The following letter is from a Highline teacher who remains anonymous, strictly out of concern for her employment. We verified that she is a current Highline educator – Burien-News
I am a teacher for Highline Public Schools, and I just cast my vote for Melissa Petrini. When I first started talking to Melissa about her candidacy, I wondered if we would see equity the same way I do, especially since she did not have the endorsement of the Highline Education Association. I worried that this was a big red flag. And so I have had a lot of conversations with her over the months, and she has answered a lot of questions from me. I eventually learned that I was not always hearing her message as she intended because I felt so protective of my students and their diverse backgrounds. I began to understand that, although some of my peers felt she was advocating for the education of the elite, really she was concerned about the disparity in education for students of color.
King County has a problem with segregation—black students are as segregated as they were during the Nixon administration (The Seattle Times, “Why Seattle schools today are more segregated than the 1980s,” 28 May 2023). Part of that segregation happens through white flight—that is, whites in the Highline community moving to private schools or homeschooling, or even leaving the area entirely. Melissa recognizes this and is passionate about keeping that segregation and segregation’s fallout from happening, and passionate about making schools a place where all students grow.
In my position at Highline, we have many conversations about supporting our diverse population, but very few of those conversations are about being a warm demander— “a teacher who communicates personal warmth toward students while at the same time demands they work toward high standards.” (Hammond, Zaretta. Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain.) Instead, standards have been lowered. For the last 2 years, we were unable to give students a “D”, an important signal to parents and building leaders that a student needs additional support. This year, the “D” grade option has come back, but it’s value is significantly lower districtwide, making it much easier to pass students who don’t even have a “beginning” understanding of the educational standards on our rubrics.
I do not know why we don’t talk about any of this as a staff, but I have seen many of my peers leave the profession or leave Highline because of it. Our system here at Highline enables staff in accusing critical thinkers as racist if they raise even very supportive questions. That is why I’m submitting this letter anonymously. I do not know if I would keep my job or, at the very least, keep my good name at work if I openly support Melissa and her expectations that we lift all students up.
Melissa is knowledgeable. I have spent almost 20 years in education, and I find she definitely knows education law better than me, and she wants to know more. She has a growing passion for that law. And on a personal note, I have seen her and her family’s willingness to drop everything and help someone in need. That is what Melissa is doing with her candidacy. She is the kind of person who will not just homeschool one of her six children because they aren’t being successful. She is the kind of person who worries about other children whose families do not have the means to take the same action. She is the kind of person to work very hard for those families to make sure all students move towards a productive and happy life, engaged in the systems around them. Melissa is amazing. And she absolutely has my vote.