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Celebrating 3 Years of School Transformation in Long Beach


Eighty-plus attendees showed up on May 20th, 2023, to celebrate Year 3 of our Professional Learning Network (PLN), where five high schools have committed to transforming their Long Beach Unified school communities into racially just Relationship Centered Schools. Team members reflected over the past year’s progress and looked to the future for another year of advancing racial equity. Together teams are focused on practicing shared leadership with educators, students, and families. 

School staff’s commitment to shared leadership speaks to the deep, authentic school transformation happening right here in Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD). 

CFJ’s Capacity Building Team (Equity in Action Services) and Long Beach organizers hosted the event in collaboration with LBUSD at Browning High School. The room was filled with student leaders, teachers, administrators, and caregivers from our five participating high schools; Cabrillo, Jordan, Lakewood, Long Beach Poly, and Wilson High Schools. We launched our celebration with each school site sharing their accomplishments, challenges they faced, how they grew as leaders, and their hopes for the coming year. Student leadership shined in this section; not only were students the ones on stage presenting their Moves from the past year, but they uncovered the root causes of inequities in their schools and led their team to where they are today. 

Each school was guided by its equity dilemma that focuses on the school’s most vulnerable BIPOC students. 

The Schools’ Equity Dilemmas

Wilson: Increase a sense of belonging for Black youth.

Cabrillo: Increasing support & accountability towards meeting the needs of Black students for safety (physical and emotional), belonging, and academic excellence.

Long Beach Poly: Provide concrete opportunities where Black & BIPOC student voices are shared & discussed with the Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) with the intention of using student voice to give restorative, authentic, and immediate change to create just and equitable LB Poly campus and community.

Lakewood: Increase academic and individual support and services for Black students.

Jordan: Shifting to an asset-based narrative of Jordan HS with a focus on Black/African American students. One that reflects their growth and future selves uplifts student’s voice and creates a sense of belonging.

This celebration was a culmination of years of dedication and collaboration. We started the Professional Learning Network in 2020 when each high school created unique design teams, made up of administrators, teachers, students and parents, with students of color at the center to set out on this equity journey with us. The design teams learned to listen deeply to voices at the margins, where they then uncovered root causes of inequities by uncovering patterns, hidden stories, and misconceptions. The schools learned the importance of being in partnership with students and families most impacted by equity challenges as opposed to deciding what’s best for them. Their commitment to listening and uncovering led them to re-imagining current approaches in partnership with families, staff, and students. The team decided on a “Move” they would commit to and led with courage. Teams were bold, releasing perfectionism and prioritizing process over product. The result was adults reflecting on their adultism and developing a new mindset. This allowed space for students’ leadership to flourish and for trust to take root.

Through trust, we were able to see the following moves: Poly High School design team members conducted a ‘Truth Campaign’ on campus. Students conducted peer to peer interviews they recorded asking students what they’d want their teachers and staff to know. They then compiled the learnings and shared that back out with the Instructional Leadership Team in the form of recommendations. Jordan students led classroom observations and gave feedback and recommendations for classroom instruction and pedagogy. Lakewood hosted a school-wide cultural fair with community members and culturally responsive resources. Cabrillo started a student-led podcast to expand their reach on campus, and Wilson put on three 1-hour student-led professional developments for all teachers about Relationship Centered Schools. 

During our Closing Institute, we invited Wilson High School Principal Caverly to participate in an empathy interview on shared leadership. Principal Caverly has demonstrated her commitment to centering Black students at Wilson high school and equity work by consistently learning, listening, and moving. In a room full of students, educators, families, administrators, and district staff, Ms. Caverly highlighted how important it is for people in power to “fill in the cracks, always be clear with their staff, that while she is the principal at Wilson High School, as a school they will center Black students.” She named this as the  responsibility of people in power, overcoming the fear of naming racism and privilege, so that we can create schools that value all students holistically. With district staff such as LBUSD Superintendent Jill Baker, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Brown, LBUSD District 4 Board Member and Vice President Douglas Otto, and Strategic Programs and Policy Development Director Viva Mogi in attendance, we hope to see the bold moves that started at these 5 high schools scaled out across the entire LBUSD district. We are glad to share that District commitment is strong for these transformation efforts and look forward to continuing our partnership with LBUSD. 

See here for our Professional Learning Network Toolkit for school transformation. You can find agendas to move through an Equity Transformation Cycle and more! 

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