Message from the Chief Equity & Social Justice Officer
As a first-generation college student and proud mother of a LGBTQ+ child, two children with disabilities, and a gifted child, I carry with me countless stories of how children can be adversely affected by the intersectionality of educational inequity and marginalization. I have also witnessed first-hand the impact that education can have when it is used as a practice of freedom. The truth of the latter is what drives me to do this work.
I chose to take up the task of being the Atlanta Public School’s first Chief Equity and Social Justice Officer because I saw a district and community committed to doing the hard work of ensuring educational equity for all children.
Harvard Professor, Marshall Ganz, stated that: “There is a difference between charity and justice. Charity says, here let me help you. Justice says why is this happening, let me seek to change it.”
Our Board sought action in the pursuit of justice when it passed the district’s first Equity Policy in 2019. In the policy, the Board directed the superintendent to factor equity into everything the district does.
Our district took up this charge and outlined 11 Equity Commitments in its 2020-2025 Strategic Plan. Included in this, were commitments to: leverage school improvements to advance equity, ensure equitable funding, and increase access to effective leaders and teachers.
Our superintendent, Dr. Lisa Herring, took our commitment to equity a step further when she explicitly included a focus on social justice and created a position for the district’s first Chief Equity and Social Justice Officer.
I am proud to serve in this inaugural role and am honored to lead the district’s first office devoted solely to advancing equity in education.
Our new Center for Equity + Social Justice (CESJ) aims to ensure that every student has the chance to thrive, not by accident but by design. We do this by working hand-in-hand with our stakeholders to engage in the collective action work required to ensure an excellent, equitable and engaging educational experience for every child, in every classroom, every day.
To accomplish our aim, we must marshal change through teaching, learning, critical inquiry, reflection and constructive dialogue. We must also make adjustments to our policies, processes, and practices.
This is a mammoth task, but one with more urgency and purpose than any other body of work before us. I know that APS and the City of Atlanta will do the hard work to get it done- we are in this together!
Dr. Tauheedah F. Baker-Jones, Ed.L.D.