In this episode, you'll hear the conversation Yasmin and I had with her good friend and former colleague Melissa Kaplan.
Melissa Kaplan has been involved in the Los Angeles charter school movement since 2003, most recently serving as the Head of Schools before becoming Deputy Superintendent of Education at Bright Star Schools. Previously, Melissa was the Chief Academic Officer at ICEF Public Schools, where she was responsible for managing the academic program at 14 schools serving 4,500 students in grades K-12, coordinating and delivering professional development for more than 150 teachers and administrators, and ensuring the alignment of the curriculum with college readiness standards. Melissa has served in a variety of leadership roles including district and site administration, demonstration teacher, and teacher coach. She has also worked extensively as a consultant assisting districts and CMOs nationally in curriculum development and system building, especially in the area of reading and writing across the curriculum. Before joining the charter school movement, Melissa taught English in Palos Verdes Unified School District and Oley Valley School District in Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in Education and Theater from DeSales University and a Masters of Education from UCLA.
When Yasmin told me she wanted for us to sit down with Melissa, a friend and former colleague, I was prepared to have a conversation about systemic racism in education, but the conversation that unfolded became much more personal than that. Melissa tells the story of how she was inspired to take her life experiences of growing up poor with an addict for a father and struggling with a learning disorder to the classroom where she believed she could help her students overcome their challenges the way she had been able to: through hard work and education. It was in the classroom and the mostly black and brown community where she was teaching, however, that she experienced an unexpected awakening to the realities of race in our country that, as a white woman, she had been unprepared to encounter.
This is just one woman's story and one conversation in a vastly complex topic. There is so much to be said around disparities in education and opportunity. As always, we encourage you to seek out further understanding on this and any topic. Click here for our personal resource page.