Meet our 2014 Education Pioneers: Bathsheba Brutus

September 3, 2014

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Since 2005, the California Charter Schools Association has welcomed graduate students each summer from the Education Pioneers Fellowship program to provide their expertise and perspective to some of the pressing challenges that charter schools face. The mission of Education Pioneers is to identify, train, connect, and inspire a new generation of leaders dedicated to transforming the educational system so that all students receive a quality education.

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Bathsheba Brutus is an Education Pioneers fellow who worked with the CCSA Special Education team this summer. She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree at USC's Education Leadership Program. She is a former special education teacher with the New York City Department of Education, where she taught for five years in both traditional and charter public schools. Bathsheba worked on developing a white paper that examined the implications of special education arrangements in charter schools on funding, capacity and outcomes of special education programs. Through her research, she engaged with charter school leaders and special education program staff to illuminate some of the funding challenges as well as creative solutions for charters in special education.

Describe the project you worked on this summer.

This summer I worked with the Special Education Team exploring the implications of funding on the types of special education programs charter schools provide.

What are you interested in doing in the future or after graduate school?

Upon graduation, I would like to be a school administrator while teaching higher education courses for pre-service and serving teachers and school administrators. After that, I'd like to work for a state department of education, assisting in the development of equitable education policies.

In the next ten years, I want to work at the national level in Washington, D.C. as the Secretary of Education. I plan to help shape the national vision for public education, and create systems and mechanisms through which states, districts, communities, and schools work together to advocate for their students and promote their success.

What drew you to the Education Pioneer Program?

I chose to become an Education Pioneer because I believe strongly in social justice and the power of education as a liberating mechanism in the lives of individuals. Furthermore, I think it's important that Education Pioneers recruits talent from various sectors. By doing so, they recognize the importance of society and individual contributions to the improvement of our public educational system.

What has been the most surprising thing you've learned in the course of your work this summer?

The most surprising thing I've learned was the complexities of school funding, particularly charter school funding. It was interesting to learn about how the state funds its schools, especially since I'm new to California. It was also helpful for me to learn about the various options for charter schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District.

What was your familiarity with charter schools before working at CCSA? How has your view of charter schools changed?

I was familiar with charter schools because I served as a special educator in New York City for five years. During that time, I worked at a charter school and in traditional public schools. Through my research project, I have gained a deeper understanding of how charters work to serve their students despite funding challenges.

What changes would you like to see in our public education system?

There are many changes I would like to see in public education. First is a better understanding of the history of public education in the United States. I firmly believe that if we are not aware of the past and how it has shaped the present, it is difficult to know what direction we need to go in to productively more forward.

Second, as a nation we need to acknowledge and accept the fact that public education (as we currently experience it) was not created to educate every student equally or for the same purposes. For example, education was very segregated on the basis of race and we still operate within a system that is inherently unequal and inequitable. Once we are able to accept that, we will be in a much better position to create a new system of public education that will help produce a well-round citizenry.

Third, I would like to see the concept of "achievement" change. Our nation currently views achievement and success through a very narrow lens that seems to marginalize groups of students and creates this false idea of meritocracy. In order to move forward as a progressive society, we need to make a mind shift in our idea and perception of success. This includes the various mediums and avenues through which students are able to exhibit their strengths.