When Thomas Luna says hard work, he means it. The work of providing an equitable education for Newark's students and families is no easy task. Even in the face of this challenge, Luna is prepared and ready with a clear plan to address areas of growth and put the community-based NBOE strategic plan front and center of the policy decisions for the district.
At the heart of any education system MUST be a commitment to equity. Luna believes we will move towards equity when we:
Build long-term tutoring programs to combat learning loss.
The Covid-19 pandemic took a devastating social, emotional, and academic toll on our students and families. As a teacher who taught remotely and taught during the reopening process from remote learning, Thomas Luna knows that a great curriculum still isn't enough to provide students the academic support they need. This is why Luna is calling for building a long-term tutoring program in our schools which would allow students direct access to personalized support which, research shows, is a winning strategy to combat Covid-19 learning loss.
Prioritize positive and affirming school culture.
As the district takes steps to implement SEL practices in the classroom, Luna knows that focusing on school culture is key to both learning and healing. Kids deserve classrooms that are warm, joyful, and inviting spaces. Teachers and staff deserve schools that are affirming and supportive. When we double down on positive school culture, everyone wins. This is how we ensure we take care of our kids and our staff socially and emotionally every day.
Provide need-based support for schools.
When the state provides funding to the district, every school gets individual funds through a district based funding formula. This has been effective for some schools but not all schools. Luna is calling for a revision of that formula to provide more resources to schools that need more support. This will ensure we are taking proactive action to make all schools a place of caring and learning.
We have to recognize and embrace the GREATNESS that exists in our city. Thomas Luna believes our greatest assets in educating our children is our people. To create a strong recognition of and sense of community for our kids, we must:
Establish consistent community forums
As a community organizer, Thomas Luna ensured that multiple stakeholder voices were at the decision making table. This was often an uphill battle, and Luna believes it shouldn't be. As a board member, Thomas Luna will advocate for the creation of consistent and concrete community forums where residents are asked about key decisions and asked about ideas we, as a board, may be missing. Luna believes that doing this regularly will build better partnerships with the community and establish these forums as a consistent tradition in Newark.
Create a student-based election process for the student representative.
Students deserve a seat at the table. Long before this was a requirement, Newark implemented a student representative seat on the dais. However, this student requires an approval of the board. Thomas Luna believes students should elect students and that's it. By creating an election process through policy, we can ensure that students elect their own representative and have a permanent seat at the table.
Strengthen partnership with safety efforts across the city.
The number one priority of any school district is the safety of its students, teachers, and staff. As we opened school doors, we've witnessed safety concerns across our city. Our school districts and city efforts to respond have been on the right track AND they have been reactive. Luna believes it's time to get proactive. To do this will require stronger city partnerships with the Office of Violence Prevention Trauma Recovery as well as community partnerships with organizations like the Newark Community Street Team, HUBB, and Weequahic Park Environmental Authority. There isn't a single entity that will solve for safety alone, but Luna knows that together we can build safer schools for Newark kids and families.