Santa Barbara School Boardmember Jackie Reid Talks Breaking Barriers to Education

Up for Reelection, Ethnic Studies Champion Doesn’t Want to See Work Undone

“It sounds to me like we don’t have enough staff to move into a hybrid model,” said boardmember Jackie Reid on Tuesday’s decision not to reopen elementary schools this November. | Credit: Courtesy

This interview is part of an ongoing series of candidate profiles ahead of the General Election on November 3, 2020. Stay tuned to our Election 2020 page for all of our latest profiles and election coverage.

Join the Santa Barbara Independent for a discussion with the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education candidates on Thursday, September 24 at 5 p.m. live on Zoom. Register at independent.com/forum.

Incumbent Santa Barbara Unified School Boardmember Dr. Jackie Reid, who’s running for reelection this November, has teaching woven into her DNA. Her father was a professor at UCLA, and her mother was a music teacher. She said her father told her to “work hard and get your education, but then you have to give it back,” and that’s exactly what she did.

Reid holds a master’s and a PhD in education from UC Santa Barbara, was a classroom teacher, and is currently a teacher educator. She has used her education to give back to students facing barriers to education, like when she co-launched her nonprofit in 2012, Teachers for the Study of Educational Institutions (TSEI), which aims to engage teachers in a push to provide more opportunities for all students to learn at grade level.


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With her background working in education and drive to tackle the inequities in the education system, Reid’s more important moves over her four-year term were her leadership on the High School Graduation Requirements Committee to establish ethnic studies as a graduation requirement and her support of initiatives to support equity. 

The Independent sat down with Reid to talk about her previous four years on the Santa Barbara Unified school board and what issues are important to her reelection campaign. The following is a condensed version of the conversation. 

Why is it important for you to stay on the board for a second term? Do you feel like the board accomplished any of the goals you started with in 2016?

Four years ago when I decided to take the leap, it was because I was concerned that there were three open positions and I knew that the board [at that time] had been driving equity, but it was still at a really stagnant pace. One of my main goals was to have ethnic studies be a high school graduation requirement. I remember sitting with [then superintendent] Cary [Matsuoka] and looking at the whiteboard and saying, “We need a framework! We need some kind of plan or strategy to get to this point.” I knew if I could get the role of board president, I could get on the ethnic studies committee, and I wanted to be on that more than anything…. 

Now that we have it, my concern is that I don’t want to see all the work that we have done to get this far to have it removed or pulled back or delayed. And that’s a main motivation to rerun. There are people out there, we know, who are seeing this [ethnic studies] as a detriment, when in fact it is going to ensure achievement for our students. It’s not only because research evidence shows — we know that students who are engaged in seeing themselves in their learning and feel like they are a part of something are going to learn.

Can you speak more in-depth to your experience working with students and your search to level out the equity barriers many students face in the education system?

Over the course of 10 years, I taught in elementary classrooms. I did that until my son was in 4th grade, and I decided to start my own educational consultancy. The reason I wanted to do that was because many of the teachers were challenged in the classroom with behavior and inclusivity. There was a lot of bias and infighting, and I was like, “This is not the way classrooms should be run.” It’s not just about academics; it’s about the environment. 

So I started the consultancy and started doing peer mediation programs. I did it with districts here in Goleta and the Hope district. I trained students to be peer mediators, and I trained the faculty in how to support student leadership around mediation. I volunteered at the No Place for Hate campaign while doing that… Within a year, I became the associate director of the tri counties.

But as I was doing this, though, I knew that the work was important but it was also like putting a Band-Aid on. There’s a root problem here. Why do we keep having these issues? … So I went back to school to get my doctorate and look at systems…. What came out of it was an issue of race. The issue in K-12 schools is that we do not have culturally relevant conversations; students don’t feel their identity is in the curriculum…. So that is why my colleague and I launched the nonprofit Teachers for the Study of Educational Institutions. 

Low literacy and math testing scores have been an issue across the state and in Santa Barbara Unified for years, with little change overall in recent years. Some have publicly criticized the district for its literacy model and services for students with learning disabilities. What is your take?

I know there has been a lot of pushback on the dyslexia program. I honestly think we’ve done a very fine job in piloting the program and developing it…. But I will say that our literacy and academic achievement is not there…. 

What’s currently being devised is very data-driven work where we’re looking and doing a deep dive into each student specifically, like one full page per student that lays out where they are relative to their class, where they should be at their grade, and where they are relative to their school. It is going to be very strategic for each school environment, but with the idea that we want to meet these expectations that we know can be achieved…. This is an opportunity for us to shed light on the work that we are doing and be more strategic in how we connect teachers and students, maybe in pods or small cohorts, that can really support students that have special needs or are emerging multilingual learners.

I think there is an assumption that if you’re helping those who are challenged, then you are taking away and not providing enough for others. We need to be an advocate for all students, not just for students of color or students in need. But in doing so, we have to ensure that the scaffolding is up for those who need it and then each of them are raised to the highest expectations that we can. That ultimately is not taking away from anybody. That is allowing everybody to succeed. 


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