Katrecia Nolen speaks at a black student achievement panel

Katrecia Nolen shares LCPS statistics at the black student achievement event hosted by the Loudoun County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. on Fe. 2 at the Rust Library. 

Loudoun parents left a recent panel discussion on black student achievement in Loudoun County Public Schools with a call to action: Hold school administrators and elected officials accountable, and get involved.

The Feb. 2 panel discussion — hosted by the Loudoun County Alumnae Chapter (LCAC) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. — explored topics such how black students are disciplined at higher rates, black student’s underrepresentation in gifted programs, test scores and enrollment the Academy of Science and Academy of Engineering and Technology, and the disparity between black and minority teachers when compared to the percentage of black and minority students.

LCPS has taken on initiatives over the years to increase diversity hiring, expand STEM and gifted feeder programs and decrease discipline disproportionality, for which statistics were shared during Saturday’s event.

Most recently, LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams included $200,000 in the fiscal 2020 proposed budget to hire an equity and cultural competence specialist position and supporting training resources. However, several community leaders, including past minority student achievement advisory aommittee chairs, said this is not enough.

LCAC Social Action Chair Katrecia Nolen, who shared LCPS statistics with event attendees, said the $200,000 that would cover the new position and training programs makes up less than 0.25 percent of the nearly $1.3 billion proposed budget. MSAAC has been asking LCPS for a team to handle equity and inclusion for more than 10 years.

Nolen said Loudoun needs a department, similar to Fairfax County, that reports to Williams and makes sure efforts are truly carried out by every principal and should at least receive 0.5 percent of the budget.

“They recognize, they value the diversity of their community and of their students and of their staff. We want to be that same community that values all of us,” Nolen said. “In order to do so, you have to understand that the budget has to reflect priorities of the community.”

She urged parents to attend Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. budget work session and adoption at the LCPS Administrative Office in Ashburn to advocate for an equity and inclusion department.

“As part of Black History Month, let’s not just celebrate the past, let’s celebrate the future we want to lay out for our students. Let’s be there,” Nolen said.

The theme of showing up was prevalent in the panel discussion and presentation.

John Champe High School Principal Kevin Tyson, Leesburg Elementary School Principal Shawn Lacey, Loudoun NAACP Youth Committee Chair Amira Bray, LCPS fifth grade teacher Ashley Tyson, Loudoun NAACP President Michelle Thomas, Loudoun NAACP Legal Redress Chair Buta Biberaj and Loudoun School Board candidate Kenya Savage sat on the panel moderated by LCAC President Katrina Smith.

The panel fielded questions on navigating gifted education, special education, preparing for the Academies of Loudoun, advocating for diversity hiring, handling discipline and resources on student rights.

Panel members resoundingly told parents to learn the school system’s infrastructure, be familiar with the student handbook, and meet teachers and administrators before a problem arises.

Ashley Tyson and Lacey said testing for gifted education starts as early as kindergarten and first grade, and that if parents and students have an interest in gifted education, they should examine the standardized test scores and talk to teachers about how to advance.

On the topic of special education, Lacey said parents should understand accommodations under special education are about making public education accessible and attainable for students. Savage said that students who receive accommodations may feel inferior, and it is up to parents to encourage students and make them understand it’s alright to be different, and that different students learn differently.

Kevin Tyson said many students in his school who receive accommodations graduate with advanced studies diplomas and take Advanced Placement courses. He said the No. 1 barrier to AP classes — whether it be students in special education or general education — is adult encouragement.

“We have to do more as a school system and as parents, because that barrier, that adult was not just inside the school,” Kevin Tyson said. “It was literally, people had never asked this kid to do it, or pushed this kid to do it, and there’s this fallacy that some of our other kids are just actively selecting these courses, and no they’re not. Their parents are making them do that.”

Thomas also said it’s on the community to get involved in tutoring and mentoring students.

Savage also encouraged attendees to vote in local elections for School Board members, and Thomas urged local parents to get involved in policy, hold administrators accountable and be loud in advocacy.

“I hope the dialogue and conversation today will lead you to action on behalf of your children, and I hope it will continue to make our community stronger,” Smith said.

(6) comments

Lawman

ScottVa its not 1959, it is 2019, so can it. David you are right sir. You either sue them or mess with their money.

jke

Can someone tell me why we have as many administrators as we do teachers. Is the school systems job teaching or what. Williams is going to solve our problems by, drum roll please, more administrators. Shouldn't the ratio be like 10 teachers to 1 administrator?

scottva

This whole diversity thing is a crock. It's a polite way of saying "All are welcome.....unless you're white". Liberals are always calling for "more discussions", let's start with a few simple questions and if the answers become too difficult, then the conversation is over.

1. Why is LCPS trying to increase "diversity hiring?
2. Shouldn't LCPS be hiring the best qualified teachers, regardless of race?
3. Is it possible that LCPS has hired teachers, in the name of diversity and those teachers weren't qualified, therefore having an impact on students performance?
4. What does "black student’s underrepresentation in gifted programs" mean?
5. Aren't "gifted programs" based on scholastic performance and NOT representation?
6. Wouldn't "gifted programs" become absolutely meaningless if those classes were filled with students simply because of representation AKA diversity? Is this fair to kids who've worked their butts off to EARN their way into "gifted programs"? Is it fair to have more black kids pushed into "gifted programs" if they aren't as gifted as the other students JUST to represent?
7. What the hell is a "cultural competence specialist" and why does LCPS feel compelled to spend $200k on it?

ExcellenceEd

I SO totally agree with these remarks. What good will it do to spend $200 on the made up job title of cultural competence specialist? What a total waste of taxpayer money. And why hire people to have more diversity only to find the better qualified candidates were sacrificed? Orur schools already bend over backwards to accommodate children with special needs and do an excellent job. If a student doesn’t qualify for gifted education then he/ she should not be in the program. People need to realize not EVERYONE deserves to be in gifted classes. Putting students in only to achieve diversity is a disservice to them and the students who really qualify for the program. I personally am tired of “handing out trophies” to anyone who WANTS one. Our classes are already watered down too much to the extent that to achieve a really good education students need to be given supplemental work outside the classroom. I’m tired of the “tail waggling the dog” in LCPS!!

David Dickinson

Having observed LCPS for the past 12 years, they change nothing until you SUE them. Lawsuits are the only thing that prompts action and change, which is sad.

Virginia SGP

Ditto.

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