Pro-Public School Educator Adds School Board Member to Her Resume 2/28/17 02/28/17 12:38:06 PM
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Teacher Mary Church Terrell (left) was the first African American woman in the
United States to be appointed to a school board of a major city, serving in the District
of Columbia in 1896. Dr. Shavonna Holman is an educator and new member of the
Omaha Public School Board.
Dr. Shavonna Holman
Pro-Public School Educator Adds
School Board Member to Her Resume
By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record
Black History Month: February 2017
In 1976, Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month, was officially recognized by the U.S. government. President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
This tells the story of just one African American’s accomplishments in the Omaha community. There are countless more stories still waiting to be told.
“I knew I was going to be a teacher since the second grade,” said Dr. Shavonna Holman, assistant professor of educational administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
She said she has fond memories of making butter, and loving so many things about that class. Fifth grade, too, was memorable.
“I stayed after school every day to help my teacher grade papers. School was a passion of mine,” she said. “My second-grade teacher and I still have a great relationship. She found me two years ago through a mutual colleague online, and we still meet up every couple of months. When I taught fourth grade at Central Park Elementary, which I also attended, I also co-taught in the same grade level with my fifth-grade teacher.”
After high school, Holman earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and, immediately after that, her Master of Science in Elementary Education from the same institution. She taught fourth grade in the Omaha Public School system for six years before taking a position as an assistant principal.
“I was assistant principal at Central Park for two years, then at Prairie Wind Elementary,” she said. “I had my daughter in my fourth year, so I took a whole semester off. Then I moved to Fontenelle Elementary.”
Even with an M.S. in educational administration from UNO, and her doctorate in education from UNL, she initially didn’t have any interest in teaching at the university level. In fact, she said that she thought she would be an elementary teacher forever. But a “unique position became available” between the Educational Administration Department at UNL and with the Nebraska Department of Education Title I Office that she couldn’t pass up.
Since then, she has been an AdvancED External Reviewer and, since 2013, an assistant professor of education administration, focusing on school improvement efforts, diversity and equity in educational organizations and principal leadership in P-12 schools.
Last Wednesday, she added another position to her resume; member of the Omaha Public Schools Board of Education. She is filling the Subdistrict 4 seat vacated by Justin Wayne, who, in November, was elected to the Nebraska Legislature. Her district represents parts of northwest Omaha. She competed against six other women for her seat on the board; it runs through Dec. 31, 2018.
“I knew there was a school board position available and people told me I should apply for it,” she said. “They said they thought I would be a great contributor. Having gone through and worked in public schools, I am pro-public school, and I think that the teachers and administrators in OPS do what’s best for our students, but the public school system is under attack.”
Budgets are being tightened and that has a “big impact” on student achievement, she said. The budget for next year is “on hold” until the legislature determines how to manage a projected state revenue shortfall of more than $900 million over the next two years. Also, the funds aren’t being allocated evenly, and those most negatively impacted are impoverished students and many from immigrant populations.
The achievement gap “has been around forever,” she said, and those living in poverty experience the most adverse effects. “I’ve worked in these buildings, and a lot don’t have the same financial resources as their counterparts in west Omaha. They often don’t have the same support of area businesses [nor do they] have the same level of fundraising. There is a big gap in that regard and that lack of resources causes problems.”
Furthermore, she said, it’s often more difficult to attract teachers and paraprofessionals to work in those schools, because they hear “terrible stories” about “north Omaha schools and the not-so great things that happen there.”
“Our students come from so many backgrounds, and speak so many different languages … some don’t have an actual language … helping all of them is a big issue. Our district works very hard trying to bridge that gap, but I really believe we need to do a better job with making sure that access and equitable funding is there.”
In the end, the goal is to “find the best way to educate our kiddos,” she added.
Holman said that even though she hasn’t worked as an elementary school teacher for a long time, she still takes every opportunity she can to get into the schools. “Today, I read to several classrooms,” she said. “I do some external accreditation to get into the schools and I offer my expertise and advice to them.”
She is also directly involved in the school system, because her 5-year-old daughter attends Fullerton Magnet Center.
“I love education and learning,” she said. “I have met and exceeded every goal I’ve made for myself. I just want – and have wanted – to be a good role model and make an impact through education.”
Holman is a member of the National Council of School Administrators and the University Council of Educational Administration. She has also been a member of the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration (NCPEA) and the National Rural Education Association (NREA).