Charles Grandson ’05

The Boston Public Schools’ chief equity and strategy officer, who also has both a master’s and a doctorate in education from the Lynch School, discusses the pandemic and listening to the community.

Portrait of Charles Grandson

  Photo: Lee Pellegrini

In 2019, I was the Boston Public Schools’ chief academic officer. That fall, our new superintendent, Dr. Brenda Cassellius, created the role of chief equity and strategy officer. She’d heard loud and clear that the community didn’t feel its voice was being heard by the school district. So we put together a five-year strategic plan—a roadmap to help us meet our goals and the needs of the larger BPS community. My role is to keep us focused on implementing that plan, and to ensure that equity is at the center of all of our decisions and actions.

Not everyone starts out on equal footing in our country. There continue to be barriers and roadblocks to the success of Black, Latinx, Asian-American, and Indigenous communities. These disparities and inequities show up in our schools, and they’ve been further exacerbated by the pandemic. I’ll never forget the parent who told us that she drove an Uber and delivered food. And her son—there was no one to watch him. So he was attending his Zoom classes by using her phone in the backseat of the car while she was working. These are the harsh realities that the pandemic illuminated. Not everybody has the same access to resources.

The day after we shut down for the pandemic, the superintendent called me to say that we needed to work with our partners in the city to hold ourselves accountable, to ensure that we didn’t exacerbate the opportunity gaps that already exist. We called together the local branches of the NAACP, the ACLU, the Urban League, and other organizations. That grew into the Community Equity Roundtable, where anyone can join via Zoom to give feedback to the school district. We hosted 200 community stakeholders at the first event. We held the roundtables weekly from March into the summer, and we’ve continued to do it every two weeks. Before we make any major decisions or take any major policy to our school committee, we bring it to the roundtable for feedback. It’s been a transformational experience for the school district.

In many ways, my work is a continuation of what I started as a Donovan Urban Teaching Scholar at BC. That program prepares educators to teach in urban classrooms in Boston. Over the years, it has been an important pipeline for developing equity-minded and social-justice-minded educators who teach to the whole student. Four of my former students have gone through the program and are now teachers themselves. To be able to see them in classrooms is just a really rewarding thing. I appreciate the work that Dean Stanton Wortham, Associate Dean David Goodman, and the entire Lynch School team are doing to make sure that the program continues to thrive and grow. Each year, the cohort becomes more diverse. That’s important for us in the Boston Public Schools. One of our goals is to make sure that we have teachers in the classroom who reflect the diversity of the students we serve. ◽

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