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Leataata Floyd: The Little School Leading the Way

By Yzabelle Dela Cruz

Under the leadership of Principal Eric Chapman and his dedicated team, Leataata Floyd Elementary School (LFE) in Northwest Land Park has been paving an innovative path for Title I schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District. Schools which serve large numbers of economically disadvantaged children such as LFE – whose students reside in the public housing units of Marina Vista/Alder Grove – are eligible for supplemental federal funding under Title I, intended to provide students with a equitable opportunity for a high-quality education. Given the many challenges that such schools face, including families struggling with poverty, racism and isolation and communities and school districts that are chronically under-resourced, students are subjected to persistent and growing disparities in educational and life outcomes.

LFE has made hard-fought progress over the past several years in providing a safe and healthy learning environment for its students, through pioneering the community schools model in our region. Community schools are hubs that bring educators, families and many community partners together to help students and families succeed through a focus on the whole child and creating positive conditions for learning and support for families and communities. Valley Vision has been one of LFE’s partners in delivering the School2Home Program, which is bridging the Digital Divide and Achievement gap through equitable access to technology, as part of an overall neighborhood transformation strategy. This work is supported by the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), which has invested more than $250,000 over the past four years, through a partnership with LFE, the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD), Sacramento County and the City of Sacramento.

On February 7th, Valley Vision, with generous support from the Stuart Foundation, convened a learning and funders forum with LFE, CETF, the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA), and others to showcase LFE as a community school, highlight the need for equity in our educational system, and explore public/private/philanthropic partnership opportunities to advance progress. The moral imperative for this work: we cannot leave our children behind.

The forum brought over 60 community partners, funders, and school district officials to Marina Vista. Mayor Darrell Steinberg,  Councilmember Steve Hansen and SCUSD Trustee Lisa Murawski kicked off the forum with impassioned support for LFE’s efforts and voiced their intentions to champion LFE, the community and the partners – saying they are “all in.” The Mayor noted the intention to ensure that communities such as Marina Vista/Alder Grove are connected to the inclusive growth investments and initiatives through new Measure U funding.

Insights from Stuart Foundation’s Sophie Fanelli and Koua Franz, CETF Board Chair Barbara O’Connor, and SHRA Development Director Tyrone Roderick Williams set the stage for why are investing in LFE and this community. Anna Maier of Learning Policy Institute (LPI) showed how community schools are effective school improvement strategies, emphasizing that LFE is implementing all four of the full-service community school pillars that LPI has identified as foundational in their research.

Special guest, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Associate Professor at San Francisco State University and the founder of Roses in Concrete Community (charter) School shared the story of how he started the school in Oakland and emphasized the need for systemic educational changes that are rooted in love:

Self-love and love of one’s community needs to be the core component of curriculum and a central value for all staff. Community schools are birthed out of necessity to respond to conditions not built on love. Racism, classism and systemic oppression are hateful and violent, and these systems took centuries to build. We have the power to change the conditions in one generation, but we have to start telling the truth about our history.”

He continued by saying, “Equity isn’t a title change, department creation or job promotion type of problem. It requires full commitment from everyone involved to radically change the current outcome.”

His remarks were followed by a powerful panel discussion between Dr. Duncan-AndradePrincipal Eric Chapman, and Superintendent Jorge Aguilar, about poverty, racism, inequity and opportunity, and the promise of community schools and whole child learning. There was agreement that if conditions aren’t right, there will be no learning, and that love for the children must be at the center of all.

LFE is getting many things right and we will build on the momentum generated from the Forum, where partners and funders were already brainstorming about opportunities and strategies to fulfill the community school model at LFE and see how this approach can be brought to scale across the School District and beyond. As a start, the Stuart Foundation, Learning Policy Institute and the Opportunity Institute are providing additional information about partnership-driven funding opportunities that can add resources for community schools and help mitigate institutional funding challenges. Be on the lookout for more news!

The week following the learning and funders forum, Valley Vision and Leataata Floyd Elementary School attended the School2Home Leadership Academy, a three-day conference held by the California Emerging Technologies Fund. The conference organized time for attendees to meet with their congressional representatives and advocate for School2Home, a program that works to close both the Achievement Gap and the Digital Divide in low-performing schools throughout California. Leataata Floyd Elementary and Valley Vision were recognized as leaders for the School2Home/Neighborhood Transformation Plan, whereValley Vision managing director, Trish Kelly, and Principal Eric Chapman shared the outcomes of the learning and funders forum to encourage other School2Home programs in addressing inequities in the education system through whole child education and community partnerships.

Yzabelle Dela Cruz is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the Innovation & Infrastructure and Leadership & Civic Engagement impact areas.

Valley Vision’s Trish Kelly also contributed to the writing of this blog.