The only person with K–12 teaching experience on the current Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors represents District 7, which covers the South End — and he is currently teaching virtually during a pandemic. Each weekday at 3 p.m., after Brandon Hersey says goodbye to the 21 members of his online second grade class at Rainier View Elementary School in Federal Way, he pivots and puts on another hat. Then, until about 10 p.m. each day, Brandon Hersey reaches out to his constituents in District 7 and does the never-ending work of a school board director. Even though that job is unpaid, Hersey does not take it lightly.
“My primary concern, even though I am a district-wide, citywide elected official,” Hersey told the Emerald in an interview, “is how am I making this system better for the kids down this way? You know what I’m saying?”
Hersey, a resident of Rainier Beach, says he’s not just passing through or on his way up a career ladder. He’s seen a lot of well-meaning people contribute to the status quo rather than achieving the change they seek by doing just that. “If you’re just on an ‘upward trajectory,’ going from being a teacher to a superintendent,” Hersey says, “every move that you make is moving you farther and farther away from the students who are actually impacted by your decisions.”
Trigger Warning: this article includes descriptions of incidents in which racist language is used.
In a student-lead briefing on Monday, Jan. 25 on Zoom, educators, parents, youth in the NAACP Youth Coalition, and members of the press convened to kick off the Black Lives Matter (BLM) at School Week of Action in Seattle. Now a national movement four years running, it all began here in the South End in 2016 when John Muir Elementary School (JMES) had to temporarily cancel plans for an assembly meant to bolster the morale of Black students. After word spread via Breitbart News Network that teachers at the district-sponsored event would be wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts, organizers received hate mail and a bomb threat, causing them to temporarily cancel the assembly. Then, in an impressive display of Seattle solidarity with JMES, over 3,000 educators district-wide showed up to work donning “Black Lives Matter” shirts, and a movement was born.
by Josie Jensen, Alexis Mburu, Angelina Riley, Gian Rosario, and Eric Anthony Souza-Ponce
In October, when we, the NAACP Youth Council (N-YC), publicly launched our demands for racial justice in public education, we demanded that Seattle Public Schools (SPS) terminate its contract with Superintendent Denise Juneau, currently serving her third year of a three-year contract.
We knew that we, a coalition of anti-racist youth in Washington, were asking for a lot.
We knew from personal experiences as students in SPS that our voices would likely be ignored, but we had to be bold. Sometimes that means daring to say the things we feel and holding ourselves to a level of integrity, regardless of people’s perceptions.