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Leader’s view: Black History Month requires action, not just celebration

Dr. Laura McGowan-Robinson | February 29, 2024

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Black History Month. It’s easy to celebrate, but harder to take action that demonstrates your commitment to who and what you celebrate. 

Two years ago the Los Angeles Unified School Board demonstrated its commitment to Black students, educators and families by passing the Black Student Excellence Through Educator Diversity, Preparation, and Retention Resolution. The resolution demonstrates the district’s commitment to foster a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape. 

Resolutions are only as good as their implementation. This Black History Month we encourage Los Angeles Unified and other districts across California to take more action in support of Black students, educators, and families. 

Los Angeles Unified has taken some initial steps that can be built upon and expanded. 

In addition to prioritizing workforce diversification in the district’s Ready for the World strategic plan, one of the district’s key initiatives has been to create affinity spaces for Black male and female educators. These spaces provide a supportive environment for Black educators to connect, share experiences, and receive mentorship and support throughout their careers. This effort is a crucial step towards increasing the representation of Black educators in the teaching profession and fostering inclusivity.

Another significant initiative has been the district’s targeted recruitment efforts at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to diversify the teaching pipeline. By partnering with institutions like Cal State Dominguez Hills, the district has secured funding for programs that support Black students pursuing careers in education. This effort is a vital step toward addressing the longstanding inequities faced by Black students and educators.

Additionally, mentorship and support programs have been established to incentivize students to pursue careers in education and facilitate a seamless transition into the profession. The “Teach for Tomorrow” program, for example, offers financial incentives to students pursuing teaching credentials and provides resources and support to facilitate their career transitions. Moreover, the district’s collaboration with nonprofits to expand the Black educator pipeline and the emphasis on mentorship opportunities within the district demonstrate a concerted effort to nurture talent and foster growth.

While we celebrate the district’s efforts to date, we know more transparency and engagement with community stakeholders is vital for realizing the promise of the district’s 2021 resolution. We also know others cannot follow what they can’t see. Los Angeles Unified and districts across California must share their data and learnings so that others can join in taking action too. 

Going forward, school districts can continue to pave the way for a brighter future for Black students by acknowledging challenges, celebrating achievements, and embracing opportunities for growth. Celebration of Black students is great, but taking action to ensure they are holistically supported to lead thriving adult lives is even more important.

 Dr. Laura McGowan-Robinson is the CEO of the Diversity in Leadership Institute

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