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Lisa Loving of The Skanner
Published: 01 October 2008

The public is invited to the Third Annual Seattle Alliance of Black School Educators Education Summit, in partnership with Seattle Public Schools, Oct. 10 and 11, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cleveland High School, 5511 15th Avenue South.
The annual summit is a meeting of the minds about the best ways to educate children in the pubic schools and address the achievement gap.
Organizer Dr. Betty Howell Gray, a retired administrator from Seattle School District who worked for 34 years as a counselor, a principal, and an instructional consultant, said this year's summit is built around understanding education as a civil right – and enlisting the help of community institutions and individuals in transforming education.
The theme is "Building A New Civil Rights Agenda to Ensure Effective Learning for All Students, and Accountability for Everyone."
"We want to do something different. We've been doing a great job in some areas – in improving academic achievement – but we can do more if we really become more nurturing, more caring, and building relationships with our children," Gray said. "It's really getting in the hearts and minds of the people who are working with our children."
The summit features speakers from across the nation, including Dr. George McKenna, retired superintendent of the Los Angeles and the Pasadena Unified School Districts.
Gray said raising awareness about the civil rights aspect of education is part of a national movement within the Black educators' organization.
"They unveiled this model last November at their annual conference, with over 7,000 people there, and they have really given the charge to local affiliates to implement that," she said. 
Gray said the model championed by such experts as McKenna involves a long-term, two-step plan of wide-scale community involvement. First, teams of volunteers committed to long-term involvement spend one year "walking and talking" in assigned schools and nearby neighborhoods, interacting with the students and building relationships with them.
Then, in the second year, those groups start mentoring and tutoring one-on-one with students.
"Just working with the experiences of our kids, getting their feedback to really know what's in their hearts — we don't do that," Gray said. "If we are going to make an impact in the learning lives of our children,  we've got to build relationships with them."
She said this model builds on the main idea discussed at the last summit — developing community action.
She said the summit's last session, on Saturday, will feature a panel of ministers discussing how to build that model in Seattle schools.
"If, for example, churches had four or five teams that would really partner with several schools, and then if they would just go into those schools — whether it's one or two times a week, maybe four or five people at a time – and really be able to see those kids who have been kicked out of school because of their behavior, and really develop some relationships.
"They could really help turn those kids around, so that when the students go back into the classroom, they'll be more receptive – they cannot be angry," Gray said.
She noted Seattle Mayor Greg Nickles' plan on how to deal with youth violence.
"We should really be outraged with what's going on with our children in school — and there is nothing that all of us, partnering together, can't change.
"We need to partner with the schools to really make a difference in the learning lives of our students," Gray said.
"So we are appealing to the community to come out and help us with this model."
The summit also this year includes a special recognition ceremony  for teachers.
The recognition program is scheduled Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. For questions contact Gray at bettyhg@msn.com. or visit www.sabseonline.org.

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