On this final day of Black History Month, we bring you the second-part of a Q&A series called Black Charter School Heroes. CCSA believes the histories, stories, and voices of Black educators should be centered, honored, and uplifted every day – especially during this nationwide observance.
King is the Superintendent for Excelsior Charter Schools in Victorville. He’s ensuring that students have access to a fully accredited, blended learning program as well as a full-time supported independent study program that enables students in grades 7-12 to develop, execute and achieve a strong vision for their future.
Davis is the Associate Director of the STEM Program at Alpha Public Schools. Jordan is Alpha’s Chief Financial Officer. In 2020, the charter school organization was formed in response to a group of parents in East San José who wanted better options for their children. More than a decade later, children throughout the Bay Area are acquiring the academic skills they need to go to college and thrive.
Q: How do you celebrate Black History Month?
King: I celebrate Black History all year long. Historically, American History has ignored or distorted the stories of people of color and women. Through social media, I regularly celebrate the contributions of the African diaspora. My intent is to expand the lens of all Americans with respect to the talents of People of Color and women.
Davis: For me, a Black girl proudly born in the poorest region of the poorest state -- Belzoni, Mississippi -- Black is more than a monthly celebration. It is my real daily life and lifestyle. Black History connects me to so many that I'll never see. Black History Month is when schools and the world pushes everyone to be more conscious of what I pray will be woven into every human’s daily conscious: To acknowledge and treat Black and Brown people equally and fairly.
Jordan: Black History Month is a great opportunity to reflect on the strides and accomplishments made by Black people here in America and across the globe. However, as a parent of three young children, I firmly believe we need to celebrate and integrate Black history and culture into their lives year-round. For me, this means regularly choosing to engage with books and media that prominently feature black characters. This year, we’ve read Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race by Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli, B is for Black Brilliance by Shawna Wells, and Superheroes are Everywhere by Kamala Harris.
It means watching TV shows and movies like Ada Twist Scientist or Akeelah and the Bee, which portray Black children as creative, curious, and brilliant. Ultimately, our children’s identity can be largely shaped by what they see around them, so it feels important that we play an active role in ensuring representation in multiple forms.
Q: Who has been an inspiration in your life? Why?
King: My paternal grandfather was one of the biggest, most immediate inspirations in my life. My grandfather was civically active, honest, well prepared, fearless, hardworking and a regional leader. For me, my grandfather was my version of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass.
Davis: My amazing mom, Donna Sheree Evans Washington, was a true GIANT in her own educational right. In 1991, she started a successful early childhood learning center called DeeDee’s Teaching Center, filling an opportunity gap in Belzoni, Mississippi. She came out of retirement in 2007 to open two more early childhood learning and daycare centers calked Little Doves Daycare in Gonzales, Louisiana which provides much needed options for minority, low-and income families.
My mother’s legacy still lives on today through the daycare centers and her children. She used the power of love and education to close opportunity and community gaps! I’m honored to be connected with her passion for education and the message of love.
Jordan: This is probably a common answer, but Barack Obama has been a tremendous inspiration for me. I never dreamed as a young person that we would see a black man serve not one, but two terms in the White House. He exhibited such grace, intelligence, wit, and compassion during his tenure despite constant attacks on his character, his family, and his policies. He had the extraordinary task of trying to lead a country that was in the midst of two wars, taking office in the midst of a massive recession, and dealing with harsh political divisions, all while being the first president to carry the hopes and dreams of black people across the nation on his shoulders.
Q: When it comes to advancing educational equity, what needs to happen in California’s public schools?
King: To advance equity in California public schools, the access and financing afforded to traditional public school districts and public charter schools should be identical. Imbalances in funding and facilities financing creates gaps in educational access.
Davis: There are a lot of people (many not in the classrooms) “talking” and “reading” what “educational equity” is or should be without recognizing that we, as educators and human beings, live within systems, cycles, structures and schemas that foster inequity and show up in every classroom (and beyond). We have to start there first. We also have to do a better job recruiting and partnering with educators and leaders from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Jordan: California schools need to be granted the resources it needs to serve all students well. These resources need to be deployed to provide high-quality rigorous curriculum, excellent pay and benefits for teachers and administrators, top-notch resources for special education, and robust social-emotional learning and mental health services. Moreover, these resources need to be deployed equitably to recognize that all students do not start from the same place.
Beyond that, school choice must be preserved. We cannot allow a child’s zip code to determine their destiny. All families must have agency when it comes to their children’s learning and that means choosing an option that will meet their child’s unique needs.
Q: What do you do in your personal or professional life to affect change?
King: I hold regional and statewide leadership positions to affect educational and social change. In partnership with San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus, I have led our county to develop multiple sheriff/community workgroups to improve community and law enforcement relationships. I often participate as keynote speaker for charter school advocacy and hold eight Board, Committee or Commissioner positions in our region and state.
Davis: To effect change, I stand boldly in my Truth! Living the change that I desire to see. My heart, integrity, grit, and gifts are all connected, always pushing my desire to expand my reach and impact positive change. I've committed over 15 years to low-income communities in education. I want what's BEST for every student, especially those birthed in systems like me. I’m here to spread the message of “whatever you want to be” with hard work and determination.
Jordan: Personally, I think one of the biggest ways we affect change is through our children. I work hard to model my values and beliefs for my kids and think deeply about how I show up for them so they feel safe, seen, and valued. In doing so, I hope I am creating a strong foundation for them to grow and thrive in whatever they choose to do.
Professionally, the work I do as Chief Financial Officer at Alpha Public Schools is affecting change. I work alongside a great team of teachers and leaders to ensure that we have access to sufficient resources in order to drive student achievement and close the opportunity gap. I support my team in deploying those resources as efficiently and effectively as possible to maximize our impact on student achievement, fulfill our organizational goals, and support our families.
If you’d like to learn more about Excelsior Charter Schools in Victorville, check out its website.
If you’d like to learn more about Alpha Public Schools in San Jose, watch this video:
>> Check out Q&A Series Part 1: Leading the Way to Excellence featuring Maya Woods of AIMS K-12 in Oakland and Jason Sample of Gateway Community Charters in Sacramento, two Black Charter School Heroes helping to foster educational equity in California.
This blog story was written by Ana Tintocalis, CCSA's Senior Director of Media Relations and Editorial Content Strategy. She is a frequent contributor to the CharterNation Blog. Got a good charter school story? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.