Leading for equity in challenging times

Equity Corner by Adonai Mack, Senior Director of Equity and Diversity

April 27, 2020
This is not exactly how I planned to introduce myself to the ACSA community as the new Senior Director for Equity and Diversity. Our state and our nation are facing an unprecedented pandemic with unknown and unforeseen consequences. With leaders being forced to be creative and innovative in order to educate students, now might be the best time to reinforce equitably meeting the needs of our students.  I want to continue to build on the foundation established by Nicole Anderson, who took the work and plan of the ACSA’s Equity Committee and put it into action. I want to continue to enhance the Professional Learning Networks instituted under the watchful lens of Dr. Marguerite Williams. But most of all, I want to take the lessons my mother and father taught me about caring for and uplifting those who do not have the privilege that I had growing up. I want to take my years of being an advocate, navigating our political system, developing relationships and meld that with my desire to create opportunities for those underserved students who continue to be left behind.  Some may feel that this heightened focus on equity, diversity, inclusion, achievement gaps, and opportunity gaps has become too much or we’ve moved past the need to discuss these issues. However, I would point to the data. What does California’s School Dashboard say? What do the hundreds of reports and research articulate about the gaps that exist for black children, Latino children, poor children, and children with learning disabilities? When that data states that there are no gaps in learning or that all students are achieving, I’ll be the first person to step down, walk away and say my work is done. Until that happens, you’ll keep hearing from me and the many equity champions around the state and this nation.  I’m here to help. I believe that if I can help the adults, the adults will help the children.  I am not clueless to what we are facing as a state and nation with coronavirus devastating our communities. I started at ACSA during the worst economic conditions our nation had faced since the great depression. It was devastating. While this seems similar, our state and our nation were able to navigate those uncharted waters and be reborn from the ashes. Let us not forget that out of the Great Recession came the Local Control Funding Formula, which has provided not only greater control of local decision making but more importantly a stronger focus on funding those student populations with the most need. As our state addresses the coronavirus, we certainly may come out of this with a new innovation or structure that will reshape how we educate students for the foreseeable future.  These are challenging times as districts try to implementing distance learning to provide a method of education for our students with the brick and mortar buildings being closed. We must keep a watchful eye on inequitable conditions that may exist between our underprivileged and privileged communities. My granddaughter can easily jump on a Zoom call with her teacher in the morning and I can make sure she accesses her Google Classroom or prints her packets. My son can use his laptop to access the emails from his teachers and submit his assignments online. I am privileged to have the resources to do that. However, both my granddaughter and my son have friends whose families are not as privileged. This digital divide only exasperates an already inadequate system that negatively impacts our families from poorer communities.  These are changing times and as leaders, we will be looked upon to lead our communities through this. We’ll be asked to tap into our creativity and find solutions to barriers that never existed. As a community we’ll have to grow together, we’ll learn from each other and we’ll teach each other. This will take change agents. This will take leaders to reflect internally and tap into their empathy. We will need to lead through advocacy and inquiry. This is a metamorphosis from which all leaders can shape the next iteration of our school system.  I hope that I can build on the success of my predecessors, my ancestors and my talents to energize and assist our leaders through this change. 

© 2020 Association of California School Administrators