Roaring Fork School District board member leads the fight for equitable treatment of students of color
Jasmin Ramirez joins nationwide education organization as a fellow representing the Roaring Fork Valley
Jasmin Ramirez is actively working against racism in the Roaring Fork Valley community and Roaring Fork School District.
She is one of 25 fellows for 2021 in the third cohort for the nonprofit School Board Partners (SBP), a nationwide organization that provides resources and a support group for leaders on how to interrupt systemic racism within education.
Ethan Ashley, co-founder and co-CEO of SBP, and an elected board member for the Orleans Parish School Board, said Ramirez stood out in her application as the kind of individual who has the courage to implement change.
“Simply put, Jasmin is committed to doing the personal work to represent her 5,000 majority Latinx student population the best she can. By learning these practices … to create racially equitable policies that focus on closing the achievement gap,” Ashley said. “She’s the kind of leader, I think being the first Latina graduate of her school system being able to represent on the school board, that we believe can lead with her colleagues to improve their school system for their students with whom she is representative of.”
The fellowship is two years long and volunteer-driven by existing members of school boards all across the country.
Ashley said when selecting fellows SBP looks for individuals who are committed to doing the work it takes for anti-racist policies to be put in place and who will help develop a stronger sense of trust between communities of color and the school board members.
“In non-Covid times we’re trying to make sure that fellows have the opportunity to really learn and hear from each other in person. … We also provide them the opportunity to travel and see other districts doing some incredible work that they believe to be beneficial to them,” Ashley said
“If you want to go to one of your community practice neighboring districts, they’re doing something that you want to do, you want to learn on the ground and hear from and understand, we provide that opportunity as well.”.
Ramirez said she is grateful to be inducted into SBP and looks forward to learning more about policy writing and how to enact change for the RFSD and valley community.
“Something I always tell our team is, before you move onto another project … whatever it is that you’re leaving, did you leave it better for the next person of color coming into this space?”
According to the Colorado Department of Education, Latino students make up about 60% of the RFSD student population. Ramirez said it’s time that the community recognizes the Hispanic population as the majority, and that not having all the school policies readily available in English and Spanish is a task that’s long overdue. She also said in conversations she’s had with current or former students, who feel like the district has not valued their presence in the schools. A favorite sentiment of Ramirez from one of the SBP conferences she’s attended is how all it takes is one teacher to change a student’s life.
“Our students should be able to have diversity in their educational experience. They shouldn’t have to leave our school district to have their first teacher of color or their first diverse teacher. And I have to say, one is not enough. … No, they should have multiple.
“… How toxic it can be to never be understood and to never be valued. And I don’t think our 60% Latino demographic should have to rely on this hope, just like being lucky enough to have the one teacher who will believe in you,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez is a daughter of immigrants and said she wants the students of color in the RFSD to be proud of who they are and who their parents are. She said she wants to make progress within the district to not just be anti-racist, but to begin advocating for Latino students and showing them that they’re proud to have them in the district.
Based on how things are now, Ramirez said the district has a ways to go before all students are treated at an equitable level. Despite this, she said she’s excited to have the support and resources SBP will provide her with, and to be more intentional with her role on the RFSD board going forward.
“I would like to get to a place where our school district is not just having high graduation rates, but is also simultaneously producing strong, empowered students who are proud of who they are, and their identity and culture,” she said.
“I want our kids to graduate and be proud of who their parents were and who they can be — to see themselves as aspirational for the rest of the community. I want them to know that our district valued having them as our students, and feel that; not just like (to) hear it and (have) it be a statement, but actually feel that and embody being valued by our district.”
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Two members of the public told the Roaring Fork School District Board last week that they feel voiceless when it comes to district hiring processes.