In This Episode
DeRay [00:00:02] Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome to Pod Save the People. On this episode, it is the news as you with me De’Ara and Sam talking about the news that you don’t know that came up in the last week. And then we have a check in with Johnetta Elzie to talk about what’s happening with the protests and a conversation about social justice. She’s here to keep us informed. And then this is a special pod,It’s the first pod since Pod Save the People that I’m not doing the interview. It’s such an honor to have Kaya, a member of this pod who is a former chancellor of D.C. public schools for a decade, on to talk with the current superintendent of Baltimore City public schools. Dr. Songa Santelises. And they talk about what it means to open up schools in the fall? What are the things that they’re thinking about? It is so rare that we ever hear a conversation between superintendents or even a conversation with the superintendent at all about these issues.
DeRay [00:00:51] But they are often in positions where they are thinking about all of the stakeholders because they have to, about parents, about kids, about teachers, about staff, about community members, about electeds. I learned so much in this conversation and I can’t wait for you to hear. Let’s go.
De’Ara [00:01:06] Hey, everyone. Welcome to Pod Save the People. Here we are again. So happy to be here. I’m De’Ara Ballenger. You can find me on sociales @DeAraBallenger.
Sam [00:01:16] And this is Sam Sinyangwe @Samsway on Twitter.
Kaya [00:01:19] This is Kaya Henderson @HendersonKaya, K a y a. @HendersonKaya.
DeRay [00:01:25] And this is DeRay @Deray on Twitter..
De’Ara [00:01:28] OK. So I’m just gonna get us started. One of the things that we’re realizing is that with Covid getting increasingly worse, that no other country wants us. We are stuck in America without, without hope of any Labor Day travel. So, DeRay, you want to get into this little piece of news that you found in terms of how I think we can only travel to, what is it like 17 countries?
DeRay [00:01:55] Yeah, I think I was just, I didn’t even know, I mean, because nobody is traveling at all didn’t even think about passports being restricted, but because we had handled the corona virus process so poorly, it has been reported that there are a host of countries that aren’t even letting us come in now. So according to the latest Henley passport index, U.S. passports now have access to only 158 countries, taking us out of the top 10 rankings in 2014 to being around 25th ranked. So I just didn’t even think about that, there are all these people who are like, y’all, you can not come in. And there’s also a backlog of passport applicants, which I also was like. So there are some people who want to leave the country, can’t go even if they want to go to one of those countries. And then if you do have a passport and want to go, you are hosed right now.
Kaya [00:02:42] As somebody who was traveling internationally about 40 percent of the time before the pandemic hit, before the shutdown. Having 28 places where we can go is astounding to me. I mean, it used to be that the American passport, like you could literally do anything that you wanted. And now there are just a handful of places where you can go. And in some of them, even if you go, you have to quarantine for 14 days when you get there. I think it’s twofold. On the one hand, people are rightly concerned about the coronavirus. However, we’re not a monolithic country. And I, we live in New York City where in fact cases are down, but we are being painted with the broad brush of our fellow countrymen and citizens who are not adhering to the same rules and therefore results that we are.
Kaya [00:03:35] But then I also think that this is, you know, a foreign policy play, frankly. It is an easy excuse to be able to “other” Americans in the same way that this federal government has “othered” so many citizens from so many different countries. And I can’t even hate on him.
De’Ara [00:03:54] You can’t. But what does that mean for us?
Kaya [00:03:57] It means you could go to Bermuda where they are issuing 12 month visas if you want to work from Bermuda for the next 12 months and, not Bermuda, what is it? Barbados! Barbados is what’s issuing the 12 month visas. And I’ve been to Barbados a few times. It is a lovely, lovely little country. And so if we decide that we need to all work from Barbados, I wouldn’t be bad.
De’Ara [00:04:19] My fiancee, while she was born in Miami and is Mexican and Cuban, she was raised in Madrid. And so she has Spanish citizenship. And so she likes to say she’s like, one of the reasons you want to marry me is for my Spanish citizenship. It used to just be kind of funny, but now it’s like, true, actually, yes. I, that’s why. So I think I’m going to get my paperwork going as soon as possible. So I can get my Spanish passport. Because we’ve got to get out of here.
Kaya [00:04:52] And now the news.
De’Ara [00:04:57] All right y’all so my news this week is from the New York TImes. It involves a Supreme Court decision which is being talked about as the most consequential legal victory in decades for indigenous people. I find that this case being described as watershed is interesting one, because it is watershed. But also when you think about how indigenous folks are treated so invisibly with such disregard by this government and the American public consciousness. It got me to thinking that this decision is it really watershed? Because really what it’s deciding is that the United States government should honor its treaties. So it’s like, hmm. This particular case was steeped in the United States government’s long history of brutal removals and broken treaties with indigenous tribes. And it grappled with whether the lands of those Muscogee Creek nation had remained a reservation after Oklahoma became a state. The Muscogee Creek tribe has experienced numerous broken treaties over time. But on Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma prosecutors lacked the authority to pursue criminal cases and a large chunk of eastern Oklahoma because the land remains a tribal reservation. And so this includes like a large piece of Tulsa and also eastern Oklahoma. This case actually spraying out of a state level criminal conviction of a man named Jimcy McGirt, a Seminole man who was found guilty of sex crimes that occurred within the Muscogee Creek Nation’s historical boundaries. He said that only federal authorities were entitled to prosecute him, not the state. So essentially, the way this decision went down, it puts in doubt hundreds of state convictions of indigenous Americans and could change the handling of prosecutions across a vast swath of the state. Lawyers are also examining whether it has broader implications in terms of taxing, zoning, other government functions. But many of the specific impacts, we really won’t know for a while. It’s all going to be determined by negotiations between the state and federal authorities, and five indigenous American tribes in Oklahoma. This is all really fascinating because as the ambassador for the Creek Nation put it, “not one inch of land change hands today. All that happened was clarity was brought to potential prosecutions within the creek nation.” So the Supreme Court ruled that much of eastern Oklahoma is in indigenous reservation. And so I think in terms of just taking a step back and just understanding how many millions of acres, the Muscogee Creek Nation they have. So there’s eighty six thousand one hundred enrolled members. It stretches across millions of acres of rolling hills, grassland, small towns and cities across 11 counties in eastern Oklahoma. And sprinkled across that land are more than a dozen ceremonial grounds where citizens meet to tend sacred fires and participate in stomp dance ceremonies. The Nation is one of five tribes, along with the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole, who were forced to leave their homelands in the 1830s by President Andrew Jackson and set off a series of devastating treks west that killed thousands. We know that as the Trail Tears. Today, the other members of the five tribes have similar arguments for federal recognition of the treaty lands in Oklahoma. So the court’s decision has brought a mix of acceptance and confusion from non-indigenous folks in Oklahoma of course. The mayor of Tulsa hailed a long history of cooperation between tribal and local governments and said that the court’s recognition of tribal boundaries will not even be noticeable to most residents. Some Muskogee citizens said they were not surprised at all by more alarmist and intolerant responses like those by Senator Ted Cruz, who said that the court just gave away half of Oklahoma, literally. Manhattan is next. Now, y’all should know that the name Manhattan comes from Manahatta, which is the tribal land of the Nalapei who were forcibly removed by the Dutch in the 1600s. So for you New Yorkers who don’t know y’all living on stolen land. What to know most about this case is that it will reshape how the criminal justice system treats indigenous Americans by preventing state and local authorities from prosecuting them if they commit crimes on reservation land. Tribal and federal courts will now deal with their cases. This decision could also touch off a wave of new appeals from indigenous people convicted by state courts who are currently sitting behind bars. So I. I just. I’ve actually been following this because of a podcast. AnotherMCrooked media podcast called This Land, which is hosted by Rebecca Nagle, who’s a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. And I think this was last year when I was following this pretty closely. There weren’t that many episodes, but it was kind of like this Supreme Court case was like the last thing that really a lot of what she talked about hinged upon. And so I just won. I think given we have so many numbers when it comes to how different communities are being impacted by kov it, but we actually don’t have those numbers for indigenous folks like, you know, Navajo Nation and others in Oklahoma. I just thought it was timely to bring this up, to talk about this, to get other folks talking about it, because I think indigenous folks are so often left out of the conversation. And when you think about, you know, the hundreds of years now that they’ve been living in persecution and, you know, and had all types of things inflicted upon them, I just thought this was an interesting case. I’m surprised it’s not getting more national news. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of an uproar in Oklahoma about it. But yeah, just wanted to bring into the pod to see what you guys thought.
Sam [00:10:09] Yes. So this is fascinating. I, I didn’t fully appreciate the size of territory that we’re talking about. I mean, this is there’s a map in this article. You know, the area we’re talking about is about half the size of Oklahoma, which is wild. And just a reflection of I think, you know, for many folks who didn’t grow up in Oklahoma in
Sam [00:10:31] In areas that had really, really large indigenous reservations, it’s a reminder that that’s so much of the land that had been promised to Native Americans has actually, that the United States has still has an obligation and under treaty obligations has to provide for sort of respecting those treaty obligations. And what this decision really confirms is just quite simply what you said, De’Ara that the United States should actually honor the obligations that it already made. And what is clear is that it was not honoring those obligations, because when you look at the incarceration rates in Oklahoma, for example, according to the Prison Policy Institute, there are more Native Americans incarcerated in Oklahoma than any other state. Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate overall in the country. And Native Americans are more likely to be incarcerated in Oklahoma than white people are. And so, you know, this is a decision that will have profound impacts on the indigenous population in Oklahoma, which had been subject to state laws and state convictions that now, according to this ruling, will no longer be sort of considered to be under the state criminal justice systems jurisdiction and will instead be shifted to indigenous jurisdictions, indigenous courts and sort of no longer be subject to one of the most oppressive and extreme criminal justice systems among the 50 states. So this is a major, major decision. Again, it is a shame that it took this long for the Supreme Court. And, you know, again, this was a close decision, five to four. Neil Gorsuch on the court, you know, was one of the justices that actually swung from the conservative side to deciding in favor of indigenous communities in this ruling. And I think that that is good to see that they decided this way. But again, it was really, really close. And essentially the decision means that, you know, the United States should just honor its treaty obligations. And what, what, Neil Gorsuch, it’s said in this article was simply that because Congress has not created another rule or another law that contradicted its earlier treaty obligation, that the treaty obligations still stands, which itself is problematic in the implication that no Congress should have the power to legislate away those obligations. But again, this is still a step in the right direction. It will impact thousands and thousands of folks in one of the states that has the highest incarceration rates in the country. And hopefully that that will have an impact on those incarceration rates on a different sort of form of sentencing than what we’ve seen for indigenous communities in Oklahoma so far.
DeRay [00:13:09] I will say what this just made me realize that I learned nothing about Native American history in high school or college. I can tell you one treaty. I sort of learned about the Trail of Tears, I think it was like a couple of paragraphs into a broader conversation about probably Manifest Destiny or something. I think that was like probably the conversation with which I learned about that [00:13:31]only the federal academies [0.8s] and sort of Western expansion. But I learned nothing. So I even think about how much I learned recently about the conversation about Mount Rushmore. And I didn’t know about the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty that said Mt. Rushmore and all the surrounding Black Hills were part of the Great Sioux Reservation. And set aside exclusively for use by the Sioux people like I, I learned nothing about them. So when I think about this case and I think about, De’Ara what you and Sam have already talked about the about the implications on the criminal justice system, a host of other things. It is like we you see the consequences of teaching history through the eyes of white people only. So when we think about like, why are more people not outraged? It’s that they don’t even know there was a treaty. They don’t even know that the government violated, like you just don’t even know. So this to me was a clarion call to the way we teach history that the Native American community deserves infinitely more than they’ve been given in terms of teaching history and that there are a lot of people who don’t even think about that there are still, you know, the way that I was taught, it was like Native Americans existed when the country was founded. And then like America happened, you know like what? That you can’t earase a whole set people. Right? Who still live in indigenous land. This is not a “thing of the past.” This it made me sort of recommit to learning so much more about indigenous history. You have recommendations that anybody listening about a guest we should have the. Please let me know or reading that we should share, because in preparing for this week, I was like, wow, there’s so much I don’t know.
Kaya [00:15:09] For me, like DeRay, I was recognizing how much I didn’t know, including the fact that as part of this whole story, the Muscogee or Creek, depending on how you decide to call them, in some cases, had enslaved people as part of their community.
Kaya [00:15:27] And in fact, after the civil war, and they fought on both sides of the civil war, but that after the war, emancipated slaves who were known as Creek Freedmen settled in the Greenwood area of Tulsa, which then blossomed into Black Wall Street. And there’s been a lot of conversation about that over the last month or so. And I thought that was an interesting piece of history that I didn’t know until this came up. But there were two big questions that this article brought up for me. The first one was what other treaties are there and what does this mean for what must be countless broken treaties? Right? Do people start lining up at the Supreme Court doors with all these broken treaties? And how do we manage what must be many, many broken promises to our Native American communities? And so I’m really interested in understanding a little bit more about that. And then the other thing that was really sort of confusing to me was if we say now that most of eastern Oklahoma belongs to the Muscogee and was a reservation. Why does that only apply for criminal justice issues? Why does it not apply for all kinds of other things? Right? If that land is Muscogee Land, why is that only OK for prosecutorial issues?
Kaya [00:16:53] Why? If I. Why if I’m a Muscogee can’t I go get my, you know, 40 acres? Why can’t I, why Can’t I go claim my land? And so I’d be interested in learning a little bit more about what could be downstream effects. I understand that in this particular case it was about criminal justice.
Kaya [00:17:11] But could this open up land claims in eastern Oklahoma? My piece of news this week comes out of The Washington Post. I am still on the school reopening beat since that is a live conversation across this country. And first, we talked about how teachers in Fairfax were responding to the call to come back to school and the decisions that school districts had to make in a timely manner. And then last week, we talked about how these decisions were affecting parents. And this week, I wanted to share a little bit about how things are happening in the international community, given that they have been ahead of us in experiencing this Covid moment. And so the article in the Post is called “Reopened Schools in Europe and Asia have largely avoided coronavirus outbreaks. They have lessons for the United States.” And what this article shares with us is that a lot of countries around the world are actually moving forward with full time, full capacity in-person classes. After they had open they had tentative reopenings this spring and they were able to avoid outbreaks. And so as they move into the fall, many of them are going with regular school. The way it was. I think critical to this reopening is the understanding that the schools are reopening in countries where the virus is under better control than in many parts of the United States and everywhere, It is fairly clear that if you are not containing this virus broadly in your community, then the school reopening will be a problem. One of the things that they found, one of the major takeaways is that primary school students are actually less contagious and that there are not many transmissions or spikes in community spread when school is in session for kids under 12. Finland, for example, found no evidence of school spread and no change in the rate of infection in children under 16. And in Sweden, researchers found that staff members at daycares and primary schools were no more likely than people in any other profession to contract the virus. Which is an important thing to think about as we think about the safety of our teachers across the board. In many countries, the risk of transmission in which the child is the index is pretty low. And in fact, the director general of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said “the scientific evidence for the effects of closing schools is weak and disputed.” She supported her country’s lockdown, but she was less clear about Norway needing to close their schools. And so it’s interesting how other countries prioritize locking down the country and getting the virus under control and then talking about schools when that’s not exactly how we have approached it. I found myself watching The Today Show this morning, and they were also talking about international implications and their lessons from European school reopening showed, again, you can only reopen in places where the rates are low and dropping. And so I think that we are talking about these one size fits all solutions. The president is saying all schools need to reopen or whenever there’s a community by community decision. I think they highlighted Denmark which capitalized on outdoor time and noncontact games and activities. And so moving a lot of school outside helps. They talked about the fact that clear communication is really, really necessary if schools and school districts are communicative with parents and help parents understand what to expect, you fare better. At the end of the day, what lots of these different countries are learning as kids are resilient and they are adjusting to the new normal in pretty healthy ways.
Kaya [00:21:11] Lots of times, it’s the adults who aren’t.
DeRay [00:21:13] None of the articles I read talk about anything about immigration infection rates, about people of color. Like what if it’s safe for the white people to go back to school and all the black people or the people of color are die from corona virus. And we just don’t know because I haven’t seen a single report that talks about that. Right? You also think about who has access to health care and who doesn’t. What if people are getting sick and they just have quick access to health care? And like we know that that’s not the case across the world for people of color and for poor people. So that was something that I was struck with. I was also sort of interested in the way that people are willing to sacrifice kids for the economy, that that is there. Like, you know what? If kids get sick, their teachers die. Like, I was reading an article about one of the wards in DC Kaya and they were talking about a charter school where like three of the teachers have died from coronavirus. They chronicle a mom who’s like, I’m not sending my kids back in the fall. And like, that is a real, you know. I don’t, I’m excited for everybody to hear this conversation between Kaya and the current superintendent in Baltimore City Public Schools today on the pod. Yeah, I don’t. Yeah, a European framework to me is not I’m not convinced. I also think it’ll be fascinating to see what happens because I’ve heard so many talks of teachers unions striking in the fall and just like refusing to go back in, trying to think about how we balance the adult safety, the immense learning loss has already happened. The public safety, because like, you know, you think about kids is, you know, think about school dismissal. If kids carry coronavirus school dismissal might be that way to infect the whole neighborhood every single day. Right. Just like the sheer number of kids who travel in community is sort of incredible. So, like, I do think that there are all these competing risks. I wish it there were task force set up in every single state of the state level with the appropriate parties to really nail this down. Because what I believe strongly is not fair is like kids are losing out like dramatically. They are the biggest losers right now. People will get jobs back. We’ll figure that out. Like, I have faith that we will figure out how to help adults sort of reset economically. But like, you know, you get a second grader who has not gone to school for two years. It’s like teaching literacy is not easy. This is, you know, even the best teachers. It’s hard, Right? I get that people aren’t focusing on the learning loss right now because there are matters of life and death like I get it. But I think that the learning loss conversation needs to be moved to the forefront a little bit, because I think that we’re underplaying just how severe it will be.
DeRay [00:23:49] So before on the pod, while I was a long time ago, we talked about elected coroners and what that means. But in this new conversation about the killings of George Floyd, Emanuel Ellis, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, there has been a conversation about who actually decides the cause of death?
DeRay [00:24:06] And what does that mean? So we think about George Floyd. They said that he died of cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, the report said. You know, when we think about Emmanuel Ellis, who is another person who was killed, it said that an argument could be made, “that drugs were in his system.” And McClaine’s cause of death was undetermined. And, you know, when you grow up watching, especially that Law and Order TV shows, you’re just like, of course, the person who decides the cause of death, this is impartial. This is just like, you know, a medical person who says this is how they died. But here’s the thing. Across the country, coroners are elected. There are only four states, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota and Ohio, who require that the coroners be physicians. And only 16 states have laws specifying training requirements for that job function. In some places, they’re elected and not appointed, in some places it’s directly tied to the sheriff’s department and the state of Georgia. The mayor of any town with 5000 or fewer residents is authorized to serve as the coroner themselves. And many of the county corners in the state in Georgia are funeral home directors, and the position often allows morticians a first crack at selling funeral services to families. In places like Colorado, corners are elected in all but one county. The only requirement to run for the office is a high school diploma and U.S. citizenship. And when they are elected in Colorado, they are expected to take a 40 hour course and then get a basic training certification within one year. Now, here’s the thing is that coroners are responsible for the conducting of the autopsies in most places, in a lot of places the government requires autopsies to be performed by trained forensic pathologists. But ultimately it is the coroner and not the pathologist who decides whether to sign off on the final death report or not. And this has been a challenge in some California counties where the chief, Quanah and the sheriff for one and the same in 2017 this article notes at two medical examiners employed by San Joaquin County in California resigned, saying that the sheriff coroner pressured them to change their autopsy results for deaths in police custody. And this is why I bring this here, is that we all had imagined that Corners would be impartial, that they would be medical professionals. They were clearly state why a person died. So if the police killed them, if they died in police custody, if they got choked and they got suffocated, if they fell down the stairs, if it was natural, whatever it is, that this would be just like a fact finding that this would not be imbued or influenced by any political process. But when you look under the hood, you realize that this whole process is actually a sham, that the coroner’s office is not an impartial place in so many parts of the country that almost all of the high profile cases that we can think of, they are in places where the quaner is not required to actually be a medical professional. And I’m hopeful that we can actually start to organize around this because there are a lot of people who don’t even understand how it got this way or what it even means that it’s this way. But there are countless examples that we could talk about. And again, I want to bring this here because I think it’s something that people don’t understand or don’t know anything about.
De’Ara [00:27:30] Thank you for bringing this to the pod just because I’ve actually been so heartbroken by and also not able to process really the death of Robert Fuller in California, who was found hanging by a tree in front of like the city hall there. And it was recently deemed suicide.
De’Ara [00:27:51] But what threw me off was, as they were talking about this investigation into the alleged suicide, they talked about and shared, the media did so much about his mental health background and issues that he had before dealing with mental illness. Evidently, he had tried to take his life before. One, I just didn’t understand why all of this private data or private background would be able to be released to the media. And then also, I didn’t understand why that would be used as grounds so significantly to determine the cause of death.
De’Ara [00:28:25] I’ve been thinking a lot about this and thinking about that these young men, their backgrounds are used to determine cause of death. But yet the fact that hate crimes just generally in this part of California in particular, have been on the rise for many years. In fact, in 2010, Antelope Valley, where Robert Fuller died, had the highest rate of hate crimes of any region in L.A. County. So I just don’t understand why that’s not brought into the conversation. And yet it’s a conversation in looking into the mental health state of this young man. So I’m sorry to make it just about, like this singular case, but I think when I read this article, it really just getting got me thinking about how many of these deaths are deemed suicide and how many police related deaths are just deemed suicide.
Sam [00:29:10] So building on that point, my news is about no knock warrants and no knock raids. This has been an issue that has been really central to the national conversation about police violence and the response to police violence. Breonna Taylor was killed by a Louisville police who were using this tactic. And just to sort of level set around the scale of the use of no knock warrants, no knock raids in America. You know, there is actually very little data that is collected on no knock raids. Nationwide, there’s not a federal database. Only one state, Utah, collects systematic data on no knock raids. And in the absence of that, we are reliant on survey data, surveys of law enforcement agencies that were conducted, a decade or more ago, and that showed that up to that point, no knock raids have been increasing dramatically year over year, with an estimated 20,000. No knock raids every single year in America. That’s sort of the context of this rapidly rising use of a tactic where police just sort of batter down your door, enter the house with no warning. They don’t announce themselves often in the context of a SWAT raid. And the whole point of these tactics, they were invented in the context of the drug war. And the rationale behind them was that the police needed to enter the house as quickly as possible and not alert anybody inside so that they could find drugs as evidence before somebody could get rid of that evidence or flush it down the toilet or whatever. That’s why no knock raids have sort of taken off over the past several decades, it’s the rationale behind it and now we’re in a situation where a no knock raid killed Breonna Taylor and countless other people across the country every single year in the context of that this past week, South Carolina’s chief Supreme Court Justice, Donald Beatty, issued a moratorium on the use of no knock warrants for judges in South Carolina. Now, this is fascinating for a number of reasons. I think, first and foremost, I hadn’t quite thought about the role that a state Supreme Court justice can play in addressing and banning the use of no knock raids and the issuing of no knock warrants. But indeed, in South Carolina, that is what the chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court has done. It is a temporary moratorium. So it is not a permanent policy. But the rationale that Justice Beatty used in issuing this decision was that there are no really clear standards or instructions for when to issue no knock warrants in South Carolina. You may recall in previous episodes we talked about how South Carolina is one of the states where you don’t even have to have a law degree. You don’t even have to be a lawyer to be a judge. You just basically go and attend a few trials to observe and you take fifty seven and a half hours of training and then you can become a judge even if you don’t have a law degree. And many of those judges are the ones who are issuing these no knock warrants at levels that are just not being tracked, that are completely unaccountable. And that, as we’ve seen, can have deadly consequences. So this is fascinating. It is interesting to see, you know, a state Supreme Court justice being able to essentially ban this tactic, at least temporarily in a state. I mean, this is South Carolina, one of the most conservative states in the country. If it can happen in South Carolina, there’s no reason that it can’t happen all across the country. Just doing a little bit of research in advance on no knock warrants, what is interesting is that while there’s no nationwide data, at least recent nationwide data on this issue, there’ve been a few investigations in particular states and cities, one of which is an investigation that was done in Denver, which showed that only about three percent of all no knock warrants that were requested by police actually were denied. So 97 percent of the time that police requested a no knock warrant to batter down somebodies door and execute one of these incredibly dangerous tactics. The judges were like, sure, go ahead in 10 percent of cases. The judges actually approved a no knock warrant that the police didn’t even ask for, that the police asked for a traditional warrant and the judge actually said here’s a no knock warrant. Instead, there’s very little tracking around this issue. What data does exist suggests how deep and problematic this practices. And so I’m hopeful that more places beyond Kentucky, which acted in the wake of the police killing of Breonna Taylor and now South Carolina, that more places will actually step up and begin to ban this tactic entirely.
Kaya [00:33:50] That’s exactly where I am on this. I was today years ago when I found out that the people making these decisions, these magistrates literally like don’t have training.
Kaya [00:34:04] And to me, like what the positive about this is that, like, this is a pretty reasonable decision. Right? In fact, like, no knock warrants are actually really important. Most magistrates don’t understand the gravity. People are issuing no knock warrants, throwing them out like candy. And we need to step back and do something about this. And if we don’t, we have another Breonna Taylor like incident that is super reasonable. Why can’t we be reasonable about a lot more stuff? Right? South Carolina saying we don’t want to be Louisville. We should fix this. Like and literally, as I was going through this article, I was like, where’s the training? And then they were Like, “we should train them.”
Kaya [00:34:43] I’m like, shouldn’t we change who issue these and how? Like, maybe we should change who issues these?
Kaya [00:34:48] And so, like, there is just a reasonable thing that we could approach this stuff with. But I think for me, what is super scary is, you know, as American citizens, we believe that we have a particular modicum of like privacy and safety. If nowhere else in the world in our homes, right. Breonna Tyler was asleep in her own bed, minded her business, not doing a thing. And these people who we don’t know who they are, they don’t have any training. They get to make these decisions that end up violating your right that is established by the United States Constitution. And this is where these little teeny policy things make a huge difference. And most of us don’t know about these policy changes.
Kaya [00:35:34] I think about, you know, I had been reading about swotting, right, where people will call and say, you know, De’Ara doesn’t like Kaya and De’Ara says Kaya’s got a, you know, an arsenal full of guns in her house. You need to go right now. Something, something, and none of it is true. But the police come into my house and, you know, with a no knock warrant and there’s a whole entire situation. And God forbid I ask the wrong question, or try to defend myself, I’m out of here. These no knock warrants, there’s so much that could go wrong. And that, to me, the one quote that I found a little bit hopeful was this idea.
Kaya [00:36:15] “If every now and then a little bit of evidence is destroyed but an innocent person doesn’t get killed. That’s just a tradeoff society should be willing to have.” If you want to talk about lives mattering, we got to get rid of this no knock warrants stuff.
DeRay [00:36:33] Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People’s coming.
DeRay [00:36:36] It’s hard to find a time to sit down, to read and learn more sometimes. It’s just a lot going on. When you don’t have free time, you can’t read or work on person development. There’s an incredible app that solves this problem, though, and I highly recommend it. It’s called Blinkist.
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DeRay [00:39:01] And now we’re checking in with Netta for an update regarding the current state of what’s sort of happening around the protests and issues of social justice. Let’s go.
Netta [00:39:10] Hey, everybody is Netta. And thanks so much for tuning in this week. One of the things I want to discuss is what’s going on with all these murals. Last month, Mayor Bowser of Washington, D.C., commissioned the painting of two blocks long Black Lives Matter mural near the White House. She also designated 16th Street NW as Black Lives Matter Plaza. The gesture itself is an attempt to ride the wave of protests sentiment that swept the nation in the wake of George Floyds murder by Minneapolis police. It also feels like a cheap effort to stick it to Trump. In the months since, several other cities have exported this grand gesture and painted Black Lives Matter on city streets. Most recently, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio painted Black Lives Matter outside of the Trump Tower. Like country bands renaming, corporate statements proclaiming they stand with the Black community, I’m left to wonder who asked for all of this. Protesters have made very clear demands all across the country. I’ve yet to hear any one demand that Black Lives Matter be painted on the streets. Which makes all these commission murals seem even more hollow. Art undoubtably has a place in the movement. Artists occupy and have contributed to the foundation of the movement space. But government sanctioned art cannot take the place of significant and transformative policy demands made by the people. The cities and the city officials who paint this have made it more painfully clear that the opposite is true for them. Black lives do not matter to them. Mayor Bowser, the originator of this PR stunt, proposed increasing Metropolitan Police departments budget by an additional 18 million. Despite a robust defund the police movement, the city council ignored the people’s demands but tried to play both sides. When the budget was approved, they cut nine point six million from the mayor’s request. That’s hardly defunded. But aside from bloated police budgets and issues of accountability, where else will we look for indications that Black Lives Matter in public policy? Is it the eight hundred and five thousand dollars the Mayor cut from the City Violence Interruption program or the shredded social safety nets that find people unable to secure safe, affordable housing? And in New York, Mayor de Blasio offered a robust defense of the NYPD after officers were caught on camera beating, [00:41:39]Catalin, [0.0s] and even driving their cars into protesters. In city after city, we are seeing Black Lives Matter paintings without any policy that actually shows that Black Lives Matter to these politicians. After the death of George Floyd, increased scrutiny over police accountability continues. Week after week, we are shown that police are not only unable but unwilling to police themselves, and consequences come to those who actually do. We are often told that it’s just a few bad apples and there are lots of good cops who do the right thing. In Illinois, it seems that the bad apples have taken over the barrel. Sergeant Javier Esqueda, an officer in the Joliet Police Department in Illinois, was stripped of his badge and is on administrative leave as we speak, after blowing the whistle on department attempts to cover up the murder of Eric Lurry, a Black man who died in police custody in January of this year. By all accounts, Esqueda is the good cop the defenders of moderate reforms insist dominate their ranks inside of departments everywhere. For context, Lurry was killed while in handcuffs while officers held his nose shut for more than 90 seconds. Esqueda shared body footage camera with CBS Chicago after no action was taken by the department. Audio from the footage is missing, which suggests that evidence tampering occurred. When asked if he was concerned about retaliation, Esqueda said, “The person I fear is God, other men, I don’t fear they’re going to come after me. Have at it. I did the right thing. I’m a good, honest cop. He also told CBS he was prepared to lose his badge. And from big cities to small towns we see the blue wall of silence and the consequences that come when an officer dares to cross it. And we also see elected officials and others deeply invested in upholding the status quo, try to co-opt the language and actions of the current protest movement and push for repackaged reforms that got us here to begin with. Reforms such as body cameras, community policing, anti bias trainings. They just didn’t work. We are beyond the point of police reform. We have entered the space of overhaul. Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you guys next week.
DeRay [00:44:01] Here, listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere. There’s more to come.
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Kaya [00:46:58] Dr Sonja Santelies is the CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, where she leads the challenging work of transforming outcomes for over 80,000 students. She’s known for her commitment to high quality curriculum and instruction and for working in deep partnership with her community. Today, she joins the pod to talk about school reopening from a superintendents perspective.
Kaya [00:47:24] I am so excited, Dr. Santelise, to have you on Pod Save the People. This is an exciting time for us. We’ve been having conversations about school reopening and we never get to hear from superintendents. So I would love for you to just start by sharing with us. What are you thinking about most as we contemplate reopening school in the fall?
Dr. Santelises [00:47:49] Well, first, let me say it is great to be here. And thanks for having me.
Dr. Santelises [00:47:53] Most of our time right now, most of my time right now is really focused on the balance between the safety concerns. Right? The kind of immediate safety concerns of the virus for both families and staff, but also the other impacts beyond physical, you know, that we have to balance. Right, and that we have to attend to. And that is the learning needs of our students, social, emotional needs of not being in school and all of the other things that school provide. And frankly, balancing the need for young people to be back in classrooms and the desire of a lot of families for students to be back in. But then also a real significant difference in how people view the safety of going back to school. So it’s really balancing, you know, some of the logistical safety concerns and then just the wellness and wholeness of kids overall.
Kaya [00:48:55] And I mean, this balance is really import. You are a parent, right? And so you are thinking about your kids. This is actually real for you because, you know, you have a job to do and that’s to be responsible for lots of kids. Academic achievement, 80000 kids or so in Baltimore City, is that right?
Dr. Santelises [00:49:12] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
Kaya [00:49:13] And you are a working parent. And so you’ve had kids at home who, while you’re trying to do your job at the same time, manage distance learning, you know, you understand parents who want to send their kids to school. You understand teachers who are afraid to put their health at risk. You understand kids who want to go back to school. You understand all of these things. So, you know, you have the president who just said we’re going to reopen schools and I’m going to put pressure on people to make sure that happens. Like how do you help the public make sense of this from your seat?
Dr. Santelises [00:49:50] From my seat.
Dr. Santelises [00:49:52] One is exactly sharing both from the personal perspective as well as that systems perspective. Right? And also, you know, just sharing from a leadership position.
Dr. Santelises [00:50:05] And, Kaya, you know this, right? You can declare anything. Right? You can stand from a podium and say whatever you want in a microphone and it’s great. And then you can walk away. And you said what you said.
Dr. Santelises [00:50:15] And the actual implementation, ground work, people’s real life considerations actually still have to be addressed. So.
Kaya [00:50:24] That’s right.
Dr. Santelises [00:50:25] You know, I understand the power of the pulpit. But, you know, at the end of the day, that’s great. You rattled stuff off.
Dr. Santelises [00:50:32] But if you don’t actually think some of the operational pieces, then I nod and I move on and do what I need to do. And I think a lot of that is for us to really tie in to, as you were noting, like having the conversations and how do we involve the public. And right now, I would say one of the biggest challenges is there is just a distrust of institutions. Period.
Kaya [00:50:55] Yeah.
Dr. Santelises [00:50:55] So, you know, you can quote what the American Academy of Pediatrics. Right?
Dr. Santelises [00:51:00] Said about distancing and wellness of kids. And, you know, then you’ve got parents looking at you like, “well, how do I know, the American Academy Of Pediatrics
Dr. Santelises [00:51:09] has my child in mind. So a lot of it is the hearing. You know, I had just on almost a daily hourly basis over and over again, said to my staff, this has got to be about communicating, exchanging dialog. I had a virtual meeting with, my goodness, like 900 staff members. It was just kind of CEO town hall.
Dr. Santelises [00:51:31] We got 400 questions in like 30 minutes. And, you know, one of the questions that came through is, OK, well, I give my suggestion, does that mean you’re actually going to take it? I didn’t have an honest conversation with 900 people, Kaya and say, actually, no, it doesn’t mean that. But it does mean that we have to listen. We have to contemplate it. And we owe you an answer, you know, explanation of how we’re thinking through this. And frankly, oftentimes, some of our best suggestions come from one person who sends in a suggestion. You know, one of my favorite examples that we had this conundrum around, well, what’s the best way to do semester grading, right, in the spring? And it was the teacher of the classroom teacher in the corner of the district who said, “I do just some extra class and I think this is how you should approach it.” And we took that idea. Made sense.
Kaya [00:52:22] Yeah.
Dr. Santelises [00:52:22] It was somebody from the ground. But I, I think it’s the conversation, the exchange hearing people out. And knwoing there is no one answer that is going to address everything.
Dr. Santelises [00:52:33] It’s just can’t.
Kaya [00:52:34] That so resonates with my experience leading a district. I mean, I think, first of all, the people closest to the problem have the best solutions. And so hearing from teachers and parents and students, many times students have real input to give. I think when you pair that with the expertize of the education establishment, you get better answers and you get people trusting in different ways. I think your point about mistrust in institutions is spot on. But when people have been engaged in a process, when you’ve surveyed people and asked them what they want and when you are honest with people and say I can’t do everything, but here is what we are going to do. And here’s the reason why. People are rational. People understand that this is a worst case scenario and we’re all trying to figure out the best we can. And I think in as much as we can make our parents, our families, our educators feel like partners in this, then we win them. We win. So let me put the students who are the most important factor in this. At the center and ask what interesting opportunities for learning. Let’s make this positive.
Kaya [00:53:45] Have you seen throughout this crisis.
Dr. Santelises [00:53:49] One of the most encouraging and invigorating stories from students came from our school for students that are incarcerated, Eager Street Academy. And we had 20 students there who were encouraged and we had set up we were going to try to start [00:54:10]with [0.0s] University of Baltimore there. We went ahead and did it had, again, great example of folks leading from whatever position, you know, Mavis Jackson, who heads up our guidance, is totally revamping a lot of it in the district. Long story short, Kaya, we had 20 students incarcerated who enrolled in two University of Baltimore courses over the course of this period and ended up collectively having one of the highest GPA’s in those courses of any school in the district.
Kaya [00:54:41] Wow.
Dr. Santelises [00:54:41] Yeah, exactly. And it kind of took my breath away. And when we had conversations with those young people, they both simultaneously broke my heart and encouraged me at the same time, because this is this was some of the most engaging learning. We felt like real students in these courses and in all of our twelve plus years in school, this was the most rewarding learning experience we had. And so unpacking that for all that is signals that is negative. There’s also a lot of positive opportunity in that. And so we heard from that. Like this is what made this far more engaging than anything else. This is what made me feel like a student and made me want to you know, we talk about, you know, this guy. We talk about all we need to [00:55:29]straight learning. [0.4s] I’ve said it. But what these young people described about the difference in the academic community, they were part of the University of Baltimore coursework was really a signal about what needs to change and that perhaps if we had changed it earlier, those young people actually might not have been sitting in the middle of a prison. Those voices were incredibly powerful. All the other pieces being able to go into classrooms with Zoom for all of the downside of that and really being able to see those teachers who just are expert not only in content, but in the teaching and engaging of young people and how they jumped off the screen even in virtual classrooms. Right? Who had young people from a variety of zip codes but had 95 percent attendance. Right? And thinking about how does that happen? And then expanding that teachers’ reach three Zoom to not just her fifth grade classroom, but fifth grade across a cohort of ten schools. Right? And so this idea of how do we actually use technology to expand the reach of, you know, high quality teachers to more students. And then a lot of the other classroom teachers really had the luxury of working with small groups of students of five or six to actually build on that because someone else had taken the upfront and they could go much more deeply with small groups of students. And the fact that we hadn’t done that before this pandemic. And then, you know, talking to young people who are protesting, you know, racial violence in this country and in equities and getting to talk to them about their experiences and frankly, rethinking how we’re going to open school. What do our first 30 days need to look like to help not just keep students physically healthy, but also mentally healthy. There’s a lot of Black pain and a lot of that is in our young people. And so how do we open school with a frame that is hopeful and actually engage young people in those discussions and in some of that planning? And so those are some of the bright spots in all of the crazy that’s been happening. It also gives space to innovate in ways that when you’re going through the day to day, you know, clockwork. Sometimes you don’t think it’s being possible that really are.
Kaya [00:57:57] OK You have said a mouthful.
Dr. Santelises [00:57:58] I’m sorry.
Kaya [00:58:00] No, no, no. It’s beautiful. There are ten things that I want to follow up on, So we’re gonna do this lightning round a little bit. So, the first piece about the incarcerated kids.
Kaya [00:58:12] Right? Like giving kids classes and content that’s worth their time and attention. Right? Challenging kids, not dumbing things down. How do we get a lot of the school reopening conversation when we talk about academics is about how do we recover learning loss? How do we remediate kids bloop, bloop, blur when like, how do we shift that conversation to really challenging kids and upping the game for kids? How do we get this story of these incarcerated kids out and how do we get it to shift how people think about what kids the kind of content kids deserve?
Dr. Santelises [00:58:47] I think you’re right. And I think some of it is actually telling the story. And I will tell you what I told that story you know, people were quiet.
Dr. Santelises [00:58:53] I mean, these were some of our school leaders are educators, because to your point, it takes away the excuse. And it reframed the discussion. Right?
Dr. Santelises [00:59:01] Because if what young people were describing was a desire to engage, a desire to be part of an academic community, that then gave them the drive to spend, frankly, what we just need to all admit, is some extra time building up somebody skills that they unfortunately missed. But now they had an academic community they wanted to be part of and that they felt was real, they felt was actually stimulating, and that gave them the motivation to then say, well, I will focus now on how to put these paragraphs together because I can’t just bring jumped to a college classroom. So it actually ended up being more of a model that is more about how do we help make some of that time without reducing, watering down the target that we know young people can reach. Yes.
Kaya [00:59:53] Yes. Yeah. This is a conversation that we have to keep having. Okay. And then you talked about using technology to expand the reach of high quality teachers, thinking about, you know, putting your best fifth grade teacher in front of many more kids and then using other teachers to create small groups is brilliant on so many levels.
Kaya [01:00:11] Number one, as you said, it exposes many more kids to the best instructional delivery, but it also gives teachers and students the opportunity to work in small groups. We all want smaller groupings, the opportunity to do more individualized instruction. And so this is really a boom.
Kaya [01:00:29] How do you think about planning for that when we see things like, you know, teachers deciding not to come back or teachers unions encouraging their folks not to come back? How do you think about hiring for the fall? Given all of the uncertainties?
Dr. Santelises [01:00:46] You’re right. There’s a great opportunity to think about differentiated roles and what that looks like. But it has to be within the context of a focus on what students need. Right? And not just political roadblocks for the sake of. And, you know, some of the concerns are valid. You know, it goes back to how easy it is to just, you know, make an offcuts 30 minute statement about how schools need to be open as opposed to actually putting some resources behind.
Dr. Santelises [01:01:18] And, you know, I don’t just always talk about we just need more money. But masks cost money. Right? Acrylics dividers cost money. And we can actually quantify what those extra precautions require.
Dr. Santelises [01:01:33] And I do think that with kind of initial effort to do that, we would reduce some of the anxiety, not all of it. And then I think if we could agree that we really have to think outside of kind of traditional roles for teachers and for staff.
Dr. Santelises [01:01:50] And, you know, even in the work we did this spring as wonderful as it was you know, I just happened to have a skillful leader at the helm. But, you know, there were a lot of teachers all over. Wait a minute. If we’re not upfront. Does that mean we’re not as valued? Does that somehow mean I’m more? You know? And so how do we create models that truly are student centered? And I think that this pandemic is actually bringing a lot of that to the surface. People wave the flag of student centered a lot. But the true litmus test is, are we willing to reframe the way that we as adults do our work in order to meet, right, those needs, not just can you say, but are we willing to actually shift how we do the work? And I think that is a front and center question right now.
Kaya [01:02:36] Please, I want to do a hallelujah dance on that. Are we willing as adults to change the way we work so that it works for kids? Good gracious a life. I’m printing up bumper stickers. How about that?
Kaya [01:02:48] You also talked about I mean, that’s the fundamental question, right?
Dr. Santelises [01:02:53] That is the fundamental question.
Kaya [01:02:54] And the good news is that there are a lot of teachers who are changing the way that they are working. I have seen so much great teaching on YouTube and on other sites and teachers are going above and beyond. It is astounding what teachers I mean, you know, necessity is the mother of invention. And so these teachers are inventing. I just need the teacher organizations and the politicians and whatnot to get behind our very best teachers because I think they are laying out a clear new pathway. You also talked about protesting young people, which is one of my favorite topics. I love student leadership. I think we totally underestimate how much students have to say and how we can partner with them. So say a little bit more about what your young people are demanding.
Dr. Santelises [01:03:48] So what’s interesting is kind of in a first phase protest, you know, they were protesting for what a lot of us were with regards police reform, but then it moved into and I think rightly so. And frankly, the young people move there as the students move there faster than some of us adults. Move very quickly to the space of, wait a minute, what are the implications within education? And so the first wave here was really around curriculum, right? What are we learning? How are we learning it? How are adults prepared to teach it? We want to see ourselves more reflected right, in curriculum. And then what was interesting is when I sat with a small group of protesters, I went to the protest because I wanted, you know, of course, to hear and to be there.
Dr. Santelises [01:04:33] But then when I got way, that’s.
Kaya [01:04:34] Can I just say that that is fairly unprecedented. There are lots of superintendents who don’t go to had a people. Many superintendents will invite the people to come to their offices. But you going to the protest and meeting people where they are and engaging with them on their terms, I think is a huge leadership attribute. So I just want to call it out, OK? Keep going. You met with the people, went to the protest.
Dr. Santelises [01:04:57] So I went I got a chance to hear from them in their voice, as you noted. And when I had the smaller meeting with some of the young people who had organized that first round of protest, one of the things that they said Kaya, which was really interesting, it was a young African-American student. And what she said to me was, you know, I know we would talk a lot about a curriculum and that’s important. But I have to tell you, one of the biggest things that I need to see is the same accountability for adults that is being asked of young people. And she went on to describe incidents where she knew she and others, particularly other black students. Right? Were being called out in ways that white students and other students were not. I made it very clear things like, you know, the dress code policy that frankly, Kaya, we changed eight or nine years ago, but being sent home, which is, as you know, an unofficial suspension. So it’s not going to be recorded. Right? Somebody just send you home. But then as you’re being talked to, you see someone with a different body shape, not as developed in some ways who’s wearing almost the same thing. And nobody says anything about it. And that student happens to be white. Right? And so story after story in that way, that really spoke to me about this hypocrisy that young people are so, so good at seeing. Like, I understand, you know, their whole brain development and not all of it’s there, but one thing adolescence does break. And frankly, it’s true, even for younger students is the ability to hone in on adult hypocrisy.
Dr. Santelises [01:06:36] And so part of what we had to talk to and, you know, I’m sitting there with them is the head of the system. And I had to say, you know what? I just have to hone in on that because the accountability piece absolutely false to me. And so we need to have more than just this discussion about what that looks like. So it was really on a variety of levels. Right. And what was interesting was their exposure to the curriculum. These were schools that based on autonomy and their decision to chosen not to do some of the curriculum work that we were working on. And I thought that was very interesting. So when I was describing, some of that curriculum work,tThey knew nothing about our Be More Me curriculum or anything because their school had chosen not to do that. And so it all pushed this question
Dr. Santelises [01:07:24] When? Yes, we want the folks closest to the work to make decisions. But how are they making decisions with a lens?
De’Ara [01:07:30] Yeah.
Dr. Santelises [01:07:32] Again, what the needs of students are.
Kaya [01:07:34] I mean, you said in your earlier comments, there is a lot of black pain. And I think the student calling out this hypocrisy is one example of that. But just say a little bit more about the pain that you’re seeing.
Dr. Santelises [01:07:49] Look, I think we’re all seeing it, but particularly with young people. It is one, a need to process beyond just what initial event participation will bring. Right? So there is something that is ownership and action.
Dr. Santelises [01:08:06] But with the pain is the realization of how this level of discrimination, this level of different access is embedded in a system.
Dr. Santelises [01:08:17] And I think the piece that I understood before that I am most concerned about is a hopelessness setting in. Yeah. Right? And not having the ability because we have not prioritized that in our teaching to also see Black resilience. Right? Like there is Black pain, but there’s also Black joy and there is resilience, right? And and that we are a people who have made a lives for ourselves. We have a vibrant and living culture who actually yes, we have our own leaders and we too have invented and we too are creators. And that the pain has actually fueled that. And while we will always and should always push for the drivers of that pain to be eradicated. What I don’t want is that to turn into hopelessness and just a perpetual anger that does not lead to a constructive end. Right? Cause anger can drive you to a constructive end or it can drive you further in a downward spiral. And so part of the thinking of the 30 days, and I’m getting ready to have a meeting this afternoon with my team, is to think through how are we deliberate and planful about creating space for young people to do the processing and to do it on an ongoing basis, but also to have exposure to the other side of the story. It’s not just about all the horrible stuff that’s happened. It is also about incredible beauty.
Dr. Santelises [01:09:46] That, frankly, is what sustains many of us, myself included. And, you know, as I’ve told my children, my own three birth children, I have never wanted to be anything other than Black.
Dr. Santelises [01:09:57] I had you know, I have I have felt, you know, what that means, but I have never wished I was not Black. I love being.
Kaya [01:10:05] Come on. Yes.
Dr. Santelises [01:10:06] And and so, like, that’s not the goal of it. And I want them to love their city and I want them to make their city better. So a lot of our planning is how we balance that so that they are repelled and encouraged and still continue to hold us accountable for some of that hypocrisy that I was referencing earlier and to make system that work for them, but not to be kind of just weighted under by it.
Kaya [01:10:33] But having a leader who remembers that and who hold staff accountable for that and who reminds us because this work is hard. Right?
Kaya [01:10:42] And it’s really easy to pick out all of the things that are wrong. But having a leader who subscribes to this idea that we are about excellence and resilience and joy and love. Right? Like that makes a significant difference in big institutions. OK, last question. One of the the most difficult role in a school district, I think, is the role of the principalship. They are leading on the front lines, but they’re in the middle of the structure. Right? They work for a central office. They are responsive to their school communities, their families, their teachers, and they are balancing a lot. And so my final question is, you got principals out there who are doing it and they’re doing it in uncertain circumstances and they’re doing everything from feeding people to trying to manage learning and whatnot. What would you say to your principals? What do you want them to know and to take with them as they think about coming into the new school year so well?
Dr. Santelises [01:11:48] Well, the first is that they do need to rest. There’s so much and it is so easy to just keep going. This may be not politically correct thing to say, but, you know, what I’ve said to them is this is minimum another 18 month endeavor. Right?
Dr. Santelises [01:12:06] And I don’t care if there’s a vaccine, you know, in December. This is an 18 endevour.
Kaya [01:12:12] That’s right. Let’s get real with it. Let’s get real with it.
Dr. Santelises [01:12:14] Let’s let let’s get real. And what that means is you do have to take some downtime. And so create, deliberately creating those pockets of time we finally did, and again, silver lining in a pandemic, right? I had been getting every excuse under the sun not to close the office on Fridays in the month of July for like my last four years here, well, this year we finally did it. And, you know, we’re encouraging people to do that. So that’s one. Like, you’ve got to see this as a long distance race.
Dr. Santelises [01:12:43] The second is that they have to begin thinking about how this plays out within their school community. And we, to your point, have school leaders that totally rocked during this time. But it was because they had already built relationships and a culture of collaboration in their schools prior to this guy. Right. So the people that had cohesive school cultures that had relationships with their families, they were fantastic. And I could tell because those were the strongest [01:13:18]cars [0.0s] coming from families. I mean, everybody appreciated the work that educators did. But those were the communities where you could tell leaders were balancing. So I would say. Like focus on making sure you have those cohesive cultures. And then we have to. And by we I mean, those of us who weren’t leading from a district level, not a school level, have to give enough space for school leaders to customize with children and families in mind and be able to do that is not waiting for me to send you a list or Chief Davis or anybody else to send you a list with. These are the 55 things. But some of this is about proactive, creative thinking with in some of the big decisions that we have to make because they know their communities best and to not be afraid to give us your best ideas, because I still hold that some of our best ideas and solutions to issues, particularly over the last four months, have come from teachers and principals.
Dr. Santelises [01:14:15] So principals have the hardest job in the district as far as I’m concerned. And that includes mine. I probably have a more publicly difficult job, but they have a real linchpin job. So I’ve been encouraging them with that. And we’re having discussions about how to reenter and not just from a physical standpoint, but also from a community standpoint, a wellness standpoint, and realizing that we still are the institution charged with teaching and learning. So plan the first days well so that you actually can go deep on the on the teaching and learning as well.
Kaya [01:14:51] Dr. Soja Santelises. Thank you so much for the gift of your time, of your head, of your heart. Thank you for showing our listeners sort of what it’s really like to think about this from a leadership perspective. And thanks for friendship and thank you for being a fierce fighter for our children. Pod Saved the People is lucky to have you as a friend and an ally. And we’re all lucky to have you as a district leader in this country. Thank you so much. And come back again soon.
Dr. Santelises [01:15:26] Absolutely. You know, chatting with you is always is always wonderful cause in my day in the crazy. So I appreciate it. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
DeRay [01:15:40] My advice for this week is that when it gets tough, do the work and the moments where I am the most challenged, when I am a little withdrawn, when my hope is being really sort of put to the fire. I, just makes me double down on the work that I take, naps, naps are my sort of, or like laying down is how I reset. And it works for me, but I just get back up and I just do the work again, not because I’m a workaholic, but because I know that I got in to this field, into this space, because I know that we can change all of these outcomes in this lifetime, that this is not a three hundred year solution. This is a set of solutions that we can do right now. And I believe in that. So when I get challenged, I just hunker down and do the work. Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning in to Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out. Make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple podcasts or somewhere else. We’ll see you next week.