Growing up, Sabel always knew that school was a top priority. She saw firsthand how her parents went back to college, all while juggling full-time jobs and raising her. Her education was something that she never took for granted and school was always a place for her to learn, grow, and build her future.
Flash forward to today and many of these things still ring true for students — Parents who are handling multiple jobs just trying to get by, single moms and dads studying for college as they see their kids go off to school, and students from immigrant families who turn their dinner tables into classrooms to teach their loved ones the things they learned that day. Washingtonians come from many backgrounds and face a wide range of challenges, but every student should be given an equitable and inclusive space to learn, grow, and build their future at their schools like Sabel did, regardless of where they come from.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing stressors, strained resources, and upheaved the classroom. But even before the pandemic, we saw enrollment in Ward 1 schools drop by the thousands, and schools, teachers, and students here have been overlooked. As Councilmember, Sabel will make sure that our students, teachers, and schools are no longer deprioritized and that we put education at the forefront.
Mental Health Support And Education For Teachers And Students
Isolation, stress, anxiety, fear, and lack of face-to-face connection were just some of the barriers that were stirred (and continue to fester) over the last two years for teachers, students, and their families. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues on, mental health will need even more attention and focus because the effects without support compound into negative disasters.
As Councilmember, Sabel will advocate for continued funding for mental health support for teachers, students, and their families and will also propose providing education on mental wellness and social-emotional learning. Research shows us that improved mental health for students leads them to feel more connected to their classroom, improves academic achievements, and raises their overall wellbeing. These outcomes can also have a positive effect on community life in general and help reduce violence. When students and adults have the awareness and knowledge of what they are feeling (anxiety, fear, stress), they know what support they can seek out and develop the right coping skills.
Teacher Recruitment And Growth Paths
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a huge strain on teachers who were already overburdened to begin with. This has caused teachers to resign and change careers, which has then shifted additional responsibility onto the teachers who are still working in our schools. There is also a shortage for substitute teachers, which continues to put stress on a teacher’s workload and then further strains the limited resources supporting our students and their schools.
We need a Councilmember to advocate for better recruitment policies to attract a more diverse candidate pool. This can be done by increasing teachers’ pay, developing growth plans and professional development opportunities, ensuring benefits like retirement plans, healthcare, and paid leave are of the highest standard, and leveraging the local talent pool from colleges like the University of District of Columbia. If we take care of and cultivate our current teacher workforce, then our students and their families will reap the benefits.
School Modernization And Facilities
Today, Ward 1 has 75% modernization of schools meaning that one in four is not properly equipped and is in poor physical condition. Although Ward 1 schools are further ahead than other Wards, we shouldn’t let any school fall behind the rest. Improved physical infrastructure and modern working environments can make teachers’ jobs easier and could possibly attract more applicants to become teachers. It also allows them to focus on what’s important — students’ learning time. As Councilmember, Sabel will push for complete modernization of all schools in Ward 1 as part of an effort to modernize all DC public schools.
No classroom should face grueling issues of heat or bone-chilling effects of the cold. These are supposed to be safe places for kids to learn and if they are distracted due to the temperature of their classroom, then that takes away from why they are in school in the first place.
Listening to teachers and students when they flag an issue in a school building or classroom and then acting upon the issue immediately for a resolution is of utmost importance. As Councilmember, Sabel will take a proactive approach and visit each school in Ward 1 well before the school year starts and the colder months hit to ensure that HVAC, air quality, lighting, and other issues are resolved promptly by DGS (Department of General Services) and other agencies.
Reinstating Education Committee
Education is the bedrock of DC and the essential piece in the success of our communities. Yet, oftentimes we hear from teachers, students, and families too little or when problems become almost too late to solve. When these individuals do have a say, it’s at points of survival rather than prevention.
During public hearings on school reopenings, in-person and virtual options, many parents, teachers, and students testifying experienced hurdles and limitations to have their voices heard because the time of the hearings wasn’t inclusive of their daily lives.
Currently, matters related to education that go in front of the Council are referred to the Committee of the Whole. The Committee of the Whole (COW) looks at agencies that handle everything from zoning, the lottery, airports, arts and humanities, and more. Education should never be an afterthought and grouped with this wide mix of DC departments and agencies. It is the foundation for everything and it works to solve socio-economic, health, and community issues. Without a good, strong school system, our community falls behind. As a Councilmember, Sabel will be a champion for education, working closely with our parents, teachers, students, and elected leaders to understand what is working and what isn’t. She will build key legislation to ensure education policy is an independent focus and not simply a line item, and apply oversight to ensure the legislation is working.
There are many important points that advocate for shifting mayoral control of education from Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to the State Board of Education (SBOE) and one key criticism is that there aren’t enough checks in place. However, the Council is one of the checks. We have reacted to problems for far too long instead of taking the proactive approach in the first place. We need a Councilmember who isn’t just keeping the same, faulty system in place. We need someone willing to instill change and be courageous about it. Our schools, students, and teachers are critical to a thriving, vibrant community.