Cabrillo High School and Long Beach Professional Learning Network (PLN)
Californians for Justice (CFJ) is a statewide, youth-powered organization fighting to improve the lives of people of color, immigrants, low-income families, LGBQiA2S+/TGNC youth and other marginalized communities. Through organizing in schools and in their neighborhoods, youth who join Californians for Justice become leaders in their own communities. In 2016, CFJ established a capacity building arm to deepen implementation of local and statewide policy wins by launching Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) with local school districts. CFJ’s capacity building work was fueled by the belief that in order to realize policy wins, we need to address long standing racist beliefs and perceptions of students of color and everyday practices that uphold white supremacy to lead us towards school transformation.
Our main framework for school transformation is centered on establishing Relationship Centered Schools (RCS) in schools throughout California. Although RCS remains our north star for school transformation, we have sharpened our racial justice analysis and our emphasis on Black Liberation. We believe that by naming Black Liberation as the Vehicle for Transforming Schools, California’s public education system will honor cultural and material reparations, become places of healing, and develop students to have self-determination over their lives and their communities. CFJ will lead the Education Justice movement to put power in the hands of Black and Brown youth.
School transformation and advancing racial equity is a process. Californians for Justice has been partnering with Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) for many years and more recently collaborated on a Professional Learning Network (PLN) 1 with 5 high schools where we are doing hands-on equity work with school design teams. Our aim is to support school leaders (administrators, teachers, school staff, students, and families) to lead together and foster radical transformation that addresses historical and institutional racism.
Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) Professional Learning Network (PLN)
Our LBUSD PLN seeks to advance equity and educational justice in at least 5 LBUSD schools by piloting Relationship Centered Schools initiatives that foster a partnership between youth and adults, with BIPOC students at the center. The PLN model is intended to set the foundation for long-term systems and culture change in LBUSD so that students of color receive the supports and resources that they need inside and outside of the classroom to be successful. Alongside long-term system level work, CFJ develops and supports LBUSD school teams to address white supremacy/racism/anti-Blackness by centering the experiences/voices of young Black and Brown students and connecting schools across the district who are experiencing the same challenges. Simultaneously, school teams work towards building a collective understanding of what it will take to create complex/lasting systems change in LBUSD and develop staff and student leaders to co-lead school transformation. Street level data (deep observation and listening) is used to heal and courageously move school teams towards a more racially just system. At the same time, BIPOC students grow their analysis and understanding of racial and educational justice and their skills to participate in change initiatives with adults.
CFJ facilitates monthly design team meetings with each school site as well as monthly PLN meetings during which all 5 high school sites come together to share lessons and do shared learning. Each design team is composed of: School Principal, Assistant Principal, Key administrator, 2 teachers, 1-2 family members / caregivers, and 6 students. Design Teams move through an equity transformation cycle 2 over the course of the year: Listening deeply by collecting street data, uncovering root causes of the issues they learn about, reimagining solutions with student leaders’ voices at the center, and making a courageous move together to address the root causes. Through this process, design teams learn about the power of deeply listening to students and families at the margins, and the creative power of collectively making meaning of data and moving together.
The goal is for the muscles that are built in the PLN around sharing power and decision making in a meaningful way with students, families and teachers becomes a part of the school’s DNA so that all decision-making spaces in the school begin to shapeshift and hone in on street data and become spaces that students, families and teachers are an active part of.
Cabrillo High School ARC
One of our school communities, Cabrillo High School, began by conducting a series of Empathy Interviews 3 with students at the margins. The Assistant Principal supported in identifying students at the margins and everyone went out to gather street data. In the process of making meaning of the experience of students of color at the school it became apparent that anti-Black racism was having a huge impact on Black students. After a few hard conversations and hearing directly from Black students in the design team the Design Team agreed to draft an Equity Dilemma that specifically addressed this issue:
Cabrillo High School Equity Dilemma: Increasing support & accountability towards meeting the needs of Black students for safety (physical and emotional), belonging, and academic excellence.
Once we Listened and Uncovered we moved forward to Re-Imagining and after a couple of creative sessions decided to celebrate Black people, culture and politics past, present and future during the whole academic year (as opposed to only during Black History Month). The team also decided to launch a Black Student Union to support this work and to involve the Associated Student Body and GSA in the execution. Currently, the Cabrillo HS Design Team is developing a podcast to center Black student voices. The school is also implementing one of the ideas from the Design Team to put on a Black History Show titled Black Joy.
Tools and Agendas Utilized:
- Equity Definition and PLN Overview 2022-23
- Equity Transformation Cycle
- Equity Traps & Tropes - Street Data Chapter 2 by Jamila Dugan
- Student Voice Continuum
- Empathy Interview Sample Questions
What we’ve found in our work and what we hope for in our journey of advancing is that a huge part of the work is in the personal transformation of school leaders, and in developing our collective ability to Lead Together in a system that has traditionally operated in a much more top-down structure. It takes time to shift our practice and belief systems and establish practices of collaboration with youth, families, teachers and school site/district leaders.
"People believe in equity until they become really uncomfortable. Yet it is only then when you can actually change and that power dynamics can really transform. This is hard for adults because they are still operating from a belief that they must interact with students from a position of power and not vulnerability. However, most people once they try it, they find out that they are not only okay, but also liberated by the experience.” - George Walton Assistant Principal at Cabrillo High School
“Power and community are connected. The more communication I have with adults who I am normally intimidated by, the more opportunity for me to feel my power, especially when I feel that they care about what I have to say. Without that feeling, my voice is just noise”. - Melanie Huizer, Student at Wilson High School
- LBUSD Equity and Inclusion Initiative: Professional Learning Network Overview. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1o1zc7dij9phSvbf3rR3YetLjV3BAGPw-IcoxoWnfFL4/
- Safir, Shane and Dugan, Jamila. Street Data: A Next- Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation.Corwin, 2021. PP. 169-174.]
- Nelsestuen, Kari and Smith, Julie. Empathy Interviews.The Learning Professional,vol.31, no.5, Oct. 2020, https://learningforward.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/tool-empathy-interviews.pdf