Editor’s Note: The following was circulated as an open letter to Lisa Herring, the sole finalist for the position of Atlanta Public Schools superintendent, by the executive director of the parents group Atlanta Thrive.
Dear Dr. Herring,
These days are emotional for parents like me. My daughter is a high school senior, and like many students across the country, she won’t get to experience her last day of school with her classmates and teachers. Her eight younger siblings, aunts and uncles, and other family members all look forward to celebrating her graduation, but we’re also experiencing several other emotions. Neither my mother nor I ever got the chance to graduate, so my daughter will be the first in our family. But we won’t be able to see her walk across that stage, and that’s something I have dreamed about since she was born.
Even with these emotions, every day I take my personal experience and my passion to work for Atlanta Public Schools kids. As the executive director of Atlanta Thrive, a parent-led organization whose mission is to disrupt the inequities in public education, I’ve seen first-hand the challenges that exist in APS communities. Our dedicated group of advocates has knocked on more than 10,000 doors across Atlanta listening to the concerns of parents, and beyond trying to figure out where to get food and the internet, we all have questions about what’s next for our children’s learning when the 2020-2021 school year starts. It’s good to know that you have worked in APS communities south of I-20 where the virus is hitting people the hardest.
As I’m sure you already know, the loss of these weeks of in-person instruction will only amplify the 60% achievement gap between black and white students in APS. As research predicts, black and brown students will fall behind even more than their white classmates because of this time out of the classroom. And they are stuck in schools that were failing even before the pandemic. Because of this, I know parents will support you to:
1. Engage us even more than the administration has before, particularly now while we are more active in our children’s education.
2. Strengthen measures for transparency and accountability with timelines for intervening failing schools. Parents deserve to know what defines a high-quality school and how their schools are performing.
3. Develop new initiatives and out-of-the-box strategies to close the achievement gap, since we know that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work due to the vast disparities across the city.
Dr. Herring, you stepped into a difficult job. Most of our kids were falling behind before this global crisis. Together, with parents serving as the experts on our children and you as our educational system expert, we will get our kids through this crisis. We look forward to hearing your plan, and even more so, are here to help you create it. Your success is our kids’ success. And we are committed to having our children succeed.
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