improve their systems. And then once that happened, once parents were influencing education decision makers, the idea was that you had parent driven policy change and that then it changes the outcomes for kids. And we’ve seen it. And we’re going to go into it a little bit later about what they’ve even been able to accomplish just right now during COVID since March. But there were funding winds that we’ve had over the past few years. We’ve increased the per-pupil funds every year, since we’ve been an organization. We actually quadrupled the funding for out of school time programs in our city, we increased mental health funding at this point by close to 20 million dollars.

And we had school wins, right. There were a school that was actually identified by parent leaders that was going to go on the military base at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling through the Ward 8 Post. We brought a new high quality high school option through BARD high school early colleges. Which is a program where all students graduate with an associate’s degree. And it was the first school through DCPS in my entire lifetime, and I’m 40, that has ever been a selective high school East of the Anacostia River. Literally all of our children in DC, when they apply to high schools for the selective high schools, they’ve been traveling at least 45 minutes across the river in order to get to our selective high schools.

BARD was the first selective high school in my entire lifetime, and probably Nicole’s as well, that actually kids East of the river had a selective high school in their communities. And that’s where the majority of our children are. And then we also had a parent driven report card. DC was held up as an exemplar in our nation with 40,000 engagements with families, and PAVE represented 10,000 of those. We surveyed families, our families canvased other families. We held focus groups, we talked about the content of the report card, the design, they changed the metrics that they put on those report cards as a result of parent leaders, like Nicole, saying what they wanted to see in terms of what information they wanted to know, like teacher experience, school funding, a number of metrics that they originally weren’t thinking about it because parents highlighted it, they added.

And if we’re doing that parent driven policy change, the idea is that parents have lasting power in the education system in DC and beyond because they’ve created a model for what parent power looks like. And that all of our systems leaders, our policymakers and our school leaders are actually no longer having to be asked to include parent voice, but they are making sure parent voice on their own is included in every room where it happens. And that’s when you get to ultimate systems change. Next slide please.

And so the question is we’ve been doing this work since 2016, but how did that change during COVID? One of the most important things is that during COVID our parent leaders like Nicole that is here with you today, have met 59 times. 59. And you see it, not even, that’s the first 20 meetings that we have that are in that image below. We’ve had almost two and a half times that number of meetings since then. And now we’ve had town halls with all of our council members, the deputy mayor for education and the chairman of the council, our candidate, we had three candidates forums, and the three of the eight wards, in wards four, seven and eight, we had coffee chats on issues that parents weren’t their priority issues but that they thought were important, on police in schools, on reopening with the American Academy of pediatrics.

We had monthly ward based parent leader and education board meetings. Nicole is a member of that ward based board. She’s also a member of the quarterly citywide board. Where members of our ward based boards got together even on their Saturdays to now bring together their ward base information. We had meetings specifically for special education and Latinx parents. We had a vote for DC kids’ summit and actually got 1,472 parents across the city to commit to vote for DC kids. And we saw a nearly 40% turnout on that, which beat the city. We had Jammin with Jah so that we could center ourselves in joy where we just had a DJ playing music for our families on their Saturdays.

And we had four digital days of action with our DC school’s recovery hashtag that was based on the statement is a belief about COVID return that our parents put together trended number one on DC Twitter three times. So our parents were amazing and they killed it. And what did that mean in terms of what the outcome and our budget was in a year where States across the country and cities across the country are slashing education and the funding for families. If we, you can go to the next slide, I’ll show you what that meant.

These are the wins that parents just got in the budget that was voted on last week. They got a 3% increase in the uniform per student funding formula, which are per people funds. So as opposed to cutting the education budget, they got 3% per child added to it. They got 300,000 in additional funding for at risk students. Which means that our students who are on TANF and SNAP and receiving benefits got an additional $300,000. We got almost $4 million for social-emotional learning programs because our parents knew how important that was in return to school, that our kids had the kinds of programs in schools that were going to meet their social and emotional needs.

We got $3.5 million for school based mental health. So adding clinicians to our schools, which is going to be so critical next year as our kids are coming out of a period of trauma and still in a period of trauma with the closures. We got $11 million for emergency childcare funding and another $5 million for FY21. We got $6.9 million of additional distance learning supports on top of what the district had already put together. We got $9 million in relief for excluded workers, many of our Latinx families are undocumented and they talked to the mayor’s office on Latino affairs and fought with other advocates to get that funding.

We got $500,000 additional for out of school time programs. And we got funding to implement our parent leaders We Budget Together vision. This is an unheard of accomplishment across the country for what could be possible in what we are approaching as a recession. But what happens when parents actually get together to say, we have to invest in our communities and our kids. And we have to do this regardless of what is going on and even more so because of what is going on because the kids that need it the most, we have to give the most.

And that’s what parent leaders like Nicole made possible. And so we want to make sure that we can open it up to questions, and I want Nicole to be able to answer those questions. So she can tell you about the work that she did. I want to be clear, parents like Nicole did this while managing work, kids at home, and a number of other challenges and they were on zoom 59 times in five months. So I want to turn it over to them so that they can, that Nicole can share with you, what she’s worked on as we answer all the questions.

Nikevia Thomas: Okay. Let’s take a look and see what questions we have. Okay, here’s a question.

How are you advocating that the challenges of the most economically disadvantaged families be addressed? Some schools consider a hybrid model.

Nicole Johnson-Douglas: Let me start by saying that with PAVE, PAVE is set up in a very strategic way, that it includes all parents of the district of Columbia, including parents from our highest income threshold to our lowest income threshold, which includes families East of the river in ward seven and eight. I sit on the ward eight PLE board, which is the board that represents families in ward eight. And my children attended school in ward eight and now attend school in ward seven, which is still East of the river. And so one thing that we have been able to do is that every board has their own PLE board meeting. And even in COVID-19, we’ve still been having our monthly PLE  board meetings where board members of likeminded communities are coming together to advocate on these specific items. And then that trickles down to our city wide board, which Maya talked about.

Another way that we have been successfully able to do that is that we’ve empowered all of our parents to be advocates in the best way that they are able to be advocates. And for some that means social media, for others that means testifying to the city council members, for others that means seeing a council member and having a sidebar conversation with them. Advocacy looks different for every parent depending on their situation.

However, we, as parents are empowered to be advocates for, not just our children, but for all children. And so the last thing I would say about that, is that Maya kept mentioning our statements of belief. Our statements of beliefs driven by parents, are written by parents .And we have an awesome staff that will go and do the research for us, but it’s based upon what we give them, what we desire to see be done. And we’ve been able to have some of our council members actually take our statements of belief and turn them into actual legislation and policy in the District of Columbia.

And so that way we are hearing from all parents, and not just one sided. And our boards are very diverse. We have parents that have degrees, parents that have no degrees. We have parents that receive benefits, parents that don’t receive benefits, parents that are employed, unemployed. Maya mentioned our undocumented families. So we are a diverse group of parents, that is empowered and equipped to ensure that all voices are heard so that even those who are in our less economic areas can be heard as well.

Nikevia Thomas: Thank you for that. It’s an amazing accomplishment that you all have done. So in terms of 59 zoom meetings you’ve have, can you talk to us more about the attendance of those meetings? What was it like?

Nicole Johnson-Douglas: I’ll start based off our ward based meeting. So our ward based meetings, again they’re once a month per ward and I serve on the ward eight board. And so there are about 30 or so of us that are on that board, and we on average have at least 80 to 90% of our PLE board members in attendance. We make a commitment before signing on to become parent leader and education board members to attend at least 80% of our meetings and to take on at least four leadership roles in advocacy.

So we know coming in the door that it’s going to be a lot, but it was a lot more this year. For our citywide board meetings, the ones that we’ve had doing COVID-19, we’ve had about 90 to 100% of our citywide board members on calls. Our town hall meetings, we’ve averaged between 50 and 80 parents on each one of those town hall meetings. Our council forums that we had, because  we had certain wards that had council member seats up, some of those we had 60, 70, 80 parents on again.

And one thing about PAVE parents is, we don’t ever just do it by ourselves. We do it to bring on another parent with us, to empower another parent. So for our candidate forums, we invited other parents who are not already PAVE parents, to come to be a part of this movement that parents are creating. So we have definitely not had an issue with engaging, and being involved parents.

Nikevia Thomas: This is wonderful. It’s very inspiring to hear this. So how can we start making these kinds of changes in our communities? That’s what Christina Armstrong would like to know.

How can we start making these kinds of changes in our communities, if we don’t have an organization that is as well organized as PAVE is? How would you, how would they get started? What would you say to them?

Nicole Johnson-Douglas: I think, one I would say is that we dismantled the myth that it needs to start by someone who has children. And I’m saying that because Maya has no children of birth. But she has lots of children, because all of our kids from PAVE are a part of Maya’s family. But Maya realized that this is something that needed to be done. And she did not allow the whole myth that because she was not a parent to stop her from ensuring that parents have voice.

I will also say that for those that are from areas and they are native to certain areas and they’ve seen these things happen, that they no longer just sit there back and allow it to happen, but they go back and think about experiences that they’ve had growing up. And  what they want it to be seen different.

Which was one of the reasons that drove me to PAVE, because I am a native Washingtonian and there were things that I wanted to see different. I had the privilege of going to one of the top high schools, public high schools in DC. I graduated from School Without Walls, but many people East of the river could not get into that school for various reasons. And to see now that there’s a BARD East of the river, is something that as a young person that I desired to see. To see now that there are charter schools in DC, where kids are encouraged to dream and to believe, and to explore are things that I would have wished I had. To see that there are more Montessori opportunities coming in DC. I think that I wish I would have had the chance to have. And because Maya was willing to step out on faith, and to do something and dispel a myth, we were able to embark on these changes. So I would definitely say that myths has to be dispelled and that people have to step out of their comfort zone and do something and be the change instead of just complaining and talking about it.

Nikevia Thomas: Great. So what is your thought on a group of parents suing either their state or a school for forcing school, to reopen. What are your thoughts about that?

Nicole Johnson-Douglas: Well in DC, I think that that would have happened, if our mayor would not have made the courageous decision with our chancellor that she made today. We were expecting the decision on tomorrow, the 31st, however, they made a decision to make it all virtual today.

I really feel like parents, if that’s the vehicle where they have to show their voice and their power, then that’s the vehicle that they have to use. Because it is essential for leadership in cities and States to understand that parents have to be able to be at the table, but not just be at the table but be in the midst of what’s going on. Cause I oftentimes like to say, oftentimes we use parents and say they’re at the table to create a checkbox. But parents need to be more than just a checkbox. They need to be involved in what’s going on. And so if parents have to go as far as actually suing a state or school district in order for their voice to be heard, it’s by any means necessary to show that as parents we have a voice, we have power and that we’re willing to do anything to ensure, not that our children have what is needed, but that all children have what’s needed.

Nikevia Thomas: Okay.

Maya Martin Cadogan: I would also add to that, Nicole is actually a part of a fellowship that we’re doing this year called the Community Change Fellowship. And it’s for our parent leaders that have been with us for some years to take formal authority inside of the system and to get all the skill development and networking and executive coaching, all of our parent leaders even get an order to take roles so that they can become the policymakers, not just push from outside of the system on the policymakers. But start to take those roles. And so they’re identifying that they want to be A and C members and on public charter school boards and on local school advisory teams at DCPS or traditional sector. That they want to be state board of education members, that they want to be on advisory councils of the mayor, that they want to actually work in the council as a council staffer.

It is important that when we’re thinking about this work as parent leaders, that folks are thinking both about what do we mean to immediately solve, but what’s the long game of how we need to change, not just how we push on people in power, but who is in power. Because I think our work would be done a lot more easily if a lot of the people who made decisions were the people who were impacted by them. And so part of what you have to think about in that system, and this is something we work on, even as a team at PAVE, when our parents wrote their statements of belief about reopening, one of the activities we did in our city wide PLE board was everybody closed their eyes. And then we thought about in return to school, what would that look like? Who would be greeting students? What would the building look like? What would be outside? What would be inside? What are the colors that kids would see? What kinds of classes would they have? Because what we realized is that people were getting really caught in where we were right now.

And that felt heavy and it felt like how will we ever think about what the future looks like if we’re constantly trying to solve the problems of the present. And that’s one of the most beautiful things about dreaming and about visioning, is that it’s not just about addressing what you need to fix for right now. It’s about thinking about how you want the world to change. And that’s one of the things that I think parent leaders at PAVE do so beautifully. Is not just address what needs to be done right now. But they go past that, which is why they accomplish more than my wildest dreams. That budget that I showed, I would not have estimated was possible, but they did, because they were saying what is everything that we’re going to need long term? And it doesn’t matter if it’s hard, it matters that we identify it and then we figure out how to get there.

Nikevia Thomas: Great. Great. Thank you. So, can we go, let’s go back to, there was a part that Nicole you mentioned that there were PAVE parents bringing on non-PAVE parents. And is, can you talk more about, like is that like a mentoring, like is it an official passage for newcomers?

Nicole Johnson-Douglas: It’s not necessarily an official passage for new comers, but PAVE, there are our members of our parent leaders and education boards, of which I sit on. And then there are parent leaders in DC. And so is kind of my responsibility as a parent leader And education board member to go out, to equip and empower other parents, to be parent leaders in education in DC. So whether that is by mentoring, encouraging just to come to a meeting, sharing my story to let them know that they are able to share their story and they’re not in this by themselves. It’s just an opportunity for us as parents, to bring another parent on, with us.

And the other thing is when new parents are selected for the parent leader and education boards, it’s not a sole decision just on Maya and her staff. We as veteran parent leader and education, board members, we interview prospective candidates to come on to our boards. And we provide feedback to our respective community organizer that is assigned to our respective ward. You know, what did we think of this parent? You know, what are their goals, what are their glows, what are their goals, what are some things that they need to grow in? How can they fit in without specific board? Is there another opportunity that PAVE may have that they may fit in that they just may not be aware of? So we’re kind of used as kind of like a peer expert in empowering of the parents.

Nikevia Thomas: Great. Great. So we have time for like two more questions. The first one is what can a family engagement look like during the first six weeks of school, if the first six weeks of school is online, how do you envision it looking?

Nicole Johnson-Douglas: I’m excited about this question because my kids are going to a new school and it’s a new charter school. And, I have been really pushing them on family engagement, saying that it’s important that, out the gate that they do well with family engagement, but just not family engagement, but family collaboration. And moving from just engaging parents, but collaborating with parents so that parents can then feel empowered.

So one way that it can, that it will look, is just with like this reopening conversation, because DC’s very unique. While our public school system, our traditional public school system has made a decision, our individual charter schools can make their own decision about what they will do as far as reopening.

It’s advised that they follow the traditional, but they can make that own decision. So with reopening, one thing that this particular school has been doing, at the advice of parents, is that their reopening conversation has turned into a community conversation. Where that committee is the founder, the CEO, the founding principle, some founding teachers, and then there are seven founding parents that are part of this conversation, as well as the ANC commissioner, or his, or her designee and a couple of other leaders, civic President or their designee are on this commission, by the school.

And so that kind of made us as families coming in, feel like that we were going to have a place and we were engaged. And with that, as families, we received tribes, and the school operates off of tribes. So we were received tribes each one of our families, each one of us as tribal leaders. And so like I have 13 families, that I have to call, cultivate a relationship with, and then report back to a school official on, on what that family needs and then that school official takes it from there. So I think it’s going to be critical that in the first six weeks that we move from engagement to collaboration, where parents are not just, here’s a bag of goodies but what does that bag of goodies means?

Because I may not need the bag of goodies, but someone else may need two bags of goodies. So if we’re collaborating, you’re asking me what are my needs, and then you’re able to fulfill my needs. So I definitely think it’s, moving from engagement to collaboration..

Nikevia Thomas: Wonderful. Okay, thank you. So, and this final question ties into our upcoming question corner.

So given the uncertainty of schools, reopening, many families are considering organizing their own pods or small groups with a teacher or tutor. And would you share your thoughts of this arrangement and are there any equity considerations that families should be aware of? Should they choose to start their own pod or small group?

Nicole Johnson-Douglas: So I would say, I’ve been an extra conversation with a couple of my fellow PAVE members, some East of the river and some West of the river, who have said like that they want to start pods and things like that in their communities and, I am one that would definitely be for it. I will say that in our area, the DMV area, DC’s homeschool policy is the only one where there is not an open clause for establishment of pods or anything of that nature, like for instance, in Maryland’s policy, it says that the overseer could potentially be a faith based organization, or a nonprofit organization. However, in DC, the overseer and person to educate must be the parent, according to the current policy. However, if we had the chance to do pods, I do believe that it will kind of open up our children and our environments to something different.

I did homeschool my oldest daughter, from the time she was in third grade until she went to middle school because I couldn’t find a middle school in DC that I felt would meet her needs. And, not only did I homeschool her, but my aunt was homeschooling her two children as well, and so we kind of had our unofficial homeschool co-op, even though they’re unknown homeschool co-ops. So I think that it definitely will open the door.

The only, equities I would say is that we have to be careful with the types of teachers that we are allowing to come into our communities. Because we want to be sure that they are prepared to deal with our children, meaning that they have cultural competencies, that they have a heart for our children. That they’re not going to be one that just want to give up on our kids, especially our black and brown babies. We also have to look at, what that pool looks like. What does that pool look like? So it’s you look at, you know, East of the river versus West of the river in DC, people are going, if this was done, people would flock West of the river. Not many will flock East of the river because you have many who would be looking at, you know, will a parent be able to pay me. And what does that look like? So those are equity issues that we definitely should look at.

And definitely the ability to provide social, emotional learning for our children, and our children that have disabilities and IEPs. My youngest son is on the autism spectrum and I am very cognizant about who I allow in his life and what he’s able to do. And so we just want to make sure that they are able to provide those proper services. And that they’re providing them at the same level, that they were provided to someone that may be able to pay them.

And even as simple, if a child has Medicaid versus regular insurance is an ABA therapist going to take them on and do the actual work, or will they, you know, come up with something different because that child’s on Medicaid versus having paid for service. So just things like that.

Nikevia Thomas: Great. Thank you. So we are running out of time for this section, but Maya, there is a question in the Q and A for you, and I wonder if you can just answer that specifically. Can you answer that independently as we move on?

Maya Martin Cadogan: Sure. Yeah, I can do that in the chat.

Nikevia Thomas: Thank you. Okay. So now with all our talk about pods, that’s the focus of our question corner this week, Pandemic Pods and Equity with Dr. Karmen Rouland and Mariela Puentes.

Karmen Rouland: Hi everyone. [chuckles] So if you, I guess can go to the next slide Nikevia. Yes. So if you have, I know that there’s some questions still in the chat box, we’ll make sure to answer those either in the chat box or, out loud.

But we thought that we would talk, specifically about pandemic pods or learning pods today. just because, you know, they have been coming up for all the reasons that we can imagine, right, the school closures and uncertainty around what next year will look like in our different jurisdictions.

So what are pods or pandemic pods or learning pods. And if you can go to the next slide, right. So there’s been a lot of, news articles. These are just some that are out there, but they’re starting to pop up in recent time where different folks are talking about pods, micro schools and tutors. Parents are exploring these options and what’s not being talked about as much or what, I guess what is starting to be talked about now, is the inequity that might be inherent in pods.

And, parents are using pods for, again, like the uncertainty with what school looks like next year. Some pods, they range in difference from parents creating small groups with other families that they use the curriculum for the schools. So for instance, where I live in Maryland our school district is virtual through January. And for many of us that work, we’re trying to figure out how do we, how are we going to do this? Whether we have multiple kids at home, we’re working full time, and even with jobs that are very flexible, like what does this look like? Right. And so we have to find other parents to lean on or a tutor that can help facilitate the kids getting on zoom or computers or whatever it is. We’re thinking about that, using the school’s resources, but making sure that there’s someone that can help us manage the learning that’s taking place.

There’s also the other extreme where parents are actually creating micro schools with their own curriculum, own staff, you know, own teachers that come in and anywhere far between, right. And so what does this mean for equity? What does it mean for the things that we should consider when we think about, taking care of our kids, keeping kids safe, keeping them socially engaged with other kids? Making sure that they’re learning, that that’s taking place. And it’s a big thing and it’s not going to go away right. As we figure out, and as we hear from other districts and other States around what schooling looks like, and so we wanted to have a conversation today.

We wonder one, is this something that you all are thinking about? What do you think about pods? I’m talking to the audience now. And micro schools. What are some of the equity considerations? Nicole and Maya, you definitely started talking about these in terms of the cultural competence of anyone that’s coming in to work with kids. Do they have the disposition? Do they have the skills to work with diverse kids and kids who need supports? What does that look like? Right. And so we wanted to have a conversation around that today because we know it’s something that’s weighing on folks minds, again, as we hear, as plans for next school year come out, whether it’s virtual, hybrid, whatever the model may be. Mariella, you wanted to add something.

Mariela Puentes: Yeah. So I wonder too, right, like how this whole thing about pods started. Right? I think there are some aspects about minimizing risk for COVID. Not knowing what the next school year will look like. Maybe thinking about like, how to best meet the needs of your child, like social-emotionally, based on learning. And so these are just like some resources that we found that were out there, right? It’s not to say, like Karmen said that these are all inclusive, but I think they get us started about thinking about the equity concerns and like how you would go about it, if this is an option you choose to do.

But what we really wanted to do during the segment is hear from you and hear from you about whether you’re considering this option. Like what considerations you’ve talked about with your friends or neighbors or whoever you’re thinking about doing a pod with, to really consider the needs of your family unit, but also consider the needs of families who may not have access to the same resources as you do.

Karmen Rouland: Right. And we had a question, I think someone asks, you know, where does the money come from? And I think that’s, that’s the equity question, right? Because for families who can afford, you know, if they group with another family or several families, much of this, is the resources are being provided by those families paying, paying for a tutor or teacher or whatever to come in part of the day, full day, whatever it is that they can afford. But the money for these are coming, is mostly coming from families that are you know starting these.

One thing I will say is, as we’re thinking about just what do we want to see with pods? So what makes sense for pods? You have to think about, you know, making a plan for, how are you going to, you know, as a parent, there’s a lot of things to weigh, sorry. So as a parent, thinking about what this means for if I’m on a pod with another family, having that child or children in my home, I’m responsible for someone else’s kids, right? If that’s what I plan to do with another family. If we talk about the equitable distribution of resources, making sure that everyone has access to technology, Chromebooks, whatever materials they need for learning.

Safety and health, like again, you have to find families that are comfortable with the social distancing if that’s what is something that you want to make sure that everyone’s doing. And quarantining together, so meaning you all agree on what makes sense for our social distancing and what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. There’s a lot of things that happen. And the other thing, again, in the County where I live, the afterschool program is beginning to talk about how they’re going to help facilitate pods or learning, they’re calling them small learning cohorts, where the kids can actually come together. A small group of kids, 10 to 13 kids or so, can come together and they will have two staff members per group helping those kids with their learning and getting online, doing their assignments and things for families that need that support.

So there’s a lot to think about and consider with this. And again, you know, those equity issues are key in doing this.

Mariela Puentes: I think one other thing I would like to add regarding the financial resources question is that you have to consider whether you yourself have access to those resources, right to be able to pay for somebody to come into your space at home. But also think about families who may not have that access, or may not want to do that option because they might have a family member who’s immunocompromised, or maybe they have varying needs that are different than those of your family.

But also thinking about if you choose to do that, like what the implications are for the public school system, like what the school system, and I don’t know the answer to this, right. But like what the school system lose on funding, if your child wasn’t there or is this an addition to what the schooling experience would be like for your child every day? So are they doing some combination of live virtual, remote learning, and also, adding onto it or like, what is the sort of need you’re trying to meet, and thinking about whether other people might have access to that as well.

Karmen Rouland: So the Nikevia, do we have any…

Nikevia Thomas: we don’t, I mean, we had a question, but we’ve kind of addressed it and answered it, that this is, this brings up an issue of, equity, if parents aren’t able to afford to go this direction.

So if we don’t have any more questions, those were all of our questions.

Karmen Rouland: Yeah, you know, I just think that this conversation is not going to go anywhere, especially, and we don’t know, right, even with the plans that are coming out for next school year, we have no idea what the impact is going to be on families and educators, right. And what this is going to look like we. You know, we’re in territory unknown. And so this conversation about pods is not going to go anywhere, but I think we wanted to bring it up as, and it’s not pods are not the only thing that people are talking about.

There’s other, you know, tutoring services, but again, we wanted to bring in that equity component. To just think about what are the things that we should think about, from an equity perspective, such as the funding of these right, resources that are needed, students with disabilities, or specific learning disabilities or challenges, like how are they going to get the supports that they need?

And that’s not to say that the school districts aren’t thinking of those things and providing those. But I know these are topics that weigh heavy on the minds of families, and we wanted to open up the discussion today, since you have families here to just to start, start talking about it.

Nikevia Thomas: So we have two questions that have come in. The first one is are there strategies that you can think about, to bring children, in who don’t have the means?

Karmen Rouland: Yeah, so, oh go ahead Mariela, I’ve been doing a lot of talking.

Mariela Puentes: That’s okay. So I would say that if you are considering bringing another family in, who may not have the resources, right, I would say to think about the relationship you have with that family too, and making sure that they feel comfortable with that arrangement. And if they are in your pod and you decide, you know, for that to happen, ensuring that families have equal decision making power. And that you have a plan for what to do or what to think about in case there are challenges. You know, for example, with like children’s behavior and like normal things that come up for kids on a daily basis. And making sure that they all have access to the resources that they need to be able to be okay social-emotionally, but also, learn. Right.

Nikevia Thomas: That’s good. So the next question is, are families talking with students considering gap years from college as tutors? Sounds like an opportunity or students were doing a gap year to perhaps be a tutor in a pod or some other means.

Karmen Rouland: So there actually is an organization and I have to find the name, but it was started by college students, during the initial shut down. And I’ll find the name, but they are completely volunteer, they’re basically tutoring, providing tutoring services in their major areas for families. And so once I have to find that name, but we’ll make sure to include that in the resources that are sent out to folks. Again, it’s free of charge and it’s, you know, these students providing volunteer services. At least that was what it was, you know, from March till now we have to figure out what that looks like as they also are going back to school perhaps.

Mariela Puentes: And I haven’t heard about the tutoring…

Nikevia Thomas: Oh Great, we have about…

Mariela Puentes: Oh, sorry.

Nikevia Thomas: no, we just have two more minutes left.

Mariela Puentes: Go ahead.

Nikevia Thomas: So that’s it.  [chuckles]

Mariela Puentes: Yeah. So I think we can go ahead and move on.

Nikevia Thomas: Okay. Here’s a quote. So we are, have come to the end of our time together at the Family Table. Here are some resources that are available and you don’t need to screenshot it. Don’t worry because we will send them in our newsletter next week.

And if you want to connect with us, you can do so, to get up to date COVID-19 resources for families across the country, by visiting our website. And you can also sign up for our newsletter at the link below, newsletter. And next week for the Family Table webinars series, we are going to be met with Bianca Scott of UPLAN, and she’s a parent leader. And the focus will be family voices in school reopenings.

Thank you so much for everybody who has participated. Thank you to all the panelists and our featured guests. Please take a few moments to complete our survey for today’s event, and we will see you next week.


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