Although there is no “calm” period in the year for a large urban school district, there is certainly something gratifying about the beginning of summer—students have finished another year, and schools and central offices can focus on preparation for the next. At least, that’s what usually happens. This year brought abrupt changes, with Tommy Chang’s unexpected departure and the controversial appointment of new interim superintendent Laura Perille. 
Much of the media coverage last June focused on overviewing Chang’s rocky tenure, as well as questioning the lack of community input surrounding Perille’s selection. But as students head back to class, attention shifts from the past to the future. 
“It’s an enormous logistic challenge to get 57,000 children into clean, safe and welcoming buildings with transportation ready to go, with healthy meals ready to be served, and with teachers and staff hired and ready to go,” said Perille. Much of her focus so far has been supporting school and central office staff, ensuring that the 2018-2019 school year begins without any major issues. “It’s not automatic, and it requires attention, so it’s worth saying out loud,” she said of the process. 
After the initial kinks of the first few weeks of school are smoothed out, Perille will shift her focus to advancing the district’s long-term goals, including BuildBPS. The Boston Public Schools website boasts a 230-page guide to their “10-year educational and facilities master plan,” but the interim superintendent acknowledges that we have a long way to go before its completion. “That conversation has had some struggles over the past couple of years around clarity, transparency and authenticity of the community engagement process,” said Perille. She believes that now is the time for the difficult conversations that the city must have in order to move forward with big changes for the future. 
As for the opinions of the students themselves, they would like to see Perille in action before they make a final judgement. Emma Berens, a senior at Boston Latin School, said she “think[s] that involvement and just simply presence—as in, visiting schools and interacting with students—is key for a superintendent to be successful.” She said that she shares many of the values that Perille does, and Boston Latin Academy senior Kevin DiCarlo expressed similar sentiments. “Perille has a similar view to my own on reforming the school systems in Boston, and I hope she will make BPS a more inclusive place and give students the opportunities and support that they need to excel,” he said. 
To achieve these goals, Perille will use experience from her 16 years as CEO of EdVestors, a non-profit dedicated to urban school improvement in Boston. They have pioneered projects to improve art instruction and middle-grade math, both of which are featured prominently on their website. Perille said in her role at EdVestors, she spent countless hours collaborating directly with “classroom teachers and school leaders who are solving problems and coming up with solutions to common challenges across schools.” 
Perille hopes to use these principles to guide her work in BPS, despite her critics’ concerns. According to a July Boston Globe article, many members of the BPS community worry about her lack of experience managing a large institution—at EdVestors she oversaw “fewer than two dozen employees,” while the Boston Public Schools has over 10,000. 
Perille faces complex problems and ambitious goals for the future of Boston Public Schools, but she does not let her interim status stop her from moving forward. “We have to at least begin the conversation,” she said. “Our kids can’t afford to wait another year.”

Read more…
Massachusetts prides itself on being one of the most liberal states in the country, but a ballot initiative in November could put that image in jeopardy. 
Known as Proposition 3, the ballot initiative could overturn a 2016 law that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public places such as hotels, restaurants and stores. Signed by Governor Charlie Baker, the law also contains a provision that transgender people are allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, according to the Boston Globe. 
If Massachusetts voters repeal the law, it could become the first state in the country to overturn a law that grants protections to transgender people in public accommodations, according to a report released by Boston Indicators in collaboration with The Fenway Institute. 
If the law is repealed, it won’t ban transgender people from being in public accommodations, but they will lose the assurance of federal government protection, according to Kurtlan Massarsky, Director of Development and Marketing at the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth.
17-year-old Florence Kallon, a student at Roxbury Prep High School, believes Massachusetts portrays itself as a liberal state, when in reality, this ballot question proves to Kallon that “a lot of people have this secret hate towards trans people.” 
According to a recent poll conducted by the Suffolk University Political Research Center, 49 percent of people would vote to preserve the law, 37 percent would vote to repeal it, and 13 percent are undecided. Major religious organizations, colleges, and civil rights groups have voiced their support for preserving this law, including prominent people like Mayor Marty Walsh. The ACLU of Massachusetts, the Anti-Defamation League, NARAL Pro-Choice and GLAD have all voiced their opposition to Proposition 3 as well, according to Ballotpedia. 
In a statement, Mayor Walsh said, “Supporting this law is the right thing to do. This law has been in Massachusetts for two years with no issues, and a similar local ordinance has been in Boston for more than a decade. In that time, we have become a more welcoming and inclusive city for our transgender friends and neighbors. We can’t take a step backwards.” 
Freedom for All Massachusetts (FFAM) is a coalition recently launched to update Massachusetts’ long-standing civil rights laws to include nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public places. Matt Wilder, a communications consultant at FFAM, said he's not transgender, but the people he knows who are just want to live their lives like all of us, and that's what this law allows them to do. 
“It allows them to go to school, to work and to meet the obligations that they have to provide for their family without harassment,” said Wilder. “We all expect that in our daily lives, and there’s no reason why transgender people shouldn’t expect the same.”
Meanwhile, Keep MA Safe, a ballot campaign dedicated to repealing the law, claims that the current anti-discrimination law endangers the safety of women and children. According to their website, they believe the law creates an opportunity for sexual predators who are confused about their gender to use this as a cover for their evil intentions. 
Naleyah Cesar, a 17-year-old student at Roxbury Prep High School, argues that repealing the law is “going to make the world a lot harder for LGBTQ people of color, and it’s going to lead to a lot of fear.” 
Whether the law remains in place or is repealed, one thing is certain: the outcome of the ballot initiative now lies in the hands of voters this November.

Read more…
Lights, Camera, Action! Putting The Spotlight On Paloma Valenzuela
In the pilot of the popular web series “The Pineapple Diaries,” we are introduced to Maite, a young Afro-Dominican woman, who picks up the phone to hear her mom reminding her to wish her abuela a happy birthday, and not to forget to send her money. This expands her busy schedule and leads her running around Jackson Square trying to fulfill her seemingly endless list of errands. In the midst of this, we are introduced to her group of friends: a mix of 20-year-olds trying to find their footing in today’s society.
 In a world where women of color are often not showcased on television, or reduced to sidekicks for their white protagonists, it was comforting to see women of color take control in telling their own stories. I spoke with the series creator, Paloma Valenzuela, to inquire what inspired her to create this underrated, yet groundbreaking, series.
What was the inspiration behind the creation of “The Pineapple Diaries?”
I was definitely inspired by a lot of other artists and writers that were using YouTube as a platform. I was totally inspired by Issa Rae and “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” I knew I wanted to create something of my own, and I wanted to try writing a television series. What inspired to me to create the show based on these subjects, this feeling of like, lack of seeing an honest portrayal of something I could relate to on television. I wanted to write stories that felt relatable to me and hopefully could relate with other women of color, with other Dominican-Americans, with the Latino community, and that’s what really drove me to want to tell these stories.
Why do you think it was important to set the show in Jamaica Plain?
I was really excited to have the show set here because I feel like I am just realizing how much of this neighborhood is a part of me, how much being a Bostonian is part of who I am.
The other reason I wanted to do it is because Boston has a certain profile in terms of how it’s portrayed on TV and the movies, and that doesn’t fit the profile of what I experienced. I thought to myself, Boston isn’t just Southie, it isn’t just white Bostonians or Irish Bostonians. And it certainly isn’t just this Mafia storyline—which is a great storyline, and those stories can keep coming—but it shouldn’t be the only thing coming out of Boston. We have Latino communities as well, we have Latino neighborhoods and there are diverse communities here in Boston that I wanted to highlight in the show, so that was important to me.
Your show features of a lot of Afro-Latinas. What aspects of the Afro-Latina identity do you hope to showcase to your viewers?
That there is one. For a long time, black Latinos were playing African-American roles in movies because nobody understood the concept that within the Latino community, we are all different shapes, sizes, colors and hair textures. It’s important that any actor is able to play the roles that they can play, but also be able to represent where they really come from. If we continue to perpetuate that, the people won’t understand there are afro-communities within the Latino community. We need to be knowledgeable about that, and be inclusive, because if you’re Afro-Latina and you don’t see yourself on TV as the Latina that you are, how can you feel a part of it? It is important for everyone to see themselves in magazines, on television, in the news, in politics, in the government. It’s important because we all need to feel like we’re a part of these communities.
Do you think the absence of Afro-Latinas in media leads to uninformed opinions as to who they are and the diversity of their experiences?
 I think that black Latinos have all the right in the world to feel just as black as all other black people. A light skin Latina has a different experience from a black Latina. It’s important to understand that. I think people are not informed enough about the racial diversity within the Latino countries. We’re all so different. We can’t all fit in one box, and we shouldn’t have to, and we should see those characters in all those layers reflected in our entertainment, for sure.

Read more…
Imagine winning a Congressional seat by one vote, or something even crazier—a tie that is settled by drawing a card. These are the circumstances that landed Democratic candidate Charles B. Smith of New York a seat in Congress in 1910 and Republican Randall Luthi a seat in the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1994, respectively. These instances demonstrate the power of one ballot, one voter and one voice in changing who leads our country.
Yet, here we are, with only 56 percent of eligible American voters participating in the 2016 election, compared to the voter turnout rates in Belgium (87.2 percent), Sweden (82.6 percent) and Denmark (80.3 percent), according to the Pew Research Center. What’s even more disquieting is an analysis done by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement that discovered that only about 50 percent of eligible voters between the ages of 18 to 29 voted in the 2016 general election.
Why don’t young people vote? Because many believe “My vote doesn’t matter.” This dangerous assumption leaves huge portions of our population voiceless in government. Sadly, many young people believe their one vote would not make a visible impact in a huge population.
“Some people may believe their votes do not matter because they have lost hopes in their ability to change the programs they are voting for or against,” said Anilda Rodriguez, an 18-year-old student from Dorchester who will be a first-time voter this November. 
Just imagine the policy shifts the U.S. would face if all young people voted in every local, state and federal election. It is with this mindset that many young adults are entering the upcoming elections. A recent survey by the Harvard Institute of Politics found an increased enthusiasm for political participation, especially among Democrats. It seems as though the chaotic administration in the White House may have a reckoning on their hands. 
The significant changes that would occur if young people voted in huge numbers will be unforeseen in the history of U.S. elections. The issues and problems we fight for in our daily lives will be in our hands, and we can have a real chance of upending those of the older generation. 
“I believe in youth power and I think that by allowing teens to vote, we are able to elect those who will actually help make the world a better place,” said Sonny Mei, an 18-year-old student from Dorchester who will also be a first-time voter. “I also believe we [young adults] are more open-minded and will be able to tackle issues that are often ignored—issues that affect minorities and the less privileged groups around the country.”
In light of the current political state, it is more important than ever that young people vote. Major political issues are making headlines, and for real, long-lasting results to occur, young people need to be engaged and politically present.

Make Your Voice Heard 

Where can I register to vote?
You can register in-person at the Department of Motor Vehicles, armed service recruitment centers, and public assistance offices [SNAP/Food Stamps, WIC, Services for the Disabled].
The Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, William Francis Galvin, also has an online forum that makes it easy and simple to register or pre-register to vote at www.

How do I know when to vote?
To keep up with all the upcoming elections, visit, where you can subscribe to alerts about all the elections happening in your district.

Read more…
It’s my second period. When I walk in to my history classroom, the teacher announces what we’re going to be learning about today: the Civil Rights Movement. Immediately, I stop paying attention—I’ve learned about this a million times.
The history of African-Americans has been told many times and prevents other minority groups’ histories from receiving the recognition they deserve. In high school, we can open a textbook and read about the African-American Civil Rights Movement, but not about Japanese internment during World War II or the 1960s Chicano Movement. These events happened within decades of each other, but we only learn about one. 
African-Americans’ stories were oppressed for many years, which gives them reason to be so widely discussed now. However, this means we are neglecting the publicity other minorities should be receiving. When the history of minorities is oversimplified to include only the narrative of black victims and white villains, everyone suffers. 
Teachers seem to be obligated and expected to go deeper into black history than all other topics; it is as if this is the only historical narrative they are required to teach. However, according to Jessie Gerson, Chief Academic Officer at WriteBoston, teachers do have the freedom to structure the content they want to teach. 
“Educators can't do anything they want, but they do often have a lot of leeway when it comes to designing the learning experiences of their students, including what students read, and I think that flexibility is a net positive,” she said. 
Teachers have the opportunity to make their lessons culturally diverse; however, it seems that they do not take advantage of their freedom to teach all of the different narratives. 
We need to make it so that all ethnic struggles in history are presented equally. If we start to hear the stories of all cultures, we can see that at one point every minority has struggled and contributed to the struggles of others. 
The resolution to this issue is to put regulations on classroom lessons. Teachers should not have so much freedom in how they want to teach their classes and instead, have some regulations that require them to equally represent different historical struggles. The textbooks we use should have equal chapters on different minorities. There should be unified lessons across all Boston Public Schools so that students are learning about all minorities to the same depth, similar to Common Core State Standards. There should also be training that teachers must attend to assure that they are eliminating all biases when they are designing their lessons.
The way that we can possibly stop giving the wrong amounts of recognition to one race and expand our definition of history begins with teachers and lessons. The leniency given to teachers needs to subside. We need a more focused structure to get everyone to have an open mind towards all historic struggles. 

Read more…