By Sophie Hurwitz
The Education Equity Center, a St. Louis nonprofit training anti-racist and equity-focused educators, this month will begin training their third cohort Anti-Racist Educators for Systems Change Fellows. This group of ten anti-racist educators will spend nine months working together to strengthen their anti-racist leadership roles within their respective schools, districts, and systems. The Education Equity Center’s website states that the fellowship’s end goal is “propelling radical change within the St. Louis regional education system.”
The Education Equity Center was previously known as EdHubSTL, and was a project of Venture Cafe STL, a branch of a larger national nonprofit. During the early pandemic, though, they separated from Venture Cafe, which discontinued operations in the region. They received a planning grant from the Opportunity Trust, beyond which they are funded by anonymous donors.
Sherita Love, founder and executive director of the Education Equity Center, says that fellows were selected based on their “leverage to implement practices, policies and procedures within a system,” as well as based on their history of work in education equity.
Often, in the schools where the fellows are based, they are “the only person pushing for change,” Love said. Then, the question becomes “How do you build communities, how do you build coalitions?” As the fellowship selects from across the region, fellows are able to coordinate across districts and across organizations — Love mentioned as an example Terry Harris, former fellow and Director of Student Services for the Rockwood School District. Harris is also a founder of The Collective STL, a Black-led restorative yoga studio.
Harris, Love said, “Works across districts supporting, not just the fellows in his same cohort, but he works with districts across the region on wellness, restorative practices.” She said this type of cross-district work helps move the whole region forward.
“If we simply just kind of, raised our gaze to a place where we can say oh, we’re all kind of working towards the same goals…we can break down some silos,” she said.
Tavonda Palmer Harvey, a former fellow, said that the Education Equity Center Anti-Racist Educators for Systems Change Fellowship was “transformative.” Harvey works as the Graduation Coach for Ritenour School District, as well as serving as the sponsor for the Game Changers, the school’s social justice club. Through the fellowship, she said, she was able to bring more opportunities to her Game Changers students.
“The Game Changers have been able to speak to other districts, and the staff of the other districts, on the topic of giving Black and brown kids a voice in a school,” Harvey said. “That came through connections that were made through the fellowship.”
Aside from building connections, Love explained, the fellowship encourages educators to utilize data to figure out where they can improve conditions for students of color in their schools. She says one school that the Education Equity Center has worked with — which remained unnamed, but is a “very large district, well resourced” — did not track testing data disaggregated by race until this past year.
“We’re not giving them any data that they don’t already have, it’s just about, are you tracking it, and what measures are you putting in place when the data tells you the story?” Love said. “And the data’s consistent across every district in this region: Black and brown students fare far worse in every single measure than their white counterparts.”
This year’s Anti-Racist Educators for Systems Change Fellows are listed below.
- Dr. JaNae’ Alfred, Ph.D, The School District of University City, Administrator
- LaToya Crockett, Barbara C. Jordan Elementary in University City, 3rd Grade Teacher
- Morgan Hill, SouthSide Early Childhood Center, Program Director
- Jen Patterson, Francis Howell School District, Director of Student Services
- Dr. Erica Peyton-Nunnery, MRH High School, Administrator for Alternative Programs and AP
- Kate Polokonis, STEM STL, Interim Executive Director
- Mona Rajab, Parkway School District – Sorrento Springs, 1st Grade Learning Experience Designer
- Marvin L Rice, Hazelwood School District, Twillman Elementary School, Assistant Principal
- James Sykes, Forward Through Ferguson, Youth at the Center, Policy and Advocacy Fellow
- Nakia Winston, St. Louis Language Immersion School, Social Worker