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    Jason Hahn

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    Letter of Interest

    A photo of Jason HahnMy hopes for my children are like yours: that they grow up in a truly multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy where all share power and justice. And in a school system that empowers them to become lifelong learners. We need to do more to build a school system that values each of our children. Our schools must close the opportunity gap. A school-to-career superhighway can replace the school-to-prison pipeline. And, social-emotional learning is a must-have, not an extra. If we are going to make these gains, we need to empower our families. Their voices and lived experiences will improve our schools.

    As only seven Board Directors, in a district with more than 52,000 students, we cannot be everywhere representing our constituents. We need parents, empowered to participate in decision making in every building. We have a vehicle to do this. Each school has a Building Leadership Team, which makes budgeting, staffing, and strategy decisions. I've served on one. And, while I tried to represent our parents and students adequately, I had limited ability to influence the decisions. Meetings occur at inconvenient times, are full of terms that are indecipherable to outsiders, and, parent members don't have the power to make decisions about budgets or school goals.

    As a Board Director, I will move to ensure those teams have parent representatives who reflect the school's diversity. And, that parents have equal power with teachers and administrators in making all school-based decisions. The district needs to compensate parents for the time they spend on this work. Additionally, as a Board, we need to change policies that impact our children.

    To that end, I will work to:

    • Amend the Strategic Plan to include time-based specific goals. We have discussed the process and vague aims for equity for too long. We need to know concretely what progress to equity looks like and when we will have it.
    • Mandate that Ethnic Studies are rolled out as quickly as possible to every school in our district. At John Muir, I've seen our children empowered when we start talking about the real history of this country.
    • Advocate for an end to all out-of-school suspensions district-wide. It is destructive to the child, and it is discriminatory: 3.5% of our male students vs. 1.9% of our female students are suspended or expelled; 5.7% of special education students vs. 1.9% of non-special education students are suspended or expelled. We can do much better.
    • Advocate for an end to the use of restraint and isolation in our schools. These interventions hurt kids and, often, adults, too. They are also used far too frequently with our students in special education: more than 85% of students restrained in 2017-2018 had IEPs.

    I look forward to learning more about your hopes for District 7 during this process. Please know as a Director, I will fight for each of our children to receive the education they deserve.

    Resume or Related Experience

    My oldest child is in special education. He received four out-of-school suspensions this year. He has been restrained and isolated in the school on multiple occasions. I've sat in the principal's office and wondered if this is how my son is going to start the school-to-prison pipeline.

    Our family has borne the consequences of a school system that reacted far to slowly to our calls to help our son. And when it did respond, did not use evidenced-based interventions that are shown to help kids like him. We've been able to make things better for our son by using what we acknowledge is our privilege. We had the time and the money to intervene both personally and legally. That intervention, coupled with a fantastic special education teacher who began working with our son, has made things start to look up. It doesn't need to be this hard, though.

    We can do better for our students by ending all out-of-school suspensions and the use of restraint and isolation. We can ensure that every student participates in the day-to-day life of a classroom in a way that matches their abilities. We can make social-emotional learning an integral part of every school and train teachers and administrators on how to use it.

    I’m hopeful we can build a better school system here in Seattle. In the faces of my son's schoolmates and friends, who hail from many backgrounds, and speak many different languages at home, I see the future of this country and our city. We have many staff members and parents who also see this and are building a school that empowers all of our students.

    This is my lived experience that I will bring to the Board of Directors. Additionally, my dad was a school superintendent, and my mom, a first-grade teacher with 30 years of experience. I grew up helping my dad run PowerPoint presentations he did at conferences on how including special education students in general education classrooms was better for everyone.

    I'm a husband, father, and member of the John Muir PTA. I serve on the leadership team of my church and the board of directors of Compass Housing Alliance. And, I'm also proud to be a Husky with an MBA from UW. I met my wife when we both served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Niger, where we worked to get parents to send their daughters to school. After that, I served as an American diplomat in Haiti, the United Kingdom, and Benin explaining our country. Now, I’m a small business person helping progressive leaders tell their stories. Working together, let's write a true story of how we created a school system in which every child succeeds.

    Candidate Hahn Questionnaire Responses

    On July 16, candidates were asked to provide responses to five School Board-selected questions and asked to select three questions submitted by community members in a recent survey. Read the submitted questions from the community.

     

    Board-selected questions and candidate responses:

    1. What is your connection to the Southeast Seattle District VII community, schools, families, and students? How do you foresee growing or expanding on those connections and relationships in your role as a school board director?

    Our connection with the community is deeply bound up in the education of our children. We have made friends from across District 7 - parents, educators, and students - throughout this journey. We started at Sunrise Daycare on 25th in the Central District, we continued at Magic Lantern Montessori in Hillman City, and now we are at John Muir Elementary School in Mt. Baker. Our kids play in the Rainier Valley District Little League and on Beacon Hill Youth Soccer. We have lived here in the Rainier Valley for more than a decade.

    I’m proud of what we have accomplished on the John Muir PTA. And serving for two years as a parent representative on our Building Leadership Team opened my eyes to how our schools are really run. This is our home, these are our schools. And I can think of no greater opportunity to give back to this community, which has given our family so much, than to work to improve our schools as a Board Director.

    As a director, I will continue to build new connections with our community. I will reach out to our community-based organizations and our PTAs and PTSAs to better understand the needs they see for our children. I will go to our local employers, especially in the construction trades and technology industry, to learn more about how we can better connect our students with family-wage jobs here in Seattle. I will meet with our staff members and their union representatives to ensure we are doing all we can to make SPS a great place to work. And, I will build connections with our students through their student governments and other groups to learn more about how they experience SPS.

    2. What is your understanding of the role of school board director? How do you foresee working with your fellow directors, the superintendent, staff, and the public?

    At the highest level, as Directors, we must ensure our children receive the education they deserve to prosper. Our primary tool to achieve a high-quality education is to hire a Superintendent who can implement our goals. We build policy and budgets that create the conditions for student-centered learning, that follow the law, and are good uses of the money entrusted to us by our neighbors.

    I will work with my constituents, district staff, fellow Directors, and our students by listening first and speaking last. While I will be civil, I will never back down in advocating for what the children in District 7 need.

    3. How do you think Seattle Public Schools is doing? Do you support the district’s recently adopted strategic plan — why or why not? What does focusing on students that are the furthest from educational justice mean to you? Read the district's strategic plan.

    We can do much better. We need to move from a system of schools to a school system. A comprehensive strategic plan that applies to all schools can help us do this.

    I support the overall goal of the strategic plan to focus on our students furthest from educational justice. I am concerned the strategic plan lacks essential components - time-bound goals with strategies to meet them.

    The strategic plan also depends on standardized testing to show if we are meeting our goals. Standardized testing is hopelessly flawed with racial and gender bias.

    Instead we should use attendance and graduation rates as well as student, family, and staff attitudes toward our schools to measure success.

    When our children are happy to come to school, our families feel respected by the school system, and our staff members feel SPS is a great place to work, we will succeed.

    Focusing on students who are furthest from educational justice means focusing on those students our district serves the worst. It means placing them at the center of the educational experience we provide.

    I agree with the strategic plan that students furthest from education justice are “students from certain ethnicities [that] have not historically experienced equitable opportunities for all or part of their educational journey (including African and African American, Asian Pacific Islander and Pacific Islander, LatinX, and Native American students)”. I would add that our students in special education are also very far from educational justice.

    4. How does racism affect education in Seattle? What are your ideas for implementing School Board Policy No. 0030, Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity? Read Policy 0030.

    We see racism reflected in the educational outcomes of our students, the use of discipline, and the composition of our staff. One clear example of racism is the demographic composition of our staff.

    We know that our SPS staff is overwhelmingly white while more than 50% of our students are Black, Asian, Latinx, Native, Multi-Racial and Pacific Islander. I have heard anecdotally that teachers of color have left SPS because of a culture at SPS that is unwelcoming to teachers of color.

    We can fix this. One option would be to follow the path taken by Tangipahoa Parish schools in Louisiana. That school district was ordered by federal courts to only hire black teachers until the percentage of black teachers was the same as black students. And it worked. With the passage of I-1000, we have the opportunity to do this in Seattle as well. And, we can make policy to require SPS to hire Black teachers, Latinx teachers, Asian teachers, Native teachers, Pacific Islander teachers, and Multi-Racial teachers until our teaching staff resembles the magnificent diversity of the communities we serve. We will need a district-wide effort to make our teaching staff more diverse and I look forward to collaborating with all of our communities to do this.

    Additionally, we also must move beyond the commitments made in Policy 0030 to fully embrace an anti-racist pedagogy. We need to teach our children about structural racism in the United States and equip them with the tools to dismantle it. As a white man, I wish I had an anti-racist education growing up. It has taken me far too long to understand the structural racism present in the US and its deleterious effects on our country. We need to turn each of our children into anti-racist activists so that when their generation takes power in America they are equipped to dismantle the legacy of structural racism and white supremacy.

    In the short term, we need to increase funding for our Ethnic Studies program and authorize the hiring of at least two additional staff members to work on Ethnic Studies. This program is research-based, very cost-effective, and has the potential to make Seattle a national leader in Ethnic Studies. But we need to act with more expediency.

    5. What do you want to focus on as a school board director and why? How do you foresee doing that work within the constraints of the role (law, existing policy, budget, staff, and public expectations)?

    I will focus on ensuring all children in District 7 receive the child-centered education they deserve. We do this by empowering parents to make decisions in the schools their children attend. We do this by holding the Superintendent accountable for implementing our strategic plan with time-bound goals. We do this by implementing ethnic studies without delay. We do this by eliminating the use of out-of-school suspensions, isolation, and restraint of our students.

    While respect for the law is essential, we must not allow ourselves to be overly bound by the constraints that others choose to impose. Too often those constraints are manufactured to continue the status quo. And we know the status quo is not working for our children in District 7. I will challenge anyone who attempts to constrain our ability to deliver the education our children are entitled to as Washingtonians.

     

    Community questions and candidate responses:

    By what means and with what expediency will you work to dramatically reduce the number of instances and number of days of punitive school exclusions in District VII schools, especially for African-American students, other students of color, and students with disabilities?

    We need to eliminate the use of punitive school exclusions in SPS. We know that exclusions are meted out in a discriminatory fashion. As a School Director, I will immediately lead an effort to remove, within the constraints of the law, out-of-school suspensions as a disciplinary tool for all grades Pre-K - 12.

    As a parent of a second-grader in special education who SPS suspended repeatedly I know that suspensions do not benefit the child being suspended, do not deter behavior, and don't make our schools safer.

    At a higher level, our student disciplinary system mirrors our criminal justice system with even less due process. As we know that our criminal justice system is inherently racist and discriminates overwhelmingly against African-Americans, it follows that our student discipline system is similar. We need to reimagine our entire means of making school a safe place for every child.

    Southeast Seattle has the largest concentration of diverse (ethnic and linguistic) learners in the district. How will you ensure their unique needs are prioritized at the district level?

    First, we need to be sure we understand the needs of diverse learners in District 7. That starts by engaging with our parents from diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds to ensure they have input into their children's education.

    We also need staff members who understand the needs of diverse students. That means strengthening professional development for existing staff members and encouraging the recruitment and retention of staff members from the diverse communities in our district.

    And we need to do a better job of respecting our students’ diverse religious beliefs. Our PTA at John Muir had to intervene to prevent school events from occurring on holidays of our Muslim students. I know that SPS has also scheduled important events on Jewish holidays. We need to ensure that all school events are welcoming for all of our students.

    How will you improve the food and eating experience for students?

    Joining together for a good meal is an occasion that is shared across the many communities that make their home in District 7. Some of my fondest memories are from our Multicultural nights at John Muir where we gather together to share food from across our community. To improve the food and eating experience:

    First, we need to be sure the food is safe to eat. Our SPS cafeterias, including the central kitchen, are regularly cited for food safety violations. The majority of these violations occur in cafeterias in schools with many low-income students. This is not a problem in neighboring school districts. As a director I will regularly push on this issue until these violations cease. And, insist that the “smiley-face” posters that rate food-safety are also posted at the front door of every school.

    Second, we need to ensure our food choices are responsive to the cuisines of the people who live here in District 7. We are home to the Plate of Nations - our school cafeterias should reflect that. We need to include parent and student voices in choosing the menu.

    Third, we need to give our students plenty of time to calmly eat in a relaxing environment. Twenty minutes isn't enough - there should be at least 30 minutes devoted to lunch.