I’m a teacher who came back to Randall Elementary from another school after four years. What I’ve learned from my previous and current stints is that we have come a long way! The school now has a thriving Spanish bilingual program and an amazing new staff. But I also see that the school needs some work to take it to the next level. 

According to California Department of Education public reports, last year only about 16% of Randall’s Latino population met state reading standards. In comparison, at neighboring school Rose, 43% of Latino students met state reading standards. Similar indicators are present if you do your research into previous yearly data as well. The facts about Randall are just plain disappointing and, if you’re from around here, nothing new. This does not mean that if your child is currently attending Randall you need to pull them out. What it does mean is that it’s time to try something new. It’s time to gather the entire community and get it working toward a higher vision for our school.

One excuse made about Randall’s poor performance is that its students are low-income. Well, so are students at other schools across the state, and they’re doing much better. In fact, there are plenty of schools with higher poverty indicators than Randall where Latino students show much more average results. Poverty is definitely an issue, but it can’t be the only explanation. Other excuses include low funding, inexperienced teachers, and weak principals. But over the decades all of these variables have changed, and still we see the same results.

Despite these difficulties, Randall is making huge strides toward becoming one of the most unique schools in Milpitas. At the beginning of this school year, the school’s administration hired a brand new staff that brings with it cutting edge ideas. Many teachers are already reporting a much improved academic performance on the part of their students, with some students showing three to four years’ grade-level growth. Instead of being defeated by precedent, these teachers are motivated and inspired by the circumstances they see. But even though these teachers are already making a huge impact on turning the school around, they cannot do it alone.  

It’s time for the entire Randall community, from parents to teachers to administrators — but most importantly, district leadership — to step it up and do their part in turning Randall into a model school that people would fight to get their kids into. The school already touts the district’s only language immersion program. It’s also the only school in the district where the majority of teachers reflect the student population demographics, and where a large chunk of the staff are certificated bilingual teachers. Yet despite these and many other highlights, Randall is experiencing student attrition, and the school for the most part continues to be left to its own devices. Many promises about providing support to our school have been made. It’s time for more than just promises. We need action. 

Randall is a special place that deserves special treatment. Doing anything less is inequitable, and repeats the same legacy of inaction that has kept the school stuck in the same place for so long.

We need to see concrete actions by those with the power to allocate budgets and resources. We need oversight and support so that our admin and staff are not left out to dry. More than politically correct dialogue about accountability and mutual responsibility, we need change. We will no longer tolerate excuses. We require a full-scale, top-down commitment to our school not being swept up into a pile with all the others. We must be provided with additional support, leadership, and fearlessness to end the injustice that our school’s past poor performance represents. 

Here are some starting points for making the needed change:

 

Full-time bilingual community liaison: We require one dedicated solely to our site. This should preferably be a current or former educator who understands classroom demands as well as what our vulnerable parent population needs to help their children succeed.

Updated library: A few years ago, a teacher from Randall begged our Board of Education for new books. We never got them; we still have the same old books. Very little has changed MANY YEARS LATER. In other schools, the PTA or other parent volunteers lead these efforts. What happens in schools where the parents are not able to lead the charge? Apparently, nothing. There are students who have gone through their entire time at Randall without experiencing what a great or even decent school library looks like.

Open Dialogue with district leadership: Teachers voice their concerns. Parents voice their concerns. Nothing happens. Nothing changes. We need a safe venue where our community can be heard without fearing repercussions. If these concerns are not taken seriously, the Randall community cannot back down any longer.

Support & Oversight for Special Education students, staff, and families

Student Safety: Randall needs more yard duties. Not parent volunteers. Not teachers. But people paid a respectable hourly rate to work at our school for a few hours each day to keep our kids safe. Aside from more yard duties, we need a full-time behavior interventionist who can meet our students’ disciplinary and emotional needs so that administrators are able to focus on instructional leadership.

 

These demands are not unreasonable, and despite what others will say, they are not impossible. We require them to make Randall Elementary a beacon of hope in our neighborhood. Not because this is a particularly depressing place, but because all schools should represent a bright ray of hope for the families and children attending them. Randall’s legacy makes it difficult to overcome the stigma associated with it, but thanks to the tireless efforts of individual educators, parents, and students, the situation is already improving.

Now is not the time to be patient. This community and this school have waited long enough for something more than the status quo. The data and the history don’t lie. The facts beg us to take action now. Our students don’t have a voice to demand these changes, but as the adults in their lives, we do.  

How are we going to speak up for them? 

Pali Nijjar
Pali Nijjar is currently an elementary teacher with MUSD. She started her career in community organizing and conducting parent workshops with at-risk or marginalized communities in the Bay Area. She works to meld these two careers and empower the parents of her students.

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