The Removal of Black Principals in High Poverty and Trauma Schools

Tyra Walker
Tia Kurtsinger-Edison

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) arrives at our schools with clipboard in hand ready to perform their yearly audit. They are there for just a few days observing and looking through IEPs, paperwork, finances, etc. After a few days of the audit, including a few minutes in the classroom, they write up what they observed and decide whether or not the principal is deemed capable of being a leader of their schools with the efforts to improve student achievement. The Kentucky Department of Education’s recommendation was given to the Superintendent and now he has to make the decision to retain or remove the principals. 

One of the many issues that has been brought to my attention is that most of the schools recommended are located in the South End and West End of our school district, with predominantly black and brown students, with low socioeconomic status, with students that have some kind of traumatic experience, and in schools with Black Principals. This is my experience with working with students that deal with trauma, as I work at one of the schools listed in the report. Our babies are dealing with many different emotions due to trauma and they have difficulty expressing how they feel. Therefore, they act out and in ways that sometimes the only thing you can do is hug these babies. Are all of these schools required to teach social skills as a class?   Our school are trauma informed on paper yet not informed when trauma occurs. The district does not have a mechanism for identifying kids in trauma. If someone in the neighborhood gets shot and killed in the street, the school and or principal are not notified unless that person is a student at their school. Violence on one street affects all kids on that street just not just the ones that go to the victims’ school. We need funding to implement a mechanism for identifying students in trauma. We need the system updated to include all educators involved to be notified and all of this cost money. Did all of these principals have what it really takes to address trauma?

The district has provided schools with mental health counselors however, due to the severity of our students in these schools, we need a sense of urgency for more than one mental health counselor. Another concern is that there are some schools with mental health counselors not being utilized. This is due to the parents having private insurance.Therefore, there should be a system in place where some of the mental health counselors without a heavy caseload should go between schools to ensure that students are receiving the assistance they need. Is there an inequity in the caseloads? Is having a TSI or CSI school a contributing factor for this inequitable caseload? 

Our CSI and TSI schools need to have smaller classroom sizes and this would mean more funding for our high need schools. We have 30 plus students in one classroom in what we call a trauma school. This is a system that is setup for destruction because you spend more time putting out fires and deescalating students, and less time teaching or implementing high yielding instruction. There is research and evidence stating smaller classroom sizes helps students learning and sense of belonging, so why is this not a priority in priority schools?  Instead of reassigning principals, we need smaller classrooms and more funding. We need an abundant amount of programs put in place for our minority female students so they feel included. We should be demanding wrap around services not only for the student, but also for the family members. Students are exhibiting trauma, then going home to a distressed caregiver also going through the same trauma. We need to be intentional around identifying students in trauma in real time. 

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