Photo courtesy fo Sakennia Reeds

The RISD Board of Trustees election is on Nov. 5. Early voting begins Oct. 21.

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District 4: Sakennia Reeds

Why have you decided to run for this position?

I am a 7th grade English-Language Arts teacher at the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, where we develop young men into impactful leaders from all walks of life and one thing I can tell you, without a doubt, is that every single one of our kids are brilliant and filled with greatness. The success happening at my school is not done in secret or by some magic formula. Our staff believe in our students and expect them to meet and exceed the expectations of success on our campus. I want that same experience for every student in Richardson ISD, particularly district 4. Therefore, when I look at our RISD data and see huge disparities in achievement, especially across lines of race and income, I know that we have a systems problem and not a student problem. I decided to run for District 4 trustee because I believe failing our children is unacceptable, and I know my neighbors would agree. We know that all of our kids can succeed if given the right tools and support, and I believe that through thoughtful and equitable policy and resourcing decisions, we can better equip our teachers, administrators, families and students to excel in our public-school education system. As an experienced Black female educator, I’m excited to create policies in partnership with our community that will ensure equity in education and improve student outcomes for all children.

What experience have you had that will help you with this position?

I have worked in education for over 10 years and I know first-hand the barriers that prevent student achievement in our schools. I also know that we have incredibly talented educators and administrators, but policies and budgets are not always aligned for success. I have gone above and beyond in the classroom to better understand how these policies are made. Through the extensive Teach Plus policy fellowship, I have gone to Austin to advocate for policy changes and helped shape the recent state-wide school finance legislation. I am also a part of the highly-selective Leadership ISD fellowship, a year-long program focused on how to improve student outcomes, from a systems level, through policy advocacy and school board governance, I have practice evaluating and crafting policies, setting student goals, and working with decision-makers on behalf of students. I have experience in all aspects of policy, from drafting to on-the-ground implementation, and I am ready to be your trustee.

If elected, what policies will you advocate for?

I would advocate for policies that close gaps for our most underserved student populations by creating access to opportunities. For example, I would advocate for policies that:

Increase access to quality, full-day Pre-K for all 3 and 4-year olds.

Create a standing Racial Equity Community Council and enact Anti-Racism training for all district employees.

Expand student pathways to be not just ready for college or career, but prepared to thrive as adults.  This includes passing policies that ensure access to high rigor courses like Algebra 1, AP/IB classes and college-credit bearing courses in high school for all students.

Bring and keep our highest-performing teachers and principals in our lowest-performing schools where our kids need them the most and pay them extra for doing so.

What do you like about RISD?

There are so many things to love about RISD. I would say at the top of my list is the camaraderie between Dr. Stone, our excellent district superintendent, and the schoolteachers, administrators, and parents. It’s been a true joy to see the passion and love that everyone has for the community and students.

What don’t you like about RISD?

Currently, in RISD, some children and families are empowered, but we are leaving others behind. This inequity was a major factor in my decision to run for school board trustee. For example, there is a 37-pecentage point gap between black and white students passing 3rd grade reading. That is unconscionable.

We must close that achievement gap. I plan to do this through closing the gaps that cause it: access gaps and belief gaps. We have to give all of our students access to proven programs and put teachers in front of them that believe that they can succeed. Concretely, I will ensure that we are expanding high quality, full day PreK with fidelity. I will make sure that all RISD 8th graders have the opportunity to take Algebra 1 in 8th grade and college-level courses throughout high school since we know that keeps them on track for college and career. Lastly, as trustee, I will ensure that the ACE model is also expanded with fidelity to bring our best teachers to our schools that need the most assistance and believe that our kids can learn and thrive.

What is your favorite part about the neighborhood – Lake Highlands? 

My favorite part about Lake Highlands is the unity and community investment in schools. There are organizations who are deeply invested in the success of students; Lake Highlands Women League and Lake Highlands Exchange Club, for example. These two organizations give thousands of dollars in scholarships each year to Lake Highlands High School seniors. That kind of strong emphasis on student success is rare and it’s a treat to know that so many individuals are dedicated to philanthropy and education.

What changes are you hoping to make?

An addition to the specific policies I mentioned above, I would like to increase access to leadership pipelines at every level across RISD.  This means empowering teachers, parents, and students to be advocates for themselves and their communities through specific and intentional actions and communications.

I will advocate for a high-quality leadership training program for teachers who want to become administrators.  We know that excellent school leadership leads to improved student outcomes and is one of the critical factors in retaining teachers.  I want to invest in our educators and ensure the feel equipped to lead our campuses to success.

For parents and community members, I will host “Walk and Talks” and other events that invite community voices at schools around my district.  I will be accessible to regularly hear what people love and don’t love about their RISD experience to better understand what decisions I need to be making as their trustee.  I will also start a District 4 newsletter to inform families of what is going on at the board level in case their busy lives prevent them from watching hours of public board meetings.

Lastly, and most importantly, I will establish a District 4 Student Advisory Committee, and urge my colleagues to do the same for their districts.  As a teacher, student voice and experience is extremely important to me.  I need to make sure that my decisions always have their best interests in mind and don’t have unintended consequences that the adults are not thinking about. This committee will assist me with all of my major decisions as a trustee.

What – in your opinion – is the culture of RISD? 

I think that your perception of the culture of RISD largely depends on your race, class, neighborhood, and even what schools you have interacted with. While many students are having a great experience at RISD schools, I have also talked to students, parents, and teachers who don’t always feel represented.  I’m excited to have the opportunity to invite more of those stakeholders into the conversation and work together to create a more inclusive culture that serves all kids and families.

What would you like constituents to know?

I believe that participating in the public education process can be difficult and intimidating. I want to ensure that everyone feels invited to participate and advocate. My constituents can also expect that I will be making student-centered, and not political, decisions. I will constantly be asking, “How will this impact kids?” and more specifically, “How will this impact our African American and Latinx/Hispanic children?” I will tirelessly advocate for excellence for all of our children in Richardson ISD. I promise they are safe in my hands. It would be an honor, and a privilege, to serve the community of District 4 as their school board trustee.