Realizing racial justice in public education is impossible when Black and Brown students are criminalized in their own schools. Students, parents and education justice groups have long known this, and while we've seen some inspiring reforms in school discipline thanks to tireless grassroots organizing efforts, the present moment offers the chance for serious leaps forward. Minneapolis is no different, with education justice organizers calling for structural changes long before the most recent uprising.
In the wake of the police murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville and the popular resistance that has erupted, Minneapolis’ school district has ended its contract with the police. School districts across the country are now making similar decisions, often forced by organized residents who are fed up with unjust, racist systems.
Join us for a wide-ranging conversation and call to action. Hear from local and national grassroots leaders in the education justice movement. How and why were police placed in our schools? What new possibilities can we create when we can imagine police-free schools? How do we move funding from police to provide the academic, social, and healing-centered supports that our children require? How does this struggle connect with wider movements for racial and social justice? How can elected officials, advocates, allies, and funders be accountable to Black and Brown communities who are on the front lines of this fight?
About the Presenters:
Edgar Villanueva is the Senior Vice President of Programs and Advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education where he leads a team to support education justice movements through grantmaking, strategic communications, policy supports, and networking. Edgar is a nationally-recognized expert on social justice philanthropy, beginning his grantmaking career in 2005 as a Senior Program Officer at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in North Carolina. Later, Edgar served as a Program Officer at the Marguerite Casey Foundation in Seattle where he managed at multi-million dollar national portfolio supporting multi-issue movement building. He is the author of the book Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance (Berrett-Koehler, 2018).
Edgar serves on the boards of the Andrus Family Fund and NDN Collective. He also serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for Native Americans in Philanthropy and is an instructor with The Grantmaking School at the Johnson Center at Grant Valley State University.
Jonathan Stith is the National Organizer with Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD) where he trains Black organizers in innovative organizing and transformative leadership practices. As former National Director of the Alliance for Educational Justice, he lead the Alliance’s efforts to shift federal education policy away from discriminatory discipline and guided the launch of AEJ’s National Police Free School Campaign to challenge police presence after the #AssaultAtSpringValley. He has over 20 years of experience organizing with youth and community organizations for education justice. He is a father of three children, an avid soccer player, gardner and Cabralista.
As an interdisciplinary and cross-sector thought leader, Marika Pfefferkorn is a change agent working to transform systems and improve outcomes for youth and communities of color across education, technology, and economic growth and vitality. Ms. Pfefferkorn works through policy, research and practice to end school push out at federal, state and local levels. Most recently focusing on the Cradle to Prison Algorithm, an emerging technological trend in education and juvenile justice equating the next iteration and expansion of the school to prison pipeline. She combines the work of community organizing and advocacy to facilitate community-centered solutions that reflect the interests of youth, families, and communities of color and marginalized communities. This work is grounded in principles of social justice and human dignity.
Ms. Pfefferkorn brings a nuanced lens to leadership and community engagement in her work. It is at the intersection of this work that Ms. Pfefferkorn demonstrates the ability to successfully bridge research into practice, analyze policy, engage stakeholders, facilitate collaboration and cultivate community partnerships for and with communities of color across sectors and in systems.
Kim Ellison brings a wealth of experience to the school board working for organizations that serve students and families and a background informed by 12 years of teaching. She has served on the LearningWorks at Blake advisory board and the Parents United for Public Schools Board for nine years.
Kim is passionate about addressing the achievement gap and is a firm believer that building relationships with students is key to their success. She asserts that it is necessary to take a well-rounded approach to educating students. Nutrition, health care, after-school programs, and enrichment opportunities all support academic achievement. She was first appointed to the Minneapolis Board of Education in January 2012 to fill a vacancy after Lydia Lee resigned and began her first elected term in January 2013, representing the northwest side of Minneapolis in District 2. Kim was re-elected in 2016 to serve as a citywide board member. In her free time, Kim enjoys spending time with her four children, reading, swimming and bike riding.
Dr. Leah Austin is the Director of the National Opportunity To Learn Network at the Schott Foundation for Public Education. In this role, she works with grantees and stakeholders to support effective campaigns focused on building systems to provide all students an opportunity to learn through philanthropic support and other strategic capacity building resources. Leah has enjoyed a dynamic career that has included teaching, grantmaking, organizing, research and evaluation. She is an educator, an advocate and a futurist working to create conditions that allow people to imagine and plan better futures. Her prior work includes serving as the Vice President of Programs for the Southern Education Foundation where she oversaw efforts to advance education equity and excellence for students in the South. Dr. Austin also served as a Senior Associate for the Annie E. Casey Foundation where she managed a portfolio of investments, programs and partnerships designed to increase the educational achievement of children in Atlanta, GA. Before that, she served as a Director of Programs for the United Way of Greater Atlanta providing professional development to teachers and literacy resources to families.
Marianna Islam is the Director of Programs and Advocacy at the Schott Foundation for Public Education where she works with the program team to develop and implement the Foundation’s resource delivery strategy. Marianna brings over a decade of experience in the philanthropic sector, having served as the Associate Project Director for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Roadmaps to Health Community Grants Programs at Community Catalyst and Vice President of Community Impact Initiatives at the United Way of Central Massachusetts. Marianna brings passion to her role as a philanthropic leader, youth worker and community organizer for racial, gender, economic and social justice.
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