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    Candidate Brandon Hersey

    The Seattle School Board selected Brandon Hersey as one of the three finalist candidates for the District VII School Board Director position on August 21.

    Please note: because we are committed to publishing a website that is accessible to all our readers including those who need ADA accommodations and language translations, we have not published PDF documents such as resumes the candidates may have submitted during the application process or links to non-Seattle Public Schools' PDF documents submitted with their questionnaire responses.

    Letter of Interest

    A photo of Brandon HerseyI was raised in a family of proud black educators. Before she passed away, my mother taught history at my hometown high school where my sister currently serves as Assistant Principal. Throughout my childhood, I saw the lifelong impact that a teacher of color can have on students from marginalized communities.

    Like many families of color, education was our sole means of mobility and opportunity. As an educator myself, I work to provide that same access and opportunity to my students. However, factors such as institutional racism, income inequality and inequitable practices, place students of color further away from educational equity and justice.

    Last March, the Seattle School Board approved a strategic plan that sets the goals and vision of our district. It codified the commitment to narrowing opportunity gaps, ensuring access and providing excellence in education for every student, especially boys of color. To fully realize this vision, we need leadership that reflects the communities it aspires to serve and to hold itself accountable to its mission.

    As a black man, educator. and union member, I humbly seek this opportunity to advocate for the students and families of south Seattle as the District 7 Board Director.

    In the classroom, I have learned the profound effect that leadership and policy founded in equity can have on students. The students in our district need curriculum that reflects their culture, identity and lived experiences. I have learned that if our state continues to fail to fully fund education, we must go to Olympia and fight for it. Our community needs leaders with classroom experience who are willing to advocate for the students, families and educators of south Seattle. I will bring these lessons to the Seattle School Board in order to create effective policy to fully accomplish the vision of the Strategic Plan. As a former policy analyst for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, I’m uniquely qualified to develop and evaluate policy in the interest of our students.

    South Seattle is my home. I’m committed to ensuring that all of our kids have bright futures. I serve as a scoutmaster to Troop 008 in Rainier Beach, an African American scout troop. I’ve watched these young men develop into future leaders. I want that same vision of opportunity and prosperity for every child in District 7 and beyond.

    If appointed, I will work with my fellow board directors to narrow the opportunity gap, champion an ethnic studies curriculum that details the rich history of the communities in our city and develop both social and fiscal policy that supports our students, as well as their families and educators.

    As a board, we have the responsibility to improve the educational outcomes for our students. I will be a leader who brings the experience of working directly with students and families, the experience of developing complex policy and who is a member of the communities most deserving of educational justice. I would be honored to have your support.

    Resume or Related Experience

    EDUCATION

    University of Washington Graduate School of Education: Accelerated Certification for Teachers (July 2017)

    University of Southern Mississippi, Honors College: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science & Communication Studies (May 2014)

    EMPLOYMENT/EXPERIENCE

    Primary School Teacher: Rainier View Elementary, Federal Way Public School District (August 2016 - present)

    Campaign Field Director: State Senator Joe Nguyen (August 2018 - November 2018)

    Policy Analyst: Washington, DC. Division of Economic Independence, Office of Planning Research & Evaluation, Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families. Assisted in the development and evaluation of national and state level social safety net policy. (June 2014 - June 2016)

    Legislative Debate Coach: Hattiesburg High School, Mississippi. Coached over 75 students and went to numerous debate tournaments across the country. (August 2011 - May 2014)

    Special Assistant to Dean of Students: University of Southern Mississippi (January 2011 - May 2014)

    LEADERSHIP and PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

    Black Caucus Leadership Team: Washington Education Association (June 2019 - present)

    Representative Assembly Elected Delegate: Washington Education Association. Presented and debated WEA policy proposals with over 1000 WEA members. (April 2019)

    Executive Board Membership Action Committee Chair: Federal Way Education Association. Led FWEA lobbying efforts connecting FWEA members with their state senators and legislators. (November 2018 - present)

    Bargaining Support Team: Federal Way Education Association, Zone Captain (Summer 2018)

    Building Representative: Federal Way Education Association (September 2018 - June 2019)

    Math Curriculum Leadership Team: Federal Way Public Schools, Second Grade Team Member (September 2017 - present)

    School Leadership Team: Rainier View Elementary (September 2018 - present)

    Positive Behaviors Incentives and Supports Site Team Member: Rainier View Elementary (September 2018 - Present)

    Instructional Data Team, Second Grade Lead: Rainier View Elementary (September 2018 - present) Professional Learning

    Community (PLC) Lead (September 2018 - June 2019)

    Student Support Team Member: Rainier View Elementary (September 2017 -2018)

    Technology Integration Coach: Federal Way Public Schools (September 2017 - present)

    Technology Leadership Team: Federal Way Public Schools (September 2017 - present)

    Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (April 2012 - Present)

    Board Member: DREAM of Hattiesburg Board of Directors. Non-profit organization centered around youth drug and alcohol use prevention (Fall 2011 - 2013)

    FELLOWSHIPS, SCHOLARSHIPS, and COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

    Henry M. Jackson Foundation Leadership Fellow (June 2017- June 2018)

    Assistant Scoutmaster: Boy Scouts of America Troop 008. Rainier Beach, Seattle. Led troop of 15 boys ages 11-15 through the scouting curriculum, community service projects and outdoor activities. (January 2017-Present)

    Harry S. Truman Democracy Fellow: Awarded to Truman Scholars with proven leadership in managing political campaigns (May 2015 -May 2016)

    Harry S. Truman Albright Fellow: Awarded to Truman Scholars serving in the federal government (June 2014 - June 2016)

    Harry S. Truman Scholar: National award for college juniors committed to careers in public service (February 2013)

    Ronald E. McNair Scholar: Extensive graduate school preparation & undergraduate research project (June 2013 - June 2014)

    Candidate Hersey 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?

    This community is my home. Ever since moving to Seattle, my fiancé, Elizabeth, and I have laid down deep roots here. For the past several years, I have worked closely with organizations such as Fathers and Sons Together (FAST) which works to empower the relationship between fathers and their sons and the Seattle-Rainier Lions Club which supports various youth organizations and schools. One of my most fulfilling commitments has been with the Scouts of Troop 008, the only African American scout troop in Washington State. Being a part of these young men’s lives has given me a unique view into their experiences as Seattle Public School (SPS) students. While mentoring these young black men, I have heard their struggles, worked through their problems and celebrated their successes both inside and outside of the classroom.

    Earlier this school year, one of my scouts came to me with a problem he was facing at school. He told me he was struggling in science, and his teacher was not helping him improve. He said that no matter how hard he tried, he could not remember the material when taking the exam. The next week he brought me his notes and we reviewed the material together. It turned out that he had never been taught how to properly take notes. After working with him on skills to improve his note-taking, his grades progressively improved and he proudly earned a B in the course.

    As a scoutmaster I have worked directly with the very students our district’s 2019-24 Strategic Plan aims to uplift. What I have learned is that the students are yearning for more educators who understand and look like them, who are willing to go the extra mile to help them succeed. They need curriculum that is engaging and reflects their lived experiences as black and brown boys growing up in a place like Seattle. Most importantly, they seek opportunity so that they can succeed and afford to live in the neighborhoods where they grew up.

    In order to best serve our youth, we need a board director who is able to not only serve as a representative, but a catalyst of change for the community. I foresee growing my relationships in several ways. First, holding and maintaining regular office hours at school and community locations, such as the Rainier Beach Community Center and the Columbia City Library. Areas like these are easily accessible by public transit and provide more opportunity for community engagement. I will also connect with parents, families and community members through online avenues, such as social media. I will seek to build our community ties by hosting events to come together and meet one another, because when we interact with each other, we begin to empathize with one another.

    I have earned the dual endorsement of former Board Director Betty Patu and Rainier Beach High School PTSA President Gloria Biggs. With their knowledge, parent expertise and the experiences of the youth that I mentor and educate as my guiding principles, I will work tirelessly to strengthen my relationships with organizations such as the numerous PTSAs, the Seattle Education Association, the Washington Education Association, the South East Seattle Education Coalition, non-profit organizations and other education and advocacy organizations. I plan to develop policies and help safeguard programs, such as Rainier Beach High School’s International Baccalaureate Program, that truly support our youth beyond their years as SPS students.

    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?

    I understand that the three primary roles of a School Board Director are to manage the budget, hire/evaluate the Superintendent, and to develop policies in the interest of students and their families. This means making tough choices and having the courage to act boldly while always placing the students at the center of every decision. A School Board Director must also serve as an advocate of the district they represent. For me, this means making sure District VII schools are equitably funded based on SPS’s commitment to racial equity as outlined in the Strategic Plan and Board Policy No. 0030. I am aware that these various roles may conflict at times. I will be a Board Director who will not only address this conflict but work with all stakeholders to find solutions.

    We as a community must continue to build our understanding of one another, and we as board members must value student experience as well as parent and educator expertise when making decisions and developing policies. As an educator, union leader, and advocate of educational equity, I have worked across these sectors and understand the importance of community partnership and voice.

    Going forward, the School Board must continue to develop policies and practices that build toward a shared vision of equity for our students. Our district needs a Board Director who is ready and capable of delivering on that mission. I look forward to learning and working with my fellow Board Directors in order to champion a vision of prosperity for all kids, especially those furthest away from educational justice. I envision pursuing a productive relationship with our Superintendent, because as I have learned through my time in the classroom that it takes all of us working together to make meaningful change. Along with our students, the SPS staff is the heartbeat of this district. We must work to understand and hear their needs when creating policies. I envision developing a relationship founded in trust with the staff as we work toward our shared goals.

    “The public” encompasses students, families, residents, union members, advocates, elected officials, etc. Growing up my mother always told me, “It takes more than a village to raise a child, it takes a community.” South Seattle is one of the most loving and resilient communities I have ever encountered. I hope to work with our community to raise, support and educate our children, together.

    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.

    The Seattle Public School District is leading the country with one of the most progressive strategic plans in our region and nation. This is largely attributed to the families, community members, educators, administrators and board directors whose coordinated efforts created a Strategic Plan on which we can build bright futures for all of our kids. Now that we have this plan, it is time to effectively allocate our money and resources to realize these goals. This means making sure we have people on the school board with the same lived experiences as the students and families they are serving. I can fill this position, as an educator of color who currently supports students and their families every single day in the classroom.

    Focusing on the students furthest away from educational justice means looking at our most vulnerable students and communities through a holistic lens. Black, brown, multilingual, and students in special education are often marginalized and their needs are seldom completely met. No two students are the same, and neither are their needs. We must approach all issues with equity as the foundation in our decision-making process, this means measuring the racial and social impact of every board action. According to our Strategic Plan, our primary responsibility is to boldly and courageously lift up our black and brown students in order to best prepare them for a future they want, not a future they are forced into due to systemic racism, Seattle’s housing crisis or the crippling opportunity gap.

    During my first year in education, I was the only African American teacher in my school serving a growing population of black and brown kids, many of whom were transfers from south Seattle. When February rolled around, I was ecstatic to share my first Black History Month as a teacher with our students. However, when I asked my students if they were excited for Black History Month, few of them knew what it was. The same was true for the majority of our students throughout the building. The next year, I took ownership over Black History Month for our building, sharing classroom resources with my colleagues and planning an assembly celebrating the lives of civil rights leaders.

    Focusing on the students furthest away from educational justice means that we have to immediately develop and adopt a robust ethnic studies curriculum that spans beyond February. We also need to revamp the Highly Capable Core, reduce counselor caseload, hire more librarians, and financially support our most outdated and overcrowded schools, many of which are located in District VII. I believe we must also improve school nutrition and create a student-to-teacher pipeline program. We can accomplish all these things by working more closely with the legislature and Seattle City Council in order to close our funding gap. We need to not only recruit teachers of color but must improve retention rates by supporting and compensating them appropriately as professionals.

    Our Strategic Plan is only as strong as the leaders who will work to implement it. I will be a Board Director who centers student needs, my direct classroom experience as an educator, our families’ expertise and educator feedback at the core of every decision in order to realize our Strategic Plan’s full potential and to truly serve the students furthest away 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.

    Last year during a staff meeting our school reviewed our discipline data on the basis of race. Our African American and Latinx students were receiving more out-of-school multiday suspensions than their white peers. These black and brown students were spending more time outside of the classroom, therefor missing out on valuable instruction. This is one of the many ways I have witnessed the effects racism has on education.

    Seattle has a long history of racism in education dating back to the days of bussing and redlining; the effects of which are still felt in classrooms and communities today. Racism affects education in numerous ways. It is clear in our housing crisis, income inequality and opportunity gap. All of these forces have detrimental impacts on the classroom. When compounded with culturally unresponsive teaching practices, inequitable discipline/expulsion rates and PTA funding inequities, the students furthest away from educational justice, often times students of color, bare many of the consequences.

    When looking to implement the vision of Policy No. 0030, Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity, we must keep students and their experiences at the center of the conversation. The policy details avenues to racial equity which share several overarching themes. First, we must provide students with high quality curriculum taught by educators who look like them. Next, we must provide those educators with consistent and robust racial equity and implicit bias training in order to support their culturally responsive instruction and narrow the opportunity gap. Lastly, we must frequently review existing policies and procedures using a racial equity lens. If appointed, I will work with my fellow board directors to realize these goals.

    The district has already taken several steps toward implementing this policy through its equity tiers and teams, but there is much more work to be done. We can address racial predictability, the concept that a child’s educational outcomes can be predicted by their race, by building a workforce that reflects the diversity of our district. I detail steps to achieve this in my response below.

    If appointed, I will champion an ethnic studies curriculum that begins earlier than high school. By this point, students have already lost many opportunities to celebrate their history and culture in an academic setting. We must include student, parent, educator and community voice at every phase of policy development and implementation in order to best serve District VII. We can do this by conducting racial impact analyses for every board policy and action. In many ways, Policy No. 0030 laid the groundwork for our Strategic Plan, now it’s up to us as a board in partnership with educators, district staff and the community, to achieve these goals.

    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)?

    As a current classroom educator, I have seen firsthand what students, especially those of color, are lacking in their day-to-day experience. If we as a district are truly committed to narrowing the opportunity gap, we must work to reimagine the classroom experience of the students furthest away from educational justice. For me, this means focusing on the adoption of a K-12 ethnic studies curriculum and developing strategies to recruit and retain more educators of color in our district.

    The ethnic studies curriculum work began in 2017 with a resolution brought forth by the NAACP and adopted by the Seattle School Board. The development of curriculum has already begun. Once completed and reviewed by families and the community, if appointed, I would advocate that the board move on Board Policy No. 2015, Selection and Adoption of Instructional Materials, and adopt the curriculum through a similar manner as the Since Time Immemorial (STI), tribal sovereignty curriculum. As an educator, with experience in district wide curriculum development, I would work to continue and expand this effort with an emphasis on grades K-5 in order to lay an early foundation of equity for our students.

    Furthermore, studies in recent years have shown that having even one teacher of color improves the chances of graduation for students of color (“The long-run impacts of same-race teachers”. Papageorge, et al. 2018). It should be a high priority for our district to recruit and retain educators of color. One of many solutions to this issue is refining our student-to-teacher preparatory pipeline programs. The diversity of our student body is our greatest strength. Who better to provide an equitable education to our future students, than those who matriculated the same system? However, in order to do this, we must make a career in education a sustainable option.

    The Seattle Education Association, in partnership with the board and district, has continued to improve the compensation and working conditions of SPS educators and there is still more work to be done. As our housing crisis continues, reports have shown that 30% of teachers living in King County are rent burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. I can attest to this because I currently support a family of two on a teacher's salary and our housing accounts for 50% of our income. We have to take bold and creative action to better support our teachers both inside and outside of the classroom or we will not be able to retain educators of color that we recruit. I believe that continuing our work with the Seattle Teacher Residency program and coordinating our efforts with other stakeholders is one of many paths forward to achieving this goal.

    Improving the classroom experience does not stop with more teachers of color and the ethnic studies curriculum, we must also champion social and economic justice for our most vulnerable students. This means increasing funding for special education, hiring more counselors to address the mental health needs of our students and finding ways to make PTA funding models more equitable. It is no secret that our state is in an educational funding crisis. Many might argue that the School Board is constrained in just how much power it has over funding, but I believe that if we increase coordination with other sectors of government, such as the Seattle City Council and legislature we can work together to tackle these issues.

     

    Community questions and candidate responses:

    What will you be doing to support foster care kids/families getting in-school supports? This is a racial equity issue and our schools are not built to support the unique needs of our kiddos. I had a hard time enrolling my kid in Franklin because the school didn't want to take her- citing they didn't have the resources in place. They pointed out that they only have one special education teacher and since my kid only needed help in one subject I can't even imagine how hard it is for kids who need more support. I hope the district will partner with Treehouse more- would you support public school partnerships with nonprofits? How would you keep the pressure for more funding and support for our schools while also navigating partnerships?

    Thank you for your question. As a Board Director I would support more community partnership. Students in foster care are a part of the “students furthest away from educational justice” as described in the Strategic Plan adopted by the Seattle School Board. Community and nonprofit partnerships are critical in meeting the diverse needs of all students. Nonprofit organizations, such as Treehouse, provide unique expertise that should be valued and utilized by the board when developing policies. I also believe Treehouse and the board have a shared vision of success for students in foster care; especially as it relates to the goal of matching the graduation rates of their peers by 2022.

    Addressing another part of your question; we need to expand special education funding in order to provide more support for our schools. Our district and state are in dire need of more special education teachers, supports and counselors. As a Board Director I will work closely with Seattle legislators and policy makers to develop funding solutions that will meet the needs of our district and students.

    If you are appointed, what will be your commitment and process for hearing from traditionally underrepresented constituents in district 7 who you will represent? Hosting regular forums? Visiting youth serving community-based organizations and schools?

    Thank you for your question. If appointed I will put traditionally underrepresented constituents and communities at the center of my focus. As a black man, I know how the public education system has systematically marginalized communities of color for generations. In order to undo this marginalization, I and the other board directors must find new ways to include these communities into the conversation. We can do this in the ways you mentioned and must also take it a step further. This includes thinking thoughtfully on where and when we hold our meetings. Taking into account questions such as: are these locations easily accessible by public transportation? Are they accessible by all members of the community? Does the timing of these forums work for working families? Can we expand our engagement through online avenues? The bottom line is that there needs to be improvements in how we engage our communities and I am committed to working with SPS families to do so. As an assistant scoutmaster in Rainier Beach, I understand the value of forming close ties with community-based organizations. If appointed I will prioritize visiting youth-serving organizations and schools with the aim of developing partnerships to best support our students.

    Do you intend to serve your full term? Will you vow to do so? How do you plan to engage the community in the board's decision-making process and promote transparency? What is your plan to close the opportunity gap within SPS? How can the board ensure that schools are adequately funded and that taxpayer dollars are being used effectively to benefit all students? Will you attend all scheduled school board meetings and create opportunities for members of the community to meet with you regularly?

    These are all very important questions. Yes, if appointed I intend to serve the full term and run for reelection. I believe consistency in leadership is paramount when implementing policies focused on equity. We need board directors who are committed to seeing policy implementation through to completion. I plan to engage the community by consulting the students and families at every step of the process, we cannot make sound effective policies without your voices and guidance. Closing the opportunity gap in SPS is a multilayered problem and will require multilayered solutions; beginning with increased funding and rethinking funding allocations. We have to follow the vision of Policy No. 0030, Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity, adopted by the Seattle School Board and continue to develop more equitable funding allocation models in coordination with the city and state. As well as, pushing the ethnic studies curriculum work forward and expanding the diversity of our workforce. We can ensure our schools are adequately funded by lobbying the legislature and properly allocating the revenue generated by the Building Excellence V (BEX V) levy.

    I will attend all regularly scheduled board meetings. I will also hold regular community meetings both in-person and online to best support District VII students, families and constituents. These strategies will allow for greater transparency of the board’s decision-making process.