Jackie Reid is energetic and unapologetic in advocating a robust agenda for "equity," as she campaigns for a new term on the Santa Barbara Unified School District's Board of Education.
In her first four years on the board, Reid has helped lead the charge for a set of progressive and controversial classes, curricula and programs -- think Just Communities, ethnic studies, dual language immersion and Teen Talk -- that have outraged some conservative parents and motivated challengers to her and other incumbents in the current race.
"Bottom line, it's the right thing to do," Reid told Newmakers. "We're preparing students for a future that has yet to be discovered or created, and in doing that, in this internet world and in this global situation, we want them to be well-versed about other populations and communities so that they can be successful and achieve."
Eight candidates are on the ballot in the Nov. 3 election, seven of whom are actively campaigning for three seats on the five-person SBUSD board, amid an extraordinary political atmosphere shaped by the pandemic, widespread unemployment, anti-racism protests and the recent arrival of a new Superintendent.
To provide a platform for the contenders to share their views, and a venue for voters to learn more about them, we've invited each of the hopefuls for a socially distanced, one-on-one interview about some of the major issues facing the district.
Reid is the daughter of educators - her mother taught music and her father was a history professor and led the Latin American Center at UCLA - and she has been engaged with public education in a variety of roles -- single parent, teacher, scholar, diversity trainer, non-profit consultant - that have equipped her, not only with a passionate belief in the need for "systemic" changes, but also with a penchant for eduspeak that can be cryptic for those unused to pedagogic jargon.
"We had evidence-based systems leadership to really look at the core function of how we practice as educators and are we improving our teaching and learning." she said at one point. "What the district team needs to do is work with the principal leadership and then it devolves into a deeper dive with the leadership team, teacher teams and then to student learning. And we will function in that process to do a deeper dive with data."
Amid Reid's rapid-fire sentences, packed with talk of "systems, processes, procedures," however, what is is unmistakeable is her fierce commitment to a brand of social justice activism that seeks to improve the lives and futures of an extraordinarily diverse population of students in Santa Barbara's schools.
"I feel like there is an assumption that if you're providing cultural relevance to curriculum that people don't see that as a benefit - they say 'why are you talking about that, you're not talking about literacy and math,'" she said. "Well, it's the pedagogy - it's how you teach literacy and math with a framework of equity around culturally relevant curriculum."
"I think it's important, whether I win or lose in this race, I believe strongly that we have as a goal the need to support all our students," Reid added. "These students come from so many diverse backgrounds and so many experiences -- many live ten in a house, studying in a closet with five other people...I hope and I believe that we have an opportunity here and I would never want us to go backwards."
Here are some key excerpts from our conversation with Jackie Reid, lightly edited for clarity. You can watch our entire interview via our YouTube channel, below, or see it by clicking through this link....And the podcast version is here.
Self assessment of the current board. "I think we’re doing ‘very good,’ and 'very good' would probably be, like a 'B.' As a lifelong learner I couldn’t give myself an 'A.' Because I see it as a processs and I need to continue to learn and navigate and reassess constantly.
"I feel good about the work that we've done, that we've accomplished. When we came on the board, we inherited past policies, issues, transgressions -- we inherited a lot of things. And as a board, I would say to the (challengers)…you can’t just come on and say 'I'm gonna change this.' It’s not going to happen next week -- it’s a group effort, it’s a team effort. Everybody has to work together and make decisions and either we agree or we agree to disagree, but it’s a process."
Test scores and literacy I. "There’s an assumption that we haven’t done a thing, that nothing has been focused on literacy and math. I will tell you that certainly as a district with our scores (displays graphs)...one of the conversations that we had (former superintendent) Mr. Matsuoka - 'what are you doing about this?'"
"He started this thing called Systems Leadership. And the one thing that Mr. Matsuoka was very, very good at was systems. Systems, process. We had evidence based systems leadership to really look at the core function of how we practice as educators and are we improving our teaching and learning...
"He outlined what the district team needs to do is work with the principal leadership and then it devolves, to do a deeper dive with the leadership team, teacher teams and then to student learning. And we will function in that process to do a deeper dive with data.
"This was brought forward in June of 2018, that was the plan of attack: We are not happy with these scores, we’re going to do some work here, this is our plan of attack, this is our systems approach. So questions about instruction, assessment, curriculum systems arose out of looking at this data and they were to go back and reformulate a plan for that."
Test scores and literacy II. "Since the hiring of (current superintendent) Hilda Maldonado. I have actually met with her on this - I said, 'hey this plan is in place, but what are you seeing?'
"And what she said was, we don’t have, currently, a comprehensive literacy plan either. We’re trying to do a deeper dive with math and also with literacy. Essentially we need a comprehensive literacy plan, there isn’t one specifically in place.
"What that means is, we need to develop a multi-tiered system of levels – tier 1, tier 2, tier 3 system, where you’re including not only English only, but GATE students, (English Learner) estudents, special education students, so the support is there for all those students.
"We haven't adopted those, we don’t have a consistent plan so what we need to do is a deeper dive, looking at our individual students within school structures and seeing how these principals and teachers and (collaborative) pteams are really going to be driven and focused on those skills and needs for students. And to do that she's got a whole different data set up that we can access – one page on each student, another page on schools."
Assessing Cary Matsuoka. "He really worked hard he was given a bad rap about things when in fact he really did a lot for this district...
"Mr. Matsuoka was hired, he was brought in specifically, to be the one who was going to move the needle on equity. That was the framing of his hiring, and that was pre my time.
"With that framing, he came in, he got to work, he set the tone. (But) we didn’t have systems in place. There wasn’t a system or process in place for how leadership was handled. There wasn’t a process, certainly on the board, that we as a board have done over time: You can't just talk about one thing one day and the next day make a decision; there needs to be a process and process is something I would say I learned as a board member the importance of process, sytems, transparency, communication, right?
"Cary was excellent in...looking ahead to new ideas around personalized learning, online learning, how personalized learning supports the needs of all students, but especially students who are struggling. He was excellent really in procedural matters and really wanting to do the right thing for equity and how do we incorporate that information into our district on a larger scale.
"I would say there were challenges, certainly with communication. I wouldn’t say, 'oh he failed,' I would say he did a 'B.'"
Equity and equality. "Equality means - everybody gets the same fair treatment. All treated equally. However, equity means we are providing scaffolding to those, so they can meet us at the same level as everyone else.
"We don’t all start at the starting gate in the same place. We start with different perspectives. We start with perhaps as an (English Learner), emergent learner or a student with disabilities or someone who is struggling with ADD or someone who is just a GATE (student), out of the track achiever.
"Everybody comes at different levels. What's important about equity is that it's not taking away from the high achiever…We need to keep pushing our high achievers and continue to push them and grow them… We also need to help those that can't even get to the starting gate...
"And one of those ways is allowing our curricula to have cultural relevance to it because students – and evidence based research has stated and shown this – if they can identify with the curriculum they are more apt to engage. And it doesn’t mean it has to be a history class, it can be a language arts class….it can be music
"If I want to have music in the classroom and I want to engage my students and I have 90 percent of my students are Latinx students, I'm not going to play, you know, 'Mary had a little lamb.' I'm going to think about what is culturally relevant to this community to engage students to want to learn, to want to step in and take up the knowledge."
Just Communities. "I support and I have supported Just Communities. But I've also very much pushed for evaluation – all of our programs to be evaluated, And one of the things I pushed for with Just Communities was, when they first brought it forth from the district, they were going to do a quantitative study...and I'm like 'no, it needs to be quantitative and qualitative - we need to have interviews, we need to talk to people and we can look at the data of the surveys.'
"All of our programs need evaluation because we need to see the outcomes. So we’re supposedly hoping to get the results of that examination soon. I also welcome other organizations to come forward that might be providing us with different perspectives...
"We need to bring in multiple perspectives from multiple organizations in a cohesive and comprehensive way to ensure that we are really addressing the needs of all our students."
Ethnic studies. "We (SBUSD) spearheaded this ahead of the game because of the importance we felt it brought to our students. We said, 'we want to bring forward ethnic studies as a high school requirement and we're going to go through the processes of how we can ensure that students of a different race, ethnicity, gender difference, indigeneous population, have an opportunity to see their experiences.'
"The concern right now and what Governor Newsom (who just vetoed legislation calling for Ethnic Studies as a statewide mandate) is saying is that he doesn’t support the content of the curriculum that they developed – he says it's insufficiently balanced and inclusive, but he does support the concept of ethnic studies. So it's really about the devising of a community input curriculum and ensuring that we’re meeting those needs.
"Crucial to the movement forward for this program, we need to see ethnic studies as being held front and center in the district, but the process remain transparent with the community and that the community is able to provide input on an ongoing basis and not feel shut down and not feel that they don’t have any (say) in this. And it needs to be implemented with fidelity as an interdisciplinary program
'Bottom line.' "We’re trying to provide opportunities to learn in an inclusive curriculum about multiple perspectives, intersectionality. We're suggesting that when you go and explore theses situations and these experiences and these movements that haven’t been part of the curriculum that you are looking at it through a social justice framework...
"The intent is actually to understand, to be aware, to be globally attuned to our world so you’re not going out there with bias or supremacist activities. Because you believe that even though I'm different and I look different, we still are human beings and want to work together and get along.
"So we’re preparing students for a future that has yet to be discovered or created. And in doing that, in this internet world, and in this global situation, we want them to be as well versed about other populations and communities, so that they can be successful and achieve. It’s the right thing to do. Bottom line, it's the right thing to do."
Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that Reid's father founded the Chicano Studies Department at UCLA. He was Chair of the university's Program on Mexico and the Latin American Center.
Here are links to our previous interviews with SBUSD Board of Education candidates:
First 5 executive director Wendy Sims-Moten is here.
Health inspector Elrawd MacLearn is here.
School administrator Virginia Alvarez is here.
Photographer and literacy advocate Monie de Wit is here.
SB realtor and candidate Brian Campbell is here.
SBUSD board president and 2020 candidate Laura Capps is here.