Mosaic Fellowship

Meet first Tennesseans in a new education leadership program for people of color

2017-18 Mosaic Fellows (Photos courtesy of Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition)

A new public education fellowship for people of color will spotlight issues of equity and connect stakeholders of diverse backgrounds in the quest to improve student achievement across Tennessee.

Sixteen people in the first class of Mosaic Fellows were named this week by the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition in conjunction with Conexión Américas, a nonprofit Latino advocacy group.

The inaugural fellows include both educators and advocates — an expansion from several existing statewide fellowships exclusively for teachers, but the first aimed specifically at people of color.

Organizers say the newest leadership development program is needed to better reflect the communities served by public schools, as well as to convene leaders with experience and insights necessary for long-term improvements for all students.

“Tennessee has seen remarkable transformation in our education landscape over the last decade, yet we still have large groups of students who are being left behind,” said Gini Pupo-Walker, director of education policy and programs at Conexión Américas. “It is our collective responsibility to ensure that a diverse group of leaders are helping shape and inform solutions to our complex educational challenges.”

In recent years, the state has grappled with a shortage of teachers of color. About 14 percent of new teachers in Tennessee training programs identify as non-white, compared to 36 percent of the state’s student population. More than 100 school districts did not have a single Hispanic teacher and 27 did not have a single African-American teacher, according to state data from 2014.


Here’s what male teachers of color want their districts to know about them


The year-long Mosaic Fellowship will include four three-day seminars that focus on current and historic issues in Tennessee education, leadership and diversity.

The 2017-18 fellows are:

West Tennessee
Mendell Grinter, executive director, Campaign for School Equity
Keji Kujjo, teacher, Kate Bond Middle School
Natalie McKinney, executive director, Whole Child Strategies, Inc.
Cardell Orrin, Memphis director, Stand for Children
Marcos Villa, community engagement coordinator, Latino Memphis
Bobby White, founder and CEO, Frayser Community Schools

Middle Tennessee
Diarese George, recruiting director, Nashville Teacher Residency
Martel Graham, school director, Knowledge Academies High School
Alicia Hunker, teacher, Valor Collegiate Academy
Vanessa Lazón, director of community inclusion, Mayor Megan Barry’s office of new Americans
Jon Robertson, founding high school director, STEM Prep High School
Peter Tang, Tennessee educator fellowship coordinator, SCORE

East Tennessee
Claudia Caballero, executive director of Centro Hispano de East Tennessee
Cassandra “KC” Curberson-Alvarado, career success coordinator, Hamblen County Schools
Quineka Moten, director of education and youth services, Knoxville Area Urban League
Gladys Pineda-Loher, director of international community outreach, Chattanooga State Community College

You can read more about each fellow here.

Day without a Teacher

These Colorado school districts are canceling classes for teacher protests

Empty Chairs And Desks In Classroom (Getty Images)

Thousands of Colorado teachers are expected to descend on the state Capitol Thursday and Friday to call on lawmakers to make a long-term commitment to increasing K-12 education funding.

These Colorado districts have announced they’re canceling classes because they won’t have enough teachers and other staff on hand to safely have students in their buildings. They include eight of the state’s 10 largest districts, serving more than 400,000 students.

Some charter schools, including DSST and STRIVE Prep, are joining the teacher demonstrations, and others are not. Parents whose children attend charter schools in these districts should check with the school.

Unless otherwise noted, classes are canceled for the entire day on Friday, April 27.

  • Jeffco Public Schools, serving 86,100 students (classes canceled Thursday, April 26)
  • Denver Public Schools, serving 92,600 students (early dismissal scheduled for Friday, April 27)
  • Douglas County School District, serving 67,500 students
  • Cherry Creek School District, serving 55,600 students
  • Adams 12 Five Star Schools, serving 38,900 students
  • St. Vrain Valley School District, serving 32,400 students
  • Poudre School District, serving 30,000 students
  • Colorado Springs School District 11, serving 27,400 students
  • Thompson School District, serving 16,200 students

Teachers who miss work to engage in political activity generally have to take a personal day to do so.

This list will be updated as we hear from more districts.

strike that

This Colorado bill would ban teacher strikes and hit violators with fines and jail time

Colorado teachers march around the state Capitol Monday, April 16, to call for more school funding and to protect their retirement benefits. (Erica Meltzer/Chalkbeat)

Two Republican lawmakers who have long helped shape education policy in Colorado have introduced a bill that would bar teachers from striking and strip unions that endorse strikes of their bargaining power.

This bill stands practically no chance of becoming law. House Democrats already killed a bill this legislative session that would have prohibited any union activity by public employees during work hours, and this measure goes much further in limiting the rights of workers.

However, that it was introduced at all speaks to growing concern that the wave of teacher activism that has hit other states could come to Colorado. Last Monday, several hundred teachers marched at the state Capitol for more school funding and to defend their retirement benefits. Hundreds, perhaps thousands more, are expected for more marches this Thursday and Friday.

Earlier this year, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association threatened to strike before backing off and continuing negotiations over that district’s pay-for-performance system. And Pueblo teachers voted to strike this month after the school board there voted down pay raises.

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According to numerous reports, Colorado consistently ranks in the bottom tier of U.S. states for both education funding and teacher salaries, though there is considerable variation around the state.

The reaction at the Capitol to teacher activism has fallen largely on party lines, with House Democrats joining teachers in calling for more school funding, and Republicans expressing frustration because this year’s budget already includes an increase for K-12 education. Republicans want to secure more funding for transportation projects, and lawmakers are also arguing over the final form of a proposed overhaul to the public employees retirement system.

The bill sponsored by state Sen. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs and state Rep. Paul Lundeen of Monument would prohibit teachers and teachers unions from “directly or indirectly inducing, instigating, encouraging, authorizing, ratifying, or participating” in a strike. It also would prohibit public school employers from “consenting to or condoning” a teacher strike.

The bill authorizes public school employers to go to court and get an injunction against a teacher strike.

Teachers who violate such an injunction could be fined up to $500 a day and be jailed for up to six months. They would also face immediate termination with no right to a hearing.

Local teachers unions found in contempt could face fines of up to $10,000 a day. More significantly, they would see their collective bargaining agreements rendered null and void and would be barred from representing teachers for a year or collecting dues during that time. School districts would be barred from negotiating with sanctioned unions as well.

Courts would have the ability to reduce these penalties if employers request it or if they feel it is in the public interest to do so.

Teacher strikes are rare in Colorado and already face certain restrictions. For example, the Pueblo union has informed state regulators of their intent to strike, and the state Department of Labor and Employment can intervene to try to broker an agreement. Those discussions can go on for as long as 180 days before teachers can walk off the job.

The last time Denver teachers went on strike was 1994. A state judge refused to order teachers back to work because they had gone through the required process with state regulators. Teachers had the right, he ruled, to reject the proposed contract. That strike lasted a week before teachers returned to work with a new contract.