A Lesson with Tovi Scruggs

Regional Executive Director for ‘Partners in School Innovation’
ToviScruggs

Having led a nonprofit private school that focuses on STEM education for underserved youth in the Bay Area, can you discuss some of the benefits and challenges of developing this program? 

STEM is extremely important for underrepresented youth because it really is the future of our work force in so many ways. We know that math is a foundation for both science and technology so the earlier we are able to introduce to it to underserved youth, the better. On top of that, youth of color are very kinesthetic in their learning, very hands on and experiential. When STEM is read about too much it doesn’t have that impact on youth of color that it does if they are able to experience it with materials.

One of the challenges is the digital divide. If children can’t transfer what they are learning in schools to their community, their home, their conversations with their family members, that digital divide (which varies in levels and modalities) can be a downfall. Also if they get to school and are doing too much virtual learning, that’s not good for them either. It is a fine balance.

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As High School Principal, I am sure you have encountered difficulties obtaining funding for school programs. How can these difficulties be combated?

 We are just starting to get money again in the last two years in education and it still doesn’t seem to be enough. I feel like a lot of what is being criticized and complained about schools is really the result of creating poor conditions. It’s really our citizenship, our corporations and businesses that can help to fix the conditions of our schools. I don’t think they should privatize in terms of making choices about what is being learned and the expertise of teachers and educators because we are trained to do this work. For some reason people think that education is a ‘free for all’ in terms of who has the best opinion about how to do it. We don’t do that with medicine, we don’t do that with tech. To honor us as professionals is key yet give us the resources and access to the wealth that you are generating from who we serve so we can create better conditions to have better outcomes.  

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