As the founder and executive director of the African Leadership Group, I want to thank Aurora
Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn and four members of the Board of Education for
participating in our virtual Town Hall meeting on May 2. We hope this leads to a more
collaborative and positive relationship than we have had with the district up to now. You can
watch a video of the entire town hall here.

For many years we, as representatives of the African immigrant community, have extended
invitations to Superintendent Munn to attend our events. This was the first time he accepted. His
attendance represents a good first step in establishing a positive working relationship. Our
community still has many questions about APS, especially in this time of remote learning. So, we
hope that there will be many future interactions with Mr. Munn and his leadership team.
It is unfortunate that it took a crisis as large as a pandemic to get Superintendent Munn finally to
accept our invitation. It had become obvious over time that, while he was developing
relationships with other communities, he was reluctant to interact with the African immigrant
community. Perhaps now he will begin to understand who we are, and that while we have many
questions and may at times be critical, what we want is a positive, collaborative working
relationship.

To be clear, over time we have developed good relationships with some Aurora school board
members. President Kyla Armstrong-Romero in particular has come to know our community.
She has attended our events, eaten with us, and celebrated with us. People know her name
and feel that she fits well into our community. After this recent town hall event, we hope the
same kind of relationships will develop with Superintendent Munn and other school board
members.

It is hard to know for certain why Superintendent Munn at last agreed to accept our invitation. It
may have something to do with an April 14 Chalkbeat article, in which I was quoted criticizing
the district for poor communication about e-learning in the early days of the pandemic. APS sent
out some communications that were not translated into some of the languages spoken by our
families. I also pointed out that some families did not know APS was distributing computers.
ALG ended up raising money to buy 15 Chromebooks and distributing them to families.
After our town hall, I hope APS leadership will now understand that if they wish to reach the
African immigrant community, they can work with us to get the word out. We have the capability
to translate communications as well as reach people the district apparently cannot reach
effectively.

We did hear from the superintendent and board members during the town hall that they are now
committed to working collaboratively and in partnership with ALG. They will respond to our invitations, attend our events, and feel free to reach out and ask for our support and
involvement. We are eager to see if these commitments, having been made, are followed
through on.

We, in turn, are committed to attending APS school board meetings, to know about the
decisions that are made so we can communicate them to our community. We also commit to
engaging in communications from the district, ensuring that messages APS needs to deliver
reach our community. We also will help APS understand which languages are prevalent in our
community, so that the district can provide translation into those languages.
On one issue in particular, we heard a positive message from one school board member. ALG
is an organization that believes in school choice. One of our members asked school board
treasurer Marques Ivey about his position on charter schools, since APS has a reputation of
being at times less than charter-friendly. He said he supports charter schools as long as they
are held accountable.

As an organization that favors school choice, we want to see more options available for our
families. That way, parents can decide which schools best fit the needs of their children. High
school choices are especially problematic in APS. No high schools in APS are performing at an
acceptable level. High schools are so important to us because they are the platform on which
our children are being prepared for the professional world. Without a solid high school
education, forget about college.

We asked at the town hall whether APS consider this a crisis, and what do they intend to do
about it. Unfortunately, we did not get an answer.

Even though ALG and APS may not agree on certain issues, we want a strong, collaborative
relationship with the district and its leadership. Disagreement does not mean we are anti-APS in
any way. We want to feel free to express our opinions without creating defensiveness. If
Superintendent Munn and others believe we are wrong on certain issues, we would hope they
would provide proof that educates and informs us. That is how positive relationships between
organizations are built.