Last week our community learned that Cragmont is unable to retain our beloved teacher Mr. Stewart. He is not only a fantastic teacher who has impacted many students' lives in his short year here at Cragmont, but is also our only African American male teacher. While we understand that this decision was made due to budget cuts and a “last in, first out” seniority policy, we also understand that this seniority policy has and will continue to have a disparate impact on our African American teachers and teachers of color as well as our students of color who will no longer have representation that looks like them standing in front of the classroom everyday.
While the policy appears to be neutral, it disproportionately impacts African American teachers like Mr. Stewart who are “last in” due to our country’s long and shameful history of slavery, systemic racism, and implicit bias.
The California PTA has, like most organizations, a mission statement and goals. Part of those goals are to (and I quote) “Advocate for shared power and belonging for all children, youth and families to address the impacts of systemic and institutionalized injustice. To Advocate for a full and culturally responsive curriculum to meet the diverse needs of our student population. Build and sustain school communities where everyone feels welcome and valued by promoting, practicing, and embracing inclusiveness at all levels of PTA with a focus on diversity and equity.”
Mr. Stewart is a passionate, thoughtful and well respected teacher who is truly loved by his students. His presence in the classroom and on campus offers a sense of representation and belonging to our African American students and students of color that is otherwise largely missing from our campus. We at Cragmont are losing a valuable and irreplaceable member of our school community and any semblance of a commitment to building diversity, equity, and inclusion and to cultivating spaces of belonging for our African American students and students of color.
As members of the California PTA, the Cragmont PTA, and the Cragmont Elementary School Community, we write to strengthen the voice of our African American children, families, and staff. We also write with the shared PTA goals of representing, informing, and mobilizing members of our Cragmont community, to advocate for the protection, education, health, safety, and well-being of all children.
Is there a real commitment to representation at Cragmont? Is there a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion? If so, what actions can be taken now? How can we build a diverse staff when we have a “last in, first out” seniority policy? How will our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, establish roots when it is constantly being uprooted?
For those parents, staff, and community members who are ready to stand for Mr. Stewart, and every African American teacher who will follow in his footsteps, we ask that you join us for a “sit-in” on the Spruce stairs in honor of Mr.Stewart. The sit in will be May 25th 8:30am-10:00 am, on the Spruce stairs in front of Cragmont Elementary School. We hope you will join us!
May 11, 2022