Ronnie Kellam, 26 years old, is a current resident of Newark and a product of the Newark Public Schools. He first attended George Washington Carver before transferring to Peshine Avenue School, where he graduated in 2007. He then went on to attend Malcolm X Shabazz High School where he graduated in 2011. While in high school he was voted Class President, a position he held for all four years.
Not only was Ronnie the Class President representing the students, he also joined a program called the Youth Media Symposium. This was a program to help students find their voices and he did. He went from being afraid of speaking out, to now being one of the frontrunners at meetings.
Ronnie is the proud dad of a six year old who attends Newark Public Schools. His current work and background is law and public safety and he knows that he can bring a lot to the table surrounding the safety of our children. With a powerhouse voice he has to advocate for the people.
2020 Candidates Forum Q&A
Ronnie Kellam Introductory Remarks
Hello, my name is Ronnie E. Kellam and I am a 26 year of young male, who lives in Newark, who is a graduate of Malcolm X Shabazz High School, who has a 6 year old son that is enrolled and attend a Newark Public School (McKinley Elementary) who is running for a seat on the Newark Public Schools School Board. I have served and advocated for the educational needs for our community’s children for 8 years as a youth advocate leader and now I’m coming back as a parent advocate. I am here to speak up for the ones whose voice has been looked over and let out and I want the community to know that I am here from them.
Q&A Round 1: Addressing the current situation confronting our educational system
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the educational landscape across the country. Schools in Newark are “closed until further notice.” Candidates will be asked three questions about the impact of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic on learning. Please connect your answers to the critical levers you have available to you as a school board member: Policy, Supervision of the Superintendent, and Budget.
1-A. As a prospective Board of Education member, what would you recommend to ensure continued learning for all students while school is closed?
1-B. If the situation stabilizes by July 1, 2020, what recommendations do you have for the summer months to address any learning loss that might have occurred during the school closure?
1-C. What changes, if any, would you recommend for the 20-21 academic year to address the current interruption?
As a board member, I would look over the policy that governs the Newark Board of Education and ask question to the Superintendent on how we as a district can handle something like this since we were all caught off guard with all the different changes. We need to look into families who do not have the access to the Wi-Fi in the homes and we need to help them get the support they need from the district. We need to look into the special needs students to make sure they are getting all of the support they need in order to learn and be successful in the everyday learning process. I would also recommend looking into the budget and that we do assessments from this school year (2019-2020) on what mistake we made and what we could do better for the next school year (2020-2021) with the access of computers, tablets, iPads etc.
Q&A Round 2: Articulating your stance on a specific area of responsibility
As an elected official to the school board, you are required to collaborate and make difficult decisions with the eight other members of the board, as well as build public support for your positions. These decisions focus on issues concerning your primary responsibilities: the vision and goals for the district, the development and enforcement of district policies, the performance of the superintendent, and the development and adoption of the annual budget. In this round, we ask you to select one area of responsibility and articulate what changes you would advocate and work for in your chosen area.
2-A. On which area of responsibility would you like to focus on for this round: Vision and goals, district policy, evaluation of the superintendent, or use of the budget? What changes would you like to see in that area, and why?
2-B. Describe, using an example from your professional career, how you build coalitions among your colleagues to make change happen.
2-C. What work do you imagine you must do to ensure the community understands and supports your position?
As a parent and now, a parent advocate I believe my job as a board member, if elected is to focus on the vision and goals for the district, the development and enforcement of policy and the evaluation of the Superintendent. Most importantly the promotion of parent and community engagement, which the Superintendent is very passionate about, but not board member and that needs to change. As my work consist of me dealing with the public, I use my advocacy to rally them up and to let them know they have a voice too. We meet, we plan, we execute that plan and make sure they who need to hear us listen and that is what I plan to bring to the board of education. I am most focused on bringing families together and being apart in the educational journey and in their children’s lives and letting them to know they have a person that is serving them and fighting for them.
Q&A Round 3: Increasing student voice
Before the context changed so dramatically this year, the Trust worked with seven high school students across the district to prepare them to develop questions for and facilitate this forum. Due to the pandemic and the need for physical distancing, the Trust was not able to complete this work. We did hold two preparatory sessions with the seven students. The students wanted prospective school board members to speak to their plans for increasing student voice at every level of the system.
3-A. As a prospective Board of Education member, what current structures do you believe allow students to contribute to the decision-making that impacts their educational lives? Please be specific in naming the structure and articulating exactly how student voices are captured and used in either school or district decision-making? Also, speak to how you might strengthen this structure.
3-B. What additional ideas do you have to increase the impact of student voice on decision making either at the school or the district level that are not currently in place? Do you commit to advocating for them if you are elected to the Board?
This is where I found my voice when I was in the 10th grade at Malcolm X Shabazz High School when the district was in total chaos and our school was going through so much changes and a group of young students including me marched out of school to the Central Office on Cedar Street to meet with the Acting Superintendent Deborah Terrell to express our feelings and thoughts. Once we meet with her change started to happen and we as the students were apart of more meetings and sessions dealing with students and around student support. I am in total and full support of having students apart of their education journey. Students need to be apart and be at the table because they are the ones who are in the school every day and every night, sometimes on weekend, and at district events. My suggestion is to have each grade have a student leader to represent their class starting from the 6th grade and all the way through high school. I would like to see more student peer mediation in the schools and to have support systems for students when they need help or are dealing with situations.
Ronnie Kellam Closing Remarks
I want the people to vote for me because I am young, I have new ideas, I am a parent advocate, I am a very passionate person, I am a team player but most of all to be a voice that people have never heard of and has been looked over. The time for that stops now! The time to hush parents up stops now! The time to push traditional public schools stops now! The time to keep giving our kids an oatmeal education stops now! By working together, we can all share in the knowledge and satisfaction that we have provided for the educational needs for all children. Now is the time to come together, empower each other, support each other and work together because at the end of the day no one would have a job if our children were not sitting in those chairs keeping those doors open and keeping the staff paid. I ask for your support because IT IS TIME FOR CHANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Vote for Ronnie Kellam, A-4 on election day, May 12, 2020.