For at least four years now, I have thought about starting a Head of School blog. When we updated our website last year, I thought I might finally get around to making it happen. Now, as we face new times and uncharted territories, it feels imperative to write, to document, and to learn—and to do it online.
Nations across the world are united in a fight against a novel coronavirus. This new day of social distancing requires a renewed commitment to the common good and to community, while at the same time physically separating us from one another. Now, we are forced to realize and utilize the power of technology to transform our ways of living, learning, and relating to one another. Some, like me, are being pushed into new ways in these new days.
One week ago today, our school was bustling with students, teachers, administrative staff, and health volunteers. We worked together to prepare GVP students for the changes ahead and the challenges to come. We practiced logging into new iPads and programs for learning. We talked about homework packets and flu prevention. We ate together, sang together, and sent students home on the buses with plenty of materials and supplies for at-home learning, as well as new thermometers for monitoring wellness and can openers for coming food deliveries. We called each family at home and spoke with parents about what was happening and what they might expect. Then on Friday, staff members delivered food and additional supplies to students and families from our GVP school buses. They checked in with students and picked up completed homework packets. This act of care and connection reinforced our ongoing commitment to students and their families in and out of school.
Today, the school is empty, but we have made it through our first week of the COVID-19 crisis with a focus on flexibility and lifelong learning and a commitment to our mission and community. As a school devoted to serving refugee young women with limited English and interrupted education, we do things differently. Our unique mission and model makes us even more determined to do all that is necessary to provide powerful education in these times, despite the challenges.
There has been recent debate online around issues of equity and educational justice, as schools have closed and nearly 8 million students in the U.S. are missing out on school or moving to remote learning models. Some write about the impossibilities of equity for students with the greatest needs—those with learning differences and disabilities, those who are learning English, those who live in poverty and without access to technology, food, or shelter. There is genuine concern over the intersections of COVID-19, social justice, and education. Some argue that solutions such as online learning further exacerbate and accelerate the gaps between those who have and who do not. I even read a recommendation to end online schooling. While I do not disagree with the arguments made around the inequity of our present educational circumstances, I do also want to suggest that these are not new problems for us. Despite ongoing research and reform, inequity permeates our educational system in the U.S. leaving black and brown students and those living with poverty with consistently lower rates of graduation, college enrollment, and standardized test scores and consistently higher rates of discipline referrals and expulsion.
Educational disparities persist, and Global Village Project exists for these very reasons. The mechanisms for education are not equitable for students like ours at GVP. Refugees are five times more likely to be missing out on school than same age peers, and more than 130 million girls and young women are out of school everyday. Those who do make it to school too often are not provided the step up and the support that they need to succeed. More than 75% never graduate high school. Back in 2009, some very determined dreamers and courageous community members decided to do something completely different—to create a space for educational justice and equity in Decatur, Georgia. GVP is that place.
At GVP, we dream a world, one girl at a time. Over the past decade, we have supported the learning and changed the lives of more than 260 young women. When I think of what each one of these young women has done and will do, when I see the ripple effects of their dreams on our world, my hope for the future grows and I am reassured even in these unsure times. We cannot predict how the spread of coronavirus ultimately will affect schools, but at GVP we are committed to building up students and communities, to bright ideas and creative innovation, to promising practices, and to learning and sharing. I invite you to join our global village, stand in solidarity with our students and families, and dream with us a world where educational access and equity exist for all students.
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.