Seattle Public Schools’ Strategic Plan – Seattle Excellence boldly aspires to ensure racial and other social equities in our educational system by unapologetically addressing the needs of students of color furthest from educational justice. Charged to see the replacement and renovation of Akli Elementary School as a vehicle for actualizing the district's commitment to equity and inclusion, the district and design team recognized the need to disrupt and transform their processes and practices to bring the built environment into equity-centered education. With the leadership of Amara H. Pérez, PHD, the team developed a multifaceted inquiry and engagement approach to amplify community voice in imagining the new Alki Elementary building and site to align design-to-district equity initiatives. Guided by Pérez’s critical race spatial lens, the approach acknowledges space is not neutral and that it plays an active role in reproducing social-educational-environmental inequities that are often invisible, ignored, or under-examined in a design process. Session presenters will share the socio-spatial inquiry plan that utilized critical dialogue to uncover the hidden curriculum of school space and better understand how space acts from the perspectives of students, families, teachers, and neighbors. Our discussion will explore what we’ve learned from our community and the spatial aspirations generated to create a building that actively communicates values and messages of belonging and inclusion. Building from our student-centered, equity-driven framework, we will openly examine how what we’ve learned impacted what we did in our processes and design approach to center equity into the making of a building. Session participants will hear from multiple perspectives carrying forward the voice of the community and district equity initiatives in process and built outcomes of Alki Elementary including district leadership, the project engagement strategist and participatory action researcher, and the design team.
Amara is a long-time social justice educator, participatory action researcher, and critical strategist. Drawing from critical race spatial theories, she studies-to-transform the role of planning, design, and built environments in (re)producing racial and educational inequities. Critical race spatial praxis aims to activate space in service to equity and inclusion. In working closely with students of color as co-researchers for over 25 years, Amara has instigated local community and institutional change.
Vince is a Senior Project Manager for Seattle Public Schools, Capital Projects. He has over 23 years of experience as a design professional and Owner representative. Early in his career he worked with the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and on the design and construction of infrastructure and buildings for disadvantaged communities in Mexico. He believes providing high-quality K-12 educational facilities are a key component towards making a positive impact on the education of our young people.
Practicing at the intersection of architecture and interiors, Stacey grounds her approach in human experience and learning from the people her work will serve. With sixteen years of experience, Stacey has focused her practice creating educational spaces which consistently express the culture, aspirations, and identity of the communities they support. She deeply believes in architectures ability to foster community, blurring the edge of designer and public in co-creation of experience.
The built and natural environments have profound impacts on our behaviors both for better and worse. How do we cultivate a sense of place for better? How might the built and natural environments be made to enhance teaching and learning? How might school buildings and grounds foster a sense of community by reflecting those they serve?
Primary Core Competency
Community Engagement: Leads the internal and external communities through a discovery process that articulates and communicates a community-based foundational vision, forming the basis of a plan for the design of the learning environment. The vision is achieved through a combination of rigorous research, group facilitation, strategic conversations, qualitative and quantitative surveys and workshops. Demonstrates the skill to resolve stakeholder issues while embedding a community's unique vision into the vision for its schools.