We celebrate the achievements of women during Women’s History Month in March as the Virginia School Boards Association has also designated it Equity in Education Month. While women have made great strides in the pursuit of equality over the years, equity remains a work in progress for women and in the educational arena.
When we talk about equality, it means each individual or group of people are given the same resources and opportunities, regardless of circumstances. One example of women achieving equality would be the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing American women the right to vote. Equity, on the other hand, recognizes that each individual has different circumstances and needs, meaning different groups of people need different resources and opportunities in order to thrive.
I came to Alexandria City Public Schools in 2005 and served as a special education teacher at George Washington Middle School, Francis C. Hammond Middle School and Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School. I continue to be proud to represent women in education. I was first elected to the Alexandria School Board District C in November 2018 and am the second African American female to be elected as board chair, following Shirley Tyler.
While women had to fight for the right to be afforded an education, we have always been a driving force in putting the focus on the importance of education in one’s life. Former First Lady Abigail Adams was an early advocate for women’s rights. She was also a vital confidant and advisor to her husband John Adams, the second U.S. president. She opposed slavery and was vocal in her support of women being educated.
Our first lady today, Jill Biden, Ph.D., imparts her wisdom in the classroom at Northern Virginia Community College where she has worked since 2009. During a U.S. Department of Education Equity Summit Series in June of 2021, Biden said schools nationwide have long grappled with issues of inequity, especially among students of color, those from low-income homes, students with disabilities and English language learners. She stressed that as we recover from the pandemic, “It’s on all of us to ensure we don’t return to the same broken systems of the past, but build back better than before.”
I am proud to say that, in ACPS, we work every day to level the playing field as we move forward the 2025 ACPS Strategic Plan: Equity for All mission. The strategic plan is visionary in that it addresses barriers to learning and sets clear division-wide priorities and programs aimed at eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps as our work moves forward. In an effort to measure progress, on March 11 ACPS is launching its second Equity for All Climate Survey. It will be available online in four languages and we await the feedback from our students, staff and families. This is our way of ensuring that no child, for any reason, is left behind.
Providing access to an equitable education opens doors. Likewise, workplace equity helps women move forward in their career path. Women comprise the majority of staff at ACPS and the number of women in leadership roles continues to rise. ACPS’ chief technology officer, acting chief of facilities & operations, director of capital programs, planning and design and director of maintenance and custodial services are all women, to name a few. In fact, 12 out of the 18 positions on the ACPS Senior Leadership Team are posts held by talented women.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, the National Women’s History Alliance theme for 2022 is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” This theme is a tribute to the work of caregivers and frontline workers during the pandemic. It also serves as recognition of the countless ways women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history.
This month, as we reflect on women’s history, we see how it has been filled with struggles and triumphs and realize how each step we take moves us forward toward achieving equity.
The writer is chair of the Alexandria School Board.