President’s Message: Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez
Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez headshot
Racial inequity: Fulfilling the promise of public schools as the great equalizer
I am using this space this month to reprint an email that went out to all CSBA members in the early weeks of June from myself and CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy.
There is no doubt all of you have seen videos of the protests across the country in the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. In California, those marching include our students, their families and our educators.

It is during these tumultuous times that leadership by governance teams is so important. We know that those working in education want nothing more than to do right by the students in their schools and in their community. That is why CSBA has long worked to help our members root out inequities built into our education system by providing resources, training, sample policies and other relevant information.

This may be an uncomfortable time for some, but we cannot let that feeling of unease be the reason we turn away from this moment. Rather, these protests and the heightened level of civic engagement we are seeing from our students and our communities should serve as an opportunity to work even harder to tackle the racial and ethnic disparities in our schools. Absent action, injustices and inequities will persist for our students both inside and outside the classroom.

Reducing the harm done to our Black children and all students of color within the systems meant to protect and prepare them for thriving futures will not be easy. While African American students account for less than 6 percent of the state’s public school enrollment, they account for 17.8 percent of students who are suspended and 14.1 percent of those who are expelled. And research shows that students who are suspended or expelled for a discretionary violation are almost three times more likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system the following year.

We can and must do better by these students
CSBA’s Equity Statement says that “effective school boards are equity-driven, making intentional governance decisions that combat institutional discrimination and bias (both explicit and implicit).” That is why we have made available a number of governance briefs and sample policies, and launched an Equity Network to provide extensive support and professional development to board members on concepts related to educational equity. An equity module is also under development and will soon be added to CSBA’s Online Learning Center.

There is no better public institution to act as the foundation for reshaping how young adults and future leaders think and respond to both racial injustice and policing, particularly in communities of color, than our K-12 system. This, however, will take more than simply expressing a desire for change. We are committed to acting. Our students need more than the niceties that words can convey — they need and want real support.

To that end, CSBA is joining with the Association of California School Administrators to co-host a task force that will explore how education leaders can move from words to measurable actions to address systemic racism within our public school system. It is our hope that through the work of this task force, schools can truly become the safe haven our students deserve and that our state’s K-12 public schools can play an integral part in reforming the systems and structures that breed inequality.