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Who’s leading this year’s DCSC Communities of Practice? As we gear up for back-to-school, we’ll be spotlighting conversations with each facilitator. Enjoy this final edition of our 5-part series on each group’s facilitator(s)! In case you missed it, you can also check out Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4!

Meet the facilitator!

Public schools are plagued by the constant racial turmoil throughout US society. Beyond hyper-visible gestures and abstract allusions to social justice in schools, DSST Public Schools’ Aaron J. Griffen leads a Community of Practice this year challenging educators across the country to agitate, build, disrupt, and de-center. While many of us are conditioned to sustain dominant cultures, this program offers educators the space to make progress in anti-racism within diverse-by-design schools.

Dr. Aaron J. Griffen, Co-Founder and CEO of Prosperity Educators, LLC; VP of Diversity Equity and Inclusion at DSST Public Schools

Why is it important to agitate, build, disrupt, and de-center? Why now?

The ABDs are about action, with regard to how we do things as education practitioners. This framework involves developing agitation spaces, where we can ask the right questions and engage in curiosity toward how we honor lived experiences outside of the master status quo narrative. We live with systemic and structural barriers in place to uphold the school-to-prison pipeline and the sink-or-swim mantra of hierarchy, meritocracy, and elitism. We’re seeing this especially now as we work through competing national pandemics of political, civil, and racial unrest. The stages of Agitation, Building, Disruption, and De-centering are necessary to both dismantle oppressive structures and elevate the intersectional experiences of BIPOC students.

What do you hope to gain from working with DCSC members?

From my day-to-day work at a DCSC member school, I’m happy to be in the company of other educators whose organizations espouse ambitious missions and visions related to justice and equity. We’re going to create and design a tool together that can be a check and balance on our stated values, to see if we are upholding our word in how we engage students and families. We’ll ask the tough questions like, to what extent are we being performative while de-prioritizing the outcomes of Black, Latinx, and low-income students, specifically? How do we break long-standing harmful patterns and systems? I can’t wait to see what we all come up with and how we can make each other’s work more impactful for our communities.

What can members expect in the first session?

Members can expect to work towards developing Agitation Spaces and Norms for Disrupting the Master Status Quo Narrative of Neutrality and Objectivity. We will start thinking through our final product development. This thinking will be preempted by deep and personal dialogue about uncomfortable truths that uphold the oppressive structures and systems we claim to want to dismantle. It is my hope that members will walk away with ideas and thoughts to remove these structures and systems by erecting alternative measures for engagement and building a truly diverse, equity and inclusive environment that is social justice centered.

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