I have been passionate about student equity for over 20 years. With a deep commitment to the rights of students, I have taught special education, served as a civil rights attorney for the US Department of Education, and co-founded a highly diverse, innovative middle school in my Brooklyn community.
My commitment to educational equity stems from my experience as a special education teacher for children with disabilities from gang-ridden neighborhoods of Boston. I threw out their worksheets and dumbed-down materials and instead created an interdisciplinary garden-based curriculum that ignited their curiosity, passion and confidence. The contrast between the educational experiences of these impoverished children of color compared to those of their higher income, white peers inspired me to become an attorney, and to serve for 14 years in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
I then went on to initiate the grassroots effort to found the Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School (BUGS) in response to a need for additional middle school seats in my children’s school district. I built the planning team, collaborated on the design of the innovative, sustainability-based vision and garnered deep community support for the school. In co-leading the launch of the school, I infused my commitment to student equity into the DNA of the school. The school’s mission is premised on meeting the needs of all students, the code of conduct is modeled on best practices for avoiding disproportionate suspensions of students of color, and the educational program is structured in ways large and small to embrace diversity in all its facets.
In my current practice, I am bringing together all of my skills and experience to schools, districts and parents who seek to dismantle the many subtle and explicit barriers that deprive students of access to educational opportunities.