School Board Candidate Statement: Toya Groves

Thursday October 09, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM

My name is Toya Groves and I represent the population of Berkeley often criticized for their lack of political involvement. I represent whole heartedly the youth who come from these communities and their victimization by policies like No Child Left Behind. I represent the youth who has been suspended or expelled from this district as early as middle school, and who are forgotten about or shifted out of the district without proper representation, to maintain statistical mandates. Suspension and expulsion and large time spans of no education does not just mean the lack of higher education , or the lack of a job, it could very well mean destructive behavior and violent deaths. As adults we must take responsibility for all our children and deal with the threat of violence in our schools and community in a holistic way. This is a mental health issue similar to teenage suicide. Our suspension and expulsion policies must be re-evaluated because those kids we kick out of school do not just disappear they end up dead or incarcerated!  

With the onset of huge budget cuts passed down from our state government, clever and insightful financial policies should be implemented to off set the impacts of such cuts. Collaborations with community based organizations and local colleges are now essential to maintaining our high standard of education.  

BUSD staff all though diverse in many ways does not demographically represent its student population. I think this is a direct reflection of low proficiency in our Black and Latino Students. When analyzing test scores, drop out rates, and suspension data, the majority of students with low test scores, high drop out rates, and high suspension and expulsion hearings, are either African American or Latino. We need to find our way around policies that are not maintaining the mission of our schools. It is time to reconnect with the past that invigorated us to be the first school to address steps to truly diverse schools. Community and schools must work together with the intention to motivate and embrace ALL students. I support initiatives, like the 20/20 Vision recently created to tackle the achievement gap; however I want to make sure the missions of these programs are successful. This achievement gap is a threat to my own children, who according to statistics could fall victim to, because they come from an economically disadvantaged family, are African American, and come from a single parent home.  

I recently became involved in land use policies when the Ashby Flea market was almost sacrificed for Commercial Development. This battle wedged between groups that usually advocated together. I was elected co-chair of the Ashby Bart Task force as a secret advocate for the flea market. I sat amidst architects and land developers and learned I was alone on this board because most members were hand selected by a land developer SBNDC. I watched as cultural value, historical landmark, and environmental impact policies, were pushed aside in the name of so called affordable housing. I argued that the flea market was one of the last accurate representations of Historic Berkeley. During this experience I became familiar with CEQA and rallied to use historical landmark preservation and the cultural impact policy of CEQA to defend the flea market as a valuable “open space” necessary for the healthy environment of the community. I also used CEQA to defend Kandy’s Car Wash. I founded the Four Corners Association to stop and encourage BioFuel Oasis to find a different location to rebuild their new station. Unfortunately the pursuit of green economic viability outweighed human value, historical significance, and the South Berkeley Area Plan, and Kandy’ s Car wash, which was a staple of the South Berkeley Community, shut down. This displaced “unemployable” employees and left them with no alternative source of work. It discouraged South Berkeley Youth who often worked at the Car Wash to earn petty cash. As Kai Crowder, a BYA youth and B-Tech student said “With out Kandy’s, South Berkeley would not be South Berkeley.”  

Teaching in Oakland enabled me to figure out clever ways of inspiring youth to learn. Tragically many of our brightest children are masked behind low self esteem, socio-economic barriers, and emotional trauma. We must be qualified to effectively deal with these issues if we wish to close the achievement gap of our youth. The youth of today are confronted with unique and devastating circumstances. When “No Child Left Behind” was implemented and the demand for credentialed teachers was put in place, many effective and great teachers who where not credentialed, were forced to find other careers. This made room for teachers who lacked the cultural competency to deal with the youth on the low end of the achievement gap. We must have a faculty that reflects the students, demographically, culturally, and economically. There is no way to effectively teach African American and Latino Students without African American and Latino Teachers.  

I have chosen to run for BUSD School Board, because I care about educating all students. In a city representing equality and diversity, it is absurd that there are huge populations of youth who are not adequately educated, and therefore not prepared for the world that awaits them. I will bring new and fresh ideas that will positively affect policy. I am different from other candidates, because I represent a population that is most commonly isolated from school reform initiatives and city politics. I am a single mother of three children in three different schools in Berkeley. I recognize the plights of parent and teacher. I am on two PTA’s and a recent member of the School Governance Council at both Willard and Emerson School. I am directly affected by school assignment policies and education disparities imposed by socio-economic disadvantages, gentrification, and disenfranchised communities. I am personally and passionately concerned about the obtainment of proper education for all students and will use my experience to bring new ideas to the forefront of Berkeley’s Education Program.