Janeen Bryant has seen Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from the inside, as a Teach for America teacher, and as a parent – her daughter is a fourth-grader at Irwin Academic Center.
Now she wants a seat on the school board to help guide the district through a superintendent search and a critical new student assignment plan to break up extreme pockets of poverty at some CMS schools.
Given her experiences, including her current job as regional director for Leadership for Educational Equity, she said she’s a strong advocate for all CMS students getting the same high-quality education. She also said teachers should be paid more and need an advocate because they often are afraid to speak up for themselves.
“I want to make sure they have an equitable playing field,” said Bryant, 33. “There’s plenty of evidence that says we can do much better.”
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Bryant was among the first Teach for America teachers in CMS in 2004 after graduating from Davidson College. She taught kindergarten at Briarwood Elementary for three years.
She said the school board needs to act quickly on a new student assignment plan.
“We were once a model for desegregation. Our current reality looks much different,” Bryant said. “We need to commit to reducing concentrations of poverty so that we have a real chance at equity for all students and families.”
Bryant said that student achievement and opportunity too often are based on economics and geography. “If we are truly committed to equal opportunity and the belief that every child has the right and the ability to succeed, then we need a school assignment process that ensures that ZIP codes do not determine outcomes,” she said.
When hiring a new superintendent, she said the school board should consider only candidates who have experience in a diverse district – including those with urban, suburban and rural schools – and who are willing to stay and invest in the community.
The district, she said, has lost many good leaders over the years to other districts with higher pay. “Maybe there’s someone out there who wants to return home,” she said.
▪ Political experience: Making her first run for elected office.
▪ CMS connection: Among Charlotte’s first Teach for America teachers; taught kindergarten at Briarwood Elementary for three years; daughter a fourth-grader at Irwin Academic Center. School volunteer.
▪ Occupation: Region Director South, Leadership for Education Equity.
▪ Education: Undergraduate anthropology degree from Davidson College; masters degree in leadership and management from Montreat College.
▪ Quote: “Commitment (to equitable education for all students) will mean having the moral and policy-based courage to boldly call for the reversal of race and income-based resegregation.”
▪ Age: 33.