From Jackie Statum Allen: Seeing Start Times Through a Systemic Lens



When young people are given the opportunities and support to be successful in school, they can change their lives -- and the lives of generations to follow.

My mother is an example of how education is a game changer. One of 12 children, she grew up in a tiny house in East St. Louis. Her mother and father were hard-working people who never attended high school. They both knew they wanted more for their children.

With high expectations and loving support, all 12 of their children graduated from college, receiving multiple masters degrees and one PhD. That set the stage for expanding opportunities for the next generation. The same is true for most of my cousins as we pursue our passions all across the country. 

My passion, besides education, is systems. I have used every ounce of my systems training here in SPPS, most recently as we studied school start times.

Nearly every change we make at the district level has implications and effects through the entire system. For over two years, SPPS actively engaged thousands of stakeholders in the start-times discussion. The research into later start times for adolescents is compelling -- but we have yet to find a solution for our older students that doesn’t affect students, families and teachers at every level throughout the district. Last week the Board of Education voted to give us additional time to arrive at a plan that will benefit our older students without unduly disrupting families of younger students and staff.

As a mother -- my daughter just turned 2 -- I have a much more visceral appreciation of just how difficult making changes can be. Before, I loved my work because I love kids and want them to have the kinds of opportunities I’ve had. Now I see through the eyes not only of an advocate, but of a parent.

My work calls me to hear from and engage with families, and then put all the pieces together. Given time to design appropriate systems, we can engineer solutions that work for as many people as possible. 

Jackie Statum Allen
Assistant Director, Strategic Planning and Policy